The Christian Spirit: January 2005

Table of Contents

1. A Stronghold in the Day of Trouble
2. Theme of the Issue
3. Christ Our Pattern
4. Christ Our Object
5. Obedience, Not Imitation
6. His Rest and Ours
7. Humility and Dependence
8. Our Position With Christ
9. The Passing of Yasir Arafat
10. Christ Jesus: Our Lord, Our Life, Our Object, Our All

A Stronghold in the Day of Trouble

This poem was written to the Stevens family in St. Ives in 1934 by F. W. Lavington, on the occasion of a bad storm that overtook the Stevens brothers when they were out fishing, and resulted in one of the brothers losing his life. “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him” (Nah. 1:7).
The Lord is good. Yea! none is good as He,
Who called us from our darkness to His light,
Gave us to know His Son, and ever be
Conformed to His image in His sight.
He is our stronghold in earth’s darkest hour,
When seas run high and tempests shake the soul:
His way is perfect, and no adverse power
Can swerve His purpose from the eternal goal.
“He knoweth,” yes, He knoweth all the way
We take; each heavy trial is to mould
Our wills to His, that we can truly say,
“When He shall try me, I come forth as gold.”
“He knoweth them that trust Him,” and His love
Is worthy of our confidence entire;
His end will show in those bright realms above
The full accomplishment of all desire.
Yea! Thou art good, our Father, and our lines
Are fallen in pleasant places. Give us grace
To know that for Thy glory all combines
And for our good, until we see His face.
F. W. Lavington (1934)
“The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Theme of the Issue

“Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isa. 57:15).
“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight. All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and 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. Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:25-30). r

Christ Our Pattern

Philippines 2:3-5
In the second chapter of Philippians, Christ is looked at, not as going up to glory, but as coming down to the cross, and we see the lowly mind that characterized Him in every step that led to the cross. Thus Christ, in all the lowly grace of His path from the glory to the cross, is presented as our perfect pattern to produce in us a life of lowly grace.
The flesh in us is boastful, and the effort to exalt self often leads to the belittling of others. This vanity always leads to strife. So we read of the disciples, “There was  .  .  .  a strife among them,” because they each wanted to be accounted the greatest (Luke 22:24). And how often, since that day, the root of strife among the people of God has been that someone wanted to be great. But, says the Apostle, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” We may think this difficult at times, for, as one has said, “we may see great vanity or pride in another, and one may be going on really better than this or that person,” but if close to Christ, however comparatively well we may be walking, we shall feel in His presence our own nothingness, and see our brother in Christ, and all that is of Christ in him, rather than his faults. Then it will not be difficult for each to esteem other better than himself.
The Apostle, then, would have us to be of one mind (vs. 2). The one mind that he desires us to have is the lowly mind (vs. 3), and the lowly mind has been perfectly set forth in Christ (vs. 5). The mind of Christ would deliver us from all the self-importance of the flesh and lead each to esteem himself the least of all.
We need the mind of Christ if we are to exhibit the lowly grace of Christ. It is possible to affect a lowly manner and use humble words before men, but if the grace of Christ is to be seen in us, we shall need the lowly mind that was in Christ. Thus the Apostle turns our eyes upon Christ. Devoted saints may help us by their lives, their ministry and their means, but only Christ can be the perfect pattern for the Christian’s walk.
In all His perfect path He was the exact contrast to all that the flesh is. He made Himself of no reputation; the flesh in us would seek to make a reputation for itself, if not in the world, then in the religious circle. He took upon Him the form of a servant, but the flesh in us likes to be served. He humbled Himself; the flesh in us likes to exalt itself. He was obedient to the will of another; we like to do our own wills.
In Christ we see the perfect love that made itself nothing in order to serve others. Love delights to serve; self likes to be served and thinks itself exalted when others are waiting upon it. If we were walking in the spirit of Christ, vain glory would be gone and the lowly grace of Christ would be expressed.
Win lowliness of heart, and having won beware;
And that thou grow not proud of lowliness have care.
H. Smith (Christian Experience)

Christ Our Object

Philippines 3:13-14
The second chapter of Philippians has brought Christ before us in His lowly path, as the pattern for our walk; the third chapter presents Christ in glory as the One to whom we are pressing on. God sets before us Christ in glory as the perfect Object of our souls and tells us that we are called on high to be with Him and like Him. With this bright prospect before us, we can forget the things that are behind, rise above the sorrows of the present, and reach forth to those things that are before.
In the light of the eternal glory that lies before us, present things lose their value, and the sorrows by the way are seen to be only for a moment. Compared with the coming glory, the things which are gain in the flesh are counted by the Apostle not only as valueless, but as dung. Having seen their worthlessness, he not only leaves them behind, but he forgets them. He says, as it were, “They are not worth talking about, even to condemn: I forget them.” (See verse 13.)
Christ had laid hold of Paul for the express purpose of having the Apostle like Him and with Him in the glory, and Paul says, “The one thing I desire is to lay hold of Christ in glory — the prize that awaits me at the end of the journey.”
It is blessed for all believers to know, young and old, that if we have not yet laid hold of Christ in the glory, Christ has laid hold of us, and He which has begun a good work will perform it unto the end. No matter how rough the road, how many the trials, how deep the sorrows, how powerful the enemy, Christ will not let us go. He is “able even to subdue all things unto Himself,” so will at last have us like Him and with Him in the glory.
And is it so! I shall be like Thy Son:
Is this the grace which He for me has won?
Father of glory, thought beyond all thought,
In glory, to His own blest likeness brought.
H. Smith (Christian Experience)

Obedience, Not Imitation

Nehemiah was faithful to God in the circumstances in which he stood, without assuming to make anew that which Moses had made and Israel’s sin had destroyed. If he had done that, it would have been an act of human presumption and not of obedience. Obedience, and not the imitation of the apostles, is our duty in such circumstances. It is far more humbling, but at least it is more lowly and safe, and that is all I ask or desire — that the church should be more humble.
J. N. Darby (Collected Writings, Vol. 1, p. 147)

His Rest and Ours

Zephaniah 3:17; Matthew 11:16-30
It is a wonderful thing that we should be able to speak of rest on our way through such a world. But there is something more wonderful still in the first passage before us, “He will rest in His love” (Zeph. 3:17), that God should speak of finding rest for Himself in the thoughts and ways of His love as to us. Yet so it is. It is not merely that God has been seeking rest for us in the revelation He has given us of Himself in the gospel. He had been satisfying Himself. He saves, but it is to “rejoice over thee with joy.” And this is the primary thought of that parable of His heart in Luke 15. He was reserved, we feel, in the Pharisee’s house (Luke 14), but now in the company of sinners He throws off all reserve and reveals that it is the perfect, blessed joy of God, not only to receive and eat with such, as the Pharisee said, but deliberately to seek that He might have them to receive, and that to eat with Him. Nor will He rest until the poor, convicted prodigal, now kissed, embraced and clothed with the best robe, sits at His table —“and they began to be merry.” “He will joy over thee with singing.” He rests in His love. It satisfies Himself, or, as the beautiful word of the original expresses it (see margin), “He will be silent in His love” — silent because He has no more to do, no more to reveal of what He has done and of the place into which He has brought us before Him. He has us out before His gaze in the perfection of Christ and is satisfied. What amazing blessedness for us! But the firstfruit of it is for Him. And this gives us the source of all rest for us; it is found in the rest there is for God, in the thoughts of His love and in their accomplishment. Primarily, the passage belongs to the future of Israel, but much more fully to us.
His Rest in His Love
But if He rests in His love (in Matt. 11), He brings us to rest in it. But notice the way it is introduced, for it is this that gives it its full character. (Read Matthew 11:16-24.) The Lord Jesus had been through this world and found no one — no thing — to rest in. He had proved it thoroughly. Did He feel His rejection by the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done? He felt it keenly, as no other heart could. There was nothing but sorrow and trial in His circumstances, but He had a secret of rest: “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” He knew the Father. They were the Father’s ways with Him. The trial that pressed upon Him was the ordering of infinite wisdom and of a Father’s love. He takes it from His Father’s hand. He answered the rejection of the cities with, “I thank Thee, O Father.  .  .  .  Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” Thus was He tested and proved perfect in confidence and in obedience. He sees clearly, as with an eye ever single, to discern the place given Him of the Father. The deeper glory of His person comes before Him and the work He had come to do in connection with it: “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and 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.” Rejected when presented as Messiah to Israel, He reveals the Father to whomsoever He wills.
Our Rest of Conscience and Relationship
But now comes the anxious question: To whom does He will to reveal Him? “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Are there troubled hearts who have found nothing to satisfy, no source of rest in this poor world? He bids us come to Him that He may reveal the Father to us and thus bring us into the secret of His own perfect rest, so that where He laid His head, who had nowhere to lay it in this world, we can lay ours now, even on the bosom of a Father’s love.
The immediate connection of the verses is to be maintained, for this gives both the aspects of rest He speaks of their full character and preciousness. This first rest is not rest of conscience merely in the forgiveness of sins, as it is commonly taken, by not observing the deep connection of thought in the passage, though surely this must be first and may be included in it. But it is nothing short of the revelation of the Father to our souls.
Forgiveness of sins will not carry us far for rest in going through such a world. The heart wants relationship; nothing but divine relationships will satisfy it, and this is what He brings us into. It is an entirely distinct thing and found such practically in souls. It is not all at once, when born of God, with most of us, that we enter into the knowledge of the Father, and yet in 1 John 2 the babes in the family of God are addressed because they know the Father. Thus it is the privilege of all. When we come to Jesus, He would have us know that it is to the Father we have come: “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). What blessed rest it is! Blessed Lord, Thou hast made good Thy word to us: We did labor and were heavy laden, and Thou hast drawn us to Thyself and revealed to us the Father, and it is rest. Our hearts delight to own it.
This brings us to the source of all the trial that comes, whatever may be the character of it. A Father’s love has put us into it, whatever may seem directly or indirectly to have brought it on. How remote the trial in His case might have seemed from the Father’s dealings with Him, but it is faith’s title to take nothing any lower down than from a Father’s known love. Then there will be something more present and real to the heart than the circumstances of the trial, namely, the One who puts us into them and the certainty of His wisdom and love in doing so: “I thank Thee, O Father.  .  .  .  Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight.”
The Rest of Submission and Obedience
But this leads us simply and naturally to the next character of rest, and this too was illustrated in the path of the Lord Jesus. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” It is the rest we enter into by submission and obedience to the Father’s will. For what was the yoke of Jesus that He bids us take upon us? It was what we have just seen in Him — that perfect obedience that submitted itself in everything to the Father’s will. It is wonderfully brought before us in the words of Isaiah 50:46. He who was Jehovah (vs. 4) has taken, in grace, the path of the learner. “Yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). “Morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the [learner].” Thus He can say, “The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.” What a word in season it was to each of us, beloved brethren, when He called us to Himself to reveal to us the Father! How deeply it enhances its preciousness that He spoke it out of the experience that He had gained in His own path in the world, which we have to go through. Now He calls us to learn from Him, to take His yoke upon us. He, ever meek and lowly, bowed implicitly to the Father’s hand in all that came upon Him. This is the one necessary condition for our enjoyment of maintained rest of soul. His rest was perfect in His path through circumstances of unparalleled trial, because His submission was perfect, and He would have us know the same perfect rest in whatever we may have to pass through, making proof that His yoke is easy and His burden light.
To have no will of our own is the only perfect liberty. It is the working of will in the trial that gives it its bitterness; God has to set Himself against any working of it in us, to smash it, for our blessing. Our willfulness has increased the trial, but at last the will is broken, and we surrender to God. The instant we take God’s part thus against ourselves, in submitting ourselves absolutely to Him, the sting is gone out of the trial. We are brought into the path of Christ, and there is the full comfort of the sympathy of Him who knew no will of His own. We could not have or expect to have His sympathy in willfulness. We have been sanctified to the obedience of Christ. It is often a long and painful process in us to reduce us to it, but when once we are brought to submit to His yoke, the sense of crushing and bitterness is gone. It was the knowledge of the Father that He brought us into first, and the title we have thus to take all from His heart, that makes it possible and easy now to submit ourselves under His hand: “Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight.”
The Rest of God That Remains for Us
One more character of rest remains. It is that presented to us in Hebrews 4. The various characters of rest we have been looking at are present. This is future: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (vs. 9). We are on our way to it. Believers enter into it (vs. 3), but what gives it its character is that it is “His rest.” It is the rest of God, and it is thus developed: “He that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His” (vs. 10). It is not the rest a soul enters into now by believing the gospel. It remains to the people of God. It is rest at the end of the path, when the work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope are over. The works from which God rested were not bad works. He saw that they were “very good.” He rested when His work was done, and into His rest the people of God will enter when their works are done. They are not the works of vainly seeking to establish our own righteousness, but the work and toil and energy of faith that is needed now for every step on the path of our heavenly calling. There is a sphere of rest God has; it is His own rest, where these will have place no longer.
They little knew the heart of God who sought to bind the Lord Jesus to rest in a scene where a man was afflicted with disease for thirty-eight years (John 5). When all was yet as fair as He made it, “He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made,” but when sin came in with its attendant train of misery and death, all this was broken up. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” — till that wonderful work was accomplished, on the ground of which we might be introduced out of all the unrest here into the rest of God. The rest of God is a scene suited to the heart of God for the blessing of His own, where no trace of sin or its consequences can ever be found, where no tear or breath of trial shall ever come. The danger is lest any of us should seem to come short of it, that is, by thinking of finding rest anywhere short of that of the counsels of God for us — the rest of God that remains for us.
The path of faith now has to be made good, step by step, with diligence of heart, through a scene where principle rises up to oppose us. When we are come to the rest of God, we may relax the diligence and let the heart go out to everything. All there will only be the reflection of His glory and beauty. In the rest of God, “they  .  .  .  rest from their labors,” but now we have to labor (or “use diligence”) to enter into that rest. And we have the Word of God to be our most powerful and needed guard to detect for us, as a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, all that would slacken our pace in pressing on through everything here to reach the blessed scene that opens before our hearts — the bright vista of an eternal rest, the rest of God, where God shall stand, as it were, on the threshold of a new heaven and a new earth, to wipe away all tears and every trace of the sorrow that came in by sin in the old creation. But it was in this ruined world and by the very ruin that we have been brought to know Him who has revealed to us the Father, and where the trials and exercises of our way through it are made to yield fruit so rich in blessing for our souls. Learning then from the meek and lowly One who has trodden the path before us, laying our heads on the bosom of the Father’s love, may we submit ourselves absolutely to Him, till the scene of His ways with us closes for us in that of His rest and glory forever.
J. A. Trench (Truth for Believers, Vol. 1) r

Humility and Dependence

Romans 12:3
“I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”
The Christian’s walk, according to Romans 12:12, should be characterized by devotedness and obedience, and according to the verse before us by humility and dependence.
These four graces, watchfully maintained in the presence of God, would certainly produce a very complete Christian, one very like his Lord and Master, who, though entirely devoted to the glory of God, was meek and lowly in heart. We should naturally suppose that, when there is such devotedness to God, both in body and soul, there would also be great sobriety of judgment and lowliness of mind. But it is not always so. The one is far from being a necessary consequence of the other. On the contrary, there is always a danger of the flesh coming in and availing itself of the power which such devotedness gives, either to assume a tone of superiority and high-mindedness, or to affect a false humility and speak contemptuously of self. This is manifest on every hand at the present time, and it is written on every page of church history. Of this tendency the Apostle was fully aware and warns against it, as we learn from the peculiar tone and energy of his style in this verse.
According to the Grace Given
The words, “I say, through the grace given unto me,” have more the tone of apostolic authority than the affectionate entreaties of a brother, as in the first verse, “I beseech you therefore, brethren.” But we must not suppose that the style of the one verse is less perfect, less consistent or less affectionate than the other, but that the character of the exhortation, in the wisdom of God, required a different tone and style! Firmness is perfectly consistent with humility, and faithfulness with the strongest affection.
The Apostle stands, as it were, at the center of practical Christianity. He sees its bearings on every side. His mind is filled with the higher principles of entire devotedness to the will of God, and also with the humbler gifts, which were to find their expression in the gracious ministries of love among the saints. He writes with decision and energy to secure both. The former he had faithfully commanded in the first two verses, and now he is about to go into great detail concerning the latter. The third verse is his standpoint. He clearly sees and feels, as one standing in the light of God, that high-mindedness would be ruinous to the first and an effectual hindrance to the second. The will of God being the object of Christian service, whether in the higher or humbler sphere, real devotedness must consist in the denial of self and in humbly waiting on God to know His good and perfect will in all things. The human will must be set aside, if we are to enter into the meaning, importance and application of this condensed treasury of practical Christianity.
Self-Evaluation and False Humility
We now see a divine reason for the changed style of the great Apostle, and we also see that he is most personal in his application of this weighty truth. He does not merely address the church as a body, but he appeals to every one among the saints at Rome —the least as well as the greatest. This will show how prone all are to over-value themselves, even in the church of God and in their service to His saints. Oh, what deceitful hearts we have! What need for watchfulness—for constant communion with the truly humble and blessed Lord, who “loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor.”
But there is an opposite error into which many fall and which must be as carefully avoided by the Christian. This is an affectation of humility by speaking of oneself in a depreciating manner. When a man speaks of “his small measure, of being the most unfit person for the important work he has in hand,” we feel that he is either insincere or unwise. God never requires the exercise of a gift which He has not bestowed. This species of false humility must be watched against by all who would walk with God in integrity of heart. God is real and He must have reality in us; He is true and He must have truth in the inward parts. Nevertheless, there are those who honestly, but unduly, depreciate their gift and fail to act for God and His people. This is a false modesty and also a serious evil, and one which the Lord must judge sooner or later. But now notice the wisdom of Scripture. This alone, by God’s grace, can give a well-balanced and well-adjusted mind.
According to the Measure of Faith
“Think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” The first thing is to find your true place in the presence of God according to your faith in Christ, and then your own place among your fellow-servants. The measure of faith with which each believer is blessed, in the sovereign grace of God, becomes the proper limit, within which he is to occupy himself according to the will of God. Surely the man who has the greatest faith, who is a father in Christ, and who knows most of the Word of God will rise to his own level among his fellow-Christians where the Holy Spirit rules. The Lord give us to know the measure and character of our gift, what He has prepared us for, that we may be preserved from all extremes. In this, as in all things, the Christian’s path is a narrow one and requires spiritual discernment. Nothing short of constant communion with Him who closed His life of perfect obedience on the cross will keep us in the place of true humility, obedience and dependence. May the Lord lead His servants in His own path, preserving them from the indolence that falls asleep, from the energy of nature that would go too fast, from a false modesty that refuses to do His bidding, and from the lack of modesty that would yield to the impulse of the natural will. May we never forget that “unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Eph. 4:7).
A. Miller (adapted from Meditations on Christian Devotedness)

Our Position With Christ

Revelation 3:8
Whatever links our position with Christ, as an example and pattern, is in truth a blessing to us, for was there ever one that went through all with such unfailing, lowly faithfulness to God as He did? Note the contrast of His lowly path with that of Elijah’s, and what do we see? Elijah was going on ministering with great outward power, bringing down fire from heaven to destroy the prophets of Baal, and thinking himself to be the only one that was left that was true to God, whereas God had seven thousand that had not bowed the knee to Baal, whom Elijah had not found out. Christ was content to be nothing in a world where man was everything and God was shut out.  .  .  .  In virtue of His very humiliation, He puts those who now have but this “little strength” into the very same place which He Himself took, and then, as the porter did for Him, He opens the door for them, which none can shut.
J. N. Darby (Collected Writings, Vol. 5, p. 348)

The Passing of Yasir Arafat

Ezekiel 21:27
The recent death of Yasir Arafat in a Paris hospital at the age of 75 has caused further uncertainty in the Middle East and adds yet another dimension to the atmosphere of tension and hatred that has prevailed there for many years. Born in Cairo, Egypt, he began his career as a young man by smuggling arms for use against British troops and Jews right after World War II. Later, he and a few others formed the secret Fatah organization in 1958 and used the east bank of the Jordan River as a base for guerilla raids on Israel. For the next forty-plus years, his presence in the area would make world news. His growing recognition in the Arab world resulted in his being made chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1969. In the following years he led the Palestinians on a course marked by violence and terrorism, including airline hijackings and even the brutal murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, Germany. Yet, on the basis of concessions made toward Israel and a stated recognition of the right of the state of Israel to exist, he was awarded the 1994 Nobel peace prize, together with Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, both of Israel.
To the Palestinian people he was a hero, one who represented their desire for a permanent homeland. Yet, when presented with what seemed a generous offer by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in July, 2000, under the guidance of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, he rejected it and walked away. The sticking point obviously was the dispute over Jerusalem. Barak insisted that it remain in Israeli hands, while Arafat told Clinton that he feared assassination if he turned his back on the city they too consider sacred. The Palestinians want their capital to be in Jerusalem too.
Arafat’s last years were spent under constant Israeli surveillance, trapped inside a few simple rooms, and with his health deteriorating. It is true that he remained a popular hero to the Palestinian people, but most world leaders had rejected him, and even some of his own associates began to wonder about his judgment. Above all, his goal of an independent Palestinian state seemed as far off as ever.
The Palestinian Cause
His death and subsequent burial in Ramallah were marked by demonstrations of allegiance on the part of Palestinians, who pledged to continue the struggle against Israel. His history of violence and terrorism will likely continue to affect affairs in the Middle East for a long time, and the peace that world leaders long for remains elusive. Although Arafat did pledge in 1993 to recognize Israel’s right to exist, it is highly questionable whether he ever really wavered from his previous goal to destroy them. Indeed, this has been and continues to be the goal of many Arab activists, who perceive Israel and its western allies as their arch enemies. Israeli victories in 1967 and 1973, together with their continued military strength and their support from the U.S.A. and other western nations, have forced the Palestinians to modify their passion, at least publicly. However, they have never wavered in their insistence on claiming Palestine as their land, and their goal to have Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state remains as strong as ever. Indeed, it is their fond hope to re-inter Arafat on the Temple Mount, if they can get control of it. Israel is just as adamant that Jerusalem must remain in their hands, and undivided.
What Will Happen Next?
World leaders may well wonder what will happen next. Arafat’s death leaves a vacuum in leadership in the Palestinian world. For Israel and perhaps some western leaders, doubtless their feeling is that with Arafat out of the way, a new round of peaceful negotiations can begin. For the Palestinians, it will be difficult to find a leader with Arafat’s charisma and his ability to survive amid many awkward and conflicting situations. A new leader will have to deal, on the one hand, with passionate Palestinians and suicide bombers who are determined to achieve their ends at all costs, and, on the other hand, with the reality of Israel and its superior economic and military power. Surely any new leader will end up being caught “between a rock and a hard place.”
As always, the only right view of the whole matter is to be had from the Word of God. According to Scripture, the hatred between Israel and the Arab nations goes a long way back. The Lord foretold that Ishmael would be “a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him” (Gen. 16:12). Other nations like the Moabites and the Ammonites were continual enemies of Israel, although related to them. The Book of Obadiah foretells the entire destruction of Esau’s descendants because of their implacable hatred of Israel. Others of the Arab nations are no doubt descended from the Canaanites whom Israel originally drove out of the promised land, but who continued to be a thorn in their side. On the other hand, it was because of Israel’s unfaithfulness that God allowed them to be dispossessed of their land, and the Lord Jesus reminded them of this when He was in this world. When the Jews asked Him, “Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Cæsar, or no?” (Luke 20:22), His response was, “Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which be Cæsar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s” (Luke 20:25). Thus He reminded them that because they had not rendered unto God what was His, they were compelled to pay tribute to a foreign power. The Lord Jesus further prophesied that “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). Although Israel has military control of the entire city of Jerusalem, they do not dare to destroy the mosque of Omar and rebuild the temple on its original site. Until “the fullness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25) at the battle of Armageddon, Israel will neither be able to take full control of Jerusalem nor to take possession of their land in its entirety.
“I Will Overturn, Overturn, Overturn”
We are reminded that the Scripture says of the chaotic condition of this world, “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more, until He come whose right it is; and I will give it Him” (Ezek. 21:27). While this Scripture refers to the whole world, it is particularly applicable to the Middle East, the epicenter of prophecy and the place where everything will eventually come to a head. God has purposed 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” (Eph. 1:10). God has in His purposes to bring Israel back into their land and to establish them as His people again, but it cannot be on any other ground than that of grace. Today they are seeking to take back what they believe God has given them by promise to Abraham, but they are doing it without reference to their true Messiah, the One whom they rejected so long ago. They may seem to be successful for a time, but a day is coming when they will be passed through “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21). This will, of course, not take place until after the Lord’s coming for His church, and then God will again begin to take up the cause of His earthly people. The result of this awful tribulation will be to bow their hearts before Him and make them realize that they cannot take their rightful place back in their land until their rejected Messiah has His rightful place in their hearts. Only then “upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions” (Obad. 17). It is true that, in that day, the Lord will “seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zech. 12:9), but it will be to the end that He may “pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zech. 12:10). In their distress they will recognize that the One who comes to deliver them is indeed the One they once rejected and crucified. The result of this will be the setting up of the millennial kingdom, in which the Lord Jesus will have His rightful place, and of that time the Lord says, “I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying” (Isa. 65:19).
Our Lord’s Appearing
Surely those of us who have a heavenly hope can rejoice in this prospect, for those who “love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8) look to see our blessed Lord vindicated in this world. How thankful we should be that we will not go through that awful time of tribulation that precedes this time of blessing, but rather we will be taken out of it before the judgment falls! It is a sad thing to contemplate such a time of tribulation, but we can rest in knowing that “when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isa. 26:9). Only with God’s judgment and the appearing of the Lord Jesus will there be an end to the strife and carnage that is taking place. In that millennial day there will be peace instead of violence and bloodshed, and “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, saith the Lord” (Isa. 65:25).
For the past fifty years the eyes of the world have continually been directed at the Middle East, and as we have seen, the conflict shows no sign of abating. Arafat’s death once again directs our attention to that area, as the place where God will soon bring His purposes to pass. We can have the confidence that all man’s activities will only accomplish God’s purposes, and surely all of these activities only emphasize to us that “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5:8). “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
W. J. Prost

Christ Jesus: Our Lord, Our Life, Our Object, Our All

Our Purpose
This magazine is for believers — the children of God and members of the body of Christ. The needs of the lost may occasionally be addressed. The following verses from Colossians 1:914 express our prayer and desire for you (and for ourselves) through this magazine.
“We also  .  .  .  do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:914).
Our Focus
We want God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ to have the first and supreme place in our thoughts when God’s truth is applied to us and our needs. Sadly, we live in a day when “me and my needs” or “us and our place” so often take center stage. God’s focus is on the Son of His love “that in all things He might have the preeminence.”
Our Method
We plan to devote each issue of the magazine to a specific theme, identified by the theme verses which we had before us in selecting and writing the articles for the issue. In addition to the theme-oriented articles, we also purpose, the Lord willing, to include, from time to time, articles concerning the Christian family and articles applying the light of the Word of God to current events.
Your brethren and fellow-servants of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Doug Buchanan and Don Rule