|Vol. 7, No. 2, Mar. - Apr. 1978
||EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster
NOVEMBER 19th, 1977 was a great day for me. Here In Weston-super-Mare
we were able to gather together a large number of Christians from all kinds
of connections so that we could express the oneness of Christ's Body in
fellowship, praise, ministry of the Word and Breaking of Bread. All barriers
were ignored and the seal of God was manifestly on us all, especially as
we closed with that rousing song: HOW GREAT THOU ART!
Little did we know that at that very time God was proving His greatness
to thousands of our Indian brothers and sisters in Andhra Pradesh as a
dreadful cyclone swept across the coastal area of their province. We knew
nothing of the 70 people who were clinging to the rafters of their old Baptist
Chapel as a 19 feet high tidal wave swept through their town. They were
We did not know either, that even while we were rejoicing in God's greatness
our friends in the city of Hyderabad were on their knees humbly asking
the Lord to spare them from the approaching peril. On the day following
(November 20th) they planned to commence their Christian Convocation where
about 10,000 people would camp out in a restricted area for a week's meetings.
The only shelter was a cloth 'Pandal', or canopy, which had been erected
to protect from the sun but which was not waterproof and in any case would
be swept away if the cyclone came their way. It was fully expected to do
so. The weather reports kept warning them that it was moving in rapidly
from the coast and would hit their city at midnight. The Radar unit at
Hyderabad airport had been dismantled, and other safety precautions had
been hurriedly taken by the authorities as all waited for the dreaded hurricane
What could the believers do? They could only do what believers can always
do -- pray. Sure enough, at midnight it started to rain, but in a few minutes
the rain ceased; the direction of the wind had changed and the city was
saved. The Convocation proceeded peacefully and with very much blessing,
not only to the 10,000 'residents' but to very large numbers of day visitors
Mr. Bill Thompson, who ministered at the Convocation and is now back
in England, told me that he estimated that from one to two thousand people
may have had their lives saved by coming away from the ravaged area to
be present at the meetings. They returned to scenes of terrible destruction
but to date there is no report of loss of life among the believers. Those
whose huts had collapsed and who had had all their belongings washed away
either by the tidal wave or the flood are just as ready as we were to sing:
HOW GREAT THOU ART!
Brother Bakht Singh writes: "We feel very humbled before God for His
faithfulness which we have proved in every detail during the days of the
Holy Convocation. It is most remarkable how the Lord answered the prayers
of His saints and kept the clouds away even though there were repeated weather
forecasts about the coming storm. Somehow the cyclone changed its course
in answer to the prayer of His saints. Many believers in the devastated areas
have testified how the Lord saved their lives in the most miraculous way.
Even though they have lost everything yet they are rejoicing.
"It is said that there has not been such a terrible cyclone for over
a hundred years. It is estimated that sixty to seventy thousands have lost
their lives and a very large number have lost everything. In more than twelve
places the house of worship for believers has totally collapsed. Please pray
that the Lord may enable them to reconstruct these places of worship. This
is their main concern at the moment."
As I have said, we little knew on November 19th what was happening in
far away India. I do not feel able to comment on all this, so judge it
best to conclude with more words from Brother Bakht Singh himself: "Our
Lord is a wonder-working God. We have proved His faithfulness as never before.
The Lord is preparing us in His own way for all kinds of situations in this
New Year. May He give us a fresh glimpse of His own beauty and glory!"
BRIDGEHEAD IN THE LAND
(Some meditations on the spiritual meaning of Gilgal)
Arthur E. Gove
Reading: Joshua 4 and 5
IT was a moment of supreme significance when the onward moving people
of God arrived at Gilgal. They were through the river; in front of them
lay Jericho and a hundred other places that were to be captured and possessed
for God. Naturally, when faced with a battle, we tend to rush impetuously
into action, and no doubt they were tempted to do the same. At Gilgal, however,
the Israelites were made to wait so that they might first learn some vital
lessons. This was to be the base for all their future operations: this for
them became holy ground.
We are impressed with how wonderfully God times everything for His people.
Their passage through Jordan was so ordered by Him that it took place on
the 10th day of the first month, the day on which the Passover lamb had
to be selected (Exodus 12:2-3). So it was that God ordered their entry into
Canaan just four days before the annual celebrations, and on the very day
when His people had been ordered to begin their preparations. The actual
date set for the Passover lamb to be slain was the 14th day, so with amazing
timing God had made it possible for them to observe the feast on that day
The Passover had only been observed twice before, once when they were
about to leave Egypt (Exodus 12) and then while they were encamped at Sinai
(Numbers 9). After all those years, then, the people of god were temporarily
halted at the bridgehead so that there would be no move forward into the
land until they were fully adjusted to the will of God. The very accuracy
of the timing of their arrival at Gilgal proves to us once again that in
the Scriptures there is nothing meaningless or without value.
God's people learned some most important lessons at Gilgal and if we
are going to make spiritual progress and enter into our spiritual inheritance,
we need to learn the same lessons. It can be most profitable, then, to
consider what took place as Israel encamped in Gilgal. Before the nation
moved on into the battle, they were made to pause on this bridgehead and
ordered to take certain actions at the command of God.
1. The setting up of stones of remembrance
The first thing they were to do was to make two piles, each of twelve
stones, which were to serve for perpetual reminders of God's mighty working
for them. There was to be one heap right in the midst of Jordan (4:9),
and the other on the farther bank (4:21-24). God commanded these memorial
stones concerning the twelve tribes of Israel because He wanted to provide
an unending sermon, a graphic reminder that they had not crossed the river
by their own ability but by the mighty power of the living God.
There were to be two piles of stones because the message was two-fold.
Firstly they were to furnish instruction for future generations: "These stones
shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever" (4:7). It
was essential that God's people should always be reminded that judgment lay
behind them. Their redemption by blood was completed, and they were now
living on the resurrection side. This is something we all need to remember.
The New Testament counterpart of this may be partly found in the Lord's Supper,
the remembrance feast of God's people. It is so easy for us to forget God's
benefits, as it would have been easy for the Israelites to do so. It is
so easy to take our present position for granted, as though things had just
happened, or as though we were successful in ourselves, instead of remembering
the One to whom we owe everything. The evidence of the heap of stones was
intended to be a constant reminder, and the Table of the Lord is also a
continual reminder that the redeeming arm of God brought us out of death
into newness of life.
The stones were also a testimony to the surrounding nations that God
is different, He is the living God, mighty to save. In this sense, also,
the Lord's Supper is not only a reminder to God's redeemed people but a testimony
to all around, proclaiming the victorious death of the Lord Jesus. The passage
through the Jordan was a demonstration of the power of the living God, and
we are told that the people in the land [22/23]
heard of this miraculous deliverance and "their hearts melted, neither was
there spirit in them any more" (5:1).
This movement was one of resurrection -- "the people came up out of
Jordan" (v.19). We do not equate this with physical death and going up
to heaven, but liken it to a spiritual reality in the life of the believer.
As Israel entered a new stage of her history by coming up in this way,
so we are to know that having died with Christ in His death, we now have
risen to new life by His resurrection (Colossians 2:20). This is how God
reckons, and this is how we must reckon too if we are to appropriate for
ourselves what God already states is a fact. There are many New Testament
passages which stress that the new life which the Christian has is resurrection
life. It follows death. It is brought about by the fact that the Christ who
died has risen again (Romans 8:34), and that we both share the death and
share the resurrection life in Him (Colossians 3:1). Our part is to accept
God's verdict in this matter, and to reckon upon it.
The apostle does not tell us to reckon that sin is dead -- far from
it, for sin is very much alive and a dreadful tyrant over men's lives.
What he does tell us is that we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin.
We are to conclude about ourselves what God already reckons as a fact. From
this it follows that in the power of Christ's resurrection we are free to
"come up" out of this death and to prove the power of the living God as
we move on in the good of Christ's triumph over all the power of death.
Israel had two such experiences. First the people went down into the
Red Sea and came up, to move on with God, and now we find them in a fresh
experience of death and resurrection at Jordan. The order is most important.
The Red Sea crossing comes first and speaks of the redeeming power of the
blood being carried into practical experience, and this is followed by the
Jordan crossing which tells us of a people passing out of the old life of
wilderness wandering into the purposeful onward move of God for the possessing
of their inheritance. Neither historically nor geographically could the order
have peen inverted, and this is also the case spiritually. The forgiven Christian
can only move on into the fullness of what is called "newness of life" (Romans
6:4) as he lays hold of the spiritual reality of Gilgal, the reckoning with
God that his old life has been left in death and his new life is in the
power of resurrection.
2. The renewing of the rite of circumcision
The second matter which had to be dealt with at Gilgal was the uncircumcised
condition of all those who had been born during the forty years since Israel
left Egypt. This was an historic moment, as witness the introductory statement:
"At that time" (5:2). We notice the special features which marked it:
i. It was in the light of the special miracle of God's power which had
brought them into the land.
ii. It was subsequent to their passing through the river of judgment
and death, and their coming up safely on the other side.
iii. It was as soon as they set foot in the promised land, just as though
they must not delay another moment before attending to this important omission
in their national life.
iv. It was four days before the Passover, and an essential pre-requisite
and qualification for them to take part in that feast.
v. It was on the eve of battle. A long war lay before them, and God
deemed it of supreme importance that this irregularity among them should
be put right before ever they went on active service for Him.
What we are considering is the rite of circumcision. This was what God
insisted must be attended to "at that time". It was so important because
it was the seal of God's covenant with their father, Abraham. At the outset
of God's dealings with him in the prospect of the new nation being brought
into being, He ordered Abraham: "Every male among you shall be circumcised
... and it shall be a token of a covenant betwixt you and me ... My covenant
shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant" (Genesis 17:10-13). It
is important to note that none were permitted to partake of the Passover without
having submitted to this rite: "No uncircumcised person shall eat of the
Passover" (Exodus 12:48). This, then, explains why there had been no celebration
of the Passover through all those long years of wilderness wandering. It
could not be. A generation had arisen which could not comply with the divine
requirement of circumcision.
We see from 5:5 that all the males born during the thirty-eight years
of wandering in the desert [23/24] had not been
circumcised. This had been a reproach (Numbers 14:33-34) and a very serious
one, for it had meant that their children were not entitled to bear the
mark of the covenant relationship with God. Blessed be His name that He
did not withdraw every token of mercy from them! God is always more gracious
to us than ever we might have cause to expect. Nevertheless it had been a
very real mark of His disfavour. Now, however, that they had crossed over
Jordan and were restored into fellowship and divine favour, they were fit
subjects for receiving the sign of the covenant in their bodies. I believe
that this is what is meant by the Lord's words: "This day have I rolled away
the reproach of Egypt from off you" (5:9), and it was this that gave the
name of Gilgal -- "rolling away" -- to that particular location.
There is no question about the meaning of Gilgal to us. It takes us
back to the cross where all believers are regarded as spiritually circumcised
in Christ: "in whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision not made
with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh in the circumcision
of Christ" (Colossians 2:11). This is no effort or attainment of ours. It
is something which we have in Christ and are to appropriate by faith. The
cross means more than pardon; it means that in the sight of God the total
pollution and power of our sin has been for ever removed. All our sins and
failures have been dealt with once for all -- rolled away! And because Christ
has done this for us in His cross, we are commanded: "Mortify therefore
your members which are upon the earth" (Colossians 3:5) -- in other words:
"Make sure that by faith you enter into the power of an experimental circumcision".
This circumcision is the result of our union and communion with the living
Lord, and by faith we must make actual the state and standing which are
ours in Christ. So far as we are concerned, "circumcision is that of the
heart" (Romans 2:29). It means the rolling away from our lives of everything
which can be a reproach to the Lord's name, to make possible an onward movement
of conquest for Him.
3. The feasting and the fellowship of the Passover
This feast was the third matter which must occupy the people of God
at their Gilgal bridgehead. We have already remarked that the Passover had
only been observed twice before. Because there had been no circumcision there
could be no Passover. The Israelites had forfeited their right to this feast.
We cannot have fellowship with God if we are living in wilful disobedience.
Now, however, all had been put right. The reproach was rolled away. So
the next and most timely event was the keeping of the feast of the Passover.
When we, too, are circumcised in heart, truly right with the Lord in spirit,
then -- and only then -- can we properly enjoy all the fellowship of the
Notice where they kept their feast -- right there in the sight of Jericho!
This reminds us of how God prepares a table for us right under the nose
of the enemy. This is a complete contrast to the methods of the world. Military
men would have plunged straight into the business of the battle. For His
part God demanded circumcision first, so disabling all His fighting force,
and then commanded His physically unfit troops to leave all the issues with
Him and to give absolute priority to a feast of fellowship. The practice
of communion with God is always the first consideration for those who are
preparing to fight for God and to serve Him. We must learn to minister to
Him before we essay to minister to others for Him. When the Israelites were
purged of the reproach and when they had spent time sharing the feast of
fellowship with the Passover lamb, then they could know power for victory
in the Lord's name. We are to "offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to
God" before we can "shew forth the excellencies of him who called us ..."
(1 Peter 2:5 and 9).
At this moment the miraculous supply of manna ceased (5:12). God had
brought His people into Canaan just at the time of harvest, so that they
were able to feed on the corn of the land. There was no break in the supplies
of God; He kept up His provision of manna until the Israelites were able
to live on the normal supplies of bread. God never works unnecessary miracles.
The marvel was that He never discontinued that daily miracle, even when the
people despised it. He undertook to continue to feed them in the land, but
now they could no longer count on the extraordinary and exceptional but must
learn to co-operate with Him by their own human effort of tilling the earth
and sowing the suitable seed.
4. The receiving of the revelation of their Leader
One more thing had to be done at Gilgal before the people were ready
to move to their [24/25] conquest of the land, and
that was to receive their orders from the divine Leader. Joshua was within
sight of the great fortress of Jericho when he encountered the Warrior Stranger
with His drawn sword. I believe that this was one of those pre-incarnation
visitations by the eternal Son of God. When this Captain spoke of "the
host of the Lord", He was not speaking of Israel's army but of the heavenly
host whom Jacob and Elisha had seen and whom Jesus described as mustered
to come to His aid before Calvary if only He had wished them to do so.
The battles into which Joshua must lead his armies were paralleled in
the spiritual realm by the contests which involved heaven's armies captained
by Christ Himself, the "prince of the host of the Lord". Joshua did what
Moses had done before him, he took his shoes from off his feet and bowed
in utter submission (Exodus 3:5). In that attitude he received his strange
but most successful plan of campaign and found, as we may all do, victory
through humble obedience.
It is wonderful that in Christ God always appears in the aspect most
calculated to suit the needs of His people at that hour. Jacob met God as
a Wrestler, for that was just what was required to meet his case at that
moment. Moses met Him as the Flame of Fire, for in no better way could God
speak to His servant in that wilderness. The afflicted find the Lord to be
the Comforter, the depressed know Him as the God of hope, the lonely as
the Friend and the storm-tossed as the secure Anchor. Joshua needed help
in terms of battle, so the Lord appeared to him as the Armed Warrior, and
it was in this capacity that He gave the final instructions to Joshua for
commencing "Operation Canaan".
How vital, then, was that bridgehead at Gilgal, and how important that
God's people should not move forward impulsively, but wait for those significant
lessons of preparation which made it possible for the Captain of the Lord's
host to say that he had now come (5:14). It is only when we are firmly
grounded in the full meaning of the cross that we are properly equipped
for life and service. The stones, the rolling away of the reproach and the
Passover all led up to God's moment when He could say "Now", and lead his
people on to victory.
THE GOINGS OF GOD
(Studies in the book of Exodus)
J. Alec Motyer
3. THE COMPANION GOD (13:17 - 24:18)
WE closed our last article by stating that the eating of the Lamb of
God commits the people of God to a certain way of life. We are now to study
three features of that life:
i. It was life under the blood.
They went in through a blood-stained door in their experience of salvation,
and they came out through the blood-stained door to their life of pilgrimage.
In their subsequent experience God made provision that the blood which
was once shed in the land of Egypt should ever be available for them in
its efficacy. This explains the repetitive sacrifices which were meant to
prolong the efficacy of that which had been done once for all in Egypt.
ii. It was life under the cloud.
No sooner had their pilgrimage begun than they discovered that they
were not left to their own devices; there was that which marked them out
for God -- life under the cloud. That great cloud consecrated the whole
of life for the Israelites. They would only move when the cloud moved and
they would only stop where the cloud stopped. They lived all the time under
that sheltering cloud, proclaiming to all who cared to look that they were
the people of God with the whole of their life in principle at His disposal.
For the blood-bought there is no other life than life under the Cloud.
iii. It came to be life under the law.
Later on God spelled out the meaning of that cloud in detailed precepts,
for our God is a careful Shepherd of our souls who looks for consecration
to Himself not just in general outline but also in the daily details of
life and who therefore spells out an itemised law for His people. We must
realise that this total work of [25/26] God was designed
to produce an obedient people. God brought these blood-bought people out
from the land of Egypt, redeemed by the blood of the lamb, and led them
to Mount Sinai, saying: "I am the Lord who delivered you from bondage. I
am your Redeemer God. Now then, this is the way in which I want you to live."
In the Old Testament just as in the New Testament, the law is not a ladder
which the unsaved try to climb, but in vain, in order that they may reach
heaven. It is not that at all, but it is a divinely given pattern of life
provided for those who have been purchased by the blood of the Lamb.
The passage which we are now going to study divides into two parts.
The first, beginning with chapter 13, shows us that the element of Pilgrimage
is the first thing that accompanies salvation. The keynote here is: "God
led them" (13:18) and this is re-emphasised in verse 21: "The Lord went
before them". They enjoyed fellowship with the Creator God. The second
section begins in chapter 19, with the key phrase: "They camped before the
Mount" (19:1). "I have brought you to myself" (v.4). "Moses brought forth
the people out of the camp to meet God" (v.17). The pilgrims had arrived.
Thus the second thing that accompanies salvation is fellowship with the
By the act of redemption, God created pilgrims, people who were eating
His feast with shoes on their feet and staff in their hand, ready for the
road. This illustrates the New Testament truth expressed in the words: "I
beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God ..." (Romans 12:1-2). "The mercies
of God" -- the blood around the door. "Present your bodies a living sacrifice
..." -- the belted waists, the shod feet, the gripped staves. "Do not be
conformed to this world ..." -- No, leave it behind you! Go walking on pilgrimage
with your God. Redemption creates pilgrims.
THE PILGRIMAGE OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD
PILGRIMAGE is the first mark of the redeemed, and pilgrimage is their
ceaseless duty. As the Lord went before the Israelites we are three times
told that His pillar of cloud and fire went with them by day and by night
"that they might travel by day and by night" (v.21). The people of God
are never free from the duty of pilgrimage; it must be their ceaseless
pre-occupation to walk in the fellowship of their God. We now go through
these chapters to discover in them some of the ways of this Creator God
with whom they now walk.
1. God's Curious Ways
"God led them not by way of the land of the Philistines although that
was near, for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see
war and return to Egypt. But God led the people about ..." (13:17-18).
This is the first of God's curious ways -- He led the people about. You
can call this God's roundabout. A map will readily show that if anyone wants
to come from Egypt to what we used to call Palestine, they start by travelling
East and then they turn left in order to go North. But when God led His
people out of the land of Egypt, He brought them to a roundabout and made
them turn right. Then we read His further instructions: "Speak unto the
children of Israel that they turn back" (14:2). How curious are the ways
of God! He has His roundabouts and He has His retreats. Having made them
go back He brought them to a specific place so that they could encamp by
the sea. And look what happened to them there: "And the Egyptians pursued
after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen and
his army, and overtook them, encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth before
Baalzephon" (14:9). In other words they were exactly where God had brought
them back to and told them to encamp, only to be trapped there by the Egyptians.
How curious are the ways of God! He brought His people back on their tracks
and put them right in the path of the enemy, so seeming to go back upon His
declared promise of deliverance and His act of redeeming love. Our familiarity
with the story reminds us that God delivered them at the Red Sea and no
doubt they moved forward with a confident spring in their steps when Moses
led them onward from the Red Sea. They had seen all their enemies dead upon
that sea shore, and must have felt that now nothing lay between them and
their promised land. As we read on, though, we read that "they went three
days into the wilderness and found no water", and what is more, when they
did find water it was so bitter that they could not drink it. So that included
in God's curious ways with His people is this element of disappointment.
In chapters 16 and 17 we read how God brought His people into the place
of privation, first hunger and then thirst. Following this
[26/27] experience of privation they had to face attack and opposition:
"Then came Amalek ..." (17:8). I am not reading anything into the story,
but simply pointing out the strangeness of God's ways with His redeemed
people. We must note, though, that however curious they may have been,
they were God's ways, for there in front of them at every turn and twist
in the journey was the cloudy, fiery pillar of His presence. When they took
what looked like the wrong turning at the roundabout, it was God who had
led them. When they were brought into the place of threat and danger, it
was God who led them. When they were in the place of disappointment, they
had been brought thereby God. In the place of privation or in the place of
attack, they still knew that God had brought them there. It was He who was
leading them. However curious, then, these ways may have seemed, they were
God's ways, all of them, and the record is given so that we may have the
same assurance. No child of God has the liberty to say that he or she is
out of the Father's hand. It is just not true because it is just not possible.
His ways may seem curious but they are always right.
2. God's Purposeful Ways
Now we can go over the same ground again, learning together that God's
ways may seem curious but they are full of wise purpose. This Scripture meets
us at a place of deep need, for the question that plagues us over and over
again is the question, Why? "Why has God done this to me? Why has God permitted
that to happen to me?" This is a question which very rarely receives an
answer, probably because in most cases the answer would not be helpful if
we had it. His ways are not our ways. There is, however, a deeper reason
why this question must remain unanswered, and this is the Lord's desire that
we should walk with Him in the light of faith rather than in the light of
logic. He wants us to walk with Him in the obedience that springs from trust
rather than in a conformity of life which consists of a mental understanding
of why God has acted in any given way. He insists that we must follow His
lead with implicit faith that His ways are full of wise purpose. Let us reconsider
the story in this light:
i. To shelter us from more than we can bear.
The inner secret behind God's roundabout was that they were not then
able to face war with the Philistines. There was a wise and kind purpose
behind this leading of His people. He always works so as to guarantee our
final salvation, and so He refuses to allow us to meet with trials which might
threaten or emperil that final salvation. He takes thought for us and shelters
us from what would be more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).
ii. To guarantee total victory over the enemy.
God brought His people back (14:3) and made them camp in what they were
to discover was a hot spot. He specified this place; He pinpointed it on
the map for Moses, saying, "There -- and nowhere else!" And to that very
point He brought the enemy, so that finally it was they and not Israel who
were caught in a trap. He made sure that the enemy suffered a complete, final
and irreversible defeat, so making it possible for His people to go on their
way in complete confidence that this enemy could never attack them again.
God works for a total victory. For this very purpose He keeps His people
in the hot seat. They were told not to fear but to stand still and see the
salvation of the Lord. They did see it. They then "feared the Lord, and they
believed in His servant Moses" (14:31). "Then sang Moses and the children
of Israel ...", but if they had not gone back to the place of threat and
desperation, they would never have entered into the experience of triumphant
song. It is always like that. The purposeful ways of God work with us in
order to achieve a total victory.
iii. To teach us the obedience of faith.
This is the great lesson, that God works with us in order to teach us
the obedience of faith. The next three stories in chapters 15, 16 and 17
are linked by the idea of putting to the test. "There he proved them" (15:25);
"... that I may prove them whether they will walk in my law or not" (16:4);
and "Why strive you with me? Wherefore do you tempt the Lord?" (17:2). In
each case the verb speaks of putting to the test. "... because they tempted
the Lord (or put the Lord to the test), saying, Is the Lord among us or
not?" (17:7). That we should prove God is a sin: that God should prove
us is a blessing. The same thought is involved, for this word means, "to
put on probation". This is healthy for us, but it is sinful for us to do
it to God, for it implies that we intend to withhold our trust from Him
until we see what is going to happen; we will wait for further evidence before
deciding whether He is worthy of our trust. [27/28]
Such testing God involves doubt -- real doubt, so much so that the people
were in effect saying that God could not help them. It also involves challenge,
for they really said: "Give us water, and then we will believe You". Putting
God to the test is a sin; it both doubts Him and challenges Him. Moreover
they were guilty of withholding trust from a God who had already proved
His trustworthiness. He had already given them food; could they not rely
on Him to provide water also. They said: "No. We would rather wait and see,
if you don't mind. We will put God on probation." Such an attitude of mistrust
is indeed sinful. It is wrong to put God to the test.
When, however, God proves us and puts us to the test, He brings us into
a situation which calls for faith. That is why He does it. He seeks to
bring us from baby faith to childhood faith, and then from childhood faith
to adult faith. It is a question of maturity. We know that Scripture teaches
us that faith is not mere assent to propositions, but rather holding on
to truth when truth is challenged, holding on to it until the truth comes
through to the place where it has been proved. This is real faith. God brings
us into the place of testing so that He may bring us to the place of trusting.
Obedience is the proper outworking of faith. "Behold I will rain bread
from heaven, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every
day, that I may prove them whether they will keep my law or no" (16:4). This
business of the day to day gathering tested the people in the matter of
faith. "God has given us enough for today; we will collect no more, because
we believe His word, that He will give us enough for tomorrow also when that
time comes." We see that it was an act of faithlessness to try to gather
two days' ration in one day (16:20). The ordinance of "day by day" was required
to test the Israelites concerning the practical expression of faith by daily
obedience based on the promises of God.
iv. To display the grace of God.
These Scriptures show how grace and faith and obedience are all knit
together, becoming so involved in each other that there is no true reception
of grace that does not issue in believing in the God of grace, and there
is no true believing in that God that does not issue in obedience to His
Grace draws out obedience. "There he made them a statute and an ordinance,
and there he proved them. If you will diligently hearken to my voice and
do that which is right in his eyes, and will give ear to his commandments,
I will put none of the diseases upon you which I put on the Egyptians, for
I am the Lord who heals you" (15:26). Out of the work of grace there comes
the work of law. He acts towards them in grace, and then imposes the statute
or ordinance upon them. The gracious blessing was intended to draw out their
hearts in grateful obedience.
Grace enables obedience. "See, the Lord has given you the sabbath,
therefore He has given you on the sixth day the bread of two days"
(16:29). There should be no problem for them in keeping the sabbath, for
in His grace God gave them enough on the day before to last right through
the sabbath also. In this way His grace made it possible for the people
to keep the precept of their God.
Grace is God Himself in expression. Grace is not a heavenly injection;
it is the very nature of God in loving bounty. Notice how the story of the
smiting of the rock develops. Moses cried to the Lord: "What shall I do with
this people, they are ready to stone me? And the Lord said to Moses, Pass
on before the people and take the elders of Israel and the rod wherewith
thou smotest the river; take that in thine hand and go. Behold I will stand
before thee there, beside the rock in Horeb, and thou shalt smite the rock"
(17:5-6). God identified Himself with the rock, and then He identified Himself
with the smiting. This meant that as Moses smote, he smote where God was,
and it is the smitten God -- identified with the smitten Rock -- who is the
source of life-giving bounty. The blessing flowed not just from the smiting
of the rock but from the smiting of the God of all grace, who stood beside
the rock in front of Moses so that He would receive the blow. Herein is the
essence of God's grace. The people get what they do not deserve; they get
it from a source from which they do not deserve to get it, namely God Himself;
and they get it in a way which they do not deserve, by the smiting of that
God. This is the wealth of God's grace. He stands in the place of smiting,
so that from Him there should flow that which is for the welfare and nourishment
of His people. He put Himself in the lowest place, to be at the disposal
of His people.
This grace is all-sufficient. In the first half of chapter 17 we find
that Moses' hand was uplifted [28/29] to hold the
rod which smote the rock. In the second half of the chapter we find the
hand again uplifted, this time to lay hold upon God in prayer. So the two
halves of the chapter are bound together by the uplifted hand of the man
of God. They are also bound together by way of contrast, for the first half
tells us of a threat coming from the place, circumstantial, while the second
describes a threat from hostile people. The uplifted hand and the outflow
of grace was sufficient to cover all. Whether our needs arise from circumstances
or from hostility, there is always an uplifted hand and there is always the
God of all grace to make full provision. These, then, are some of the purposeful
ways of God.
3. God's Providential Ways
We have not yet finished with these stories. A further review of them
will disclose to us something of the providential ways of God. It is obvious
that He had taken steps to make the necessary provision long before the
need ever arose. Take the matter of the tree -- "The Lord showed him a tree
and he cast it into the waters" (15:25). Probably few of us are old enough
to have grown trees. Even if they had been old enough, neither Moses nor
the people with him had ever been in that locality before. No, the tree had
been providentially put there before the need arose, before the Israelites
arrived there. So the anticipatory providence of God had prepared for their
arrival and their need. The same was true of the twelve springs of water
and the three score and ten palm trees at Elim (15:27). We might call this
a matter of the course of nature, except that we know how marvellously timely
was the provision for God's needy people.
"And it came to pass at evening that the quails came up and covered
the camp" (16:13). To explain this we find that the date is carefully noted,
it was "the fifteenth day of the second month". That is the time when quails
are always there, for the place is on the migratory path along which quails
fly every year. How marvellously God times His provision! And what shall
we say of the rock which Moses was told to smite. This was not the work
of some speculative builder but the work of the almighty Creator. He made
the mountain and He made that rock. Sometimes we speak of believing in a
God of miracles. May I suggest that it may be even better to believe in God
the Creator, the One who orders the ordinary, the normal, the regular and
the recurring provision for our needs. The whole of nature, the whole universe
has been ordained by the Creator-God who has built into that universe the
very things which are waiting to supply the needs of His people as those
needs arise. He is a God of anticipatory providence. The curious and purposeful
ways of God are also providential ways, so that the supply is available as
the need arises. God's pilgrims may take encouragement ever to trust Him
as they consider these stories.
4. God's Universal Ways
The last point emphasised by this section of the book is found in chapter
18 and declares that God's ways are universal. This chapter is out of place!
If you are surprised that I should say this may I ask you to notice that
it tells us how Jethro brought Moses' wife and children to him as Moses
was encamped at the Mount of God (18:5), yet Moses did not arrive at that
mount until 19:2. Furthermore Jethro was told by Moses as he sat to judge
the people: "And I make known to them the statutes of God and his laws"
(18:16). It is clear, however, that the statutes and laws of God were not
given until chapters 20 to 23. It is clear, then, that this story has been
put out of place, but this has been done by divine purpose, for it connects
directly with chapter 17. The Bible is gloriously free in its use of material
and it always does so with a teaching aim. See the connection between chapters
17 and 18. "Then came Amalek ..." (17:8); "Then Jethro came ..." (18:5).
Here are two Gentile comings: the first is a coming of hostility and the
second a coming of enquiry concerning God's people and their God. The first
is the hostility of the world, and the second is the attracting of the world
to God. A further connection between the two chapters consists in the fact
that both were concerned with the events of two days. "... go and fight
with Amalek tomorrow" (17:9) and, "It came to pass on the morrow
..." (18:13). The pattern of the two chapters binds them together. There
is also the matching thought of the meeting of needs. In chapter 17 the
Lord meets the needs of His people and in chapter 18 He meets the need of
a Gentile. These are the first halves of the two chapters, but in the latter
half of each chapter we see God providing prayer partners for Moses while
in the second half of chapter 18 He provides fellow administrators for Moses.
This seems to prove that although chapter 18 may be out of place chronologically
it is exactly right for the purpose of spiritual instruction.
[29/30] Its emphasis is surely that the ways of God are universal
ways. He is the Creator God, and even though He selects a people by redemption,
He has a wider concern that "the Gentiles may come to his light and kings
to the brightness of his rising". The coming of Jethro matches the coming
of the Wise Men from the East at the birth of Jesus.
By His people and by what He does for them, God plans to establish a
testimony in the world. In this chapter we learn that it is truth, the truth
of God, which has the power to win souls. Jethro came because he had heard
all that God had done (18:1). He had heard the news of the redemption of
God's people. Moses told him more, he continued to share the truth with Jethro,
telling him all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh (v.8). Jethro had heard
of redemption, now he heard of victory. He heard also of daily deliverances:
"all the travail that had come upon the people, and how the Lord had delivered
them". This information led to conviction in the heart of Jethro, who was
able to rejoice in God's greatness above all other gods and to participate
in sacrifice to Him. It is the truth about the Lord that wins souls, but
this means more than the theological concept of redemption; it means the
personal reality of how He has redeemed me. It is more than the truth about
the idea of victory or the idea of daily deliverances, but it is the evidence
in human experience of victory and daily deliverance. This explains why
God leads His people along such roundabout paths and allows them to suffer
such disappointments and privations. It is because this constitutes a saving
testimony to men, it is this that brings the Gentiles into the light. His
ways with us have significance in His concern for the world. God's ways are
THE ARRIVAL AT THE PLACE OF HOLINESS
THE second part of our study, beginning at chapter 19, shows us that
the second thing which accompanies salvation is Fellowship with a Holy
God . The pilgrimage of God's people has brought them now to the place
of holiness. It is important for the redeemed to learn this double lesson
of holiness and of fellowship. May I ask you therefore to consider two brief
series of references which throw light on these two matters?
The first series begins with Moses' experience of the Angel of the Lord
who "appeared unto him in a flame of fire", a fire which was associated
with the divine holiness (3:5). This was the beginning. Then later on we
are told that "the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud and
by night in a pillar of fire" (13:21). The fire had grown from the comparatively
small flame of the bush to a great towering column of fire that walked
before the people of God. Now we are considering their arrival at the Mount
of God at Sinai which was "altogether smoking because the Lord descended
upon it in fire" (19:18). The first had grown to such an extent that it
was now a whole mountain, blazing up into the heights of heaven. This sequence
stresses how the concept of the holiness of God is enforced upon us by
the Book of Exodus. At Sinai the Israelites were brought into the place
Then the second series which deals with companionship. Firstly, God
said to Moses: "But I will be with you". This was the presence of God with
a single individual. We move on to hear God saying: "I will take you to
me for a people, and I will be your God" (6:7) -- the presence of God with
a whole people. The climax of this experience is described in this chapter
19: "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles'
wings, and brought you to myself" (v.4) -- the whole people introduced into
the presence of God. Finally we read: "And Moses brought forth the people
out of the camp to meet God" (v.17).
There is an air of climax about chapter 19, and this in a double sense.
We have the climax of the revelation of holiness, the fearsome holiness
of God, and the climax of the purpose of redemption, which is companionship
or fellowship with God -- "I will bring you to myself". So this pilgrim
people are now found in the place of holiness and faced with the responsibility
of walking with a holy God. Such a walk must needs be one of obedience;
it must involve a life conformed to His life. Consequently the voice which
speaks to them at Sinai proves to be the voice of the law.
"God spake all these words saying, I am the Lord thy God who brought
thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have
no other gods before me." This is the voice of law, but it proceeds from
the God of Grace, the One who brought you out of the [30/31]
house of bondage. "I am your Redeemer. That is why I speak to you like
this. You are My redeemed people. That is why I speak to you like this."
In the Old Testament the law is not a ladder for the unsaved to try to climb
up to God: it is a pattern of life for the redeemed whereby they may live
so as to please their Redeemer. He is quite insistent upon this, for we are
not only given His law in principle, in the ten commandments, but His message
runs on right to the end of chapter 23, as He breaks up the law small for
the details of daily life. It is because the Lord wants a people of detailed
obedience that He declares His law.
This brings us to the end of our present section in a brief consideration
of chapter 24. Here the Lord applied what He had first declared. We begin
with verse 4: "Moses wrote all the words of the Lord and rose up early
in the morning and builded an altar under the mount, and twelve pillars
according to the twelve tribes of Israel". There we see in symbol the situation
which had been brought about by redemption. The Lord as represented by
an altar. The flame on that altar was His fiery holiness and the offering
on the altar was the way of reconciliation. Round that altar were the twelve
tribes of the redeemed. The redeemed were in the presence of their Redeemer.
"And Moses sent young men of the children of Israel who offered burnt offerings
and sacrificed peace offerings" (v.5). Why was there no reference to the
sin offering? Because it had already been offered in Egypt at the Passover.
The offering for sin had already been made, so now burnt offerings and peace
offerings were made in order to complete the sacrificial ordinances of fellowship.
The sin offering for atonement, the peace offering for fellowship and the
burnt offering for consecration together provided for a totality of shed
blood which Moses described as "the blood of the covenant" (v.8). The efficacy
of that blood is portrayed in two ways:
"Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood
he sprinkled on the altar" (v.6). As ever, the first movement and the primary
efficacy of the blood is Godward. God needs the blood for propitiation. It
is first offered to Him and by means of it He remains satisfied with His
redeemed people. This is always the case, the blood is first of all for the
righteous satisfaction of God.
After this we read what Moses did with the rest of the blood. "Moses
took the book of the covenant and read in the audience of the people and
they said, All that the Lord has spoken we will do and we will be obedient.
And Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people" (v.7). It is important
to notice that first they pledged themselves to obey, and then they came
under the blood. It was blood which brought the people to God and now blood
is needed to maintain them in the context of an obedient life. Even though
they go forward pledged to obey and yet certain to fail, the blood will always
be available. The blood has been sprinkled upon them and it will accompany
them in the regular round of sacrifices. They can move forward in their
walk of daily effort in their task of obeying their Redeemer-God, knowing
that the precious blood avails to keep them right with God. If there are
offences and lapses from obedience, then the blood is God's provision to
provide forgiveness and to maintain fellowship. In this, Old and New Testament
speak with one voice for, "If we walk in the light as He is in the light,
we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ goes on
cleansing us ...". In the pilgrim pathway of obedience, precious blood caters
for lapses. The Word of God goes on to say: "My little children, I write
unto you that you sin not. But if any man sin we have an Advocate with the
Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins"
(1 John 2:1). Blood goes on catering for an obedient people if they have
lapses in the pathway of fellowship with the holy God. So the voice of holiness
says: "Obey!" And the holy Redeemer looks lovingly upon us as we consecrate
ourselves to Him and says: "Bless you. I dearly love you. I have made full
provision for all possible failures".
ANOTHER LETTER TO A YOUNGER BROTHER
Dear D --,
I am sorry to hear how tough life has been recently -- one blow follows
another, and some of them very nasty. I wish I could help in some way.
It is hard to know how to encourage you because you are bound to feel that
one so detached from your daily stress and pain cannot possibly appreciate
it all enough to be really [31/32] helpful. However
there is a certain advantage in a more detached view of the scene which
you in your agonising involvement can hardly take.
My father used to say that the greatest tragedy in this world of ours
is suffering without meaning, pain without gain. But for the Christians
such a fiasco need never occur. The God of all Grace takes the fruit of
man's touch with the Devil, the agony of sin in the world, and makes it a
great blessing to those who accept His discipline in their lives.
"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant" --
(I am sure you would agree with that) -- "Later it yields the peaceable
fruit of righteousness, to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11).
This passage reveals the great secret that suffering yields something
, and that the product is of immense and permanent value to those who
take it in the right way.
I know this may be irritating, but it is Scriptural truth. Not only
is it true that suffering can yield great benefit, but it is also true that
certain spiritual blessings, divine riches, are unobtainable in any other
way . You are paying a price now for something which is of great value,
and cannot be bought anywhere for less. Paul describes it as "an eternal weight
of glory beyond all comparison" -- a disproportionate gain, in fact, so great
as to make the original investment appear trivial.
To use the word 'trivial' in respect of your personal experience would
be callous, and totally inappropriate, and yet the Bible does that in respect
of experiences even more harrowing than your own. But Paul makes it clear
that this "slight momentary affliction" can only be described in the light
of the return it brings, and that is why I encourage you to have a peep
at these dividends if you can -- it may bring the pain into perspective,
and ease it a little.
Now, as you turn to look, a slight problem arises -- these profits are
invisible! They belong to the unseen world which our Christian experience
has brought us in touch with. "That's not fair," you say. "How can I balance
my real suffering with some nebulous and remote benefits?" To say these are
unseen does not mean that they are insubstantial -- rather the reverse. They
are the realities, and your experience but a "transient momentary affliction".
The unseen is eternal, that is, permanent, substantial, and even in your
remaining years on earth will prove to be tangible and incalculably rewarding.
"So," says Paul, "we do not lose heart," because we see our present, tangible,
painful experience as a short-term price for a long-term advantage which
is incomparably greater.
I seem to be giving the impression of a rather cold and impersonal deal,
made almost in a calculating fashion. I am wrong to do so, for whenever
we turn to the Unseen we first meet with the Invisible God, the Father of
Mercies, who in His loving kindness reaches into our present experience,
to support and strengthen us, to pour in His grace and sufficiency, to comfort
and encourage us. Moses endured as seeing Him who is invisible, and we also
shall endure, survive, for the same reason. Earthly fathers discipline their
children for the parents' advantage, but He "for our good", drawing near
to us as we draw near to Him, always giving more grace as the pressures
I hope this may help a little -- not my ideas, but the deep strength
of the Word of God. "The testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And
let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete,
lacking nothing" (James 1:3-4).
As ever, E. F.
CHAPTER BY CHAPTER THROUGH ROMANS
10. ADAM AND CHRIST (Chapter 5:12-21)
THIS section begins with "therefore", which tells us that all the time
Paul has had in mind the mighty truth which he now reveals to us. We must
not regard it as a parenthesis to be hurried through in order to reach the
more important and interesting features of the following chapters, for it
is one of the most central portions of the whole letter. Paul rounds off
[32/33] his presentation of justification by faith
and its consequences by leading us to a vantage point from which we can look
both backwards and forwards, finding light upon the preceding chapters and
the key to those which are to follow.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LAST ADAM
Before we begin to consider the section in detail, it may help us to
remember that Paul has already taught us that every single person finds himself
by nature under the power of sin. No human effort can release a man from
this slavery. Sin came into the world through one man, Adam. It came in
from the outside and brought death with it. These two destructive powers
which dominate all humanity "penetrated unto all men" (Danish). Adam's
position as head of the human race meant that his sin not only opened the
way for all men to sin but actually included all, for all sinned together
in him. So men are not free, but are enslaved by sin and death. No one can
free himself from this bondage. Stronger powers have entered and penetrated
the whole human race. Sin is something more than a weakness: it is a power,
a destructive power. The same applies to death. It does not only make itself
apparent by cutting off the thread of life but is active in all human life
and activity. Every man who is born into the world is immediately under
the power of death.
Paul tells us that even before the law sin was in the world (for it
came in with the fall of Adam), so that even if there were no definite
transgression, such as offences against the law of Moses which clearly
defined what is allowed and what is not, death reigned from Adam to Moses.
Adam transgressed a law, for he had been explicitly told what he must not
do, but before others actually transgress in that way, as children of Adam
they are already under the dominion of sin and death (v.14).
Now Paul calls Adam a "figure" or type of "him that was to come". This
last Adam is Christ, and the whole section will force us to concentrate
our attention upon Him. With His coming there dawned a new age, a new world
and a new humanity. Through Him the justified sinner is led out of one world
into another, he is delivered out of the power of darkness and translated
into the kingdom of the son of his love (Colossians 1:13). While such a
man was formerly under the dominion of sin and death, he is now under the
dominion of grace and life. I have said that he is led from one world to
another. The expression is not very precise. The New Testament speaks of
a new age, with a new humanity. This new age dawned with the resurrection
of Christ from the dead; He is the Head of the new race. Adam is a figure
of Him in the sense that Adam's life had a decisive significance for all
those of whom he was the head. In the same way, yet infinitely higher, Christ's
life has a decisive significance for all who are "in" Him.
CONTRAST WITH THE FIRST ADAM
Paul's thought concerning the last Adam is so tremendous that it makes
him break the rules of grammar. He begins with a comparison, "as", but fails
to carry it through, for there is no, "even so" until he gets to verse
18. On the contrary he finds himself obliged to reject comparisons in favour
of contrast. This suggests that we are about to be presented with overwhelming
truths which cannot be contained within the limits of normal language.
The contrasts between Adam and Christ far surpass the likenesses, as witness:
"But not as the trespass, so also is the free gift" (v.15), and
" not as through one that sinned, so is the gift" (v.16). This
opens the way for Paul's triumphant use of the words, "much more
". Contrasted, then, with the failure of the first Adam we see that in
Christ, the Last Adam, man has:
The apostle assures us that the grace of God not only counterbalances
the Fall, but provides us with much more than we lost. We often hear it
said that Christ gives us a new beginning, but He does something much more
glorious than that. A new beginning would mean that we were placed in the
same position as Adam before the Fall. I wonder how long that would last!
Is there any reason to think that we would pass the test any better than
Adam? A new beginning would give us a new chance, which in all probability
we would misuse just as he did. The gospel of the grace of God does something
much more than this. Paul finds it necessary to give strong emphasis to
this so as not to risk any misunderstanding which might arise from his calling
Adam a figure of Christ. The gospel is not a message about God giving us
forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ and then putting us on probation
as He did Adam. No, it tells us that when God justifies us as we believe
in Jesus, [33/34] He also glorifies us (8:30);
that is, He leads us to the place to which Adam would have come if he had
passed the test. There is fulfilment in the Last Adam.
There is also security. Jesus came forward under far more difficult
conditions than those of the first Adam, namely when many had transgressed,
and sin and death and Satan had been given their power -- "the free gift
came when many had transgressed ..." (v.16 Danish). Adam fell even though
he was in Paradise, whereas Christ triumphed although the whole world was
in the power of the evil one. Adam had no handicaps, but was surrounded
by purity and light. Jesus bore the sin of all the world and was given over
to the power of darkness. It is obvious that His work must have far greater
consequences than merely reversing the Fall. Although Paul does not say this
in so many words, his thought approaches the idea that Christ not only recovered
us from the Fall but also made it impossible for us to fall again with similar
consequences as came to Adam. By the work of Christ God makes us righteous,
which is much more than recovering our innocence. If Adam had stood the test,
he would have become righteous, for righteousness involves a choice of obedience
and a rejection of disobedience. Since we have been made righteous in Christ
we have, as it were, passed the test and received the gift of righteousness
and its consequent glory. This is the gospel. It is all too rarely preached.
The Last Adam provides redeemed man with the dominion which God always
intended man to have. "Much more shall they that receive the abundance of
grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even
Jesus Christ" (v.17). In this verse Paul sums up the consequences of salvation
in weighty and wonderful expressions which are unforgettable. It is not only
a free gift but it is an abundant one. He does not explain what he means
by "abundance" (Danish -- "rich fulness"), but he reminds us that God does
not act in the Pharisaical way of giving a little, waiting to be sure that
we deserve it and then adding a little more, and continuing to give only
in the measure in which He finds merit in us. This is how Saul the Pharisee
had once reasoned, but on the road to Damascus be repudiated that idea of
God's behaviour and threw it far from him. From then on he knew that every
sinner who by faith receives the Lord Jesus, receives immediately the abundance
of grace even as the prodigal son did on his return home.
We notice that those who receive this gift of righteousness "reign in
life through the one ...". The apostle begins by telling us that the trespass
of the one caused death to reign, but he does not go on to speak of life
being caused to reign through Christ. No, it is much more personal than that.
The glorious truth is that the former slaves are now kings. This is what
grace has done. Those who receive God's salvation are so truly free that
the only adequate way of describing their new life is to say that it causes
them to reign. It is not that life now reigns instead of death, not that
they have been delivered from the tyranny of death to be now subjected to
another tyrant called life. No, life is not a tyrant but a gift of God's
grace, and by this life redeemed men now enjoy dominion. They reign in life,
not in independence and self-assertion, but through the one, even Jesus Christ.
COMPARISON WITH THE FIRST ADAM
Not until Paul has explained that Christ gives us much more than we
lost through Adam, is he free to turn back to the comparison which he began
to make in verse 12. There is only one way in which we can say that Adam
corresponds to Christ, and that is in the matter of racial headship. The
consequence of Adam's disobedience is condemnation for all who are in him.
The consequence of the righteousness of Jesus is that there is justification
of life for all who are in Him. "For as through the one man's disobedience
the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall
many be made righteous" (v.19). This justification of life is the result
of Christ's "one act of righteousness" (v.18). This means that it is the
relationship of Jesus to the Father, His righteousness, which is imputed
to us in justification. Our righteousness is not a natural or acquired characteristic
but the result of an act of God by which the free gift of justification
to life -- eternal life over which death has no dominion -- is conveyed
to us. He who is justified by faith shall live -- and he lives by his faith.
This passage opens up to us wide horizons. It points us to two worlds,
two dispensations, two kingdoms. One is the world to which
[34/35] Adam's race, that is, all humanity, belongs -- the world
of sin and death. The other is the world of righteousness and life to which
belong Christ Jesus and all those who have received abundance of grace and
the gift of righteousness. It amounts to a choice between the first Adam
and the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). Every man has one of these as his
racial head, either Adam or Christ.
There is no room for a third dispensation in this mighty perspective.
However important the law of Moses was, it never had the power to bring
to an end the dominion of sin and death which characterises those who are
in the first Adam. The law could never annul that tyranny, nor even weaken
it or threaten it. On the contrary, the law with its commandments and prohibitions
acted provokingly towards sin, for it challenged men not to commit sin
but to do right. Sin immediately took up this challenge, as if it felt
itself provoked, and proved that sin is much more sinful than many had
imagined. "The law came in beside, that the trespass might abound" (v.20).
The more the law forbad sin and commanded righteousness, the more powerful
and triumphant sin proved to be. When Paul treated of this tragic fact,
he spoke with the insight gained from his own painful experiences, as he
describes later in this letter. The law does not act as a hindrance to sin,
but is on the contrary, "the power of sin" (1 Corinthians 15:56).
Thus the law is an instrument of grace. It enters the dispensation where
sin and death have dominion, and so impresses fallen man with the reality
of God's wrath and condemnation as to bring him to find God's grace in
Jesus Christ. "Where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly."
Grace not only sets the sinner free from the tyranny of death, but it sets
him in Christ in the reigning position of being far above powers and dominions.
By reason of the undeserved grace of God and through his simple faith, the
redeemed man is no longer regarded as a sinner, but as standing in the good
of perfect righteousness in the one Man, the last Adam.
Paul closes this liberating part of his message with thrilling eloquence:
"That, as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness
unto eternal life through Jesus Christ". We should notice that he does
not say that death gained dominion by sin (as we might expect), but just
the opposite -- "sin gained dominion by death" (Danish). This is because
to him death was not just the state which occurs when earthly life ends,
but a paralysing power which is working all the time to give sin the dominion.
But just as sin gained dominion through death, so grace gains dominion
through righteousness. This is the wonder of the new era -- grace reigns!
So the gospel is indeed the power of God unto salvation. It gives us far
more than we lost by the Fall. It not only reinstates us, but gives us
a place in that new creation where as free men we reign in life by Christ
Jesus, and find that all that is His, is ours. It is impossible to exaggerate
the wonderful significance of THE LAST ADAM.
(To be continued)
"PRAY THEN LIKE THIS"
Reading: Matthew 6:9-13
THERE are two "Lord's Prayers" in the New Testament, both commencing
with "Father" and both concerned with the Church of Christ. The first (John
17) was prayed by the Lord Jesus Himself and is unique. The second (Matthew
6:9-13) was first spoken by Him, but is to be prayed by us. "Pray then
like this," He commanded, not so much to give to His disciples a fixed
form of words to be repeated, as to set out the principles which should
govern the Church's prayer for herself. The prayer has six petitions --
a number which might seem significant -- and a final expression of faith
which most students regard as not part of the original but without which
the rest of the prayer would be a futile waste of words. The requests are:
1. That the Church may always bring honour to the Father's name.
"Hallowed be thy name." Perhaps the best means of appreciating what
this involves is to consider its opposite, the sad possibility that God's
people may bring dishonour to His holy name. We might even pray: "Help
us not to [35/36] let You down". That, alas, is
what the Church can do; it can bring the Lord's name into reproach. "The
name of God is blasphemed among the nations because of you" was God's sad
complaint about His Old Testament people (Romans 2:24). Even Moses brought
shame to that holy name when he rashly struck the rock, for God was forced
to penalise him and Aaron because they did not believe "to sanctify me in
the eyes of the people" (Numbers 20:12).
The New Testament Church has often offended in the same area bringing
shame instead of glory to the name of her Lord. Of course not all the world's
criticism is valid. Non-Christians tend to invent or exaggerate the shortcomings
of the Church. We must expect this and bear it cheerfully. But what should
grieve us is behaviour on our part which brings dishonour not so much to
our name as to His.
"Hallowed be thy name." It is right that this should be the first of
the six petitions, for what pleasure can the Church bring to God and what
impact can she have on the world unless the prior consideration in all things
and at all times is the honour of His name? It was an affront to that name
when Paul's adversaries brought envy and rivalry even into their preaching
of the gospel (Philippians 1:15). Perhaps these same men repeated the "Our
Father" prayer regularly, but to what purpose? Paul gave an example of the
true hallowing of the name when his only reply to their malice was: "What
then? Only that ... Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice".
2. That the Church may bring the rule of God to bear upon present situations.
"Thy kingdom come." Let us ignore the technical associations given to
the word "kingdom" and think of it in terms of rule. God's rule! God's
rule now! God's rule on the earth! Did we but know it, this is the Church's
main business; by means of prayer to impose the sovereign power of God
upon the affairs of men and devils.
Perhaps the most striking example of the Church at work in this way
is found in Acts 12, with its direct confrontation between the kingdom of
evil and Christ's kingdom. Look at the opening scene! Evil is violently
rampant, while the testimony for Christ in that city is apparently on the
point of disintegration. But now look at the closing scene! King Herod is
ignominiously dethroned, while Peter is miraculously freed and the Word
of God is growing and multiplying. And all because a humble representation
of the Church prayed "Thy kingdom come" (verse 5). No doubt they believed
in the Second Coming as we do, but their immediate task was to bring the
impact of that kingdom against the actual situation on their doorstep. They
prayed and the kingdom "came".
They just prayed. Some will pityingly ask, "Is that all?" Yes, that
was all. But it was adequate. We live in a day of committees, of protests,
of petitions and of appeals to men. The early Church had none of these,
but who will deny that it had something better -- the ability to pray effectively
that the kingdom might come, and then to see those prayers answered?
3. That the Church may have a heavenly love for God's will.
"Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth." We should not confuse
this request with the previous one, though there is a close link between
the two. I suggest that the former applies to God's overruling imposition
of His will, whereas this petition seeks that the Church may provide the
sphere here on earth where God's will is welcomed and obeyed. The idea is
not to bring the pressure of that will on the affairs of others but to be
sure that it is operative in our own affairs.
The standard set is a heavenly one. In that blissful sphere the will
of God is not just tolerated, still less challenged; it is gladly obeyed.
We are not angels, but only redeemed sinners. For this reason we need always
to pray for help in discovering what God's will is and then for the Spirit's
enabling to perform it.
I venture to suggest that if every local Church made a solemn covenant
that in future its members would not be governed by tradition, by convenience
or merely human ideas, but only by the one consideration of the will of
God as revealed to their Bible-taught hearts, a new day would dawn for the
cause of Christ.
4. That the Church may daily prove God's sufficiency.
"Give us this day our daily bread." In the Matthew passage this is followed
by a total ban on anxiety (Matthew 6:25) whereas in Luke it is followed
by a parable concerning obtaining bread for others (Luke 11:5). Both of
these contexts [36/37] remind us that it should be
part of the Church's testimony that her needs are fully met. In the place
of prayer we are not ashamed to confess ourselves paupers. Apart from our
Father we have no hope of surviving -- no "daily bread", and apart from
Him we have no ability to cope with needs around us -- "I have nothing to
set before him". The whole point, however, is that full sufficiency is always
to be found in our God, and that prayer is the channel for that sufficiency
to be communicated to us and also through us to others.
The word used for "daily" is almost unique in the Greek language. It
might better be translated "quota", except that the very word probably suggests
to us limitation or bare adequacy. The idea behind it seems to be "sufficiency".
Whether the need relates to our own life or to the necessity of others,
there is abundant sufficiency in God today, to be given in answer to prayer.
The Church must never give the world around her the idea that our God is
meagre or poverty-stricken. He is rich, and He gives richly.
5. The Church must walk in the light with God.
"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." At first
glance such a prayer may seem to contradict the gospel message which offers
free forgiveness to all, and for this reason some teachers refuse to regard
the prayer as suitable for Christians. They mistakenly confuse the two aspects
of forgiveness which are stressed throughout the whole New Testament. The
first is the eternal justification of the believer. It is of this that
Paul speaks when he says: "In him we have redemption through his blood,
the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace"
(Ephesians 1:7). This total forgiveness means that our debt is cancelled
unconditionally and for ever. There is, however, another aspect of forgiveness
which is a matter of conscious enjoyment of fellowship, and it is to this
that the fifth request of the prayer refers. His subsequent comment warns
us that the forgiveness of our heavenly Father depends upon our forgiveness
of one another (Matthew 6:14). Unclouded fellowship depends upon constant
cleansing on the basis of frank confession (1 John 1:7 & 9). No openness
of heart with others, then no openness of heart with the Father.
To keep coming to God with reiterated requests for redemptive forgiveness
is to betray a lack of assurance of salvation. Those who are forgiven do
not ask; they praise and love the Saviour. Nevertheless they are told still
to be exercised about this matter of forgiveness, for it concerns the free
flow of fellowship which should characterise God's people. If I will not
smile on my brother, how can I expect our Father to smile on me? This is
not just a matter of our own enjoyment of love, but also of our testimony
in the world. If there are shadows anywhere, then that mars the testimony
6. That the Church may know continual victory over the evil one.
"Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Have
you ever met a truly satisfactory explanation of the first part of this section
of the prayer? I never have, but am obliged to admit that the Lord was constantly
tested and so must we be if we are to be like Him. Perhaps there is here
an allusion to the possibility of our rashly exposing ourselves to unnecessary
and unprofitable testing. This would involve our "tempting God" and we do
well to pray for deliverance from such foolishness.
What is important, though, is that we should not allow preoccupation
with this question to distract us from the main request of this clause, and
that is that we may not be overcome by evil or the evil one. The stark alternative
of defeat or triumph faces us every day. The outcome of such temptation
is more than a question of personal enjoyment of triumph, though it is always
a source of great gratification to us when, by the Lord's grace and help,
we emerge successfully from some severe test. A defeated Church is a dejected
Church, but a delivered Church is joyful and grateful. The real issue, though,
is one of our testimony in the world. How can we proclaim a triumphant Christ
if we do not demonstrate that triumph in the ordinary trials of life or
the special tests of discipleship?
"O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God whom thou servest continually,
able to deliver thee from the lions?" was the incredulous cry of King Darius
(Daniel 6:20). This is what the world wants to know; what it has a right
to know. Not, are Christians specially protected and immune from troubles,
but can they go through such testings triumphantly? It is on this note that
the prayer proper ends. Jesus had prayed for His Church; "Holy Father, keep
them in thy name which thou hast given me" (John 17:11), and now He commands
that same Church [37/38] to pray for herself: "Our
Father ... deliver us from the evil", We might comfort ourselves with the
thought that Christ had prayed for us in this connection and leave it at
that, but He urges us to take up the matter ourselves and to pray on to be
"kept by the power of God" for the purposes of God and for His glory.
These then are the six petitions of the Church's prayer. "This is how
you should pray," said Jesus when He introduced the matter, and according
to at least some of the old manuscripts He brought the prayer to a proper
conclusion with the words: "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and
the glory, for ever. Amen." Most scholars question whether He did use those
words, but no one can question that the whole Bible gives forceful attestation
to these facts. As I have already said, if the kingdom, the power and the
glory are not the Lord's, then there seems little prospect of anyone of
these six requests being granted. Happily there can be no question about
the complete supremacy and sufficiency of the God to whom we pray.
VARIETIES OF FAITH
John H. Paterson
CHRISTIANS sometimes do themselves and others a disservice by giving
the impression that the key to the Christian life is to "have faith", as
if faith was a unitary object like a driving licence or an insurance policy.
We know, of course, that faith is really nothing like that at all. It is
much more like fear or courage; most people have specific fears -- snakes,
spiders, darkness -- but are quite courageous in other particulars, such
as battles or personal confrontations. Faith is always in someone, about
something . Perhaps the classic Christian statement of these two elements
in faith is Paul's: "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded
that he is able to keep ..."
In human terms, there are very few people in whom we have what might
be called a blanket faith -- that is, a faith enabling us to trust them at
all times, to do anything. In this, as it happens, we are probably rightly
cautious; blind faith in an individual can be dangerous or even disastrous.
A great preacher, for example, may be a very poor businessman, while even
loving parents may be bad career-advisers to their own children.
For the Christian, the Lord Jesus is the one person in whom faith can
confidently be placed at all times; indeed that is itself not a bad description
of what being a Christian means. But because faith is always faith about
something, it follows that it grows and is confirmed by our experiences.
If, in a particular situation, we are able to say, "Last time, the Lord
helped me through this experience", then faith can go on to say, "And I
believe that He can and will help me this time, too". The result is that
we may build up strengths and weaknesses of faith, according to the direction
which our lives take. In some areas, we know we can trust Him, but
in others we have no experience, and nothing to go by. Over a period, the
Lord may order our circumstances in such a way as to broaden our experience,
but it is quite likely that, at any particular moment, we shall be "better"
at some kinds of faith than others.
We can see this differential faith, as we might call it, in the lives
of some of the great men of God in the Bible. There is, in fact, no clearer
case than that of the man whose name has virtually become a synonym for
faith in God -- Abraham. If ever there was a man of "blanket faith", surely
it was he! But in reality this was not at all the case. In some respects,
Abraham was a dreadfully slow learner. Where God's promises of a land to
inherit were concerned, Abraham's faith seems to have been firm and strong
almost -- though not quite -- from the start. But the parallel promise of
an heir found him by turns incredulous, scornful and meddlesome, and only
after much sorrow and many mistakes did the final test on Mount Moriah satisfy
God that Abraham's faith about this promise, too, was firm.
A similar example of strengths and weaknesses of faith can be found
in the life of David and, curiously, about precisely the same matter --
his family. His relationship with his children seems to have been David's
Achilles Heel -- a great man [38/39] of faith blundering
into weakness and sentimentality about a specific and important area of his
In the context of our own Christian lives, however, it is likely to
be the strengths of people's faith, rather than the weaknesses, which strike
us. The lives of some of God's people are a challenge to us because they
exhibit a faith in Him about practical things of which we know ourselves to
be incapable. Everybody has heard how George Muller fed his orphans by faith
and prayer alone. Those of us who recall the 1930s can remember Edwin Orr
deliberately setting out on preaching tours around the world with a few pennies
in his pocket and telling of the result in Can God?, Prove Me Now
and the rest. We all know people who "live by faith " today, and have stories
to tell of God's wonderful provision. I have a friend who told me that he
needed a carpet of a particular size, preferably grey, for a room in his
house. So he prayed about it and, before long, the phone rang. A voice said,
"I am disposing of a carpet; would you like it?" My friend said, "I shouldn't
be surprised if it is grey, and of these dimensions". And it was!
This leaves me personally bewildered; I have always naively assumed
that if I needed a carpet I should go to a shop and buy one. There was
another friend who called on us at a time of life when our children never
slept at nights. This went on for months, and we were exhausted by loss
of sleep; there seemed to be no remedy. This friend said, "Our children
didn't sleep either. So we told the Lord that we were sure He didn't want
us to waste our nights getting tired, and He soon solved that for
us!" Again, the mind boggles; we had prayed, too! Such faith may well leave
us more disheartened than encouraged. We take it to mean that we are second-rate
Christians who will never amount to much.
We may be right to be challenged. Certainly, God has called some of
His people to exhibit by their personal -- and sometimes extreme -- example
the outer dimensions of faith; to show what can be done. But if we feel
discouraged, let us remember the variety of faith. Not to be able,
through faith in God, to feed hungry orphans does not necessarily disqualify
us from belonging to the category of men of faith. There are other areas
of life in which to exhibit faith in God is at least as necessary, and perhaps
even more difficult, than to be another George Muller. It is to one of these
areas that we now turn.
* * * * *
Because faith grows with experience, it can also be eroded by contrary
experience; that is, by the appearance that God has forgotten, or made a
mistake, or proved powerless to help. A common experience of the man of faith
is to find that the ground on which he can stand with assurance is being eroded
in this way. It is as if he is on an island where the tide is coming in:
will there be anywhere left to stand? Experience is contradicting faith, whittling
away at confidence. John the Baptist, who had pronounced so firmly his "Behold
the Lamb of God", is left wondering, "Art thou he that should come?" The
prophets wonder why God appears to tolerate evil and does nothing to vindicate
the righteous. The souls of those slain for the Word of God begin to wonder
(Revelation 6:9-11) whether their faith was misplaced, and are temporarily
pacified with white robes and told to be patient.
Under these circumstances, the question is bound to arise: what is the
minimum of faith on which we can, in practice, survive? I am not
referring here primarily to the minimum doctrinal basis of Christianity;
the theologians can clarify that for us. I am asking rather, when is faith
no longer viable? What is the iron ration of faith? Since it has to be faith
not only in someone but in something, what is that thing?
The question concerns us all. But there is one book of the Bible which
is especially relevant to it, and that is the story of Job. In a sense, the
whole book is concerned with the search, in the face of overwhelming personal
tragedy, for some firm ground or other on which faith can make a stand --
for a rational answer to the question of what to have faith about
. As his friends evolve their own explanations and spin their theories,
Job rejects one after the other as being contrary to good sense.
The principal ground of faith on which he stands is the unchanging character
of God, and none of his friends' theories do justice to that. One answer
to our question about the minimum of faith lies here: we must believe about
God that He does not change. His character towards you is not different
from His character towards me. His character towards me this week is not
different from what it was last week, or last [39/40]
year. Whatever that character is, it is eternally the same.
This is Job's ultimate strength; he knows and trusts the character of
God. But he has another pillar of his faith, which is surprising but very
significant. It is surprising because nothing in the text of our Bible
up to this point has prepared us for it; neither have any of Job's earlier
statements. We can tell that Job got the idea from a custom of the times
which was familiar enough to him and his contemporaries. But why or how he
associated it with God and faith in Him we shall never know; in this context
it comes straight out of nowhere: "I know that my redeemer liveth, and
that he shall stand up at the last upon the earth: and after my skin hath
been thus destroyed, yet from my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see
on my side, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another" (Job 19:25-27 R.V.
margin). Job expresses the confidence that God will make a personal appearance,
and vindicate him. Job asserts his faith in a vindicating God.
I have said that the idea comes as a surprise from Job, but it need
not surprise any of us, with the New Testament in our hands and countless
books on the return of Christ and the end times to guide us. The idea of
a personal appearance is familiar to us; we have argued for years over
the details as we interpret them! But the part of Job's idea which I do
not recall hearing discussed, in all the arguments between pre-millenialists
and post-millenialists, is the part about vindication. We may well
have the wrong idea about this, and it is no excuse for me to say that
Job did, too; we should know better.
Job's faith was marvellous, and richly rewarded; in the end he had more
than at the beginning of his woes -- more friends, more cattle and another
family. The one thing he did not have, however, was an explanation,
the very thing he had been seeking through forty-odd chapters of discussion
and debate. The book of Job ends without any suggestion that he now understood
what had been going on behind the scenes. And one very possible reason
why he found no answer was that in his faith in a vindicating
God, he had missed the point -- narrowly but vitally. He had chosen the
wrong person to be vindicated! He believed that, by making a personal appearance,
God was going to vindicate Job. But the missing insight is that God will
come to vindicate not His people but Himself.
Do we believe that God will one day appear and be vindicated? To answer
that question we must ask a prior one: do we believe that God needs
to be vindicated? We can only, I suggest, avoid believing it by shutting
our eyes and ears to all that goes on around us, and all the comments made
by ordinary people about God, and all the strangeness of His ways of dealing
with His servants. Not only does it seem to me that God will want to vindicate
Himself by His personal presence but the passage of time simply increases
the need that He should do so, as the woes of His creation grow cumulatively
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong.
Earlier on, I said that there was a need for men of faith today just
as pressing as the need for those who can achieve the spectacular or miraculous
by faith. Of all the varieties of faith which are needed among God's people
today, none, I think, surpasses in importance this need for men and women
who passionately believe in His vindication -- in the ultimate demonstration
that creation has not all been a dreadful mistake; that after all,
He has done all things well.
To maintain such a faith is not easy. Every day's news makes it harder;
every act of a God who hides Himself and bides His time; every unchecked
action of evil, injustice or oppression. How can we believe that
He really is in control? It gets harder all the time, as the tide comes
in around our island of faith, but we stand here or we stand nowhere. It
is unspectacular, and we shall never be able to say "I told you so", for
our vindication is not in question now. Paul is quite explicit:
"When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled
at in all them that believe". The onlookers, seeing His people, will all
exclaim, "How marvellous He must be!" But this is faith in action,
and faith needed here and now.
I fear that I shall never be very good at getting myself a carpet by
prayer, or feeding orphans. But I have a quite overwhelming belief that God
will one day be gloriously vindicated in His creation and before the eyes
of His critics, and that, too, is a variety of faith. What a spectacle it
will be! [40/ibc]
[Inside back cover]
INSPIRED PARENTHESES (12)
"(as it is written, A father of many nations have I made thee
)" (Romans 4:17)
WHEN God changed His servant's name from Abram (High Father) to Abraham
(Father of a Multitude), He committed Himself to the apparently impossible
task of forming a people for His name from all the nations of the earth.
At that time Abraham himself still hankered for the recognition of his
non-covenant son, Ishmael (Genesis 17:18), and Sarah laughed at the very
notion of becoming a mother (Genesis 18:12). Isaac, however, was duly born,
but he had to wait until he was sixty before his twins were born and when
they grew up there was talk of fratricide among them.
The family survived and a nation was formed from them, but Pharaoh,
Nebuchadnezzar, Haman and many lesser tyrants set out to destroy it, but
in vain. Herod did his utmost to destroy the Infant, through whom worldwide
enlargement was to come, and when Jesus was a Man the rulers actually did
have Him killed. That was a black day for the rest of Abraham's descendants,
but not for Abraham's God who is able to raise from the dead, as the old
patriarch himself came to believe.
GOD'S answer of resurrection disposed of the threat to Christ, but then
the Jewish believers in the Church tried to hinder Christ from making this
Church supranational. They were happy enough to have Abraham as the father
of believers in their own nation, but it took much disputation and heart-searching
before they could agree to other nations being given their rightful place
in the Church. In its turn the "Gentile" Church later adopted an exclusive
attitude both to Jews and to vast unevangelised areas of the world. It
was as though they decided that Abraham might be the father of believers
in a few exclusive nations, but not the father of those many nations of
whom God had originally spoken to His servant. Everybody seemed to be against
God in this matter!
NOW, however, we are in a position to appreciate the marvellous success
of the divine prophecy that Abraham would become the spiritual father of
people from all the nations. God said that He would do it. Being God, He
even affirmed that He had already done it! Unbelief, genocidal plots, imperial
edicts, bigoted Jews and slothful non-Jews -- all have had to yield to the
determined purpose of the One who calls Himself God Almighty, "El-Shaddai"
John the Baptist scornfully reminded the Pharisees who came to him at
Jordan that God was able of the very stones there to "raise up children
unto Abraham" (Matthew 3:9). That would certainly have been a sensational
miracle. Even more marvellous, though perhaps not so sensational to men,
is the fact that out of such unpromising material as us He has provided
the fulfilment of Abraham's name. By His infinite grace we are among the
multitude that no man can number who have found the same justification by
the same faith as did Abraham. It is quite a thrill to identify ourselves
as having a place in this inspired parenthesis.
"GOD IS ABLE TO MAKE ALL GRACE ABOUND UNTO YOU;
THAT YE, HAVING ALWAYS ALL SUFFICIENCY IN EVERYTHING,
MAY ABOUND UNTO EVERY GOOD WORK."
2 Corinthians 9:8
Printed by The Invil Press, 4/5 Brownlow Mews, London
WC1N 2LD -- Telephone: 01-242 7454