The following are a selection of extracts from the Recent Ministry section of Living Water
“WHO THEN IS THIS, THAT HE COMMANDS EVEN THE WINDS AND THE WATER, AND THEY OBEY HIM?”
Psalm 107: 23-32
Hebrews 6: 18-20
Luke 8: 22-25
You could say that there is a nautical tone about these passages that I have read: stormy winds, raging seas, sailors in trouble and at their wits’ end, calling for help out of their trouble. But then, there is a safe anchorage, an anchorage above and beyond the storm. That anchorage is in a Person. That anchorage is in the One we have just read of in Luke 8. They questioned, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?”
Now, I realise that in Warley you are a little bit from the sea and none of us is a voyager on the high seas but we are all voyagers on the sea of life and these elements that are encountered by the sailors on the sea in principle are encountered in the sea of life by each one of us.
How marvellous Psalm 107 is. What a vivid picture it presents of what God can do in raising up the stormy wind and the seas in order to cause people to call upon Him and find that He, and He alone, can save them out of their trouble. We often marvel at creation, we look at the heavens and we see the glory of God, all the constellations and the planets. We look around the earth and we see the marvels of creation from the smallest detail to the largest mountain. But then, think of this, “They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, These see the works of Jehovah, and his wonders in the deep”. In Findochty, in north east Scotland, overlooking the harbour is a statue of a fisherman and these verses are quoted on the plinth.
Mariners at sea have some appreciation of the wonders of the deeps. There are the heavens, there is the earth around, but the creatorial greatness of God is witnessed in the deeps of the sea as well. We should freshly marvel at the magnitude and majesty of our Creator. Forecasters will forecast that the storm is coming. They will tell you what the power of the wind is going to be, and so on. But, wait a minute, we read, “he speaketh, and raiseth the stormy wind”. Who is this? This is the God with whom we have to do, the God of creation. “he speaketh, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof”. And further down? “He maketh the storm a calm, and the waves thereof are still”. The same God who raises the storm can bring about the calm. This is a picture of persons in the midst of a violent storm at sea and calling to God in their trouble and finding that He answers them.
I have never been at sea in a situation like this but many a sailor has been. But, no matter how great the trouble that is faced by mariners at sea, the greatest trouble that a person can have is trouble of soul. To be a sinner before God, guilty, lost, having come short of the glory of God and to be powerless in one’s self to do anything about it, that is trouble indeed. Then to find themselves in the area of God’s word and to be convicted of sin, convicted of their situation before God. That can be the turning point when the soul in desperation calls upon the only Person who can save them from that trouble and that Person is the Saviour God.
I have spoken about the wonders in the deep. That is creatorial. But the Saviour I speak of tonight, He has explored greater depths than the wonders of the deep expressed in Psalm 107. He has explored the depths of Calvary’s woe. He has explored the depths of death. And He has fathomed these depths. Why did He do it? It was so that the sinner might be saved. That the soul who calls on Him in their trouble might be rescued out of impending danger, rescued from a lost eternity. And the only One who could effect that rescue is none other than the God-provided Saviour. What a Saviour to know!
We read in Psalm 107 about waves, that mount up to the heavens and go down to the depths. “Their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and they are at their wits' end”. Think of the soul coming to its wits’ end. At ‘wits’ end corner’ Jesus will meet you. He has met many a soul at wits’ end corner, when every attempt to appease, every attempt to find a solution to the soul’s distress has been tried and has failed; at wits’ end corner Jesus will meet the sinner there.
He will meet the sinner in the storm. He will draw near just as you are and just where you are. What is He waiting for? He is waiting for you to cry out to Him.“Then they cry unto Jehovah in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses”. Is there anybody here tonight at wits’ end corner where life is getting you down? Not only your load of sin, but life in general getting you down. You cannot find a way out of your problem. You cannot find a solution to your need. Here is the answer. “Then they cry unto Jehovah in their trouble”. Cry unto Him tonight. It says: “He maketh the storm a calm, and the waves thereof are still”. We look out on the sea, we see the calmness of it – on another day the waves are mountainous. And that is just looking at it from a distance. But think of the One who raises up the storm and that same One making the sea a calm. That One is seeking your blessing tonight in the gospel, in divine grace He is appealing to humanity tonight in order to reach out and bless the vilest sinner.
Jesus can do that because of what He did at Calvary’s cross. Nobody else could do that work — He did it alone. Luke tells us that in the garden of Gethsemane an angel appeared strengthening Him (Luke 22:43) but there was no such support at Calvary. My Saviour went into the depths of Calvary’s woe alone. He endured all the hostility and enmity of man alone. But, more than that, there He offered Himself without spot to God, the sinless offering, and the fire of God’s judgment fell on that offering. The offerings described in the Old Testament were consumed but my Saviour bore it all and triumphed. Man did not take His life from Him. Having finished the work, He delivered up His Spirit to His Father. How triumphant! And He went into the domain of death.
How was He going to fare there? Was death going to hold Him? Would
another monument be raised over yet another dead person? No! My
Saviour has broken death’s power. He has broken the bands of death.
He went to the lowest point. The prophet Jonah puts it, “the
weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of
the mountains; the bars of the
earth closed upon me for ever” (Jonah 2:5, 6). Up from the grave He arose, triumphant over all His foes. A risen, a glorious Saviour is the central point of the glad tidings tonight, a Saviour seated at God’s right hand. I love to think of Him on the cross and all that He bore for us but it is even more wonderful to think of Him where He is, out of death, exalted and crowned with glory and honour in the presence of the Father.
“They rejoice because they are quiet; and he bringeth them unto their desired haven”. What a relief for the sailor in distress when the ship is guided into a desired haven. How much greater the relief for the troubled soul when the trouble is met and he is guided into the peace and rest of the presence of the Saviour who loves him far more than anyone else could love. And His love has been expressed in a deeper way than all other loves, a love expressed by going to the depths of Calvary.
“Let them give thanks unto Jehovah for his loving-kindness, and for his wondrous works to the children of men”. Have you thanked God for answering your call? Have you shown your appreciation of what the Saviour did for you at Calvary’s cross? Oh, the safety of that haven which is beyond the troubled scene in which we live. Find that safety today as trusting in the Lord Jesus as Saviour and Friend.
I read about the anchor, a safe anchorage. It is not an anchor at
sea; it is an anchor in heaven. The analogy is drawn from the Old
Testament where ‘cities of refuge’ were provided, cities to which a
person who had slain someone accidentally could flee; if they
entered the city before the ‘avenger of blood’ caught up with them
and their case was heard and accepted they were
safe as long as they remained in the city until the death of the high priest (see Numbers 35:6-32). There were three cities of refuge on the wilderness side of the Jordan and three over the Jordan and they were located so that it was possible to flee there; there was a distance to go but it was not impossible to get to one of the cities from any part of Israel. Well, it is not a city that is offered as a refuge in the gospel. It is to a glorious Person that we are to flee. Now who is that Person? It is the Lord Jesus Christ and in fleeing for refuge to Him you “lay hold on the hope set before us, which we have as anchor of the soul”.
We live in a changing world; there is nothing reliable in it. But this anchor will not drift. The anchor of the soul is safe. We read that it is “both secure and firm”. Your salvation, as relying on Christ and on His finished work, is secure for all eternity. This high priest is never going to die. He died once, never to die again. Oh, friend, how wonderful. As you flee and find refuge and mercy in Christ where He is you have the assurance imparted to you that your salvation is eternally secure.
Then we read, “and entering into that within the veil, where Jesus is entered as forerunner for us”. Under the law, the high priest entered into the holy of holies once a year with blood not his own and the people waited outside, wondering, ‘Is he going to come out? Is the blood going to be accepted?’ And when he came out it was the assurance that God was propitious towards them for another year. And so it went on. The high priest of old could never be described as a forerunner for us but Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us. What does that mean? It means that where He is, the one who has Him as anchor of the soul is going to be there with Him for all eternity and we will be with Him. Wonderful thought. That is what it means, “to lay hold on the hope set before us.”
What hope lies before you? The hopes of this world are all bounded by death but the hope that the believer in Christ has reaches into the central point in heaven where Christ is. That hope will be fulfilled when my Saviour comes and calls all who have faith in Him to be with Himself for ever. In the meantime that struggling sailor, that soul tormented by soul trouble has an anchor now that he can hold onto, an anchor cable that will never break. Paul speaks of that in Romans 8. He lists ten things: death, life, angels, principalities, present things, things to come, powers, height, depth, nor any other creature, and he says, none of them “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). It is an unbreakable link. Try as he might Satan is not able to break it. The link is secure and firm for all eternity.
Now, I just touch on this passage that I love in Luke 8. What a situation it was; they were crossing the lake, these twelve men plus the Lord Jesus and the Lord goes to sleep. Suddenly a squall of wind comes down. There were at least four fishermen in this boat. I think the last thing that Peter would have done is to try and go to somebody else for help. He was the kind of person who would have wanted to work it out himself. But eventually, along with the others, he goes to the Master, “Master, master, we perish”. They wake Him up and, “he, rising up, rebuked the wind and the raging of the water; and they ceased, and there was a calm”. What a Person the Lord Jesus is.
In the same way that He can bring peace and calm to the elements
around or to the troubled soul, so He can also bring peace and calm
to the troubled believer. Paul speaks of the “peace of God, which
surpasses every understanding, shall guard your hearts and your
thoughts by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Think of having
that kind of peace brought about by the touch
of Jesus in your soul. We all have troubles. There is not one person here tonight who does not have some trouble in life, some worry, some concern, some more than others. The Lord Jesus
can just reach out His hand and bring in peace and calm.
The Lord said here to the disciples, “Where is your faith? And, being afraid, they were astonished, saying to one another, Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?” Do you know anybody else who has the power that this One has? The question was asked at the end of Luke chapter 7, “Who is this who forgives also sins?” The same Person who has the power to forgive sins has the power to bring the blessedness of peace and calm into every soul in this hall.
Do you know that peace? The One who can control the winds and the waves; the One of whom it says, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things to be in his hand” (John 3:35), let Him control everything in your life. Let us put all that we have at His disposal. He has become not only the ruler of the waves and the troubled sea, but He has become controller of our lives and in that way He will lead us to untold blessing.
May God bless the word.
A preaching of the gospel at Warley, 3 June 2018
BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS
John 17:1-3; 14:15 & 21; 16:33.
I would like to speak about courage in the Christian’s pathway. I feel I do not have enough courage myself and I have prayed to the Lord about it. I have looked through the Scriptures to find some passages that could help me to live with courage as a believer in an unbelieving world. I found these passages we have read and I would like to take Joshua as an example of a man of godly courage and look at some applications in John’s gospel taking up the teaching of Jesus Himself. We are here as believers, so we can all try to understand with the help of God’s Spirit, what it means to live a courageous life as a believer in this world.
It has often struck me that God does not remove people from the earth when they are converted and the reason that He does not, is that God has a purpose for each of us when we are saved and my first point is that we need courage to pursue that purpose here.
Now I think Joshua provides us with a very fine example of a Christian today. We can see in Joshua’s life things that we can relate to. If you look at his life as recorded for us in the Scriptures we see he was strong, he was courageous, he had faith in God but there were times when he struggled just as we do when faith may be challenged and things may seem not to go as we expect.
Now, God said to Joshua three times, where we read in Chapter 1, “Be courageous”. I would like you to picture yourself as if God was speaking to you tonight and saying, “Be courageous”. In these three exhortations God has three different thoughts that He brings to Joshua. And that is what I would like us to look at together, seeing not only Joshua but some New Testament parallels as given in John’s gospel. Now the first step is found in Joshua 1:6:
|“Be strong and courageous, for thou shalt cause this people to inherit the land which I have sworn unto their fathers to give them” (Joshua 1:6).||“These things Jesus spoke, and lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee; as thou hast given him authority over all flesh, that as to all that thou hast given him, he should give them life eternal. And this is the eternal life, that they should know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:1-3)|
Joshua had a God-given purpose in his life and that was to bring the people of Israel into the land of Canaan. God had not promised Joshua the land of Canaan. The promise had been made many years earlier but Joshua was the one who was to lead this people into the land.
How does that speak to us today? Well, I think John 17 helps us about that. There is one specific purpose of God that is revealed through Jesus’ precious prayer in John 17. Jesus says, “… glorify thy Son… that as to all that thou hast given to him, he should give them life eternal”. So, we as believers are here and God’s purpose for us is that we should have eternal life. If you look through John’s gospel you will see constant reference by Jesus to eternal life as what He had come to do and to give. What He says to the woman at the well in John chapter 4 is one example and there are others. My concern is that we should have an understanding that Jesus desires to give us eternal life. Now, Scripture tells us what eternal life is all about. It says, “and this is the eternal life, that they should know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent”. So, if we are left down here it is not merely for the purpose of testimony or witness; it is to know God and to know Jesus, the One whom God sent. As I go through the difficulties of life, the question is, ‘Am I gaining knowledge of God, am I getting to know my Lord Jesus better through what I experience?’
Well, that was the first point. God said to Joshua, ‘Be courageous’. You will take the people into the land of Canaan. That was the purpose. I am sure that Joshua was strong and energetic in the pursuit of this goal but it was a long and slow process and at times his faith and patience were severely tested.
Next, if we are to have courage in our walk as Christians we first have to look at what God’s purpose is for us down here - for each of us is called for a purpose. God has a service for each one of us to fill out and all are to be useful in God’s work here. When we read the book of Acts we see that God used a great variety of people. The work was not confined to Paul, Peter, John or the other apostles. We read of those who were scattered following the death of Stephen and who preached in the places to which they went. The Christian company in Antioch was formed as a result of such preaching. (see Acts X:x). Then again we find that Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18) came from Rome to Corinth, and Paul, who had not even been to Rome at that time, lodged with them at Corinth. Such were prepared and ready for service and serviceable in the body of Christ down here. We are all useful in some way and God will reveal to us what we may be able to do for Him. May we each be available for service!
But what I specially wanted to pass on was that the main purpose of God’s revelation in Christ is that we should have eternal life, which means that we should know God the Father, and the Son, Jesus Christ. Everything we do in life should work around that. Everything that we experience should in some way lead us back to that knowledge, so that the knowledge of Christ may increase in our life.
Now the second step is:
|“Only be strong and very courageous, that thou mayest take heed to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded thee. Turn not from it to the right or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall nor depart from thy mouth; and thou shalt meditate upon it day and night, that thou mayest take heed to do according to all that is written therein; for then thou shalt have good success in thy ways, and then shalt thou prosper” (Joshua 1:7-8).||“If ye love me keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
Think about these words: “Only be strong and very courageous, that
thou mayest take heed to do according to all the law that Moses my
servant commanded thee. Turn not from it to the right or to the left”.
Now, having understood that the purpose of God is that we may have eternal life, I want to point out that the enjoyment of eternal life starts when we are down here. It is not something that we only look at for the future day. In the future day we shall actually be with Jesus. That hope is a certainty for every believer in Christ. But the enjoyment of the eternal life is the knowledge of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ and that starts now! So we can build on that, grow in that and have courage to do that as we walk down here. How do we get into the gain and enjoyment of it? Well, God gave Joshua a very precise instruction. He says, ‘Do not depart from all the commandments that I have given to Moses’.
God called Moses to come up Mount Sinai. He stayed there and God wrote the law for him on two tables of stone. God had to do it twice because of the unbelief and the idolatry in the heart of the people. Probably God has to write more than once what He has in mind for us because we are stubborn, idolatrous, and thinking of ourselves rather than of Him. But God never leaves us or abandons us. He has a purpose and He has a way that we may get into the gain and the enjoyment of that purpose.
So I think the parallel passage to that is the two verses I read in John. If you reason with a logical mind you may think the two verses in some way contradict themselves. Let us read them again: it says, “if ye love me, keep my commandments”. So, logically I would say if I love Jesus then I will keep His commandments. Then it says in verse 21, “He that has my commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves me”. There it seems to say, if you keep my commandments then you love me. Which one is right?
Well, it is not a question of which verse is right: both verses are right! The point that the Lord is making here is that we are not to be religious but to have a living relationship with the Man Christ Jesus. The believer in Christ is that is not tied to a collection of religious laws but is linked to a living Person - the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Jesus brings an entire new revelation compared to what was given to Joshua. Joshua was given a book. And it was said, this is the book, follow it exactly, do whatever it says. And if you do every word, if you keep every word of it then you shall prosper. We read, “… that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest… then shalt thou have good success in thy ways” (vv.7, 8). When we come to the New Testament, Jesus says, “if ye love me, keep my commandments”. Jesus brings an entire new dimension and that dimension is love, a loving relationship with Him.
One of the great risks in the believer’s pathway is to fall into patterns and mere routines of religious observance. I live in a country where people will give a Euro every day to certain causes just so that they can say, ‘I have done my good work for this day, that is my obligation met’. That is religiousness. That is not doing the commandments of the Lord because you love Him, or loving Him so you desire to do what pleases Him; that is mere religiousness and we have to be careful not to fall into it. I have to say for myself , that my instinct is to fall into religiousness. Perhaps we sleep over the alarm and when we wake there is no time to read the Bible before we have to dash off to work. A religious person worries that this will ruin his day but the Lord is not cross about such things. He loves us and wants us to love Him and rest in His love.
We read, “if ye love me, keep my commandments”. Never separate those two principles. The commandments of the Lord are commandments of love. If you look through the New Testament you will not find many commandments. Jesus wants us to have a living relationship with Him. That is the practicality of Joshua’s teaching in New Testament terms. Joshua was able to get into the land and succeed in all that he was doing only if he kept to the word of God. We have to love the Lord Jesus and let that love govern us in all that we do and every decision that we make.
Now the Lord adds in verse 21 the words, “but he that loves me shall be loved by my Father”. That adds an entirely new level to our life. That links us to the Father, the One that the Lord Jesus came to reveal. ‘If you love Me, you will be loved by My Father’! Imagine that. And that is a certainty that is sure for every believer. We have a relationship with the Father which is based on the relationship we have with the Lord Himself. We cannot have a relationship with the Father if we do not have a relationship with the Lord Jesus. That is very important. Never forget it!
When I was at university I got caught up in a conversation where I tried to prove the existence of God to some of my mates and I utterly failed. After that I was considering and praying and crying, ‘Why had I failed?’ And God pointed out something to me and said, ‘Did you ever mention Jesus in all your proof of the existence of God?’ I was ashamed to say I had not. Our relationship with God is based on our relationship with the Lord Jesus Himself. Be sure to have a living relationship with Christ then the Father will love you and we will be conscious of His love. The verse continues, “and I will love him and will manifest myself to him”. Oh, here is a beautiful thought. Have we seen the Lord manifest Himself to us throughout our life? This verse would indicate that if we love the Lord Jesus and seek to follow Him He will manifest Himself to us; there is no question about it.
I did not read verses 16 – 20 but they are the key to this passage because the Holy Spirit is brought in to this. That is how we are able to enjoy the eternal life, by the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will help us to enter in to that living relationship with the Lord Jesus.
So, we understand the purpose that God has for us. We understand how we may enter into it. So we have nothing left but to go for it and enjoy it! It is all clear, it is presented in Scripture. Why not go and do it?
Joshua got started. When he gets to the Jordan there is an amazing miracle. He gets through it. Then he has the city of Jericho to face but God helps him and he destroys the city. Then he has another city (Ai, see Joshua 7). He rushes to overthrow it and realises that it was not the right thing to do. He moves further and further into the Land but his faith is tested and things get more difficult because the people get more stubborn and self willed.
As we move on in our Christian pathway I am afraid to say sometimes we get a little bit stubborn. We may set out full of courage but after a while we get distracted and slacken off and may get influenced by the world. This is the reality; it is not a new thing for we live in an unbelieving world, a wicked world and the devil is around. But the Lord does not forget us.
Now we come to the final message to Joshua about courage:
|Have I not commanded thee: Be strong and courageous?
Be not afraid, neither be dismayed; for Jehovah thy God is
with thee whithersoever thou goest.
|These things I have spoken to you that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye have tribulation; but be of good courage: I have overcome the world (John 16:33)|
God knew Joshua would be afraid. God knew the things he would
have to face.
In the verse we read in John 16, I think that is the application in our lives. First of all, if you read that verse carefully, it says, “These things have I spoken unto you”. Remember, ‘if ye have my commandments and keep my commandments’… “These things have I spoken unto you”. This verse is for believers. This verse is for those who have heard the voice of the Lord and have had conviction about what the Lord has been telling them.
The Lord says “that in me ye might have peace”. Now, this is another point I would like to share with you. The peace that the believer enjoys is strictly and uniquely in Christ. I have had to learn that several times. This does not mean we have a peaceful life, a relaxed life and that we sail through the world. The Lord is very clear in what He says, “these things have I spoken … that in me ye might have peace”. Peace, dear believer, is found uniquely in Christ. If we are struggling through life, if we are fighting in our souls, our minds, let us turn to Christ. That is where peace comes from. The source of peace is Christ Himself.
Well, the Lord goes on to say, “In the world ye have tribulation”. You see, Jesus knows it. It is nothing new for Him. Why do we complain? Our conversations are often filled with consideration of this world and how difficult everything is. Jesus says, ‘You will have tribulations in this world’. Then He adds, “be of good courage: I have overcome the world”. I do not think any believer likes the world they live in. But Jesus has overcome the world we live in. Is that not a glorious thought? Jesus has overcome all the wickedness that is in this world. And that wickedness, we should never forget, was in our heart before we were saved. That is where we all come from. Jesus has overcome the world. Where do we find courage to walk down here? The simple and straight answer is, in Christ Jesus alone.
He has revealed to us the purpose. He says, ‘that I may give to them eternal life’. So that Jesus shows us and tells us about God so that we may know Him. Then He says, “if ye love me, keep my commandments”. He wants a relationship. He wants us to live of Him and to draw all from Him. That is what we are to feed on and that is where we take courage to live down here. The opposition of the world is relentless but in Jesus we have peace. . He says, “be of good courage: I have overcome the world”.
I trust we might understand a little bit more about the courage that the believer can have in life down here. The source is divine, it is Christ Himself. The application is divine, it is Christ Himself. We should not be or act like the world. When people do not understand us it should be no surprise. The believer has a different spirit from the world. The believer is to be characterised by the Holy Spirit whom the world “cannot receive, because it does not see him, or know him (John 14:17). There is nothing unusual about being misunderstood in this world, as being a believer in Christ.
But let us be of good courage. The word to Joshua was, “Be strong and courageous” and it is repeated three times. When things are repeated more than once in Scripture they are to be thoroughly meditated upon, taken to heart and thought about. May we be encouraged for His Name’s sake.
An address at Worthing, 29 September 2018
GROWING UP TO HIM
2 Peter 3:18
1 Timothy 1:12-17
1 Kings 10:1-13
I desire, with the Lord’s help, to say a few words about Christian growth It is a normal thing for a Christian to want to grow. Some people might say, I’m saved and that is sufficient. But the Bible was written to encourage those who trusted in the Lord, that we might grow.
I am not speaking of salvation. We cannot add to our salvation, the Lord’s work is complete. There is nothing we can add to that in any way at all. We are absolutely secure for time and eternity as having trusted in Him and His precious work. I speak about growth.
The Lord, when He told the parable of the sower, talked about growth. Plants grew up and bore fruit (see Matthew 13:8) and there are other references in the scriptures. Paul spoke much about growth; writing to the Ephesians he says, “that we may grow up to him in all things” (Ephesians 4:15). There is much written in the epistles so that we might grow as Christians. When Paul spoke to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, he said, “I have not shrunk from announcing to you all the counsel of God”. He did that so that they would grow, so that they would have a greater appreciation of the things of God.
When I speak of growth I do not mean that we just know more of the Bible. It is a good thing to know the Bible but Peter writes of growing “in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”. What can I say about Jesus now that I could not say a year or two years ago? Has He become more precious to me? How do the experiences of life lead me to a greater appreciation of the Lord? Can I can speak with certainty about knowing Him as a Saviour and a Friend and as a wonderful intercessor for us?
It is important that we grow. I trust that all will be concerned to think about it and to consider, ‘What can I say about the Lord Jesus and what He means to me?’ In what aspect of my life is there growth?’ The verse just before where we read speaks about falling away and it is there as a warning. If I am not growing, I might be in danger of falling away.
So, Peter says, “grow in grace”. Peter himself grew and you can see that in the scripture. When he started out he did not know very much at all. You see through the gospels that sometimes Peter said things that were wrong. At one point Peter was so wrong that the Lord had to say, “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23). But when you read his 2nd. epistle you see the words of a father, the words of someone who loved the Lord Jesus and had grown in his appreciation as he looked back at the wonderful things he was privileged to see. He was privileged to see Jesus in His glory. He says we were, “eyewitnesses of his majesty”. He looked back and that wonderful moment had grown in his mind. It had stayed with him for thirty years. So what can you or I say about the Lord Jesus Christ? Peter spoke from his own experience when he exhorted believers to “grow in grace”.
Grace is a vast thought. I seek just to say a few words tonight about three aspects of it:
First we should see the humility that should mark a Christian. We see an example of it with the apostle Paul. As he came to see what a terrible, shocking sinner he was he realised how much God had loved him and how far He has reached out in order to save him; as a result his appreciation grew;
Then I seek just to say a few words about love and affection, being tender-hearted towards others; growing in our feelings towards those around us that we might show the love of Jesus to others as demonstrated in Acts 20;
Then, in the last scripture we see the Queen of Sheba who had heard about Solomon but found that he was actually greater and more wonderful than she had ever been led to believe. So her appreciation increased.
May our appreciation of the Lord Jesus – where He is, His glory and His Person – grow in our hearts so we might find that the half has not been told us. So we might be able to express our appreciation of Him to others - to Him first, then to others.
So I turn first of all to the epistle to Timothy. We can have various thoughts about the apostle Paul. We can think what a great preacher he was, what marvellous expositions he had of God’s thoughts towards men and women, what wonderful revelations he had and how blessed it must have been to see the Lord in the glory. Yet with all that, Paul never lost the sense of what he had been before the Lord found him. He speaks about it to Timothy. It is not that we should glory in our sins but rather as we appreciate more of the holiness of God we realise what an enormous debt of sin we have incurred and how wonderfully God has reached out toward us.
Sometimes we see people who do grotesque and terrible things and we may say, ‘How shocking!’ Then we realise what is in our own heart. You look at the perfection of Jesus and you realise that if we are to grow as Christians we also need to grow in humility. Peter says at the end of his first epistle, “and all of you bind on humility towards one another; for God sets himself against the proud, but to the humble gives grace” (1 Peter 5:5). You cannot pretend to be humble but you can, as a believer, realise how holy God is and how worthless you are.
Recently in Warley we have been reading the book of Exodus. It contains a detailed account of the tabernacle system and it made me wonder why we are given this in such detail? Why is it so important? Well, I think it is to impress us with the holiness of God. So we have a greater sense of God’s holiness, it makes us realise how great a sinner we each are and how awful sin must be in His sight. It makes you value the work of Jesus more. It makes you realise just how much God loves you that He has reached out to save you and that will cause your soul to grow in appreciation of God’s love. It helps us to fill out our place here as Christians that we might be able to lift our eyes towards heaven and worship and honour the God who has loved us so much and sent His Son for us.
Paul was a shocking man before he was brought to Christ. He was a blasphemer and a persecutor. Blasphemer: - one who dishonoured God’s name, a man who took Christians and compelled them to blaspheme as well. He dishonoured God’s name thinking he was doing the right thing but he was on wrong lines completely. Then he was an insolent and overbearing man. His relationship with God was wrong and his relationship with men and women was wrong as well. Everything was wrong.
So in writing to Timothy he says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first”. What a shocking man Saul was before the Lord Jesus found him. And he does not forget it. You find in the scripture the account of his conversion and then there are five other accounts, too, throughout scripture – three of them are in the Acts: the one in Acts 9 when we are told about the event and then Paul’s own accounts of it are repeated twice. Then in the epistles he alludes to his conversion three times. What we read in Timothy is one of them. He tells us what he was like before and as he thought about it, it deepens his desire is to honour God and glorify His name.
Now we must each take it for ourselves. How do I think about my sins? Not in any way to glory in them or to be ground down in misery but to realise how holy God is and how far short I fall. Not a day can go past in my life when I do not sin. I might not do anything obviously wrong but how often we may have wrong thoughts or motives!
I believe that as a Christian grows the desire is that they might grow more like Jesus; that they might be given help not to sin and that they might be more sensitive about sin. I think when we are first saved we are just glad of relief that you are not facing God’s judgment: at least, that is how I was. I was saved as a young child and I was so relieved that I was not going to face God’s wrath. Then as we go on in the Christian way there are things that we thought were all right and then you realise that actually the Bible tells you they are not all right. It is not just what we do but what we think. As we grow as believers we see what is due to God and that God wants us to live our lives honouring Him that we might be a testimony in the world.
The world’s culture is pervasive. Every day the world laughs at sin; it makes a joke of it so that we might think it is not quite so bad. I would desire that I should not laugh with the world, that I should see sin for what it is – utterly offensive to God. Paul realised that God had rescued him from what he was as a sinner and brought him into a new order of life altogether and he wanted to tell others. He writes, “Faithful is the word, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. Jesus did not come to save the righteous, He came to save sinners. And I am one of them. Praise be His name, He saved me! He saved most, if not all, in this company today, how wonderful that is.
Paul goes on to say, “Now to the King of the ages, the incorruptible, invisible, only God, honour and glory to the ages of ages. Amen”. It is wonderful that in just a few verses he goes from speaking of what he was as a sinner, to glorifying God. That is the transformation brought about by the gospel.
Every time we take the Lord’s Supper, when we come together to remember Him, the loaf and the cup help us to remember what He has done, the cost of it, and His wonderful love. It leads to our being wonderfully liberated to see Him and praise Him where He now is.
Then when we read the Bible it will tell us what God’s standard is. I am not talking about the commandments, I am speaking of the New Testament where we find the apostles Paul, Peter, James and John all telling us about what is expected of a believer. You and I might feel challenged by that but the Lord speaks to us not to grind us down and make us feel miserable and unworthy but to lift us up and to set us on our way and cause us to be concerned that we might serve and honour Him now.
The answer and the outcome of this is that we glorify God. I do think that if all down the ages believers had been more concerned about growing in humility and remembering their own unworthiness, they would have been preserved from much error and harm. There is always a tendency to start thinking something of ourselves. Think about the Lord Jesus. In Philippians it speaks of Him as making Himself of no reputation (Philippians 2:7). Not ‘some’ reputation, not a small reputation – no reputation! Think about that: the Son of God, the Lord of lords; the One who Hebrews tells us, “made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:2), made Himself of no reputation.
As we think about how far He has reached out to us it will give us a greater appreciation of His love and we will grow. As we appreciate His love more we will want to serve Him and to honour Him. May we be encouraged in that.
Now I turn to Acts. This is a very interesting scripture. Believers were gathered together on the first day of the week. I just encourage us all to ask ourselves, ‘Why do we do things? Why do we break bread on the first day of the week?’ Well, we find it in the Scriptures. It is important to base what we do on the Scriptures. Believers were gathered together here and Paul spoke. Now I have wondered why no one was worried about Eutychus’ To be perched on the window ledge on the third floor of a building was not the most secure place to be. I would encourage us all to be concerned about the young. The world is a very, very dangerous place. There is violence, all those things; but there is also what is attractive. Eutychus was in a position of great danger: he was half in and half out, as it were.
I do not speak to those who are young lightly. When I was young I remember a brother speaking and being quite offended that he spoke about those who are young. I thought, ‘Why are you having a go at those who are young?’ But as I get older I realise the dangers are so great, the dangers of social media, for instance. The ability to communicate with others has blessings. You can speak to people in other parts of the world; you can communicate with your family and other Christians. Well, it is a blessing. But like most inventions of man these things also can be used for great evil. That is just an example where you can be drawn into things in a world of self-occupation, a world full of what other people are doing and so waste hours of your life. These things may draw us away when we are older too.
I would encourage you, especially if you are young, to be wholehearted about your Christianity. Do not have a dabble in the world, socialise with your friends, and then tidy yourself up for a Sunday. It will not do, you will be caught out. You will be tested and found wanting. Commit yourself to the Lord’s things. Commit yourself wholeheartedly and the Lord will honour it. He will bless it. He will reward you in yourself. He will give you joy that you will not find in the world. The world has pleasures. The Bible calls them, “the temporary pleasure of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). I am not saying they are not pleasures. But they are temporary and they will leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Eutychus was in the window opening three floors up. I am not saying that Eutychus was a wrong person but he became overpowered by sleep and he fell out. Imagine the distress! The apostle Paul descended. He was not there in all his dignity. He descended. He was marked by compassion. Some translations speak about it as tender-heartedness.
You will find this sort of compassion in John’s, Paul’s and Peter’s writings. It is something you can grow in. It does not matter how old you are or how young you are. You can grow in affection for others. It is a feature of the Lord Jesus. The Lord was marked by compassion. He had compassion on the crowd (see Mark 8:2) and He felt for the individual. Yet it was more than just feelings, He acted on them. It is not enough just to feel sorry about a situation, the Lord acted on it. He did not just feel sorry for the crowd, He made sure they were fed. He did not just feel sorry for the leper: He healed him (see Mark 1:44). Now, we cannot do the things that Jesus did but we can act. It is no good saying, ‘Oh, is so sad, someone has fallen into trouble’ – Paul descended. Paul acted in the way the Saviour would have acted.
I would just encourage us to act in that way; to grow in compassion and affection for others. It is a wonderful feature of the Christian to think beyond ourselves. Paul enfolded Eutychus. How affectionate that was. He did not have some pronouncement or wonderful words. He enfolded him and said, “Be not troubled, for his life is in him”. Look for life, do not glory in the failure of others but look for life.
We read of Jesus, that: “smoking flax shall he not quench”. Even with the smallest amount of smoke there is some heat, there is some love for the Lord there. He will not quench it. The “bruised reed shall he not break” (Matthew 12:20, quoting Isaiah 42:3). Think of the bruised reed, probably a reference to an instrument like a pipe. If it is bruised it will make an uncertain noise. “A bruised reed shall he not break”, He will not throw it away, He will restore it to life and vitality.
Paul said, “Be not troubled, for his life is in him. And having gone up, and having broken the bread, and eaten, and having long spoken until daybreak, so he went away". A situation arises and we wonder how to act. Perhaps we get afraid that what we do will be misconstrued. Seek the Lord’s help. Have the right desire. If you have the desire you might stumble a few times but you will soon learn and you will be helped to be a blessing to others. It is a feature of growing in grace. The Bible tells us, “they brought away the boy alive, and were no little comforted”. Imagine the feeling of that boy’s parents. I speak as a father – imagine their feelings.
I can say that I have seen others act in this way. I have experienced others acting in this way towards me. It is a wonderful blessing. It is a wonderful thing to feel the warmth of the love of Jesus as expressed through others. So let us encourage each other to act in this way. It does not matter how old you are. An elderly sister has been a great encouragement to me recently. She is of good age and it would not be possible for her to literally embrace someone lying on the ground but she can in her heart and in her praise to God. I seek to encourage all to be marked by growth in our feelings towards others and not be hard.
The world is a hard, unfeeling place. People get discarded. People get used to death and destruction; they get callous about lives. Each life that is lost in the world in disasters is precious in the sight of God. God gave life. Let us care about the Lord’s people and have a desire to bring in life and encouragement that we might sustain what is here for Him. And then let us rejoice when it can be said, “they brought away the boy alive”. How wonderful it is when God’s work comes to light and we can rejoice in it. Then let us not forget to be thankful when we see life amongst us and life amongst the Lord’s people. It is not something to be taken for granted.
I just wanted to say a few words about the Queen of Sheba. The Lord says that she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon (see Mathew 12:42). To the people that the Lord spoke to it must have seemed an incomprehensible distance that she travelled to see Solomon. Some writers think that she came from Yemen, over 1000 mile away. I have been a number of times to the Middle East on business. I go outside and go 100 yards and am so glad to get back into air-conditioned space.
The Queen of Sheba travelled over 1000 miles to see Solomon. Then she brought some enormous gifts with her. It seems she brought over 4 tons of gold. Imagine camels carrying that through miles of hot, dusty desert. It cannot just have been to see his glory. She went because she had heard of his wisdom. She had heard of him and she desired to find out for herself. The question for us is: we have heard about the Lord Jesus, we hear wonderful things about Him but how much do you or I desire to find out more about Him for ourselves? What are we prepared to do to find out more?
When the Queen of Sheba got to Solomon she had a lot of difficult questions to ask. The Bible calls them “enigmas” and Solomon was able to answer them all. We often have difficult questions, things we would like the Lord to explain to us. We do not always understand what we pass through. I suppose every Christian has, many times in their life, said, ‘Why?’ Some answers, I am sure, wait until heaven. We are not going to get an answer now. We see only a little part of a big puzzle.
She came with questions and “she spoke to him of all that was in her heart”. That is a good thing as a Christian, to tell the Lord everything that is in your heart. If there is something you are holding back – maybe you have a bad conscience about it – do not be afraid, tell the Lord. We might not understand our situation but it is a great relief just to cast it before the Lord and know that He hears and that His wisdom is infinite.
Then what the queen saw was so beyond her expectations that the scripture says, “there was no more spirit in her”. One translation renders it, ‘Left her breathless’. It was beyond anything she had thought. She had made a long journey to Solomon but she was not in the least disappointed.
As Christians, we have heard about Jesus. You and I have heard others speak about His glory. Have you have found out something for yourself, something that is your own impression of Him and His glory? Lots of hymns express that kind of experience. The Queen of Sheba saw everything - not just the magnificence of things but how happy everyone was. There is nothing disorderly in the Lord’s things.
His wisdom is a wonderful thing. “The half was not told me” she says. I wonder if we can say that we have found the Lord in a new way even in the past year. That we have discovered things about Him which we knew as doctrine – because they are in the Bible – but we have found deep down in our heart that they are true and wonderful. I can say that for myself in a small way. Sometimes through the circumstances of life we prove the Lord in a new way and find afresh the faithfulness of His unchanging love.
So at the end the Queen of Sheba gave Solomon what she had brought. We are not asked to give gold or silver or spices or anything of that sort. But we can give the Lord the affection of our heart. We can seek to serve Him and honour Him and to look for His return. Above all I long to see His face, the face of the One who has loved me whom I cannot really see today. The scripture tells us, “we see now through a dim window obscurely” (1 Corinthians 13:12). In this hall in Defford there is obscured glass. You can make out some things behind it but you cannot make out the detail of it. Well, the brilliance of the glory to come will be wonderful. As we wait for that time the question is do we find that, as King Solomon gave the Queen of Sheba ‘of his bounty’, so the Lord Jesus satisfies our hearts in the present time. Are we growing in our appreciation and love for Him? Are we growing in our desire to serve Him and serve His people and be a blessing to those who do not know Him?
Then His coming for His own leads on to something else that I long to see – Christ exalted in the world which has rejected Him. I look forward, as Peter did, to the kingdom wherein dwells righteousness (see 2 Peter 3:13). All the disorder in the world in which we live and the effects of Satan’s activity, that is so manifest today, will be done away.
I have sought in a simple way to bring the grace of God before us that we might grow in grace. That it might shine out through us as we grow in our knowledge of the Saviour. I do not mean knowing about Jesus - lots of people know about Him, they can give you lots of facts and information – but to know Him for yourself. As we grow in our appreciation we find that He not only satisfies our heart but our desire is to honour Him more and in that God is glorified.
May we all be encouraged.
THE BRIDE’S APPRECIATION OF CHRIST AS RECORDED IN THE SONG OF SONGS
“What is thy beloved more than another
Thou fairest among women?
What is thy beloved more than another beloved,
That thou dost so charge us?"
“My beloved is white and ruddy,
The chiefest among ten thousand.
His head is as the finest gold;
His locks are flowing, black as the raven;
His eyes are like doves by the water- brooks ,
Washed with milk, fitly set;
His cheeks are as a bed of spices, raised beds of sweet plants;
His lips lilies, dropping liquid myrrh.
His hands gold rings, set with the chrysolite;
His belly is bright ivory, overlaid with sapphires;
His legs, pillars of marble, set upon bases of fine gold:
His bearing as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars;
His mouth is most sweet:
Yea, he is altogether lovely.
This is my beloved, yea, this is my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem.”
We are often challenged as to what we can truly say about the Lord Jesus. What appreciation have we? What can we say about Him to God and what can we say about Him to others? I love this Scripture in the Song of Songs because there the feminine speaker was separated positionally from her beloved. He had come to enjoy her company but she was slow to respond to him and he went away. We cannot just presume the presence of Christ. He comes where He is loved, appreciated and responded to.
She felt this and sought him but she could not find him so she asks her companions to help her and they say, “what is thy beloved more than another beloved?” In effect they were saying ‘Why should we help you?’ As a result we have a beautiful description of the beloved intended by the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts of Christ. I do not want to go into great detail but just to identify some of the blessed features that she sees.
Some of the things that she says about him are things that she could not have known unless she was in communion with him. It is a great thing to be in communion with Christ. It is not simply that you know Him as your Saviour but also to enjoy a daily and personal walk with the Lord Jesus, to trust Him for everything and to be in the present enjoyment of His love. That is what it is to be in communion with Christ. In John’s gospel after Lazarus was raised from the dead we read, “where was the dead man Lazarus … and Martha served” (John 12:1, 3) but Mary was in communion with Christ and she shows it was so because she anointed His body for burial. Think of what it must have meant to the Lord that there was someone in that company who appreciated where He was going. His death was just a few days away and Mary had some appreciation of where He was going. That was precious to the Lord. It is of great importance to be in communion with the Lord.
Well, here in the Song of Songs it begins with, “My beloved is white”. The spotless character of Christ marks the whole of her description. It shows through in the milk and in the ivory and the lilies and the marble. Every way that I look at Christ, I find perfection. What moral excellence is found in Him. It was demonstrated right at the start of His public service when He was driven into the wilderness to meet Satan. He did not go, exactly, voluntarily: the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness there to be tested in the most severe way. And that testing brought out the moral perfection that was found in the Manhood of Christ. He would say later, “The ruler of the world comes, and in me he has nothing” (John 14:30). Satan had no access to Christ. He has access to you and I. It has been well said that temptation comes along three avenues which John describes, “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). These three things, and there were others too that the Lord was tested on, and it brought out the moral perfection found in Him. That was so important because if He was to go forward and meet my liability at Calvary’s cross He had to be morally perfect – and He was. “The holy thing also which shall be born shall be called Son of God” (Luke 1:35). The perfection of the Manhood of Christ is a wonderful study for us.
She then goes on to speak about the gold. “His head is of the finest gold”. The gold goes right through her description as well: the gold on the head, the gold on the hands and the gold in the bases. Think of the glory of the divinity of Christ.. When it comes to the Ark of the covenant: the wood was overlaid with the gold. It touched it but it was never mixed. We must keep the thoughts of the divinity of Christ and the perfection of His Manhood separate. We cannot think of them in the same context. God did not die on Calvary’s cross but the Man who died was God. The hymn puts it beautifully:
‘We see the Godhead glory
Shine through that human veil,
And, willing, hear the story
Of love that’s come to heal’
[J. N. Darby]
Another feature is: “the chiefest among ten thousand”. He is not to be compared with anyone else. We do not read ‘He shall be the greatest’, but “He shall be great” (Luke 1:32). That is said at the very beginning. He is beyond all praise of tongue or pen. He is not to be compared with anyone else.
“His head is as the finest gold; His locks are flowing; black as the raven”. Think of the changelessness of Christ. We grow old, we alter, we change. He changes not. This is not what John saw in Revelation: the “hair white like white wool” (Revelation 1:14). There it reminds us of the maturity of His judgment as He assesses the state of the seven churches. Here, in the Song, it is black as the raven, showing strength and vitality.
Next she speaks of “His eyes are like doves by the water-brooks”. Think of what is communicated by the eyes. If you are to get the message that the eyes convey then you must be close to the person. You can hear a voice from a distance but for the message that is conveyed by the eyes you have to be close. These eyes conveyed love. The dove would signify fidelity and faithfulness. Christ loves us faithfully despite our failings.
Peter found it to be so. . When asked whether he had been with the Lord, he replies, “Woman, I do not know him” (Luke 22:57). The Lord turned round and looked at Peter but He never said anything. Those eyes communicated to Peter that He loved him. The Lord knew him through and through. The Lord knew Peter would fail Him. He knew he would let Him down. He knows everything about us. He knows our failings but He knows if we love Him. The look of the Lord broke Peter down. Earlier Jesus had said, I have prayed for you, “that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:32). The Lord knew how Peter would fail Him. When he realised what he had done, that he had claimed publicly that he never knew Jesus, it was enough to overwhelm him. He loved the Lord Jesus but he failed at that point. And we all fail Him. We have all let the Lord down.
When was the last time you had an opportunity to proclaim your love for the Saviour and never did it? Let me take it to myself – I have let the Lord down many times but He has never stopped loving me. The constancy of the Lord’s love through everything is a very wonderful thing.
Then we read, “His cheeks are as a bed of spices”. The cheeks of Christ came within the range of unregenerate man. There was a man, an actor, who was asked to play the part of a Roman legionary in a film. In order to get into the part he enlisted in a school in Rome where you can go and learn how to be a Roman legionary. You can still do that apparently. He said he was shocked at the savagery of what they were taught. Now before Jesus was crucified we are told that “they gathered against him the whole band” (Matthew 27:27), over one hundred men, the whole band, set about my Saviour. “He gave his cheeks to those who plucked off the hair” (Isaiah 50:6).
The sufferings of Christ are calculated to affect us. Why did the Father allow it? It speaks of His love. The Lord Jesus came to demonstrate the heart of God towards lost and ruined man. You and I are included in that - every one of us. Think of the fragrance that ascended to the blessed God through the life, suffering, and the death of His Son. That life, surrendered as it was in death, was put under the most severe testing: “who, when reviled, reviled not again; when suffering, threatened not; but gave himself over into the hands of him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). As He was lifted up on that cross He could say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). That is my Saviour. The sufferings of Christ should soften our hearts.
Now we come to, “His lips lilies, dropping liquid myrrh”. Think of the grace of Christ. Think of the grace that was poured into His lips according to Psalm 45. Think of that grace pouring out as He moved among men. The myrrh would speak of healing balm available to all. Think of those who were healed through the words that came from these lips. What a challenge! Can we act in this way towards one another and bring in a touch of balm through an impression of Christ that would help someone on their way? We read, “The Lord Jehovah hath given me the tongue of the instructed, that I should know how to succour by a word him that is weary. He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the instructed” (Isaiah 50:4). The Lord did that in His Manhood. He met that woman at Sychar’s well, and by His words he brought new life to her (see John 4:4-30). Then, when he came to Nazareth they “wondered at the words of grace which were coming out of his mouth” (Luke 4:22).
Then, as He taught and encouraged His own what lessons we learn about how we are to be with one another. We are set together; it is not easy sometimes for we are different characters. But we have to get beyond those kind of things and act in grace towards one another. Martha charged the Lord with not caring, “dost thou not care” she says. But He says to her, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41). Oh, the grace of Christ. “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sakes he, being rich, became poor, in order that ye by his poverty might be enriched” (2 Corinthians 8:9). What enrichment that has come to us through this blessed Person.
It goes on, “his hands gold rings”. His hands were nailed to Calvary’s cross. Those hands that were outstretched in blessing are the hands into which all government has been committed. Everything has been committed into the hands of Christ. What is in those hands? You and I, as believers in Jesus, are held in the hands of Christ. Think of being held there in the affections of Christ. What security that gives for none shall “seize them out of my hand… and no one can seize them out of the hand of my Father's” (John 10:28-29).
“His belly is bright ivory”. Think of the compassions of Christ, expressed here in Manhood as He moved among men. Think of the suffering that He Himself went through. That is why He is able to enter into our circumstances. The Lord Jesus is the One who can comfort and sustain us in any circumstance whatever because He has been through every trial that we may be called to face, only sin apart.
Hebrews tells us of One who is perfected to be the High Priest through the things that He suffered. The compassions of Christ are there. He is able to succour and support. The hymn puts it:
‘He knows what sorest trials mean
For He has felt the same’
Then she continues, “his legs, pillars of marble”. Think of the stability of that. Isaiah, speaking of Christ, tells, He “shall be the stability of thy times” (Isaiah 33:6). In Solomon’s temple there were two pillars. One was called “Jachin” , meaning ‘he will establish’, and the other “Boaz”, meaning ‘In him is strength’. That is what we find in Christ, One that we can depend upon absolutely. There is a great deal of instability in the world. We are challenged when you think about it. The world is heading for judgment. The believer has nothing here. Things will get worse and worse, they will not get better and they are heading up. We are challenged in our own hearts when we think about it. Well, we find stability in Christ.
Then, “His bearing as Lebanon”. Think of the movements of Christ here. Think of the dignity with which He moved even at the point when He was given the crown of thorns and the purple robe. “Jesus... went forth” (John 19:5). Never were things given with such mockery and worn with such dignity. He was and is the King of kings. That will be seen publicly and every eye will see Him and every one will “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to God the Father’s glory” (Philippians 2:11). God will see to it that this One is owned. All things are secure, God’s plan is going through. Christ is coming to take up His reins in government. What a day that will be!
“His mouth is most sweet”. This was an intimate touch that she had experienced with the Lord. This is what she knew because of her communion with him. “… taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). It is a great thing if you find that the Lord is sweet.
Finally, there is a summing up: “Yea, he is altogether lovely”. “This is my beloved, yea, this is my friend”. In her mind, in her heart, she is restored completely to her beloved. What is the answer from the daughters of Jerusalem? They are changed as a result of her description. “Whither is thy beloved gone, Thou fairest among women? … And we will seek him with thee”(Chapter 6:1). Can we help one another into this? Are we so enjoying the presence of Christ that we encourage one another into it? It would be a great thing if as a result we were all more attached to the Lord Jesus - that we find more of our joy and satisfaction in Him.
THE POWER OF GODWherefore did I come, and there was no man? I called, and there was none to answer? Is my hand at all shortened that I cannot redeem, or have I no power to deliver? Isaiah 50:2
And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple rent in the midst. And Jesus, having cried with a loud voice, said, Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit. And having said this, he expired Luke 23:45 – 46.
… that by two unchangeable things, in which it was impossible that God should lie, we might have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us, which we have as anchor of the soul, both secure and firm, and entering into that within the veil, where Jesus is entered as forerunner for us, become for ever a high priest according to the order of Melchisedec. Hebrews 6:18 – 19.
I would like us to consider together God’s power. There is a lot made of power nowadays and all kinds of efforts are made to have more and more power available according to man’s mind. But the power of God has been shown in the gospel and particularly in the Lord Jesus Himself.
Since the beginning the power of God was there and we are very thankful for the first book of the Bible that tells us faithfully how God created the heavens and the earth and the power that was displayed in that creation. But soon man disobeyed God and sin came in so the question that God puts to man is the one we read in Isaiah. “Is my hand at all shortened that I cannot redeem?” It was not the first time that God had asked that question. He had already asked it of Moses when He said, “Hath Jehovah's hand become short? Now shalt thou see whether my word will come to pass unto thee or not” (Numbers 11:23). That was the power of God to redeem His people, the children of Israel that He had chosen according to His own desire and plan.
But, as we know, the children of Israel failed and disobeyed as we have all fallen in disobedience. So the question comes to us, ‘Is God’s hand short that it cannot redeem us?’ That question is a searching one in the heart of each one. If you are not a believer that question should stir your heart – is God’s hand shortened? Has it not the same power that it had in creation? Yes, exactly the same power is there. The power that can create is the power that can redeem: it is the same power, a power that is expressed in the way in which God is available today in the Lord Jesus.
The way that God has chosen expresses the wonder of His sovereignty. He has chosen many different ways to show the presence of His power. Think of the miracles with the people of Israel in Egypt. Think of the way in which God spoke through His prophets. Think of the way in which He had servants who could show His power. Think of Elijah, Samuel and Daniel. Think of how Daniel was delivered many times; think of him in the den of the lions and the power of God that was there ready to deliver.
Do you believe in the power of God? It is a power that is not, speaking reverently, shown in authority in the way of judgment but is shown in love. It is a power that reaches the heart in love. It will have a judgment side to it but at the present time, in the dispensation of grace, it is a power displayed in love and grace. It is power to redeem because that is what we need. We are sinners and we need to be redeemed. ‘Redemption’ means that we are delivered from the power of the devil, the power of the one who wants to rule over us. God intends to deliver us from the power of Satan and transport us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (see Colossians 1:13).
Now, when was this redemption accomplished? It was accomplished at a time when all unrighteousness was seen. Can you think of a worse legal process than the one that the Lord had to undergo? It was a trial where the judge had to say “I find no fault whatever in him” (John 18:38), yet He was condemned to die. Here was a Man who had “done nothing amiss” (Luke23:41); the robber on the cross could witness to that. The Lord was One who had gone about doing good, bringing grace and healing and giving life yet He was condemned to die. What unrighteousness was shown on the part of mankind. But the power of God was there. The power of God was showing itself in the fact that the Lord took a body - became Man – that He might bear in His body the judgment of sin that was due to us. In becoming Man He also accepted that place of a perfect servant in complete dependence on His Father.
Think of His words on the cross. It says that the Lord cried with a loud voice. There was power there. You would not expect somebody dying on a cross to be able to speak with a loud voice. But the Lord Jesus had that power. We speak with reverence about these matters. But it is there. It is witnessed in Scripture. We are very thankful to Luke because there is a unique report of this fact; the Lord cried with a loud voice and He said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Think of the power that is there. The Lord was able to lay down His life and He was also able to take it up again. Here He was laying it down. Nobody else could do that, they just died on the cross as men die. But the Lord Jesus had a powerful death: although it was a death in full dependence on His Father - He says, “Father, into thy hands” – nevertheless He was able to commit His Spirit to the Father and then He expired. That is the moment in which the power of God was expressed in such a powerful way, in a way that can reach the heart of each one of us. There is no other salvation. There is no other redemption.
The Lord on the cross can really redeem each sinner. He has redeemed me: He can redeem you if you put your trust in Him. It is such a powerful way in which He acted. And it is as if everything was calm in the Lord; although undergoing such suffering He was absolutely calm in putting His Spirit into the hands of His Father and laying down His life.
As we know, He has taken it up again and we bless Him for that. That is why He is not only a Saviour to us but He is also Lord to us because He has taken His life up again and He can therefore exercise rights upon your heart. He has been powerful in redeeming you and He can powerfully lead you through life in dependence upon Him.
If you have not yet put your trust in the Lord, now is the moment to do so. At the present time God waits in grace. We do not know what can happen in a few moments. We might not be here: time is in the Lord’s hands. Now is the time for you to believe on Him and the gospel is preached so that you may do so. The gospel is being preached because this is a time of grace. Come to the Lord and take heed to His power in redemption, His power to save you. He laid down His life and took it up again that He might redeem you.
When you have trusted in Him you become a believer. And when you become a believer your first reaction is to be filled with joy about what the Lord has done. But following this experience there is a new path to be followed as a Christian here in the world where Christ is still despised and rejected. For that pathway you have need of the power of God: this is the power spoken of in Hebrews which is available to us in order that, “we might have a strong encouragement”.
I have been thinking of this expression lately. There is not much that encourages us in the world. Quite a few things do the opposite and depress us if you think about it because there is no human hope for this world. But the strong encouragement comes from within on account of the power of God expressed in the Lord Jesus.
Where we read in Hebrews it speaks of this hope. It says, “we … have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us”. Do you not think, dear reader, that this is a time in which we can really experience fleeing for refuge? Escaping from all which can overwhelm us and that makes us despair humanly speaking? We have a hope on account of the Lord’s power, power that will change everything and in due time will bring about a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness.
In the present time we have this hope set before us, “as anchor of the soul”. Nothing is sure nowadays except what is connected with the Lord Jesus as the Rock. He is the One who can really provide an anchor for our souls.
When the anchor gets a solid hold there will not be any movement, there will not be any loss. This is exactly the power that is available in the gospel - not only to redeem, but to make us sure in our belief, of our pathway here and of our hope.
Then it continues speaking of, “entering into that within the veil, where Jesus is entered”. I think this is very fine. This is a glorious part of the gospel. By His death the Lord Jesus has opened up a way whereby we can go into the holiest. He has gone in as our Forerunner as we sometimes sing:
And we our great Forerunner see
In His own glory there;
Yet not ashamed with such as we,
As Firstborn all to share.
Then He has gone in as high priest, to lead the praises. That is the answer that comes from the gospel. The gospel transforms the sinner into a believer and the believer into a worshipper. That is exactly the hope that is within the veil, the hope that we can have in our Lord who has gone in there.
May we be affected by the power of God expressed in the Lord Jesus. You need to know that power while it is available to you in grace. You do not want to experience it when it is a power for judgment for you. It will be a terrible power to those who will have to undergo God’s judgment. But at the moment you can avoid that by believing in the Lord Jesus now, today and to experience His power in redemption. May this be your experience and our experience together, for His name’s sake.
A preaching of the Gospel, Worthing, 16 July 2017.
THE REST OF OUR TIME
"Christ, then, having suffered for us in the flesh, do ye also arm yourselves with the same mind; for he that has suffered in the flesh has done with sin, no longer to live the rest of his time in the flesh to men's lusts, but to God's will. For the time past is sufficient for us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, walking in lasciviousness, lusts, wine-drinking, revels, drinkings, and unhallowed idolatries. Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same sink of corruption, speaking injuriously of you;" - 1 Peter 4:1-4.
"Brethren, I do not count to have got possession myself; but one
thing - forgetting the things behind, and stretching out to the
things before, I pursue, looking towards the goal, for the prize of
the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13, 14
I particularly had in mind the expression in verse 2 of chapter 4 of 1 Peter, 'the rest of his time'. We have spoken already tonight of the matter of death. Some here have lost loved ones very recently and there is nothing like death to bring the reality of matters before us. None of us know how long we have left here, but we all have the rest of our time and the consideration for all of us would be, 'How are we going to spend the rest of our time?' Is it going to be living in self pleasing, doing our own will, and pursuing our own aims in life, or is it going to be doing God's will as spoken of here in 1 Peter?
What a challenge this is to us. When death comes in, whatever we have pursued materially in this life is at an end; it is all finished at death. On the other hand whatever we have pursued in the way of spiritual things and whatever we have learned of our Lord Jesus and of the place that He fills - that is what goes through and that is what will be our eternal portion.
What a need there is for us to study and be occupied with God's word. It is vital that we apply our minds to the Scriptures and to do so when we are young. Reading the Scriptures increases our knowledge of God Himself and our understanding of the truth. There are of course parts of Scripture that we may find very difficult to understand but the more we read and pray about them, the more we call upon the Holy Spirit to help us, then the more understanding and light we get as to them and that leads to growth in our souls. The Holy Spirit, who is the earnest of our inheritance, will help us to reach into the great things of God. Nothing can be understood in the things of God apart from the Holy Spirit's service to us.
I would seek to give a word of encouragement and exhortation as to
the rest of our time, recognising that I need such a word as much as
anybody. It may not be very long, we do not know. Of course, we are
to be looking for the Lord's return - what a hope we have - but if
we are called home to be with the Lord by way of death, we know that
we enter into His presence. What a comfort it is to know that those
who love the Lord Jesus pass immediately into the presence of the
Lord. Think of what the Lord Jesus has entered into for us that He
might deliver us from this present evil world to give us a real
living hope, a hope which lies beyond this world. This world is
going on to destruction; it is full of confusion and evil.
So the apostle Peter here is encouraging believers, exhorting them to be of the same attitude of mind as the Lord Jesus Christ. 'Christ, then, having suffered for us in the flesh'. The Lord Jesus came here to do the will of God which He did to perfection, but that will involved the greatest suffering possible, for it meant His going into death that He might deliver God's people for Himself.
So it is a challenge to us. How are we going to live the rest of
our time? Peter speaks about the time past. That was sufficient 'to
have wrought the will of the Gentiles'. What is the will of the
Gentiles? - the things that Peter goes over in the verses we read.
How distasteful they are to the Christian, but that is what the
natural man, the flesh in us, lusts after. So we have to deal with
these things, and overcome the flesh with the help of the Holy
People in the world do not understand the Christian; they cannot understand how Christians find their life outside of 'the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life'. They do not understand the life of the Christian, because it is a life hidden with the Christ in God. We have something far more precious than the world and its pursuits could ever give us, so let us have done with the worldly things that occupied us in the past.
The passage in Philippians would be an encouragement to us. Paul says that he does not, 'count to have got possession myself'. Think of all that Paul had given up, things that he could count filth, because of his knowledge of Christ as his Lord and Saviour. He lost everything here and he counted it as dung: it meant nothing to him, 'on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord'.
So he says here, 'I do not count to have got possession myself; but one thing - forgetting the things behind'. One of the things that marked Israel in the wilderness journey from Egypt to the land of promise was that they continually hankered after the things they had left in Egypt. They remembered all the delicacies of Egypt but they forgot the hard labour and the oppression that they went through, all the suffering they endured. Their minds wandered back to Egypt and we very easily, even as believers, let our minds wander back to the former days, but the apostle Paul says here 'forgetting the things behind, and stretching out to the things before'.
What lies before us? I have spoken about the rest of our time, and if it is only in relation to this scene, how feeble it is, but in stretching out to the things before we think of eternity, when we shall be in the presence of the Lord. What an occupation for our hearts and minds!
I believe the Lord's supper and the service of praise and worship which flows from it is a real encouragement to lift our souls above things here, as it connects us with our eternal portion to have our part and place in the service of God.
So Paul says, 'I pursue, looking towards the goal'. There is an
object in view, which the believer has, and for the apostle it was
'looking towards the goal, for the prize of the calling on high of
God in Christ Jesus'. What a place that is: 'in Christ Jesus'. What
a blessed portion it is for us.
So let us think about the rest of our time. Is it going to be spent here for ourselves, self pleasing? That is a miserable occupation. May it be that the rest of our time is spent walking in relation to God's will. What a reward there will be. There may be suffering now, we might suffer loss and Peter speaks about suffering and loss, but the eternal gain is such a reward. May we be encouraged to pursue these things at the present time.
ADORNING THE TEACHING OF GOD OUR SAVIOUR - PART 4
Paul writing to Titus, exhorts believers to 'adorn the teaching... of our Saviour God in all things' (Titus 2:10). God is looking for the expression of divine teaching in the lives and conduct of men and women just like ourselves. Paul, writing to the Corinthian believers, says, 'Ye are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read of all men' (2 Corinthians 3:2). That is, there was something about the work of God in those saints that was an adornment.
ADORNMENT SEEN IN THE CHRISTIAN COMPANY IN
'Then they who had been scattered abroad through the tribulation that took place on the occasion of Stephen, passed through the country... speaking the word to no one but to Jews alone. But there were certain of them, Cyprians and Cyrenians, who entering into Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, announcing the glad tidings of the Lord Jesus. And the Lord's hand was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. And the report concerning them reached the assembly which was in Jerusalem and they sent out Barnabas to go through as far as Antioch: who having arrived and seeing the grace of God, rejoiced, and exhorted all with purpose of heart to abide with the Lord... And he went away to Tarsus to seek out Saul. And having found him, he brought him to Antioch. And...for a whole year they were gathered together in the assembly and taught a large crowd: and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch' (Acts 11:19-26).
In Acts 11 we read of some believers in Antioch, who had just come to faith in Christ. Luke's account in Acts is quite detailed; there were believers scattered after the martyrdom of Stephen but this was the means whereby the gospel spread out and reached Antioch. Then we are told of those that preached in Antioch: 'And the Lord's hand was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.' Barnabas comes from Jerusalem and seeing the work of God that is going on goes to Tarsus to get Saul and for a whole year this company of believers is taught. What a scope of teaching would have been covered in that year but at the end of it, what does it say? Not that they were exceptionally well-taught persons but that they 'were first called Christians in Antioch'. Christ was expressed. What greater adornment could there be than that in a person's life and it is only expressed because the teaching has been taken on practically.
Teaching brought them practically under the authority of the Lord, so that they would order their lives and testimony in a way that pleased Him. The outcome is that they expressed Christ. You cannot adorn the doctrine unless you learn from Christ what that adornment is. We read in Matthew that Jesus said, 'It is sufficient for the disciple that he should become as his teacher, and the bondman as his lord' (Matthew 10:25). These disciples in Antioch had learned something in Christ and were formed by it so that they were called Christians. They must have seen it, too, expressed in Barnabas and Saul of Tarsus. This would have been a public testimony. They did not call themselves Christians, but were given the name by others.
There was something of Christ with them initially (see verse 23). When Barnabas arrives he sees that the grace of God is active in them. There is something very precious in a soul that has just come to Christ, with an appreciation of what He has done and a longing to learn more of Him. But this shows that God wants formation to take place with us all so that there is a real expression of Christ in our lives. Barnabas discerns how they are and encourages them; he 'exhorted all with purpose of heart to abide with the Lord'. Therefore they are ideal ground, you might say, to take on divine teaching and as taking it on to bring it into expression in their lives.
The Spirit of God is shortly going to move in Antioch. In Acts 13 we read, "Separate me now Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them". The Spirit of God is in this work that is developing in the hearts and lives of these persons. Growth would take place. For a whole year, in all the different circumstances of the year, all would be used by God through Barnabas and Saul to bring about, not only knowledge of the teaching but the expression of it, and that is more important. The apostle Peter expresses it: 'that ye might set forth the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness to his wonderful light' (1 Peter 2:9). That is what "called Christians" means.
Based on a Bible reading at Chester, 24th March 2012.
Extracted from LW116
"WHERE THERE IS NO VISION THE PEOPLE CAST OFF RESTRAINT"(Proverbs 29:18)Isaiah 6:1-7
The chapter we read in the prophet Isaiah begins with the year that King Uzziah died. Uzziah was a good king who reigned for fifty-two years. During the early part of his reign God helped him immensely, but later on Uzziah presumed to enter into the house of God to burn incense, doing something that he was not qualified to do. This was the service of the priests not of the king.
The historical account in 2 Chronicles 26 says that whilst he was in the temple eighty priests joined together and told him to go out. Uzziah was very angry at this, but whilst he was in there beside the altar, God smote him with leprosy and he hasted, the scripture says, to go out. From this time, until his death, he remained in a 'separate house'. The people did not have reliable kingship from this time until Uzziah actually died. At this point Isaiah saw this amazing vision in the temple. The people had been without moral leadership and moral authority; there had been a time of laxity and prosperity.
Isaiah had a distinctive vision of the glory of God and of the holiness of God. I think at the present time in the history of the testimony it is absolutely essential that we get a fresh impression of the glory of God and of the holiness of God. He saw the 'Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up'. What Isaiah saw was something that every one of us should know, that God's glory and authority is to be established amongst His people to the end of the dispensation. Maybe, the throne of King Uzziah had been weak and vacillatory and he had been unable to rule the people, but what Isaiah saw was that God had the authority, the power and the glory to reign in the midst of His people. We need an impression, a vision, at the present time of the exaltation, the glory and greatness of God and His authority and power to reign supreme amongst His people until Christ comes.
The whole scene is filled with a sense of holiness. Scripture says, 'holiness becometh thy house' (Psalm 93:5). There is another scripture that speaks about worshipping God in the beauty of holiness. How do we approach the meetings and the presence of God? What about holiness? Paul speaks in Romans 6:19 of yielding our members in bondage to righteousness unto holiness. There is need at the present time for holiness. I am not exactly talking about separation from things; I am talking about separation to God - what is suitable to the presence of God. Is our behaviour through the week and are our words and our language and how we live suitable to the presence of God? The conclusion that Isaiah comes to, himself a man who had already been commissioned to speak to the people, is that he was unclean and he dwelt in the midst of a people of unclean lips. There is not a brother or sister in this room who is not aware of dwelling amongst people of unclean lips. I do not suppose that one of us has gone through this week without hearing the name of our God and Father blasphemed. We dwell among a people of unclean lips.
In years that have gone by, we often used to hear about self-judgment, repentance and the exercises spoken of at the end of Romans 7. To some extent this seems to have slipped a little with us and a more casual approach to our christianity has come in. My impression is 'where there is no vision the people cast off restraint' (Proverbs 29:18). If we have not a view of the holiness of God, the power of God and the might of His throne, we shall begin to cast off restraint. Isaiah saw the glory of God, 'Mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts'; 'the whole earth is full of his glory'. You might say, taking account of things as they appear outwardly, that it does not look like that. But the vision sees beyond what is outward; it is a vision that sees beyond the present, that looks ahead. Isaiah's book is filled with glory. You get a sense of the glory touching the peaks of the mountains as Isaiah unfolds the greatness of the Messiah, the greatness of the day when Jehovah's house will be a blessing and when Zion will be an eternal excellency down here, her walls salvation and her gates praise. What a vision he had of the way the glory of God was going to touch this scene in which we are. We need a fresh view, a fresh vision, a fresh impression of the glory and power and greatness of the throne of God. There it was in the midst of the people, maybe rejected, maybe the holiness of God not observed, but that vision was in the soul of Isaiah and as a result of it he was commissioned to speak to the people.
We read in the prophet Jeremiah. He was an amazing prophet, often called the weeping prophet. Jeremiah's name means Jah is exalted. Mr. Darby's note for the name Jeremiah states that the name of Jehovah occurs about seven hundred times in this book. The name Jehovah in its usage and in its meaning always relates to others - God in relationship to others. Jah is His name in the infinite glory and greatness of the eternal God, in His own existence, in light unapproachable, whom no man has seen or can see, but the name of Jehovah is in relation to others, to His people, to His own. I think it is a touch of beautiful grace that in this book where the prophet sees the inevitability of destruction, God would emphasise the fact that He is in relationship with His people through it all. God has never cast off His relationship with His people. It is a wonderful thing that in this day and age we can know God as our Father. Christianity has brought believers into the knowledge of God as Father, our Father and our God.
Jeremiah's prophesy was going to be ineffective from the very start. A striking thing that! He prophesied probably for forty years, and God told him, from the very outset, that the people would not listen to what he was going to say and that they would inevitably go over the precipice and into the abyss of destruction. Yet, he was still to prophesy to His people in Judah. He was to warn them and he was to tell them what was coming. He was given authority by God in the verse that we read, over nations and kingdoms and 'to pluck up, and to break down, and to destroy, and to overthrow, to build and to plant'. What a tremendous vocation for a man, what a man of vision Jeremiah was! That is why I read those verses 11-16.
God asked Jeremiah what he could see. I would like to ask every one of us tonight, what do we see? When we look to what lies ahead, what do we see? Are we men and women of vision or do we not see anything? Where no vision is the people cast off restraint. They refused to accept righteousness; they refused to accept moral teaching and their behaviour morally is questionable. I believe we are at a very serious point in the testimony at the present time. Perhaps you are minded to go away; perhaps you are minded to cast away any restraint that you feel is laid upon you but perhaps you have no vision. Sometimes in the prayer meeting we pray about the nations. God's house is a house of prayer for all the nations, but Jeremiah was set over nations and kingdoms by authority from God. By the word of God, he could pluck them up and destroy them! God's first question to him was, 'What do you see?' He said, 'I see a rod of an almond-tree'. What a lovely vision. You will know that Aaron's rod was an almond rod, the rod that blossomed, in Numbers 17. That rod together with eleven others was placed in the presence of God overnight. On the following day all the twelve staves that had been laid up in the presence of God were brought out. The only one that had blossomed was the rod of Aaron. Aaron's rod had budded and bloomed blossoms and ripened almonds. It speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ as the One who in the darkest night of this world's history, at Calvary, brought forth fruit unto God. Wonderful Saviour! How precious He is, the One who brought fruit out of death!
Think of that Man coming up out of death! The glory of Christ as He came out of death! The almond in scripture speaks of God's faithful love. Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:13 that 'If we are unfaithful, He abides faithful'. God is always faithful and that is what the almond rod speaks of. God says, 'I am watchful over my word to perform it.' He says that He is going to watch every single word and is going to carry it through. You can rest on God's promises. What He said He will do and what He has promised He will carry out. 'I am watchful over my word to perform it.' Let us hold on to that vision. Every believer would know something of the assurance of the word of God and the promises of God. Think of the Lord's words, 'I will not leave thee, neither will I forsake thee.' (Hebrews 13:5). How many souls here, all of us probably, have at some stage or another had to fall back on the unchanging love and faithfulness of our Saviour. In the darkest hours of your life, you have proved, I have proved, that the Lord Jesus has not left us. 'I am watchful over my word to perform it.' What a Saviour, what a Lord! Not one word of His is going to fall to the ground, not one of them! 'I am with you all the days, until the completion of the age.' (Matthew 28:20). God is going to perform what He promised.
You can think of the days ahead; not one day will we not be able
to count on the Saviour's promise, 'I am with you all the days'.
What a vision that is, whether it is dark or light, whether it is
sunshine or showers - with you every day. What a promise! Later
in the history of Jeremiah he is put in prison. He had been seven
years imprisoned. The city had been besieged by the Chaldeans for a
year. The battering rams were up against the walls; the enemies were
on the gate. God had said, in chapter 1:15, 'They are going to come
and put their thrones at the gates of Jerusalem, I am going to call
them, I am going to bring them.' This was the seething pot from the
north! God did bring them. And in this incident, there were the
Chaldeans outside the city and Jeremiah was imprisoned inside, eating the bread of affliction every day. The city was full of violence, strife, hunger, fear, being besieged for twelve months, and knowing, from what Jeremiah had said, that the gates were going to be broken down and the enemy was coming in and that they were going to be carried captive and were going to die by the sword or the famine or the pestilence.
Jeremiah says, 'Jehovah hath appeared from afar unto me,' (Jeremiah 31:3). In the midst of all this anguish, in that seventh year of Jeremiah's imprisonment, God in grace draws near to Jeremiah 'from afar' and says, 'Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love'. How long is that? How long is the everlasting love of God? As far back as you can go it is there everlasting. As far forward as you cango, it is still everlasting. 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.' You think of God appealing to His people through His prophet saying 'I have loved you and I love you still and I will love you forever. You may have to go through discipline because of your ways, because you have cast off restraint, but I still love you and I love you despite it.' That word 'have I drawn thee' means 'the way I have bent towards you. I have stooped towards you and I have wrapped my love around you'; 'Therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.' God's heart has not changed. Jeremiah saw the day when the whole nation would be carried away and the land laid waste for seventy years, Jeremiah 25, and it happened. Daniel 'understood by the books,' by the book of Jeremiah, that the seventy years were accomplished and he remembered God's word when He said 'I will bring you again and you will dwell in your own land and you will dwell in safety.' It is wonderful, 'I am watchful over my word to perform it.'
God is watchful over His word; He who is coming will come and will not tarry. The Saviour is coming; we are going to be in the Father's house; we are going to enjoy the unchanged love of God in His presence for ever. God is watchful over His word to perform it. 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love'. Nothing is going to change the love of God; nothing is going to change His loving kindness to His people and that is what Jeremiah saw. I want our hearts to be impressed tonight. These men had vision, they saw something, they looked ahead and they could see something and if we have not got vision we will cast off restraint, and if you have not got a vision of the glory of Christ, if you have not got a vision of the love of God, if you have not got a vision of the authority and power of God you will cast off restraint. Moses also had a vision. 'By faith Moses, when he had become great' (Hebrews 11:24). It was not when he was just newly into Egypt; it was when he had become great. Egypt was at the feet of Moses; you might have said he was in direct line for the throne, for Pharaoh's throne. When he became great he refused to be called son of Pharaoh's daughter. There came a point in his life when he said, 'Egypt is not for me, the throne of Egypt is not for me, there is something better.' Perhaps we need a vision like this. There is something far better than Egypt's pleasures and Egypt's treasures. Mr. Darby says in his hymn, 'Art thou weaned from Egypt's pleasures? God in secret thee shall keep'. Moses came to the point when the whole of the land of Egypt was at his feet and he said no! Probably there is nobody here who has reached a pinnacle as high as Moses reached or Paul reached. Paul had the legal world at his feet. He obtained authority from the chief priests and went outside the land of Israel to persecute the believers of Christ. He seems to have had immense authority and influence. Then he met the Saviour!
What a moment when the sinner meets the Saviour! It changes your view about everything when you see Christ and His glory. That is the way that it came about with Paul. Moses became great and made a choice, 'I will suffer along with these maligned people in the land of Egypt.' That was his decision; he refused Egypt and chose his lot with the people of God. It takes manhood to do that. It takes a vision of the glory of the recompense, a vision of the glory of Christ. Moses knew that those people were going to have a deliverer from Egypt. He knew the promise to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob, that there should be a seed and he believed what God said, he believed the promises, he believed the word of God. He anticipated the coming of One whose glory was going to transcend the greatest glories and riches of Egypt. It says that he esteemed the reproach of the Christ. I always feel very tested when I read that. Do I esteem the reproach of the Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt? Identification with God's people in a time of reproach will bring a reward that nothing of the treasures of Egypt will ever give. The scripture tells us that Moses had respect to the recompense. He had in his soul a vision of the glory of Christ, the Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Saviour. He said, 'A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up to you out of your brethren like me' (Acts 3:22). What a day when he saw Him on the mount of transfiguration! For the first time Moses had his eyes fixed on Christ. He had seen the glory of God from behind but then he saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He had respect to the recompense. Egypt will soon be finished, will soon be over; it is heading off to judgment but the glory of Christ is going to shine for ever throughout the eternal day. The surpassing riches of His grace, the glory of His grace, the greatness of Christ - how wonderful! What can compare with this eternal weight of glory?
Where no vision is the people cast off restraint! Have we an impression of the glory of Christ, of the day when He is coming? Have we any impression, any vision of the judgment seat of Christ? We shall stand before it individually; it is not a question of penalty and we shall go over with Him every deed in every day. Our history will be reviewed if only to magnify the grace of the Saviour who died for us, the grace of the Saviour who has led us every step of the way. The hymn says, 'Clearer than ever shall we see The grace which God our Saviour showed, The love that led so faithfully, Along the pathless desert road.' Then we shall understand, then we shall know as Paul says, 'even as also I am known.' If we lived in the light of the judgment seat of Christ, we would not cast off restraint. We would be subjects of the kingdom, we would be subject to Christ, we would be men and women that do not cast off restraint.
May we be helped to be morally upright, to be righteous, to be holy and be in God's presence about it. God says in the prophet Zephaniah 3:12 'I will leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of Jehovah.' 'Jehovah thy God ... will rest in his love; he will exult over thee with singing.' (Zephaniah 3:17). How wonderful, at the end of the day, to be men and women of vision who see the light of the Saviour coming, who understand the light of the judgment seat, and who see now the glory of what we are going into! The light of this on the pathway now will keep us from casting off restraint.
May it be so for His name's sake.Philip Robinson
10th July 1993
Extracted from LW4