And He said to me: “Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse—for they are a rebellious house—yet they will know that a prophet has been among them.”
The servant of God is responsible to the Lord Himself. Having received his commission, he is to go forth in the name of the One who sends him, declaring the message committed to him. The results must be left with God. Whether men hear or whether they forbear, he who proclaims the Word faithfully has delivered his soul. The apostle Paul entered into this when he spoke of being a sweet fragrance of Christ unto God both in them that are saved and in them that perish (2 Corinthians 2:15). God is honored when His truth is preached, no matter what attitude the hearers take toward it, and that Word will not return void, but will accomplish the divine purpose (Isaiah 55:11).
Be not men’s servant: think what costly price
Was paid that thou mayest His own bondsman be,
Whose service perfect freedom is.
Hold fast thy heart. His claim is great to thee:
None should thy soul enthrall, to whom ‘tis given
To serve on earth, with liberty of heaven.
Be wise, be watchful. Wily men surround
Thy path. Be careful, for they seek with care
To trip thee up. See that no plea is found
In thee thy Master to reproach. The snare
They set for thee will then themselves inclose,
And God His righteous judgment thus disclose.
—J. J. P.
Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “Son of man, how is the wood of the vine better than any other wood, the vine branch which is among the trees of the forest? Is wood taken from it to make any object? Or can men make a peg from it to hang any vessel on? Instead, it is thrown into the fire for fuel; the fire devours both ends of it, and its middle is burned. Is it useful for any work?”
God is the God of truth. He loves reality and detests pretence. The Lord Jesus when on earth, as God manifest in the flesh, took this same attitude. While filled with love for lost sinners and tenderly compassionate toward any who desired to know the truth, He sternly denounced hypocrisy and self-righteousness, pronouncing severe judgments on those who thus attempted to cover up their real condition before God. Where there is divine life in the soul there will be fruit for Him outwardly. No amount of profession can make up for the lack of this evidence of genuine repentance and the regenerating grace of God. Character produced by the work of the Holy Spirit within will result in behavior that is in keeping therewith. The Lord is glorified when those who profess to belong to the household of faith bear the precious fruit which proclaims the genuineness of that which they say has been wrought in their souls. A Christian who does not bear fruit is like a vine that does not produce grapes. It is practically useless. Believers are intended to be lights in a dark world, attracting others to Christ.
In order to meet these responsibilities one must be born from above, for the natural man cannot live on a spiritual plane. He has no understanding of the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Therefore it is by their fruits that the servants of God are known. Service and fruit spring from the divine life implanted in the new birth.
I would not work my soul to save;
That work my Lord hath done;
But I would work like any slave
For love to God’s dear Son.
When I say to the wicked, “O wicked man, you shall surely die!” and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way he shall die in his iniquity: but you have delivered your soul.”
William Booth, the first General of the Salvation Army, called Ezekiel 33 “the duty chapter,” and was constantly pressing its importance on his officers and soldiers. Every one who professes to be a follower of Christ may well lay it to heart. On the other hand, it is quite necessary that we understand the dispensational place of such a passage as this. It is not the unfolding of the gospel, but the setting forth of the principles of the divine government. In other words, it has to do with this life and man’s responsibility to walk before God in righteousness here on earth. It has no bearing whatever upon the question of eternal salvation. It is not by turning from sin and walking in righteousness that we are justified before God. Nor does the believer forfeit life eternal who in the hour of temptation forgets the responsibilities resting upon him and turns into the path of disobedience. Such conduct will bring him under the disciplinary government of God, of which physical death is the last stroke. But this does not touch the matter of his redemption by the precious blood of Christ. It is because people are in covenant relationship with God that He chastens those who sin (Hebrews 12:6). The two principles of grace and government run side by side and should never be confused, but carefully distinguished.
Some have gone forth with the story so old.
Reaping a harvest more precious than gold;
Are you, too, faithfully doing your share.
Helping together by gifts and by prayer?
Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank.
Daniel and his three friends, and Paul the apostle, are striking examples of men who would not risk the ruin of their testimony by self-indulgence or pandering to “fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Christians cannot afford to be careless as to these matters. The body is the Lord’s. It is the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells. To defile it by any form of unclean living is to dishonor God and to render one powerless in the hour of stress.
In the world we hear much today of efficiency experts. Men realize that if a workman, a clerk, a professional man, or an executive, is to be at his best, he must avoid many things that others indulge in who think only of momentary pleasure and sensual gratification. The man to be trusted is the man who rules himself and holds all his appetites in subjection. In spiritual things the same rule applies. He who purposes in his heart that he will not “defile himself,” but yields to the control of the Holy Spirit, is the one who will be most used of God on earth, and some day will stand before the King to be rewarded in the day of revelation.
There is a purity of heart,
A cleanness of desire,
Wrought by the Holy Comforter
With sanctifying fire.
There is a glory that awaits
Each blood-washed soul on high,
When Christ returns to take His Bride
With Him beyond the sky.
He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods.
There is something very fine about the confidence expressed by these three young Hebrews. It was not necessary for God to deliver them from the furnace, if it were not His will. They could trust Him anyway. If He did not quench the flame He would give grace to endure, and they knew that in another world all would be appraised at its true value. It is a great lesson we all need to learn.
A scoffing world is looking on,
The furnace glows with furious heat;
The test is real, the foe is near,
Waiting to witness my retreat.
Hosts of evil gather round me.
The Son of God seems lost to view.
Oh, for faith to meet the crisis;
Oh, for the courage to go through!
What, this sudden sweet empow’ring?
Whence, this strange, exultant cry?
If my God comes not, I’ll trust Him,
Though to trust Him means to die!
—Margaret Denison Armstrong
The kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.
Twice in the book of Daniel God has given great prophetic outlines of the course of world empire, culminating in the setting aside of all earthly dominions and the setting up of the long-looked-for kingdom of God in this world. The kingdom of the Son of Man will be as the days of Heaven upon earth. This will be at the second advent of our Lord Jesus Christ when He will descend from Heaven with all His saints to put down iniquity and establish righteousness throughout all the world. For this all creation sighs, and to this all instructed believers look forward. Then those who have suffered with Christ in the hour of His rejection shall reign with Him in the day of His glory.
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
Then said he unto me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words”.
A great mystery is unfolded here in regard to prayer. Daniel had been praying “three full weeks” about a certain matter, and when finally the answer came, he was told that at the beginning of his supplication God had heard, but an angel from Heaven had been twenty-one days fighting his way through the evil hosts of Satan in order to reach him. The prince of the kingdom of Persia referred to in verse 13 was one of these wicked spirits evidently seeking to hinder God’s plan. This should throw light on many delayed answers. God has not been indifferent, but a conflict is going on in the heavenlies (Ephesians 6:12), because of which there seems to be delay, but God’s purpose is sure and His plan will be carried out.
Unanswered yet?—The prayer your lips have pleaded
In agony of soul these many years?
Doth faith begin to fail, is hope departing,
And think you all in vain those falling tears?
Say not the Father hath not heard your prayer,
You shall have your desire sometime, somewhere.
—Ophelia G. Adams
I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.
Hosea is in some respects the tenderest of all the prophets, except perhaps Jeremiah, who was a man of very similar spirit. But the latter was unmarried, whereas Hosea had a very sad matrimonial experience, which was designed of God to set forth Israel’s relationship to Himself and their unfaithfulness to the covenant He had made with them. Hosea’s wife proved untrue to all her vows and became a poor characterless slave. Yet the prophet sought her out, redeemed her, and took her to himself in forgiving love, only to have his heart broken by her continued waywardness. It sets forth most graphically, not only Jehovah’s unchanging love for Israel, His earthly people, but pictures vividly His grace toward the individual soul. He is Redeemer, restorer, and unfailing friend, whose lovingkindness exceeds our worst offences and whose forgiveness is extended to every repentant sinner, no matter how dark and shameful the record may be.
Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know;
Spirit, breathing from above,
Thou hast taught me it is so!
Oh, this full and perfect peace!
Oh, this transport all Divine!
In a love which cannot cease,
I am His and He is mine.
Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth.
It is a great thing to realize that human sin and failure do not alter the love of God toward those who have offended Him so grievously. He loves us, not on account of anything meritorious that He sees in us, but simply because of what He is in Himself. “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). This is not what He does, but what He is. It is His very nature. And loving us, He has Himself provided a way for our forgiveness when we come to Him as needy sinners, and for our restoration when we fail, even after we have known His grace through salvation. We wrong Him if we doubt His love or if we give in to despair when our awakened consciences accuse us of base ingratitude and colossal iniquity in having offended against so holy a God and so loving a Savior.
God of the shadows, lead me through the gloaming,
Arch the long road with fretted vaults of green;
Send but a gleam to tell me I am homing,
Let not Thy face be seen.
Fold well Thy cloak of gentlest pity round me.
Keep Thy bright secrets till the morning break;
Why should I seek Thee, Lord, when Thou hast found me,
And know’st the way I take?
“Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.
The only times that the Lord is spoken of as relenting, in connection with His own children, are when He turns from judgment to mercy, from chastening to restoring grace. He delights in demonstrating the lovingkindness of His heart to His erring ones when they come to Him in self-judgment and contrition of soul, confessing their backslidings. Then His love is able to flow out freely and He can and will be a Father to them who thus take the place before Him where they can appropriate His forgiving grace. A broken heart over sin, He will never despise.
In a time of deep dejection
Jesus journeyed by,
Saw my heart was dull and empty,
Gently asked me “Why?”
Then I told Him all the story
Of my bitter woe,
How my hopes and joys had perished
Many years ago.
And the tears were softly dropping
As I told Him all,
Yet He did not chide my weeping,
Though He saw them fall.
But when I had told the story,
Lovingly He came,
Filled, Himself, the vacant chambers,
Blessed be His name!
Now no more my heart is vacant,
Nevermore can be;
Filled with Jesus, “Jesus only,”
Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah: “I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’”
Amos was divinely called. He had no thought of becoming or being recognized as a prophet, as some men today select the “ministry” as a profession. He would have been content to pursue his humble profession as a small farmer, or possibly a mere farmer’s hand, or assistant, if such had been the mind of God for him. But as he followed the flock, his soul was in communion with Jehovah. As he gathered wild figs his heart meditated on the great issues of the soul’s relationship to God and the importance of obedience to His Word. From this humble service he was divinely called to proclaim the truth of God to the people.
Sad and solemn are the dirge-like measures of the prophet’s lamentation over the fallen nation that he loved so well, and from which he could not dissociate himself. They had broken down utterly in their professed fidelity to God as shown in their unrighteous behavior and their contempt for the poor. The prophet calls them to face these things in the presence of God and to turn from sin to justice—to consider the cause of the needy and the underprivileged and to recognize their responsibility to hold all that they have as stewards of the Most High, to be dispensed in accordance with His Word. Surely all that has a voice for us today!
His lamp am I, to shine where He shall say,
And lamps are not for sunny rooms,
Nor for the light of day.
And as sometimes a flame we find,
Clear, shining through the night,
So bright we do not see the lamp,
But only see the light;
So may I shine—His light the flame—
That men may glorify His name.
—Annie Johnson Flint
But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, And there shall be holiness; the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.
It is a great thing to “possess our possessions.” Some day this will be true of restored Israel, when they shall be once more in their own land and they will enjoy the inheritance God gave them so long ago, but which they have missed throughout the years of their departure from God. What a lesson is there in this for those of us who through grace have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ! God cannot give us more than He has given. Yet how feebly do we apprehend the extent of our inheritance and how little of our possessions do we actually enjoy. Oh, for faith to plant our feet on God’s promises and possess all that is ours in Christ!
Things that once were wild alarms
Cannot now disturb my rest;
Closed in everlasting arms,
Pillowed on the loving breast.
Oh to lie forever here,
Doubt and care and self resign,
While He whispers in my ear—
I am His, and He is mine.
His for ever, only His;
Who the Lord and me shall part?
Ah, with what a rest of bliss
Christ can fill the loving heart!
Heaven and earth may fade and flee,
First-born light in gloom decline;
But, while God and I shall be,
I am His, and He is mine.
Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
The book of Jonah has a unique place in the Old Testament. It is primarily the book of the divine sovereignty. The confession of the pagan mariners, “You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You” (1:14), is emphasized throughout. We are told that “the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea” (verse 4); “the Lord had prepared a great fish” (verse 17); “the Lord spoke to the fish” (2:10); “the Lord God prepared a plant” (4:6); “God prepared a worm” (verse 7), and “God prepared a vehement east wind” (verse 8). It is the Sovereign of the universe who works all things according to His own will (Ephesians 1:11). This answers every question that foolish, unbelieving skeptics might raise regarding the strange experiences recorded.
God’s love and grace transcend all national boundaries. His heart goes out to all the world. He would have all men repent and come to the knowledge of the truth, that judgment may be averted. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23). He delights in mercy (Micah 7:18). Judgment is His awesome work (Isaiah 28:21). It is a great pity when His servants fail to recognize this and are more concerned about their own ease and reputation than about the needs of men to whom they are commissioned to go as God’s messengers.
Sovereign grace, o’er sin abounding.
Ransomed souls the tidings tell;
‘Tis a deep that knows no sounding;
Who its length and breadth can tell?
On its glories
Let my soul forever dwell.
Truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. Now hear this, You heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity.
The ministry of the prophets was always corrective. They were sent by God to call His people back to the path of obedience. While prediction of things to come was included in their messages, this by no means exhausted their content. They were men who spoke for God in days of rebellion. They had, therefore, an authority which no servant of God has today, so far as any civil community is concerned. Israel was a theocracy. God was their acknowledged King. The prophets were His messengers to His own covenant people. The ministers of Christ today are a gift to the church from the ascended Lord (Ephesians 4:7-14). They are given for the perfecting of the saints, not for the regulating of the world. On the other hand, they are called to proclaim fearlessly those principles of righteousness upon which Christ’s kingdom is to be set up, in order that men may see their true condition before God and turn to Him in repentance.
A little while to sow in tears and weakness
The precious seed along the vernal plain,
Till into life the tender blade expanding
Fresh promise gives of summer’s ripening grain.
A little while of patient, earnest labor,
For His dear sake, our best and truest Friend;
A little while to wait for His appearing,
And then the joy that nevermore shall end.
A little while to bear the cross for Jesus
And meet the foes that once He overcame;
To stand unmoved, the sword of truth uplifting,
And through its power to conquer in His name.
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
To Micah, as to all the seers of the Old Testament, the era of universal peace was still in the future and was linked up with the coming and reign of the Branch of the Lord (Isaiah 4:2), who was destined to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), but would be rejected when He came the first time and presented Himself as the appointed Ruler of Israel. Because of this, the earthly people were to pass through a long period of affliction, which will come to an end only when the promised Redeemer shall appear the second time to bring in the long-predicted kingdom of peace founded upon righteousness.
Until our Lord’s return there can never be settled peace among the nations in spite of all man’s best and well meant efforts, for He has declared that until the end of this age there will be wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom (Matthew 24:6-7). In Ezekiel 21:27 God says, “Overthrown, overthrown, I will make it overthrown! It shall be no longer, until He comes whose right it is, And I will give it to Him.” This refers, as the context shows, to the first dominion which God has promised to Israel as His representative people on the earth. The Jew is, therefore, the key to the prophetic plan.
Our God shall come, the silence shall be broken,
Which long has reigned o’er this sin-stricken world;
The saints of every name and tongue shall gather
Beneath His banner which shall be unfurled.
Our God shall come, to scatter all oppressors,
For He the righteous Judge shall fill the throne;
No longer shall the tyrant have dominion,
No longer shall the helpless captive groan.
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked. The Lord has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.
The prophecy of Nahum was directed against the godless and luxurious city of Nineveh. It is a very dark picture of sin and judgment. But this verse shines out like a bright star in a clouded sky. How precious to the soul to know that in all the strife and discord of earth the Lord has His way. He has not vacated His throne as the moral governor of the universe. He controls all the elements, and He causes man’s wrath to praise Him. The very clouds that darken the heavens are the dust of His feet. He is just above them. His heart is ever towards His people, and He is working all things for the good of those who love Him. Soon He will be seen and all troubles will cease.
World chaos reigns! bold lawlessness runs faster!
And Earth’s dark night with deeper darkness grows!
In many lands unparalleled disaster,—
Wars, famines, earthquakes, floods— ‘mongst many woes.
The darkness deepens!—yes, but Dawn is nearer!
The Lord from Heaven may soon be on His way;
The “Blessed Hope” in these dark days grows dearer,—
Our Savior Christ will come,—“perhaps today!”
—J. Danson Smith
Are You not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock. You have marked them for correction. You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot not look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?
In the first four verses of his prophecy Habakkuk complains of the iniquity and violence which were so prevalent. Jehovah’s answer is given in verses 5 to 11. He has seen it all, and judgment is soon to fall. He is about to raise up the Chaldeans for the chastening of His people. In the remaining verses of the chapter the prophet protests against the use of so wicked a nation to punish Judah. He is perplexed that the Holy One should sanction such a procedure. For the moment there is no answer from God, so Habakkuk takes his stand upon the watchtower, waiting until the enigma may be solved. At last the answer comes—“The just shall live by faith.” The righteous man has to trust God, assured that He will make all plain at last.
Then the voice of God speaks in majesty, showing that He does not approve of the wicked, but though He will use an evil nation as a rod, when He has accomplished His purpose it too shall be dealt with, and God will be glorified.
This moves the prophet’s heart to prayer and subdues his distressed spirit, as set forth in chapter 3, wherein he pours out his soul in supplication for his people and expresses the most blessed resignation to the will of God.
I know not, but God knows;
Oh, blessed rest from fear!
All my unfolding days
To Him are plain and clear.
Each anxious, puzzled “Why?”
From doubt or dread that grows,
Finds answer in this thought:
I know not, but He knows.
—Annie Johnson Flint
O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.
God is always ready to visit His people in blessing and grant revival and spiritual refreshment when they judge their sins in His presence and cry to Him for the deliverance they need. Oh, that we today might be stirred to realize the great need of the whole church of God, so that there would be a mighty cry of entreaty going up to the throne, accompanied by an honest purging ourselves from all known sin, and a true returning to the place of obedience to His Word! Who can say what blessed results might yet be granted to His people, and what the glorious effects might be upon a godless world outside?
Revive Thy work, O Lord!
Thy mighty arm make bare;
Speak with the voice that wakes the dead,
And make Thy people hear.
Revive Thy work, O Lord!
Disturb this sleep of death;
Quicken the smould’ring embers now
By Thine almighty breath.
Revive Thy work, O Lord!
Create soul-thirst for Thee;
But hung’ring for the bread of life,
Oh, may our spirits be!
Revive Thy work, O Lord!
Exalt Thy precious name;
And, by the Holy Ghost, our love
For Thee and Thine inflame.
I will leave in your midst a meek and humble people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.
It is the troubled and distressed who find their relief in God. Often earthly prosperity proves to be a hindrance to spirituality. It need not be so but we are so constituted that when all goes well in our lives and we have abundance of the good things of life we are apt to forget the Giver and be more occupied with His gifts than with Himself. In our afflictions and needy circumstances, if we turn to Him we learn how marvelously He can satisfy our hearts and lift us above the trials of the way.
Think it not strange about the fiery trial,
Which nigh consumes with seven-fold heated flame;
Count it not strange, as though some strange thing happened:
Have not God’s noblest ones endured the same?
Think it not strange that trial upon trial
In quick succession follows, fierce and strong:
Trials most tragic, things which seem disaster,
When cries the soul, “How long, O Lord, how long?”
Think it not strange, partaker of Christ’s sufferings;
Tested and tried, thou art exalted sure:
Not to consume are these “strange” things permitted,
But to enrich, if we will but endure.
Think it not strange! Rejoice, rejoice the rather!
Forward thy gaze until shall glory be;
Then, oh, the joy, the wonder, and the rapture,
When thou shalt find His glory shared with thee.
—J. Danson Smith
Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts “Consider your ways! You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.”
There are two key expressions in the little book of Haggai that give us the purpose of this prophecy: “Consider your ways,” and “Be strong.” There are six books of the Old Testament that are intimately linked together—three historical, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther; and three prophetic, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. These give us the story of God’s dealings with the people of Judah after the Babylonian dominion was overthrown and the Medo-Persian empire, which was generally favorable to the Jews, had succeeded to world sovereignty. In Ezra and Nehemiah we have the history of the returning remnant, and the three prophets throw light upon their moral and spiritual state. Haggai sought to encourage the people to go on with their God-appointed program, the rebuilding of the temple, which had been hindered because of the opposition of the mixed races (the Samaritans, as they were afterward known) who were dwelling in the land of Palestine. He sought to exercise the consciences of the remnant, and called upon them to face their low spiritual condition before God and get right with Him. His searching ministry proved so effective that the people were stirred to “arise and build.” Then he sounded out the note of encouragement, “Be strong.”
So many a life is one long fever!
A fever of anxious suspense and care;
A fever of fretting, a fever of getting,
A fever of hurrying here and there.
Ah, what if in winning the praise of others
We miss at the last the King’s “Well done”—
If our self-sought tasks in the Master’s vineyard
Yield “nothing but leaves” at the set of sun!
—Edith C. Cherry
Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you: He is just and having salvation. Lowly and riding on a donkey a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of His last week of public ministry had been foretold long before and was in exact accord with this prophetic Word. The joyous cries of the multitude who welcomed Him were also prophesied beforehand by David in Psalm 118:25-26. Thus there were two distinct Scriptures fulfilled on this momentous occasion. Then when Jesus cleansed the temple (for the second time), He referred to and quoted Isaiah 56:7 as His authority for acting as He did. All this is in keeping with the character of Matthew’s Gospel, which is designed throughout to link the Old Testament promises and predictions with their New Testament counterparts. It might be said that everything Jesus did, and all He taught, was in exact accord with that which had been foretold by the voice of inspiration throughout the ages. In this, as in all else, we see the perfection of the Word of God. Prophecy is the seal of its divinely unique character. No other book is thus accredited. The Bible is in fact the only book of prophecy in the world. The so-called sacred literature of the great religions is without this mark and is simplistic in the extreme when contrasted with the revelation given in the Holy Scriptures.
Adorable Saviour! By faith I descry
The long-looked-for day of redemption draws nigh,
When the shame and contempt and the grief shall give place
To the holy rejoicings—the triumphs of grace!
Till we from this terrible desert are caught,
My heart would rejoice in this comforting thought,—
It may be tomorrow, or even tonight,
The fulness of glory will burst on my sight!
I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.
In these words Zechariah depicts the repentance of the people of Judah when at our Lord’s return they recognize Him as their own Messiah whom their fathers rejected. Then He will come again in power and glory for their deliverance and to fulfill all the glad promises of glory and blessing. The wounds in His hands and feet and side will abide for eternity and will tell out the story of a love that was stronger than death. It is ours to see Him now by faith bearing these marks of His passion as He appears for us in the presence of God.
Soon Thou wilt come—oh, blest anticipation!—
And we shall gaze unhindered on Thy face;
Our longing hope shall have its glad fruition,
And in those wounds we shall love’s story trace.
Oh, cloudless morn of heavenly light and gladness.
When God Himself shall wipe all tears away!
There shall be no more death and no more sadness,
No trace of sin through God’s eternal day.
J. W. H. Nichols
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may he food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not he room enough to receive it.”
Tithing was in force before Moses (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:9). It was incorporated into the law of Sinai (Leviticus 27:30). Under grace it is not mentioned, but proportionate giving is encouraged. The believer now is not to be less particular in honoring God with his substance than a Jew under law. “That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). If I were a Jew under law, the tithe would be absolutely obligatory and the least I could give. Shall I as a believer, under grace, do less than if I were under law?
We rob God when we use what should be devoted to Him and to His work, for our own pleasure. Are we so faithful in setting aside the Lord’s portion that we can have His approval in this regard?
The New Testament precept is, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper” (1 Corinthians 16:2).
We give Thee but Thine own,
Whate’er the gift may be;
All that we have, is Thine alone,
A trust, dear Lord, from Thee.
But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.
The Old Testament closes with the prophecy of the day of the Lord and the coming of the Sun of Righteousness. The New Testament ends with the promise of the Morning Star. Both refer to our Lord Jesus, but the two aspects of His second advent are thus presented. He will return for His bride, the church, as the Morning Star. He will be presented for the deliverance of Israel and the blessing of the world as the glorious Sun of Righteousness. The darker the night becomes the nearer must be the hour of the fulfillment of His pledge to come again. This blessed event is the hope of the church, the hope of Israel and the hope of the world.
The dark stream of evil is flowing apace,
And man is still walking a stranger to grace,
While daring rebellion is on the increase,
Which mar not my joy, which disturb not my peace,
For my heart is engaged with its own happy song;
The Lord who has loved me will come before long;
It may be tomorrow, or even tonight,
That I shall behold Him in unclouded light!
While he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit, And she wilt bring forth a Son and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
What could be more wonderful than that God came down to earth as a baby! Could anything tell out more perfectly His deep yearning over mankind and His earnest desire to have men love and trust Him? Almost everybody, even the most depraved, loves a baby.
No one need fear a baby, and the Babe of Bethlehem was the perfect revelation of the heart of God, who would have all men know that He became incarnate, not to condemn, but to save.
By becoming a little child Himself, our Lord has changed the thoughts of untold millions as to the value and preciousness of the little ones. Christianity makes more of the children than any pagan religious system ever did. It rebukes the horrible crime of infanticide, which was accepted as a matter of course even among the cultured Greeks and the highly civilized Romans.
I believe the Holy Jesus was the Son of God on earth;
That Mary was His mother and a virgin at His birth;
That the Holy Ghost begat Him as the Angel Gabriel said.
God in the Gospel of His Son, confirms the record made.
I believe the blessed Saviour came down from Heaven for me,
Endured the cross, despised the shame, from sin to set me free;
He died, was buried, rose again, and did to Heaven ascend.
I believe the good old Gospel from beginning to the end.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.”
It is all-important that we realize that nothing will take the place of personal faith in and subjection to the Lord Jesus Christ. Acquaintance with Scripture that does not control our lives will only add to our condemnation, rather than prove a means of salvation. Herod and the scribes knew what the prophets had predicted concerning the coming of the Messiah, but they had no room for Him in their hearts. On the other hand, His birth meant so much to the wise men that they took a long journey to seek for Him and to pour out their treasures at His feet. His star not only showed the way to Christ, but it was the cause of their deep rejoicing, for they recognized it as the messenger of God leading them to Him whom they received in faith as earth’s rightful King and whom they worshipped with adoring love. To celebrate Christmas while refusing heart-allegiance to the One who was born to reveal the Father and to make atonement for sins is but a sham and a mockery.
To Him this day our prayers arise,
Each soul its tribute pays:
The precious myrrh of sacrifice,
The incense sweet of praise,
The glowing gold of sacred love
That knows no stain of fear,
These gifts we bring to Christ above
To-day and all the year.
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Nothing could emphasize our Lord’s deity more than John’s declaration regarding Him and this twofold baptism. Imagine a creature baptizing in the Holy Spirit. Only One who is Himself divine could do this. And on Pentecost Peter unhesitatingly declares it was He who sent the Spirit (Acts 2:33). He it is who will consign the unrepentant to the fire of everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:41). This is not to be confused with the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, nor with the tongues “like as of fire” which appeared at Pentecost. “He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” is placed in direct contrast with gathering the “wheat into the barn” (Matthew 3:12).
By the Spirit-baptism believers are now united in one body and empowered for service.
The Holy Ghost is here,
Where saints in prayer agree;
As Jesus’ parting gift—is near
Each pleading company.
Not far away is He,
To be by prayer brought nigh,
But here in present majesty
As in His courts on high.
He dwells within our soul,
An ever-welcome guest;
He reigns with absolute control,
As monarch in the breast.
Our bodies are His shrine,
And He th’ in-dwelling Lord;
All hail, Thou Comforter divine,
Be evermore adored!
—Charles H. Spurgeon
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
As we consider the solemn and important subject of our Lord’s temptation, we need to remember that He is God and man in one person. While as truly man as if He had never been God, He is yet as truly God as if He had never become man, and therefore we must not think of Him as merely man on probation, as Adam was in the garden of Eden.
The testing of Jesus in the wilderness was not to see whether He would sin, but to prove that He was absolutely the sinless One and therefore the fit substitute for those who were both sinners by nature and in practice.
When the question is asked (innocently enough, perhaps), “Could Jesus have sinned?” we need to consider before answering in the affirmative what would have happened if He had sinned. He was not two persons, but one. He was the Son of the Father with two natures, the human and the divine. These natures could never be separated after He became incarnate. One nature could not act in opposition to the other; therefore the thought of sin in connection with Him is utterly abhorrent. He could say, “The ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me” (John 14:30). There was no traitor lurking within. From the moment of His birth he was “that holy One” (Luke 1:35). The temptation proved Him to be all that God the Father said He was: His beloved Son, in whom He had found all His delight (Matthew 3:17).
Faithful amidst unfaithfulness,
‘Mid darkness only light,
Thou didst Thy Father’s name confess,
And in His will delight;
Unmoved by Satan’s subtle wiles,
Or suff’ring, shame, and loss,
Thy path, uncheered by earthly smiles,
Led only to the cross.
—J. G. Deck
Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
It is a great thing to be called of God to sacrificial service on behalf of a lost world; a tremendous event in the history of a soul when the voice of Christ is heard saying, “Follow Me, and I will make you ——.” All are not fitted for the same tasks; all cannot work in the same way. But each one who yields himself to the Lord Jesus for definite service will find that He enables, trains, and directs, so that the life thus surrendered will be used to His glory and to the winning of the lost and the blessing of the saved. “Fishers of men” is an apt figure. It requires much wisdom and great patience to become an effective agent in the business of “taking men alive,” but he who is willing to learn at the Master’s feet and is quick to obey His commands will indeed be “made” whatever He would have one be.
Some have gone forth far from loved ones and home,
Leaving their all for His service alone;
Counting the gain of this world only dross,
Seeking no glory save that of His cross.
Some have gone forth into darkness so dense,
Darkness that crushes, a darkness intense;
There in far lands where their Lord is not known;
Gladly to work for His glory alone.
Some have gone forth, but so many remain
Safely at home—other honors to gain;
Millions of lost ones who never have heard,
Few—oh, so few—to go forth with His Word!
Blessed are the peacemakers: For they shall he called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
The sermon on the mount must not be taken as the proclamation of the gospel of the grace of God whereby needy sinners are saved. It is rather the announcement of the foundation principles of the kingdom of God, principles utterly diverse from those on which earthly dominions are established. It gives us the law of love prevailing in all departments of life. Clearly this can never be fully accepted and acted upon by an unregenerate world. But when people are born again they can see and enter into the kingdom of God even now, while the King Himself is rejected. To these the will of God is paramount, and they find in what seems to unsaved men an utterly impracticable standard of living, the ideal manner of life for those who are content to be identified with Christ in His rejection.
Just as it is a mistake to try to force these principles on the world of unsaved men and women, so it is as great a blunder to insist that they have no binding authority over the consciences of Christians today. Surely not; for in us is fulfilled all the righteous requirements of the law as we “do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.
—Annie Johnson Flint
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.” But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!” shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, “You fool!” shall be in danger of hell fire.
God has said, “All souls are Mine” (Ezekiel 18:4). He alone has the right to say when life on earth shall end for any of its inhabitants. He has delegated certain powers to governments in order that evildoers may be dealt with righteously and as a warning to others (Genesis 9:5-6; Romans 13:4). But no one is authorized to take the law into his own hands and to slay his neighbor because of real or fancied offences. Behind the murderer’s hand is the malicious mind and the wicked heart. So our Lord Jesus shows us that he who despises his neighbor, he who hates his brother, is a potential murderer and therefore under condemnation of the moral law. This is emphasized in Exodus 20:13 and 1 John 3:15. When the grace of God controls the inward being, hatred and all phases of ill-will disappear, and love that does no harm to his neighbor, is presented. Therefore in this, as in all else, love is the fulfilling of the law.
Oh, that when Christians meet and part.
These words were graved on every heart—
They’re dear to God!
However willful and unwise.
We’ll look on them with loving eyes—
They’re dear to God!
When tempted to give pain for pain,
How would this thought our words restrain,
They’re dear to God!
When truth compels us to contend,
What love with all our strife should blend!
They’re dear to God!