"... reaching forth unto those things which are before ...
toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus
(Philippians 3:13-14)

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Vol. 7, No. 1, Jan. - Feb. 1978 EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster

O Come, Let Us Worship 1
Call To Communion 4
This Is Asaph Speaking 8
What Has Happened To The Prayer Meeting? 9
Chapter By Chapter Through Romans (9) 11
The Offence Of The Cross 13
A Note From The Editor 15
The Goings Of God (2) 16
Inspired Parentheses (11) ibc



John Blanchard

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God,
which is your spiritual worship.
" (Romans 12:1)

IN recent times there has been widespread exercise and concern about worship. Right across the Christian community worship has become an "in" subject, but if we begin to examine the matter we must do so in the light of the one fundamental question: "What saith the Scripture?" We must never move away from the Bible. If we are to have balance, sanity and blessing, then we need to base both our beliefs and our conduct not on the teaching of men, of any particular men or any particular party in the Church, but entirely on the plain teaching of the Word of God.

Once when I was in Salzburg I heard the story of two coach drivers who were discussing their parties. "Whom do you have?" asked one, only to be told that they were a bunch of religious people from England. "Really," asked the first man, "and what do they believe?" The answer came crisply back from his companion: "Anything I tell them!" This sounds foolish but alas, it can be true that there are some Christians who believe anything they are told if the teller seems to have an air of authority about him. The Bible is our only true guide. We need to imitate the Bereans who, even though they were addressed by apostles, searched the scriptures daily, to see "whether these things were so". We must receive what we find in God's Word: we must reject all that finds no confirmation in that Word.

In Romans 12:1 & 2 we can find four distinguishing marks of true worship:

1. It is Grateful

The word "therefore", which we might easily ignore, is really the key to the whole verse. This was not the beginning of Paul's argument, nor was he speaking in the abstract. We can only begin to get a proper grasp of this verse if we study all the preceding eleven chapters of the letter. The appeal has to be seen in the context of all that which comes before it. It is not possible here to give even a summary of those chapters but we can perhaps remind ourselves of the main headlines:

i. "All have sinned" (3:23)

Every man in the world is lost, alienated from the living God. Not only are the Gentiles sinners (a point readily accepted by the Jews), but all men, both Jews and Gentiles, within the law or apart from the law, are proved to be offenders. Man is without escape. No efforts of his can justify him or enable him to bring pleasure to God. Left to his own devices, man is utterly incapable of repairing the breach between himself and his God, or of establishing any proper relationship with God.

ii. "But God ..." (5:8)

So far the talk has been about man, man as a Jew, man as a sinner, man lost and hopeless. Now, however, a new factor comes into view. It is God's love, demonstrated or placarded before us by the fact that Christ died on man's behalf. This is the central point of the letter; everything previous has been leading up to this and everything subsequent stems from this: "Christ died for sinners".

iii. "Of God that have mercy" (9:16)

Man's salvation is entirely a matter of divine initiative. It does not depend on man's will or exertions, but upon God's mercy. Every Christian in the world is a man or woman saved as a direct result of free will -- God's free will!

iv. "Without repentance" (11:29)

God's gifts and call are irrevocable. Having given His word, having granted salvation, having poured out His mercy, God will never change His mind and withdraw them. He never has second thoughts about the salvation of anyone of His children.

How can we sum up all this? The best way is to use Paul's phrase: "the mercies of God". This, then, is where worship must begin. Surely no Christian should ever need to be dragged to a place of worship or -- more significantly -- to a life of worship. He should be drawn to worship by the mighty love of God, crystallised in the cross of Calvary. Dr. A. Alexander of Princeton [1/2] University, after a long lifetime devoted to the study of theology, systematic, dogmatic and the rest, stated in his last days: "All of my theology is now reduced to this one narrow compass: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners".

I can understand this. May I add a personal word? After twenty years of Christian life and service, bringing some real highlights of experience, one stands out above them all. I can remember (can I ever forget?) a day when I came out of the city of Jerusalem by the Damascus Gate, turned right and then left and on into the bus station. I lifted my eyes to look for a bus to take me to my hotel, and my gaze became rivetted on a nearby hill. It was a hill just outside the city wall. It was green on the top, the grass growing up its slopes. The face of the hill, though, was rugged, blunt and open, and on the face of that cliff there were two caves looking for all the world like two great eyes. In between them there was a promontory, a jutting rock, which looked just like the bone or bridge of a nose. The whole appearance was as of a huge, geological skull. Was this Golgotha, Calvary, the Place of a Skull? I am not ashamed to admit that I stood there, surrounded by a teeming throng of people, with the tears running down my face. I realised that it may well have been on that very spot that so long ago He who was fully Man and yet truly God walked slowly up that hill with my name on His heart, to bear my sins in His body on a cross. Could I ever forget that it was there that the mercies of God touched earth for my sake? No artist could ever depict that love, no writer ever describe it, no preacher adequately convey it and no poet fully interpret it. My overflowing heart could only find expression in one of the simplest of all hymns:

"God commends His love,

Greater could not be;

While I was a sinner,

Jesus died for me."

Worship begins just here. It is the overflowing praise of a melting heart. True worship is grateful.

2. It is Practical

Note how Paul goes on to say that spiritual worship consists in presenting the body as a living sacrifice, "holy, acceptable (or well-pleasing) to God". It would be interesting to conduct an experiment by asking everyone to draw or to describe in words a man at worship. It would probably take very little time to analyse the results, for virtually everyone would have captured the same kind of idea, either in words or in picture. It would show the man on his knees or standing with bowed head and hands together; whether the man worshipping were in public or in private, he would be seen at prayer or in meditation. In other words, we would place worship in the context of the heart, or mind, or soul, in the realm of the invisible and intangible. With some surprise, therefore, we discover where Paul now places it, for he appeals for the presentation to God of our bodies. We are to worship God in our physical bodies. This is precisely the same line of truth which he follows in his words: "Ye were bought with a price; glorify God therefore in your bodies" (1 Corinthians 6:20).

The test of a man's spirituality is not in the length of time he spends in the circle of Christian fellowship and service and not alone in the time spent in prayer and the study of God's Word. The real test is in the quality of his life taken as a whole. Earlier in the letter Paul had already given stress to this point by his call to the Roman Christians to present their members "as instruments of righteousness unto God" (6:13). The expression "members" refers to parts of the body -- "offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness" (New International Version). "Yield the parts of your body to him"; this is a perfect description of the new life of worship as lived by the redeemed man who by the Spirit is now alive unto God. It is intensely practical, down-to-earth and disciplined; it is day to day, involving the actions of every part of the body.

Allow me to be mildly controversial. An interesting thing in the Christian world today is the way in which music -- or what purports to be music -- is given such a large place. For instance, there is at the moment a particular presentation whose sub-title is: "A Musical to call God's people to repentance". For my part I find this deeply disturbing. I understand that repentance in its essence is not musical but moral; it is not essentially emotion; it is ethical. I am not persuaded that because we can gather Christians -- especially young people -- in very large numbers to take part in a musical extravaganza that we have necessarily made any contribution to spiritual progress in the Church. A. W. Tozer once said that it is becoming increasingly difficult [2/3] to gather people together in large numbers where the only attraction is God. This is distressingly true.

Spiritual worship is practical; it involves every part of the body. It applies to our hands, in a world where materialism expresses itself in forms which are both blatant and subtle. It involves our eyes, in a world where allurements from the mass media and from the behaviour of our fellow-men (or, more to the point, our fellow-women) are becoming almost irresistible. It involves the discipline of our tongues, those little and often unruly members. The Epistle of James and related Scriptures devote much emphasis to the use and misuse of the tongue. In this connection it is very striking that Peter writes of the Lord Jesus that He "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (1 Peter 2:22). The latter part of this verse seems redundant. If He did no sin, why was it necessary to add the second phrase? Perhaps it is because people are inclined to limit the word "sin" to grosser and more obvious failings, regarding an occasional slip of the tongue as not worthy of consideration. An occasional word going stray, a slight exaggeration, they feel can hardly be described as sin. For this reason the apostle was concerned to make his point doubly clear, insisting that when he said "no sin" he really meant no sinning of any kind, not even with His mouth. The inference is that it is with the mouth that we most easily offend.

We could continue with all the members, for worship should be given in the physical expression of our whole personality. The living sacrifice should be "holy", says Paul, using language borrowed from the Old Testament. In this connection we should note that the psalmist's call to worship the Lord is not in the beauty of phraseology but "in the beauty of holiness". The apostle goes on to describe this sacrifice as acceptable or well-pleasing to God. Old Testament sacrifices are no longer pleasing to Him, but the holy life of the believer brings Him great pleasure. What an astonishing and thrilling truth this is, that our worship can bring delight to the heart of God. "They that are in the flesh cannot please God." Try as they will, give as they will, study as they will; though they have a model family life, an honest business life and though they show integrity in every relationship, they can never bring satisfaction to God. But the simplest believer can, for he can offer the living sacrifice of a holy life. This is true worship.

3. It is Doctrinal

A further factor of this worship is that it is accompanied by the renewing of the mind. This emphasises the vital truth that there is a close connection between Bible doctrine and holy living. We probably know the Phillips' rendering of the first part of this verse: "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould". Perhaps the Christian agrees that this is right and is a fine ideal, but complains that his problem is how to put it into practice. He accepts the command not to be conformed to the world, but longs to know the secret of fulfilment. Should he attend a certain conference, should he embrace some special teaching, follow some particular speaker or seek some special experience of the Holy Spirit? Paul makes no mention of any of these, but he does lay down the norm for Christians in the words: "... but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind". There is no substitute and no alternative. We don't have to go chasing hither and thither in the world for the secret of holiness. Not until the Spirit of God impresses the truth of God on our renewed mind will we be able to work out God's will in the worship of practical living. A transformed life does not come about as a result of dreams or of drift or of drama, but of discipline. It was Alexander MacLaren who said: "The foundation of all transformation of character and conduct is laid in a renewed mind".

4. It is Fruitful

"That we may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God." The whole picture of worship is that of giving. The entire movement of worship is away from the worshipper to the One who is being worshipped. We worship the Lord by yielding our bodies up to Him. Though we give, however, we also receive. Note how the tide flows back into the life of the worshipper. When we have yielded our body in whole-hearted worship as a living sacrifice, then we are in a position to test and prove the wonder of God's will. This will not necessarily be found in ecstatic feelings or in supernatural manifestation, but in wisdom and grace; the wisdom to test the Lord's will and the grace to approve it.

The wisdom to test what is God's perfect will. Was there ever such a time when discernment in this matter was called for? The Bible speaks much of false prophets, of unsound teaching, of [3/4] wolves in sheep's clothing. It tells us that we must test the spirits and come to know what is of God and what is not. In doing this we should remember one very sure principle, and that is that God's will never conflicts with His Word. Clearly, then, the more I know of God's Word, the better will I be equipped to recognise His will. This is the precious fruit of real worship, to grow in the knowledge of what brings pleasure to God. And we must always remember that when a person speaks in a still, small voice you need to stay near him to catch what he is saying.

The word "prove", however, implies not only the wisdom to test God's will but the grace to approve it. Clearly His will must be acceptable to God, but is it to us also? Is "the sovereignty of God" just a cliche, or do we wholly believe it? Have we ever complained? Have we ever questioned His ways with us? Most of us know what it is like to act as did the writer of Psalm 73 who tells how he argued, wondered, questioned why the ungodly are so fit and flourishing while Christians suffer so much. He found no answer to his problem, and goes on and on until we are almost whining and weeping with him, until he suddenly stops short. He had found the answer. "When I went into the sanctuary of God," he informs us, "then I understood." Exactly! When I reached a place of true worship then I was able to find a place both of wisdom and of grace. The problems are solved and the struggles about the will of God cease when we become living sacrifices. A wonderfully fruitful outcome of being a worshipper is to have wisdom to discern God's will and grace to come into harmony with it. Worship, then is grateful, practical and doctrinal; it is also truly fruitful.



Harry Foster

"Arise my love, my fair one, and come away. O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice and thy countenance is comely. Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vineyards; for our vineyards are in blossom." (Song of Songs 2:13-16)

IT seems impossible to unravel a consecutive story from the various scenes which go to make up the book of Solomon's Songs, and at times it is exceedingly difficult to identify some of the characters in the narrative. Since we know, however, that Christ is to be found in all the Scriptures, we feel that we are justified in claiming that He is represented here by the Beloved King. Even those who seldom make reference to these Songs will probably quote with joyful conviction such well-known phrases as: "He brought me into his banqueting house, and his banner over me was love" (2:4) and: "My beloved is ... the chiefest among ten thousand ... yes, he is altogether lovely" (5:10 & 16).

Furthermore we know the Church, the King's bride, is the great divine mystery, hidden "in other generations", so we feel justified in answering the enquiry: "Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved" (8:5) by affirming that this typifies the Church and Christ. We, by grace, are members of that Church, so it cannot but be instructive and inspiring to consider such a passage as the above verses in which the Bridegroom opens His heart to her whom He has chosen for Himself. As we consider His words we may ask: "What does the Spirit say in the churches through these verses of Holy Scripture?"

THE appeal begins with such endearing terms that we hesitate to accept them as directed to us. "My love! My fair one! My dove!" -- can this really be Christ's language to His Church? We readily identify ourselves as those who are "in the clefts of the rock". All genuine believers find comfort and security in claiming the Lord as our Rock. The Old Testament saints made much of this title -- "the Rock of ages", Isaiah calls Him -- and the New Testament confirms the claim that Christ is our Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4). It becomes clear, then, that this call of the Beloved is directed to her whose safe position is in "the clefts of the rock" and who, moreover, [4/5] has a way of access up "the secret place of the stairs", or "the covert of the cliffs". We have this safety and access because of redemption, so it appears that the Lord is here speaking to us.

What makes us hesitate, though, is the manner in which we are addressed. "O my dove" -- can that be us? Yes, indeed it can. What is more, this term "dove" which appears a number of times in these Songs is twice qualified by a word translated "undefiled", but which literally means "perfect". "My dove, my undefiled, is but one" (6:9). The relationship between the Church and her Lord is quite unique; there is nothing like it in the universe. If this seems too idealistic or presumptuous for us, we should ask the Spirit to reveal to us what the Scriptures mean by the term "justification". Perhaps before doing so we can include in our considerations the ecstatic declaration of the King: "Thou art all fair, my love; and there is no spot in thee" (4:7). "All fair!", "undefiled!", "perfect" -- what can all this mean? Is it the blindness of love which exaggerates virtues and ignores blemishes? No, it cannot be that, for Christ's love is perfectly balanced by His truth, so that He can never be accused of unreality. This must be how He views His bride.

Is it only descriptive, then, of the ultimate condition of believers when they are raptured to the glory to be with Christ for ever? It will certainly be true in that great day, but I suggest that it describes a present experience, and I confirm this with a quotation from the portion allocated for April 7th in Watchman Nee's new book of Daily Readings: "Suppose that the malefactor who was crucified with Christ had lived on after he had believed in the Lord. Suppose he had come down from the cross and lived for several decades more. Let us further suppose that during those years his work had been ten times more than that of Paul, that his love had grown ten times more than John's and that he had brought ten times more people to Christ than Peter did. Would it have made any difference if he had gone to heaven then, rather than on the day on which he was crucified? Would he have been any worthier of his place thereafter all those years? All who have tasted the grace of God know that he would not have been one whit worthier than when he entered Paradise on that first day. Qualification for heaven is founded on Christ's 'It is finished'. No one can add anything to His work of redemption."

THE gospel offers something much more than forgiveness; it freely gives "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe" (Romans 3:22). This may be difficult for us to understand, but it is the clear statement of God's Word. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1) and "by him everyone that believeth is justified from all things" (Acts 13:39). It is therefore sober fact when our Lord calls us "All fair" and says that there is no spot in us. You may say: "I don't feel like that!" True, but when did God ever allow Himself to be affected by our feelings, or even to suggest that we should be governed by them? We notice that it is not the bride who claims this perfection, but the Bridegroom who attributes it to her. And whatever qualifications we may make in the case of Solomon's typical "dove", we have none which we rightly apply concerning the spiritual people of God, for it is God Himself who justifies them and Christ who shed His blood to make them perfectly whole (Romans 8:33-34). Justification means to be made right in God's sight; it admits of no gradual changes or self efforts at improvement. It deals with the absolute difference between the unredeemed and the redeemed, sinner and saint. The deciding factor is as to whether we are "in Adam" or "in Christ". If we are "found in him" (Philippians 3:9), we share His perfect and eternal righteousness.

WHEN Paul preached this gospel of righteousness by faith alone, his religious opponents objected that it was a message which would make men careless about their sins. How wrong they were! When the reformers preached this same gospel they were subjected to similar criticism arid called "antinomian" -- lawless. In fact, however, the opposite was true, as it still is today. Justification is more than a theological nicety or a legal term; it is a divine dynamic for holiness of life. It is always possible for merely nominal Christians to shelter behind a spurious claim to grace while still living on in sin, but I know of no greater spur to holy living than for a man to know himself completely reconciled to God and accepted in the Beloved. The Church is Christ's "Fair one", His one and only love. He chose her as such before the world was.

But why the title "Dove"? The word speaks to us of gentleness and simplicity, but is this all? Can it be that it is an allusion to the presence [5/6] and work of the Holy Spirit in the Church? Even so, we need to ask also why the Spirit descended and remained on Jesus in this form? Why a dove? May I suggest the possibility that at His baptism a link was made with the first presentation of the infant Jesus to God? The law prescribed that on such occasions burnt and sin offerings should be made, with the kindly provision that if the mother were poor, two doves would be acceptable, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering (Leviticus 12:8). Mary and Joseph were certainly poor (they had not yet received the Magi's gifts), and so they took the Babe to the temple with their two doves (Luke 2:24). Thirty years later, after He had been baptised, Jesus was praying when the heaven opened and, like a dove, the gracious Spirit descended upon Him and remained upon Him. The Dove was the sign of the whole burnt offering. The Dove flew down, but He never flew away (John 1:32); He remained to mark out this Living Sacrifice, this Whole-burnt Offering, as the Father's delight.

Jesus had come to "fulfil all righteousness". This must surely mean more than proving Himself righteous. It meant also that He had come to bring repentant sinners into the realm of His own perfect righteousness. We remember, in this connection, that it was by the eternal Spirit that He offered Himself to God in the sacrifice of the cross which provides believers with perfect righteousness. It may be that this is what is suggested by the term "Dove"; it is associated with the enjoyment of God's free gift which makes Him both just and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus. We, too, have been baptised, and our baptism testified to the glorious truth of union with Christ. No visible dove came to us, but the Holy Spirit sealed us as those for whom all righteousness has been fulfilled, marking us out for a life of entire consecration to the will of God. So Christ calls us His dove, and as such He appeals to us for the closest fellowship. He begs us to mount those secret stairs, to climb those heavenly cliffs, so that in spirit we may hold close communion with Him.

THE call is intensely personal. If, however, we found it hard to credit that in His eyes we are all fair, what shall we now say when He assures us that He yearns for our company? "Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely." Does He say this to us? Can it be that the Lord calls the Church to prayer because He Himself derives pleasure from her company? Those trembling voices, those halting prayers, those so-inadequate praises; are they really sweet to Him? Those faces, lined perhaps with sorrow, pale with the weariness of life's burdens, softened surely with the realisation of His love; are they beautiful in His eyes? Well, that is what the Word of God says, and it says it not only in this figurative language but in many other passages of Holy Writ.

If our voices are not sweet to others, they are to Him. If nobody else finds our smiles attractive, He does. He loves us with a tender love. It is not our works or our money that He desires most of all -- precious though these may be -- but our practice of heart communion. It has been my happy lot for a great part of my life to be in fellowships where time was set apart for pure praise and worship. There was an agreement to refrain for the moment from petitions, so that priority might be given to worship and thanksgiving. And lest any zealous saint of a practical mind should object that it is the Church's business to ask and receive, may I say that such praising groups have always been most fruitful and effective in their subsequent intercessions. It has been a matter of priorities. We have found that praise has released prayer and prayer has empowered for action.

IN the previous article on Worship, John Blanchard rightly points out that this is intended to be something much more than mere thoughts or emotions, for worship involves glad obedience. What I write now is entirely in harmony with what he says, for in this passage the Bridegroom wishes to commune with His beloved not in an unrealistic or merely mystical way, but with the practical issue of fruit-bearing in view. "The vineyards are in blossom," He reminds her, "even while I am enjoying your communion I am concerned also for fruit for the Father's glory." Now what this exactly means in the allegorical setting of Solomon's Songs I do not know, but none of us can fail to register its close allusion to Christ's own talk on fruit-bearing in John 15. The blossom presages fruit, and it is fruit that Christ purposes in our lives of abiding. The Lord has this in mind when He calls us to closer communion. He wants to hear us, but if we will listen, He also wishes to speak to us. Earlier on the bride had confessed: "They made [6/7] me keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept" (1:6). This is an all too common tragedy among God's servants who allow their concern to work for others to rob them of that supreme service, which is "ministering to the Lord".

"Our vineyards are in blossom" whispers the Beloved One, even while He expresses evident concern lest the promise should never come to a fruitful realisation, lest the bloom and tender grapes should never mature. When, therefore, the matter of communion is adjusted, He is in a position to deal with the threats to fruitfulness. There are the foxes -- the little foxes -- which will spoil the vineyards if they are allowed to do so. Even as He speaks we get the impression that it is with that still, small voice which can only be heard by those who are in close touch with Him.

AGAIN, it may be difficult to explain the niceties of the allusions to foxes in a vineyard, but it is not difficult to appreciate that in the spiritual life there are wily, sneaking enemies to fruitfulness which must be dealt with if there is to be satisfaction to our divine Husbandman. These are often relatively minor matters, seemingly unimportant intruders, only little foxes, but they will rob the Lord and rob us too if they are allowed to run wild in our lives. Perhaps the bride, in the security of the cleft rocks, was unaware of these perils. All the more reason, then, for her to respond to the Bridegroom's call to communion so that He could discuss them with her and co-operate in getting rid of them. He did not shout condemnation from a distance, and He did not demand action against them as the condition for His favour. The Lord is not like that. He simply appealed for closer communion and then whispered: "Let us take the foxes ..."

"Let us take them. We will do it together, you and I. I am not commanding you alone to clean up your vineyard so that its promise of fruitfulness may be fulfilled. Nor am I offering to do all the work for you while you idly languish in the house of wine, comforted with raisins (2:4 & 5). Let us face the realities of the situation together, and let our lovely heart communion result in practical and fruitful action!" It is in this spirit that we find the Lord Jesus urging us to come closer to Him and to seek His face in prayer. He wants to hear us, but He also wants us to hear Him, and we may well miss what He has to say if we do not make use of the secret places of the stairs.

THE ill-advised Marthas of the Church may voice their impatience, but we can afford to ignore them since the Lord will not tolerate this kind of complaining. "This," He says, "is the better part which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:42). He Himself will certainly not take it away. Nobody else can take it away if He refuses permission for them to do so. The sad thing is that we ourselves can throw it away, as we sometimes do, making ourselves deaf to the wistful calls of the Lord that we should spend more time with Him. The very last appeal in these Songs has a sad undertone: "Thou that dwellest in the gardens, thy companions hear thy voice; cause me to hear it" (8:13). A multiplicity of committee rooms and church business meetings provide ground enough for Christ so to complain of His Church today; we are content to linger in the study when we might be in the Audience Chamber of the King.

May we return to the two Bethany sisters, Martha with her busy preoccupation with the activities of "service" and Mary with her better part of "the secret places of the stairs". How did it all end? We may reasonably conclude that Martha accepted the Lord's rebuke, for she loved Him too and was loved by Him. For all we know she may even have left her fussing, and joined Mary at the feet of the Lord Jesus. If she did, we may be sure that the meal tasted all the better when it did come, and provided opportunity for fellowship with the Saviour. We may even say that if it had been a modern setting, the possibility is that when it was over Jesus might have helped with the washing-up. His great concern both then and now relates to proper priorities, putting first things first, and there can be no doubt that His priority is communion. He still calls: "Let me see thy face; let me hear thy voice", not because He wants to discourage activity but because He knows -- none better -- that a heavenly mind will make His Church of great earthly use.

The following article by George Verwer will deal with a similar emphasis, this time in its setting of the Church Prayer Meeting, which is all part of the call to worship and the call to communion. [7/8]



(Another look at Psalm 73)

William MacDonald

THIS is Asaph speaking. And let me make one point clear at the outset. I know for a fact that God is good to Israel, to the upright and the pure in heart. The truth is so obvious that you'd think no one would ever question it.

But there was a time when I actually began to wonder. My stance on the subject became very wobbly, and my faith almost took a temporary tumble. You see, I began to think how well off the wicked are -- lots of money, plenty of pleasures, no troubles -- and soon I was wishing that I were like them.

Everything seems to be going their way. They don't have as much physical suffering as believers do. Their bodies are healthy and sleek (naturally -- they can afford the best of everything). They escape many of the troubles and tragedies of decent people like ourselves. And even if trouble should strike them, they are heavily insured against every conceivable form of loss. No wonder they are so self-confident. They are as proud as a peacock and ruthless as a tiger. Just as their bodies seem to overflow with fatness, so their minds are spilling over with crooked schemes. And are they ever arrogant! They scoff and curse at their underlings and treat them as if they were dirt, threatening them continually. Even God Himself does not escape their malice. Their speech is punctuated with profanity, and they brazenly blaspheme Him. Their tongue swaggers and struts through the earth, as if to say: "Here I come: get out of my way."

Most of the ordinary people think that they are great. They bow and scrape and show utmost respect. No matter what the wicked do, the people find no fault with them. And this only confirms the oppressors in their arrogance. They figure that if there is a God, He certainly doesn't know what's going on. So they feel safe in pursuing their careers of crookedness. And there they are -- cushioned in luxury and getting richer all the time.

Well, I began to think, What good has it done me to live a decent, honest, respectable life? The hours I've spent in prayer. The time spent in the Word. The distribution of funds to the work of the Lord. The active testimony for the Lord, both public and private. All I've got from it has been a daily dose of suffering and punishment. I wondered if the life of faith was worth the cost.

Of course, I never shared my doubts and misgivings with other believers. I knew better than to do that. I often thought of the man who said: "Tell me of your certainties; I have doubts enough of my own." So I kept all my doubts to myself, lest I should offend or stumble some simple, trusting soul.

But still the whole business was a riddle to me: the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer. It seemed so hard to understand. In fact, it wore me out trying to solve the problem.

Then something wonderful happened. One day I entered into the sanctuary of the Lord -- not the literal Temple in Jerusalem, but the heavenly sanctuary. I entered there by faith. As I was complaining to the Lord about the prosperity of the wicked in this life, the question suddenly flashed across my mind: "Yes, but what about the life to come?" The more I thought about their eternal destiny, the more everything came into focus.

So I spoke to the Lord, something like this: Lord, now I realise that, despite all appearances, the life of the wicked is a precarious existence. They are walking on the slippery edge of a vast precipice. Sooner or later they fall over to their doom. In a moment they are cut off -- swept away by a wave of terrors too horrible to contemplate. They are to me like a dream when one awakens in the morning -- the things that disturbed the dreamer are seen to be nothing but phantoms.

I see now that the things that were causing me to be envious were phantoms. It was stupid of me to become bitter and agitated over the seeming prosperity of the ungodly. In questioning Your justice I was acting more like an animal than a man (Excuse me for acting as I did).

Yet in spite of my ignorant behaviour, You have not forsaken me. I am continually with [8/9] You, and You hold on to me, like a father holds his child by the hand. Throughout all my life, You guide me with Your counsel, and then at last You will receive me into glory.

It is enough that I have You in heaven; that makes me fabulously wealthy. And now I have no desire for anything on earth apart from Yourself. Let the ungodly have their wealth. I am satisfied with You and find my all-sufficiency in You. My body may waste away and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my life and I'll never need or want throughout eternity.

Those who try to keep as far away from You as possible will perish without You. And those who have forsaken You for false gods will be destroyed. As far as I am concerned, I want to be as near to You as possible. I have committed myself to You for protection, and I want to proclaim Your wonderful works to all who will listen.



[George Verwer]

(Our beloved brother, George Verwer, has made available to us an article which he was asked to write for the magazine MOODY MONTHLY. Here is a part of that article. It accentuates a pressing need among God's people today. )

ONE of God's great men of past years, Samuel Chadwick, taught that Satan's greatest aim was to destroy our prayer lives. Satan is not afraid of prayerless study, prayerless work, or prayerless religion ... but he will tremble when we pray.

If Chadwick was correct (and hundreds of other great men of God have said similar things), then we are really in trouble. If there is any part of our church life that seems to be in trouble, it is the prayer meeting. In fact, in an increasing number of churches, for all practical purposes, there is no such meeting.

There is no lack of books on prayer, and most pastors preach on prayer once in a while. If there is any doctrine to which we pay only lip service, it has to be the doctrine of prayer. In ministering in thousands of churches over the past twenty-two years in North America and around the world, I have never ceased to be amazed at the neglect of true, heart-felt, corporate prayer. There are some beautiful exceptions in some countries, but they are few in comparison. I am convinced that another challenge or message on prayer will do little good, and that alone has almost kept me from writing this article. The hour has come for us to pray. Let us put the prayer meeting back into the life of our churches. This will take action, discipline and perseverance, combined with large amounts of love, patience and spiritual reality. C. S. Lewis said, "We have the tendency to think, but not to act. We have the tendency to feel, but not to act. If we go on thinking and feeling without acting, we soon are unable to act."

Part of my motivation for writing this article came after a weekend of ministry in a church where the mid-week prayer meeting had been dropped, mainly due to lack of interest and attendance. The Holy Spirit worked during that weekend, and during the final meeting on Sunday evening the pastor announced that they would start the prayer meeting again on the following Wednesday night. Afterwards I heard that some fifty people attended, and that they had a great time of prayer. The fact that some churches have good, live and powerful meetings, even in this activistic, leisure-loving, television age, is proof that your church can as well.

Other Christians tell me that they wish their church had a good, live prayer meeting. Many have stopped going to dead, poorly organised prayer meetings, while yet others continue only out of a sense of duty or guilt. Should we not be drawn into the presence of the Living God with higher motivation than this? Why are we only attracted by special speakers and programmes rather than the Lord Himself? On a practical level, what real authority does the Lord Jesus have in our churches today?

To see things change it will take both a spiritual and practical revolution. We need a divine combination of practical changes and deeper commitment. Pastors spend hours in preparing a sermon, but how much time is put into [9/10] preparing for the prayer meetings? Linked with this is the great compromise of changing the prayer meeting to a mid-week service of "Prayer and Bible Study", which, after the Bible study and the voicing of "requests", involves usually about ten to twenty minutes of actual prayer. I guess some feel this is better than nothing, but many decide that "nothing" is better, so they decide not to attend.

Some really live churches which I have had contact with have prayer and Bible study on different nights in order to give enough time for both. Others have them together, but have the meetings long enough to have at least a good hour of prayer. Some have other prayer meetings in different homes and this is often good, though at times there is more fellowship than prayer, and they especially seem to lack reality in the area of intercession. These good functions should not take the place of at least one good church prayer meeting a week when a large part of the congregation is together in "one accord and unity" as in the book of the Acts.

The lack and neglect of such meetings, I believe, are two of the great mistakes in our Bible-believing churches, and such deception by Satan represents a far greater enmity than liberalism or cults. In fact, a clear study of 2 Corinthians 10:4-7 would show us that prayer is the main way we are going to stand against the enemy in whatever way he may attack us. We seem to be blind to the nature of the spiritual warfare and feel that as long as we have a full Sunday School and good numbers on Sunday mornings that we are okay. Could it be that as in Revelation 3:1, we have a name that we are alive but are in fact dead? Could it be true, as one man said, that if the Holy Spirit left us there would be very few changes made? Everything would go on as usual!

We should be willing to do almost anything to leap from such a deadly state. I feel it is almost too late in some places where spiritual schizophrenia has set in on such a deep level. This will be changed only by radical, deep-rooted repentance. Surely the prayer meeting and our own personal prayer lives must be a vital part in anything lasting and real that takes place. Let us bring the prayer meeting back into its rightful place in the life of our church, AND let us put Christ back in His rightful place as be Lord of our lives.

How should we prepare for a Prayer Meeting?

1. By spending time in personal prayer.

2. By reading God's Word, especially on the subject of prayer and then by feeding on powerful books on the subject. There are over fifty books we can use.

3. Mobilise as many as possible over a period of time to present short, specific requests from the mission field both at home and abroad. Each missionary on special ministry should have someone who represents him in the prayer meeting. Avoid having more than five to ten minutes of requests before having at least some time in prayer.

4. Get hot items from the newspapers which will motivate the people to a sense of urgency. 1 Timothy 2:1 gives us clear teaching about the need for this.

5. Organise when possible some kind of visual aid that will help the people.

6. Sometimes arrange for special speakers, but communicate that most of the time will be for prayer. If you feel they must bring a longer message, then extend the meeting ... but don't cut down on the actual prayer time. Keep in mind that talking to God is more important than listening to man.

7. Point out some of the ways they can help to kill the prayer meetings. These include:

a. Praying too long at one time.

b. Preaching at people in their prayers.

c. Praying only for things pertaining to your own church.

d. Not changing anything from one week to the next.

e. Not really believing or expecting specific answers.

This material will not be new to many who read it, but it is the cry of my heart that some who read it will determine to act, regardless of the cost. The battle will be uphill all the way, for "prayer is work". However the results will be great and eternal. [10/11]



Poul Madsen


WHEN we read through these verses we must take notice that the apostle is not telling us what the justified person's condition ought to be, but what it is. Paul is not presenting us with an ideal, but with a real description of everyone who is justified by faith in Christ Jesus.

"... peace with God ..."

The first thing he emphasises is that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This peace with God is not brought about by any work of ours: it is the Lord's own achievement. By His redemptive work He has ensured that we who were previously under God's wrath are now at peace with Him. This peace is "through our Lord Jesus Christ" and for that very reason it is perfect peace and it is absolutely unshakeable. It is, as we would say, guaranteed. In this and the following chapters we shall find that Paul emphasises the fact that justification and all its resultant blessings come "through our Lord Jesus Christ". Everything is due to Christ: all is given us in Him and all is concentrated on Him. Once we fully appreciate this fact, then we can understand that all which is spoken of in this chapter is not an unattainable ideal but present experience, to be received gratefully from the Lord Jesus who Himself purchased them for us.

The peace which we have with God through our Lord Jesus Christ consists of God having made peace with us. His thoughts toward us are no longer thoughts of animosity but of goodwill. It is an undeniable fact, this peace with God. It is not improved by our feeling full of peace, nor is it diminished by our feeling heavy and depressed. It has nothing at all to do with our feelings, but is an objective fact which nothing can alter, proclaimed to us in the gospel.

Already the apostle has stated that the Roman believers have "grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1:7). Grace and peace are an inseparable evangelical unity. Paul cannot imagine the one without the other, so it is unimportant which he mentions first. At the beginning he placed peace after grace, but in this passage he mentions peace first. He will go on to speak of grace, for both are the work of God and not the result of any efforts of ours. It is easier for us to understand that grace comes from God, for we appreciate that no condemned criminal can reprieve himself. It may be somewhat more difficult for us to realise that peace is also the work and gift of God, for we immediately link with it some thought of tranquil feelings or peaceful emotions within ourselves. The word "peace", however, has another content and meaning, namely the removal of strain and hostility. We can always begin to doubt our own peaceful sensations, just as we can doubt our own love, but we cannot doubt that God Himself has made peace with us by the blood of His Son, having loved us even when we were enemies and adversaries. If, then, God has made this peace, whatever we feel, we may boldly claim that we have peace with God, and that this is an eternal, lasting peace.

"... access by faith into this grace ..."

"This grace wherein we stand" is a characteristic description of our position in relation to God. Our status is a status of grace, that is to say, God always regards us as a people who are fully accepted in the Lord Jesus. Our sin has been taken away. Just as a man like Abraham could stand before Him and a man like David could be pleasing to Him, so we have a standing and an acceptance which will never be changed. When Paul speaks of our having had access by faith into this grace, his thoughts are doubtless based on the Old Testament. There it was laid down that the high priest might go into the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies, but could do so only once a year on the great Day of Atonement. In contrast to this, everyone who is now justified by faith has free entrance into the Holy of Holies and can happily remain there in the presence of God, all by virtue of the grace which is in Christ Jesus. The difference is overwhelming. No wonder that the apostle goes on to speak of rejoicing and glory!

"... we rejoice in hope of the glory of God"

We who have sinned and fallen short of God's glory (3:23), can now boast of the hope of this glory, being convinced that the God who has reconciled us to Himself will also lead us on, conforming us to the likeness of His Son and [11/12] making us co-heirs of all things with Christ. Such a conviction, based as it is on the love of God alone as revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord, enables us to look with the eyes of faith on all life's troubles. Previously we feared them and regarded them as obstacles on life's pathway, but now we are able to rejoice even in these troubles, for we know that through patience and probation they help us on to our desired goal.

Tribulations are now made to play their part in building us up in Christ, giving us a Christian character in which are found patience, longsuffering and dependability. For the tried Christian there is at the end of this road a destination of hope which is not here described in detail. It includes all that God has ever promised us. While life's trials and troubles deprive the people of the world of their hopes, they confirm the Christian in the glorious hope which God has given him. They stimulate him with the promise that he will be like Jesus, the promise of coming glory, of the new heavens and new earth where righteousness will always dwell. They encourage him with the promise that he will reign with Christ over God's universe, the promise of an eternal dwelling in the city whose builder and maker is God.

"... hope putteth not to shame ..."

Hope of this kind will never disappoint. It does not promise more than it can fulfil; it does not deal in mirages or castles in the air. It presents us with substantial and satisfying realities. When the man who has been justified enters into the promised glory he will no doubt, like the Queen of Sheba before him, exclaim: "The half was not told me". No eye has yet seen nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man to conceive the wonders of what God has prepared for His own. It is too great for us to comprehend while we are in our present condition. At the moment we cannot encompass its significance. We can confidently wait for it, though, for God's hope will never permit of any disappointment or shame.

We may wonder how we can be so sure. We know our own weaknesses and shortcomings all too well. When we think of what our past life was like, and even how we have fallen below the standard in our Christian life, we may well tremble at the thought of whether we shall have a share in all that hope of coming glory which is promised in the gospel. Even while we tremble, is it possible for us to be assured that we shall not be put to shame by our hope? Happily it is, but solely because of God's love to us. The scripture goes on to stress this matter of divine love, though not attempting to explain what is completely beyond our comprehension. We are told that while human love might possibly reach the limit of sacrifice for those who are friends, good men, God's love has extended to the degree that He gave His Son to die for us when we were still enemies. That is to say, even when we were against God, God was for us with a love which knew no bounds. It is this love which is the certain guarantee that our hope will never be put to shame.

"the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts ..."

That love was poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit as He came into them when we were justified by faith. The love so described is not our love to God, but His love to us, as is clear from the subsequent verses. It is the love which He commends to us which He also sheds abroad in us. It may be true that because He first loved us we now love Him, but that is another matter.

The love of God is the common possession of the Church. No one in the Church has deserved it, but all are to the same extent the objects of that love. Even as no one can deserve to stand justified before God, so no one can deserve to enjoy His love. And even as no one is more justified than others, so no one has more of God's love shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit than anyone else. There is no respect of persons with God: He has no favourites. When Paul wishes to substantiate the fact that the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Spirit, he adds: "For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly". Here is the length and breadth and height and depth of the love of God. It is centred in the cross of Christ where He took away all that condemns us, our sin, our shame, our enmity, our defiance and our ungodliness and gave us the hope which does not make ashamed. He did it without our help. He did it without our even asking Him to do it. He did it even in spite of us. While we were still enemies we were reconciled to God by His work of love, and then when we believed He poured the realisation of that love into our hearts by [12/13] the Spirit, so giving us to know a hope that can never be put to shame.

"Much more then ..."

God's love is always more than we could have thought possible. He turns us back to this love again and again. We must never forget it. Nothing must overshadow it. It is the greatest. The comparisons which Paul is now going to make, using this phrase "much more" for the purpose, do not mean that there is any higher love than that of Calvary, but with convincing spiritual logic he argues that what is incomprehensively great, namely the giving of His Son to die for us, makes certain the lesser yet wonderful fact of our future salvation from wrath and promise of divine glory in its place. He argues from the greater to the lesser, reasoning that if God went to the extreme extent of sacrificing His Son for the sake of His enemies, we can be fully assured that He will give everlasting glory to those past enemies who are now reconciled. What He has done in justifying wicked sinners is so amazing that it is less surprising to find Him planning such a glorious hope for the justified. Again the apostle argues from the greater to the lesser in saying that if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled, then there can be no contesting His purpose that we should be saved by His life and gain all that God has promised and even more!

"... we rejoice in God ..."

Our hope is truly well founded. It has its foundations in that great love of God for us, the love which did not shrink from the unthinkable, that His dearly beloved Son should die instead of us. God commends His love to us. He draws our attention to it. If we build on that, and on the fact that God is God, so -- and only so -- we shall have a hope which will never cause us to be ashamed. Paul brings this "Song of songs" to this climax: "And not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation". There is no credit for man: all the glory is due to be given to God. As He is the basis of all, salvation in its fullness, so He is also the goal of all, everything comes back to Him. We have nothing but rejoicing when we consider Him. It was great that we were able to rejoice in hope of the glory of God but it is even greater that we find ourselves rejoicing in God Himself. He has done all things well. All good and blessing come from Him. Nobody advised Him, nobody helped Him; salvation is altogether of Him, through Him and unto Him. How greatly we can rejoice as we find nothing standing any more as a barrier between Him and ourselves! We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. We rejoice in the God of glory.

(To be continued)


T. Austin-Sparks

THE verse from which this title is taken suggests that if only Paul had continued to preach circumcision he could have avoided persecution and been freed from the inevitable offence which is created by the message of the cross (Galatians 5:11). It is an obvious fact that wherever the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ has been faithfully preached it has not only brought hope and new life to some but also caused trouble with many more. Wherever this message has gone it has aroused antagonism. As it was a stumbling-block to the Jews and an absurdity to the Greeks in the first days, so it has ever since been unacceptable not only to men of the world but even to many religious people.

This is a fact, in spite of its being the most popular symbol. There is hardly a city in Christendom where the architecture, galleries of art, collections of literature and conservatoires of music do not give a prominent place to the sacred sign of the cross. It is a pity, then, that so much of the preaching and teaching in the Christian Church is either confined to the "Historic Jesus", which presents a crossless Christ, or to an interpretation of the cross which is much less than the Scriptural one.

Yet the consistent message of the whole Bible is that the cross is God's way of salvation, His sufficient and His only way. It is further very clear that this has been the message which God has blessed to the salvation of men. It was dominant in New Testament days, and the recovery of, or re-emphasis upon some vital and essential phase of that cross gave rise to such movements [13/14] as are signified by names like Luther, the Wesleys, Whitfield, Moody, Spurgeon and many other God-honoured men.

Before we begin to discuss why the cross has always been such a maker of trouble and cause of offence, we need to make it plain that no exception is taken to the heroics of the cross or its aesthetics. Sacrifice, suffering, unselfish devotion, self-effacing service for the good of others, enduring the penalty of setting oneself against current evils; these are romantic elements which are popularly appreciated. It is the deeper meaning which the Bible gives to the cross which provokes men's opposition, and it may be profitable to examine a few of these more closely.

1. The cross condemns the world

In the cross Christ created a great divide between the old world and the new, a divide which cannot be bridged. Two distinctly different systems, scales of value, standards of judgment, sets of laws, stand contrasted on the two sides of the cross. The system of each is not only quite different, but irreconcilable and for ever mutually antagonistic. The cross demands an absolute distinctiveness of interest and objectives, relationships and resources. It draws the final distinction between the saved and the unsaved, between the living and the dead.

The apostle Paul said that by the cross of Christ he had "been crucified to the world" and the world crucified to him. The Word of God emphatically declares that this age is evil and that "the whole world lieth in the wicked one". It says that the world's ways, motives, purposes, ideas and imaginations are all the opposite of God's. It further asserts that the world is utterly incapacitated from either receiving the revelation of the divine mind, growing of itself into the divine image, enjoying and appreciating real fellowship with God, or being entrusted with the privilege of co-operation with God.

Such capacities and relationships belong only to those whose new birth has delivered them from this present world. It is understandable that the world finds the condemnation of the cross irritating and unacceptable, and it is to be feared that the presence of "worldliness" in the individual Christian life and in the Church is in direct contradiction to the essential purposes of the cross. The Lord Jesus described His cross as being "the judgment of this world" (John 12:31). Those who follow Him must accept this verdict, and will consequently have to suffer from the offence of the cross.

2. The cross crucifies the flesh

The Word of God declares that "our old man has been crucified with Christ" (Romans 6:6) and that "One died for all, therefore all died; and he died for all, that they which live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). So far as God was concerned the history of the fallen race was concluded at Calvary. From that time onward, God's entire concern was the new creation. It is no use our trying to bring some of the old creation life into the new creation, for God will not accept it. Our human capabilities as well as our infirmities; what we call our better side as well as what we recognise to be our worst side; our goodness and our badness have all been included in that death. Henceforth we are called to live not on a human level but on a divine. In ourselves we possess nothing which is acceptable to God.

So often it is the assertion of some human element, some like or dislike, some ambition or some personal interest, which paralyses the work of God in and through us. To regard not only our sins but ourselves as having been taken to the cross by Christ is the only way by which those purposes of God can be wrought out through our lives. It may seem strange that while we so often deplore our lack of spirituality, we are so slow to accept the verdict of the cross on our natural lives. We find it humiliating to accept the same verdict on ourselves as has been passed on the world, namely that of death by crucifixion. Nevertheless there is no other basis for a really spiritual life and witness: the cross must work out death in us in order that the life of Christ may be released in full expression through us. So there may be a sense in which the Christian also has to face the offence of the cross. Only by really knowing the power of the fact that he is crucified with Christ can he know the blessedness of the new life. When it is truly "no longer I", then the way is opened for the affirmation: "but Christ that liveth in me". The end is glorious but the way is the painful way of the cross.

3. The cross casts out the devil

Here we touch the deepest cause of the offence, for the world and the flesh are only the instruments and weapons by which the great hierarchy [14/15] of Satan maintains its hold and its existence as the controlling force. As He approached the cross, Christ said: "Now is the prince of this world cast out" (John 12:31). As Paul reflected on the deep meaning of the cross he said that by it: "Christ stripped off principalities and powers, making a show of them openly, and triumphed over them" (Colossians 2:15).

It is perfectly natural, then, that the great hierarchy of evil should by every means and resource seek to make the cross of none effect. By the "pale cast of thought" it will dilute the message of the cross; by pushing in the world's methods and spirit it will sap the spiritual vitality of the Church; by stirring up the flesh, the self and the old Adam it will cause schism, strain and disintegration; or by making much of the human elements in its artistic, aesthetic, heroic side, it will be blind to the need for regeneration. Reputation, popularity, the world's standards of success, are all contrary to the spirit of Christ, but they are the attractions by which the enemy engrosses the minds of many, sometimes even Christian ministers.

If, therefore, the cross is preached in the full content of victory over and emancipation from the world, the flesh and the devil, it is to be expected that by hook or crook the intelligent forces of evil will stop at nothing to silence it, and will stir up every cause of offence which can be laid to the account of the cross. No wonder that this message is repudiated or misrepresented, since it is God's solution to the problems of fallen man. Crucifixion is a harsh end; it reveals the utterness of God's repudiation of everything which belongs to the old creation. To the believer, however, the cross as presented in the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

In conclusion let us not forget that the enjoyment of the full purpose of God, the experience of victory, and association in life with Him that sitteth on the throne in His glory are ours just in so far as we are one with the reality of the cross as set forth in the Word of God. Perhaps it is best summed up for us in the words: "They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony, and they counted not their lives dear unto the death" (Revelation 12:11 ).



WITH this issue we are privileged to begin the seventh year of this magazine. We cannot do so without once again recording the unfailing faithfulness of our God in the past. Every need for 1977 was fully provided for, according to His promises. As we worship Him for this, we also pray His rich blessing on all His stewards who have so generously helped with their gifts. When we decided to economise by not sending individual receipts, we realised that we were taking risks, for it is not easy to contribute to such a work and receive no acknowledgement. The amazing thing is that many of you do so. This puts us under a burden to send you our thanks via the Throne, as we seek to do, but it also calls for some mention in print. It has been most gratifying to find the flow of gifts unchecked. Prices mount higher, but our income has mounted with them. We magnify God and also we assure you of our sincere gratitude.

Through the year many kind letters of encouragement and appreciation have reached us. In some cases these, too, remain unanswered. Each one, however, has been truly appreciated and provoked prayer as well as praise. We ourselves are humbled as we realise how many fellow Christians pray for us. This has been a year when we ourselves have felt especially upheld and prospered by the prayers of brothers and sisters in Christ. We try to do our part in remembering them also as we come to the Throne of Grace on which our reigning Lord is seated.

Will 1978 be the year in which He rises up from that Throne and comes out to meet His raptured Church? Nobody knows. What we do know, though, is that His unrevoked instructions are: "Occupy, till I come!" We shall be blessed indeed if His Coming finds us fully extended in His glad service. May TOWARD THE MARK help us all to have a greater devotion to Christ Himself! [15/16]



(Studies in the book of Exodus)

J. Alec Motyer

2. THE REDEEMING GOD (7:8 to 13:16)

IN our last study we saw how the work of God with Moses was concentrated on the great objective of making him an obedient man. We found that God reached the target at which He was aiming: "Moses and Aaron did so as the Lord commanded them, so did they" (7:6). It is interesting to note that it took eighty years of Moses's life to get to that point, for the passage records that he was then "four score years old". It is true that God cannot be hurried; He takes whatever time is required to reach His objective in us which is to make of us men like Moses who will take God at His word and do what He commands. As we move into this new section of the book we are reminded this was the man whom God was going to use. "These are that Moses and Aaron" (6:27). It was that Moses, and no other, who led the whole people into the experience of salvation. How true it is that it is the obedient life which is the blessed life. That man, and no other, was the man who led others to know the salvation of God.


Our present section divides into two parts with a clear dividing mark. "The Lord said unto Moses, Yet one more plague will I bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterwards he will let you go hence. When he shall let you go he shall surely thrust you out hence altogether" (11:1). This is the dividing mark. On the one side of that verse we have the series of nine plagues which were acts of God in which there was no salvation: nine plagues but no deliverance. And on the other side of the verse we have the tenth plague bringing the release of God's people from the land of Egypt. This is the division of the passage, but it raises two questions. The first is, Why the plagues? It was not only that the nine plagues did not save the people, but that from the start God knew that they would not do so: "When thou goest back into Egypt, see that thou doest before Pharaoh all the wonders that I have put in thy hand, but I will harden his heart and he will not let the people go" (4:21). Why did the redeeming God, setting out to deliver His people, spend all this time performing acts which He knew would not deliver? The second question is, Why the Passover? God announced that the tenth plague would achieve liberation for Israel (11:1). He said that Pharaoh would be so overborne by this final act of judgment that he would not merely allow the people to go but would insist that they did go. Very well then, if the tenth plague was going to bring about deliverance, what was the need for the Passover?

Our first question is, Why the plagues? The answer seems to be that God will not pronounce and execute judgment without having gone to the limit in setting before the sinner the evidence against him, and in making every possible appeal for repentance and obedience. The plagues are a part of the Bible doctrine of the justice of God, Who will not condemn without evidence and Who will not judge without giving the accused every chance to learn of His glory, to respond to His ways and to come to Him in repentance and faith. It is because we are confronted by the justice of God that the story of the nine plagues is punctuated by references to Pharaoh's heart. It is as though Moses, in writing up this great story, was anxious all the time to let us know what was happening in the secret place. All this was designed to bring the sinner into a better way, but was he responding to God's warnings? Clearly he was not, but over and over again the heart of Pharaoh is mentioned, so that we may see the progress of the divine work. In the whole Exodus narrative, from chapter 4 to chapter 14 there are 20 references to the heart of Pharaoh, God thus allowing us to see that all that happened was an appeal to a heart which remained obdurate, refusing the appeal of God and going on to its own destruction.

It may well be, however, that another question is arising in the reader's mind: "Did we not hear from the beginning that God was going to harden Pharaoh's heart? In that case, what chance had the poor man? The dice seems to have been loaded against him right from the very start. Does it not appear that before any appeal was made to him, it was made impossible for him to respond to that appeal? We can only [16/17] answer this question and appreciate the doctrine of the righteousness of God by trying to understand more about this matter of Pharaoh's heart. We find that the references fall into three sections: There are the verses which speak of divine actions, such as, "I will harden his heart" (4:21); there are verses which describe a state or condition, such as, "And Pharaoh's heart was hardened" (7:22); and thirdly there are verses which describe human actions, such, as, "When Pharaoh saw that there was respite he hardened his heart" (8:15). This is the evidence set before us. The first group, treating of divine actions, has seven references; the second: describing a state of affairs has six references; and in the third group, which deals with human reactions, there are four references. I suggest that we will understand them a little better if we consider them under three headings.

1. The Lord uses means to achieve an end

When, therefore, the Lord says that He will harden Pharaoh's heart, the implication is that He will make use of a customary means of bringing about that situation. When, for instance, He speaks of Himself as the Lord "who makes peace and creates havoc (Isaiah 45:7), He has already told us just how He creates havoc and calamity. He raises up conquerors in the world. He uses means to achieve His end. Now the customary means of heart hardening, in the providence of God, is that the human heart and will are faced with the truth of God and become hard when they refuse its appeal. There was a moment when Pharaoh realised that his magicians could not help him but only increase his trouble by adding more frogs to the many who were already there, and he appealed to Moses and Aaron, asking that they would intreat the Lord on his behalf (8:8). He recognised God. What is more, he proved God, for he himself was invited to appoint the time when it should happen. He did so and found that God answered the prayers of Moses for the removal of the plague. So Pharaoh saw his error, began to realise the truth and had positive proof put before him of the power of God, but in spite of it all, he refused the appeal of the truth and so hardened his heart. At the end of another plague we are told: "When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more and hardened his heart ... and the heart of Pharaoh was hardened" (9:34-35). So it was the action of the man which produced the consequent state: he hardened his heart, and his heart was hardened.

2. The Lord determines the result

"I will harden Pharaoh's heart," God said. This means that when the Lord appoints a means to an end, then His providential power works so as to bring that end to pass. But it means something more than that. It means that the Lord, in His righteous government of the world, reviews every soul of man to determine how long the period of probation shall last and when that period shall end. When therefore He said to Moses: "I will harden Pharaoh's heart", He was speaking in the light of His own determination and foreknowledge. He was saying to Moses: "I am sending you into the land of Egypt at a crisis moment, at a point of no return. Pharaoh has now had all the rope that I am prepared to give him, and you are going into Egypt at the moment when he will hang himself." The Lord fixes the moment when the end will come. We see this in its general application when we think of the statement in the Bible that "it is appointed unto men once to die". That is the point of no return; there is no further offer of the gospel and no further chance of repentance after that. This is true for every individual. We see it also in the history of man. At the moment of the Fall God determined that every descendant of Adam would be involved in the matter of sin and that from that moment onwards it would be impossible for man to return to God if left to his own devices. A whole race was "dead in trespasses and sins". We can see it over and over again in the matter of sin in our own lives. Sometimes God allows us to go on with some sin, refusing to hear His calls to repentance, until the time comes when He terminates the period of probation and allows us to be hooked with this sinful habit. This, beloved friends, should warn us with great solemnity to keep short accounts with God, living in a spirit of forsaking sin and fleeing to Him in repentance, so that we should not suddenly find the period of probation ended. What a tragedy even for those saved for all eternity to have to go into God's presence having to face His inquisition into a sin which we refused to abandon. He fixes the time when the period of probation ends.

3. He presides purposefully over the whole process

"The Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the [17/18] heart of his servants, in order that I might show these My signs in the midst of them, and in order that thou mayest tell them in the ears of thy sons and thy sons' sons what things I wrought upon Egypt" (10:1-2). God holds the sinner in a state of impenitence so that He may multiply before the sinner's eyes the grace and the glory of God, heaping appeal upon appeal, until the sinner is granted the grace of repentance or until the moment comes when that grace is withdrawn. In doing this God displays His glory for His praise among His own people. It is all done purposefully for the praise and the vindication of His majesty. This, then, is the reason for the nine plagues, that through them God may demonstrate that in the condemnation of the sinner He is of unimpeachable righteousness. No accusing finger can be pointed at Him. Did He make His way known to them? Yes! Did He give them every opportunity to repent and return? Yes! Why then are they overthrown? Because they chose the way of condemnation. God vindicates Himself in His judgment of the ungodly.


Now we have to ask the second question: Why the Passover? It seems that God had achieved what He set out to do by the tenth plague. "When that dire plague falls" says God, "Pharaoh will let you go; he will indeed hasten your departure" (11:1). If that great divine enterprise to liberate the people was achieved by the tenth plague, why did they need the Passover? The tenth plague was a deliberate act of God in final judgment. "Thus saith the Lord, About midnight I will go out into the land of Egypt ..." (11:4). No waving of the rod of God now. For the first time God takes judgment into His own hands, saying "I will go out in judgment and that judgment will come upon all alike". Importance will save nobody -- the first-born of Pharaoh will die. Unimportance will excuse nobody -- "the firstborn of the maidservant of the mill" (the lowest of the low) will also die. Divinity will be no protection -- "all the first-born of the cattle" (even the sacred bulls of Apis and the cows of Hathor) will be smitten. Yet in this context "the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel" (11:7). This difference was not exemption from judgment but deliverance by substitution.

Previously the Lord had made a difference as when there was darkness over the whole land but "all the people of Israel had light in their dwellings". That was a difference of mercy. Now, however, that the time has come for the judgment of sin, He could not excuse the Israelites for they too were sinners. When Moses came to them, they had also been rejectors of the word and way of God. If, therefore, the Lord had simply drawn a line of demarcation He would have been unrighteous, for however justly He condemned the sinners on His left hand He would have been unjust if He had excused His sinful people on His right. The difference this time must therefore not be a territorial boundary, nor a national distinction based on ethnic difference or traditional inheritance. It was in fact a difference between houses that were marked with blood and houses that were not. This explains the necessity for the Passover. God must be just as He saves the sinner, and that is why He made the strange decree: "Take a lamb" (12:3). In the eyes of man this may seem a fantastic irrelevance. What has a lamb to do with our bondage? What has the taking of a lamb to do with the injustice and lack of privilege which our slavery involves? The cry of the oppressed of all ages could rise with those oppressed in the land of Egypt, asking: "What has the taking of a lamb to do with our situation of desperate need?" The answer is that the Lamb is God's way out. This is the fundamental provision; this is the only way of liberty and justice; this is the only hope of a perfect society -- "Take a lamb".

This is God's way of being just and yet the justifier of him that believes. He cannot excuse the sinner, but He can and does provide a perfect atonement for him. In this connection there are four things which we may consider in relation to the Passover.


We read the instructions given to the Israelites in 12:3-6 and discover various factors in the matter of this deliberately chosen lamb:

i. Number. The lamb was to be equal to the number as well as the needs of God's people. There had to be a counting of heads. "A lamb according to their fathers' houses; a lamb for a household". They were to act in families in this matter. If, however, the household was too little for a lamb, then the next neighbour would share in the lamb -- "according to the number of the souls". The lamb must match the number of the people of God. If in any given household the smallest lamb which could be selected was too [18/19] much for them, then they were told to share with their next door neighbours. The lamb must match God's people as to numbers.

ii. Needs. There also had to be a counting of capacity: "according to every man's eating". The people of God were to be represented in this lamb not only in their numbers but in their needs. God looks upon His people in their totality and in their individuality, so that when it came to the selection of a lamb the number and the need of each person had to be taken into account. The lamb must match the number and the needs of the people of God.

iii. God's requirements. The lamb must also meet the requirements of God Himself: "Your lamb must be perfect" (12:5). The Hebrew word is a glorious affirmative. It means that before the discerning eye of God there must be nothing that could cause offence. It seems a pity that so many translations have turned it into a negative: "without blemish". The lamb must be perfect in God's sight, so that it not only matches the number and the needs of the people but matches the requirements of God Himself. There was to be no panic or haphazard taking of a lamb, but a careful choice had to be made. "Don't leave the matter until you need it," God said, "choose it now while you have time on your hands, choose it deliberately and thoughtfully while you weigh up all the issues. Examine it carefully and make certain that it is perfect, and then keep it until the fourteenth day." This lamb, then, was equal to the people of God, it was equal to the requirements of God and it was reserved for His appointed day and hour.


The people were to take this lamb and kill it. Just like that -- kill it! As they killed they were to take the evidence of death, blood. As the blood flowed out from the knife wound they would say, Life is ebbing away, life is being terminated in death. The scene was a dramatic one. They were to catch that blood in a basin, and then they were to take that proof positive that a death had taken place and paint it round the doors. On both the upper door post and on the two side posts they were to paint this evidence, so that all who looked at that house would say that it had been visited by death. Each father of a family, with concern for his precious ones, would perform this rite carefully, making sure that the evidence of death was seen round his door and that all the family, the sons and daughters and the mother with her baby in her arms, were safely inside beneath the shelter of that blood. With regard to that blood:

i. God is satisfied (12:13). The blood satisfies God. It does not say: "When I see you I will passover you", for that would be favouritism and would bring the fair name of God into disrepute. What it does say is: "I will go through the land of Egypt in that night and ... I will execute judgments ... and when I see the blood, I will pass over you". They were all in the presence of a sin-hating God who would only stay His judgments where He saw that death had already taken place. "When I see the blood ...". There was something in that blood which satisfied God. The first effect of its evidence was toward God Himself and so mightily affected Him that His wrath vanished and peace took its place. It was as if He said: "I am now satisfied concerning you, and have no wrath left". When a wrathful God is reconciled to the acceptance of a sinner like me, that is what is involved in the phrase: "reconciling the world unto himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19). The other Bible word which is used to express God's satisfaction is "propitiation". The precious blood reaches up to God and propitiates Him, enabling Him righteously to change His wrath into acceptance.

ii. God's people are made secure. This is the other side of the same truth: "when he sees the blood upon the lintel and upon the two sideposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not suffer the destroyer to come into your houses to smite you" (12:23). The destroyer could not touch the people of God because God was satisfied concerning them. Note wherein their security lay: "I will smite the Egyptians" says God, but He does not balance that by saying that He would forgive the Israelites. Nationality had ceased to matter. Ancestry had ceased to be of any account. Nothing now mattered but that they had taken shelter in a place where the blood had been shed and were so secure and free from harm that judgment was irrelevant to them. With judgment all around the Israelites were not only secure, they were actually feasting. This was the result of taking God at His word. God had told them to slay the lamb. God had told them to collect the evidence and to paint the door surround. God had told them to take shelter there. They had done so at His word and by this simplicity of faith in His saving promises they were secure from all harm. [19/20]

iii. Salvation is by substitution. We now come to the third great word which explains the secret of the amazing efficacy of the shed blood. It is Substitution. In these words there is the essence of our salvation: Propitiation, Reconciliation and Substitution. We see the illustration of it here in Exodus but this is in complete harmony with the New Testament, even though we do not use a single New Testament reference. The Word of God speaks with one voice. What God did for His people in Egypt is what He has done always, right up to this moment, and that is to save the sinner by one appointed to die in his place. Salvation can only be by substitution.

"Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and his servants, and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in the land of Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead". Brothers and sisters, listen to that cry! All over the land of Egypt there is a cry such as never was, for bereavement had entered into house after house. But tune your ear sharply, for there is another cry in the land of Egypt: there is the shout of them that triumph and the song of them that feast. In their houses also there is one who is dead, for the lamb has died in the houses of Israel. The people are safe because death has taken place. There in every house, as dramatically and vividly as in any Egyptian house, there is a corpse, there is the evidence of the just judgment of God.

We may object that in the Egyptian houses the dreadful evidence of divine judgment consisted in the death of but one person, the firstborn. Parity of reasoning might suggest that the death of the lamb had only brought deliverance to the firstborn in the houses of the Israelites also. What God had in mind before the night came, though, is found in His words: "When thou goest back into the land of Egypt, see that thou do before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in thine hand. But I will harden his heart, and he will not let the people go. And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my firstborn". So while it is true that the lamb died for the firstborn, what God had in view was His whole people as His firstborn. From this we see how important it was to reckon the number and the needs of the people of God. Every lamb had to be carefully and peculiarly chosen, for everyone of the people of God was to be represented in it and substituted for by it. The lamb dies for the people of God: salvation is by substitution.


It was not only that the lamb's blood was to shelter God's people, but also that its body was to provide a feast for them. In this connection there are two important truths which we should note. The first comes right at the end of the chapter: "In one house shall it be eaten. Thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house" (12:46). The lamb can only be enjoyed where the blood has been shed. This is of great significance. The lamb is a feast only for those who are sheltering under the blood. There is no other way in which men may participate in the blessings of the Lamb of God than by the blood of His cross. The second truth is that where the lamb is enjoyed, that lamb is a total sufficiency for God's people. It was not only their heads which were numbered when the lamb was chosen, it was also their appetites; all their needs were represented there. God's provision was such that all the people who were safe because of the lamb's blood could also come to feast on that same lamb, knowing that all their needs were provided for in that sacrifice. In the feast upon the Lamb of God there is that which fully satisfies the appetite of every saved sinner. No redeemed person is sent away empty or hungry, for all feast upon the Lamb.


Those who enjoyed this feast were to do so in a particular way: "Thus shall ye eat it, with your loins girded, and your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand, and ye shall eat it with urgency" (12:11). It was a night feast, but they were dressed for morning: it was a night feast but it was not a supper but a breakfast. They ate it in the night but they ate it in preparation for the new day: it was not a preliminary to bed but a preliminary to pilgrimage. As they partook of the feast they became committed to a pilgrimage. They ate as those who were prepared for action; they ate as those who were committed to go walking with God; they ate it as those upon whom there was a constraint to begin at once. Their loins were girded for action, their shoes and their staff were symbols of their pilgrimage, and the urgency and haste of their manner of eating suggested that they were under constraint to begin at once. The eating of the Lamb of God commits the people of God to a certain way of life.

(To be continued) [20/ibc]

[Inside back cover]


"(and was hindered hitherto)" (Romans 1:13)

THIS parenthesis occurs in one of those passages which Paul prefaced with the phrase: "I would not have you ignorant ...". There are six such passages in his writings and in each case he calls his readers "brethren". Clearly, then, this whole matter was one of considerable importance.

It is also rather surprising, for it discloses that a man of God, and an apostle at that, had purposes which were frustrated. He frankly confesses that so far he had been hindered from visiting the church at Rome, and that this had occurred many times. There are no excuses and no explanations; simply the statement that he had often intended to make this journey, but had until then been unable to make it.

In Corinth there had not been lacking those who charged Paul with being carnal and inconsistent because he did not visit them as he had intended. He denied the charge, explaining that he had been obliged to change his plans for their good (2 Corinthians 1:23). There was no such reason for his failing to go to Rome. He had wanted to go. He had planned to go. But he had been prevented from so doing.

WE know the whole story now. We can read how the apostle found himself in a quandary owing to the bitter and murderous hostility of the Jewish leaders and the cowardice of their Roman Governor and was forced to fall back on his last prerogative of Roman citizenship. He appealed to Caesar, and was shipped off to Rome as an imperial prisoner. It was a hazardous journey and at one time seemed doomed to end in tragedy, but the faithfulness of God and the faith of His servant brought him through to the moment when Luke could report: "and so we came to Rome" (Acts 28:14).

Thus it was that God's marvellous overruling providence used the Roman authorities to take His servant to their city, even though he went as a prisoner. The fact that Paul did go to Rome, as he had wished, suggests that the hindrances had been permitted of God simply because it had not yet been God's time for him to go there. Whatever human and satanic hindrances had kept him from going earlier, they had all been subservient to divine sovereignty. In other words the final decision as to the hindering or prospering of God's servants is made by God Himself.

IN his prayers Paul made constant requests to the Lord that at length he might be prospered in this purposes (v.10). Even an apostle could not govern circumstances, nor force doors to open before God's time. Paul had to pray and humbly wait for divine intervention, and to have a will in harmony with the perfect will of God. Such a man does not need to apologise for delays. He can cheerfully wait for God's moment, being assured that when that moment comes neither man nor devil can prevent his going where God wants him to be.

So often it is a matter of patience. Paul did not dejectedly complain about the hindrances which had frustrated his hopes, but significantly inserted the word: "hitherto", so revealing his expectations that the time would come when God would speak the word of release. So he prayed on, as we must do in similar circumstances, and he found that in due course he did go to the capital. His prayers were answered in a strange way. He could never have imagined what would be the circumstances of his going to Rome. It is so often impossible for us to foresee just how God will answer our prayers, and this is just as well, for we might be tempted to stop praying about that particular matter. For those who look back on the whole story, as we can do in the case of Paul's going to Rome, it is tremendously encouraging to know that prayer was answered in God's good time. There can be no real "hindrance" when God is on the move.


[Back cover]

2 Corinthians 9:8

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