Discourses

By Robert S. Seklemian

"The Quiet Lion"

A short Biography of Brother Robert S. Seklemian

Born:April 20, 1898 Died:April 6, 1984 at 85 years of age Preceded in death by Sr. Ruth (Mathison) in 1981 Survived by their only son, Robert, and three grandchildren

ONE does not often meet a person of Brother Robert’s remarkable character. Those who knew him best remember him as quiet but unyielding, never antagonistic, but loyal to the spirit and doctrines of the truth. A character which combines both strength and gentleness is remarkable at any age in history, but especially so in the tumultuous world in which we live—today.

Of Armenian parentage Brother Seklemian’s father was taken prisoner by the Turks during their slaughter of the Armenians in the 1880s. Released from prison his father, mother, and two brothers immigrated to America. While awaiting the train in the darkness at a remote station, one of the boys disappeared and the distraught parents were unable to call out lest they—attract attention to themselves.

After a frantic search, however, the son was found safe and sound, asleep under a bench. In America three more boys were born one of whom was Brother Robert. He often delighted in his father’s tale of herding sheep as a boy at the foot of Mount Ararat. One day an old man came down from the mountain and told him he had seen the ark up there. The young shepherd boy dreamed of climbing up the mountain one day to see it but he never had the opportunity.

Brother Robert’s first exposure to the truth was as a teenager in California. At the age of 20 he left the Fresno area to serve at

"Bethel, " the Watchtower Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, N. Y., under "Judge" Rutherford. For a number of years he was in charge of the radio work there, writing and narrating a 15-minute weekly radio program. He possessed a good voice and did some singing on the programs also.

During this period of time the teachings of the Society were undergoing constant change, but Brother Seklemian endeavored to keep the radio message consistent with the truth. One day at the radio station he had just finished his usual broadcast sermon when the door opened in the broadcasting room and in walked the Judge.

He asked Brother Robert:"Who prepares your radio transcripts?"

Brother Robert replied that he did. The Judge replied:"You’re never to teach what you taught today again. From now on someone else will prepare the transcripts for you." To this Brother Robert replied in his usual gentle fashion that if someone else could prepare the transcripts, then someone else could also broadcast them. With that Brother Robert left the radio station never to return. He pondered what he had said that the Judge had so strenuously objected to. He soon found out! Brother Robert’s sermon that day had been on the subject of the ransom. At that time the Judge was writing a book to prove that the ransom did not apply to Adam.

Brother Robert joined RCA Communications in 1923 as a secretary.

(He and Sister Ruth were married that same year.) During his 44- year career with the company, he progressed through various managerial positions in almost every department including Radio Communications, Accounting, and Real Estate. In his spare time he obtained a Master’s degree in Law, a degree in Engineering, and a Real Estate Brokerage license. He studied for his law degree on the train he took to and from work each day. The beautiful home they lived in on Long Island was the sole product of his own handiwork.

He enjoyed writing. All this time he remained active in and thoroughly devoted to the truth.

After leaving the Society in the 1940’s, he and Sister Ruth were isolated from the brethren until 1956 when a class was formed in their area of Sayville, N. Y. Brother Seklemian served the ecclesia there as elder until 1962. At that time he requested and received a transfer to California as manager of the San Francisco office, a position he held until his retirement in 1967.

It was in the fall of 1962 that he began to write radio scripts for the Japanese work, a role for which his previous background in radio had developed him. Later he expended considerable editorial labors on the " Expanded Biblical Comments ." He remained active in the Lord’s service until his death.

In ill health for some years before his death, Brother Robert longed to be taken home. Those who visited with him during this time said that with his deep set eyes and beard (he was unable to shave due to a painful condition in his hands) he looked every bit the image of a Biblical prophet. No more fitting memory of this beloved brother can be imagined for beneath his gentle outward demeanor he was, as one brother expressed it, "like a rock." Those who knew him best loved him most.

Thus ended the earthly career of Brother Robert Seklemian, the quiet lion.

After God’s Own Heart

"He [God] gave testimony, and said, I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart."—Ac 13:22

AT THE time of our lesson, the Philistines had invaded Israel. The army of Israel, commanded by Saul, their first king, stopped the advance of the Philistines in the land of Judah. A stalemate developed. The Philistines occupied the hill on one side of a valley and the Israelites occupied the hill on the opposite side. Constantly on the alert, and with only an occasional skirmish, each army waited for the other to make the first move. Then the Philistines attacked with what would today be called a "psychological secret weapon."

The alert sentinels of Israel were astonished to see a huge man emerge from the Philistine entrenchment on the opposite hill and descend to the valley below. This man was literally a giant. His height was "six cubits and a span, " which is about 11.1 feet. That’s about twice the height of an average man today.

"And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass [about 156 pounds]. And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed 600 shekels of iron [almost 20 pounds]."—1Sa 17:5, 7

To make sure the Israelites fully realized his great size, from the distance they were watching, he had a normal-sized armor-bearer with him to provide contrast. It is possible his armor-bearer was shorter than normal to make the giant loom even taller in the eyes of the Israelites.

Goliath Defies Israel

The sentinels of Israel gave the alarm and called Saul to see this thing. Then, with a voice matching his bulk, the giant shouted out his challenge:"I defy the armies of Israel this day!" The record says:

"When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid." This overgrown monster growled out his defiance of the armies of Israel twice a day, morning and evening, for forty days. We read that each time, "All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were sore afraid."

Let us consider this remarkable situation in its proper setting. For 450 years the children of Israel had acknowledged no ruler but Jehovah God himself. After the partition of Canaan among the 12 tribes, they had been under the administration of judges, but their supreme ruler was God alone.

Other nations might have misgivings about the justice of the laws decreed and enforced by their kings, but Israel had the absolute assurance that their laws, dictated by God himself, were just and perfect. Other nations led a precarious existence ever on guard to defend themselves lest they be swallowed up by another. But the integrity of Israel was protected by the Lord God Almighty. All the forces of the universe were at their disposal if they but remained in harmony with Him and obeyed Him.

All this was not hearsay. It was demonstrated to them over and over again in ways they could see, feel, and hear. Faith was not necessary.

To bring about their release from bondage, ten horrible plagues were visited upon Egypt. The waters of the Red Sea were divided for their benefit, and brought together again to rid them of their pursuers. The pillars of cloud and light led them unerringly. In the wilderness, when they ran short of bread, manna was provided; when they wanted meat, quails were sent. When they thirsted in the desert, water poured out of a rock. Many such miracles were performed.

The inhabitants of Canaan were dispersed before them and the land

"flowing with milk and honey" was given to them. Not one man, woman or child in Israel was ignorant of these things. These events were read, rehearsed and repeated to them continually by their priests.

Wouldn’t you think that with such a history of assurance and help from the Almighty, the Israelites would be the boldest and most courageous people on earth? Wouldn’t this be especially true of the army, the pick of the men, sometimes referred to as "mighty men of valor"? What do we find? One lone Philistine, a misshapen and bloated monstrosity, stands up and bellows defiance at the combined armies of Israel—and they flee from him, "dismayed and greatly afraid!"

The One Who Did Not Fear

Ah, but there was one refreshing exception. There was one young man who did not fear the giant. Far from being a giant himself, he had seven brothers who were considered physically superior to him.

He was just emerging from boyhood and still had the pink cheeks of youth. He is described as "ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to." (1Sa 16:12) It was David, the shepherd boy, who had come to visit his three oldest brothers who were in the army of Saul. He had come to bring them some special food, a treat from home.

He had just found his brothers and was giving them the news from their home town, Bethlehem, when the Philistine—giant made one of his pompous appearances. Strutting about, and shaking his spear, he issued his challenge and cursed Israel. David looked and listened in astonishment! But he was not so much astonished by the size and antics of the—giant as he was by the reactions of the men of Israel.

He felt something that had—escaped all the others. He saw and felt that by successfully defying the armies of Israel, this lone, ugly creature was defying Jehovah God himself. A wave of indignation and outrage swept over David as he looked about him at the cowering men of Israel. "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, " he cried, "that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (1Sa 17:26) He tried to imbue them with his own spirit of indignation and outrage but they would not respond. Not one in the army would stand up to the giant, not even king Saul who was somewhat of a giant himself.

There is a lesson here for us. We are the Israel of God, spiritual Israel. Like Israel, we have tasted of God’s benefits. We have been delivered from bondage. We have been led through the wilderness of sin by the one whose footsteps we follow. We have been abundantly fed with manna from heaven, spiritual food, and have had our thirst quenched by the abundant water of truth from the rock.

But what happens? Sometimes one lone, Satan-inspired experience becomes swollen and inflated in our minds beyond all reality.

Momentarily forgetting all the Lord’s benefits and leadings, we revert to our old, craven, cowardly, earthly natures, and become "dismayed and greatly afraid." Ah, but then David appears and, unlike the men of Israel, we respond. A "David experience" is sent by the Lord which restores our true perspective and we realize that

"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us" (1Sa 7:12) and, "No weapon that is formed against us shall prosper." (Isa 54:17) We lose our terror and are ashamed of our former reaction.

At this point David might have gone back to his sheep herding with a perfectly clear conscience. He was not in the army. He might have said, "This is Saul’s responsibility, not mine, " and walked away. But he didn’t; he lived too close to God for that. Any insult to God was a personal insult to himself. He couldn’t hold his peace. Like Jeremiah, the words were in his heart like a burning fire, shut up in his bones, and he could not keep them back. (Jer 20:9) So he went about voicing his indignation against Israel’s inaction. We read that "he turned from one to another, and spake after the same manner [who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God]." (1Sa 17:26)

As might be expected the matter was promptly reported to the commanding general, King Saul. They probably said to Saul,

"There’s a young man here from Bethlehem who is stirring up the people." That has a familiar ring, an advance echo of things to come.

Years later the same would be said of Jesus.

So David was brought before King Saul. When Saul saw him, he was surprised. Judging from the bold words that had been reported to him, Saul had probably imagined David to be a large and powerful man. Now, a pink-cheeked boy stood before him. Ah but the mind, the intellect, the personality, was not that of a boy! David came right to the point. "Your men are frightened of Goliath, " he said to Saul,

"but let no man’s heart fail because of him. I, thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine." (1Sa 17:32)

"But you can’t, " Saul protested, "thou art but a youth, and he a man of war" (1Sa 17:33) Then David told Saul a story which gave the simple secret of his boldness and courage. He related an incident of his life as a shepherd boy. He said, in substance:

"One day, as I kept watch over my father’s sheep, a lion and a bear came out of the wilderness. Leaping into the flock, the lion seized a young lamb, and began to make off with it. I went after the lion, and smote him with my rod, and released the lamb from his mouth. Then when the enraged beast turned on me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him and slew him. The bear also took a lamb, but I rescued the lamb from his jaws, and I killed him too."

Then he said to Saul:"Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God." Now he gave Saul the secret of his courage:"The Lord, that delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine."

David knew he hadn’t conquered the lion and the bear by his own strength. He didn’t take any credit for it. A lion can kill a horse or a full-grown steer with one blow of his powerful paw. A bear can do the same. These are not beasts that can ordinarily be killed by one’s bare hands. David knew that, but David loved his sheep and when one of the little lambs was threatened, he breathed a prayer for help and without the slightest hesitation, he was willing to lay down his life for the sheep. He attacked the great beasts with what happened to be in his hands at the time—a cudgel; and that was quite enough with God’s help.

There’s a lesson here that we should—remember :God does his work through the commonplace, the humble, and the meek. God has all the power that is needed. He doesn’t look for power in us. When he chooses a man, he looks only at the heart. David was such a man, a man after God’s own heart. So with a sincere and simple faith, David told King Saul:

"It was God that gave me the victory over the lion and the bear, when they threatened my flock. The same God will give me the victory over this other beast, who is threatening his flock, Israel."

With this one simple statement, David robbed the giant of all the glamour he had built up—the glamour of being the great undefeated heavyweight champion of the Philistines—and showed him up for what he was, just another contemptible beast that the Lord would deliver into his hands to be slain.

David Confronts Goliah

Later, as David with staff and sling calmly approached the giant, he must have shown his contempt in his face. Goliath sensed that David looked upon him as only an animal. He gave himself away when he angrily asked, "Am I a dog that thou cometh to me with staves?"

Just picture the scene! It was like a—gigantic amphitheater with the arena in the valley below and the audience on the hillsides—the Philistines on the one side, and the Israelites on the other. For 40

days the Philistine champion had shouted his defiance to the armies of Israel. Now David lifted his voice so that all who had heard the giant might now hear his reply. David’s reply voiced the sublime quality of his faith and the depth of his humility. It must have delighted God to hear it. He said:

"Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth, not with sword, and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands."—1Sa 17:45, 47

As a final gesture of contempt and to show his utter fearlessness, David ran to meet the Philistine giant. It was over quickly. The giant, so fully armed, did not even have time to draw his sword before the stone from David’s sling sank into his forehead. He fell on his face.

David drew the giant’s great sword from its sheath—and used it.

David beautifully typifies Christ. His loving care for his father’s sheep prefigured Jesus’ love and care for the sheep his Father gave him. We are that sheepfold! Jesus saves his lambs from the wiles of the Adversary, from the mouth of the roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. —Jesus lays down his life for his sheep. As Goliath defied and blasphemed the armies of God, morning and evening, Satan has continually defied God by his rebellion against the rule of heaven. He has through the ages blasphemed God by the "doctrines of devils" he has promulgated. He continually assails and brings railing accusations against the Israel of God, spiritual Israel, of which we are members. Christ, the great antitypical David, will in due time be Satan’s executioner as David was of Goliath.

The Psalms of David

The psalms of David have been termed the most beautiful poetry ever written. Even worldly scholars with no reverence for the Bible or appreciation of spiritual things have pronounced the psalms to be of the highest order of classic literature. But the psalms mean much more than that to us. The voice of God is there. He speaks to us through the psalms. He instructs us, he encourages us, he inspires us, he comforts us, he strengthens us.

Much of the psalms is sheer praise. As we read the exquisite words of praise to God that filled David’s heart, our own hearts also fill and overflow with praise. We feel the same love and closeness to God that David felt when he wrote the words. What a man writes, he must first think. Anyone who could write with such depth of feeling and eloquence must think sublime thoughts indeed!

Although the psalms were written under the inspiration of God, that does not mean that God dictated the exact words. David wrote as he was moved by the holy spirit, but not automatically. He used his own native talent, his own words and expressions, many of them based upon his personal experiences as a shepherd. But the holy spirit of God, acting upon his mind caused him to incorporate in his psalms those elements of prophecy and spiritual sustenance needed by the Lord’s people now. As we read in 1Co 10:11 —[ Diaglott] they, "Were written for our—admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come." David wrote his innermost thoughts, his meditations on the wonders of God, his longings and yearnings, his joys and his lamentations, his angers and sorrows, his love and praises to his God. In the most eloquent language, he poured out his very soul. Through it all ran the thread of prophetic illumination provided by the overruling influence of the holy spirit upon his mind.

David was an out-doors man. He lived in the open. He had seen the glories of—nature in their every mood including the great sea, with its tides, storms and calms, the multitude and variety of its creatures; the seasons of the earth, seedtime and harvest, sunshine and rain; man and his dominion.

"All sheep and oxen; yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea; and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas."—Ps 8:7, 8

The leadings of the Lord he had personally experienced. Watching the sheep, he meditated on these things in the quietness of his isolation. When he thought of some men even in his day who ascribed these things to mere chance and not a—personal Creator, he exclaimed:"The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." (Ps 14:1)

At night he lay down wrapped in his cloak to sleep; the ground was his bed and the vast canopy of heaven his tent. He studied the stars of heaven before he went to sleep:

"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers; the moon and the stars which thou has ordained; what is man that thou art mindful of him?"—Ps 8:3, 4

What a magnificent conception of the power of God this is! The universe with its millions of stars and their planets—much greater than our sun and earth—are all highly organized and moving at fantastic speeds in orderly orbits. They are tremendous weights, suspended on nothing yet David says they are the work of his fingers!

He does not say they are the work of his mighty arms or the force of his whole being, but his fingers! The universe was but a light task for him, by no means approaching the full potential of his powers!

David wrote this prayer of praise:

"I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from mine enemies."—Ps 18:1-3

Consider this prayer. If one has to go into battle, it is natural to pray before going. One knows that many will be killed and it is understandable that one pray to be spared. It is natural for a general of an army to pray for victory before committing his troops. But after one’s life has been spared and the battle won, the matter is often forgotten. But this inspiring prayer of praise, was made by David after the battle—it says so in the heading. He had just won a decisive victory over all his enemies. So these words do not contain possible motive for self-preservation, no motive of desired victory. The words show a heart full of thanks and love and praise to God. He did not forget! No wonder David was a man after God’s own heart!

There is a lesson here for us. We are told in Php 4:6 to make our requests known unto God, and we are quick to do this. But when a request is heard and in due course an answer given and the blessing granted, are we just as quick to thank and praise him for it? We often give a general expression of thanks, such as "We thank thee for all thy blessings, " which is good. But when a specific request has been made and has been graciously granted, how much better to give specific thanks for that particular blessing. An earthly parent loves an appreciative and thankful child; how much more, our heavenly Father!

"I will love thee, O Lord, " David said. Then he pours out his love by ascribing to the Lord certain endearing and meaningful titles :My Rock, My Fortress, My Deliverer, My God, My Strength in whom I will trust, My Buckler, The Horn of My—Salvation, My High Tower, Worthy to be praised.

Our Castle

There is a maxim of English law to the effect that "A man’s home is his castle." In medieval times the law was comparatively ineffective and each man had to take measures for his own personal safety and defense. The feudal lords and barons built themselves castles, usually upon a rock, with thick walls and strong defenses to withstand siege, surrounded by moats so no one might approach without permission. Here they were safe from molestation. Outside they always had to wear armor and carry a sword, but in the castle they could relax and be at peace. The castle became the symbol of the integrity of a person in English law. David had a similar thought when he wrote:

"Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort.

Thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress."—Ps 71:3

We can identify with this. We too have a castle, a "strong habitation, " to which we may "continually resort." Anywhere, anytime, and under any circumstances we can call upon the Lord.

One moment we are worried, distressed, and faced with a seemingly hopeless situation. The next moment we feel a "strong habitation" enclosing us, a safe and secure castle around us. Then with David we can sing:"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"—Ps 27:1

David said, "Thou hast given commandment to save me."

Commandment to whom? Let me illustrate. It is the duty of the Secret Service to guard the life of the President of the United States.

From the moment he is elected, he is no longer a private citizen. His life is not his own; he is under what is known as "maximum security." He is guarded day and night lest an enemy seek to destroy him. Even before election day, units of the Secret Service are assigned to each likely candidate so that whichever one is successful may have this special protection from the moment of his election.

We consider the presidency of the United States to be an enormously—important office, and it is—probably the most important in the world. But there are 144, 000 higher positions out of this world, those who shall live and reign with Christ. Of these Jesus said:

"No man can come unto me, except the Father . . . draw him."—Joh 6:44

God selects and elects those who shall be the heirs of salvation. As soon as they are so selected, they are in mortal danger from the great enemy Satan. So God assigns a heavenly "Secret Service" to protect his elect. He calls mighty angels into his presence and commands them, charges them, and sends them forth to watch over us. So it is written:"Thou hast given commandment to save me." Also:"He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." (Ps 91:11)

And:"Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Heb 1:14)

Do you fully realize and appreciate the care and attention the Lord is giving you? Earthly secret service men, highly trained and dedicated as they are, sometimes fail in their assignment; presidents have been assassinated. But the angels assigned to our protection never fail.

When God has given a commandment to save, it cannot fail. Not one of his purposes ever do. An angel who has been given the commandment to protect a child of God, one of his little ones, is backed up by all the power of God himself.

Jesus said, "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." (Mt 18:10) This is a most extraordinary arrangement. By contrast, in a military organization there is what is called "the chain of command." A private has no direct access to the Commanding General. He makes his request to his sergeant, the sergeant passes it up through the various ranking officers, and only if it is of extreme importance in the opinion of those officers does it ever finally reach the general. A decision must follow the same course downward and be endorsed by all those through whose hands it passed before, until it finally reaches the sergeant, who then tells the soldier. This process may take weeks or even months.

But an angel assigned to one of the Lord’s little ones does not have to follow a "chain of command." No! God considers us too precious for that. He says, "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands." (Isa 49:16) We are always before Him! He takes a constant personal interest in our welfare. The angels assigned to us always have a direct and instant access to their Supreme Commander; they always behold the face of the Heavenly Father. It is a direct, face-to-face communication on our behalf.

All Things Are for Our Good

Paul said, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Ro 8:28)

Only God could make such a promise because only God with his almighty power has all things under his control; his almighty power is instantly available in our behalf. Does this mean that those who love God and are called according to his purpose do not have a care in the world? Does this mean that we are miraculously supplied with food, clothing, and all the necessities of life? Are we never tired, never worried, never hurt, never discouraged, never sick? Do we never experience trials and difficulties? Is everything in our lives perfect, peaceful, and serene? Is that what is meant by "all things working together for our good"? God could grant all this, but it wouldn’t be for our good, for our eternal welfare. Instead he uses his almighty power to manipulate

"all things" to give us just the right experiences in life, to develop, shape, chasten, fit, and finally change and exalt us to the glorious divine nature.

Sometimes we don’t understand the necessity of the experiences to which we are subjected. There is a tendency to cry to the Lord with tears and ask, "Why? Oh why?" Later, sometimes much later, it becomes beautifully apparent why the experience was necessary, and we thank God for it. Here’s a story that illustrates this:

Once, the only survivor of a shipwreck was thrown upon a desert island. He built a hut of driftwood and put in it everything he had.

He prayed to God for rescue and scanned the horizon daily for ships.

A long time passed, while he lived precariously on what he could get from the sea. One evening, upon returning from a hunt for food, he was horrified to find his hut in flames—struck by lightning! All he had was gone. To his limited vision, this was the worst thing that could possibly happen, and he complained bitterly to God. "Why, oh why? Was not my situation bad enough before? At least I had shelter and a few comforts. Now I have nothing!" Utterly discouraged and giving up all hope he flung himself upon the ground and wept all night, cursing the fire that had destroyed his hut. The very next morning, a ship arrived. As he was brought aboard, the captain said:"We saw your signal fire last night!"

Joseph’s Example

There is another and better example right from the scriptures. It is the story of Joseph. Here was a boy who was rejected by his brothers. They hated him so much that they considered killing him.

He was deprived of his most precious possession, a coat of many colors. He was thrown into a deep pit without water and left to die.

He was sold for twenty pieces of silver to slave traders. They took him into Egypt and sold him as a slave. His Egyptian master’s wife bore false witness against him and he was unjustly imprisoned. In prison he did a favor for a fellow-prisoner who promised to help him when he got out, but did not do so. He stayed in that prison for two whole years. The Egyptians were not noted for coddling their prisoners; the record says that he was "bound." Here is one misfortune after another; here was a seemingly hopeless and impossible situation. But that is the kind of a situation that God handles to demonstrate his power. Jesus said, "The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God." (Lu 18:27) God intervened for Joseph. The record says:"And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed." (Ge 41:1) From then on things happened rapidly. Joseph rose to be the ruler of Egypt which at that time was the most powerful nation in the world.

His many painful experiences must have caused Joseph to wonder,

"Why are these things happening to me?" But afterward, when it was all over, he saw and freely acknowledged that all things had worked together for good. He said to his brethren:

"Now therefore be not grieved nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God; and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt."—Ge 45:5, 7, 8

The same principle is expressed in Hebrews:

"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward, it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness, unto them which are exercised thereby."—Heb 12:11

So with experience and Christian maturity we learn to "trust him, come what may, " knowing it is for our good. It is in this way that we attain the "peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Php 4:7).

Jesus said:"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth give I unto you."—Joh 14:27

The world cannot assure us of peace based upon "all things working together for good." Satan is the god of this world. He seeks to devour and destroy the Lord’s people. But God manipulates even the overt acts of Satan so that they also work together for our good. This is included in the "all things."

Guardian Angels

David wrote, "The angel of the Lord encampeth around about them that fear him, and delivereth them." (Ps 34:7) These angels are alert, ready for action like troops encamped on the field of battle.

They are "round about" us. We are ringed about and completely surrounded by this protection.

The scriptures provide an encouraging illustration of this in 2 Kings chapter 6. At one time the king of Syria warred against Israel. He met in secret counsel with his military commanders to map out his campaign. But every time he planned an attack, the Lord revealed his plans to Elisha the prophet who told the king of Israel. The Israelites anticipated every move of the Syrians and checkmated them at every turn. The king of Syria was greatly disturbed over his defeats and said, "Surely we have a spy among us!" Then one of his own spies told the king that it was Elisha the prophet who revealed his secrets.

The king of Syria decided that Elisha must be captured at whatever the cost.

Elisha was then staying at Dothan. The king of Syria sent a large part of his army, described as "horses and chariots, and a great host, " to take him. Why such a large force to capture one man? The record says that they "compassed the city about." The idea was to approach at night and form a tight ring around the city to prevent Elisha’s escape. Then, in the morning, they would close in until they had him.

It seemed an absolutely foolproof plan. As the Syrian host moved upon the city that night, and silently formed their noose, Although Elisha knew it, he was not troubled. He slept soundly.

Elisha’s young servant did not have his master’s calm assurance.

When he got up early in the morning and saw the terrifying ring of military might, he ran to Elisha and cried:"Alas, my master, What shall we do? What shall we do?" Elisha answered, "Fear not; for they that be with us, are more than they that be with them." But the servant did not have the insight and the faith of his master. He was filled with terror. The enemy he could see with his physical eyes, the defense he could not see with the eye of faith.

"And Elisha prayed and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire, round about Elisha."—2Ki 6:17

The defensive forces of God took the visible form of horses and chariots because these were symbols the young man could understand. They were "round about" Elisha which means they formed an inner ring between him and the enemy.

All of us who are running for the prize of the high calling are encompassed about and threatened by Satan’s forces:"Principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, wicked spirits in high places." (Eph 6:12) They seek to destroy and devour the new creature. They form a ring around us. This would be a terrifying thing if we did not, by the eye of faith, see the inner ring of vastly superior power :the "horses and chariots of fire" which Elisha described as "they that be with us."

Since we know this, how can we be afraid of anything? As David put it so beautifully in poetic meter:"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps 27:1) Doesn’t that give you a warm feeling of security and peace?

Jesus said, "The very hairs of your head are numbered." (Mt 10:30) You who are mothers think you know your children pretty well. But do you know how many hairs there are on your child’s head? Here is a beautiful figure of speech showing how thoroughly God knows and understands you. He knows everything about you.

He knows what you should have and what you should not have. He knows what you should experience and what you should not experience. But does this mean that he knows just how much trouble, aggravation and sickness you can stand, and then proceeds to see that you get every bit you can stand? Oh no! You wouldn’t do that to your children. We try to be kind, loving and patient with our children. When our children are in difficulty, we feel pity and compassion; love wells up in our hearts. We spare our children all we can, giving them only the needed discipline. So it is with our heavenly Father, only he is ever so much more kind, loving and patient than we are. Of us he has caused to be written:

"And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare then, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."—Mal 3:17

God Loves Us

Someone once said to me many years ago:

"I’m afraid of God’s love. I’m afraid to consecrate. I’ve had trouble all my life. I’ve been bludgeoned and beaten down by adverse circumstances, for as long as I can remember. I love God and I want him to love me; but I read in Heb 12:6, ‘Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth; and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. ‘Now that’s very discouraging. I just couldn’t take any more chastening and scourging than I’ve had. I want peace and rest!"

Perhaps others have felt the same way as this person. We have a very wily adversary and we should not be "ignorant of his devices." (2Co 2:11)

He twists and turns and misrepresents God’s character. He misquotes and misapplies scripture in the most plausible manner, shifting his tactics to correspond to the weakness of his intended victim. He has convinced millions who take the name of Christ that God is a fiend who inflicts eternal torment and misery upon the vast majority of mankind. Defaming God is Satan’s specialty. This is his device for blinding men’s minds. Even to one who has come to a knowledge of the truth and has been drawn to the verge of consecration, he subtly suggests:"Don’t do it. You have enough trouble already. Why expose yourself to the chastenings and scourgings of the Lord? He is a God of punishment and pain." This is just a variation of the old torment doctrine.

When Satan tempted Jesus and misapplied scriptures, Jesus answered him with scripture correctly applied. Let us now do the same. In his last talk with his disciples before his betrayal, Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (Joh 14:27) On another occasion he said:

"Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."—Mt 11:28-30

Does this sound like something to be afraid of? A yoke has two sides to permit two to pull side by side. Jesus invites us to share his yoke with him, to walk with him. Think of having the Lord walk with us throughout life, constantly at our side, sharing every burden.

When our steps falter, his are strong and carry us along. When our stresses and strains become too great, he invites us to cast our cares upon him. He wants to carry our burdens. It is written, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee. He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." (Ps 55:22) Also, "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (1Pe 5:7) This is a wonderful arrangement, certainly nothing to be afraid of.

Ah, but what about the chastenings and scourgings? The key to the correct understanding of this scripture is in the two words loveth and son ." Whom he loveth, he chasteneth; and scourgeth every son."

God is love and there is no fear in love. So this scripture simply means that he lovingly applies corrective discipline to us as his children. He applies only enough to teach us the right way. He spares us all he can. He does not, as some suppose, keep books on our conduct, exacting the last full measure of punishment indicated. On the contrary he does not give us all the punishment we deserve.

David knew this from personal experience. On one occasion he had sinned grievously and was guilty of death, but God did not exact the full penalty. David, overwhelmed with God’s mercy and love, sang with exultation:

"The Lord is merciful and gracious; slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities; for as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust."—Ps 103:8, 10-14

David knew what he was talking about. He knew God’s loving and merciful ways. His thoughts were as close to God’s thoughts as is humanly possible. How God loved him for it! He delighted in David.

Years and generations after David had passed from the earthly scene, God favored his descendants even though they were sometimes not entirely worthy. Why did he do that? "For my servant David’s sake!"

Just because they belong to David, that’s all! When Jesus came, one of his titles was, "The Son of David." His kingdom authority by which he will bless the world is called, "The throne of David."

Here is a most precious thought :We are the heirs of this intimate relationship between God and David. We are of the spiritual "David" class. All the richness of God’s love is ours if we will, by faith, receive it.

Belshazzar’s Feast

BEFORE going into our lesson of Belshazzar’s feast, let us first consider the setting. Babylon, the capital city of the Babylonian universal empire, was the greatest city in the world. In many respects it has not been excelled to this day. It measured 14 miles from north to south, and 14 miles from east to west. It was surrounded by walls up to 350 feet high, the height of a modern 35-story building. The walls were 80 feet thick. Just imagine walls of those dimensions, extending for 56 miles, to enclose the city! There were 100 colossal gates, about one every half mile, which gave access to the city.

These gates were of solid brass, swung on massive iron hinges, and secured by huge iron bars, manipulated by an ingenious system of levers. The great river Euphrates looped and flowed diagonally through the city. The walls were arched over the river at the points of entry and exit, and there were water-gates of bronze within the arches, extending down to the water and which opened to permit navigation. In daylight, a constant watch was kept from the top of the walls. From that height the watchers could detect an approaching enemy while still a great distance away. At night, all gates were securely closed and barred. The city was considered absolutely impregnable. An ancient historian has written:"Babylon was the strongest fortress in the world. Even a small force of brave men could have held it for years." It was considered siege-proof.

Within the city were other wonders of construction. There were temples of great size and unsurpassed grandeur, decorated with gold, silver, and, precious stones. In and about the temples there were hundreds of gold and silver images of gods. A solid gold image of Bel stood 50 feet high, and weighed 43, 000 pounds. In addition to the royal palace of Nebuchadnezzar, the king, there were a number of other splendid palaces for the nobility of the realm.

There were many magnificent gardens and, in addition to these, the city contained one of the seven wonders of the world known as The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. This was built by Nebuchadnezzar to please his favorite wife, a princess of the Medes. It seems that she was unhappy on the level plains of Babylon and pined for the more rugged scenery of her native country with its terraced hills. To make her happy, a garden consisting of several levels, or tiers, was constructed with a base said to be over a hundred acres. Each succeeding tier, somewhat smaller than the one below it, was supported by enormous stone arches, thirty feet high, arch upon arch, forming a tapering pyramidal structure 300 feet in height. Each level was overlaid with soil, and planted with exotic flowers gathered from all over the world. Their colorful blossoms hung down and cascaded from one level to another with spectacular—effect. Visitors from the world over came to see this magnificent garden and also to admire all the other wonders of Babylon, the greatest and most prosperous city in the world.

Now with this background we can better understand why King Nebuchadnezzar was so greatly lifted up in pride, as recorded in the 4th chapter of Daniel. The king was walking on the flat roof of his palace. All the beautiful architecture of the city lay before him.

There were glittering temples and towering castles. The hanging gardens were not only resplendent in color but the delightful aroma of the blossoms hung in the air. The mighty Euphra—tes flowed nearby, bringing to Babylon the commerce and wealth of the world.

Around all were the secure, impregnable walls. The king’s heart swelled with pride as he contemplated that all these things were made solely for his own personal enjoyment and pleasure. It made him feel big and important. So he exclaimed aloud, as recorded in Da 4:30, 31 (Moffatt):

"There lies Babylon the great, which I have built for a royal residence, by my vast power and to my noble majesty!"

His arrogance displeased God. We read further:

"The words had not left his lips, when a voice fell from heaven :‘O king Nebuchadnezzar, here is your sentence :Your kingdom is taken from you! You shall be driven away from human beings, to dwell with the wild animals. You shall be forced to eat grass like cattle, and seven years shall pass over you, till you learn that the Most High reigns over the realm of men, and gives it to anyone whom he chooses. ‘"

The sentence was immediately carried out. When, after seven years, his insanity was at last over and his reason returned, the great Nebuchadnezzar realized that he really was not as important as he thought he was.

Overconfident Belshazzar

Now let us consider our lesson which is found in the fifth chapter of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar was dead. Nabonidus, his son, was probably also dead. Belshazzar, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar had but recently come to the throne of Babylonia. Coveting the immense riches of Babylon, the Medes and Persians had consolidated their forces under Cyrus, the Persian, and for several months they had been besieging the city. This was the Cyrus whom the Lord, through his prophet Isaiah, declared should free his people, many of whom were captive in Babylon. See Isa 44:28 and 45:1.

But the inhabitants of Babylon felt quite secure behind their immense walls. They were amply provisioned for a much longer siege than it was supposed any army could enforce. They felt they could survive indefinitely. In addition to stored commodities, there were large farms and pastures within the city walls which supplied abundant food. All the water needed was drawn from the great river which flowed through the city. So the defenders of Babylon had a contempt for the besieging army of Cyrus and were amused at his tactics. Watching from the walls, they could see the enemy troops a considerable distance away. They seemed to be digging and throwing up some sort of earth-works, near the river bend. They did not even approach close to the city to permit bombardment by the catapults on the walls. Cowards! Nothing to fear from them!

Belshazzar himself probably climbed the wall to take a look. The tiny figures in the distance, grubbing in the dirt, resembled the futile workings of an anthill. He laughed, and returned to his palace, considering the siege a complete failure. He decided to celebrate the occasion by giving a great feast.

Usually when a siege is in progress, food is strictly rationed. But so confident was king Belshazzar in the strength of his capital and so contemptuous was he of Cyrus, that he ordered a sumptuous feast prepared. He, together with his princes, wives and concubines, would be host to a thousand of the nobility of Babylon. There would be food and wine in abundance, limited only by the capacity of the revelers.

No need to skimp. Babylon would never be taken! Was not the city under the patronage and protection of the powerful gods whose temples were there? These were the gods who had enabled his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, to conquer the whole world.

The feast was prepared and served in the great ballroom of the royal palace. At an elevated table, at the end of the room, sat king Belshazzar together with his many sons, his wives, and his concubines. The room was illuminated by a huge lampstand, or chandelier, near the king’s table. Below were rows and rows of tables, seating a thousand of the nobility of Babylonia with their ladies. At the king’s signal, course after course of exotic foods were successively served, on enormous platters, carried from the palace kitchens by hundreds of slaves. Wine flowed freely. As each cup was emptied it was immediately refilled. Toasts were proposed and drunk to the praise of the gods of Babylon. Since there were many gods, there were many toasts. The wine began to take effect, and the toasts became more reckless. We can imagine, at this point, that a prominent noble arose, with brimming cup, and loudly said:"I drink confusion to the God of the Hebrews! Any of the gods of Babylon is greater than He!" A sudden hush fell on the assembly. Many there had a fearful respect for the God of the Hebrews. They had heard something of his wonderful works. So they felt uneasy at this gesture of defiance. The king was displeased at this dampening of the spirit of revelry. Stimulated by the wine, he arose and shouted:

"I will drink that toast! And I’ll show you what I think of the God of the Hebrews! Bring here the sacred golden and silver vessels which my grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, took from the Hebrew temple in Jerusalem, that we may drink our wine from them, to the praise of our own gods! I’ll show you which gods are stronger!"

We read now from the record in Da 5:2-4:

"Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father [margin :grandfather] had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God, which was at Jerusalem; and the king and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone."

Belshazzar Profanes the Temple Vessels

This act of publicly profaning the sacred vessels of Jehovah’s temple, in praise of idols, was an act of grossest blasphemy.

Belshazzar’s grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, would never have done so; he knew better. He knew from experience that the God of the Hebrews was above any other god or any earthly king. We read in Dan—iel 2:47 that he had said to Daniel:"Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings." He had also said, in Da 3:29, "I make a decree, that every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces." Belshazzar should have listened to his grandfather and not spoken amiss of the God of the Hebrews. He had access to the records of the national decrees. In the archives was a record in Nebuchadnezzar’s own hand, made after his recovery from insanity—a most powerful witness, by a most powerful king. We read in Da 4:34-37,

"And at the end of the days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me; and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth forever; whose dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. And none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? Now I, Nebu—chadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth and his ways judgment. And those that walk in pride, he is able to abase."

Belshazzar should have known all these things. He should have profited by his grandfather’s experience. He should have taken it to heart; especially that last phrase:"Those that walk in pride, he is able to abase, " which was the great lesson Nebuchadnezzar had learned.

In fact, —Belshazzar did know all these things. As a prince of the blood, successor to the throne, he would be carefully instructed in the history of the empire and the acts of his forefathers. When he defied and blasphemed God, he did it willfully and deliberately.

Suddenly the light in the room dimmed as a dark shadow passed over the great chandelier. Every eye turned toward it in time to see a huge hand beginning to write something upon the wall. We now read from the Moffatt translation, starting with Da 5:5,

"That very hour, the fingers of a man’s hand appeared, writing on the plaster of the royal palace, opposite the lampstand. The king saw the palm of the hand as it wrote. And the king’s fresh color paled; his thoughts alarmed him. The muscles of his thighs relaxed, and his knees struck one against another."

Belshazzar was terrified, and his ruddy color, induced by the wine, paled. His self-assurance left him, and he was instantly sobered. He trembled violently from head to foot. The hand disappeared, but the writing remained; four words, in large characters, mysterious, and undecipherable, high upon the wall where all could see. Reflected by the light, the writing seemed to flow, as though of fire. The whole assembly was dumbfounded. There was absolute silence, until the king cried out. We continue from the record:

"The king cried aloud, for the enchanters, the diviners, and the astrologers to be brought in."

They came in haste, looked at the writing, and each in turn shook his head. The characters were strange, and not of any known language. The king was desperate. He now offered rich inducements.

We read:

"The king declared to the sages of Babylon, Whoever reads this writing, and tells me the meaning of it, shall be robed in purple, and wear a golden chain round his neck, and rank as third within the realm."

But even this great incentive, of being the third in rank in the rulership of the world, was to no avail. The record says:

"But not one of all the king’s sages could read the writing, or explain the meaning to the king."

Now there was pandemonium. Stark—terror gripped the whole company. The—ladies fled. Some of them sought out the queen- mother and told her what was going on. She had not attended the feast, but even from her apartment she could hear the frightened cries of the feasters. She quickly went to the banquet-hall. As she entered the noise subsided and they made way for her to approach the king. By this time the king was a pitiful object. Pale as death, and trembling violently, he could scarcely stand upon his feet. His nobles were not much better. We now continue from the record:

"Then, at the cries of the king, and his lords, the queen-mother came into the banqueting-hall. The queen-mother said :O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you; let not your colour go.

Within your realm there is a man in whom is the spirit of the gods divine. In the days of your grandfather, light and learning and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods themselves, were found in him, so that King Nebu—chadnezzar, your [grand] father, himself made him master of the magicians, enchanters, —diviners, and astrologers; since rare ability, knowledge, learning, the power of interpreting dreams, and solving riddles, and reversing spells, were found in this very Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Let Daniel be called, and he will explain the meaning of this."

Daniel Interprets the Writing

The prophet Daniel was at this time about 90 years of age. He was probably still in the government service, although not in the exalted capacity of rulership he occupied under Nebuchadnezzar. He doubtless resided in one of the palace buildings nearby. A messenger of the king was hastily dispatched to fetch Daniel. But I think an angel of the Lord got there first and Daniel knew every aspect of the situation. He knew of the profaning of the temple vessels, the insult to God, the—appearance of the hand, the mysterious writing, and the meaning of the words. So he was not surprised when the messenger of the king knocked at his door. Continuing the narrative, we read:

"Then Daniel was brought into the king’s presence. The king said to Daniel, so you are the Daniel belonging to the exiles of Judah, whom the king, my [grand] father, brought from Judah? I hear that the spirit of the gods themselves is in you, and that light and learning and rare wisdom are to be found in you. Well now, the sages, the enchanters, have been brought into my presence to read this writing, and to let me hear the meaning of it, but they could not explain its meaning.

However, I hear that you can explain things and reverse spells. Now, if you can read this writing, and let me hear the meaning of it, you shall wear a purple robe, and a golden chain around your neck, and you shall rank third within the realm."

This offer did not impress Daniel very much. He had been a ruler before ever this king was born. He had once been set over the whole province of Babylon. He knew how to abound, and how to be abased. He knew the futility of earthly glory. At his age, the prospect

of another exaltation in the kingdom of Babylon held no special appeal. He had no fear of this king who was so inferior in every way to his grandfather, the great Nebuchadnezzar. What he was about to do he would do as the prophet of the Most High God and not for earthly favors. So he said to the king, somewhat disdainfully:

"Keep your gifts for yourself, and give your rewards to someone else! However, I will read the writing to the king, and let him hear the meaning of it. O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar, your [grand] father, the realm, with its greatness and glory and majesty. And, owing to the greatness he bestowed upon him, all races, nations, and folk of every tongue, trembled in fear of him; for he killed whom he pleased, and spared whom he pleased; he raised whom he pleased, and put down whom he pleased. But when his mind became proud; when his spirit became defiant; so that he bore himself haughtily; he was deposed from his royal throne, and deprived of his glory. He was driven away from human beings, his mind was made like the mind of an animal, and his dwelling was with the beasts. He ate grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dews of heaven, till he learned that the Most High God rules over the realms of men, and that he sets over it anyone whom he chooses. Yet you, his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. You uplifted yourself against the Lord of heaven, by having the vessels of his house brought in before you, and from them you, and your lords, your consorts, and your concubines, have drunk wine, praising the gods of silver and gold, bronze, iron, wood and stone, which can neither see nor hear nor understand. You have not glorified the God who holds in his power your breath of life, and all your destiny. Hence the palm of the hand was sent from his presence, and this writing was inscribed."

The king slumped in his chair, and all the nobles stood, fascinated, as Daniel faced the wall and pointed to the strange writing:

"This is the inscription :MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PERES . The meaning of it is :MENE (numbered); God has numbered the days of your kingdom, and ended it. TEKEL (weighed); you are weighed in the scales, and found wanting. PERES (divided); your kingdom is divided up and assigned to the Medes and the Persians."

Great Babylon Under Siege

In the meantime, when the feast was in progress, tremendous events were taking place outside the city. It was dark and the watch on the wall had been withdrawn. The city being under siege, all gates were closed and barred, including the river gates. But now the army of Cyrus had finished its task. What was thought to be the digging of futile earthworks a distance from the city was, in reality, the

excavation of a great trench connecting the two lateral sides of the loop in the river Eu—phrates which flowed through Babylon. About the time the handwriting appeared on the wall of the banquet-room, the river was diverted and began flowing through its new channel.

The loop passing through Babylon dried up. The great bronze water gates, so tightly closed, now hung forty feet in the air above a broad highway which was the river bed. Over the dry river bed the armies of Cyrus now marched into the supposedly impregnable Babylon.

Rank upon rank, thousands upon thousands of men. The token guard of the city, taken completely by surprise, was quickly overpowered, and Cyrus himself, accompanied by Darius, entered the royal palace with drawn sword. Just as Daniel had finished his speech to the king, and had been given the purple robe and the golden chain, and Belshazzar had—proclaimed him third in rank within the realm, Cyrus strode up the aisle of the great banquet-hall, up to the king’s table, and thrust Belshazzar through with his sword. He then proclaimed Darius, king of Babylonia.

I think that promotion of Daniel was the shortest promotion on record. He was third in rank in the kingdom of Babylonia for about five minutes. The account ends with the words:

"That very night Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was killed, and Darius the Mede received the kingdom, he being about sixty-two years of age."

The second universal empire of Nebu—chadnezzar’s vision had been inaugurated. The breast and arms of silver had succeeded the head of gold. The Medes and Persians now ruled the world.

The Plague of Pride

There are numerous lessons for us in this account of Belshazzar’s feast, and the fall of Babylon, but the principal lesson is regarding pride. As Daniel told Belshazzar :You "have not humbled yourself. . . . You uplifted yourself against the Lord of heaven. . . . You have not glorified God who holds in his power your breath of life, and all your destiny." We read in Pr 16:18, "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." This is what happened to Belshazzar. Again we read in Pr 16:5, "Every one that is proud in heart, is an abomination to the Lord." Pride in any form and in anybody is abominable. So let us consider the nature of pride and its consequences.

First, there are the various forms of pride found in the world and which constitute the spirit of the world. The Lord’s people should be far removed from such forms of pride. For example, some in the world consider themselves superior to—others in every way, as though they were—especially created out of some preferable "dust of the earth." They boast of their noble ancestry and inherited qualities.

But they had better not look too far back. Mark Twain tells how he began tracing his ancestry. When he got back to a horse-thief, he quit.

Some in the world glory in inherited wealth. But many have found that it is not wise to boast of such riches since an investigation might reveal that many fortunes were founded on piracy, oppression, slavery and other forms of exploitation.

Pride of education is not appropriate either. What is there to be proud of? It only means that you have absorbed what others have found out or written about. Besides, the "wisdom of the world" is wholly unreliable. History has been tampered with, war and violence are glorified, ethics are distorted, philosophy is tainted, and even scientific books of only a few years ago, are obsolete in the face of rapidly increasing knowledge.

Pride in one’s beauty or physical superiority is certainly not justified.

Such qualities are inherited. The parent, rather than the child, might have some reason for pride.

Pride as respects clothing or adornments is also foolish. The maker of the fabrics, or the ornaments, might have some reason for pride in his handiwork, but surely nor the wearer. He is merely appropriating to himself the skill and—labor of others.

Lessons for the Lord’s People

But our lesson here is not for the world, but for the Lord’s people.

The scriptures are given for our admonition. The pride here warned against is spiritual pride. Whereas in the world pride is merely foolish, to the New Creature it is extremely dangerous. It can result in the loss of our calling and election because if we exalt ourselves with pride, as Nebuchadnezzar did, and as Belshazzar did, we place ourselves under the condemnation of Lu 18:14: "Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased." This eliminates our exaltation to glory, honor and immortality. So we are exhorted in 1Pe 5:6,

"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." Thus pride is a spiritual sickness which, unless curbed, can lead to the loss of everything. Because Jas 4:6 says, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble."

What chance do you have if God himself resists you? So let us now consider some of the many forms that spiritual pride can assume, in order that we may shun it like the plague it is.

First there is a general feeling of pride which is most likely to overtake those who are longest in the narrow way and most prominent in the Lord’s service. It is insidious because it develops very gradually and imperceptibly. It finally manifests itself in a feeling of superiority, of being better than others. When attending Berean studies, one afflicted with such pride hears no proper answer to any of the questions except his own. In testimony meetings he hears no really helpful testimony except his own. How halting and ineffective the others are!—to him. He never sees an elder in the chair who knows how to lead a meeting. He considers his discourses much deeper and more profound than those of other speakers, whose best efforts he despises.

If at election time he receives less votes than others, his feelings are hurt. He fancies himself a martyr and blames certain "enemies" in the class. This is an almost hopeless condition. It is difficult to reverse when so firmly established. Only a severe chastening of the Lord can correct it. The only safe way is to prevent it. How can this be done? The slightest tendency toward superiority should be noted and curbed. If you begin to think you are somebody great and have a special standing before the Lord, above your brethren, earnestly consider 1Co 10:12, "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." If you feel smug and conceited, thinking your abilities, which are really so imperfect in the Lord’s sight, are better than those of your brethren, take heed to Php 2:3, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than themselves." Or, as the Revised Version renders it:"Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves."

Some exhibit pride by being envious of those who are in more prominent positions in the public promulgation of the truth, thinking that they could do better, and therefore they should occupy those positions. Such should consider 1Co 12:18, "But now hath God set the members, every one of them, in the body, as it hath pleased him." Also Ro 12:10, "Be kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another."

Then there is a form of spiritual pride which is particularly insidious because it stems from the beauty of the truth itself. God’s divine plan of the ages is magnificent beyond compare. When one first gets a glimpse of it he is dazzled by its sheer grandeur. He cannot get too much of it. He delights and revels in its radiance—this marvelous revelation of an Almighty God of love, this great salvation, this life from the dead, this perfect solution to every problem of humankind!

To know and accept the truth is the supreme experience of a lifetime.

The more one delves into it, the more of its luster appears. It is simple, yet glorious. It is absolutely flawless, and there are so few in the world who appreciate it.

Some at this point are susceptible to the virus of pride. He begins to think that he must be a cut above his fellowman to be granted this insight into the Lord’s plan, that he must have some natural superi—ority of mind, or nobility of character, which makes him worthy of it.

He begins to feel important, that he is somebody great, God’s special favorite. This condition is bad enough but the next step such a one may take is particularly deplorable. —Although he knows that God revealed the beauties of the divine plan to him through the agency of a faithful and wise servant, he comes to believe that he has a clearer grasp of the truth than "that servant" did; that he can use better words to more aptly express the correct thought. Thus he elevates himself and equates his own mind with that of the greatest Bible Student of modern times—God’s special instrument for the restoration of "that faith once delivered to the saints." He fancies that he can improve the truth. He begins to see "new light." He finally becomes so swollen with spiritual pride that he believes he has special revelations from the Lord, that he has been appointed God’s special instrument to promulgate some great doctrine, to discover some new interpretation of scripture, or some new type. He gets revelations all right, but they are not from the Lord. If he cannot avoid it, he may mention or quote Bro. Russell’s writings, but when he does so, it is usually with some disparaging remark that "he disagrees with Bro. Russell in a good many things, " or that "he follows no man, but goes to the Word of God directly."

Do you see how terribly destructive spiritual pride can be, how it can destroy the New Creature? Let us be on the alert to quench the slightest beginning of pride. Let us continually keep in mind that it was not because of any value or worth on our part that we were called and given a knowledge of the truth. It was a wholly unmerited favor, a gift of God, entirely undeserved. 1Co 1:26-29

describes the Lord’s people as "Not many wise . . . not many mighty, nor many noble. But the foolish . . . the weak . . . the base . . . the despised . . . things that are not; that no flesh should glory in his presence." We can take credit for absolutely nothing. Everything we have or are is a gift. We read in 1Co 4:7, "What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory?" Also Jas 1:17, "Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." And we cannot even be proud of any service of the Lord we are privileged to perform. It is the Lord who uses us, and not we ourselves. We are tools in his hand. So what do we have to boast of? As Isa 10:15 expresses it,

"Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? As if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up; or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were not wood."

As Lu 17:10 points out, "We are unprofitable servants." So let us remember the lesson Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar so painfully learned, that "those who walk in pride, he is able to abase."—Da 4:37

Other Lessons from This Experience

As the Hebrews were taken captive to literal Babylon and were imprisoned there, the Lord’s true people have been captive in mystic Babylon. At the end of the Gospel age, the fall or rejection of Babylon is announced and the Lord calls his people out from that system saying in Re 18:4, "Come out of her, my people." As literal Babylon was immensely wealthy, and dominated the world, Christendom, until recently, has done so :subjugating and exploiting heathen nations. But now the controlling role of Christendom is—being effectively challenged by powerful Communist governments.

As literal Babylon was considered impregnable, the Papacy, an important segment of mystic Babylon, falsely appropriates to itself the promise of Mt 16:18 that, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Literal Babylon’s feeling of safety followed by its quick fall reminds us of 1Th 5:3, "For when they shall say, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." This describes the present time when the kingdoms of this world are giving way to the rule of Christ.

As the power and prosperity of literal Babylon depended upon the commerce brought to it by the river Euphrates, and the city fell by the diverting of its waters, so mystic Babylon will collapse because the people of the earth will withdraw their support. Thus the prophecy of Re 16:12 will be fulfilled:"And the . . . angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared." Since the east is the place of sun rising, the "kings of the east" are those who accompany the "Sun of Righteousness, " Christ Jesus, the new king of earth.

The lesson Nebuchadnezzar learned was "that the Most High reigns over the realm of men, and gives it to anyone whom he chooses."

Da 4:17 shows that God has always been in supreme control of the earth. He has not abdicated his rulership; not for a moment. Satan is a usurper with no real right to rule. His rule has been merely permissive. In due time the dominion of earth is completely wrested from him and given to Christ, God’s choice. In Eze 21:27 Christ is called the one "whose right it is; and I will give it him."

Nebuchadnezzar’s statement in Da 4:37—" Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and honour the king of Heaven; for all he does is right, his dealings are all just, and haughty men he is able to abase" —will be the heart sentiments of restored humankind at the end of the Millennial Age.

Belshazzar’s contempt for the besieging Cyrus, who was appointed by God to conquer Babylon and who typified the Christ, the anointed King, reminds us of Ps 2:1-6, prophetic of the change of earth’s rule:

"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, . . . let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion."

The eating and drinking of Belshazzar’s feast at the time of the impending fall of literal Babylon, brings to mind the prophecy of Lu 17:26, 27,

"As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all."

At the feast their praising of the gods of gold and of silver reminds us of the false standards of this present evil world—the praise of success, the feverish pursuit of prosperity, the worship of mammon.

With the Lord’s people it is different. We heed Jesus’ words, given in Lu 12:33, 34 (Diaglott),

"Make for yourselves purses which grow not old; an unfailing treasure in the heavens; where no thief approaches, nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be."

The rulers of literal Babylon drank wine from the sacred vessels of the Lord. The leaders of mystic Babylon have misused the Holy Bible. They have derived false, God-dishonoring doctrines from it and have been drunken by them, and made others drunk. As Re 17:2 expresses it:"The inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication."

At the feast a hand appeared and wrote upon the wall, against the lampstand, and the rulers of literal Babylon were frightened, so much that their knees knocked together. We read in Lu 21:25, 26,

"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea

and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken."

As the handwriting on the wall immediately preceded the taking of the city, this might indicate that just before the final calamity, earth’s rulers will have a definite and frightening indication of it.

The message from God was:"Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting." God weighs and judges nations, and their leaders.

He has found that none measure up to the standard of the kingdom and that all must be removed.

We are impressed by the fearlessness of Daniel in interpreting the writing on the wall. This clearly indicates that we should faithfully witness to the kingdom without any fear of the consequences.

As Cyrus slew Belshazzar and took over the government of the world, Christ, the antitypical Cyrus, removes Satan and his government from the scene and inaugurates the Messianic phase of the Kingdom in power and glory.

Daniel was robed in purple, a golden chain was hung around his neck, and he ranked third in the Kingdom. The Church, pictured by Daniel, will be clothed with the royal robe of rulership, given the golden chain of the divine nature, and rank third, after the Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus. Let us strive to be of that faithful Daniel class!

Bible Prophecies Being Fulfilled Today

DO YOU realize the Bible, which was written thousands of years ago, foretells events that are happening today, this very hour? This is possible because the Bible was written by holy men of God who inscribed in it what God wanted to reveal to mankind. Inspired by God, who knows the end from the beginning, these prophets were unanimous in their prediction that the time would come when God would establish a kingdom on earth for the purpose of restoring mankind to life, health, and happiness. This happy time is referred to as "the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began." (Ac 3:21)

When Jesus was on earth, he confirmed these ancient prophecies. He told his disciples that he would be crucified, be raised from the dead, go to his heavenly Father, then return at the end of the age to set up the long-promised kingdom of blessing upon the earth. His disciples naturally wanted to know when this would happen. They asked Jesus, "Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy presence and of the end of the age?" (Mt 24:3) In response, Jesus gave them many signs by which his followers living at the time of the event would recognize that it had come. He said:

"For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in diverse places. All these are the beginning of sorrows."

Then, in the same chapter, he gave a prophecy that applies to no other time than the present time and the immediate future. It reads:

"For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time; no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved."

This prophecy could apply only to the present day because there has never before been a time since the flood when it was possible for all flesh to be destroyed. Plagues have swept the earth, destroying millions, but the human race survived and increased. World wars, fought in the conventional manner, killed millions, but humanity lived on. But with total nuclear warfare and its poisoning of the air which we and all animals must breathe—now, for the first time in history, complete and absolute destruction of the human race is threatened. Now we realize the import of this prophecy, written two thousand years ago:"Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved." But the Bible assures us that those days shall be shortened, and that the human race will not be destroyed.

The threat of atomic warfare is a cause of great anxiety and perplexity in the world today. Entire nations are in fear and distress.

This present situation in the world is in fulfillment of another prophecy of Jesus:

"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring. Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth."—Lu 21:25, 26

But if men only realized that these present calamities are positive signs of the nearness of God’s glorious and benevolent kingdom under Christ, they would rejoice instead of fearing. The Bible tells us that there must first be a time of trouble before the kingdom of peace and righteousness takes full control to bless the world.

The very fact that we understand these prophecies is further evidence that we are living in the days known as "the time of the end." When the prophet Daniel was given certain prophecies regarding this time, he did not understand them. He wanted so much to understand. We read his words:

"I heard, but I understood not. Then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel; for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end."—Da 12:8, 9

The Lord’s words to Daniel tell us just how "the time of the end" can be identified when it has come:

"But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased."—Da 12:4

Do we not see these conditions fulfilled today? Has there ever been a time when there was so much rapid and world-wide travel? We not only have supersonic travel by jet plane within the earth’s atmosphere, but also travel in outer space at fantastically higher speeds. Whereas in Daniel’s day travel between countries took months, it now takes only a few hours. Beside fast railroad trains, there are great highways over which high-speed automobiles constantly run to and fro. There is a prophecy in Nahum that describes present traffic conditions with astonishing accuracy:

"The chariots shall rage in the streets; they shall justle one another in the broad ways; they shall seem like torches; they shall run like the lightnings."—Na 2:4

This was written more than twenty-five centuries ago! Daniel’s prophecy regarding the increase of knowledge has also been spectacularly fulfilled. This is one of the most amazing phenomena of modern times. Man has existed on earth for six thousand years, yet practically all the modern conveniences and scientific achievements we today take so much for granted were developed within the past one hundred and fifty years. Within this comparatively short period of time there has been a sudden awakening, and a tremendous surge of knowledge. One scientist has estimated that man’s total body of knowledge doubled between 1775 and 1900; doubled again between 1900 and 1950; again between 1950 and 1958; and is now doubling every five years! It is hard to grasp such a rapid rate of acceleration. This is another proof that we are now living in what is termed "the time of the end."

Since, as we have seen, the prophetic descriptions given in the Bible are so amazingly accurate of present conditions, can we not reasonably expect the Bible prophecies concerning the future to be equally accurate? That would be the only logical conclusion to draw.

What does the Bible tell us will come to pass in the near future? Bearing in mind that, in Bible usage, a "mountain" represents a kingdom, we read:

"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it. And many people shall go and say, come ye, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."—Isa 2:2-4

Because we are now living in the period called " the last days, " this prophecy is in the process of fulfillment. In symbolic—language, it describes God’s kingdom on earth under Christ, the kingdom for which we have for so longed prayed:"Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

In that kingdom there will not only be peace, but there will be life, life in its fullness, a resurrection to life, everlasting life in perfect health, to all the willing and obedient. This was secured by Jesus’ death on the cross as a ransom for Adam and his race. Life is the desire of all nations, and we read, "I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come." (Hag 2:7) The shaking is now going on and will soon be followed by blessing. The prophet Daniel said:

"At that time shall Michael stand up; the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people . . . and many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life."—Da 12:1, 2

Gods’ kingdom will soon be revealed to all mankind. The great prince, Christ Jesus, is already invisibly present. When the current time of trouble is finished, the kingdom of God will take complete control of earth’s affairs and there shall be a resurrection of the dead.

I know it is hard to conceive of a world in which men will no longer die. Nevertheless such a time is really coming and is near at hand.

We read:

"And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new."—Re 21:3-5

Christ Has Returned

THERE has always been great interest among Christians regarding the second coming of Jesus Christ. He first came to earth nearly two thousand years ago to sacrifice his perfect human life as a ransom price for the forfeited life of Adam and his race. Then he was raised from the dead a glorious spirit being and returned to God in heaven, having purchased the human race. He promised to return in great power as king of earth, to reign for a thousand years, to redeem all mankind from sin and death, and to restore them to human perfection and eternal life. This objective is termed, "The redemption of the purchased possession." (Eph 1:14)

Every prophet of God spoke of this wonderful event:

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you; whom the heaven must retain until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."—Ac 3:19-21

Today we are proclaiming a most joyful message:christ has returned to earth! He is here, invisibly present, and is now setting up his kingdom to bring restitution to the world.

The Bible teaches that when Christ first returns, only a few will know about it, only those who are watching and who recognize the signs of his presence. Jesus himself said, "Behold, I come as a thief.

Blessed is he that watcheth." (Re 16:15) When Jesus told his disciples that he would be crucified, raised from the dead, ascend to heaven, and then, at the end of the age, return invisibly to earth to establish his kingdom, they wanted to be sure they would recognize such an important event when it occurred. So they asked him, "What shall be the sign of thy presence, and of the end of the age?" (Mt 24:3)

In reply Jesus gave them many signs that would be evidences of his invisible second presence. These signs are everywhere around us today and prove that Christ has returned.

Time will not permit us to cite them all, but let us consider some of them. Although there have always been wars between nations, in Matthew chapter 24 Jesus refers to a scope and intensity of conflict such as the world has never before experienced. It refers to extremely destructive world wars involving every nation of the world:

"For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time; no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved."—Mt 24:21, 22

Since Christ’s return, and as an evidence of it, there have already been two world wars. A third one, using atomic weapons, is threatened. Such a war could, by poisoning the atmosphere, destroy every living thing upon the earth. This particular set of circumstances has never before existed and is a sure sign of the times.

This is confirmed by Daniel:

"And at that time shall Michael [Christ] stand up [return]; the great Prince [ruler] which standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time."—Da 12:1

The very fact that all nations are now vainly striving to bring peace upon the earth is another sign of Christ’s invisible thief-like presence.

The Bible says that at the time of Christ’s presence, the cry for

"peace and safety" would be the loudest. Thus we read the apostle’s words to the faithful, watching Christians who recognize the signs:

"For yourselves know perfectly that the day [presence] of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober."—1Th 5:2-6

Let us take the apostle’s advice and not be as others who ignore the signs of Christ’s presence.

The Sign of the Fig Tree

Another important sign Jesus gave his disciples, which we see fulfilled today, concerns the fig tree:

"Now learn a parable of the fig tree. When his branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh."—Mt 24:32

This sign becomes beautifully clear when it is realized that the fig tree is a symbol of the nation of Israel. Israel was at one time the only nation recognized by God. He said, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth." (Am 3:2) Then they displeased God and were cast off from favor. They were banished from their own land and scattered among the nations. Thus we read:

"Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night, where I will not show you favor."—Jer 16:13

Thus the symbolic fig tree withered. But God promised to restore Israel to his favor, as is written in the next two verses:

"Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but the Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them. And I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers."

This is confirmed by Ezekiel:

"For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land."—Eze 36:24

This is something that is happening—before our eyes and it is thrilling to see. Israel is once again a nation and is being built up in her own land. The fig tree, which was withered and dry for so many centuries, is now budding. It is a sure sign of the end of the age and the return and presence of Christ. We are in the beginning of the time referred to in Acts:

"After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up."—Ac 15:16

The restoration of Israel is an especially significant sign because the Bible teaches that the operation of the kingdom of God on earth, whereby all nations will be blessed, will commence with that nation.

Another important sign that all can recognize today was given by Jesus:

"Upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring."—Lu 21:25, 26

"The sea and the waves roaring" picture the discontented and restless masses of humanity rising up in protest and clamoring for their rights. This is causing distress in every nation to an extent never before experienced in history. Then we read:"Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth."

Men’s hearts are now failing because of several fearful possibilities facing the world for the first time in history, each of which threatens to destroy the human race. There is the threat of an atomic holocaust. There is the ever-increasing pollution of the air, water and earth, whereby people sicken and die. There is the population—explosion, bringing world-wide famine. There is developing a wide- spread anarchy, threatening to overthrow law and order. Fearful as they are, these are signs that Christ is present and that God’s kingdom is about to assume complete power over the earth, to destroy evil, and bring life, health and happiness to all mankind.

Claiming Prayer

"Ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss."—Jas 4:2, 3

THE healing miracles performed by Jesus attracted thousands and thousands of people and he preached the gospel of the kingdom to them. (Mt 4:23) This was his method of quickly gaining a large audience. His time was short—he had a brief 3 1/ 2 years in which to accomplish his ministry. He did not have time to go to them individually; they must come to him—and they did, in very large numbers.

"And there followed him great multitudes of people, from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan."—Mt 4:25

And he healed them. Mt 12:15 says he healed them all. When he saw their sufferings and distresses, their lost and aimless condition, his heart was filled with pity for them.

"But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd."—Mt 9:36

He gave freely of his vitality and his—divine gift of healing. But even a perfect human organism has its limitations. Rest and recuperation are needed even by a perfect man. So at times he simply had to withdraw himself from the multitude no matter how much he pitied them and how much they needed him.

The Importance of Prayer

There were other reasons beside the need for rest to leave the multitude. Most important of all he felt the absolute necessity of regularly communing with his heavenly father. To speak with his father was more important than food or rest to him. As it is written of him, "I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. "( Job 23:12) Luke reports an occasion when "he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." (Lu 6:12)

And another reason to withdraw himself periodically from the multitudes was to be alone with his disciples and teach them. The teaching of his disciples was very different from the preaching to the multitudes. He had things to tell them that the multitudes would not be permitted to understand, that they could not understand. He told his disciples plainly:

"It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; but to them, it is not given."—Mt 13:11

But as a practical matter, how did he manage to escape from the multitude? They surrounded him, they cried and clamored for his healing touch. There were endless numbers of them. If he simply walked off with his disciples following, the multitude would follow too. He would never get away. In fact there is an occasion when Jesus wanted to be alone with his disciples, so someone suggested they take a boat, sail across the lake, and land in a quiet spot where Jesus could talk to them privately. But what happened?

"And they departed into a desert place by ship privately; and the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all the cities; and outwent them, and came together unto him. And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people."—Mr 6:32-34

That didn’t work as they had expected. So what did Jesus do? Reading between the lines, I think it was something like this :Jesus, surrounded by the multitude, would signal just one of his disciples to follow him. Perhaps a nod of the head would suffice. Then, hiding his face, he would quickly mingle with the crowd, and work his way free from the multitude. Before the people realized he was missing, he and the one disciple would be well on their way up the mountain.

On the mountain they would find an isolated spot where Jesus could sit down and rest. Then the one disciple would return down the mountain and tell the other disciples where Jesus’ secret haven was.

Unobtrusively, by twos and threes, and without attracting the attention of the multitudes, they would come to Jesus. This method seems to be suggest—ed in these words:

"And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would, and they came to him."—Mr 3:13

It is also suggested in the occasion we are now considering:

"And, seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain; and when he was set, his disciples came unto him. And he opened his mouth, and taught them."—Mt 5:1, 2

Alone on the Mountain

The noisy multitudes were gone. The heartrending cries of suffering and the tearful pleas to be healed were left behind for awhile. Instead there was the peaceful quietness of the mountain top. The clean, cool mountain air was so refreshing after the dust, dirt and heat of the plains. —Jesus had taken special pains to be alone with his disciples on this occasion. The multitude could wait. What he had to say was for his disciples’ ears alone. He wanted to impart to them some of

"the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, " which the multitude would not understand and could not understand. It would be foolishness to them.

"And he opened his mouth, and taught them, " preaching the most important sermon in history, which came to be called "The Sermon on the Mount." He opened his remarks by the declarations of blessedness we know as "The Beatitudes." It is well the multitudes were not there because it would have been utter foolishness to them:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit"—is it not more blessed to be rich?

"Blessed are they that mourn"—is not happiness more to be desired?

"Blessed are the meek"—everybody knows it is the aggressive ones that get the good things of the world!

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst"—the getting of sufficient food is our greatest problem; and he calls hunger blessed!

"Blessed are the merciful"—it’s only good business to press your advantage, when you have it!

"Blessed are the pure in heart"—well, now, if you don’t have a little healthy suspicion, you’ll be taken advantage of!

"Blessed are the peacemakers"—tell my enemy that! If he stops fighting, I will!

"Blessed are they which are persecut—ed"—oh come now; is the iron rule of Rome a blessed thing?

"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely"—is not a good reputation rather to be desired? Now do you see why he wanted to be alone with his disciples? He had incredible and astonishing things to tell them, real gems of truth, holy things that the world could not appreciate, that they would ridicule and reject. He wanted to use plain speech to his disciples. If the multitude had been present, he would have had to express himself in parables:

"Therefore speak I unto them in parables; because they, seeing, see not; and hearing, they hear not; neither do they understand."—Mt 13:13

In the course of his Sermon on the Mount, he also cautioned his disciples along this line:

"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine; lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."—Mt 7:6

Applying this lesson to ourselves, it is to the hearing ear and the sympathetic mind that our message is directed, to those whom the Lord has drawn and is drawing. As Proverbs expresses it:

"The hearing ear, and the seeing eye; the Lord hath made even both of them."—Pr 20:12

Our message makes no sense to others. They see no beauty in it, it has no appeal. It appears as foolishness.

Here is the particular part of the Sermon on the Mount we are going to consider:

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you; for everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom, if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give a serpent? If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so, to them; for this is the law and the prophets."—Mt 7:7-12

Words for His Followers

This is another of those astonishing utterances of Jesus that the world cannot understand. "Ask, and it shall be given you . . . for everyone that asketh, receiveth." The world hears this and responds:

"This is certainly contrary to our—experience. In fact, you get hardly anything you ask for. We have asked for health, and life, and gotten sickness and death. We have asked for food, and millions have starved to death. We have asked for wise and just rulers, and been saddled with tyranny. We have asked for peace and gotten war."

Then Jesus made the statement, "Seek and ye shall find . . . for he that seeketh, findeth." The poor world, naturally endowed with the propensity of veneration and worship, have sought for the true and loving God but have not found him. They have groped blindly and felt after him without success. We read, "That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him." (Ac 17:27) Seeking safety and security, the nations of the world have united into the United Nations Organization hoping that "he that seeketh, findeth." But the fearful threat of atomic destruction hangs over all.

"Knock, and it shall be opened unto you . . . and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." Do the desired doors of opportunity, attainment, and fortune open upon demand to those of the world? We know that they do not. The world is full of disappointment, discouragement and disillusionment. Instead of doors opening, they slam in one’s face.

To the world these statements of Jesus make no sense even today.

They are pious—ly read in the churches, but are not taken very seriously. They are considered beautiful prose, but impractical and unworkable. So it is a good thing the multitude was not there that day on the mount when Jesus spoke these words. They would have scoffed.

"The learned Rabbi means well, but he doesn’t have much practical experience in the ways of the world. If you want something, grab it; don’t ask, or seek, or knock, or pussyfoot around. Possession is nine- tenths of the law. Just go after it and get it! It’s dog-eat-dog in this world."

Yes, that’s the way it is in Satan’s world. That’s why the Lord’s people are as "strangers and pilgrims on the earth." (Heb 11:13)

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you, for everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened."

These are indeed beautiful words. They are among the most sublime, meaningful and vital words that Jesus ever uttered. They are comforting, reassuring and restful to the soul. Yet there are some, even among the Lord’s people, who are actually discouraged by these words! Why? Because they have tried them and have failed.

They have asked, and not received; they have sought, and not found; they have knocked, and it has not been opened. Then that serpent Satan has been quick to suggest to them:"You are obviously not one of the Lord’s called-out ones. If you were, his promise would not fail you." So they stop asking, they stop claiming this exceeding great and precious promise. Instead of bread, they accept a stone; instead of fish, a serpent.

But why does the promise seem to have failed them? We read,

"There hath not failed one word of all his good promise." (1Ki 8:56) What is wrong? Let us consider some of the possibilities that can be wrong so we can correct them and be able to receive all the lavish blessings the Lord has promised to them that love him. There are several necessary ingredients to the successful claiming of this promise. These are clearly given in the scriptures for our information and benefit. The Lord wants us to avail ourselves of this promise and has supplied all the information necessary for us to do so.

The Proper Way to Ask

Two of the requirements are found in our text:"Ye have not, because ye ask not; ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss." (Jas 4:2)

One must ask for God’s blessings and there is a prescribed way of asking. We also see that there are things we should not ask for, which are amiss to ask for.

An important requirement is faith:

"Without faith, it is impossible to please God." —Heb 11:6

There are specific things mentioned that we may ask for—we are invited to ask for—with the full assurance, that if we do so in the prescribed manner, we shall receive them. There is also the necessity for persistence and perseverance in asking for the proper things. But this is the primary requirement mentioned by Jesus:

" If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."—Joh 15:7

There are conditions in this statement: " If ye abide in me." Those who abide in Christ must have gotten into him by faith, by repentance, and by consecration. To abide in him means that faith will abide, the repentance for sin and opposition to it will abide, and the consecration to the Lord and his service will abide and be manifest.

The other condition is also important: " If my words abide in you."

The Lord here associates himself and his word (the scriptures) in the minds, in the hearts, in the lives, in the prayers of all who are truly his. The word of God should be a part of our very being. If it is, it will have a tremendous power over us, leading us safely, keeping us secure whether asleep or awake, lighting our way, and instructing us continually along the path of life. This is what we read about God’s words:

"Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; and when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou wakest, it shall talk with thee; for the commandment is a lamp, and the law is a light; and reproofs of instruction, are the way of life."—Pr 6:21-23, If the word of God becomes part of us, we can say it is "in him we live, and move and have our being." (Ac 17:28) Let us analyze the various requirements for claiming this most precious promise:"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." James says, "Ye have not, because ye ask not." But some might say:

"Why should I ask? Did not Jesus say your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him? (Mt 6:8) If I am his child, and he knows what I need, why should I have to ask?"

Of course your heavenly Father knows what you need. He knows everything, but he still wants you to ask. There is no better proof than that in the next five verses, after Jesus said "your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him, " he taught his disciples how to pray. In that prayer he included the petition:

"Give us this day our daily bread." We are told to ask because when we ask, our minds are prepared to receive. God will not give us his precious things until we are prepared to receive and appreciate them.

If we say, "There is no use for me to ask for that, " and then do not ask, of course we will not get it. He wants to hear our requests; it means something to him. What we want and long to have, what we consider important, indicates the condition of our hearts. That is what he wants to see. We can’t tell him what our needs are; we don’t really know ourselves. We don’t know what’s good for us. But our heavenly Father knows. Jesus said in this same sermon:"Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things [the material things]." Then he said:

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."—Mt 6:32, 33

Jesus’ Formula for Material Things

Some feel we should not ask for material things, that it is sinful to do so. Now here is a perfectly safe way, an approved way, a formula given by Jesus himself, describing how we might obtain our necessary material needs:"Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." The Diaglott says "SUPERADDED to you." That sounds like an abundance, all you really need. It is a positive statement. You can positively claim this promise if the kingdom of God and his righteousness is first and foremost in your life. Although we cannot and need not tell the Lord what our needs are, we can tell him (and he loves to hear) our heart intentions, our sincere desires, our longings and aspirations.

"Be careful for nothing [be not anxious about anything], but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God."—Php 4:6

Our asking must be done in the proper manner, in the prescribed way. Jesus said:

"I am the way . . . And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do; that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it."—Joh 14:6, 13, 14

Unless we have asked in this way, we have not asked properly.

After saying, "Ye have not, because ye ask not, " James adds:"Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts [or appetites]." What are these things that are amiss which we may not ask for with any hope of receiving? These are the purely selfish things that are not to the glory of God nor to the benefit of his people. While we are taught to pray for our daily bread, we are not taught to pray for money or luxuries to be showered upon us. However, it is certainly not amiss to labor and to ask the Lord’s blessing upon our labors, to seek guidance from him in the performance of our daily work. It is certainly not amiss to receive with thankfulness the fruit of our labors, much or little, as the Lord may see best for us. "The laborer is worthy of his hire." (Lu 10:7)

Some might think that all the good things of life are "amiss" to ask for. This is certainly not so. It is only the unimportant things that are amiss, things pertaining to the flesh—the short human existence, the brief earthly life. But all the enduring things, the eternal things, the heavenly things, the things that really count, are included in the promise:"Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."

Now let us reason together. How long do you expect to live on this earth? Perhaps as much as a hundred years? Such a long human life is a tiny, infinitesimal, insignificant span of life compared with the eternity of the divine nature. In the words of Paul:"Not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Ro 8:18) How incomparably more important it is, then, to ask for and receive the heavenly gifts—the treasures of heaven—rather than the miserable, groveling, selfish benefits that are so temporary and which wither like grass. Let us never ask as did the Israelites in the wilderness for flesh and the leeks and the onions of Egypt. Let us not " ask amiss."

In claiming the promise, "Ask, and it shall be given you, " there is the tremendously vital ingredient of faith:

"But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering [or, as the Diaglott says, ‘not hesitating’] for he that wavereth [or hesitates] is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways."—Jas 1:6-8

When Jesus was on earth, he found a woeful lack of faith. He was in the nation of Israel, the people favored of God, a chosen people, heirs of history rich with God’s loving kindness. Should he not have found a strong, unwavering faith? But in fact he found little faith.

Even among his own disciples, there were doubting Thomases, and sinking Peters. He once said to them, as if in surprise:"How is it that ye have no faith?" (Mr 4:40)

Demonstrations of Faith

When Jesus saw a real demonstration of faith, he was exceedingly pleased. One such account is given in Matthew chapter 8 which I will paraphrase. Jesus had just come down from the mountain and a

great multitude followed him. A man with a hideous case of leprosy came to him and was instantly healed. As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, a centurion, a Roman—officer commanding a hundred soldiers, made an appeal to Jesus. He said that his servant was seriously sick. Jesus said that he would come and heal him. But the centurion said, "Lord, it is not necessary that you leave the service of this multitude to come to my house. I understand your position. I, too, am a man of authority in my small way. If I want something done, I issue a command and it’s done. But what do my hundred soldiers compare with this tremendous power of God that is in your hands? My house is far too humble for you to enter." Now I quote from the scripture:"But speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed :Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel! . . . And Jesus said unto the centurion :Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour."

Note the words, "as thou hast believed." This phrase describes faith!

Here is another similar event:

"While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead; but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live."—Mt 9:18

She did indeed live. Here’s another example:

"And, behold a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment; for, she said within herself, if I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole."—Mt 9:20, 21

And she was! What magnificent exhibitions of pure, and simple faith these are! Think of it! Faith that can say:"My servant is desperately ill; but don’t trouble to come all the way to my house to see him. Just say the word here, and he will be cured." Faith that can say:"My daughter is dead; but lay your hands on her and she will live!" Faith that can say:"I’ve been sick for twelve years; the doctors can do nothing; but if I only touch his coat, I’ll be all right!" Why can’t we all have faith like that, faith not to obtain physical healing for a few brief years on this earth, but to ask for and receive the eternal and enduring things God has promised us? On the road to Bethany Jesus had spoken to the fruitless fig tree; the tree instantly withered at his command.

"And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! Jesus answered, and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not

only do this, which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, it shall be done! And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."—Mt 21:19-22

From these words of Jesus has sprung a common adage:"Mountain- moving faith" or "Faith to move mountains, " describing a strong and complete faith.

"If ye have faith, and doubt not . . . Ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed . . . and it shall be done!" What a remarkable thing for Jesus to say to his disciples, and to us! Is it possible that through simple faith such a tremendous power is available to us? What did Jesus mean? Of course this statement of Jesus has primarily a symbolic significance. The fig tree represented the Jewish nation, cast off from favor, its hopes withering. When Jesus came to it, he found no fruit. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." (Joh 1:11) As he said:

"Therefore I say unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."—Mt 21:43

But what did the mountain which shall be cast into the sea represent? I think it represents the kingdom and authority of Satan which will sink into destruction in a sea of anarchy. We see the rising tide of anarchy today.

Personal Mountains

In addition to this specific symbolism, I think there is more a personal application to each one of us. Yes, each one of us, if we have faith, can move mountains.

Do you have mountains of trials, towering before you, seemingly insurmountable? They can be removed, if you have faith.

Do you have mountains of problems, piled high blocking your progress in the narrow way? They can be solved, if you have faith.

Are there mountains of fleshly weaknesses that seem to come between and threaten your communion with the Lord and his people?

They can be overcome with faith.

Do you have mountains of earthly obligations that leave so little time and strength for the Lord and his service?

Faith will find a way.

Are not such mountains as these more important than literal mountains of soil and rock? Is not their removal a much greater accomplishment, a greater miracle, and much more to the glory of God?

Let us suppose you have one of these mountains of trials, problems, fleshly weaknesses, earthly obligations, or other things you would like removed. What should you do? In faith claim the promise:"Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you." First we should ask:

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."—Heb 4:16

Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask in—Jesus’ name. Our mountains may not be removed at once but we are assured of a loving and merciful consideration of our case, and grace to help. If the removal of the mountain is delayed, we know that such delay is designed to work some good thing in us.

After asking let us also claim the promise:"Seek, and ye shall find."

Let us implement our desire to remove the mountain by seeking ways to do it ourselves. Let us do our part. We are told we will "find grace to help." To find, we must seek. Have we really done our best? One way to move a mountain from in front of you to behind you, is to climb over it. Another way is to walk around it. Back home on the farm, if we had a tree stump too big to pull and too wet to burn, we plowed around it. Sure it was annoying to see it there, standing in the way. But we learned to accept it and did not let it hinder us in our work. With the passage of time, it finally decayed and collapsed of its own accord. Let us also—remove our mountains by claiming the promise:"Knock and it shall be opened unto you." We can "knock" on the door of the scriptures and often have the answer to our difficulty opened to us.

Consider the case of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. The death of Jesus had been a cruel blow to them, a mountain of disappointment in their path. They—contemplated returning to their former earthly pursuits, thoroughly discouraged. But then we read:

"And their eyes were opened, . . . And they said, one to another, did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?"—Lu 24:31, 32

The opening of the scriptures did the job. Their mountain was removed and they felt a glorious sense of relief. Jesus can also talk to you about your mountain. But you’ll have to "knock" by faithfully reading the scriptures, and the wonderful—Bible helps provided in the Studies in the Scriptures . If you do this with faith, it will be opened unto you. That’s a promise. "Believing, ye shall receive."

Specific Things to Request

We have considered the necessity for asking, that we must not ask amiss, that we must ask in Jesus’ name, that we must ask in faith, and that we must do our part. Now let us consider the specific things we may ask for with the full assurance that if we do and in the prescribed manner, we shall receive them:

"And this is the confidence we have in him; that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us. And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."—1Jo 5:14, 15

Confidence in God

Notice the expressions of faith in this scripture:"The confidence we have in him; we know that he hears us; we know that we have our petitions." This confidence and assurance is based on our asking "according to his will."

What are these things that are "according to his will" which we are told to ask for and which, if we ask, we will receive? One of these is suggested by James:

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."—Jas 1:5

"But this is fantastic, " you might say. "God is the source of all wisdom. Can I obtain his wisdom by just asking?" Yes, you can. But God does not open our skulls and pour wisdom into our brains through a funnel. Nor does he speak audibly and privately with us to impart special knowledge not available to others. Nor does he send exclusive revelations to us through a certain organization. No! His wisdom is in his word. As Paul said to Timothy:

"Thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation."—2Ti 3:15

It is through the scriptures that his wisdom is to be revealed to us.

Let us consider the small "if" at the beginning of the promise:"If any of you lack wisdom." How important it is for us to first realize our lack, that we are nothing and know nothing of ourselves.

Everyone dislikes a "know-it-all"; God dislikes it too. The world calls those who have such an—attitude "smart-alecks." Those who think they know it all have nothing to learn They can never obtain wisdom. But the humble, the meek, the teachable, those who know their lack of wisdom, these may ask and receive. There is an old saying:"The significance of the vessel is not in the shell, but in the void"—the emptiness, the ability to contain something. A lack of wisdom must be humbly realized before the emptiness or void, can be filled. Solomon provides an excellent example of this principle.

The account is in 1 Kings chapter 3. When Solomon was crowned king in the place of his father David, God said to him:"Ask what I shall give thee." Think of it! The omnipotent God, offering Solomon anything he wanted! No conditions, no strings. He had but to ask.

Anything! What an opportunity! He was already a king, but just for the asking, he could have fabulous wealth, great honor, triumph over all his enemies, long life in good health—ANYTHING! But for what did Solomon ask? He said, "I am but a little child. I know not how to go out, or come in." Then he simply asked God for an understanding heart, to discern between good and bad, to enable him to be a just and good king over Israel. The record says:

"And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him:because thou hast not asked for thyself long life; neither have asked riches for thyself, nor have asked the life of thine enemies; but have asked for thyself understanding, to discern judgment; behold I have done according to thy words. Lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked—both riches and honor; so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee, all thy days."—1Ki 3:10-13

The Way to Please God

"And the speech pleased the Lord." Do you want to please the Lord? Here is the formula: Go to him as a little child and ask him for an understanding and discerning heart. That will please the Lord.

Your request will be granted, and who knows what other spiritual riches may be granted besides!

Here is another specific gift we may request:

"If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy spirit to them that ask him?"—Lu 11:13

God’s Gift—The Holy Spirit

This is an extraordinarily rich and lavish gift, because the holy spirit has so many forms and manifestations. It is variously called in the scriptures The Spirit of God, The Spirit of Christ, The Spirit of Truth, The Spirit of Holiness, The Spirit of a Sound Mind, The Spirit of Liberty, The Spirit of the Father, The Spirit of Promise, The Spirit of Meekness, The Spirit of Understanding, The Spirit of Wisdom, The Spirit of Glory, The Spirit of Counsel, The Spirit of Grace, The Spirit of Adoption, and The Spirit of Prophecy.

We may ask for the fruits of the spirit:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering [or forbearance], gentleness [or kindness], goodness, faith [or fidelity], meekness and temperance [or self-control]."—Ga 5:22, 23

These treasures of the holy spirit are ours for the asking, and we are invited to ask for them. But don’t expect to receive them suddenly, all at once. They will be given gradually as we make room for them in our hearts and minds. As we depose and empty ourselves of the wrong spirit—the spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil—the promise is, nevertheless, sure if we ask.

We may also ask for the nations:

"Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen [or the nations] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel."—Ps 2:8, 9

We participate in this promise with Christ, as members of his body.

We shall indeed inherit the nations, reducing them to obedience to God’s kingdom with a rod of iron, typifying firm divine authority or control, dashing evil governments, principalities, and powers to pieces. This is something we can ask for with assurance.

I came across another interesting thing to ask for in Zechariah:

"Ask ye of the Lord rain, in the time of the latter rains; so the Lord shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain."—Zec 10:1

Rain is a symbol of truth. The "latter rains" probably refer to the harvest truths given in the latter, or last days of the Gospel age.

"Ask ye of the Lord rain [a wide promulgation of truth]; in the time of the latter rains [at the end of the Gospel Age, when harvest truth is proclaimed]; so the Lord shall make bright clouds [the clouds of trouble are bright with promises to us]; and give them showers of rain [a really saturating broadcast of harvest truth]."

Let us pray for the harvest work and do our part in it.

Maintaining the Old Paths

Finally, we can ask for the "old paths":

"Thus saith the Lord; stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls."—Jer 6:16

Let us stand in the way we have chosen and not be drawn away from it. Let us continue to see the precious truths of old, made clear by a faithful and wise servant, and not deviate from them. Let us ask to be kept steadfast in the old paths, the strait gate, the narrow way, the good way, and not be diverted by new and strange road signs. Let us continue to walk there—in, confidently and serenely, finding rest for our souls.

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened."

Let us claim this promise, and make it our own!

Crumbs from the Master’s Table

TODAY we are going to consider an incident that is recorded in Mt 15:21-28 and Mr 7:24-30. It is the account of Jesus’ healing the daughter of the Syrophenician woman. But first let us consider some background as given in Mark’s account.

Herod had beheaded John the Baptist under the most bizarre circumstances and his conscience—what was left of it—was assailed by superstitious remorse. At this time Jesus went about preaching the kingdom and performing wonderful miracles of love and mercy, and the people flocked to him. They even considered taking him and making him a king. This growing popularity of Jesus disturbed Herod. We read:

"And Herod heard of him, for his name was spread abroad; and he said that John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him."—Mr 6:14

Jesus knew what was going on in Herod’s warped and depraved mind. He knew there was a possibility that Herod would seek to kill him. Jesus was not afraid to die. This was the very purpose for which he had come to earth. But he knew that it was not due time for him to die. He had a work to do, a ministry to perform, and only when that was finished at a certain pre-determined and prophesied time, he would be offered up—not before. So it was because of prudence and not because of fear that he left Galilee temporarily and, together with a few of his disciples, journeyed about 45 miles toward the Mediterranean. It was a two-day journey in those days. Today, by jet, it would take about five minutes. This brought Jesus to what is called in our lesson, "The borders of Tyre and Sidon, " an area within the boundary of the land called Phoenicia of which Tyre and Sidon were the principle cities. Jesus did not enter these cities. Apparently he merely crossed the borders of Galilee thus freeing himself, for a time, from the authority of Herod. By so doing he was by no means abdicating his ministry. It was an interlude he would profitably utilize for necessary physical recuperation, meditation, prayer and the private instruction of his disciples.

Jesus—The Perfect Specimen

Jesus would have preferred that no one recognize him in Phoenicia.

Mr 7:24 tells us that he "entered into an house, and would have no man know it. But he could not be hid." Of course he could not be hid! Have you ever thought of the contrast there must be between a

perfect man and a fallen, depraved man? At that time mankind had fallen for 4000 years, with each succeeding generation "born in sin and shapen in iniquity" (Ps 51:5), and every generation adding its cumulative effect of physical disfiguration. In 4000 years they had become miserable caricatures of the real thing. It is even more so today. So we can picture Jesus arriving in Phoenicia accompanied by his very ordinary looking disciples. Being a replica of the beautiful and physically perfect Adam with the grace and regal bearing of the King of earth, he, by sheer contrast, caught the attention of everyone who saw him. He was quickly identified as Jesus and the news of his arrival was rapidly passed from mouth to mouth. The great prophet and healer of Israel, about whom they had heard so much, was in their midst! Now we read:

"A certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation. And she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter."—Mr 7:25, 26

One can scarcely imagine the heartbreak which that poor woman had to endure! A devil had taken possession of her sweet little girl!

The specific manifestations of such an obsession are too horrible to describe in detail. Matthew’s account says she was "grievously vexed with a devil." The—Weymouth translation renders it, "Cruelly harassed by a demon." This devil, or unclean spirit, was one of the fallen angels who had been instrumental in corrupting the earth in the days of Noah. This was one of the powerful spirit beings who, allied with Satan, had tyrannized and degraded mankind so that,

"Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence."—Ge 6:5, 11

Under the domination of Satan these fallen angels became demons who were tyrants and bullies. They used their superior powers to influence mankind to wickedness, pulling them down to depths of depravity. Now here was one of these ancient bullies who, as is typical of bullies, did not "pick on someone his own size." He had seized control of the brain of a helpless little girl. He expressed himself through the lips of that innocent child, using most foul and profane language. That is why he was called an "unclean" or "impure" spirit. He sometimes controlled the girl’s body to viciously attack anyone who came near. The poor mother probably had many scars of these encounters with her own daughter. She knew it was only a matter of time when the poor girl would be driven to suicide.

The mother was now at her wits’ end not knowing what to do. She had been hearing of Jesus, the great healer of Israel, who was doing such wonderful things in distant Galilee. She had heard that he frequently cast out devils from those obsessed. But her daughter had

to be kept under restraint. She could not take her the necessary two days’ journey to Galilee; besides, she had heard that Jesus would not have dealings with any but Israelites. So she had just about given up hope on that score. We can imagine her elation when a neighbor ran to her home and breathlessly said,

"A most wonderful thing has happened! Jesus, the great prophet and healer of Israel is here in our village! He arrived just a little while ago with his disciples; and I know the very house he is in, right now!"

A hope, almost dead, revived and surged in her heart.

A Mother’s Love

There is really no accounting for the love of a mother for her child.

There is nothing logical about mother love. It is a blind and driving force of pure, unselfish devotion. It rejects cold, calculating reason, and gladly attempts even the obviously impossible for her child’s welfare. So casting aside every logical objection this mother lost no time in going to Jesus. We are told that she "came and fell at his feet." (Mr 7:25) We also read that, "She cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David! My daughter is grievously vexed with a devil!" (Mt 15:22)

Then Jesus did something that seems so unlike him. Verse 23 says,

"But he answered her not a word." You may be sure that this was not because of a lack of compassion. Jesus was never insensitive to grief or pain. He was the most compassionate man the world has ever known. We read in Mt 9:36 that, when he saw the suffering multitude, "He was moved with compassion on them." His heart went out to them in love and sympathy. It is written of him that he healed "every sickness and every disease among the people." When Lazarus died and Jesus saw the sorrow of Mary and Martha, his heart melted in sympathy and he wept. He certainly knew the situation of this unfortunate woman even before she told him. Why, then, did he turn away in silence? I think it was because he saw in this woman a faith of unusual magnitude, a faith worthy of testing. This seeming indifference on Jesus’ part did not deter the woman in the least. She continued her earnest entreaty, "Have mercy on me, O Lord!" over and over again.

A former American Consul at Jerusalem has written,

"To one who has ever held a prominent or official position in the East, the persistency of pleading women is a fact one will never forget! They will not be driven from their purpose in a rough manner. Severe language does not deter them. They are not wearied by delays. They will sit and wait, hour after hour, and come day by day, ignoring all kinds of—refusals. They are importunate beyond anything that I ever experienced in our Western life."

In addition to this natural characteristic of Eastern women, this mother who pleaded with Jesus was driven by a more powerful incentive than most. She was pleading for the life of her daughter.

Finally, they could not stand it any longer and went to Jesus about it.

We read, "And his disciples came, and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us." (Mt 15:23) The disciples were sympathetic to her cause. When they said "Send her away, " they did not mean for Jesus to send her away empty. They meant,

"Grant her request, and let her go. It is such a simple thing for you to do. You have healed thousands in Israel. You have cast out legions of demons from others. Cast out this demon also, from her daughter, and send the poor woman away in peace."

Then Jesus "answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Mt 15:24) In other words,

"My ministry is confined exclusively to the nation of Israel. This woman is a Gentile, an outsider. Do you not remember when I sent you forth to preach and heal, that I told you, ‘Go not in the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel? ‘[Mt 10:5, 6] This woman has no claim upon us."

At this point it seems that the woman herself came into the presence of Jesus having followed closely upon the heels of the disciples. She probably heard what Jesus just said. Now she prostrated herself before Jesus in an attitude of worship. We read in verses 25 and 26:

"Then came she, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me! But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs."

This seems a very harsh thing for Jesus to have said, but it really was not. His answer to her was not one of disdain or contempt, nor did it indicate indifference to her great misfortune. Our Lord had no such feelings toward any. On the contrary he was undoubtedly greatly moved by her predicament. But it was necessary for him to give her a reason for his position in the matter. He was also further testing the great faith he saw in her.

We must remember that at that time the term "dogs" was commonly applied to all Gentiles by the Jews as signifying their inferiority in the sight of God. God’s dealings were exclusively with the house of Israel, and dogs were normally kept outside the house. It was an apt term. Our Lord merely made use of an expression common in his day which the Gentile woman understood perfectly. But even here the Lord mercifully softened the expression, giving the woman a ray of hope. It seems that he here used a word for "dogs" which signifies, not ferocious, outside dogs, but house dogs, dogs which were well-loved and were the pets and companions of the children.

In Mark’s account we find that Jesus gave the woman still another tiny ray of hope:

"But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled. For it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs."—Mr 7:27

This implied that once the children had enough, some bread might be spared for the dogs. Do you see how loving and merciful Jesus really was? Far from discouraging the poor woman, he was helping her and leading her on to the strong declaration of faith which she then made. She saw and eagerly grasped her opportunity:"And she said, Truth, Lord. Yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table." (Mt 15:27) Or as Mark records it, "Yes, Lord. Yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs." (Mr 7:28)

Jesus was delighted and greatly touched with this response. He saw in this Gentile woman many excellent traits of character, a great love, a humble spirit, a persistent seeking after blessing, and above all, a magnificent FAITH which even the most devout Jew might emulate. He took her by the hand and gently raised her from her knees, and we read in verse 28:

"Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith! Be it unto thee even as thou wilt!"

At that very moment at the home of the woman a force as of lightning struck the demon and he was violently expelled from the little girl. As the Diaglott says, "And her daughter was cured from that very moment." The woman hurried home without any doubt in her mind that her request had indeed been granted. "And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed." (Mr 7:30) Her little girl was peacefully sleeping for the first time in many years.

Some Lessons for Us

Let us go back and consider some of the lessons to be derived from this incident. First, we can learn something from the prudence which Jesus exercised by briefly leaving the jurisdiction of Herod. Unless principle is involved we should avoid trouble all we can. Although we may sometimes feel the enmity of the world, we should never incite it. As Ro 12:18 tells us, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." And 2Ti 2:24, "The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men." In this way our usefulness to the Lord, and our influence for good in the world will be prolonged. Considering the special intensity of violence that is in the world today, we should act prudently, not exposing ourselves recklessly, saying "God will take care of me." Of course he will. He would have taken care of Jesus too. Jesus himself said, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Mt 26:53)

Even so Jesus acted prudently just the same until his time had come. So with us. We will get all the help we need when it is necessary just as Daniel received it when, for the sake of principle, he was cast into the den of lions, and the Hebrew children when they were thrown into the fiery furnace. But let us not make the mistake of jumping into a "den of lions" or into a "fiery furnace."

The great love the Syrophenician woman had for her child, reminds us of God’s love for us, his children. Mother-love is an apt illustration of God-love, except that God’s love is even more intense. "Can a woman forget her sucking child? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee!" (Isa 49:15) The same thought is expressed in a psalm:"When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." (Ps 27:10)

No Problem Is Too Great/ Small For God

There is a lesson in the fact that this—Gentile woman ignored every logical reason why she should not go to Jesus with her problem—and went anyhow. Do we sometimes have problems that we hesitate to lay before the Lord? Do we wonder whether they are too great, too small, too intimate, too complicated, too simple, too worldly—or too something else? Are we afraid of being ignored or rebuffed? It should not be so if we are God’s children. Jesus said, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me. And him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." (Joh 6:37) To which Heb 4:16 adds,

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." We read:

"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee. He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." (Ps 55:22) There is no stipulation about the kind of burden, or problem, or need. It refers to ANY kind.

The manner in which the Syrophenician woman approached Jesus holds a valuable lesson for us because it was an effective approach that the Lord approved and rewarded. Let us note that she was not brazen or assertive. She did not reproach Jesus for his partiality toward the seed of Abraham and did not claim to be just as good and deserving. She was not demanding. She did not even express a specific wish. She merely told the Lord the nature of her trouble and said, "Lord, have mercy on me! Lord, help me!" She did not tell the Lord what to do. She left it entirely to the Lord’s wisdom as to how or when the help and mercy should be bestowed. We certainly can learn from this how to approach the Lord acceptably. Are we not dealing with the very same Lord who is now our Advocate, at the right hand of God? So, as Php 4:6 instructs us, "Let your requests be made known unto God, " and then simply say, "Lord, help me!" You may be sure his way will be the very best way.

God Hears Our Petitions

When the woman had made her earnest plea, we read that Jesus

"answered her not a word." Does it sometimes happen that the Lord answers us "not a word"? Do we ever go to him with problems that seem very important and urgent to us and apparently receive no response? I am sure this has happened to every one of us. It can be a severe test of faith. Questions arise in one’s mind, "Am I a child of God, or am I not? Has my consecration ever been accepted? Am I in covenant relationship with God? Have I, perhaps, lost favor with the Lord? Has he turned his face from me?" With continued delay comes discouragement. "It’s no use to ask any more, " one may say. "The Lord evidently does not hear my prayers. And if he does, he doesn’t intend to answer."

These are suggestions from the Adversary and should be instantly rejected. We should have no doubt that the Lord does hear our prayer:"The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry." (Ps 34:15) Then reassured, we should next consider Jesus’ own words:"If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." (Joh 15:7)

This is a positive statement, a firm promise. Then let us ask ourselves, "Am I abiding in Christ? Am I carrying out my consecration as a member of his body?" If so, the next question is,

"Does the Lord’s word abide in me? Am I seeking to be always guided by his word of truth?" Then the most important question, "Is the blessing I am seeking in harmony with God’s Word and Plan?" If it is, we should persist in our request just as the Syrophenician woman did. We will obtain the same result she did. Our prayer will be answered in the Lord’s own way and time. Because of our patient persistence, he will say to us also, "Great is thy faith!" The delay will not really be long.

This is the very lesson Jesus taught in his parable of the importunate widow (Lu 18:1-8). He summed it up by saying, according to Weymouth,

"And will not God avenge the wrongs of his own people who cry aloud to him day and night, although he seems slow in taking action on their behalf? Yes, he will soon avenge their wrongs!"

Let us emulate the positive faith of Paul:

"For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him."—2Ti 1:12

When the Lord "answered her not a word, " he was testing the woman’s strong faith. Let us learn from this that the Lord tests our strengths not our weaknesses . When the Lord subjects us to a test of faith, let us take it as an indication that he considers our faith strong and worthy of testing. Such trials should encourage and not discourage us.

When the woman pleaded with him, —Jesus withheld his blessing and said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

We were all at one time as that woman was. Our former condition is well described as,

"Without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world."—Eph 2:12

Yes, at one time we too were dogs, out of favor with the Lord. As the psalm says, "So foolish was I, and ignorant, I was as a beast before thee." (Ps 73:22) Then a great transformation took place:

"But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ." (Eph 2:13) And in Galatians:

"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."—Ga 3:26-29

The High Calling Offered to Others

Thus the high calling which was first—offered exclusively to natural Israel, was now made available to individuals who constitute spiritual Israel. By the grace of God we have heard and accepted the call.

When Jesus told the woman "It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to dogs, " she answered, "Truth, Lord. Yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the Master’s table." This reminds us of Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.

"There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores; and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores."—Lu 16:19- 21

Here again we find a person who is an—associate of "dogs" desiring

"crumbs" from the "table." In this picture the "rich man" represented the Jewish nation, rich in God’s favor. He was clothed in purple, invested with royalty. The Jews were of a Royal Priesthood because of the promises to Abraham and David. The high calling was first offered to them. The rich man was clothed in the fine linen of righteousness, the Jews being typically a holy people. He fared sumptuously, the Jews being the special recipients of God’s favor.

His word was given to them. The prophets were sent to them. As we read in Romans:

"What advantage then hath the Jews? . . . Much every way. Chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God."—Ro 3:1, 2

The beggar Lazarus, the associate of dogs, represented the Gentile outcasts from divine favor. The Syrophenician woman was one of this class. As Lazarus begged, "Desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table, " she begged Jesus for a crumb from the table of divine favor. The parable goes on to show how later the positions of the rich man and Lazarus were reversed, the

beggar being exalted to favor and the rich man degraded. This shows the temporary casting off of natural Israel and the opening of the high calling to the Gentiles. But that is another lesson.

When the Lord finally acted on behalf of the Syrophenician woman, the result came with lightning speed :her daughter was instantly healed. As the record states, "Her daughter was cured from that very moment." This is often the experience of the Lord’s people. After much pleading and crying to the Lord, after much delay and vexation trying one’s patience and faith to the utmost, the answer suddenly comes in a time and manner least expected. The difficulty is instantly removed. This has been a part of my own—experience and I can testify that it is powerfully strengthening to faith. After having such an experience one always remembers it and never doubts the Lord again.

There is another lesson we can learn from this incident of Jesus healing the daughter of the Syrophenician woman that I think is very encouraging and heart-warming. It gives us an insight into the wonderful character of God. We learn that the Lord lovingly and mercifully makes exceptions to his stated rules. For example, although Jesus told the poor Gentile woman, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel, "—nevertheless, he did heal her daughter. On another occasion, although he commanded his disciples

"Go not into the way of the Gentiles, " he himself did heal the Roman Centurion’s servant. (Mt 8:5-13) Although he told his disciples,

"Into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not, " we find that after he talked with the woman of Samaria at Jacob’s well, he spent two days in a Samaritan city with his disciples. It is recorded that as a result of this, "many believed because of his own word." (Joh 4:41) Someone may ask,

"Is not this making of exceptions to stated rules contrary to God’s character? Does not Jas 1:17 describe the Heavenly Father as one ‘with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning? ‘And does not God say in Mal 3:6, ‘I am the Lord; I change not? ‘And is it not written in Ps 89:34, ‘My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips? ‘And does not Nu 23:19

tell us, ‘Hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? ‘"

These scriptures emphasize the absolute justice and dependability of God, that he may be utterly relied upon to carry out his divine plan of the Ages for the blessing of mankind. Such scriptures give us confidence in God. However, we must not forget that in addition to being a just God, he is also a loving God.

Love Tempers Justice

Let us now note how his love tempers his justice, how that even in his law he made provision for the exercise of love. For example,

"Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed." (Ge 9:6)

Yet provision was made for exceptions. Cities of refuge were provided in—Israel to which unpremeditated killers could flee and thus escape the avenger of blood. (Nu 35:6) We read:"Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." (Ex 21:24, 25) These provisions of the law were permissive but they were not compulsory. If someone knocked your tooth out, you had the right to knock out one of his; but you could choose to forgive him if you wanted to. Similarly the loss of a hand or foot might be avenged by the cutting off of the hand or foot of the guilty person, but I am sure few would be disposed to do such a gruesome thing. If someone burned your house down, you had the right to retaliate and burn his house down; but you were not compelled to enforce your right. In all these things you could choose to exercise pity and mercy, and forgive the offender if you wanted to. To do so would be godlike. This is exactly what the Lord does to us. We read:

"Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy." —Mic 7:18

In dealing with us, the Lord does not exact full retribution for our sins. This is beautifully brought out in a psalm:

"He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he—removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust."—Ps 103:10-14

A merciful abstaining from exacting the full penalty of the law does not violate justice; it goes beyond justice, it exceeds justice. Jesus enjoined this superseding law of love upon his disciples:

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil. But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also; And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."—Mt 5:38-41

These are figurative expressions to illustrate the law of love by which a Christian lives. He is not to exact strict justice but to go beyond and above it.

The law of weights and measures which God gave to Israel provides an apt illustration of this:

"Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have."—Le 19:35, 36

This was strict justice. It was absolutely right. They must not do less. But Jesus taught his followers that by the law of love, they should do more than that; they should exceed justice. He said:

"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together and running over." (Lu 6:38) The law didn’t require them to press down and shake together, to eliminate air spaces and allow more to fit in the container. It did not require them to pour liquid until it ran over the edge of the vessel. So did this teaching of Jesus contradict the law? No, there is no contradiction. It is entirely proper and always permissible to give more than the law demands, but never to give less.

Jesus Gave "Crumbs" to the Gentiles

This is why Jesus, although sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, was free to make exceptions and lovingly to give crumbs of blessing to some Gentiles who had no claim to them, being outside the commonwealth of Israel. In this he exemplified his Heavenly Father who so loved the world that he arranged a way for the justly condemned Adam, who had no claim to life, to be released from death.

Do you often like to surprise those you love with a gift, something precious they do not expect and for which they have not asked? God is like that too, only his gifts are exceedingly greater than we can ever give. This is what the apostle means when he refers to, "Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think." (Eph 3:20) Jesus himself said,

"If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your Heavenly Father?"—Lu 11:13

We must not be disposed to chide the Lord if he sometimes makes loving exceptions to his rules and grants crumbs of blessing to those outside our fellowship, even to some in the nominal systems. That is the Lord’s business. In the language of Job, "Who can hinder him? Who will say unto him, What doest thou?" (Job 9:12) Daniel says of him:

"He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. And none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?"—Da 4:35

Knowing what a loving God we have we should expect to receive from him blessings, "Pressed down, and shaken together, and running over." If faithful to our consecration, we should confidently claim the promise,

"Prove me herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it!"—Mal 3:10

No, we don’t have to beg for crumbs. We are the children seated at the Lord’s table. "If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." (Ro 8:17) All the marvelous bounties of the Lord are ours!

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal

ELIJAH has been called "the grandest and most romantic character that Israel ever produced." All we know of his parentage and origin is found in 1Ki 17:1 which refers to him as "Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead."

The significance of the name Elijah is interesting. It is dramatically brought to our attention by an incident in the New Testament. Jesus is hanging on the cross; his hour has come and in a few minutes he will die as the ransom price for mankind. Now we read:

"And about the ninth hour, Jesus exclaimed with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, Lama Sa-bach-tha-ni? That is, My God! My God!

Why has thou forsaken me? And some of those standing there, hearing him, said, He calls for Elijah."—Mt 27:46, 47, Diaglott Why do you suppose they thought he was calling for Elijah? The reason is simple. The name Elijah means "Jehovah, my God." So when Jesus addressed his heavenly Father as "My God, " he pronounced the name of Elijah.

At the time of our lesson, about 900 BC, Ahab was king of Israel. He was very wicked.

"And Ahab . . . did evil in the sight of the Lord, above all that were before him. . . . And he reared up an altar for Baal, in a temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove [for the worship of Ashtoreth]. And Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of—Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him."—1Ki 16:30, 32, 33

He married the wicked woman Jezebel and made her his queen. She was a Phoenician princess, daughter of the king of the idolatrous Zidonians. In her hands Ahab became a mere puppet. By her influence and with Ahab’s consent the most abominable idol worship was established in Israel. At her table in the royal palace were supported no less than 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the goddess Ash—toreth. By her orders with Ahab’s weak acquiescence the prophets of Jehovah were persecuted and killed. (1Ki 18:13) Jezebel was actually trying to eradicate the worship of Jehovah in Israel.

Elijah’s Courage

It took a great deal of courage for the prophet Elijah to boldly walk into the—palace, enter the throne-room, face king Ahab, and say:

"As Jehovah God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word." (1Ki 17:1)

Withholding rain was in strict accordance with the word of the Lord given to Israel. They were promised abundant rain and rich crops as long as they maintained their worship of the true God. But if they turned to idolatry, the blessing of rain was to cease and their crops would fail. Thus the Lord said:

"It shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day; to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart, and with all your soul; that I will give you the rain of your land in his due season; the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. [ Now the warning!] Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside and serve other gods, and worship them. And then the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruits."—De 11:13-17

Ahab knew exactly what Elijah was talking about. He was familiar with the law and he had now been reminded of the penalty for idolatry. It was up to him, as king, to remedy the situation or else have Israel suffer the consequences.

Having delivered his message, Elijah turned around and walked out of the palace. We can imagine that Elijah’s encounter with Ahab would be promptly communicated to Queen Jezebel and that she would immediately take steps to have Elijah arrested and killed. As he was leaving the palace, the word of the Lord came to Elijah instructing him to escape and hide in a certain wilderness area. Here he had water to drink from a spring-fed brook and, by a wonderful provision of the Lord, he was miraculously fed in a most delightful way. We read:"And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook." (1Ki 17:6)

How would you like to have that kind of service? In fact we do! We are in the wilderness in the sense of being separated from the spirit of the world. We are in the world but not of the world. Not only is our literal bread and water sure (Isa 33:16), but more importantly we are amply supplied with the pure water of truth. We also partake of bread. We read:"And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life. He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." (Joh 6:35) We have meat as well:

"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season."—Mt 24:45

Did Elijah complain of the quality of the meat provided? Did he despise the instrumentality of the Lord and drive the ravens away saying, "I want to be served in some other manner?" Of course not.

Nor should we. The truth is found in the six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures and other writings of Bro. Russell. We should not scorn them nor lay them aside. As Elijah was well fed, we have all we can eat, "morning" and "evening, " in the morning of the Millennial Age and the evening of the Gospel Age.

Making the rains to stop was a terrible calamity. Crops failed and there was a severe famine in the land. Flocks and herds could find no pasturage and died of thirst. At first the people irrigated small garden plots by laboriously drawing water from deep wells, but as the drought progressed, even the wells began drying up and the people faced starvation. Instead of blaming herself for the troubles of Israel, Jezebel blamed Elijah. Through King Ahab, she made every effort to find and kill him, but the Lord kept Elijah concealed from her.

According to Lu 4:25 and Jas 5:17, the rains were withheld for 3 1/ 2 years. —Israel reached their extremity and cried to the Lord for relief, and the Lord heard their cry.

"And it came to pass, after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, show thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth. And Elijah went to show himself unto Ahab. . . . And there was a sore famine in Samaria."—1Ki 18:1, 2

Once again Elijah stood before Ahab. Now what sort of greeting would you expect Ahab to give Elijah under the circumstances, seeing his nation ruined by drought and the people starving? Wouldn’t you think he would humbly say to God’s prophet:

"I know this trouble upon Israel is my fault, because I permitted idolatry to be established, and I’m sorry. Please ask the Lord to forgive me, and restore rain to our poor suffering land."

He did not say anything like that. These are his words:

"And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?"—1Ki 18:17

Isn’t that incredible? He missed the point entirely! He blamed Elijah for everything!

Since he did not admit his guilt and promise reformation, it became necessary for Elijah to demonstrate to him and all the people the real cause of their trouble and give them an opportunity to reform. Before rain could be restored, Israel must abandon idolatry and return to the worship of Jehovah. Elijah replied to Ahab:

"And [Elijah] answered, I have not troubled—Israel; but thou and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou has followed Baalim. Now—therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel; and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves, four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s—table."—1Ki 18:18, 19

Confrontation on Mount Carmel

There is an important reason why Elijah requested they be gathered to Mount Carmel. Carmel is a prominent mountain in Israel. It is only about 1700 feet high. It has steep sides, but flattens out at the top into a large level area. In the west we call it a mesa, or—table- mountain. Carmel had—become a stronghold of Baal worship because it was the custom of the priests of Baal to erect their images, altars and groves on prominent hilltops. This gave a sense of dominance and dignity to their idols. Thus we read regarding idolatrous Israel:"And they set them up images and groves in every

high hill." (2Ki 17:10) "[ The nations] served their gods upon the high mountains, and upon the hills." (De 12:2)

Elijah requested that the people and the prophets of Baal be gathered to Mount Carmel because it had become the center of Baal worship.

His object was to give a demonstration before them all showing Jehovah God to be the only true God. He wanted the priests of Baal to be in their own familiar place of worship with their established images, altars, groves and other paraphernalia so it could not be claimed that they had been at a disadvantage in the test. Another reason to select Mount Carmel was that in ancient times an altar to Jehovah had been erected there, but its stones had since been scattered by the idolaters. This altar was to be vindicated.

So anxious was Ahab for rain to be restored to the land that he complied with Elijah’s request:

"So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto Mount Carmel."—1Ki 18:20

The place of meeting atop Carmel was about 17 miles from the palace at Jezreel. At the command of the king and in anticipation of getting relief from the drought, the people arrived early in the morning by the tens of thousands. They made their way up the steep road of the mountain and gathered on the broad flat top. The king also came in his chariot, but Queen Jezebel sullenly remained at the palace. Row upon row the people formed a huge circle. In the center of the circle in an open area stood the image and altar of Baal—surrounded by the sacred grove. Before this had gathered the 450

priests of Baal and 400 of Ashtoreth, all elaborately dressed in their colorful ceremonial robes. Facing them on one side, dressed in a plain leather garment, stood Elijah the prophet of God all alone. The odds were 850 to one! What do you think of those odds? Were they unfair? Not at all! It is a true saying that one man, with the Lord, is a majority.

We can imagine that there was a great hub-bub of voices as thousands of people excitedly talked to one another, wondering at the significance of the gathering and surprised to see that Elijah, a prophet of Jehovah, had been allowed to live in the presence of all those prophets of Baal. Then Elijah raised his hand, and the commotion ceased:

"And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word."—1Ki 18:21

Of course "the people answered him not a word"! They didn’t know what to say. No doubt the great majority yearned to return to the worship of Jehovah and receive the return of his blessings. But now, right in front of them, were 850 vicious, idolatrous priests. All were supported in the royal palace by the king’s consent with full power and permission to take vengeance on any worshippers of the true God. These priests had a stranglehold on the people. They could take note of any who opposed them and perhaps seize their little children for burnt offerings to Baal. The people could not, they dared not, answer Elijah.

Elijah fully realized the situation. He knew that the only way the people could be released from their bondage to Baal was to expose and eliminate the priests of Baal. He had to do it single-handedly, as the Lord had directed him.

"Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of Jehovah; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men." (1

Kings 18:22) Then he told the people why they had been gathered there. He proposed a test that would demonstrate, beyond the shadow of a doubt, who the true God was. This would enable them to make a definite decision on the proposition:"If Jehovah be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." It was an eminently fair test which Elijah proposed:

"Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under. And I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on the wood, and put no fire under. And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of Jehovah; and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves and dress it first; for ye are many. And call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under."—1Ki 18:23, 24

A Test of the True God

What could be fairer than that? The priests of Baal accepted the conditions of the test without protest. They thought it was a good idea because they would be using their regular altar on Mount Carmel, and that altar was rigged! The proposed test involved nothing new for them. It was their regular custom to deceive the people in this very manner! Tradition says that the altar of Baal was so constructed that one of the priests could hide inside and, at the proper moment, speak out a sepulchral voice and set fire to the wood under the sacrifice to make it appear to be a—miraculous acceptance of the offering to Baal. (See Reprints, page 3406.) When Elijah proposed what he did, the priests of Baal must have laughed to themselves and eagerly accepted the terms. He was playing right into their hands, or so they thought.

"And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal, from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us! But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made."—1Ki 18:26

When they shouted, "O Baal, hear us!" that was the cue. The priest hidden in the altar was then supposed to answer them and light the fire. But nothing happened. So they leaped upon the altar itself to punctuate their shouting. Still nothing!

Elijah was enjoying all this. He knew something they did not know.

He knew that the man inside the altar was dead. Legend tells us that

he was later found suffocated. Elijah began to taunt the prophets of Baal:

"And it came to pass at noon that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud; for he is a god. Either he is talking [on the phone, perhaps?], or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves, after their manner, with knives and lancets till their blood gushed out upon them."—1Ki 18:27, 28

That must have been a terrible sight :850 frenzied men, prancing, leaping, and shouting with blood spurting out from self-inflicted wounds, staining their clothes and covering the ground.

"After noon, they raved on, till the hour of the evening sacrifices; but not a sound came. There was no one to answer them; no one to heed them."—1Ki 18:29, Moffatt The hour of the evening sacrifice was three o’clock. If the test began at nine in the morning, they had been summoning Baal in vain for six hours. It was enough. They had failed and they knew it; Elijah stopped their performance. The priests of Baal fell to the ground in various stages of exhaustion.

Now Elijah beckoned to the people to come near him and the people responded. They had now lost their fear of Baal and the prophets of Baal. It had been demonstrated to them that the idol had no power so they came eagerly to Elijah. Elijah set them to work, helping rebuild the altar of Jehovah which had been so long neglected and fallen into disrepair. In contrast with the elaborately carved altar of Baal, it was severely plain :12 natural stones, unshaped by human hands, arranged to form a table-like structure. We now read, starting with 1Ki 18:30:

"And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, . . . And with the stones he built an altar in the name of Jehovah. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed."—1Ki 18:30-32

This was not a small trench that Elijah dug. According to Young’s Concordance, a "measure" of grain or seed was equivalent to 10 ephahs of 7 1/ 2 gallons each. Therefore "two measures of seed"

would equal 150 gallons. That was the capacity of the trench Elijah dug around the altar.

"And he put the wood in order and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid it on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water and pour it on the sacrifice, and on the wood."—1Ki 18:33

In those days they did not have wooden barrels such as we do today.

What is here meant by the word "barrel" is an amphora, a large earthenware jar with two handles containing about ten gallons. At Elijah’s command, four of these were quickly filled at a nearby spring, the only one in the land still flowing, and forty gallons of water were poured on the altar.

"And he said, Do it the second time; and they did it the second time.

And he said, Do it the third time; and they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar, and he filled the trench also with water."—1Ki 18:34, 35

120 gallons were poured over the sacrifice thoroughly soaking it and the wood and overflowing into the trench. Then even more water was brought and the trench around the altar was filled to the brim.

Elijah’s Reverential Prayer

What Elijah did next was in great contrast with the conduct of the priests of Baal. He worshipped an intelligent God who did not need to be shouted at to—attract his attention. He reverently approached the altar and in a calm, clear voice uttered an earnest prayer, which is beautiful in its simplicity and modesty:

"And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me; that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again."—1Ki 18:36, 37

In this prayer the prophet displayed no boastful spirit but humbly recognized that he was merely a servant of the Lord, that his desire was not a personal display of power, but the blessing of his nation and the drawing of their hearts back to the Lord.

No sooner had the prayer ended than there was a blinding flash of lightening. In the language of verse 38, "Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench." What the Lord does he does thoroughly. Not only was the soaking-wet sacrifice consumed, even the 12 great stones of the altar and the dust upon which they stood were burned up as well. Where the altar had been, there was nothing but bare scorched earth. For a moment there was utter silence. The people were stunned. Then when they realized what had happened, they joyfully reacted and a great shout went up:

"And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces. And they said, Jehovah, he is God; Jehovah, he is God!"—1Ki 18:39

Then Elijah ordered the destruction of all the prophets of Baal. This was in strict accordance with the law given to Moses, in Ex 20:3 and 22:20: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. . . . He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto Jehovah only, he shall be utterly destroyed." Undoubtedly the image and altar of Baal were demolished and the grove of Ashtoreth cut down; Israel returned to the worship of the true God.

Although at first there was no sign of it, Elijah knew that it was now going to rain and rain abundantly. He was so sure of it that he warned King Ahab to quickly harness his horse and ride his heavy

iron chariot down the steep road from the top of Mount Carmel, lest it get mired in the mud:

"And he said, . . . Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain.

And Ahab rode."—1Ki 18:44, 45

The thirsty earth drank in the refreshing rain. The brooks and springs began to flow and the wells filled up again. The fields turned green, the flocks and herds grazed, and the people rejoiced. The terrible drought of 3 1/ 2 years was at last ended.

Jezebel Reacts

Jezebel was furious when she heard what had happened on Carmel.

She was angry with God, angry with the prophet Elijah for having shown up the falsity of Baal, and very angry that the priests of Baal had been executed. She was particularly angry with Ahab for having permitted the demonstration which revived the faith of Israel in Jehovah God. We can imagine the bitter railing she poured upon her cowering husband, blaming him for everything. If she had been there, it would have been different! Showing the intensity of her rage, she swore an oath to kill Elijah within 24 hours:

"And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose and went for his life."—1Ki 19:1-3

It seems strange that the great prophet Elijah—he who had so recently faced and defied 450 vicious priests of Baal and who had called down fire from God in a stupendous demonstration of power—now fled for his life because a woman had threatened him. But there is an important reason why this was so. The Lord was using Elijah to make a prophetic picture of the Gospel age which is of great significance to us who are living at this end of the age. Elijah was a type of the church. In this type Elijah was persecuted for fidelity to truth and righteousness. In the antitype, the church was persecuted for fidelity to truth and righteousness. In the type, Elijah’s principal persecutor was Jezebel, the wicked queen of Israel, mentioned by name in Re 2:20 as the enemy of the saints. In the antitype, the principal persecutor of the church was the apostate Church of Rome which claims to be a "queen" and ruler over spiritual Israel.

We read:"She saith in her heart, I sit a queen." (Re 18:7) In the type, Jezebel’s persecuting power was exercised through her husband Ahab, the king. In the antitype, Papacy’s persecuting power was exercised through the Roman Empire to which she was joined.

In the type, Elijah fled the first time from Jezebel and Ahab into the wilderness, to a place prepared of God where he was miraculously nourished. In the antitype, the true Church fled into the symbolic wilderness, or condition of isolation, and was sustained by God:

"And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and three-score days."—Re 12:6

In the type, Elijah was 3 1/ 2 years or 1260 days in the wilderness.

During that time there was no rain and a great famine was in the land. (Jas 5:17) In the antitype, the church was 3 1/ 2 symbolic years—a day for a year makes 1260 literal years—in the wilderness condition during which there was a spiritual famine because of the lack of truth, the living waters. This fulfilled a prophecy of Amos:

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land. Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord."—Am 8:11

In the type, after the 3 1/ 2 years or 1260 days when Elijah returned from the wilderness, the errors of Jezebel’s priests were manifested, the true God was honored, and copious rains followed. In the antitype, at the end of the 1260 years beginning AD 1799, the power of the truth and its witnesses were manifested. Since then the truth has flowed at the rate of millions of Bible, books and tracts every year, refreshing the world, and culminating in a fruitful harvest of the true wheat. In the type, the king and the people at first rejoiced, and Elijah and his God were honored. But the spirit of Jezebel was unchanged. She still sought Elijah’s life and he was again compelled to flee into the wilderness. In the antitype, the circulation of the Bible has brought such blessings of—enlightenment that the governments and people recognize the Lord’s hand. Yet the principles of Papacy [Jezebel] and the so-called Protestant sects compel the true people of God to again flee into the wilderness condition of separation:"Come out of her my people!" This is the time in which we are now living. But there is a part of the picture still unfulfilled. In the type Elijah’s career ended when he was taken from the earth in a fiery chariot. In the antitype the last member of the Church will be changed from earthly to heavenly conditions at a time of fiery trouble ( Studies in the Scriptures , volume 2, page 256).

Other Lessons

Let us consider some of the other lessons contained in this narrative.

After 3 1/ 2 years of drought, the Lord sent Elijah to King Ahab. We read of that meeting:

"And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?"—1Ki 18:17

It is astonishing how facts can be twisted and rationalized to make wrong appear right and right seem wrong! It was by Ahab’s compliance that Israel had sinned and turned to idolatry. This caused the Lord to withhold rain from the land. All Elijah had done was give them the word of the Lord. He had done no wrong. Now he was greeted as the one who was troubling Israel!

This reminds me of an experience we had in the 1920’s involving the same sort of inverse reasoning. The leadership of a Society, formerly used by the Lord, had begun to alter the Harvest Message, introducing various changes which they termed "new light." Some of us refused to accept and teach these strange new departures, preferring to hold on to the truth as we had been taught by the Lord through his faithful and wise servant. There was a confrontation.

We were accused of being enemies. "Evil Servant" was the term then used. But we had not changed a bit. We had done no harm to anyone. All we did was hold what we had. But suddenly we were considered enemies of the truth and were cast out.

The same thing is happening today and we are grieved to see it. "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?" Words to this effect are directed to those who still hold to the Harvest Message of present truth, who refuse to accept the changes of so-called "new light" now being promulgated. It is the same inverse reasoning that Ahab used. "You are troubling spiritual Israel, " they now tell us. "By rejecting our new ideas, you are causing divisions in the church. You must adjust to our views and not rock the boat." So who is actually causing the divisions? Certainly not those who remain staunch in the truth!

Regarding this matter of "adjustment, " a modern philosopher has written:

"Every society has its own approved form of insanity. Ours is called adjustment which is a circular social movement in which each one is adjusting to another one, and no one knows to whom the first is adjusting."—S. J. Harris

Brethren, when we have the truth based soundly upon the unchangeable word of God, we don’t have to "adjust" to anything else!

Another statement made by those advancing doctrinal changes is that one must have "an open mind" and must examine their theories.

That sounds fair, but beware :it is a delusion and a snare! Let me illustrate. When the government trains people to detect the difference between genuine and counterfeit currency, they are never permitted to study counterfeit currency. They concentrate their study on genuine currency until they are familiar with every minute detail and curlicue of the engraving. Then when in the course of their work they should see the counterfeit, they immediately recognize it as such by contrast. Similarly we must not examine and study every new and questionable doctrine some may see fit to advance. On the contrary, once having proven what is the genuine article, "Made plain upon tables" by our returned Lord through his wise and faithful servant, we must concentrate only upon it and become very familiar with every detail of it.

I once had an "open mind." But that was before I got the truth. When the truth, in all its beauty and harmony, came into my mind, when I found it good and proved it to be true, my mind closed tightly upon it. It is no longer open on that subject! This is how we comply with the instructions of 1Th 5:21: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." You cannot "hold fast" to anything with an open mind. It has been well said that if you have a mind that is open enough, anyone who passes by may throw rubbish into it. Let that not happen to us.

The first thing Elijah said to the people of Israel on Mount Carmel was:"How long halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." Joshua presented the same ultimatum to Israel:

"Choose you this day whom ye will serve; . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."—Jos 24:15

Make up your mind! There is a great need for this lesson in the world today. People have trouble making up their minds regarding the simplest everyday problems that arise. Because of indecision, they are always in a state of mental distress, torn between two opinions. Even when they have acted in a matter, they agonize over it afterward, wondering if they did the right thing. This is the condition of the world. They are in constant distress and perplexity.

This will all be rectified in the kingdom. Then there will be no doubt as to what is the right way, when even "the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." (Isa 35:8) But the lesson of Elijah and that of Joshua was not given for the world, but for the church now. This was written for our admonition.

Let us combine the messages of Elijah and Joshua as:"How long halt ye between two opinions. Choose you this day whom ye will serve." What does this mean to us? Today it is not necessary to tell a Christian to choose between Jehovah and some heathen god. We are not tempted to literally worship Baal today. So, what decision must the Christian make? Jesus told us:

"No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other.

Ye cannot serve God and mammon."—Mt 6:24

Prompt, Positive Decisions

This is the choice that must be made, made promptly and decisively!

"Mammon" means not only money but anything of earthly value or conducive to pride. It may be the mammon of wealth, the mammon of ambition, or of worldly education, or the love of display, or the catering to fleshly appetites, or the love of ease, the inordinate love of friends, the excessively doting love of family, or any other love that may detract us from the love of God. We must forsake these things in the sense of pushing them aside, of making them of secondary importance, of subordinating them entirely to the service of God. If we do this, we shall gain the kingdom which is a hundred times more important. This is what Jesus meant when he said:

"Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life."—Mt 19:29

"Choose this day whom ye will serve." "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Is our consecration to God so full and complete that we have no earthly idols?

Today we can make a special application of Elijah’s question to Israel:"How long halt ye between two opinions?" The church is now in a time of decision. There are two opinions today among the Lord’s people; each one must decide what to accept. Do you believe, according to Mt 24:43-47 and Lu 12:42-44, that our returned Lord appointed a certain faithful and wise servant and made him ruler over all his goods, to give the Lord’s household meat in due season? Do you—believe that Brother Russell was that servant and that all the Lord’s "goods, " which are the beautiful and harmonious doctrines of present truth, are scripturally proven and embodied in the six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures, Tabernacle Shadows , and other of his writings? Or on the other hand, do you believe that Brother Russell was mistaken, that his writings are inaccurate and out of date, that the truth is a fluid and changeable thing—this way today, that way tomorrow, and at the whim of many leaders who do not agree among themselves? "How long halt ye between two opinions?"

It is a time of decision. Make up your mind!

"He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways."—Jas 1:6-8

Paul tells us of some who are, "Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2Ti 3:7) Regarding decision making, Brother Russell wrote:

"The very fact of coming to a positive decision is a great blessing and a great help in the formation of character. Every time we come to a decision, on any question, it strengthens mind and character, and makes us that much more ready for another test—along some other line, perhaps. One decision for the right, prepares the way for others in the same direction, just as hesitancy, indecision, upon one point prepares us for hesitancy upon all points, and more or less stops our Christian progress and character building. . . . Ability to decide quickly, and to decide always on the right side, what the Lord’s will is, requires some experience and discipline. But the sooner we begin, the sooner we will become proficient. The more energetically we set ourselves to know the Lord’s will and to do it, and to show him by our promptness that we delight to do his will, the better and the quicker will we find our characters established on proper lines."—Reprints, page 2930.

The desperate and fruitless antics of the priests of Baal and Elijah’s derision of their efforts reminds us of Psalm 2 which describes present conditions:

"Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing? He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his sore wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion."—Ps 2:1, 4-6

Modern man is proud and faithless. They have their gods of science, evolution and atheism. The latter day increase of knowledge has made mankind feel confident and self-reliant. As Elijah let the priests of Baal do their utmost, the Lord gives mankind full opportunity to bring about their own salvation, if they can. But all the vaunted wisdom and knowledge of the high priests of science and of heathen philosophies, all their prancing, posturing and agonizing, avail nothing. Their gods do not answer. Mankind still dies. When they have done all they can, when they have reached their extremity, God will manifest His power. The true sacrifice will then be consumed. The work of the ransom sacrifice of Christ will be consummated in a great "restitution of all things." After a long drought of 6000 years, rain will fall again bringing showers of blessings and truth:

"The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."—Hab 2:14

Israel’s Reaction

Israel reacted to the great miracle and with one voice joyfully shouted:"Jehovah, he is God, Jehovah, he is God!" The world of mankind together with Israel will say:

"Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him, and he will save us.

This is Jehovah, we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."—Isa 25:9

Then will come true the prophecy of Jeremiah:

"They shall teach no more every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more."—Jer 31:34-36

Two things are pictured by Elijah’s destruction of the prophets of Baal. It illustrates the ministry of the truth whereby we do a slaying work with "the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God." (Eph 6:17)

We utterly expose the religious errors, the doctrines of devils, that dishonor God. It also pictures the final destruction of Satan and all his incorrigible followers at the end of the Millennium:

"And fire came down from heaven and devoured them."—Re 20:9

What a joy to be favored with an understanding of the divine plan and our part in it!

Gideon and the Altar of Baal

"And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years."—Jud 6:1

AT THE time of our lesson Israel was in deep trouble. At an earlier time Midian was friendly to Israel. It was to the land of Midian that Moses .fled after having killed the Egyptian taskmaster. Jethro, priest of Midian, became his father-in-law. Jethro and Hobab his son were good friends to the Israelites during their wanderings in the wilderness. Their descendants, the Kenites, were later united in close union with the Israelites.

Over the years Midian had degenerated into a vicious and warlike nation. They were a nomadic people, living in tents, and shifting from place to place, plundering as they went. They are described as possessing cattle, flocks, and camels as the sand of the seashore in multitude. Through plunder and tribute they became very rich. When Moses was still alive, they—began to demoralize the children of Israel and cause them to sin against the Lord by setting examples of immorality and idolatry. Because of this, Moses was commanded to break the power of Midian which he did. The booty the Israelites took on that occasion was tremendous. In Numbers chapter 31 we find that the livestock captured was 675, 000 sheep, 72, 000 beef cattle, and 61, 000 other animals. Besides this there was taken "jewels of gold, chains, and bracelets, rings, earrings, and tablets" (Nu 31:50-52) which amounted to 16, 750 shekels in weight (Moffatt says it was 34, 000 pounds). That’s a lot of gold!

This is the nation which, at the time of our lesson, had recovered, had resumed its vicious ways, and was again oppressing Israel. Their method of oppression was particularly frustrating. Rather than open warfare, army against army, they systematically robbed and plundered the Israelites using hit-and-run tactics. They watched and waited until crops were planted, cultivated, brought to maturity and harvested. Then when all the work was done, they swooped down and took the produce. We read, "And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up." (Jud 6:3) In the spring they waited until the grass of the field was green and high. When they saw the flocks and herds of Israel feeding on the lush grass, they drove down their own tremendous herds to completely eat up, fatten on, and destroy the pasturage. Like locusts they denuded the earth.

Afterward they drove off the livestock of the Israelites—together with their own. Thus we read,

"And they encamped against them [Israel], and destroyed the increase of the earth . . . and left no sustenance for Israel; neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. For they came up with their cattle, and their tents and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number. And they entered into the land to destroy it."—Jud 6:4, 5

When the wheat had ripened and had been harvested, the Midianites watched from the hills for the tell-tale signs of threshing and winnowing. In those days the ears of wheat were placed on rock-hard threshing floors and oxen were used to tread out the grains. Then on a windy day the wheat was tossed high into the air so that the wind would blow away the chaff. This was hard work. During the threshing these clouds of chaff were visible from a distance and were observed by the Midianites. As soon as the hard labor of the threshing and winnowing of a particular field was finished, down came the raiders and seized the grain. You can well imagine the frustration of Israel. To have bread to eat they were compelled to do their threshing under great difficulty, in concealed places such as dens and caves where they also hid some of their grain and such produce as they could salvage to provide skimpy rations. This is what is implied in Jud 6:2,

"And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. And because of the Midianites, the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains and caves and strongholds."* I wonder if these were some of the caves which were later used for the storage of sacred scrolls!

As a result of all this Israel lived in constant fear and dread. They were a crushed nation.

Israel’s Sin of Idolatry

What was the evil which Israel did in the sight of the Lord and for which they were delivered into the hand of Midian? It was because of their idolatry, specifically Baal worship. All the misfortunes they suffered were in strict accordance with God’s expressed law to Israel.

This law was expressed over and over again in their scriptures clearly setting forth the rewards of obedience and the penalties for disobedience. No Israelite could claim ignorance of it. For example, we read of the blessings of obedience:

"Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image [margin, pillar], neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it; for I am the Lord your God.

Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary. I am the Lord. If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them, then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit; and your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach

unto the sowing time. And ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. And I will give you peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid."—Le 26:1- 6

Because of their idolatry, they were missing all these blessings.

Instead they were oppressed and beaten down. They were not able to stand before their enemies. We read further regarding this expressed rule of God:

"There shall no man be able to stand before you; for the Lord your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon, as he hath said unto you. Behold, I set before you this day, a blessing and a curse. A blessing if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day; and a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known."—De 11:25-28

This is exactly what they had done. They had gone after Baal and had incurred the curse. Now we get to specifics:

"But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments, and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee."—De 28:15, 33

Many curses are then listed; one is in verse 33:

"The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not, eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed away."

Doesn’t that sound familiar? This is an exact prophecy of what had come upon Israel at the time of our lesson.

With this background in mind, we now read the narrative in Judges:

"And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites.

And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord. And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord because of the Midianites, that the Lord sent a prophet unto the children of Israel."—Jud 6:6-8

This prophet reminded them of their sin of idolatry, the cause of all their trouble, implying that if they returned to the Lord, they would be delivered from the hand of Midian. From what transpired next we know that Israel must have listened to the prophet and indicated a willingness to return to the Lord. But they didn’t know just how to proceed. Baal-worship was too strongly entrenched, and they had no

—effective leadership. Seeing their willingness, the Lord provided the necessary leadership. We read from the account:

"And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite. And his son, Gideon, threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites."—Jud 6:11

A more accurate translation tells us that Gideon "was beating out some wheat inside the winepress."

The Jewish winepresses of that time were hewn out of rock, and consisted of two large receptacles or vats at different elevations, one above the other. The upper and more shallow part, usually slightly below ground level, was where the grapes were put and trodden, to press out the juice. The still lower and deeper part was the vat into which the extracted juice overflowed. When the lower vat was full, the new wine was ladled out and put into huge ox skins to ferment.

After aging the wine was transferred into smaller skins for use and for storage.

Since the grape harvest did not coincide with the wheat harvest, the winepress was empty at this time. Gideon was inside the winepress, apparently in the lower part, where he would be completely hidden from the view of any Midianites who might be watching from a distance. He was using a flail, a wooden paddle, to beat out the wheat. Then he probably tossed the wheat into the upper part of the wine—press to separate the chaff. It is significant that there was an oak tree overspreading the winepress. This would serve to conceal any emanation of chaff that might result from Gideon’s efforts.

The record says that an angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak tree. From this position the angel was probably able to look down into the winepress. Gideon soon became aware that someone was watching him. Looking up he saw a distinguished looking man in bright clothing sitting under the oak. As Gideon quickly vaulted out of the wine—press his visitor stood up and greeted him with the words, "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour!" This salutation seems a little incongruous. Gideon, in fear of the Midianites, had hidden himself in a winepress to beat out a few grains of wheat to make a little bread for his family. Did this make him a "mighty man of valour?" But I am sure the angel was not mistaken. He did not speak idle words. So this salutation must tell us something regarding Gideon’s previous activities, something which the recorded narrative does not reveal. Who, then, is Gideon?

The Facts About Gideon

We know that he was a mature man and had children because Jud 8:20 refers to his firstborn son. We also know from Judges

8:18 that he was of a princely appearance, that he had a look of nobility, and resembled the child of a king. Although the record is silent on this point, I think we can reasonably conclude that he was already an outstanding man in—Israel, that on many occasions he had valorously distinguished himself against roving bands of nomadic robbers who—oppressed Israel. It is significant that Gideon did not protest or contradict the angel’s reference to his valor but only questioned the other part of the statement, "The Lord is with thee." We now read from the account:

"And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? But now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have not I sent thee?"—Jud 6:13, 14

When Gideon addressed the angel as "My Lord, " he did not realize it was an angel of the Lord he was talking to but thought it was a man, a prophet sent of God. Now in his response to the angel we see the humility of Gideon and the reason why God had selected him as the one to deliver Israel. We read:

"And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh; and I am the least in my father’s house."—Jud 6:15

God Uses the Humble

Do you see why the Lord could use him? The Lord has no use for the proud and arrogant who glory in their own strength. He uses as his instruments those who realize their own nothingness; and who, consequently, rely solely upon his strength. We continue with the 16th verse:

"And the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man."

This reiteration of the fact that the Lord would indeed use him in spite of his humble estate interested Gideon very much. He begged the man of God to stay there under the oak until he could go and bring him a present. The man agreed. Gideon then hastened to his tent nearby and prepared a delicious meal of lamb and broth with unleavened bread and brought it in a basket to the man. Today we would call it a picnic basket. But the man did not eat the food.

Instead he told Gideon to put the meat and the bread upon a nearby rock and put the broth over them. Then the man reached out with his staff and touched the food. Instantly fire spurted out of the rock and burned up the meat, bread and broth. When he saw this, Gide—on

realized that it was an angel of the Lord he had been talking to all the while and he cried, "Alas, O Lord God, for now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!" He was terrified. He was familiar with God’s words to Moses:"There shall no man see me and live. . . .

My face shall not be seen." (Ex 33:20, 23) He thought that seeing an angel was equivalent to seeing God. But the angel reassured him saying, "Peace be unto thee. Fear not, Thou shalt not die." Then the angel disappeared.

Gideon forgot all about his unfinished job of threshing. He immediately set about gathering stones and erected an altar upon the rock which had spurted fire. Because the angel had said "Peace be unto thee, " he called it Jehovah-Shalom meaning "Jehovah’s Peace."

It appears that Gideon’s father was one of the chief men of his tribe and district. Upon his plantation, high on a hilltop in the midst of a consecrated grove, there had been erected a statue and an altar to Baal. The groves of Baal were not living trees but consisted of huge posts or obelisks, very similar to the totem poles of the Eskimos.

They were elaborately carved with figures and scenes depicting the supposed virtues and accomplishments of the idol. Gideon’s father may have been in charge or was the caretaker of this grove of Baal.

The worship of Baal was obscene and—licentious. It also involved the sacrifice of little children as burnt offerings which was extremely displeasing to God. In 2 Kings we read of one of the wicked kings of Israel:"And he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove. . . . And he made his son pass through the fire." (2Ki 21:3, 6) Of other wicked kings it is written:

"They have forsaken me . . . and have filled this place with the blood of innocents. They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal; which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind."—Jer 19:4, 5

In 2 Chronicles we read of wicked king Ahaz who worshipped Baal:

"And (he) burnt his children with fire, after the abominations of the heathen."—2Ch 28:1, 3

That very night the Lord spoke to Gideon again, this time in a dream:

"And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it. And build an altar unto the Lord thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place. And take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down."—Jud 6:25, 26

It is interesting to note God’s words to Gideon, referring to himself as "the Lord thy God." This clearly indicates that Baal was not Gideon’s god, that he was not in sympathy with his father’s idolatry.

Amidst all of that Baal worship, he had managed to cling to Jehovah, the true God of Israel.

This command to Gideon to "throw down the altar of Baal . . . and cut down the grove, " was in strict accord with the original commandment telling Israel how they must deal with idol worship:

"But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire."—De 7:5

Their altars and images were to be utterly destroyed, and the groves of sacred totems, or poles, upon which were graven the exploits of the idol, were to be cut down and burned. So this was not a new and strange commandment the Lord now gave to Gideon. It was an important part of the original law which Israel had agreed to keep:

"All that the Lord hath spoken, we will do." (Ex 19:8) It was simply a reminder to Gideon to carry out his responsibility as a loyal Israelite, something which should have been done by Israel as a matter of course long before, but which had been shirked. It was a forcible reminder of the reason why the Lord had permitted Israel to fall into the hands of Midian to be oppressed by them seven years.

Gideon Places God First

Under the circumstances it was a hard thing to ask Gideon to do this. The altar of Baal was on his father’s property and his father was responsible for it. Defying his father’s authority was bad enough, but he must also consider that the entire surrounding community was solidly composed of Baal worshippers who would—certainly resist any tampering with their idol. Obedience to the Lord meant risking his life. Gideon was willing to take that risk, but in doing so, he was as prudent as possible. He knew that if he openly attempted what the Lord had commanded, the priests of Baal and the men of the community would certainly prevent him from carrying it out. So he did his work at night.

"Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the Lord had said unto him. And so it was, because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night."—Jud 6:27

Was this cowardly? Certainly not. He merely did not want his work to be interfered with. But he well knew that, whether done by day or by night, he would still be held responsible for his deed and would have to take the consequences. I am sure it must have crossed Gideon’s mind that they might not only kill him but after that, they might even sacrifice his own children as burnt offerings to Baal.

There was nothing cowardly in what Gideon did. He was indeed, as the angel said, a man of valor.

The fact that Gideon had ten servants who were willing to help him desecrate Baal seems to indicate that his entire household may have consisted of faithful Israelites who still worshipped the true God, that Gideon had been attracting to himself and to his service those in Israel who abhorred Baal and clung to Jehovah.

A seven-year-old bullock is an ox not a calf. At midnight Gideon and his men harnessed this powerful animal and led it up the hill atop of which stood the altar of Baal. The altar consisted of a huge, ugly, brazen image of the god with arms outstretched. It was hollow so that a roaring fire could be built inside it. When superheated, it was customary to sacrifice to it by throwing a little child into its arms to roast alive. The sheer weight of the idol made the ox necessary. It was too heavy to be moved by hand. Gideon quickly climbed the

image and tied a rope around its neck. Attaching the other end to the harness of the ox, and assisted by his men, he pulled the idol down from its foundation so that it lay ignominiously upon its face in the dirt. Next they gathered stones and erected an altar to the Lord upon the spot where the idol had stood. Lest the noise of chopping arouse the community, Gideon probably used the ox to topple the grove of totem poles surrounding the idol. We can imagine a man climbing each one of the ornately carved poles and attaching a rope to its top.

Then he would harness the ox to it and noiselessly pull it down.

When the entire grove was thus leveled, the ox was probably used further to drag the huge poles to the newly made altar of Jehovah where they were laid. When all was in readiness, the wood was ignited and the bullock offered upon the fire as a sacrifice to the Lord. As the flames fed by the dry poles consumed the sacrifice, Gideon and his men prostrated themselves before it in humble reverence to their God; then they quietly left the hill.

Gideon Fulfills God’s Command

Dawn was just breaking when the fire on the hill leaped skyward, lighting up the countryside. An early riser in the village saw it, and gave the alarm, "Fire comes from the altar of Baal!" he cried, "Our god is speaking to us!" The men gathered themselves and hurried up the hill some distance away to see the miracle. But what they saw when they got there stunned and angered them. The sacred grove was gone. Upon the place where Baal had stood they saw another altar which they recognized as an altar to Jehovah because it was built in austere simplicity, according to the specifications given in Ex 20:24-26. A brisk fire still burned upon it consuming the last of the sacrifice. Scattered about the altar and still smoldering they saw the charred ends of their totem poles. Before the altar, flat upon its face in the dirt as though doing obeisance to it, was the great brazen image of Baal.

They immediately suspected that Gide—on was responsible for this outrage. It was probably well known that he did not worship Baal.

They made inquiries to be sure because Gideon’s father, Joash, was one of them and was their chief. They would not want to unjustly accuse his son. At this point a witness must have come forward to say that Gideon and his servants had been absent from home that night and that the second bullock of Joash, to which Gideon had access, was missing. We now read from the account:

"And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built. And they said to one another, Who hath done this thing? And

when they inquired and asked, they said, Gideon, the son of Joash hath done this thing."—Jud 6:28, 29

The idolaters armed themselves and went in a body to the house of Joash where Gideon had taken refuge. Meanwhile Joash had talked with his son Gideon—regarding his exploits that night and had come to some definite conclusions. Joash now came out and boldly faced the mob. We continue with verses 30 and 31:

"Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son that he may die; because he hath cast down the altar of Baal and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it. And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? Will ye save him? He that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning. If he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar."

Do you see what a powerful argument Joash used? There stood the supposedly mighty Baal surrounded by a veritable forest of poles upon which were engraved the scenes of his reputed great accomplishments and virtues. Along comes a puny man with a cow and pulls down the whole business and the mighty Baal is powerless to prevent it! So Joash told them,

"Now if Baal cannot fight for himself, but has to depend upon you to defend him, he isn’t much of a god, is he? Do you still believe in him? If so, perhaps Baal requires a human sacrifice to expiate what has happened to his altar. If you are so eager to plead for him, how about offering yourself to die? Let anyone here who pleads the cause of Baal be put to death this very morning!"

At this the ferocity of the mob quickly cooled. One by one they slunk away. From his performance, I think we can safely assume that Joash had been then and there converted to the worship of Jehovah.

The news of what Gideon had done spread like wildfire throughout Israel. It showed them that Baal was a false god, that he was powerless against the God of Gideon, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the true God of their fathers. The people woke up to the fact that their idolatry was really the cause of all their troubles. As a result there was a great conversion in Israel and there was a determination to throw off the yoke of Midian. All they needed now was an effective leader. Gideon became that leader. With only three hundred men, carefully selected—according to the Lord’s direction, he put to rout 135, 000 of the host of Midian and freed Israel from their yoke. How this was accomplished is another story and may well be the subject of another discourse.

Some Lessons for Us

Let us see what further lessons we can learn from this account. First of all there is a lesson respecting idolatry. As idolatrous natural Israel had its groves of totem poles carved with intricate imaginations, so nominal spiritual Israel today has for its totem poles the various denominational creeds to which men give veneration.

Monstrous "Baal" is still worshipped in nominal Christendom today.

Although we do not have a literal Baal of brass heated red-hot with extended arms to receive little children into its fiery embrace, we do have a Baal on a much larger scale:a blasphemous misrepresentation of the only true God. Today we have a—super Baal, not one who is content with an occasional human burnt offering, but a god red-hot with the flames of hell and purgatory, with millions agonizing in his embrace eternally. This Baal, this horrible misconception of a loving and merciful God, will be toppled and laid in the dust by the great antitypical Gideon, Christ Jesus, who will also cut down and destroy the creed totem poles of Christendom.

But there is a more subtle and serious form of idolatry that threatens the Lord’s people, true spiritual Israel. The first commandment of the Decalogue was:

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven—image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God."—Ex 20:3-5

This commandment was amplified in Deuteronomy:

"Hear, O Israel :The Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might."—De 6:4, 5

Of course, none of the Lord’s true people are guilty of idolatry in the sense of worshipping graven images of wood, metal and stone. Yet anything that is loved more than God, which is exalted above God in the mind, is an idol. One’s own self can be an idol. In many respects an idol of self is the most horrible one of all—the meanest looking.

But most of the friends do not idolize self, or wealth, ambition and fame, nor do we value highly the possession of beautiful homes, automobiles, expensive jewelry, and fine clothing as the world does.

I am sure we know enough not to do that. But there is another danger. Because of the very unselfish love which a Christian life engenders, we may set undue affection upon wife, husband, parent, child, brother or sister. Jesus saw this danger, and said:

"He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me."—Mt 10:37

"If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother and wife, and children and brethren, and sisters; yea and his own life also; he cannot be my disciple."—Lu 14:26

"Hate, " as used here, does not mean to—detest. According to other translations it simply means "to love less." We are indeed to love our families. We are to love them very much. We are told, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church." (Eph 5:25) Did not Christ love the Church very much? And in Matthew,

"Honour thy father and thy mother; and Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Mt 19:19) We read in 1Jo 4:20, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar." So it is not a matter of ceasing to love our families, or loving them any less than we do, but of loving God and Christ even more than these. As the poet expresses it:

"‘Tis written, ‘keep yourselves from idols. ‘How shall I obey? Oh, not by loving less, but by loving more! It is not that we love our precious ones too much, but God too little."

Increasing Our Faith

But as a practical matter, how can we increase our love for God? How can we attain that ideal given in Mr 12:30 of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? There is no better way than to contemplate, meditate, and study the Plan of God, and cooperate with it. It is a wonderful and flawless plan. It is the perfect solution to all the problems of humankind. It answers every question, and soothes every fear. It is wise, just, and loving. The more we realize and appreciate its beauty and grandeur, the more we will love the Author of that plan. We will grow in love for God. We are bound to do so. Additionally, we can increase our love for God by reminding ourselves, and tracing, God’s wonderful providences in our lives, how he has drawn us, and called us, and lovingly led us all the way.

We can remember all of his "exceeding great and precious promises" to us which are so sure of fulfillment. It is in these ways that our love for God will grow, excel, and surpass all earthly loves.

If you love God, tell him so! Express your longing in every prayer you make. Say to him, "Lord, I love thee!" David, the beloved of God, did this with beauty of expression:

"As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God; for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?"—Ps 42:1, 2

Our love for God should be so fervent that this cry of David should be also our own longing and aspiration.

Although our love for God is spontaneous, and not for reward, nevertheless, the Lord does abundantly bless those who love him; here and hereafter.

"As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."—1Co 2:9

"We know that all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are the called according to his purpose."—Ro 8:28

We must prove our love for God before we are found worthy.

De 13:3 —applies to us, "The Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Let us not forget that there were material blessings promised Israel if they would refrain from idolatry. As spiritual Israel, we are the heirs of the spiritual counterparts of those blessings. The Lord promised them "rain in due season." We are promised, and have abundantly received, showers of truth, "meat in due season." Israel was promised that their land would yield her increase and their trees much fruit. We bring forth the fruits and graces of the holy spirit. As Jesus said, "He that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal." (Joh 4:36) Israel was promised a good vintage and "bread to the full." We have the wine of the communion of the blood of Christ. (1Co 10:16) We do indeed eat bread to the full. We partake of Christ; as it is written:

"Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life. He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."—Joh 6:35

In return for their obedience, the Lord promised Israel peace and safety, and freedom from fear. Spiritual Israel has the "peace of God, which passeth all understanding." (Php 4:7) Our freedom from fear in a troubled world is expressed in Psalm 46:

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof."—Ps 46:1-3

It was so frustrating and disheartening to Israel when the Midianites laid in wait and then swooped down and took away their produce for which they had worked so hard. They had to start all over again.

Similarly it sometimes seems that when we have managed to make a little headway in developing the fruits and graces of the Christian

character, the enemy comes in like a flood and undoes all our work.

This can be very discouraging. At such times let us remember,

"Lay not wait, O wicked one, against the dwelling of the righteous.

Spoil not his resting place. For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again."—Pr 24:15, 16

It’s not how many times you fall that counts, but how many times you get up. Let us say as it is written in Mic 7:8, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy. When I fall, I shall arise!" Let us remember that, in the prize ring, a fighter is counted out only if he stays down.

We note that the Midianites robbed and plundered Israel at their harvest time, depriving them of the food they had so laboriously acquired. I think this is significant. Are there some today who would take away the harvest truths which we have found so satisfying, some who would rob us of our spiritual food and leave us impoverished? Such plundering must be vigorously resisted if we would maintain our spiritual lives.

Gideon didn’t look much like a "mighty man of valour" when he hid himself in the winepress to thresh wheat. But that’s what the angel called him. Let this teach us that it is our potential that God sees when he calls us, not what we are but what we can be. If he has called you to run for the prize of the high calling, he knows that you can do it with his grace to help. As he instructed and guided Gideon in everything, he will do the same for you. His words to Gideon—

"Surely I will be with thee. . . . Have I not sent thee"—apply with equal force to you.

You will remember that the Lord said to Gideon, "Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal." (Jud 6:25) Then the second bullock was to be offered as a sacrifice. This has a wonderful significance. Adam was the Heavenly Father’s first bullock—the first perfect man, who forfeited his life through disobedience. Jesus was the—Father’s second bullock, the second perfect man, the number seven signifying perfection. The burnt sacrifice of the second bullock corresponds to the sacrifice of the bullock of the tabernacle. The second bullock was also the Ransom sacrifice. Thus we read:

"The first man, Adam, was made a living soul. The last Adam was made a quickening spirit. . . . The first man is of the earth earthy.

The second man is the Lord from heaven."—1Co 15:45, 47

When the result of this ransom sacrifice is applied to the world during the Millennium, then the antitypical altar of Baal, Satan and the devil who has so long oppressed the world, will be overthrown and the worship of the true God restored. Thus we can see that this

account of Gideon, as with so many others in the Bible, contains an outline of the entire Divine Plan from the fall of man to his restoration. Gideon—A Type of Christ Gideon of course was a type of Christ. There are so many correspondencies. The scriptures indicate that Gideon was of a princely appearance, that he had a look of nobility and resembled the child of a king. Of Jesus it was written:

"He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest. And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David."—Lu 1:32

Gideon was told, "Thou shalt smite the Mid—ianites as one man." (Jud 6:16)

Similarly, it is through the performance of one man, Jesus Christ, that Satan will be smitten and his oppressive rule over mankind ended. Thus we read:

"As by one man sin entered into the world; and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. For if through the offence of one, many be dead; much more the grace of God and the gift of grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."—Ro 5:12, 15, 19

We find that Gideon promptly obeyed the Lord’s command to destroy the altar of Baal but that he exercised prudence in doing it.

He did it at night to prevent interference. We too can be prudent in our service. We can give our witness to the world and demolish false doctrines in such a way as not to unnecessarily antagonize others, thus preventing premature interference with our work. We know according to Joh 9:4 that "the night cometh when no man can work"; but let us not precipitate that time. Jesus was similarly prudent. Although he was not afraid of the Scribes and Pharisees, he avoided unnecessary confrontation with them until his time had come. We read, "Therefore they sought again to take him; but he escaped out of their hand; and went away beyond Jordan." (Joh 10:39, 40) This was not cowardly but prudent.

In obeying the call of the Lord, Gideon risked his life, his family, and everything he had. Not knowing how he would be delivered from the wrath of the idolaters or whether he would be delivered at all, he promptly carried out the Lord’s will. When he had removed the altar of Baal, he erected another altar and offered an acceptable sacrifice to God. This is a good picture of consecration. Removing every trace of Baal worship from our hearts, renouncing every earthly idol, and raising God to a supreme position in our lives, we "present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God."—Ro 12:1

The name Midian means strife or contention. This is what Israel of old suffered. Is there strife and contention in the church today? Israel got into difficulty when they turned away from the true teachings of God. Might the strife in the church today be caused by departures from the truth as the Lord revealed it to us through his wise and faithful servant? This is something to think about.

Beware of "Midian"

There is an intimate and personal lesson to be learned from this account. If the Lord ever seems to have turned his face from you as he did from Israel, if you feel spiritually oppressed and impoverished, if you have lost much of the zestful appreciation of the truth which you once enjoyed—perhaps Midian is robbing you, too. Just as Israel was enticed into idolatry and so lost the Lord’s favor for a while, perhaps you have allowed some person or thing to become a stronghold of Baal to you. If this is the case, prompt and vigorous action is necessary. A warfare is required. As God sent Gideon to deliver Israel, he will make his mighty power available to you, through the antitypical Gideon, Jesus Christ. Thus it is written:

"The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God; and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."—2Co 10:4, 5

If you will do this, you will be restored to God’s full favor and blessing.

Gideon’s Great Victory

"The Lord delivered [the children of Israel] into the hand of Midian seven years."—Jud 6:1

THE "hand of Midian" was a heavy hand of oppression. Midian systematically plundered and robbed the Israelites of the fruit of their labors. Their situation is described in Judges chapter 6:

"And Israel greatly was impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord. And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord because of the Midianites, that the Lord sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land. And I said unto you, I am the Lord your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell; but ye have not obeyed my voice."—Jud 6:6-10

Upon hearing the repentant cry of Israel the Lord raised up Gideon to lead them away from their idolatry and deliver them from its consequences. At the Lord’s command Gideon destroyed the altar and grove of Baal thus demonstrating that the supposedly mighty Baal was no god, that he was powerless to prevent the desecration of his own altar, that he was powerless against the God of Gideon, the true God of their fathers. As a result there was a great conversion in Israel, a determination to return to the worship of Jehovah and to throw off the yoke of Midian. Gide—on was acclaimed their leader.

Midianite spies who had been planted in Israel quickly reported this situation to their lords. The enemies of Israel prompt—ly acted to put down the rebellion. Thus we read:

"Then all the Midianites, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over [the Jordan] and pitched in the valley of Jezreel."—Jud 6:33 We know from Jud 8:10

that this combined enemy army represented a force of 135, 000 men.

Realizing that Israel was now committed to war, Gideon did something which shows us that he was familiar with the law which the Lord had given Israel. We read that, "the spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and he blew a trumpet." (Jud 6:34) When he blew a trumpet under these circumstances, he obeyed a commandment of the Lord given before. It was not only a commandment but was also an assurance of victory.

"And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets. And ye shall be

remembered before the Lord your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies."—Nu 10:9

Gideon claimed this promise. He sent messengers throughout the land, blowing trumpets and rallying the men of Israel to the banner of the Lord.

As the men from the various tribes began to gather under his leadership, Gide—on had second thoughts as to whether the Lord had really appointed him to lead—Israel to victory. This seems quite incredible. Had he not previously met and talked with an angel of God who assured him that he was indeed the one selected?

"And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. . . . And the Lord looked upon him and said, Go in this thy might and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent thee?"—Jud 6:12, 14

As if this was not assurance enough, the angel of the Lord brought fire out of the rock to consume Gideon’s offering of lamb and unleavened bread. The account is in Jud 6:21. Then God spoke to him in a dream and commanded him to throw down the altar and grove of Baal. When he had done this in obedience to God’s command, he afterward was saved from almost certain death at the hands of the idolaters. Were not all these evidences assurance enough to Gideon that the Lord would indeed save Israel by his hand as he had said? No. In spite of all this he still had doubts! He felt that he had to put God to the test!

"And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor [that is, the threshing floor]; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so. For he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water."—Jud 6:36-38

Now wasn’t that a wonderful demonstration? But believe it or not, he still was not convinced!

"And Gideon said unto God, let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once. Let me prove, I pray thee, but this once [more] with the fleece. Let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night; for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground."—Jud 6:39, 40

Gideon was finally satisfied.

32, 000 men of Israel responded to Gide—on’s call to battle. From a human standpoint they were far too few and stood no chance against the 135, 000 superbly armed and disciplined enemy force arrayed against them. From God’s standpoint they were too many:

"And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands; lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me."—Jud 7:2

So the Lord instructed Gideon to make a proclamation that anyone who was fearful should return home. It is quite understandable that many would be fearful. For seven years they had been oppressed by Midian and every effort to resist had failed. They had lost confidence in themselves. True, the trumpets of Gideon had stirred them up just as today a military brass band stirs up feelings of patriotism. In their momentary enthusiasm they had responded to the call. But now, seeing the huge encampment of Midian in plain sight in the valley below, their courage evaporated. So in response to this new proclamation, 22, 000 fearful men left the army and returned home.

This left Gideon with only 10, 000 men against Midian’s 135, 000.

Now we read:

"And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many.

Bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there." —Jud 7:4

God Selects Gideon’s Army

The Lord told Gideon the test that would further reduce his forces.

Gideon told his captains what to watch for. The men had been training in the hot sun for hours and they were thirsty. Gideon gave the order and they were marched by hundreds down to a nearby brook of cool water to drink. Their method of drinking was to be a test. At the brook most of the men knelt down and threw themselves flat upon their stomachs, immersed their faces up to their eyes in the cool water, and drank deeply. But a soldier could not assume this position without first loosening his armor and removing his helmet and breastplate. He must also unbuckle and lay aside his sword.

Otherwise it might slip from its scabbard into the water when he bent forward. But a few of the men did not drink this way. Instead they squatted at the water’s edge with their bodies erect and eyes alert.

With their armor and swords intact, they cupped their hands and brought the water up to their lips and lapped it. These were the men the captains had been instructed to choose from all the rest. When the test was finished, there were only 300 of them.

"And the Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand.

And let all the other people go, every man unto his place [or tent]."—Jud 7:7

Gideon must have been shocked. How could he with only 300 men possibly defeat the vast host of Midian? The ratio was 450 to one!

These were impossible odds even if his men were equipped with machine guns! He must have retired that night with uneasy thoughts.

Then we read in verse 9: "And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him, rise, get thee down unto the host; for I have—delivered it into thine hand." Gideon must have expressed his concern because the Lord reassured him yet once again. He told Gideon to get right up while it was still night, take a servant with him, and under cover of darkness, go down to the camp of Midian and listen to what they were saying. Gideon obeyed immediately.

The enemy camp was of tremendous size.

"The Midianites, and the Amalekites, and all the children of the east, lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude. And their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude."—Jud 7:12

As is customary, sentries were posted around the camp. Under cover of darkness Gideon and his servant crept close to one of the sentry posts where two soldiers on guard duty were talking together.

"And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream; and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into, the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it, that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, this is nothing else save the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, a man of Israel. For unto his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all his host. And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the hosts of Israel and said, Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian."—Jud 7:13-15

He woke them all up even though it was still night and not just the chosen 300, but all the men of Israel who were still in the camp.

They were to be in readiness to pursue the defeated enemy. So convinced was Gideon of victory that he sent swift messengers to all the tribes to quickly come down against Midian and take a spoil to thus regain some of their losses from the seven years of oppression.

The Lord had instructed Gideon of the plan of attack. It was a simple yet extremely effective plan. Each of the 300 men was given a trumpet, an empty pitcher, and a lighted lamp. Concealing their lamps in their pitchers they silently approached the camp of Midian and spaced themselves so as to completely surround it. Then at the darkest part of the night, the middle watch, at a given signal by Gideon, they blew their trumpets, broke their pitchers, waved their lamps, and shouted:"THE SWORD OF THE LORD AND OF GIDEON!" We read:

"And they stood every man in his place round about the camp. And all the host ran and cried, and fled. And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the Lord set every man’s sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host. And the host fled."—Jud 7:21, 22

In the dark they mistook each other as the enemy and slaughtered each other as they fled.

Some may wonder why this strategy was so effective. The reason is simple. A perfect illusion had been created. In those days when an army moved at night, it was customary for only the regimental trumpeter or bugler to signal attack or retreat, as the case might be.

So when the Midianites were suddenly awakened by the noise of the breaking of pitchers and saw 300 widely spaced lamps completely surrounding them and heard 300 buglers sounding attack, the instant and natural conclusion of these trained men of war was that 300

regiments of fully armored men were—attacking them, that they were hopelessly outnumbered. The breaking pitchers did sound very much like the rattling of armor and the clashing of swords upon iron shields in battle.

Then the great number of camels in the camp panicked and created pandemonium. A camel is a large, ungainly beast, very unruly when stampeded, running in an erratic, zigzag course, trampling down anything in its path with its enormous splayed feet. We are told in the account that "their camels were without number, as the sand of the sea side for multitude."

It was a complete rout. Now all the rest of the men in Gideon’s encampment joined the 300 in pursuit. As dawn broke men from other parts of Israel arrived on the scene and attacked the fleeing host of Mid—ian from every side completely defeating them. We read that "there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword." (Jud 8:10)

Although Gideon did not realize it at the time, a great promise and prophecy had been fulfilled. It is found in Leviticus 26 and is addressed to faithful Israelites:

"And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight. And your enemies shall fall before you by the sword."—Le 26:7, 8

This is what happened when Israel had—repented of their idolatry and returned to their God. This was "the sword of the Lord, and of Gideon."

"Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon."—Jud 8:28

Lessons for Us

There are many valuable lessons to be learned from this account.

When the children of Israel realized that their departure from the true worship of God was—responsible for their being oppressed by Midian, they cried to God in sincere repentance. God heard them and delivered them. I think we can learn a timely lesson from this. At this end of the age the Lord has made the truth very plain to his people through the ministry of a special servant. If any of the Lord’s people have strayed from the truth, perhaps the Lord will permit chastisement to come upon them as he did upon Israel. He may permit some crushing experiences in order to indicate his disapproval. We know that God does sometimes rebuke his children for their own good because we read, "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him." (Heb 12:5)

Those who are alert to recognize the discipline of the Lord and search their hearts and identify the reason for it, should with broken heart cry to the Lord in humble repentance and return to the true precepts of God. If they do, God will hear their cry and give them relief just as he did to the children of Israel when they abandoned their waywardness and returned to him. God never ignores or despises a humble and heartfelt repentance. On the contrary, he delights in it and considers it an acceptable sacrifice to him. This is beautifully stated in Psalm 51:

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."—Ps 51:17

Rotherham’s translation is even more meaningful:"The sacrifices of God are a spirit that is broken. A heart, broken and crushed, O God thou wilt not despise."

Gideon’s sounding of the trumpet throughout all the land, signaling the impending defeat of Midian and the deliverance of Israel from their yoke, has a wonderful significance. It is a portrayal of the Jubilee Trumpet, signaling the Grand—Jubilee of a thousand years during which all the enemies of humanity will be destroyed, "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." (1Co 15:26) In the second volume of Studies in the Scriptures the time features of the Jubilee system are so beautifully and convincingly brought out that there can be no doubt in a reasonable mind that the Grand Jubilee began in 1874, that "the times of restitution" there commenced, that the King, Christ Jesus, began his reign, that the proclamation of liberty began, that the call to battle against Satan’s "Midian" of oppression was then heard, that since then there has been a great awakening of men to a realization of their rights, the rise of Communism, of strong labor unions, of a myriad of protest movements, of powerful and violent demands for a redistribution of properties and privileges, the desire of every man to return to his rightful possessions. Can there really be any doubt about it? This trumpet is the same as "the trump of God":

"For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming [Rotherham :presence] of the Lord, shall not precede them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord."—1Th 4:15-17

Do you believe that the sleeping saints were raised in 1878 and that since then those of us who remain are instantly changed at death? If so, you must believe that the trumpet has been sounding since then and that the Grand Jubilee of a thousand years is under way. This is further confirmed by Paul:

"Behold, I show you a mystery :We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump [Rotherham:"during the last trumpet"]; for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."—1Co 15:51, 52

It is this same trumpet mentioned in Revelation:

"And the seventh angel sounded his trumpet; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom of the world has become our Lord’s and his Christ’s, and he shall reign for the ages of the ages.

And those twenty-four elders who sit in the presence of God on their thrones, fell on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give thanks to thee, O Lord God, the omnipotent; thou who art and thou who wast, because thou hast taken thy great power and reigned. And the nations were enraged, and thy wrath came, and the appointed time of the dead to be judged [Rotherham: " vindicated"; this is the raising of the sleeping saints] and to give the reward to thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to those who fear thy name, the

little and the great and to destroy those who destroy [corrupt, pollute] the earth."—Re 11:15-18, Diaglott

There is nothing wrong with the sequence of these verses. They are in the correct—order of time. They clearly show that the reign of Christ begins before the time of trouble. This fact is also indicated in Psalm 2:

"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my King upon my Holy Hill of Zion."—Ps 2:1, 5, 6

This sequence of events is still further confirmed in Daniel:

"And at that time shall Michael stand up; the great Prince [Rotherham :ruler] which standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation."—Da 12:1

Yes, the Grand Jubilee trumpet is now sounding and will continue to sound until the end of the Millennial age at which time every man shall have returned to his rightful possession—human perfection in a happy, world-wide Eden.

In response to Gideon’s trumpet the men of Israel began to assemble under his command. They came by the thousands. Then a very strange thing happened. Gideon, who had received so many positive assurances from the Lord, began to doubt that the Lord would indeed save—Israel by his hand. He put out the fleece—asking God for a sign. Gideon did not act wisely when he did this and he knew it. He felt guilty about not taking God at his word. He knew that he was provoking God by requiring him to confirm his plainly spoken word by a sign. He admitted it when he said to God:"Let not thine anger be hot against me." (Jud 6:39)

Full Assurance of Faith

There is a lesson here. I think it is wrong for any of us to ask the Lord for a special sign; it indicates a lack of faith. Although the Lord may graciously comply with our request, as he did with Gideon, nevertheless I am sure he is much more pleased with those who are guided in all their—affairs and decisions by the principles—expressed in his word. If we had the priv—ilege of always asking God for a sign—a—direct "Yes" or "No" regarding every affair of life—it would result in a weakening of character. We would not have to use our brains. On the contrary the Lord wants us to study his word, the precepts contained in the Bible, to develop the "mind of Christ, " the spirit of a sound mind, to think like God does, to make sound decisions because we are familiar with the ways of reasonings of God. He indicates this very thing when he says, "Come now, and let us reason together." (Isa 1:18) Also:"My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways." (Pr 23:26) Along this line, Bro. Russell wrote:

"We are not to think that because the Lord thus granted proofs to Gid—eon, it would be proper for us today to make similar tests. We have much advantage every way. Behind us are the experiences of Gideon and others for now thousands of years; added to which we have the New Testament records of God’s favor toward mankind and the Lord Jesus. We have the ‘wonderful words of life, ‘and an introduction to the Heavenly Father through the begetting of the Holy Spirit as a result of faith in the precious blood. Ours is a different case. The Lord would have us walk by faith in the lessons already taught us, and not by sights and signs of our own time." Reprints, page 5606.

We find that the Lord graciously reassured Gideon over and over again, repeatedly bolstering up his faltering faith. He has great patience with us too. He helps us overcome our unbelief. I am reminded of an incident related in Mr 9:17 to 29, about a man whose son was obsessed by a particularly vicious evil spirit. The disciples could not cast out the demon so the man finally brought his little boy to Jesus, begging him for help. Then we read:"Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." The poor man was desperate. He had tried everything to heal his son. Even the disciples of Jesus had failed him. How could he have faith in anything any more? But he wanted so much to have the necessary faith, so he cried out in anguish:"Lord, I believe!

Help thou mine unbelief!" And Jesus had mercy on him, and healed the boy. We can learn an encouraging lesson from this. If our faith ever falters, preventing us from attaining some blessing we seek, let us too cry to God:"Lord, I believe! Help thou mine unbelief!" And he will.

A Test for God’s People

The account says that at first 32, 000 men enthusiastically responded to Gideon’s call to battle. But after they had observed the powerful enemy arrayed against them, 22, 000 were afraid and accepted the opportunity to return home. They had been entirely sincere when they had gathered to Gideon, but now they had counted the cost, they had seen the possibility of death, and they backed away from the conflict. This illustrates a test that comes upon all those invited to the high calling. Many enthusiastically respond, thinking of the glory, honor and immortality, and the joy of being associated with Christ in the kingdom to bless the world. Then they pause and think soberly about what sacrifice is involved just as those soldiers of Gideon. In the language of Lu 14:28, they "sit down and count the cost."

They find that it will cost them everything they have, that it means a full consecration and a faithfulness in sacrifice even unto death.

They see that the way will be rough and narrow, a constant battle against the forces of evil in themselves and the world. It is at this point the original enthusiasm of many fades and they react like the rich young man of Mt 19:22 who declined the invitation of Jesus, the Greater Gideon, and "went away sorrowful."

There is nothing wrong with counting the cost. Jesus himself recommended it in Lu 14:28, 31. What is wrong is the reaching of an illogical conclusion and thus passing up the grandest opportunity that will ever be offered to anyone. These do not realize what a tremendous bargain the high calling really is. It is like getting a million dollars by paying just one cent. Paul had the right conception of the matter when he wrote:

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. . . . For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."—Ro 8:18; 2Co 4:17

After the fearful 22, 000 went home, there were 10, 000 brave men left who under Gideon’s leadership were willing to do battle against the overwhelmingly superior enemy. These represent those who, after counting the cost, do not draw back but go forward and make a full consecration under the headship of Christ.

Now came the second test by the Lord’s direction which reduced Gideon’s army from 10, 000 to a mere 300. It was a test by water.

They were led to the brook to drink. Here, as in many other places in the scriptures, water represents the truth. As all the men were thirsty and eagerly drank of the water, so all the consecrated love and appreciate the truth. But the test of Gide—on showed a difference in the manner of partaking which divided the soldiers into two classes.

Most of the soldiers forgetting all else but their thirst for water loosened their armor, removed their helmet, unbuckled their swords, threw themselves flat on the ground, soiling their uniforms in the process, and buried their faces in the water. This seems to picture a somewhat careless group of the Lord’s consecrated—people. They love the truth but only think of their own satisfaction in it. They do not maintain an alertness to their opportunities. They lay aside the

"helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit." (Eph 6:17) They lack zeal, both in their own development and in the service of the truth to others. They do not keep "the whole armor of God" (Eph 6:11) including "the breastplate of righteousness" securely fastened. They allow their robes to become spotted (Jas 1:27). You will recognize this group as the Great Company.

A small minority of the soldiers, only 300, a "little flock" so to speak, drank in an entirely different manner. Squatting at the water’s edge with bodies erect and eyes alert, and with their armor and swords intact, they cupped their hands, brought the water up to their lips, and lapped it with their tongues. It was these who were chosen from the others. These represent the ones who never for a moment forget their high calling as "good—soldiers of Jesus Christ." (2Ti 2:3)

These are they who while partaking of the water of truth remain upright and alert to every opportunity of service, who obey the injunction of Eph 6:13 to keep on "the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day; and having done all, to stand"; who never for a moment relax their hold on "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Eph 6:17) They hold to the truth with which the Lord has armed them and never let it go. As the selected soldiers cupped their hand for the water, it is written of these: "[ their] hands have handled of the Word of life." (1Jo 1:1) They use their tongues; they are zealous in proclaiming the truth to others. These are the "called, chosen, and faithful" of Re 17:14.

Thus we read, "Many are called, but few are chosen." (Mt 22:14) Only 300 out of 10, 000! This proportion should have a sobering effect upon us. Let us determine to be of this small, select group.

Each of the chosen ones was given a trumpet, a pitcher and a lamp.

The battle order that Gideon gave them was very simple. "Do as I do." That’s all:

"And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise. And, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be, that as I do, so shall ye do."—Jud 7:17

The instruction to us by the Greater Gide—on, Jesus Christ, is likewise simple. It is just two words:"Follow me!" As the apostle puts it, "Leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps."—1Pe 2:21

They took their places around the camp. When Gideon blew his trumpet, his soldiers blew their trumpets. Similarly we follow the leading of the Captain of our salvation (Heb 2:10) in the proclamation of the Harvest Message at this time of the Jubilee Trumpet.

The instruction of Gideon to simply blow trumpets at such a time may have seemed foolish to some of his men. "What can a blast of sound accomplish against a host of armed men?" they may have asked. But foolish as it seemed, it was extremely effective. Similarly some of God’s best methods seem strange and foolish to men. In Isa 28:21, God’s method of defeating his enemies is described as "his work, his strange work, and the bringing to pass of his act, his strange act." And it is written:"It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe." (1Co 1:21) If we follow the Lord’s instructions, our apparently foolish, feeble efforts will accomplish that which the Lord pleases.

Doing exactly what Gideon did the soldiers broke their pitchers and held their lamps high in the air, meanwhile alternately blowing upon their trumpets and shouting:"The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!"

The pitchers represent our earthen vessels; the breaking of them to let the light shine out is the faithful carrying out of our consecration.

Thus we read:

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels." —2Co 4:7

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."—Ro 12:1

It is written of a faithful child of God:

"He shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work."—2Ti 2:21

As a beautiful hymn expresses it:"A broken and emptied vessel, for the Master’s use made meet." We read in Ps 31:12, "I am like a broken vessel." In this we follow the example of the greater Gideon, —Jesus Christ, who broke his earthen vessel. Paul says this about our Lord:

"[ He] took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take eat, this is my body which is broken for you. This do in remembrance of me."—1Co 11:23, 24

In other words, "Do the same thing. Sacrifice your human bodies, as I have done mine." When our Lord broke his earthen vessel and raised his lamp on high during his earthly ministry, the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled:

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a Great light. They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."—Isa 9:2

Jesus confirmed this:

"Then spake Jesus unto them, saying, I am the light of the world. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."—Joh 8:12

Speaking of our broken vessels and the reflected light we display, Jesus said:

"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. . . . Let your light so shine before men, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."—Mt 5:14, 16

Our lights are not as great as his. They are feeble and flickering. But by the Lord’s grace and blessing, they are made effective in accomplishing his will.

"THE SWORD OF THE LORD AND OF GIDEON!" they shouted, and the enemy fled, slaughtering one another as they went. Thus by obedience to God’s command and without using their weapons, Gideon and his small band exerted a mighty force against the stronghold of Midian. Regarding the antitypical Gideon band of which we are members, we read:

"The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds."—2Co 10:4

"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts."—Zec 4:6

The defeat of the Midianites released the people of Israel from their long and hard bondage to Midian. After all they had suffered it was a glorious liberty indeed. Thus Christ and the church are to release mankind from their 6000-year bondage to Satan, the devil, and to sin and death. Then this prophecy will be fulfilled:

"The creature [human creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God."—Ro 8:21

When the enemy was in headlong flight, the 9, 700 men of Gideon’s army who had failed to show the required zeal in the test at the brook now joined in the chase with great enthusiasm, assisting in the destruction of the enemy. This pictures the hearty and willing cooperation of the Great Company in the great work of the Millennial age, assisting Christ and the church in the elimination of every vestige of sin.

We find in the record that all the men of Israel joined in pursuing the enemy. This represents all the other forces cooperating in the work of the Kingdom. The captains of the various tribes would picture the

"Princes in all the earth." Next in order would be the converted Nation of Israel, the Blesser Nation, followed by every person of good will, all the willing and obedient of mankind, "whosoever will." Thus the victory over sin and death will be complete.

Paul names Gideon as one of the Ancient Worthies in Heb 11:32. His record of faithfulness in leading Israel to victory over Midian is given in verse 34: "Out of weakness was made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens."

How delighted Gideon will be when he returns and finds that he was

used as a type of Christ and that his little band of 300 pictured the victorious church!

"Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-shalom :unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites." —Jud 6:24

We thank the Lord for the lessons of Gide—on’s victory. We look forward to the victory of the Greater Gideon, our Lord Jesus Christ, over sin and death, and our part in it!

God Prepares a Great Leader (Moses)

THE setting of our lesson is Egypt, where the children of Israel resided, in the land of Goshen. Joseph had ruled Egypt for 80 years, dying at the age of 110. Many years had passed since then, as we read in Ex 1:6-8.

"And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all of that generation.

And the children of Israel were fruitful, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph."

Since Joseph ruled Egypt for 80 years, there was undoubtedly more than one Pharaoh on the throne during the period. But they were benevolent Pharaohs who recognized and appreciated Joseph’s administrative ability and remembered the great debt they owed him for saving their nation from famine. But, now, many years after Joseph’s death a new Pharaoh had risen, who did not respect Joseph, and who was antagonistic toward the Israelites and did not recognize any debt to them, nor to Joseph whose people they were.

It is generally agreed that this Pharaoh was Rameses the second, a hard hearted, selfish, and wicked despot. It is this Pharaoh who

"knew not Joseph." Using the Revised Version, we read in Ex 1:9, 10:

"And he said to his people, Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war befall us, they join our enemies and fight against us, and escape from the land."

This Pharaoh saw that the Israelites were more rugged stock, and were multiplying much more rapidly than the Egyptians. Therefore, he considered them a menace to the country.

Up to this time the presence of Israel had been considered a protection to Egypt; a sort of buffer zone. The land of Goshen lay to the eastward and it was from this direction that an attack from Assyria might be expected. Thus, Israel would take the brunt of the attack. But now, with the Israelites becoming more numerous than the Egyptians, a new danger threatened. It occurred to this suspicious and cynical Pharaoh that an invading army might bribe Israel with the promise of independence, thus enlisting their support to overthrow his rule in Egypt. So he decided to do something about it.

In order to stop their population growth, Pharaoh gave orders to have the Israelites subjected to extremely hard labor with the idea that this would debilitate them. Not many realize the tremendous scope of his program of oppression. He completely and drastically reorganized the lives of the children of Israel. He converted the entire land of Goshen, with its over two millions of population, into a vast prison state with every able-bodied man sentenced to hard labor under the cruel administration of armed slave-masters.

What a contrast this was to their previous condition. When they first came to Egypt they were shepherds and herdsmen . That is why they were given the land of Goshen which was a grassy plain suitable for grazing. Pharaoh said to Joseph these words, as found in Ge 47:6,

"The land of Egypt is before thee. In the best of the land make thy father and thy brethren to dwell. In the land of Goshen let them dwell."

Herding cattle and sheep is not easy, but it is a clean invigorating life, spent in large and peaceful open spaces without confining restrictions and the pressure of continual urgency. But now all this was rudely changed. Suddenly, these peaceful shepherd people were rounded up and put in chain gangs for the making of brick and to do heavy construction work. A labor for which they were—totally unsuited. They were driven to the limit of—human endurance by the whips of strong taskmasters. Thus we read the account in Ex 1:11-14, "Therefore, they did set over them task-masters, to afflict them with their burdens. The Moffatt translation reads:

"They put them under captains of the labor gangs, to crush them with heavy loads, and they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with hard bondage, in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service wherein they made them serve with rigour."

The making and handling of sun-dried brick is hard work, even when one is not driven in his labors as were the Israelites. First, the clay must be dug from the alluvial deposits of the Nile delta, and wet and heavy, it must be back-packed to the factory site. And all the while a lively pace must be maintained. Then the clay must be further wetted and mixed with chopped straw as a binder, and rammed tightly in molds. Then, after the setting of the mixture, the molds must be inverted and the wet bricks carried on heavily-loaded stretchers to the drying floors. High daily quotas were established for brick production, calculated to tax human endurance to the utmost, and severe beatings administered for failure to meet the quotas. Then the bricks after being turned over several times in the drying process must be—gathered and back-packed to the building site, often miles away. In all this, speed was constantly urged by whip-wielding guards. Many of the workers dropped under their loads in sheer exhaustion. When this happened they were mercilessly beaten with sticks upon the soles of their feet until they got up and staggered on.

The record is, that with these bricks the children of Israel built whole cities of warehouses for Pharaoh, in which to store the treasures of Egypt. This construction work, too, was very laborious. Mortar must be produced. They did not have Portland cement in those days, but used a mixture of clay and bitumen, substances very difficult to combine. As the erection of a building progressed, scaffolding had to be built, and the bricks and mortar carried up ladders to the bricklayers. The Egyptian brick of that time was much larger than ours, weighing perhaps ten pounds each. Here, again, high quotas were enforced. So many bricks a day must be laid, under penalty of severe punishment.

And the women carried their share of the burden. Many gave up their homes, took their young children with them, and set up camp near their men-folk, to cook for them and provide a place of rest and comfort at the end of the long day’s toil. Many others undoubtedly replaced the men in the work of tending flocks and herds. The statement of Ex 1:14, states, "that the children of Israel were pressed into all manner of service in the field." This implies that, in addition to brick-making, they were compelled to learn all the trades and occupations of their master. Thus, from being herdsmen, they were forced into an industrial school, learning the various skills of the most—advanced civilization of that time. Such training, although severe, proved to be very useful later on when they were delivered from Egypt and were on their own. Thus it was overruled for their good.

But this elaborate plan of Pharaoh did not work as intended—to prevent the increase of the children of Israel. In verse 12 we read,

"But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew." But it did provide the Egyptians an enormous supply of very profitable slave labor. So it was continued as a national policy.

Pharaoh Tries Genocide

Now Pharaoh tried another method of—reducing the Hebrew population. He commanded Hebrew midwives to strangle every male child at birth. But this command was disregarded, the God-fearing midwives claiming that they arrived too late. So this plan also failed.

Thus we read in Ex 1:20,

"Therefore God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and waxed very mighty."

Furious at being thus frustrated, Pharaoh now made a decree displaying far more cruelty than even the notorious Herod who slaughtered the babes of Bethlehem. He commanded every Hebrew parent to slaughter his own male children and—decreed that those failing to do so should themselves be executed. He went further than that in his Satanic cruelty. He commanded the Egyptians that if they saw any Hebrew boy they must seize him and throw him into the river and drown him. In Acts 7, verses 18 and 19 we read where Stephen refers to this Pharaoh and his evil decree:

"Another king arose, who knew not Joseph. The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end that they might not live."

In Ex 1:22 we read, "And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, every son that is born, ye shall cast into the river." These are the distressing conditions which prevailed when Moses was born.

Now we can better understand what happened next. We read in Exodus 2, verses 1 and 2:

"And there went a man of the house of Levi and took to wife a daughter of Levi, and the woman conceived, and bare a son. And when she saw him, that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months."

This description of the babe Moses as a "goodly child" is not really adequate. In Acts 7, verse 20, Stephen describes him as being

"exceeding fair, " which the Diaglott and Moffatt translations render

"divinely beautiful." Phillips calls him "a child of remarkable beauty." Recounting this event, Paul wrote concerning Moses, in—Hebrews 11, verse 23, using the Diaglott,

"In Faith Moses, being born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw the child was beautiful:and they did not fear the edict of the king: "

Weymouth renders the text, "Through faith, the child Moses was hid for three months by his parents, because they saw his rare beauty:

and the king’s edict had no terror for them." An interesting sidelight is provided by the Jewish historian, Josephus. He records that, later on, "those who saw the infant Moses as he was carried along the streets, forgot their business, and stood still to gaze at him."

At first it was easy enough to hide a tiny new-born baby of sweet disposition, who slept most of the time, and seldom cried; and even then, not loudly. But as the child grew, concealment became more and more difficult. The law respecting male infants was well known; and probably a reward offered for information regarding those evading it. So the time came when an agonizing decision had to be made. Considering that the child Moses was bound to be discovered sooner or later, his parents decided upon a unique plan of action.

Moses and Pharaoh’s Daughter

They lived near the Nile river and their whole strategy was based upon the fact that Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the river to bathe, at a certain spot, at a certain time, every day. Although called

"Phar—aoh’s daughter, " we are told by historians that she was, in reality, the wife of the reigning Pharaoh, being the daughter of a preceding Pharaoh. She was barren, and greatly yearned to have a son who would be heir to the throne. The Nile river was held sacred by the Egyptians as being the source of life and fertility. So her daily immersion in the Nile was a ceremonial religious rite, performed with the object of curing her barrenness. Moses’ parents knew all this, and planned accordingly. Now let us read the scriptural account from Ex 2:2-9, using the Revised Version, which—rivals any fiction story in pathetic tenderness and emotional suspense. We will paraphrase as we go along:

"And when she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes, and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. And she put the child in it, and placed it among the reeds at the river’s brink."

How carefully Moses’ mother wove that little basket which was to contain the most precious thing in the world to her. It was a tiny little ark, to preserve a tiny life in the water. As she made it, she probably thought of the great ark of Noah’s day which the Lord had instructed should be covered with pitch to make it water-tight. So she did likewise, testing it in a tub of water to make sure it would stay dry.

Then she lined it with the softest wool for warmth and comfort. She made a cover for it, also of bulrushes, but loosely woven to permit ventilation. Early the next morning, before it was fully light, she dressed the child in his daintiest clothes, fed him, and placed him in the ark, where he promptly went to sleep. Then, as the sun was rising, she and her husband, together with Mir—iam, the nine-year- old sister of Moses, carried the ark with its precious cargo down to the river. They took a last tearful look at their beautiful baby, then they covered the ark and placed it in the water at just the right spot, tying it to a clump of reeds to prevent it being carried away by the current. Before leaving they bowed their heads, committing their helpless child to God’s care. Then little Mir—iam, who loved her baby brother so very much, stayed behind and watched from a distance to see what would happen to him. But someone else was watching too. The angel of the Lord was there.

Do you realize that, technically, Moses’ parents had obeyed the law of Pharaoh? The edict, given in Ex 1:22, was that every Hebrew boy must be cast into the river, even though he was in a little water- proof cradle! Now we read:

"And his sister stood at a distance, to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, and her maidens walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds, and sent her maid to fetch it. When she opened it, she saw the child:and lo, the babe was crying. She took pity on him and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children."

Can you imagine the impact this had on Pharaoh’s daughter? She had come to the river, yearning for a baby son, and, suddenly, she had in her arms a baby boy of surpassing beauty! How her womanly heart must have responded to the situa—tion. The gods had heard her petition, she concluded. She had asked the sacred river to give her a son, and here it was! She immediately determined to adopt him, even though she knew he was of Hebrew parentage.

There is something about a crying baby that touches the heart. They are so entire—ly helpless. Crying is the only way they have to announce their needs. Pharaoh’s daughter surmised correctly that it was from hunger that the baby cried. After all, it had been several hours since he had been fed. So it was at exactly the right moment that little Miriam ran up to her, and she knew just what to say, too.

As we read in the account:

"Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women, to nurse the child for you? And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, go. So the girl went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, take this child away, and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages. So the woman took the child and nursed him."

I am sure that Pharaoh’s daughter was not deceived a bit. When she handed the baby over to the Hebrew woman, and saw how he immediately stopped his crying, and gurgled with happiness. She saw through Miriam’s little scheme. She knew that this woman was the baby’s real mother. But she didn’t care. The baby now belonged to her. He was no longer a Hebrew boy. He was now an Egyptian prince.

What a transformation there now was in the household of Moses’ parents. On one day the child Moses was a danger and a menace in their home. There was an atmosphere of fear and tension. A dread of every footstep, as perhaps that of an Egyptian officer, coming to kill their baby, and to also take their own lives for daring to disobey the royal edict. The next day, through Divine providence, the child is back in the same home, which now had become a safe and secure sanctuary, under the protection of Pharaoh himself. The child’s own mother is now paid wages by the Egyptian princess for caring for him.

Moses’ Early Years

It took a lot of faith for Moses’ parents to do what they did. Because of their faith, they qualified to be of the ancient worthy class. Paul includes them with those he lists in the 11th chapter of Hebrews. We read in the 23rd verse, Revised Version:

"By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful:and they were not afraid of the king’s edict."

They now had a powerful incentive to instruct the child Moses in the knowledge of the Lord, and particularly of his promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; that in their seed "all the families of the earth be blessed." They realized that by his adoption into the royal family of Egypt, Moses might eventually be in a position to alleviate the sufferings of the children of Israel and, perhaps, in some way even deliver them from Egypt. They knew that—Jacob had prophesied to Joseph:"I die, but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers." They knew Joseph had said, Ge 50:24, "I die, and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." Under these circumstances it is only natural that they would continually impress upon young Moses, while he was in their care, the importance of his Hebrew heritage, and his responsibility to maintain his—devotion to Jehovah, the great God of his fathers.

They would often remind him of God’s promises, that the children of Israel must eventually dwell in the land of Canaan. That their sojourn in Egypt was only temporary. So this is the atmosphere in which Moses was reared. He learned the Hebrew language, and traditions, and customs. He was thoroughly imbued in the faith of his fathers. He saw the sufferings of his people under their taskmasters, and sympathized with them. It all made a deep and lasting impression upon his young mind. We now read the account,

"And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses, and said, because I drew him out of the water."

It has been suggested that Moses was probably between seven and twelve years of age when he left his parental home, and was taken to the royal palace to live. This does not mean that Pharaoh’s daughter never saw him from boyhood until that time. She must have visited him frequently in the home of his parents, perhaps personally delivering his mother’s wages to her. She probably brought Moses presents, and colorful Egyptian clothing, befitting a young prince.

She had named him Moses, which means, "Born from the water, " thus indicating that she had indeed borne a son, out of the water of the sacred river Nile. I am sure that the beauty, and charming disposition and mannerisms of the little boy must have thoroughly captivated her, and caused her to love him very much. But the time finally came when all natural home ties must be broken. Young Moses must take up his life with the royal family, as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. His father and mother had prepared Moses for this eventuality; and he had become well acquainted with his adoptive mother. So the transition was not a distressing experience.

Moses at the Palace

Now we find a gap in the scriptural account. The next verse of Ex 2:11 refers to Moses as a full grown man. But we can pretty well piece together what happened in the interim. Stephen tells us, in Ac 7:22, Diaglott, that,

"Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was powerful in his words and works."

Now his formal education began. You may be sure that, as a royal prince, it was the very best education that Egypt could provide.

Egypt was the world center of learning at that time. History tells us that the reigning Pharaoh, Rameses the 2nd, had established a library at Thebes, containing 20, 000 books, and that two great universities had access to this library. Jewish historians say that Moses attended one of these universities. They tell us that he learned mathematics, geometry, astronomy, celestial navigation, medicine and music. He mastered the art of surveying and the division of lands. Astonishing his instructors with his genius, he designed boats, and invented hydraulic and other machinery, for the use in war and other purposes. We are told that he gained a thorough knowledge of the languages and hieroglyphics of all nations. Beside all this, he is said to have been an outstanding musician in harp and flute. All the while I am sure that he was permitted to frequently visit his parents, whom he loved and respected.

His parents would continue to instruct him regarding the God of Israel, the only true God, and faith in his oath-bound Covenant. This would counteract any Egyptian religious instruction and philosophy to which he was exposed at school. Also, his parents would continually remind him of his relationship to the oppressed—Israelites, and imbue him with a patriotic feeling of devotion to his own people. We know this to be true because these qualities stand out prominently throughout his entire life as they could not do unless they had been thoroughly implanted and cherished in his youth.

As he had been a very beautiful child, Moses became a very handsome man. We again quote Jewish tradition which says, "As a man, he was so handsome that passers-by would turn to gaze after him. Even laborers forget their tasks in the spell of his rare beauty."

Stephen tells us in Ac 7:22 that Moses "Was mighty in words and deeds." The Weymouth translation says that he "possessed great influence through his eloquence and his achievements." The scriptures are silent as to what his "mighty deeds" and

"achievements" were. Again we turn to the writings of Josephus to fill the gap. We are told that when Moses was grown to manhood the Ethiopians invaded Egypt. Pharaoh’s army was utterly defeated and the enemy began pouring into Egypt. Panic spread over the country and Pharaoh trembled at the approach of the savage barbarians. As was the custom in times of crisis, the Oracles were consulted as to what should be done. They advised that the command of the Egyptian army should be entrusted to Moses. Pharaoh then so ordered. General Moses quickly reorganized the army, and, by a clever strategy, surprised the enemy and drove them out of Egypt with heavy losses. He then pursued the defeated Ethi—opians into their own country, capturing one city after another, destroying all resistance. He is said to have returned from this campaign the most popular man in Egypt. FSee Reprints, page 3988. This must have been one of the "mighty deeds" and "achievements" to which Stephen refers.

Why do you suppose Moses, a man of God, so willingly took the lead in such a military action? I am sure that the thought uppermost in his mind was not so much the defense of Pharaoh’s government but the defense of his own people, the children of Israel, who were domiciled in Egypt, and whose lives were endangered by the invasion.

The Rejection of Royalty

Now we come to the time described by Paul in Heb 11:24-26,

"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the—pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward."

One wonders what powerful force caused Moses to take this stand:to make such a drastic decision. He was handsome and talented Crown Prince of Egypt, and admired by all. Because of the success of his Ethiopian campaign he had become the most popular man in Egypt. He would probably succeed to the throne, in due course.

What induced him to forsake all this and identify himself with the despised and enslaved children of Israel? What incentive did he have to do this?

First of all, a strong sense of justice is indicated. He had come to the realization that the luxury and wealth he had been enjoying were the

"pleasures of sin." Wealth unjustly resulting from the sinful enslavement and oppression of his own people. His sense of justice could no longer accept this. Another powerful force was the faith of his fathers; a belief in God and an absolute conviction that God would keep the oath-bound Covenant made with the children of Israel, that through them all the families of the earth would be blessed. This is what is meant by his "esteeming the reproach of Christ (Messiah), (or the Anointed), greater riches than the treasures of Egypt."

How were the reproaches of Messiah heaped against the Israelites? No doubt the Egyptians had learned that the Israelites believed themselves to be the heirs of the great promises from the Almighty to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that through their

nation should come the great Messiah, the great Deliverer, who should bless and rule the world. No doubt the children of Israel were frequently taunted by their oppressors because of their extravagant hopes. Perhaps a taskmaster, beating an Israelite, would sneeringly say, "Where is your great Messiah now? Why doesn’t he come to deliver you from me?" This would be the "reproach of Messiah."

Moses chose to place himself under that reproach, rather than remain in the palace. Believing God’s promises, he preferred to associate himself with his despised people, and left the courts of Egypt. As the apostle explains, this was because "he had respect unto the recompense of the reward." He hoped, by identifying himself with his own people, to preserve his share in the Abrahamic promises, and to obtain the reward of a "better resurrection." Moses learned and maintained this magnificent faith through the influence of his parents who taught him these things at every opportunity. So it is no wonder that they, too, are listed as ancient worthies in Heb 11:23.

Paul’s statement in Heb 11:24 that "by faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, " indicates that he went to his adoptive mother and told her of his decision to renounce his position as Crown Prince, and to resign from the royal court. How she must have pleaded with him to change his mind, but to no avail. Pharaoh himself was very displeased and angry. But Moses didn’t care. We know this from Heb 11:27, "By faith he forsook Egypt (that is, he renounced his position in Egypt), not fearing the wrath of the king." Then Moses must have returned to again live in the home of his parents. This is suggested by Ex 2:11, saying that "he went out unto his brethren." And by Paul’s statement in Hebrews 11:25, that he chose

"to suffer affliction with the people of God." And also Stephen’s statement in Ac 7:23, that "it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel."

Moses had a plan. He now expected the children of Israel to accept him as their leader, to deliver them from their bondage in Egypt. He felt that God had prepared him from infancy for this very task. And had he not proven his leadership ability in the Ethiopian campaign? He was eager to assume this leadership, feeling confident that he could do it. Thus we read, from Stephen’s account in Ac 7:23-25,

"And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian. For he supposed his brethren would have understood how God, by his hand, would deliver them; but they understood not."

Moses was right, of course. God had indeed selected him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. But his timing was off. He anticipated the Lord by forty years. He thought he was ready but really was not. He was too self-assured. He was ready to go ahead in his own might, instead of the Lord’s.

The Flight to Midian

We now continue with the narrative by reading Ex 2:13-15.

"And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together. And he said to him that did wrong, wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? And he said, who made thee a prince and a judge over us? Intendest thou to kill me as thou killest the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known. Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian."

In Midian, Moses became a simple shepherd. What a humbling experience this was for him. The handsome, talented, highly- educated Crown Prince and military commander of Egypt, plodding after a flock of sheep, and not for only a few days, but for forty years. But during that time he lost none of his faith and devotion to God. Nor his strength of character, nor all the wisdom of the Egyptians he had learned. But he did lose something. He lost his pride and self assurance.

We read in Nu 12:3, "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." He wasn’t that way before. Now he was doubly educated. Now he could be used by the Lord. Now he was fit to lead the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt, and he did. God’s preparation of Moses to be a great leader, holds lessons for the New Creation. Those who will live and reign with Christ will also be leaders. As Moses led the children of Israel out from the bondage of Egypt, into the promised land, we will have part in leading the world of mankind out from Satan’s bondage of sin and death, into the promised kingdom of God and its restitution to life.

With Moses the preparation began very early. When he was born, his parents saw that he was a "beautiful child." But the Lord saw that he was a beautiful child even before he was born. He saw that Moses was beautifully endowed by inheritance, that his disposition and natural talents would be such as could be molded to make him just right for the Master’s use. Others of the prophets were similarly—selected by God from birth, for example, —Samuel and John the Baptist. And of the New Creation, Paul is an example of this. He said

in Ga 1:15 that, "It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace."

I think others, also, have been so noted and especially led by the Lord from the time of their birth. I believe Brother Russell was one of those. Born of Godly parents, superbly gifted by inheritance, and endowed with a high degree of veneration, he was, from his earliest youth, led by God, surrounded by his providences, and given just the right experiences to fit him to be "that Faithful and Wise Servant" of prophecy, the one through whom we all have received the truth at this end of the age.

But with most of us the preparation starts much later in life and without any outstanding talents and natural endowments to begin with. How true it is that "Not many wise, mighty or noble are called." (1Co 1:26) But no matter what our station in life when we are called, if our consecration is sincere and entire , and, if we yield ourselves into the hands of the Lord as clay in the hands of the potter, the Lord will see to it that our preparation for the kingdom is thorough and complete. He will see to it that we are surrounded by his providences, and receive every necessary experience to shape us and to mold us, thus to make us fit for the Master’s use. Therefore, we read in Jer 18:6,

"O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as the potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand."

As spiritual Israel, we are the heirs of this promise. And how wonderful it is to be in the hands of our loving Heavenly Father!

Satan Controlled Pharaoh

In the oppression of the children of Israel by Rameses the second, the hand of Satan is clearly seen. Satan was in Eden and heard the pronouncement of God, that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. (Ge 3:15) He had carefully traced that "seed" through the centuries. He had seen it develop in God’s gracious promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As time went on, he identified the children of Israel as the source of that "seed" which was to bruise his head. So we can see that it was none other than Satan who put the evil thought of genocide into Pharaoh’s mind, to destroy Israel and thus kill the "seed" of promise. But Satan’s scheme was not successful. It was overruled for Israel’s ultimate good. Their troubles drew them closer together, in ties of mutual misery. Their segregation kept them separated from the idolatrous Egyptians. Their oppression led them to cry to the Lord in their distress, and resulted in a great deliverance from Egypt, and an entrance into the promised land.

Satan was not discouraged. He continued to trace the "seed" down through the ages. In time, he identified it as Jesus, and tried repeatedly to destroy him. Failing in this, he has traced the "seed" of promise in the Church, the Body of Christ, and has continued his efforts to destroy it. He is trying to destroy the remnant of it right now.

Let us learn from Israel’s experience. When we see Satan’s efforts to disrupt the Church, let it draw us closer together in mutual sympathy, and in separateness from the world, the flesh, and the devil; and in holding fast to our heritage of harvest truth. If faithful, our fleshly bondage in Egypt will soon be over, and as Spiritual Israel, we, too, will have a great deliverance, into the glorious promised Heavenly inheritance.

Stephen says, in Ac 7:20, that Moses, as a baby, was "exceeding fair." The marginal notation is "Fair to God." The Moffatt translation describes him as "divinely beautiful." This brings to mind the child Jesus. If the imperfect child Moses was so beautiful, how much lovelier must the perfect child Jesus have been. We are told, in So 5:16, that he was "altogether lovely." Lu 2:52 records for us that everybody loved him, both God and men, with these words, "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man."

What a handsome boy he must have been at 12 years of age, when he visited the Temple at Jerusalem, seeking information from the Doctors of the law. We read in Lu 2:46 that after three days his parents "found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking questions." To hold the interest of those dignified and learned men for three days, suggests not only an unusual mental capacity for one so young, but also a high degree of personal charm.

God’s Children Are Beautiful

Do you realize that God sees his spiritual children as very beautiful? Not beautiful in outward physical appearance, because it is written in 1Sa 16:7, "The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." What is this rare and Divine beauty which the Lord sees in his children? It is an inner beauty, it is their total heart-devotion to him. A complete consecration, and an earnest heart-desire to conform to God’s glorious character, as exemplified in Christ Jesus. It is because their imperfections and shortcomings are covered by the beautiful robe of Christ’s righteousness. With all their hearts, they seek to serve the Lord now. They are preparing themselves for the greater service of the future, when they shall live and reign with Christ. They are beautiful because they are begotten by the Holy Spirit to the glorious, golden Divine Nature, and are holy in God’s sight. This is what is meant by 1Ch 16:29:

"Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name. Bring an offering, and come before him. Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."

We also read, in Ps 90:17, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish thou the work of our hands." In Psalm 45, verses 10, 11, 13-15, we may note how graphically is the expression as the Lord looks upon us. He sees us as his own lovely daughter, a royal princess, the beautiful Bride of Christ. We read,

"Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear. Forget also thine own people, and thy father’s (Adam’s) house. So shall the King greatly desire thy beauty; for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him. The King’s daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework. The virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought.

They shall enter into the king’s palace."

Besides the beauty of character, illustrated by the "raiment of needlework, " the work of the Lord we are engaged in, also makes us beautiful in God’s sight. Therefore, we read in Isa 52:7,

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!"

God esteems very highly, and considers beautiful, the "feet"

members of the Body of Christ; those who now proclaim that Christ’s reign has begun.

So we, as the child Moses was, and as Jesus was, are "fair to God."

What a precious thought this is! How careful this should make us in our Christian walk, to maintain this marvelous standing before the Lord.

Parallels Between Moses and Us

As Moses, of the Children of Israel, was born under condemnation to death by the edict of Pharaoh, so we, the children of Adam, are born under the condemnation to death. But by the providences of the Lord, Moses was drawn out of the water, saved from death, and adopted into a royal family. Similarly, as is written of each of us, in Ps 18:16, "He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of the many waters." We were taken out of the world; we were redeemed from sin and death, and have been adopted into the family of God. But although Moses now belonged to the king, he remained

for a while in his parental home. So with us. Although spirit- begotten New Creatures, children of the Heavenly King, we are not immediately glorified, but must remain in the flesh for a while. As the child Moses was there instructed in the faith of his fathers and given a religious training he would never forget, so our characters as New Creatures are developed while still in the tabernacle of our flesh.

The parents of Moses demonstrated an outstanding faith by concealing the babe Moses, and then placing him in the river.

Thousands of Hebrew boys must have died because of Pharaoh’s cruel edict. But we read of Moses’ parents that by faith they hid Moses and "were not afraid of the king’s commandment." As far as we know, they had no revelation in this matter. No angel instructed them to do what they did. They had no assurance whatever of success. They acted in pure faith, and laid their lives on the line.

How richly the Lord blessed their action. As a reward, they will be of the Ancient Worthy class. They are examples to us. If we remain in the faith and emulate their faith, we also will be richly blessed, and will even gain a higher reward—the reward of the Divine Nature.

Now we come to the beautiful picture of consecration as found in Heb 11:24-26. We read,

"By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the—pleasures of sin for a season. Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward."

This is an illustration of the Christian course. In consecration, we renounce the world and its pleasures and interests, choosing rather the afflictions of Christ. As in 2Ti 2:12, Paul writes, "If we suffer [with him], we shall also reign with him." Thus we renounce the miserable rewards and treasures the world had to offer for the much greater treasures of heaven. As our Lord commanded in Mt 6:19-21,

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

We also have respect unto the "recompence of the reward." We know our reward, if we are faithful, is the highest reward God will ever grant to any creature.

Now we come to the most important lesson of all. Stephen says of Moses in Egypt, in Ac 7:22 that he "was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds." Phillips translation:"He became not only an excellent speaker, but a man of action as well." He was anxious and eager to deliver the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt, and felt quite equal to the task.

However, forty years later, in Midian, we read of the same man, Moses:

"And Moses said unto God, who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?"—Ex 3:11

"And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant; but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue."—Ex 4:10

Is this the same person, we might ask? What had happened to Moses to so completely transform him from an eloquent, self-assured, eager-for-action man, into the very meekest of men; claiming slowness of speech and saying, "Who am I?" esteeming himself incompetent for the job?

This brings out the most important lesson of all. The necessity for humility. It took 40 years as a lowly shepherd in Midian to teach Moses this lesson. Not a minute of that time was wasted. It was worth it. Now, at last, he was fit to be used of the Lord. He would now go in the Lord’s strength, and not in his own.

What do we learn from this? No matter how noble, talented, and wise in the truth you are, God cannot use you if you lack humility. You cannot be of the Little Flock without it. In 1Pe 5:5, 6 we read,

"Be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time."

Let it not take us forty years to learn this lesson. See Reprints, pages 1651, 2900, 2903, 2904, 2909, 3982, 3988, 5250, 5251, 5261, and 5264.

God’s Plan of the Ages

SOME do not believe that God exists and hence are unable to accept the idea that there is an orderly and coordinated divine Plan of the Ages concerning mankind. But many who doubt the very existence of God have not given the matter sufficient intelligent thought. When the facts are seriously considered, it is almost impossible not to believe in a Supreme Creator.

Effects must be produced by competent causes. Everything that exists must have been made by someone. If a thing has beauty, symmetry and intricacy of design, it must have been produced by a superior intelligence. We reach this conclusion by pure reasoning. It is not necessary to see the Supreme Creator to believe he exists.

The evidence that God exists is overwhelming. Everything around us proves it. Every tree, plant and flower amazes us. Intricate in design, exquisitely beautiful in form and texture, each speaks of a wisdom and skill above the human. It is absurd to boast of human skill and ingenuity yet attribute to mere chance the regularity, uniformity and harmony of nature. The very fact that there are dependable and unvarying laws of nature presupposes an intelligent lawgiver.

There are some truly amazing attributes possessed by the animal creation that are beyond human wisdom. The snake has an infrared sensor so responsive it can—detect temperature changes of one- thousandth of a degree. The hornet navigates accurately even on cloudy days by sensing the polarization of light. A bird flies thousands of miles from a tree branch in your back yard, and returns to the same branch through stellar navigation. Such powers have been exercised by the lower animals for untold ages. Men have only recently understood these amazing characteristics and are seeking, sometimes vainly, to—duplicate them scientifically. This is certainly proof of an intelligent creator far superior to the human.

The greatest masterpiece of all earthly creation is the human being itself. It is—extremely complicated and exhibits God’s handiwork in every respect. Man has mental attributes far above the animal creation. He has moral and ethical qualities totally lacking in the lower animals.

By using deductive reasoning we can prove that God exists and we can also determine what he is like. It is self-evident that the highest and grandest thing created cannot be superior to its maker but must of necessity be inferior to it. Since the grandest earthly creation of God is man, since man is endowed with the characteristics of justice, love and wisdom, it follows that God, the creator of man, must possess these attributes to a far wider and grander degree. We know what God is like because of the things he has created. We know he is just, benevolent, wise and powerful—much more than we are. It must be so. Without seeing God with our eyes, we see him with our minds. We instinctively love and seek to worship such a great and wonderful God.

How can we know God’s plan for humankind? Again we use deductive reasoning. It is logical to suppose that such an infinitely wise and good being as God, who made man mentally capable of realizing that he exists, would then be moved by his love and justice to supply the wants of man’s nature by giving him some revelation concerning himself and his plan for mankind. Where do we find such a revelation? We find it only in the Bible. This book was written over a period of many centuries by men inspired by God’s spirit.

They faithfully recorded what God wanted to reveal to mankind. We can identify the Bible as God’s word because it is the only ancient record that explains to the satisfaction of every reasonable mind such important subjects as:

How the earth was prepared for man’s habitation, describing the various geological events preceding the appearance of life.

The exact order in which the various forms of vegetation and animal life appeared upon the earth, facts confirmed by the latest scientific findings.

How man was created perfect and designed to live forever, and how he fell from perfection into sin and death.

Why evil is now permitted.

How man was redeemed from death, as a result of which the dead will be raised, and all the willing and obedient of mankind be restored to perfection, to live everlastingly in health and happiness upon the earth.

The Bible also contains prophecies of future events and tells when they will take place. Written thousands of years ago, it foretells and accurately describes present conditions, and locates where we now are in relation to God’s plan, and reveals what we can expect in the immediate future.

But if man was created perfect and designed to live forever, why is he in such an imperfect condition today? He suffers diseases, pain, calamities, sorrows, and all manner of evils, and dies an early death.

Why? The Bible tells us how God required the first man, Adam, to be obedient to him to continue to live. This was an entirely just requirement. Do we not expect obedience from our children? God purposely made the test of obedience very easy. He simply designated a certain fruit tree and asked Adam not to eat of it. Adam failed the test. God thereupon withdrew his favor from him and

Adam began to die. It was after Adam had sinned against God that he brought forth his children. Thus they were all born imperfect, "born in sin and shapen in inquity." (Ps 51:5) The human race began to degenerate and has fallen steadily ever since. This accounts for present day conditions. It was Adam’s sin of disobedience that is the cause of all human miseries.

But God did not leave mankind in such a hopeless condition. Being loving as well as just, he provided a way to redeem man from death.

He provided a ransom:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son."—Joh 3:16

"Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."—1Ti 2:5, 6

Ransom means "corresponding price" or "equivalent price."

Suppose a man is captured and held by an enemy who demands the payment of a certain sum for his—release. That sum represents the value of the man—his price or ransom. When Adam disobeyed God and was condemned to death, a perfect man’s life was forfeited. To redeem Adam’s life and thus release him from death, another perfect man’s unforfeited life must be yielded up in offset, in the place and stead of the forfeited life. This is the ransom price for Adam.

God arranged for this price to be provided. Jesus was born a man, but unlike other men, he was perfect because God was his father. He was the equivalent of Adam before Adam sinned. He sacrificed his perfect human life; he died without deserving to die in the place of Adam who deserved to die. God accepted his sacrifice as the ransom price for Adam. Thus Adam and all his race who inherited death through him, were redeemed and will live again. Then will be fulfilled the prophecy:"I will ransom them from the power of the grave. I will redeem them from death." (Ho 13:14) We read,

"there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." (Ac 24:15) Every man who has ever lived, the good and the bad, will b e raised from death during God’s kingdom under Christ, soon to be fully established on earth. It will be a benevolent but firm kingdom, ruling in absolute justice and equity. Then will be fulfilled the prophecy,

"And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."—Jer 31:34

Many prophecies of the Bible indicate that this kingdom is near. The signs are numerous and unmistakable.

God’s Will on Earth

WE LEARN from the Bible that the first man, Adam, was created perfect, designed to live forever. Because of his disobedience, he was sentenced to death. As a result, all of his descendents were born sinners under the sentence of death. That is why all men die. Then Jesus came to earth as a perfect man and died on the cross as a ransom sacrifice for Adam, thus redeeming him and his race from death. This is made plain by Paul in Romans:

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.

Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."—Ro 5:12, 18, 19

In many places the Bible tells us that there will be a kingdom of God on earth during which the dead are to be raised and all the willing and obedient of mankind—restored to human perfection and eternal life. This is the kingdom for which Jesus taught us to pray:

"Thy kingdom come; thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." (Mt 6:10)

Meantime our good and all-powerful God has permitted evil to hold sway in the earth for the purpose of giving mankind an experience with sin and death so that they will learn to abhor sin, and will turn to righteousness with all their hearts when given an opportunity to do so during that coming kingdom.

Adam sinned over six thousand years ago; Jesus provided the ransom price nearly two thousand years ago. Why has evil been permitted to go on for so long? One reason is that it is necessary for the entire human race to have experience with evil. Adam and Eve were told:

"Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish [fill] the earth." (Ge 1:28) It has taken over six thousand years for a sufficient number of Adam’s descendents to be born so as to fully populate the earth.

During that time each generation has had its experience with evil, then fallen asleep in death. Since those in death are not conscious of the passing of time, no one person has had contact with it any longer than for his own lifetime. When all are raised from the dead, the whole human race will have had its experience with evil and together will learn the blessed results of righteousness.

There is another important reason for the delay of the kingdom. For the past two thousand years since the time of Christ, a special group of persons is being selected by God. They are called out from among mankind to be associates of Christ in the heavenly kingdom which is to rule the world. They are termed "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling." (Heb 3:1) These individuals are "saved" in advance of the rest of mankind for a special purpose :to be prepared to attain the divine nature, to reign with Christ. Paul refers to him

"who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling." (2Ti 1:9) These lay down their human lives sacrificially as Jesus did to gain immortal spirit life as he did. This is what Paul describes:

"It is a faithful saying; for if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him. If we suffer, we shall also reign with him."—2Ti 2:11, 12

These individuals must first have their resurrection change from the human nature to the divine before the rest of mankind are raised up in the kingdom.

"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection . . .

they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."—Re 20:6

This is the thousand-year kingdom during which the restitution of mankind takes place; these called-out ones reign with Christ for this purpose. The selection of this special class of called-out persons is now almost complete; the time when God’s kingdom on earth will be fully inaugurated is now very near.

In the kingdom there will be an entire change of environment, from evil to good. Satan is the ruler of the present evil world. He is called

"the prince of this world." (Joh 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) Under his usurped rulership it has become easy to maintain a sinful course and difficult to maintain a righteous one. Because of Satan’s influence, the air is saturated with the spirit of evil. That is why Satan is called

"the prince of the power of the air; the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." (Eph 2:2) This is Malachi’s description of this evil world:

"Now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered."—Mal 3:15

Because those who take an evil course prosper in this world, most people have no incentive to follow righteousness, but rather the reverse. Today the current of evil is swift and carries them along in the wrong direction.

When God’s kingdom is in power in the earth, it will be different.

Satan will then be totally restrained.

"And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years."—Re 20:2

Christ will take full control of earth and change the atmosphere from evil to righteousness. The flow of the current will be reversed; it will be easier to do right than wrong. As much as evil saturates the earth now, righteousness will fill the earth then. This fact, coupled

with the experience each one has had with the dreadful consequences of evil, will break sinful habits and will tend to prevent a relapse into sinful ways. It will be as prophesied in Jeremiah:

"And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."—Jer 31:34

Habakkuk tells us that "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Ha—bakkuk 2:14) In the kingdom there will be rewards for following righteousness which will be powerful incentives to do what is right. For example, eternal youth is promised to the one who is obedient to the kingdom laws and turns from evil. "His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s. He shall return to the days of his youth." (Job 33:25) This would be quite an incentive for one who is old and wrinkled.

Here are some scriptures describing that wonderful time when death will cease and human perfection be restored:

"The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick."—Isa 33:24

"Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily."—Isa 58:8

"Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth."—Jer 33:6

"He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces. . . . And it shall be said in that day :Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him, and he will save us. . . . We will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."—Isa 25:8, 9

"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing. . . . And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."—Isa 35:5, 6, 10

Finally here is the scripture that guarantees the end of all calamities, regardless of their origin or nature:

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away."—Re 21:4

Heirs of God

"Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and—governors until the time appointed of the father."—Ga 4:1, 2

THE members of the body of Christ are called "heirs of God" in Ro 8:17. This Galatians text suggests that the manner in which an heir to an earthly throne is reared and prepared for his calling may contain valuable illustrations of the manner in which an "heir of God" is developed. To facilitate such a consideration we first present an allegory.

A royal prince is born in a kingdom of this world and the entire nation rejoices. There is an heir at last, a prince of the blood! There are days of celebration. The babe is cherished and most carefully reared. Particular care is taken of his diet so that he may grow up strong and sound. Even before he can walk or talk the task of molding what is called the Royal Character has begun. He is firmly, though kindly, disciplined from the very beginning so that he may learn obedience. He is set apart; his training in every respect is minutely planned and supervised.

As a young boy he is surrounded by just the right people including some children his own age. Great pains are taken to see that he is not

"spoiled." Even though he is a prince of the blood, he cannot have everything he wants. Although constantly watched over he is often treated in a way which might be called "wholesome neglect" so that he might develop self-reliance. Every decision is not made for him; basic principles are laid down and he is often placed in a position where he must consider the circumstances and decide for himself what he will do. If his decision is wrong, he is allowed to suffer the consequences of his own unwise acts to a degree. In this way he learns and matures. But he always has access to his father, the king.

If he has a problem which seems important to him—though it may be a childish problem—and he seeks his father’s guidance, the king will interrupt even a cabinet meeting of the realm in order to counsel his son.

A normal family life is maintained as much as possible. He eats at his father’s table and woe to him if he complains about the food served to him there. He freely—associates with his brothers and sisters without affecting superiority. Just as in any family friction sometimes develops. His reaction to this is considered an important part of his training for rulership. His quickness to forgive and make peace is especially prized by the king because these are royal virtues.

As he grows older he is particularly taught courtesy and consideration for others because these qualities will endear him to the people he will one day be called upon to rule. Because his high calling in life

naturally tends to pride, the importance of humility is constantly impressed upon him to counteract this influence. Although the vast resources of the kingdom will some day be at his disposal, he is taught simplicity and self-denial by being given only a limited allowance of money. At the same time he is taught generosity to others and is encouraged to give gifts to his companions and to those less fortunate than himself.

For his education tutors and counselors are appointed by the king to instruct him. Experts in every line are ready to answer his every question and show him the right way. He eagerly avails himself of these helps and grows in knowledge and wisdom accepting any necessary reproof and correction. He is always obedient and loyal to his father never speaking against him or disputing his authority. Very young in life he is assigned an "equerry, " a companion not necessarily of royal blood, but someone older and more experienced than himself, to intimately serve him, watch over him, and preserve him. This "equerry" is directly responsible to the king himself for the safety of the royal child.

As his instruction progresses the heir learns to think like his father along the lines of the policies of the kingdom in which he will some day rule. He develops a sound mind which pleases the king very much. He is taught the art of war and the use of armaments of defense and offense. He is taught who the enemies of the king are, the nature of the enemy, his wiles and stratagems, and the best ways of resisting and combating him. He is instructed in the objectives of the kingdom and how to attain them. At every opportunity he acts as an ambassador for his king, telling all the world about the wonders of the kingdom, and promoting good will for it wherever he may be sent. He is much in the public eye. The time comes when he is mature and wise and fully indoctrinated in the policies of the kingdom, and ready to ascend to the throne. When his call to the higher service is delayed, he waits without impatience, being entirely willing with all his might to serve his father in any capacity for as long as is necessary. Finally his call comes when he least expects it.

Perhaps he is quietly summoned in the night to quickly rise up and go to the palace to assume his office of power and glory. But he is not surprised when his change comes because this is what he was born for and what he has lived for all his royal life. This is his calling and it is natural for him to assume it at last. His reign is long, peaceful, and prosperous.

Lessons from the Allegory

This is the allegory. To use such an allegory to show our relationship to God and our future prospects is entirely justified by the scriptures. There are so many texts that clearly identify us as sons

of God. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." (1Jo 3:2) "Ye are the sons of the living God." (Ho 1:10) "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." (Joh 1:12)

"For as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God." (Ro 8:14) "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." (1Jo 3:1) "God dealeth with you as sons." (Heb 12:7)

Of course no allegory is perfect. In the world only one royal prince, the eldest son, is in line for the throne. In God’s arrangement there is associated with the eldest son many other sons who are also heirs of the kingdom. We read:

"For it became him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory."—Heb 2:10

"The spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint- heirs with Christ."—Ro 8:16, 17

We are the heirs of no ordinary king. It is the Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth, who is our Heavenly Father and King, and to whom we are the sons and heirs. The kings of earth are as nothing compared to Him. Each of His heirs is far more important than the crown prince of the greatest empire of this world. Consider these words from Isaiah:"Behold, the—nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance." (In other words, not enough weight to be detected, not enough to sway the balance one way or the other.) "Behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing." (This could refer to the mighty British Empire.)

"All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing and vanity." (Can you imagine how small less than nothing is?) "It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in; that bringeth the princes to nothing." (Isa 40:15, 17, 22, 23) Yes, compared with His heirs, the princes of this world are as nothing and less than nothing.

How is it possible that we are really heirs of the Almighty God? We are of the fallen human nature, the lowest order of intelligent creation. We are poor and lowly. The psalmist says that "we are dust." (Ps 103:14) How can such an honor be ours? Is it just another vain hope that will fade away? No, because we have the wonderful assurance:

"He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes , and to make them inherit the throne of glory."—1Sa 2:8

Words from Peter confirm it beyond a doubt:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord—Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God."—1Pe 1:3-5

So we are assured that this is a high hope "that fadeth not away, " as so many human hopes do. This is a hope that will not disappoint us, but will be ours in all its richness.

Applying the Allegory to Ourselves

Let us draw lessons from the allegory. When an heir is born to a throne of this world, there are great demonstrations of joy in the nation. Yet human joy has its limitations. It is of short duration. The pains and cares of this life soon dampen and quench exuberance of human spirit even over the birth of a prince. But how different are the heavenly joys! In Job 38:7 after reference is made to the creation of the earth and man upon it, we are told that "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." By this demonstration the angels—exhibited a deep interest in mankind and they have watched the affairs of earth with a fascinated interest ever since. You may be sure they were saddened by the fall of Adam, then rejoiced at every promise that was given of future redemption.

They did not always understand these prophecies, but were tremendously interested just the same and wished they could understand. We know this because in 1Pe 1:10-12 there is a reference to the prophecies, and then the statement, "Which things the angels desire to look into" or, as the Diaglott renders it, "Into which things angels earnestly desire to look."

For a long time there was not too much for the heavenly host to rejoice over on this earth as the race sank deeper into sin and death.

Then one still night they eagerly gathered near a country place called Beth—lehem:

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward man."—Lu 2:8-14

Yes, once again they could sing and shout for joy! The great Prince had been born on earth. The only begotten son, the Heir of God, had come. The Savior of man had at last appeared!

Heirs of God, Joint-heirs with Christ

Now we too, poor unworthy humans though we still be, are "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified—together." (Ro 3:17) This being the case, don’t you suppose there is joy in heaven when one of us is drawn by God "to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Ro 8:29), when such an one heartily responds to the call, is justified

consecrated, sanctified, and assigned a heavenly crown? Of course there is! The words of Jesus confirms it:

"I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth . . . There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."—Lu 15:7, 10

Yes, if the arrival of an earthly prince brings joy in the nation, how much more does the begetting of an heavenly heir cause rejoicing in heaven!

In the case of an earthly prince, great care is taken with the royal baby’s diet so that he may grow strong and sound. We read of the babes in Christ:"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." (1Pe 2:2) Paul said to those immature in the truth:"I have fed you with milk." (1Co 3:2) But the babe in Christ grows rapidly in the truth becoming more and more skillful in the use of the scriptures both in correctly applying them to himself and in using them to hold forth the word of life to others. Paul describes this process:

"For every one that useth milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But strong meat [solid food—Diaglott] belongeth to them that are of full age; even those who, by reason of use, have their senses exercised."—Heb 5:13, 14

"Full age" refers to maturity in Christ not necessarily age in years.

Developing Character

With an earthly prince the molding of the royal character starts very early. The heir of God must also develop a royal character, a Christ- like character. We are told in 2Pe 1:5-11 to develop the characteristics of faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly-kindness, and love, with the assurance that if we do so we can make our calling and election to the everlasting kingdom sure. Every act is born in the mind. Thoughts mold character. We are told in Php 4:8 just what kind of thoughts to harbor in our minds, i. e., things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. As an earthly princeling is set apart that he may enjoy the special favors and training of his father, the king, we read regarding his spiritual counterpart:"But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly, for himself." (Ps 4:3) The heir to an earthly throne is kindly but firmly disciplined, that he may learn obedience. Of us it is written:

"My son, slight not the discipline of the Lord, neither be discouraged when reproved by Him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives. If you endure discipline, God deals with you as sons; for is there any son whom a father does not discipline?"—Heb 12:5-7, Diaglott Yes, this discipline is a very important part of the training of an heir of God, and unless we submit to it we can never inherit the throne.

This is clearly stated:

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Be zealous therefore, and repent. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne."—Re 3:19, 21

The young earthly prince is not permitted to mingle indiscriminately with the outside world but is segregated and carefully surrounded by just the right people. He—associates with wholesome companions.

Likewise we are told:

"Come out from among them; and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a—Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."—2Co 6:17, 18

The thought is not to be separate by deliberately isolating ourselves because we are advised in Heb 10:25 not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. But our association or assembly should be with carefully selected companions, those of "like precious faith."

Even though his father, the king, is—extremely rich, the earthly prince cannot have everything he wants; he is supplied with everything he needs, and more. So are we as Paul assures us:"But my God shall supply all your need, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Philippi—ans 4:19) However, our needs as new creatures are more than food, shelter and clothing. Jesus expressed this:"It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."—Mt 4:4

This means a knowledge of the truth. This need is abundantly and conveniently supplied to the heavenly heirs.

Every decision is not made for an earthly prince. He must often apply for himself basic principles which have been laid down. He sometimes makes mistakes which his father corrects. In this way he learns and matures. It is the same with us the spiritual heirs of the kingdom. The Lord does not tell us in detail exactly what to do in every little experience of life, but by a continual study of his word, we absorb something of his law, his principles, his wisdom. When a crisis comes or a decision has to be made, the Lord expects us to use what we have learned to decide what to do. Thus he guides us indirectly with his eye, so to speak:

"I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye. Be not as the horse or as the mule, which have no understanding; whose mouth must be held in with bit or bridle."—Ps 32:8, 9

So we should not desire that the Lord force us to always take the right road, without the need to use our own minds. How much better

to be so sensitive to the Lord’s will and so familiar with his ways that just a glance will suffice, that he can guide us with his eye.

God Hears Our Prayers

The father of an earthly prince is never too busy when his son seeks direction and help in his problems. Similarly we always have instant access to our Heavenly Father in prayer. Anytime, day or night, his ears are attentive to our cry. "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers." (1Pe 3:12) David put it so beautifully:

"My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; He that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep."—Ps 121:2-4

Thus we see that there is no affair in all the vast universe important enough to keep His attention away from the needs of his children, his heirs. He says through the prophet:

"Can a woman forget her suckling child? . . . Yea, they may forget; yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palm of my hands."—Isa 49:15, 16

An earthly king maintains a normal family life for his royal family insofar as possible. A prince eats at his father’s table and would not dream of complaining of the food served there. Neither will the child of God complain of the "meat in due season" served in such a flavorsome manner by a "faithful and wise servant" whom his Lord hath made "ruler over his household." (Mt 24:45) At times there is friction in the king’s family just as in any other family. Even here misunderstandings arise between brothers and sisters. Regretfully God’s family on this side of the veil is no exception. But the Lord especially loves those of his children who quickly forgive and make peace. A Christian’s daily prayer should be

"forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." (Mt 6:12) We are instructed:

"Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you."—Eph 4:32

Indeed, by making peace we prove that we are in the family of God because Jesus said:

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."—Mt 5:9

The exalted position and prospects of an earthly prince naturally make him susceptible to pride. To counteract this, the king impresses upon his son the importance of humility. We too have an enormously

high calling. If we are not watchful, we too are susceptible to pride.

Jesus said to the heirs of God:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit [or humble-minded], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . . Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."—Mt 5:3, 5

Our great and high king values humility beyond measure:

"For thus saith the high and lofty One, who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and lofty place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit; to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."—Isa 57:15

We also read:

"Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. . . . For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord; but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." —Isa 66:1, 2

So those who would dwell with God, as members of his household, must be of a humble spirit.

The heir of an earthly throne is allowed only a limited amount of money. There are not many wealthy among us either. Jesus said:

"Verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."—Mt 19:23, 24

In other words, divestment is required. A rich man may indeed come into the truth, but he will not die rich in this world’s goods if he carries out of the terms of his consecration. As a faithful steward he will expend his funds as well as his energies in the Lord’s service.

An earthly prince is provided the most expert teachers and tutors available for his education. What ample provision the Heavenly King has made for our instruction:

"And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors, and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."—Eph 4:11-13

"All scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."—2Ti 3:16, 17

We are indeed receiving a royal education!

The heir to an earthly throne is loyal and never disputes the authority of his father the king. We are told:

"Do all things without murmurings and disput—ings; that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world."—Php 2:14, 15

An earthly heir is assigned an "equerry" by the king to serve him and insure his safety at all times. Hebrews says:

"Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"—Heb 1:14

The careful education and training of a prince makes him a fearless and sound thinker which pleases the king. Of us Paul said:

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."—2Ti 1:7

Learning to Fight

The earthly prince is taught the art of war, the use of weapons, who the king’s enemies are, and how they may be combated. We, the spiritual heirs of God, are also taught to fight. "Blessed be the Lord, my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight." (Ps 144:1) But we do not shed blood:

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."—2Co 10:3-5

The enemy of God, and our enemy, is Satan the devil. "We are not ignorant of his devices." We are skilled in weapons of offense and defense, and we are able to battle mightily:

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole—armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God."—Eph 6:10-17

"For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword."—Heb 4:12

An earthly crown prince acts as an ambassador of his father.

Wherever he goes, he promotes good will for his father’s kingdom.

God:"Hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ." (2Co 5:19, 20) The heir of an earthly throne is very much in the public eye and always acts circumspectly so as not to bring dishonor upon his father the king. Of us it is written, "We are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to man." (1 Cor—inthians 4:9) Realizing how much even the angels are interested in us, how careful we should be in our daily walk!

The time comes when an earthly royal heir is strong and mature and wise, qualified to ascend to the throne and wear the crown. The spiritual heir also reaches that point, as we read:

"Being strengthened with all strength according to his glorious power, for all patience and endurance, with joy; giving thanks at the same time to that Father who called and qualified us for the portion of the saints’ inheritance in the light."—Col 1:11, 12, Diaglott Paul said when he had reached this point:

"The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."—2Ti 4:6-8

In the allegory it is a sad day when the heir at last achieves the crown because the king must die. But not so in our case because our King is "The King Eternal and Immortal." (1Ti 1:17) If there was joy when man was created, when Jesus was born, and when the heirs of God are selected, what fulness of joy there must be in heaven when 144, 000 kings and priests are crowned! Jude speaks of this happy time, saying,

"Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy; to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty and power, both now and ever."—Jude 24, 25.

When earthly kings are enthroned, the cry is :LONG LIVE THE KING! The kings and priests whom God has enthroned shall live and reign long indeed:

"They shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."—Re 20:6

That is only the beginning because Re 22:5 says:"They shall reign for ever and ever."

Hidden Gems of Truth

THE Bible is beautifully and sensitively written by men of old who were moved by the holy spirit of God. These men wrote cryptically and in greatly compressed form, without a waste of words. Events spanning centuries, and even millenniums, are often concentrated into a few brief verses. Intensely fascinating episodes involving a variety of deep and moving emotions are often simply and starkly stated with the details left to the imagination.

This was, of course, necessary. If it were not so, the Bible would be so voluminous and unwieldy that, because of sheer size and verbosity, men might be reluctant to delve into its pages and obtain its teachings and revelations. If it were of tremendous size with many thousands of pages, it is doubtful if millions of copies would be printed and circulated each year as now. So it is an abbreviated and coded book, difficult for the casual reader to understand, and meant to be so. The ordinary reader has eyes that see not and ears that hear not. (Ro 11:8)

But we as consecrated Christians, as members of the Body of Christ (whose minds have been enlightened by the—Harvest Message through "that servant"), have partaken of the same holy spirit which impelled those who wrote the book. So our minds are in harmony.

Our thoughts run along parallel lines. Our eyes see, and our ears hear. We understand the divine plan. So when we read and meditate upon the Holy Scriptures, A WONDERFUL THING HAPPENS. We catch the spark! Our minds catch fire! Our mentalities are quickened and illuminated by the same holy spirit which inspired the writers.

The result is that the few simple and familiar verses we are contemplating take on new beauty and detail. The gaps are filled in for us, and the account becomes clear and alive.

It is like a small and compact flower bud, exquisite in itself, which, before our eyes, opens and expands into a magnificent blossom, fragrant and breathtaking in its beauty. Thus a single verse of scripture already eloquent in its simplicity, when meditated upon in the spirit of truth, assumes really inspiring proportions! It is a never- ending process. There appears to be no limit to the treasures of the scriptures. As our hymn expresses it: "‘ Tis a mine, aye, deeper, too, than can mortal ever go; Search we may for many years, still some new, rich gem appears." This is literally true.

So today, in the language of Pr 2:4, we are going to seek as for silver and search as for hid treasure, and turn up some of these gems which are hidden in the scriptures. The Lord put them there for us to find and it is a joy to do so. I call these gems "The Plan in a Capsule." You will see why.

A Gem from Psalms

The first of these gems is found in Ps 104:29-31:

"Thou hidest thy face; they are troubled. Thou takest away their breath; they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit; they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth. The glory of the Lord shall endure forever. The Lord shall rejoice in his works."

Here are three verses of scripture, totaling only 51 words, which contain the entire Divine Plan of the Ages from the beginning to everlasting—in a capsule! Here is a small bud, beautiful in itself. As we meditate upon it, see how it opens up and flowers before our eyes just as the Lord intended it should.

"Thou hidest thy face; they are troubled." We know that at first Adam had a wonderful fellowship with God. God used to walk with him in the garden in the cool of the day. They were Father and son together. What fascinating and loving conversations they must have had! Then one evil day, sin entered into the world. The son disobeyed his Father. Adam disobeyed God. We read in Ge 3:8,

"And they heard the voice of the Lord God, walking in the garden in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God."

They were troubled, sorely troubled. Because of their disobedience, they were banished from their beautiful garden home and they began to die. They brought forth their children in trouble. As God told the woman, "In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children." (Ge 3:16) As Job expressed it, "Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward." (Job 5:7) He also said, "Man that is born of a woman, is of few days, and full of trouble." (Job 14:1)

When someone has once experienced the favor of the Lord, seen his face so to speak, it is agonizing to lose that favor. Job felt the agony when he cried, "Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy?" (Job 13:24) David felt it when for a time he was separated from God. He pleaded, "How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? Forever? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?" (Ps 13:1) Isaiah, contemplating the miseries of Israel, sadly said to God,

"Thou hast hid thy face from us." (Isa 64:7)

When Jesus came and took Adam’s place in death, it was necessary that he too know the agony of having God hide his face. For a moment on the cross, God seemed to have abandoned him. He too was troubled. He cried out in anguish of soul:"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mt 27:46) Today the whole world is sorely troubled. We are living in a great time of trouble.

God seems to have hidden his face from the world. Evil is permitted

to run rampant; good men do not understand the permission of evil.

"Where is God?" men ask. "Why doesn’t he do something?" Others say, "God is dead. He must be; otherwise he would do something."

They are perplexed and troubled, doubting the very existence of God because he has hidden his face. These are the conditions described by the words, "Thou hidest thy face; they are troubled." It is the history of the world. But it will not always be so, because the Lord in Eze 39:29, speaks of a time to come, saying:"Neither will I hide my face any more from them."

Then our gem text says:"Thou takest away their breath; they die, and return to their dust." We read of man’s creation, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." (Ge 2:7) First God designed the intricacies of the human body and planned all its functions to the minutest detail. Then he formed the body of Adam using the elements of the earth or, as the ancient record expresses it, "the dust of the ground." There was no evolution here. The missing link will always be missing because it never existed. The body of Adam was a direct creation of God. There it lay, on the green grass of Eden, complete and perfect in every respect. But it did not beat to circulate the blood which was already in its veins. Its brain and nervous system lacked just one thing :the breath of life! It wasn’t breathing! So then God "breathed into his nostrils, the breath of life, " or as another translation has it, "the breath of lives." He simply inflated man’s lungs with the air which is necessary for any form of life on earth. Suddenly the body breathed and lived! The heart began to beat carrying the life-containing blood to all parts of the body. The brain awakened, the eyes opened, and the man became a living soul.

This is how man’s life started, by an in-breathing of the breath of life.

Then we read in Ps 146:4 how man’s life terminates:"His breath goeth forth; he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." The process is simply reversed. God gave man breath and he lived. God takes his breath away and he dies; his body returns to the elements of the earth from which it was taken. As Ec 12:7 expresses it:"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit [or breath] shall return unto God who gave it." The spirit or breath represents the right to live. In harmony with this Job 12:10

speaks of God as the one "in whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." So the sentence upon Adam was, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken. For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." (Ge 3:19) Because of his disobedience, Adam forfeited his right to live. He lost that right for all his children as well. All mankind came under the declaration of our text:"Thou takest away their breath; they die, and return to their dust."

God Sends Forth His Spirit

Up to this point the import of our text has been sad—the turning away of God’s face first from Adam and then from the entire world; the deep trouble and distress resulting from the permission of evil; the taking away of the breath, or right to live; the long and seemingly endless procession to the grave, the final return to the dust. These things sadden us and to those who do not understand the divine plan the situation appears hopeless. But now we come to the happy part of our gem text which says, "Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth."

The part reading "Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created, " has a two-fold meaning. Both meanings gladden our hearts. God’s spirit is his power or influence. In the past God sent forth his spirit on many occasions and for many purposes. For example, we read in the account of the creation of the world that "the spirit of God moved upon [or brooded upon] the face of the waters." When this happened, mighty forces were brought into play to shape and prepare the earth for man’s habitation.

God poured his spirit upon his holy prophets whom, we are told,

"spake as they were moved by the holy spirit." (2Pe 1:21) The spirit of God came upon Joseph in Egypt and upon Moses in Midi—an. It came upon Gideon, Samson, David, and other faithful and worthy servants of ancient times, impelling them and inspiring them to do God’s will in mighty ways. Then the holy spirit of God finally came upon John the Baptist, the last of the prophets. It drove him into the wilderness of Judea in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isa 40:3, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make his paths straight." Men were in expectation of Messiah and John baptized the repentant of Israel for the remission of their sins. It was John who hinted of a new and marvelous manifestation of the holy spirit still to come, different from any manifestation heretofore experienced. He said in Mt 3:11,

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, He shall baptize you with the holy spirit and with fire."

Jesus came to John to be baptized but not for the remission of sins for he had none. For him the symbol of immersion in water had a different meaning. It symbolized going down into death and then being raised to newness of life, of sacrificing his human nature and becoming a new creature. Then we read in Mt 3:16,

"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him."

This was the beginning of his dying as a man and the beginning of his living as a new, divine creature. This is the first time God’s holy spirit had been sent to beget a new creature to the divine nature.

Three-and-one-half years later the humanity of Jesus died forever on the cross and his new nature arose to live forever.

After his resurrection Jesus met with his disciples, as we read in Acts l :4, 5:

"And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the holy spirit not many days hence."

Then the account is given in Ac 2:1-4 of the promised new and powerful manifestation of the holy spirit:

"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them, cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the holy spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the spirit gave them utterance."

The Wonderful Works of God

There were people of many nations and tongues in Jerusalem that day and each heard in his own language "the wonderful works of God." The account says, "They were all amazed . . . saying one to another, What meaneth this?" Then Peter stood up and told them what it meant, saying:

"This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel:and it shall come to pass, in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my spirit; and they shall prophesy."—Ac 2:16-18

This was nothing less than spirit-begettal; the same holy spirit that had imbued the Head, Christ Jesus, had begun to descend to anoint his Body, the Church. As each member of his Body has received this spirit begetting him to the divine nature, it has had the same effect.

When Jesus—received it, he immediately began his preaching ministry. When those at Pentecost received it, they began to use their

tongues to prophesy and preach. As each one of us receives it, we tell out the glad tidings at every opportunity, and build up one another in the most holy faith. We—renounce our earthly interests, aims, and ambitions, and "walk in newness of life." (Ro 6:4) We begin a new life. We—become new creatures. As Paul said in 2

Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Paul also said, "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man [or new creature], which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Eph 4:23, 24) Also, "Ye have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him." (Col 3:9, 10) This is what our gem text means when it says, "Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created." Those referred to as "they" are Jesus Christ and the members of his body, the Church. By the begettal of God’s holy spirit they are a new creation.

But there is another meaning also to this portion of the text, a wider and more general application. It is obvious that the prophecy of Joel was not entirely fulfilled at Pentecost. The prophecy says in Joe 2:28, "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh." This is still another and later manifestation of the holy spirit, and it is still future. To better understand this application of the scripture we must consider it together:"Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth." This tells us of the resurrection and restitution work of the Millennial Kingdom and the end of death. Resurrection is re- creation. By virtue of our Lord’s ransom sacrifice all who have ever lived will be raised from the dead. As Jesus expressed it (Joh 5:28, 29): "Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth." This is truly a marvelous thing, a tremendous exhibition of the power of the holy spirit of God—to create again the bodies of all who have died and then, from the memory of God, to impress each body with its individual and different personality so that each one is the exact and identical person he was when previously alive. This is a fantastically complicated operation, but it is only the beginning.

Then follows the work of restitution, the bringing to perfection. This is also a creative work of spirit. Then the prayer of David will be answered for all men:"Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." —Ps 51:10

There are so many scriptures that indicate this wonderful work and we cannot cite them all. In Eze 36:26, 27 is a promise given to the Jews but applicable to all men:

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes; and ye shall keep my judgments and do them."

This taking away of stony, selfish hearts and replacing with tender, loving hearts, is a work of re-creation, a restoration to righteousness and human perfection. As Peter expressed it, "Nevertheless we, according to the promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." (2Pe 3:13) The Revelator saw this glad time in prophetic vision saying, in Re 21:1, 5:

"And I saw a new heaven, and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away . . . And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new."

Besides the people and the government of the world, the physical earth itself will—reflect God’s glory, as foretold in Isa 35:1, 2:

"The wilderness, and the solitary place, shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy, and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God."

Do you see how much is packed in that short and simple verse of our gem text? "Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth." This new arrangement on earth will last forever. The nightmare of the reign of sin and death will be forgotten. Only the lessons learned by the permission of evil will be remembered. This is beautifully summed up by the prophecy of Isa 65:17, 18:

"For behold, I create new heavens, and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind; but be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create."

This leads us to the final verse of our gem text:"The glory of the Lord shall endure forever. The Lord shall rejoice in his works." Thus it is seen that our gem text is a summation of the entire plan of God relating to his human family. He wanted a human family he could rejoice in, to love and serve him of their own free will. It shows the fall into sin, the loss of the right to live, the redemption from death, the restoration of the willing and obedient to life, the earth made glorious, and finally, God rejoicing in his works forever.

A Gem from Job

The next hidden gem of truth is found in Job 14:7-15:

"For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet, through the scent of water, it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. But man dieth, and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up; so man lieth down, and riseth not. Till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave; that thou wouldst keep me secret, until thy wrath be past; that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee. Thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands."

This text too contains the entire divine plan for man, in a capsule. It is complete and beautiful in itself, almost poetic, and as we consider it, see how it’s beauty—unfolds and expands, and reveals God’s greatness and goodness to his human family.

The first verse of our gem text—" There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down"—seems to refer directly to an episode related in the fourth chapter of Daniel. The account is in the words of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, emperor of the world, and is given in the first person:

"I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace. I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed, and the visions of my head, troubled me. Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream.

Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers; and I told the dream before them. But they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof. But at the last, Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar . . . and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and before him I told the dream, saying, O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no—secret troubleth thee, tell me the vision of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof. Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and, behold a tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth. The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all. The beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the

fowls of heaven dwelt in the bough thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. I saw in the vision of my head upon my bed, and behold a watcher and an holy one, came down from heaven. He cried aloud and said thus :Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit. Let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches. Nevertheless, leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron, and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. Let his heart be changed from man’s and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones; to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will; and setteth up over it the basest of men."—Da 4:4-17

As the dream was related to him apparently two interpretations appeared before Daniel’s vision :one local and contemporary and the other of staggering proportions and scope. He debated which one he would relate to Nebuchadnezzar and he hesitated. We read in the 19th verse:"Then Daniel . . . was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him." The Moffatt translation says:"For a moment Daniel . . . was staggered. He was alarmed by what he foresaw."

Then he decided to relate the lesser interpretation which involved Nebuchadnezzar personally, and it was this:as ruler of the universal empire of Babylon, which completely dominated the world, the tree represented Nebuchadnezzar himself. It was to be cut down but the stump and roots were to remain in the earth until seven times had passed. He was to lose his dominion but it would be preserved for him and restored after seven years. This was to teach Nebuchadnezzar a lesson that he was not as important as he thought.

Daniel’s words were:

"Till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will." In one year, the prophecy was fulfilled. We read from the Moffatt translation:"All this befell king Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later the king was saying, ‘There lies Babylon the great, which I have built for a royal residence by my vast power and to my noble majesty! ‘The words had not left his lips when a voice fell from heaven, ‘O king Nebuchadnezzar, here is your sentence :Your kingdom is taken from you! You shall be driven away from human beings, to dwell with the wild animals; you shall be forced to eat grass like cattle; and seven years shall pass over you, till you learn that the Most High reigns over the realm of men, and gives it to anyone whom he chooses. ‘ "

The sentence was immediately carried out. The king lost his sanity and lived like an animal, shunning human association for seven years. Then we read:

"When the time was over, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven; my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, praising and honoring him who lives for ever; for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom lasts from age to age."

Now let us consider the other and vastly greater meaning of this dream which ties in with our gem text and which encompasses the entire history of the human race from the beginning to the ages of eternity.

"I saw and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all. The beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of heaven dwelt in the bough thereof, and all flesh was fed of it."

The First Dominion of Earth

This remarkable tree in its glory and beauty represented the first dominion of earth given to the human race in its representative and head Adam. God said to Adam, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Ge 1:28) The original glory of man and the power and dominion vested in him were indeed sublime. He was set over the whole earth to bless, feed, protect and shelter every living thing.

Then the dream continued:

"Behold, a watcher and an holy one [Moffatt :‘angel-guard’] came down from heaven. He cried aloud and said thus :Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit.

Let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches."

This is what happened when sin entered the world. Adam failed the test of obedience. Then the command came to hew down the tree.

The glory and beauty and power of mankind were taken away. The lower creation no more found shelter, —protection and blessing under man’s influence. The sentence of death hewed down the great tree, scattered his fruit and foliage and left the lower creation without its lord and benefactor. Adam lost his Eden. We read in Ge 3:24, "So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden, cherubims, and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." Might not these cherubims be called "angel-guards"? The dream continues:"Nevertheless, leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass." So far as man was concerned, all power to recover the lost dominion was hopelessly gone. But it was not so from God’s standpoint. The original dominion was his gracious gift and was his plan for man. Though he had commanded it to be hewn down yet the root, God’s purposes and plan of restitution, continued. The hope of it continued in the earth although bound with strong fetters so that it should not sprout until the divinely appointed time.

As the dream progresses, the figure changes from the stump of a tree to that of a man. It says, "Let his heart be changed from man’s and let a beast’s heart be given unto him." It shows a man debased and degraded and brought down to the companionship and likeness of beasts, his higher reasoning dethroned and all his beauty gone. How well this describes fallen and depraved man, no longer the Lord of earth, his glory and dominion—departed. Progressively since the fall, the race has been having its portion with the beasts. Although fairly recently knowledge has been greatly increased, the—human heart has become increasingly beastly and degraded. The dream goes on to say,

"And let seven times pass over him. This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones; to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will."

Sin and death have already reigned for 6000 years. It will take another thousand years to bring about a restoration of man to his original dominion. When the millennial kingdom has done its work, man’s madness will be completely cured. Seven times will have passed over him and he will again be king of earth. He will then be able to say, in the words of Nebuchadnezzar:

"At the same time my reason returned unto me . . . and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me.

Now I praise and extol and honor the King of Heaven, all whose works are truth and his ways just. Whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation."

From this fascinating account in Daniel we are able to understand what is meant by the first three verses of our gem text in Job 14:7- 15:

"For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again; and the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of water, it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant."

It is getting close to the time when the scent of water will be detected.

This will be when Re 22:1-17 is fulfilled:

"And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."

Then by way of contrast with what shall be, our gem text describes present conditions:

"But man dieth, and wasteth away. Yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up; so man lieth down, and riseth not. Till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep."

This last phrase is an indication of the time the resurrection will take place:"Till the heavens be no more." The "heavens" mentioned here are the spiritual ruling powers of this present evil world. The present

"heavens" which are now are dominated by Satan and are to be destroyed. We read:

"But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment, and perdition of ungodly men. Looking for, and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.

Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."—2Pe 3:7, 12, 13

As the old heavens are dominated by Satan the new heavens will be ruled by Christ. Then will be fulfilled the words of Jesus:

"Verily, verily, I say into you, The hour is coming, . . . when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live. Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth."—Joh 5:25, 28, 29

The rest of our gem text echoes the yearnings of a groaning creation, tired and sick of sin and death like Job who uttered the words, feeling abandoned by God and longing for peace and rest, wishing and hoping for something better after this life which has proved so disappointing, casting themselves upon God:

"O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave; that thou wouldst keep me secret, until thy wrath be past; that thou wouldst appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come! Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee. Thou wilt have a desire to the work of thy hands."—Job 14:13-15

God Loves Every Human Being

That last sentence of our text—" Thou wilt have a desire to the work of thy hands"—gives us a wonderful insight to the character and intent of our God. The human family is the "work of his hands, " his supreme creation on earth. He said to the Logos:"Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." (Ge 1:26) He loves every human being who has ever lived! It was he who provided a Redeemer. He "is not willing that any should perish." (2Pe 3:9) When they go down into death, he misses them! He wants to see them again! He wants them to come back! He wants to enjoy a perfect human creation, a family, that will return his love for them.

This last verse is tremendously significant—" Thou wilt have a desire to the work of thy hands." This means that the great Jehovah God himself eagerly anticipates the resurrection of the dead, each one of the dead!

There are many other such hidden gems of truth in the scriptures, each giving the Divine Plan in a capsule. These are not accidental or coincidental. They are planted there for us whose eyes the Lord has opened through the ministry of a Faithful and Wise Servant. Being able to find them and see their lessons corroborating our understanding of the Divine Plan of the Ages is the strongest possible evidence that we are in the truth!

How Sin Entered the World

THERE are many evil things in the world today, and there is much suffering and unhappiness because of these things. There are all kinds of sickness and pain. After only a few years of life, a person dies, leaving behind those who sorrow for him. All about us we see corruption and immorality. Cheating and robbing are common; there is violence, cruelty and murder. Accidents kill and cripple thousands every year. Fires and floods bring great suffering to the people. It seems there is always a war, revolution, or some kind of civil disorder going on somewhere in the world. Beside this, children disobey and rebel against their parents, scorning the wisdom of the experience of many generations. Of course there is also much beauty, goodness and happiness in the world, in which we rejoice. But evil seems to predominate.

When God had completed the creation of the earth and everything upon it, he "saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." (Ge 1:31) Everything is certainly not "very good" —today. What happened to change the situation? How did evil get a start in the world and develop to the extent it has?

Man Created Perfect

The first man, Adam, was created perfect. It is written that, "God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (Ge 1:27) Man was designed to live forever upon the earth. We are told in Genesis chapter two how man was placed in a beautiful garden in which grew every tree good for food and that would sustain life perfectly. Then God put man to the test of obedience. God purposely made the test simple and easy.

"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die."—Ge 2:16, 17

Adam was forbidden to eat of the fruit of only one of the many trees of the garden.

Disobedience in such a simple matter when it would be easy to obey, makes the transgression all the more reprehensible. It indicates willfulness. If it were a difficult thing the Lord required of him, Adam might have made the excuse that obedience was beyond his capabilities. But there was no excuse for disobedience in this case.

He had plenty of food beside the fruit of the prohibited tree. It was not necessary for him to eat of it for sustenance.

Why did God have to test Adam’s obedience at all? Why was obedience a matter of life or death?" By definition, sin is disobedience to God’s law. God cannot tolerate sin. Ge 3:22

states that by continuing to eat of the perfect food of the garden of Eden, Adam had the ability to live forever. So you can see why it was necessary for God to test Adam’s obedience before allowing him to continue his life. Adam failed the test. As recorded in Genesis chapter three, Satan deceived Eve and she in turn induced Adam to knowingly disobey. So they both were expelled from the garden, away from the source of their perfect food supply, into the unplanted part of the earth. There they ate food that would not sustain life perfectly.

Thus the death penalty was enforced and Adam began to die. All his children were born after his expulsion from Eden. They were born dying just as we are who descended from them. We all fit the description that David gave of himself when he said:"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Ps 51:5)

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."—Ro 5:12

Why could God not have designed and created man incapable of sin? Then it would have been impossible for Adam to disobey. God would have had a perfect human race living forever upon the earth.

God could have made man without the ability to make a choice and to guide his own—conduct, but to make him that way would have been to produce a living machine, a robot. He would have been a slave, rendering blind obedience without knowing why. This was not the kind of creature God wanted as the king of earth. He created a superior being, far above the animals with their compelling instincts, a creature with moral sense and freedom of choice, able to reason, to reach decisions, and to act in harmony with them, what we call a free moral agent. "God created man in his own image." (Ge 1:27) Could God have shielded the first pair from Satan’s temptation so that they would not have disobeyed and incurred the death penalty? Yes, but then man’s experience would have been limited to only good. He would have been continually liable to suggestions of evil which would have made the everlasting future of mankind uncertain.

An outbreak of disobedience and disorder might always have been a possibility.

How To Know Something

There are four ways to know things. One way is by intuition, which is a direct apprehension without the process of reasoning. Only God

possesses it. Another way is by observation. If God had chosen to teach Adam the dire results of sin by this method, it would have been necessary for sin to be permitted somewhere, among some beings, for man to observe it. Another way is by information, by telling.

This method was used, but Adam did not learn by it. God told Adam not to eat, but Adam ate just the same. He could not realize the full import of what it meant to die. At that time he had never seen anyone die. He could not possibly understand the depth of degradation and misery it would involve for himself and his entire race. He lacked experience.

Beside intuition, observation, and information, the only other way to learn is by experience. God saw this as the best way. He permitted Satan to deceive Eve by telling the first lie ever uttered:"Ye shall not surely die." (Ge 3:4) Why did Eve believe Satan when God had plainly said:"Thou shalt surely die?" She too lacked experience.

Today we do not believe something without question. We have developed mental reservations. We consider whether the source of the information is reliable. We consider the possible motives our informant may have. We mentally compare the information with knowledge we have previously acquired. We do these things as a result of our experience and often without conscious thought. We have learned by experience that there are unreliable, prejudiced and dishonest people in the world, so we do not readily believe everything we are told by just anyone. We have learned to be discriminating.

Because of her innocent inexperience, Eve was childlike and naï ve.

She was easily deceived by the crafty Satan, especially when he promised her that the forbidden fruit would really be beneficial. So she ate and offered it to her husband Adam. He also ate. It seems that Adam was not—present when Eve ate the fruit. When he learned what she had done, he was appalled. He loved Eve very much.

Thinking that she would now die, he decided he would not live without her. So he ate of the fruit knowingly and deliberately, so that he might die together with his beloved wife. "Adam was not deceived; but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression." (1Ti 2:14) Adam’s disobedience will be for the ultimate good of mankind because it provided an experience with sin and its terrible consequences.

By virtue of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, the entire human race will be saved from death to live again upon the earth. If obedient, they will live for ever. Having learned by experience the truth of the text "the wages of sin is death" (Ro 6:23), they will want no more of it.

Instead they will gladly follow righteousness.

Joseph and His Brethren

TODAY we are going to consider the story of Joseph which comprises chapters 37 and 39 to 50 of Genesis. It would take too long to read the actual account so we will briefly summarize and paraphrase the story after whic h we will see what lessons are to be learned from it.

Jacob, the grandson of Abraham who was renamed Israel, especially loved his wife Rachel. Her firstborn son was called Joseph. Then she died in childbirth bearing another son, Benjamin. Jacob greatly grieved Rachel’s death and with her gone, the intensity of his love showered upon her children, especially the firstborn Joseph. Jacob had eleven other sons, but Joseph was his favorite. He showed his favoritism in many ways. For example, he had a special garment made for Joseph, a coat of many colors and of many pieces, a coat such as was worn by nobility. Perhaps he thus indicated to the rest of his family that Joseph would be heir. The ten other brothers were consumed with jealousy. The record says:"They hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him."

As if things weren’t bad enough, Joseph dreamed a strange dream one night and in his innocence related it to his brothers. It seems that they were all binding sheaves of wheat in the field and Joseph’s sheaf arose and stood upright, whereupon his brothers’ sheaves stood around in a circle and bowed down to Joseph’s sheaf. As a result of this dream the account says, "They hated him yet more." Then Joseph dreamed again. This time the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to him. When he told this one, his father remarked,

"Shall I, and thy mother, and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?" This was the last straw. The hatred of Joseph’s brothers was whipped to a jealous rage. This was their frame of mind when they journeyed from their home to find pasturage for their flocks some distance away. They were gone so long that their father began to worry about them and decided to send Joseph to see how they were and bring him word again. We can imagine that Joseph and his dreams of superiority were thoroughly discussed by his brothers in the field. This airing of mutual grievances would further incite their hatred. They were in just such a frenzy of jealous rage when the one posted as the camp lookout called out, "Here he comes! Here comes that dreamer."

In the crystal-clear air of that region an approaching person can be seen a long distance away. They easily recognized it was Joseph because of his long coat of many pieces and bright colors. Each brother instantly had the same thought—now he was in their power!

His father was not there to protect him. The object of their hatred was in their hands. As Joseph innocently approached, probably

waving a happy greeting, they held a hasty conference and the almost unanimous decision was:

"Come now, therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit; and we will say, some evil beast hath devoured him; and we shall see what will become of his dreams."

The Hatred of Joseph’s Brothers

So great was their hatred that of the ten there was only one dissenting voice to this decision. It was that of Reuben, the oldest son. He suggested a compromise. "Let us not shed his blood, " he said, "but let us put him into the pit alive." The record says that it was Reuben’s intention to come back later and release Joseph. It was quickly agreed. When Joseph arrived he was rudely seized, stripped of his colorful coat, and thrown into a deep dry well from which he could not possibly escape unaided. Then, with the anguished cries and pleadings of Joseph ringing in their ears, they sat down to eat.

The fact that they could eat under the circumstances shows the callousness of their hearts.

Reuben, who was more compassionate, must have excused himself at this point to go and tend to his flocks because he was not present when a caravan of camels came in sight on its way to Egypt. Judah proposed an idea. Why not turn the situation to a profit? Why not sell Joseph as a slave instead of letting him die in the pit? So they let down a rope to Joseph who eagerly grasped it thinking his brothers had relented, only to find himself trussed up and sold like an animal to some Midianite slave-traders for twenty pieces of silver. In those days the price of a full-grown slave was thirty pieces of silver. Since Joseph was only seventeen, his price was twenty pieces. Again he cried and appealed to his brothers for mercy as he was dragged away by the traders, but they were too busy dividing the money. There would be two whole pieces of silver for each of them. Then Reu—ben, circling about, returned to the well to release Joseph. Finding him gone, he was genuinely distressed but it was too late.

Then the brothers did an extremely cruel and callous thing. They took Joseph’s coat of many colors, dipped and spattered it in the blood of a goat and took it to their poor old father who was so anxiously waiting for Joseph’s return, the son he loved so much. "We found this, " the brothers said. "Is it your son’s coat?" Jacob reached the obvious conclusion. Joseph had undoubtedly been torn to pieces by a wild beast. There were lions and bears in that part of the country. His grief was profound. He refused to be comforted, saying, "I will go down to the grave, unto my son, mourning."

The change in Joseph’s life was drastic and complete. From being a beloved and favorite son, tenderly reared in his father’s house, he suddenly was transported to the position of a slave in a foreign and heathen land. To this was added the bitter experience of witnessing the murderous hatred and cold-blooded cruelty of his own brothers as well as the homesickness and the thought of his father’s grief and loneliness.

Joseph’s Experiences in Egypt

Upon reaching Egypt he was exposed for sale in the open market as was the custom of the time. The slave buyers were men of position and substance, members of nobility, officers of the king, wealthy merchants and large landowners. Slaves were expensive. We can

imagine the slave-master expertly sizing up Joseph so obviously superior to the rest, saying:

"Gentlemen, we have a very special item today. A young Hebrew!

This man is from a superior race. He is not only strong, but very intelligent. Just look at his high forehead! He will make some fortunate purchaser an excellent and trustworthy servant. Gentlemen what am I bid?"

That is how Joseph was purchased by Poti—phar, an officer of Pharaoh and Captain of the Guard.

Joseph had inherited many fine qualities from his father. He had been reared in an atmosphere of strong faith in the God of Abraham. From infancy he had been—imbued with the noblest precepts; he was honest, conscientious, and a faithful young man. Absolute faithfulness was probably rare at the time as it is today. Joseph’s master quickly noted it and gave Joseph more and more responsibility. The record says that, "The Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand." This too was noticed by his master. When Joseph was about 22, he was made the manager of Potiphar’s entire estate. He enjoyed Potiphar’s complete trust and confidence. We read, "And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand."

Joseph had occupied this position for about five years when calamity came. —Unintentionally he caught the eye of Poti—phar’s wife. His steadfastness to principle angered her. She falsely accused him and he was cast into prison and made to appear guilty of a heinous crime:

disloyalty to his master and benefactor. Shakespeare has described this situation saying, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." We read:"And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound." I don’t think Potiphar, in his heart, really believed his wife’s accusation against Joseph. If he had, he certainly would have killed Joseph. After all he was an officer of the king and Captain of the Guard; Joseph was only a slave. No one would have questioned him. Instead he imprisoned Joseph.

The warden of the prison was happy to have someone with Joseph’s administrative ability and he quickly put his talents to work. In a short time Joseph came to be in complete charge of the prison arrangements although he was himself a prisoner. Once again we read:"The Lord was with him; and that which he did, the Lord made to prosper."

Since this was the king’s prison, the prisoners were not necessarily criminals. Sometimes they were political prisoners or merely temporary objects of the king’s displeasure. One day, Pharaoh became angry at two of his officers, described as "the chief of the butlers, and the chief of the bakers." The chief butler or cup-bearer

to the king was the highest officer of Pharaoh’s household—a sort of a Royal Secretary. The chief baker was the manager of the culinary department and general steward of the Royal Family with its kitchen and supplies. They were confined in the same prison with Joseph, and Joseph was responsible for them. He therefore became well acquainted with them and learned much of the ways and customs of Pharaoh’s court. This information would stand him in good stead later on.

Joseph Interprets Dreams

One morning Joseph noticed these two prisoners looked particularly unhappy and he tenderly inquired:"Wherefore look ye sad today?"

Joseph’s own experiences had made him tender-hearted toward others. He was able to enter into the degradations and sorrows of the other prisoners because of what he himself had been through. He noticed and was genuinely concerned that they were sad that morning.

The chief butler and the chief baker told Joseph they both had dreamed dreams the previous night and were sad and worried because of what the dreams might mean. Joseph encouraged them to tell him their dreams suggesting that God through him might give them the interpretations. The butler told his dream first and God illuminated Joseph’s mind to give him the mean—ing; he was to be pardoned by Pharaoh and restored to his butler’s office within three days. Then Joseph made a pathetic plea to the butler, showing how much he yearned for his freedom. He said,

"But think on me when it shall be well with thee; and show kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh; and bring me out of this house. For indeed I was stolen

away out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also, have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon."

Then the baker told his dream. Again God illuminated Joseph’s mind with the interpretation. This time it saddened Joseph to tell it.

He told the baker that within three days he would be hanged. Within three days both predictions were precisely fulfilled. The butler, restored to his former position, once again gave the cup to Pharaoh’s hand. But he forgot Joseph and his wistful plea. Joseph stayed in prison two years after that. He was now 30 years of age.

Then one night Pharaoh dreamed two dreams in one night. These were not ordinary dreams that one takes as a matter of course. So vivid and impressive were they that Pharaoh knew they had special significance. In the first dream he saw seven fine cattle come up to the river; a little later he saw seven very poor, lean cattle—the worst he had ever seen—come up. The lean cattle ate up the fat ones and looked none the better. In the second dream Pharaoh saw a fine stalk of corn grow up out of the earth bearing seven full, healthy, ears of corn. Then he saw another stalk come up with seven withered ears, good for nothing. As he watched the withered ears swallowed up the good ears and looked none the better. Pharaoh summoned his wise men and magicians to—determine what the dreams meant. But to his great disappointment, not one of them could interpret the dreams for him. Then the chief butler, who was always at Pharaoh’s side, finally remembered Joseph and told the king of the young Hebrew in prison who had so accurately interpreted his dream as well as the dream of the baker.

I like to think that Joseph was praying, asking God for deliverance, when the summons came. The keeper of the prison came in with astonishment on his face. "Joseph! The King is calling for you! The great Pharaoh himself wants to see you!" Joseph was not really surprised. He had been expecting it for so long. With a heart full of thankfulness, he hastily bathed, shaved, and changed his clothes. It was with a calm assurance, born of faith in God, that Joseph faced Pharaoh, the mightiest monarch in the world. "I understand you have the ability to interpret dreams, " Pharaoh said. "This ability is not in me, " Joseph answered modestly. "It is God who shall give you an answer."

"What a time to be modest!" someone might say. He had been a slave for ten years and in the dungeon for three years. Now when he had a grand opportunity to shine before the king himself, he threw it away. Yet modesty usually denotes greatness of character. This was not lost on the keenly perceptive Pharaoh. He told Joseph his dreams. The Lord again illuminated the mind of Joseph and he explained to Pharaoh that the two dreams referred to the same matter, given twice to emphasize its sureness. The interpretation was

that there would be seven years of plenty—great plenty—in the land of Egypt. Then these would be followed by seven years of famine which would fully consume all the surplus of the plentiful years.

Joseph offered the suggestion that the king appoint a trustworthy agent to buy all the surplus grain in seven years of plenty and to store it for use during the seven years of famine.

Pharaoh was at once struck with the wisdom of this plan. So we read:

"And Pharaoh said unto his servants:can we find such a one as this is? A man in whom the spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph :Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet, and wise as thou art. Thou shalt be over my house, and according to thy word shall all my people be ruled. Only in the throne will I be greater than thou."

So it came to pass that Joseph in one day stepped out of the lowest dungeon and was exalted to the rulership of Egypt, the greatest empire of those days. As Brother Russell expressed it:"He had a 14- year contract."

Famine Touches Joseph’s Family

The famine was general and severe throughout that region of the world. It included Canaan as well as Egypt. The land dried up and successive crops failed until there was not even seed left to plant.

Word spread that there was no lack of food in Egypt. So Jacob directed his sons, who were by this time heads of families themselves, to go down to Egypt and buy wheat. But he did not send Benjamin, who was now his favorite son, with them.

The ten sons arrived in Egypt. As aliens they were directed to Joseph who had been expecting them. He had known they would eventually have to come to him for food. That is probably why he had not tried to contact them before this. When brought before Joseph, his ten brothers bowed themselves before him, not recognizing him. To them he was the ruler of Egypt. As they bowed before him Joseph remembered his dreams of the sheaves and the stars. He spoke to them through an interpreter asking if they were not really spies who had come to see how much wheat there was in Egypt so that they might bring an army to steal it. They explained their situation truthfully and upon questioning mentioned their father and their younger brother Benjamin.

How Joseph’s heart must have leaped to learn that after more than 20

years his father and his brother Benjamin were alive and well. But he did not identify himself. He kept his air of severity and finally agreed to sell them grain. But in order to obtain more later, they must first prove their truthfulness by bringing their youngest brother Benjamin along with them. Until that time, Simeon, one of the brothers, would

be kept in prison as a hostage. At this point a single thought must have simultaneously passed through the minds of each of the ten brothers. It was the tragic memory of their 17-year-old brother Joseph in his coat of many colors with anguish of heart pleading, begging them for mercy. Then the brothers turned a deaf ear and sold Joseph for silver. The record states:

"And they said, one to another, we are verily guilty concerning our brother; in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear. Therefore is this distress come to us. And Reuben answered them saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, do not sin against the child, and ye would not hear? Therefore, behold, also his blood is required."

The Brothers Experience Remorse They were in the presence of Joseph when they said these things, not knowing that he understood every word. Joseph was so overcome that he withdrew so that he could weep unobserved. His tears were tears of compassion and joy, joy at seeing the remorse of his brethren, to realize that the mellowing of the passing years had brought sincere repentance and change of character. Nevertheless he must try them further. He returned to them, took Simeon hostage, and sent them away.

On the way home, when they opened their sacks to get food, they found the money they had paid for the grain in each of their sacks.

When the brothers arrived at home with their wheat, they told their father Jacob the whole story, of their being suspected as spies by the governor, and why Simeon was not with them. Then they told their father that the money they had paid for the grain had been returned to them in their sacks of wheat. They told him that in order to obtain more wheat next time they must take Benjamin with them. To this Jacob protested, saying:

"Me have ye bereaved of my children. Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away?"

It must have been a shock to the brothers to hear even their father Jacob echo their fears, that their crime against Joseph was responsible for their predicament, that this was retribution.

When the supply of wheat brought from Egypt began to run low, Jacob urged his sons to go again for more. But they positively refused to do so unless Benjamin went along. Jacob protested strongly. Then Judah spoke up and became surety for Benjamin. Let us remember that it was Judah who many years before had, proposed selling Joseph as a slave. Now he pledged his own life for the safety of Benjamin. What a change had taken place in his heart. Jacob finally consented out of necessity. He sent them to the governor of Egypt with a present of honey, spices, nuts and almonds, and with double the money. He allowed Benjamin to go saying, pitifully,

"And God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother [Simeon], and Benjamin. If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved."

When they arrived in Egypt, Joseph gave instructions that dinner should be served for them in his house and released Simeon to them.

When they were ready to eat, Joseph came in robed as an Egyptian prince and again they bowed down to him. He tenderly inquired for their father. He saw his brother Benjamin, his own moth—er’s son, and yearned to embrace him. So deep was his emotion that he had to leave them for a while so they would not see his tears of joy. The brothers were shown to their seats at the table and were aston—ished to see they had been seated in the exact order of age and birthright.

When they were served, they were further aston—ished to see that Benjamin was served five portions to their one. Did they resent it? Were they jealous as they had been of Joseph so long ago? Not a bit!

They loved it. They laughed about it. The record says they "were merry with him." You may be sure Joseph noted this further evidence of their reformation.

Joseph felt he must test them still further as to their sympathy for their father and for their loving interest in their youngest brother Benjamin. When their sacks were filled with grain, he arranged for his own silver cup to be concealed in Benjamin’s sack. In the morning when the brothers were a short distance on their way home, he sent officers after them, accusing them of stealing his cup. They protested their innocence and invited the officers to search for the cup, saying:

"With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord’s bondmen, or, slaves."

The sacks were searched and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.

What a rude shock it was! They had given their father a pledge of their own lives as surety for Benjamin; now, by their own word, Benjamin should die and they themselves—become slaves. The officers magnanimous—ly proposed to take only Benjamin back with them as a slave and allow the others to proceed home. But they would not let Benjamin be separated from them, not for a moment.

They all went back with him, stunned with grief. Were these the same men who had so long ago easily let Joseph go his lonely way a slave? Were these the same men who dipped his coat in blood and used it to break an old man’s heart? When they got back to the palace, they fell before Joseph on the ground as he accused them. Words seemed useless. What could they say? How could they defend themselves against the evidence? It was hopeless; they knew they were through. Judah became their spokesman.

"And Judah said :What shall we say unto my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves :God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants; both we, and he also with whom the cup is found."

Thus he offered himself and his brothers including Benjamin to Joseph as slaves. Joseph refused saying that only the one who had taken the cup should be his slave. "As for you, " he said, "Get you up in peace, unto your father." Joseph was applying the final and most severe test on his brothers. As far as they knew Benjamin had stolen the cup. The brothers could reason that Benjamin should suffer the consequences; it was not their fault. They had their own families to think about. They might reason that food must be brought to them or they would starve. As for their father, he’d just have to understand the situation, that’s all. Joseph desired to see if they would reason that way. This was the crucial test.

Judah Heart-felt Plea

Judah, speaking for them all, made one of the most pathetic, touching pleas, ever recorded in history.

"Then Judah came near unto him, and said, O my lord, let thy servant I pray thee speak a word in my lord’s ears; and let not thine anger burn against thy servant; for thou art even as Pharaoh. My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father or a brother? And we said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one, and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him. And thou saidst unto thy servants, bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him. And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father, his father would die. And thou saidst unto thy servants, except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more. And it came to pass, when we came up unto thy servant, my father, we told him the words of my lord. And our father said, go again, and buy us a little food. And we said, we cannot go down if our youngest brother be not with us. Then we go down and may see the face of the man when our youngest brother be with us. And thy servant, my father, said unto us, ye know that my wife bare me two sons; and the one went out from me, and I said surely he is torn in pieces, and I saw him not since. And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. Now, therefore, when I come to thy servant, my father, and the lad be not with us, seeing that his life is bound up in the lad’s life; it shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die, and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant, our father, with sorrow to the grave. For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee,

then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever. Now, therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad, a bondman to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brethren. For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? Lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come to my father."

As Judah talked any lingering doubt in Joseph’s mind melted away.

They had indeed changed completely. They were now willing to sacrifice their own lives for their younger brother and to spare their father any anguish of heart.

The time had come for him to identify himself. Sending all others out of the room and with tears streaming down his face, he made himself known to his brethren. Speaking in the Hebrew language he said:"I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt." Can you imagine the amazement of his brothers? They felt a stab of guilt for what they had done to Joseph so long ago. They were ill at ease.

Joseph quickly noted this and with what is a classic example of graciousness, he set their heart at ease. He said:

"Now therefore, be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you, to preserve life . . .

So now, it was not you that sent me hither, but God."

What largeness of heart Joseph had! What God-like forgiveness!

Forgotten were the years of slavery, the years of the dungeon, the days and nights of loneliness yearning for his father’s house. Now everything was all right! Benjamin was the first one he embraced.

This was his kid brother he loved so much. Then he embraced all his brethren and kissed them. They all wept tears of joy. Joseph immediately sent for his father and his brother’s families and settled them comfortably in the land of Goshen. We can well imagine the touching tenderness of the reunion of Joseph with his father at long, long last.

That is the story of Joseph, a beautiful, moving story. It is so rich in human emotion that it brings tears to our eyes to read it. It is also rich in prophetic significance. Do you realize what this means? It means that God made his plans in the minutest detail then supervised and overruled Joseph’s every experience to illustrate portions of that plan. It is thrilling to realize how completely God is the Master of every situation, how thoroughly he controls and maneuvers the experiences of those with whom he deals.

Joseph a Type of Jesus

Let us consider some of the prophetic and symbolic pictures God made from the life of Joseph. Joseph typified Jesus. As Joseph was the favorite son and constant companion of Jacob, Jesus was God’s—beloved son. Of him it is said that he was one brought up with God

and daily his—delight. (Pr 8:30) As Jacob sent Joseph to his brethren in Dothan, the Heavenly Father sent his beloved son to the nation of Israel. As Jesus himself said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Mt 15:24) As Joseph’s brethren hated him without justification, Jesus said of himself:"They hated me without a cause." (Joh 15:25) As Joseph’s mission to his brethren was not well received but was rejected, so Jesus came unto his own but his own received him not." Also, "He was despised and rejected of men." (Isa 53:3)

As Joseph’s brethren were cruelly envious of him, we also read in Mt 27:18 and Mr 15:10 that Jesus was delivered for envy.

Joseph’s brethren said of Joseph:"Come now, therefore, and let us slay him." In like manner the Jews plotted to kill—Jesus, and shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" As Joseph was figuratively killed when cast into the pit by his brethren, Jesus was actually put to death by the Jews. As Joseph was sold in slavery at Judah’s suggestion, so was Jesus sold by Judas for silver, thirty pieces of silver being the price of a slave. Faithful Joseph spent three years in prison; our Lord Jesus, notwithstanding his faithfulness, was three days in the prison-house of death. As Pharaoh raised Joseph up from prison to be next to him the ruler of Egypt, Jesus was on the third day delivered from death and raised up to power and great glory, next to Jehovah God on the throne of the universe. Our Lord Jesus said of himself after his resurrection:"All power is given unto me, in heaven and in earth." (Mt 28:18) As Pharaoh decreed that all should bow down to Joseph and do him honor, so God decreed, "All men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father."—Joh 5:23

In the case of Joseph, disaster, treachery, and shame prepared the way for glory and honor as ruler of Egypt. So with—Jesus :his trying experiences proved him loyal to God and led to his exaltation. As Hebrews states it:

"[ He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."—Heb 12:2

Joseph gave bread to all, purchasing for Pharaoh the land and the people. Jesus purchased mankind; during the Millennial age Christ will give life (himself—his merit) to all who desire it. As there was no life for the people except through Joseph as the representative of Pharaoh, there is no life for anyone in the world except in and through Christ representing the Heavenly Father. As Joseph’s brethren who originally rejected Joseph finally recognized him, the Jewish nation who rejected Jesus and crucified him will, after many humbling experiences and ordeals including "Jacob’s Trouble, "

finally recognize and accept Jesus. Joseph’s brethren wept when Joseph revealed himself to them. So also we read:"They shall look

upon him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him." (Zec 12:10)

As Joseph judged his brethren not according to what they had done to him in the past nor their sins of the past but according to their attitude of heart at the time, so the future judgment of the world will be according to the condition of men’s minds and hearts at the time.

These are some of the typical features of this story. There are many more. Do you think these parallels just happened by chance? You know they did not. This is the finger of God. These things were given for our encouragement and benefit to make us realize that we are not following "cunningly devised fables" (2Pe 1:16), to know that we really have the truth.

Personal Lessons for Us

Let us consider some of the personal lessons contained in the story of Joseph and his brethren. This is one of the stories my mother used to read to me from her Armenian Bible when I was a small child. I remember vividly how I used to be carried away by its high adventure. As the story unfolded, I imagined myself in every situation of Joseph. I couldn’t quite understand the hatred of Joseph’s brethren since my own brothers were such fine fellows. But I cried when Joseph was cast into the pit and sold as a slave. I wept when his coat was dipped in blood and taken to his father. I alternated between joy and despair as Joseph was in turn favored and degraded.

The supreme thrill for me came when Joseph was raised from the dungeon to the rulership of Egypt.

When the story was finished and mother closed her Bible, I sat and mused. I would say to myself :Why couldn’t a thing wonderful like that happen to me? Why couldn’t God pick me for such care and such an exaltation? I didn’t say this complainingly, but wistfully, yearningly; wishing it could be true; wishing with all my heart that I could be Joseph. Years later when the Lord drew me to the truth, the wonderful realization came to me that what happened to Joseph did happen to me. God had indeed selected me and as with Joseph, every incident of my life was noted by God and overruled for my good. I realized that I shall, finally, receive an—exaltation to a rulership far greater than that of Egypt. This is true of each of us who are consecrated and running for the prize of the high calling. It is true of you. The story of Joseph is the story of your life. As a member of the body of Christ Joseph represents you too! His experiences represent your experiences.

As Jacob loved Joseph, God loved Jesus. So also it is written of you:

"The Father himself loveth you." (Joh 16:27) As Joseph was hated of his brethren and as Jesus was hated by the Jews, Jesus said of

you:"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you."—Joh 15:18

As Joseph was raised up from the dungeon to the throne of Egypt, so was Jesus raised from death to the throne of God. It is written of us:

"If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him." (2Ti 2:11, 12) As the Lord was with Joseph, —supervising all his affairs, making everything come out all right, and as the Heavenly Father was with his son Jesus throughout his earthly ministry and finally glorified him, so we have the assurance "that all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Ro 8:28) As Joseph’s experiences of adversity rightly exercised him, developing beauty of character, and as Jesus—demonstrated his obedience by the things which he suffered, it is written of us:

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."—1Pe 4:12, 13

As Joseph distributed food to save lives and as Christ will in his kingdom administer the bread of life to all, we as members of his body will share with him in restoring life to all humanity.

There are some intimate and heart searching lessons to be learned also. The first, and one of the principal lessons, is the effect of envy.

We should never be—envious. It is extremely disruptive and destructive. Under the evil influence of envy, normal people are led to do and say the most outrageous things. As James expresses it:

"Where envying and strife are, there is confusion and every evil work." (Jas 3:16) This being true, you may be sure Satan fosters and encourages envy, seeking to disrupt and destroy the church. It is a sad fact that the brethren who are the most widely and effectively used by the Lord arouse the most envy. Let us shun this evil thing.

At the slightest sign of it in our hearts, let us earnestly pray for its eradication. Allowed to grow, envy can destroy the new creature.

A Lesson About Pride

Joseph provides a valuable lesson on pride. We read in the account that "the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favor." (Ge 39:21) This fact is expressed several times in the story. Even under adverse conditions he was favored in many ways. Joseph could have permitted these experiences to develop a great deal of personal pride. He might have reasoned to himself that he was merely lucky, or that he was naturally bright, attractive and smart—that this was the secret of his success, that this was the reason

his father loved him so much. He might have thought this was the reason that when he was sold as a slave he was bought by a good master, that it was his personal brilliance that caused him to rise to eminence in Poti—phar’s house. He could have thought that it was his superior abilities that gave him the authority in prison, that it was his keenness of intellect that enabled him to interpret dreams. He might have thought that all these things made him stand head and shoulders above other men and hence he had earned and deserved his success as a matter of right.

Joseph could have reasoned this way. It would have been quite human to do so. But he reflected the attitude of Jesus whom he prefigured. Jesus gave all the credit to God, saying:"I can of mine own self do nothing." (Joh 5:30) If Joseph had not taken this attitude, he would not have been exalted, but would have fallen instead. We read, "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." (Pr 16:18) So let us ascribe to the Lord every good thing we receive remembering:"Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." (Jas 1:17) Also:"For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south; but God is the judge; he putteth down one and setteth up another."—Ps 75:6, 7

Then there is the lesson of patient endurance. Sometimes when we are serving the Lord and the brethren to the best of our ability and when apparently we have the Lord’s blessings and favor upon our affairs in a most marked degree, suddenly trouble may arise and adversity come upon us. The powers of darkness seem to triumph.

We seem to be forsaken by divine providence. The Lord seems to have abandoned us. These are Joseph’s experiences; Jesus too had such an experience when he cried:"My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mt 27:46) Anyone can have them. When this happens, let us react as did Joseph, with a quiet, persevering faith, doing the best we can from day to day not only waiting, but working and waiting. Remember that Joseph did his best to effect his own deliverance from prison by asking the butler to mention his case to Pharaoh.

But one of the most outstanding and heart-warming lessons of this story is the graciousness with which Joseph forgave his brethren.

Seeing his brethren ill at ease when he revealed himself to them, his first and instant reaction was of pity and mercy. He was gracious in his forgiveness. He almost made them believe that they had done him a favor to sell him as a slave to Egypt! Listen to his loving words:

"Be not grieved, or angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you, to preserve life . . . to preserve you

a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance .

So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God!"

Joseph’s Words of Mercy

Aren’t those gracious words? His brethren knew they had been guilty of a great sin, a sin equivalent to murder. Joseph knew it too.

But he also knew that the Lord had overruled it for the highest good.

So that is the part he mentioned, and only that part. As he talked the guilty terror left their hearts and for the first time in 23 years their minds were at ease concerning Joseph. Let us, like Joseph, be merciful toward those who sin against us. Let us study to always give the gracious answer using loving words.

Had Joseph been a saint of this Gospel age, begotten of the holy spirit and running for the prize of the high calling with all the revelations and admonitions of the Bible available to him, with a knowledge of the divine plan of the ages revealing the character and purpose of God, his conduct would still be compatible with the very highest type of Christian development. But when we think of the circumstances and conditions under which his character was developed in that heathen land and with but a small revelation of God’s character and plan (the Bible not yet written, the law and ordinances not yet given), we are amazed. When we think of this, what manner of persons ought we to be considering our great advantages every way? With all our advantages, would we have proven as noble and generous and gracious as Joseph under the same circumstances and conditions? These are things to ponder.

Does your heart glow when you consider the story of Joseph? Do you live the story? Are you able to identify yourself with Joseph’s experiences, sympathizing with him in his difficulties and rejoicing with him in his successes? Do you think that what Joseph did was good, and right, and God- like? Does it make you love and praise God the more? If so, this is the finest evidence that you are of the "Joseph" class whom the Lord loves and will exalt.

We thank the Heavenly Father for the example of Joseph and of our Lord Jesus Christ whom he typified. May we be helped to copy the traits and characteristics illustrated so we too may be worthy of exaltation in due time.

Journeying to the Promised Land

"Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples. The Diaglott says, "typically."> And they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he—standeth take heed lest he fall."—1Co 10:11, 12

WE ARE those "upon whom the ends of the ages are come." So today we are going to consider some of the highlights of the history of Israel up to the time of their entering the promised land to see what admonitions there are for us to keep us from falling.

After many difficulties Joseph became ruler of Egypt. At the invitation of a benevolent pharaoh he brought his brethren and their families, as well as his father—Jacob, into Egypt and settled them on the broad and grassy plains of Goshen. It was an ideal land for their flocks and herds. Now we read from Ex 1:6, 7:

"And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. And the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them."

This covers a period of about 215 years. Notice how the phenomenal growth of the children of Israel is stressed. In this one verse there are five different expressions of their increase :they were

"fruitful, " they "increased abundantly, " they "multiplied, " they

"waxed exceeding mighty, " and "the land was filled with them."

Thus began the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham:

"In multiplying I will multiply thy seed, as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore."—Ge 22:17

We determine from Ex 12:37 that at that time there were over 600, 000 adult males in Israel, beside women and children. If we calculate five to a family, which is not unreasonable for so prolific a people, this would indicate a population of over three million. That was a real population explosion!

We continue with Ex 1:8: "Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph." This was the—infamous Rameses the second who oppressed the children of Israel and with whom Moses dealt. His mummy has been found and is preserved to this day.

One day he may return and see his own mummy.

The phenomenal increase of the children of Israel disturbed this Pharaoh. He considered it a threat to the security of Egypt. We read of this in the first chapter of Exodus. He enslaved and oppressed the Hebrews with hard labor. He gave orders that all their male babies

should be killed at birth which may be the first attempt at genocide in human history. But the midwives would not cooperate. We read in Ex 1:20 that in spite of Pharaoh’s—order, "The people multiplied and waxed very mighty." When this scheme failed,

Pharaoh issued a vicious and heartless order which clearly indicated his depravity. It is recorded in Ex 1:22. Any Egyptian was required to take any Hebrew boy he could find and throw him into the Nile river and drown him! Is it any wonder that the Hebrews cried to the God of their fathers? They probably met together in family units secretly at night and raised their combined voices to their God. What a great cry it was that went up! So we read in Ex 3:7, 8:

"And the Lord said [to Moses] I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt; and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows. And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land, and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites."

This was the great promise upon the basis of which Canaan came to be called "The Promised Land."

Then followed the confrontation of Pharaoh by Moses demanding that he let the children of Israel go. Pharaoh stubbornly refused, and the Lord brought ten devastating plagues upon Egypt culminating in the death of the firstborn. On this occasion the Passover ritual was instituted whereby the firstborn of Israel were saved. This last plague, which killed all the firstborn in Egypt, finally broke Pharaoh’s determination. His own beloved firstborn son, his pride and joy, the Crown Prince and heir to the throne of Egypt, had died with the others. He now urged the children of Israel to leave and leave quickly. They were ready. They had just eaten of the Passover lamb with their loins girded, their shoes on their feet, and their staffs in their hands. They had eaten it in haste, expecting to leave hurriedly.

(Ex 12:11) Now, under the leadership of Moses they rose up and started out as one man. We read, in Ex 12:37, 38:

"And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot, that were men, beside children.

And a mixed multitude went up also with them. And flocks and herds, even very much cattle."

What a spectacle that must have been:an entire nation on the move!

Three million men, women, and children, beside a mixed multitude, marching in a great column. On either side of this vast river of humanity there were shepherds leading enormous flocks of sheep and herdsmen driving tens of thousands of cattle. There was a tenseness in the air, a feeling of suppressed excitement. Not many spoke but their combined footsteps must have been like the rolling of distant thunder.

Then with the Red Sea safely passed and the pursuing armies of Pharaoh destroyed, the children of Israel set their faces toward Canaan, the Promised Land. Their course led through what is called a "great and terrible wilderness" (De 1:19) and a "waste howling wilderness" (De 32:10). They spent nearly a year in the vicinity of Mount—Sinai. It was about a year and fifty days after their departure from Egypt that they broke camp to journey toward Canaan. During this time many stops were made, the tabernacle services instituted, many laws and statutes given and many lessons learned. When they finally arrived at Kadesh-Barnea on the border of the Promised Land, they had achieved at least some semblance of an organized and orderly—nation.

This was a dramatic moment for the children of Israel. The culmination of their hopes was within view. Those lovely green hills on the horizon were of the land which their father Abraham’s eyes had beheld when the Lord told him:

"Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward. For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.

And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth so that if a man number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.

Arise, walk through the land, in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee."—Ge 13:14-17

The Land Promised to Abraham

Instead of the one pair of eyes of Abraham, three million pairs of eyes of the children of Abraham were looking at that same land.

This was the land of which Joseph spoke when he was upon his death-bed in Egypt, saying:

"I die. And God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land, unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob."—Ge 50:24

This was the very land of which God spoke to Moses when he commissioned him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, calling it "a good land, and a large; unto a land flowing with milk and honey."

They were here at last! All they had to do now was to walk in and take possession. Although the land was already inhabited by other peoples, this should present no problem to them. Had not the Almighty God given it to Israel assuring them over and over again that it was theirs? Could not the God who had so easily and so recently destroyed the armies of Egypt on their behalf also disperse these enemies before them? It would be logical to think so. But it did not seem logical to these who had so recently been slaves. They

needed further assurance. So it was proposed to spy out the land before venturing into it, first to see whether it was a good and productive land and second to determine whether the inhabitants were such as they would be able to defeat and drive out. This seemed a very strange thing to do. Were they not assured of both of these points already? Had not the Lord repeatedly told them that it was a good land, that it was theirs for the taking? You would think they would take the Lord at his word. Nevertheless they sent out twelve spies, one from each tribe, among whom were Caleb and Joshua.

After forty days of searching out the country, the spies returned and made their report. They were unanimous as to the facts. It was indeed an exceedingly good land. As proof of this they brought back some of the fruit of it—grapes, pomegranates and figs, which were large and of excellent quality. For example, a single bunch of grapes was of such size and weight that it had to be suspended from a pole and carried between two men. The spies also agreed that the inhabitants of the country were strong and warlike, living in high- walled cities, and that some of the people were of great stature. In all of these things they were in agreement. But it was astonishing to see

how different persons can take the very same set of facts and reach opposite conclusions.

Ten of the spies said, "We be not able to go up against the people for they are stronger than we." (Nu 13:31) But two of them reached a different conclusion. Caleb said enthusiastically:"Let us go up at once and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it!" (Nu 13:30) Then Caleb and Joshua both stood before the people:

"And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it to us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us [Moffatt:"we shall eat them up"]. Their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us.

Fear them not."—Nu 14:7-9

But the people rejected the optimism of Caleb and Joshua and even wanted to stone them for expressing it. They accepted instead the evil and pessimistic report of the ten spies, and became utterly discouraged. They wept, saying, "Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would God we had died in this wilderness!" (Nu 14:2) They rebelled against God who had only a few months before demonstrated his mighty power on their behalf in delivering them from Egypt, saying:

"Wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword; that our wives and our children should be a prey? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt?"—Nu 14:3

They rebelled against Moses, saying:"Let us make a captain and let us return into Egypt." (Nu 14:4) Rather incredible, isn’t it.

Here they were, on the very border of the Promised Land, an occasion which should have been the happiest moment of their lives, and instead they considered their situation a hopeless calamity! The Lord was very displeased with them. We read:

"And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? And how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have showed among them?"—Nu 14:11

The Lord took them at their word. They had said, "Would God we had died in the wilderness!" This was their sentence and they had pronounced it upon themselves. The Lord told Moses:

"Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you. Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have

murmured against me . . . Ye shall not come into the land concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb . . . and Joshua . . . But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land, which ye have despised."—Nu 14:28-31

Because of their cowardice and lack of faith they were found unworthy. They must now leave that beautiful Promised Land behind and return into the howling wilderness. They must wander about in it for forty years until all the adults then living except Caleb and Joshua had died. Then their children were to return and enter the Promised Land.

At Canaan’s Borders Again

Now we pass over forty heart-breaking years of the wilderness experiences of—Israel. They have now returned. We find them once again on the borders of Canaan, but now there is a great difference!

All that rebellious generation had died as the Lord had said. Their great leader Moses also had died and was buried by the hand of God in the land of Moab. Israel now consisted of those who were under age when they were here forty years before, and their children who were born in the wilderness. The cringing slavishness which characterized the adults who came out of Egypt had been eliminated.

There were only two men left who remembered the rigors of Egypt as adults and they were the faithful Joshua and Caleb. Joshua had replaced Moses as their divinely appointed leader. We read:

"Now after the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying :Moses my servant is dead. Now, therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. . . . There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage; for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous."—Jos 1:1, 2, 5-7

Once again they were poised to enter the Land of Promise, but what a difference! Now there was strength, assurance, and confidence!

No cringing fearfulness, no hesitation, no murmuring, no complaining. Their bright new spirit is manifested in Jos 1:16, 18:

"And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do; and withersoever thou sendest us, we will go. Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment and will not hearken

unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death. Only be strong and of a good courage."

What a difference! Instead of the necessity of Joshua encouraging them, they told him to be strong and courageous!

Their first objective upon crossing the river must be the conquest of Jericho, a city located about five miles from the Jordan. It was a high-walled city with strong defenses, capable of withstanding siege.

They must first destroy Jericho because if they did not, but marched past it, their enemies would undoubtedly use the city as a sanctuary from which to attack them from the rear. So Joshua sent two spies to Jericho to observe and report on the strength of the city and the spirit of its—defenders. The spies returned:

"And they said unto Joshua, Truly the Lord hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us."—Jos 2:24

The next day the hosts of Israel approached the Jordan and camped at the edge of it. It was the worst possible time of the year in which to attempt a crossing. The river was in full flood stage and overflowing its banks. Normally a hundred feet wide, and shallow and fordable at this point, it was now perhaps 500 feet wide with the main channel running deep and swift. They had no boats nor pontoons with which to construct a bridge. Even if there had been a bridge and they marched across it ten abreast for twelve hours a day, it would take more than seven days for the three million or more Israelites to make the crossing.

But the Jordan being at flood stage was really a blessing in disguise.

The Canaanites, who were aware of the approaching Israelites, considered the river to be an—impassable barrier and felt secure.

Had it been shallow and fordable, as it usually was at this point, you may be sure they would have been there in force to repel an invasion. Israel would have had a severe battle with poor weapons against a well-equipped enemy. But all this was prevented by the swollen river which the Canaanites did not believe Israel could cross.

That raging, roaring river must have been a fearful sight to desert dwellers, but there is no record that the children of—Israel were afraid and complained at this prospect of crossing it as their fathers had done forty years before. They rested in the Lord and depended upon him to show how it was to be done.

Joshua sent his officers among the people to instruct them as to the plan of procedure to be followed, which he had received of the Lord.

So great was the host of Israel that this took three days. Today with modern radio and voice amplifying equipment it could be done almost instantly. The instructions were simple. The priests were to

take up the Ark of the Covenant and march into the river which would dry up at their approach. Then the children of Israel were to cross over on dry land. The order was given and the priests, bearing the sacred Ark, slowly approached the river. Every eye was upon them as they came closer and closer to the water. Would it dry up before them as the Lord had said? Excitement ran high. The priests got to the very edge of the water and nothing happened. The water did not draw back.

A hush fell upon the watching host of Israel, but the priests did not hesitate; they did not break their stride. Their orders were to march into the river and that is what they did. As soon as they actually stepped into the water, the miracle happened. The water drew away from their feet. Each step they took the water receded further. As they advanced and the level of the water fell, the roaring of the river diminished and the current slowed. As they approached the main channel the raging torrent had shrunk into a limpid-flowing brook.

When they finally stepped down into the lowest part of the river bed, the water disappeared entirely. Reaching the center of the river the priests with the ark stopped and were standing on dry ground. The children of Israel had been watching with fascination. Now the signal was given and the millions of Israel who lined the bank in each direction as far as eye could see quickly passed over without even getting their feet wet. When all were across safely, the priests, bearing the ark, —completed the crossing. Now before the astonished eyes of the Israelites the process was reversed. With each step the priests took up from the bed of the river, the water began to flow again and increase in volume, licking at their heels as they walked.

As soon as they had gained the opposite shore, the Jordan was once again a raging torrent.

What a grand feeling it must have been to at last enter the Promised Land! For many weary years they had anticipated it, dreamed about it, yearned for it. Whenever things went wrong during their wanderings, when they hungered and thirsted and were weary, how often they must have said:"Some day we will reach that land flowing with milk and honey which the Lord has promised us!"

Every time they broke camp to roam some more in the scorching desert they must have said:"Some day we will not need these tents.

When we get to that wonderful Promised Land we will wander no more. We will build houses and live under our own vines and fig trees, in a cool land of rivers and lakes!" Now the time had come at long last :they were actually walking on that Promised Land! Then came the conquest of Jeri—cho by another stupendous miracle which may well be the subject of another talk.

Lessons for Us

Let us consider some lessons. As in the case of so many other Bible narratives, this one furnishes first of all a general—outline of the Divine Plan. As Pharaoh—oppressed the Israelites, Satan has been a cruel and severe taskmaster. He has—enslaved and degraded the human race. As Ro 8:21 expresses it, mankind is—under "the bondage of corruption." As the—Israelites groaned under their burdens and cried to God in their distress, we read:"For we know that the whole creation groaneth, and travaileth in pain together." (Ro 8:22) As Pharaoh refused to let the children of Israel go, we read of Satan that he "opened not the house of his prisoners" (Isa 14:17)—all mankind being confined in the prison-house of sin and death. Does not Pharaoh’s merciless killing of the male babies of Israel remind us of the Satan-inspired massacre of the babes of Bethlehem by Herod?

The "Lamb of God" Provides Release

The passover lamb was slain as a result of which Pharaoh’s hold upon the Israelites was broken and they set out for the Promised

Land. Similarly, Jesus was sacrificed as "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." (Joh 1:29) The human race was ransomed and the Millennial Kingdom became their glorious prospect. But as Israel did not enter in at once but wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, so mankind has continued to wander in the wilderness of sin and death for 2000 years since Jesus died.

As the children of Israel finally arrived at the raging torrent of Jordan within sight of the Promised Land, mankind is now within sight of the Messianic Kingdom when, as Lu 21:25, 26 expresses it:"Upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring. Men’s hearts failing them for fear."

There was the stupendous miracle of the drying up of the Jordan and the passing of the children of Israel safely into the Promised Land.

The antitype of his magnificent event is just before the world. As the rushing waters of Jordan receded before the advancing priests bearing the sacred ark, similarly the Royal Priesthood—Christ, Head and body—will bring peace to the world when men have reached their extremity. They will usher the world into their Promised Land, the grand Messianic Kingdom. As we read:

"Then they cry unto the Lord in their troubles, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He will make the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then they are glad because they be quiet. So he bringeth them unto their desired haven."—Ps 107:28-30

In another picture, the Jordan represents Adamic death which will give way before the great Ark of the Covenant borne by the Royal Melchisedek Priesthood enabling mankind to pass into the Messianic Kingdom.

As the children of Israel after crossing the Jordan conquered and completely destroyed Jericho, mankind will, during the Millennial Age, conquer every vestige of Adamic sin in their beings.

That New World will indeed be "a good land, and a large, "" a land flowing with milk and honey." Eden will be restored and made world-wide, and "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Ha—bakkuk 2:14) As Isa 25:6 expresses it:"And in this mountain shall the Lord of Hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things; a feast of wines on the lees; of fat things full of marrow; of wines on the lees well refined." To which Mic 4:4 adds in symbolic language:

"They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid. For the mouth of the Lord of Hosts hath spoken it."

But besides this general outline of the Divine Plan, segments of the narrative also depict the course of the Church. In this picture Egypt

represents the world and Pharaoh represents Satan who is the god of this world. As the children of Israel were in Egypt but were not Egyptians, the Lord’s people are in the world but not of the world. As the Israelites were burdened by heavy labor and cried for relief, these hear and obey the Lord’s invitation, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."—Mt 11:28

However, the Church is more particularly represented in the firstborn of Israel being called in Heb 12:23 the "Church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven." As the passover lamb was slain and its blood applied to save the firstborn of Israel, Jesus died as a ransom and the merit of his sacrifice was applied on behalf of the Church.

As 1Co 5:7 says:"Christ our passover is sacrificed for us."

We are justified and covered by the robe of Christ’s righteousness and delivered from the bondage of sin and death just as Israel was delivered from Egypt. How happy we are to be released from this burden. In our exodus from under Satan’s dominion we are led by Christ Jesus, a greater than Moses, whom Moses prefigured. The Red Sea, in which Pharaoh’s host perished, pictures the second death which the Church escapes but which will be the final fate of Satan and all his willing agents.

The wanderings of the children of Israel in the wilderness journeying to the Promised Land, "a land flowing with milk and honey, " also depicts the course of the Church. We too have a promised land, the heavenly kingdom, a land of glory, honor and immortality, toward which we are journeying. We read in 2Pe 1:4 that there "are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature." Jesus spoke of our promised land when he said in Joh 14:2, 3: "In my Father’s house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am, there ye may be also."

As the Israelites in the wilderness ate manna and drank water from the rock, we are abundantly supplied with "daily heavenly manna, "

spiritual food, "meat in due season, " and drink deeply of the clear water of truth.

As the timid and slavish Israelites were disciplined by their forty years of wilderness experiences during which the old, —rebellious ones were eliminated and the—nation renewed, the Lord’s people on this side of the veil are subjected to chastening and disciplines until their old natures are transformed and they mature as new creatures of whom it is written, "Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."—2Co 5:17

We may consider the swollen river Jordan as representing consecration unto death which is required of those who will become

new creatures in Christ Jesus, who become heirs of the exceeding great and precious promises. This is suggested by the fact that it was in the river Jordan that Jesus symbolized his consecration.

As the children of Israel found enemies in the land which they must eliminate, the consecrated child of God has enemies which must be conquered. He must fight the weaknesses, the imperfections, the evil attitudes and desires of the old nature. These, as the apostle declares in 1Pe 2:11, "war against the soul, " the new creature. Thus we are told to "fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life." (1Ti 6:12) We are instructed to "war a good warfare." (1Ti 1:18) As the children of Israel after their warfare found rest in the Promised Land, the glorified Church finds rest in the Heavenly Kingdom.

Some Personal Lessons

Let us consider some of the precious personal lessons contained in this narrative, which is "written for our admonition"—lessons which will keep us from falling.

At their first arrival to the borders of the Promised Land, the Israelites instead of being elated were terrified and would not enter in. Similarly some spiritual Israelites approaching the Jordan of consecration and catching a glimpse of the promised glories beyond, are afraid to proceed. As the Israelites sent out spies, they sit down and count the cost. But they sit too long and count too much. As the ten spies did, they misinterpret the facts. They see only the frightful giants of opposition and despair. Instead of taking the Lord at his word and believing his promise of "grace to help in time of need" (Heb 4:16), some of the Lord’s dear people wish they were back in Egypt! As a result they must suffer many weary wilderness experiences which might have been avoided before they finally cross the Jordan.

Some never cross over but fall in the wilderness. They lose the High Calling by default. Let us remember this example to keep us from falling. As it was God’s good pleasure to give the Promised Land to the children of Israel if they would but enter in, let us remember the words of Jesus:"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." (Lu 12:32) Let us not hesitate.

In the words of Caleb of old, "Let us go up at once to possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." (Nu 13:30) Let us echo the strong affirmation of faith by Paul:"I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." (Php 4:13) Paul believed that God would perform his promise as he said:"I know whom I have believed; and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." (2Ti 1:12) Of all the

people in the world the Lord’s—people should be supremely optimistic. Do you think the Lord would have invited you to the High Calling if he did not intend to give it to you? Don’t you think he is ready to give you every assistance to attain it? Those of Israel who lacked the faith and zeal to promptly enter the promises of God were sentenced to suffer tribulation in the wilderness. Does this not remind us of the Great Company of whom it is written, "These are they which came out of great tribulation"? (Re 7:14) Let us resolve not to be of this class.

Prompt, Willing Obedience

Let us rather emulate the spirit of Israel as they approached the Jordan the second time with full assurance of faith. (Heb 10:22) As they said to Joshua let us say to the Lord:"All that thou commandest, we will do. Withersoever thou sendest us, we will go."

This is true consecration. A prompt, willing and complete obedience.

This was the attitude of Jesus when he came to his Jordan of consecration as we read:

"Then said I, Lo, I come. In the volume of the book it is written of me; I delight to do thy will, O my God. Yea, thy law is within my heart."—Ps 40:7, 8

If we do this, we will inherit God’s encouragements to Joshua:

"Arise, go over this Jordan . . . There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life . . . I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee . . . Be strong and of good courage."

As the children of Israel found the river at flood stage, and apparently impossible to cross, the child of God sometimes encounters situations in his life which seem impossible of solution.

The raging waters of circumstance seem to be an impassible barrier to Christian progress. But just as the waters of Jordan receded before the sacred ark, the obstacles which seem so formidable to us have a way of eventually disappearing before the Lord’s providences. Let us not forget that the overflowing river prevented the enemy from attacking Israel. With us the seeming calamities and hindrances permitted by the Lord often turn out to be blessings in disguise.

Therefore, in the language of 1Pe 4:12: "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you." There is a good reason for everything that happens to a child of God. It is never a "strange thing."

As the priests bearing the ark marched into the river while it was still flowing, we should boldly face our problems and march right into them, "strong in the Lord, and the power of his might." (Eph 6:10) Just try it and see if they will not flee before you! Don’t forget that we also bear the Ark of the Covenant. We may get our feet a little wet, but the waters will not overwhelm us because we are assured:

"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee . . . For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour."—Isa 43:2, 3

The Lord promised rest for the children of Israel. The Promised Land was a promise of rest. He said to Moses, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." (Ex 33:14) The apostle Paul in the third and fourth chapters of Hebrews draws a lesson from the experiences of Israel in their provoking the Lord, and their failure to promptly obtain the promised rest. We read:

"Harden not your hearts as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness; when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest."—Heb 3:8-11

Then the apostle points out that the reason Israel did not find rest was a lack of faith, and he exhorts us not to fail along this line. We read:

"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end. . . . And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief."—Heb 3:12-14, 18, 19

Just what is this very important "rest" promised to the children of God? Paul gives the answer:

"For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore, to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."—Heb 4:10, 11

The Jordan of Consecration

When we cross the Jordan of consecration, we cease from our own works in the sense that we give up our own wills. We relinquish every earthly interest subordinating them to the Lord’s will. Things which were important to us before, things which caused us anxious thought, are now committed to the Lord with full assurance and trust

that he will make them come out right. We have obeyed the injunction of Ps 37:5, "Commit thy way unto the Lord. Trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass." But this wonderful rest of mind does not come to us easily and automatically upon consecration. It must be striven for just as the children of Israel had battles to fight after crossing Jordan. Paul says that we must labor to enter into rest. We must train our thoughts. We must consciously develop a restful mind based on faith. We must work at it.

How can we do this? There are practical procedures we can follow.

For example, if we find ourselves worrying about something we cannot control, let us by instant prayer place that very thing into the Lord’s hands and rest in the knowledge that it is in good hands. This is the way Paul sums up the matter saying, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb 4:16) If our restlessness continues, let us go to the scriptures reminding ourselves of such promises as:"Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you." (1Pe 5:7) "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee. He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." (Ps 55:22) "For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." (Ps 91:11) "The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil. He shall preserve thy soul." (Psalms 121:7) There are many, many more such scriptures that will bring reassurance and rest to the mind if we will read and repeat them to ourselves.

Doing this may be labor at first, but if persisted in, it will become easy and habitual; then you will truly enter into that wonderful rest of faith. To attain it is eminently worthwhile. We can be undergoing the hardest physical labor with weariness and sweat of face and still, at the same time, have this rest. We can be desperately sick, on a bed of pain, and still have this rest. Every earthly thing can be going wrong with us without in the least disturbing this rest. The time of trouble may—intensify and anarchy rage in the streets, "Though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof." (Ps 46:2, 3) Still we will not fear. Impossible you say? It does seem impossible. That is why it is called "the peace of God which passeth all understanding." (Php 4:7) But it is attainable because the same verse tells us that this peace "shall keep your hearts, and minds through Christ Jesus."

We should be able to rest in the truth. You cannot rest in something which is always changing. We should not be like the wicked who are described as being "like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." (Isa 57:20) At one time in the past, when under the domination of a Society which frequently changed

its teachings, we hesitated to express ourselves on even basic doctrines. "Is this the latest thought?" we would ask ourselves. We had no rest. Every issue of their magazine brought—further changes.

But we broke away from that organization and went back to the Studies in the Scriptures and other writings of Brother Russell which are the Lord’s provision of "meat in due season" for the Household of Faith. We have had rest ever since. Now when we are told of "new light, " we are not disturbed. We have already been through that experience. We have already learned that lesson. We rest in the truth which the Lord revealed at this end of the age through his Faithful and Wise Servant. We are sure of the truth as it has been revealed. If we are never sure of the truth, we cannot rest in it. Such are described as "Tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine." (Eph 4:14) James says, "He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with wind and tossed." (Jas 1:6) One cannot rest if he has an "itching ear, " always craving to hear something new. It is a wonderful thing to rest in the truth. Let us not miss this great blessing.

Our final rest will come beyond the veil. It is written of those who participate in the first resurrection that they "rest from their labours, and their works do follow them." (Re 14:13) That glorious rest will not mean a cessation of activity. Quite the contrary. Then we will have the capability and opportunity of serving God fully and effectively. This great prospect is not too far distant for any of us!

Meat in Due Season

"The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing."—Ps 145:15, 16

WE HAVE a most wonderful, and thoughtful God. He has always fed his creatures. He has amply supplied their needs. When he created the animals, he provided for their sustenance and said:

"To every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat. And it was so."—Ge 1:30

He had regard for every living thing no matter how lowly it might be. The psalmist says of him:

"These wait all upon thee, that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. What thou givest them, they gather. Thou openest thine hand; they are filled with good."—Ps 104:27, 28

Our wonderful and thoughtful God has always fed his people. As soon as he created man, God thought of his food supply, and amply provided it. Thus we read:

"So God created man in his own image. In the image of God created he him, male and female created he them. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth; and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, To you it shall be for meat."—Ge 1:27, 29

Man is so designed, that he must eat to live and he must eat regularly. He must have his bread. Recognizing this basic need, Jesus taught his disciples to pray:"Give us this day our daily bread." (Mt 6:11) This prayer of the righteous has always been answered. As David said:

"I have been young, and now am old. Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."—Ps 37:25

Jesus beautifully impressed upon his disciples God’s provision of food for the natural man, saying:

"Behold the fowls of the air. For they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?"—Mt 6:26

This need for daily bread is true of the natural man. But the man of God has an additional requirement just as basic, just as necessary as natural food. Jesus told us of this need when he said:

"It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."—Mt 4:4

The reference is to spiritual food which is vastly more important than material food. "How can it be more important?" a worldly person might ask. "If I don’t eat, I will die." Of course you will, but what will you lose? You will lose only this temporary life of pain and sorrow under the reign of sin and death. As we read:

"Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down. He fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not."—Job 14:1, 2

"The days of our years are threescore years, and ten. And if, by reason of strength, they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour, and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away."—Ps 90:10

But by such a death, nothing is really lost because by virtue of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, there shall be a glorious resurrection to life under ideal conditions. There is to be a grand restitution, an opportunity for—restoration to human perfection for every man. So, to the natural man who dies through lack of material food, nothing is really lost.

But to the unnatural man—the man of God, the justified, consecrated, spirit-begotten child of God, the new—creature—one who has sacrificed and renounced his human restitution prospects, it is different. If he does not receive and assimilate the spiritual food provided, if he does not continually eat of "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, " he will lose everything. He will lose the most stupendous prize ever offered to mankind. He will lose "the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Phi—lippians 3:4) He will lose "glory, honor, and immortality." More than that, he may lose even life itself! That is why the child of God esteems spiritual food so highly. That is why he hungers and thirsts for it. That is why he eagerly partakes of it at every opportunity and cannot get enough of it. That is why he carefully guards his source of supply, will not let it go, nor permit it to be adulterated. It is because he does not live by material bread alone, that he can say with Job:

"I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food."—Job 23:12

The child of God finds the spiritual food that the Lord has provided to be a most tasty and satisfying morsel. He has an appetite for it. He savors it, and rejoices over it.

"Thy words were found and I did eat them. And thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart."—Jer 15:16

"Meat in due season" may be defined as "the right food at the right time."

"A word spoken in season, how good it is!"—Pr 15:23

"To every thing there is a season; and a time to every purpose under the heaven."—Ec 3:1

The Right Message at the Right Time

Meat in due season is the right message at the right time. For example, Noah was given a message:

"And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them. And, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood . . .

And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven.

And every thing that is in the earth shall die."—Ge 6:13, 14, 17

The Lord told Noah to stock the ark with the animals that were to be carried over the flood. By obeying the message of the Lord, Noah

became a witness to that evil generation. By so doing, "he condemned the world." (Heb 11:7) This was the right message at the right time. It was "meat in due season" for that time, and for that time only. We do not proclaim this message today because it is not the season for it.

God gave meat in due season to the children of Israel in a literal way.

They were hungry.

"[ God] commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven; and had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven. Man did eat angel’s food. He sent them meat to the full."—Ps 78:23-25

There is an interesting hidden gem in this scripture which became spiritual "meat in due season" at a later time. Corn means wheat from which bread is made. This "corn of heaven" is the same as what is described in John when the Jews said to Jesus:

"Our fathers did eat manna in the desert. As it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life. He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven; that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever. And the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. This is that bread which came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth of this bread shall live for ever."—Joh 6:31-35, 50, 51, 58

"Meat in due season" may be the giving of the right statutes and ceremonials at the right time. In due time the laws and statutes were given to Israel They were told how to construct the tabernacle and were given detailed instructions on how to conduct its ceremonials.

They were promised material blessings if they obeyed.

"If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield her fruit."—Le 26:3, 4

"And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart, and with all your soul; that I will give you the rain of your land in his due season; the

first rain and the latter rain; that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil."—De 11:13, 14

Corn, Wine, and Oil

Here, again, are hidden gems. Corn, wine, and oil are promised.

These things "are written for our admonition." Corn is for bread. (1

Corinthians 10:11) The reference is to our participation, or communion, in Christ’s body and blood with the oil of the holy spirit.

When Jesus was baptized in Jordan, the holy spirit came upon him and the heavens were opened unto him. His mind was stimulated to understand spiritual things. All the scriptures recorded by all the prophets—the letter of which he was already so familiar—now took on a new and deeper meaning. He saw clearly that all the prophets spoke concerning him, that he would die as a ransom sacrifice, that he would be glorified, that he would develop a church, his body members, that he would come again and establish his kingdom upon the earth bringing restitution from sin and death for all the willing and obedient. Although this new and complete understanding was

"meat in due season" for him, he could not fully impart it to his disciples. It was not yet meat in due season for them. Their minds were not yet illuminated by the holy spirit. Thus we read that Jesus told his disciples:

"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth."—Joh 16:12, 13

They must wait until Pentecost for a full understanding. But Jesus began to open their minds even before Pentecost. He laid the groundwork for their understanding on the way to Emmaus. We read:

"Then he said unto them, O foolish, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he expounded unto them, in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself."—Lu 24:25-27, 32

For those not having the holy spirit but having a humble and receptive heart, even a mechanical or narrative understanding of the truth can be thrilling. Thus it was with these disciples:

"And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?"

At Pentecost, Jesus’ promise was fulfilled. The holy spirit was imparted and they were guided "into all truth." All the truth then due to be understood became "meat in due season" for them. Now they could "bear" or appreciate the things Jesus had told them before. Now they could understand the testimony of all the prophets.

Now it fully entered their hearts. Whereas before they understood as spectators, as though watching a drama, now they became personally involved. Now they understood as participants, as actors in the drama. Now they understood God’s Plan of the Ages and their part in it. Their spokesman, —Peter, preached about:

"Those things which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer . . . And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you; whom the heaven must retain until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."—Ac 3:18, 20, 21

They understood ransom and restitution.

The church was established at Pentecost and Jesus continued to supply "meat in due season" to perfect their character. As it is written:

"And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man; unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."—Eph 4:11-13

The End of the Gospel Age

Now let us pass over almost 2000 years when the light of truth dimmed and was almost extinguished in the "dark ages, " then gradually brightened during a reformation period. Finally, the end of the age came, the time of our Lord’s return, the—beginning of the times of restitution. Now these words of Jesus applied:

"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding; that, when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching. Verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them."—Lu 12:35-37

Here again was a promise of "meat in due season." Was it fulfilled? You know that it was, and you know how it was fulfilled. In dispensing "meat" to his household upon his return, it was not the Lord’s method to give it personally and individually to each member, separately enlightening each person’s mind. He could have done it this way, but he didn’t. No. His method was to choose one special man fully consecrated, wise, ready, willing, and able servant. He then placed him in full charge of his household. He filled this man with his spirit, enlightened his mind, and gave him all the meat in due season to pass on to the others of his household who were waiting. This is exactly what Jesus said he would do:

"Who then is the faithful and prudent servant, whom his master has placed over his household, to give them food in due season? Happy that servant, whom his Master, on coming, shall find thus employed!

Indeed, I say to you, that he will appoint him over all his possessions."—Mt 24:45-47, Diaglott

A person who is given authority to administer and dispense the possessions of another is called a steward. In confirmation we read:

"And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when he cometh (" at his arrival"—Diaglott) shall find so doing.

Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath."—Lu 12:42-44

While it was the returned Lord who provided the lavish table of

"meat in due season, " he used a human instrument to dispense it, to be his mouthpiece. Of course there are many fellow-servants. We are all fellow-servants of one another. But the Lord illuminated the mind of Brother Russell in a special way. This is well illustrated in the manner Brother Russell was given an understanding of the tabernacle, which is a fine example of "meat in due season."

In 1881 a prominent brother who had come to deny the ransom, began teaching obviously false views concerning the significance of the Atonement Day tabernacle sacrifices, overthrowing the faith of some. Brother Russell was greatly disturbed about this and took it to the Lord in prayer. We read of this in his own words, written in 1906: "I told him [the Lord] that I realized that he was the shepherd, and not I; but that I knew also that he would be pleased at my interest in the sheep, and my desire to be his mouthpiece, to declare the truth, the way, and the life to them; that I felt deeply impressed that if the time had come for the permission of a false view to deceive the unworthy, it must also be his due time to have the truth on the same subject made clear, that the worthy ones might be enabled to stand, and not fall from the truth. Believing that the due time had come for the correct understanding of the meaning of the Jewish sacrifices, which, in a general way all Christians concede were typical of "better sacrifices, " and that the Lord would grant the insight as soon as I got into the attitude of heart best fitted to receive the light, I prayed with confidence that if the Lord’s due time had come, and if he were wlling to use me as his instrument to declare the message to his dear family, that I might be enabled to rid my heart, and mind of any prejudice that might stand in the way, and be led of his spirit into the proper understanding. Believing that the prayer would be answered affirmatively, I went into my study next morning, prepared to study and write. The forenoon I spent in scrutinizing the text, and every other scripture likely to shed light upon it, especially the epistle to the Hebrews, and in looking to the Lord for wisdom and guidance; but no solution of the difficult passage came. The afternoon and evening were similarly spent, and all of the next day. Everything else was neglected, and I wondered why the Lord kept me so long. But on the third day, near noon, the whole matter came to me as clear as the noon-day sun; so clear and convincing, and so harmonious with the whole tenor of scripture, that I could not question its correctness; and no one has ever yet been able to find a flaw in it."—Reprints, page 3824.

Brother Russell goes on to say how this knowledge of the tabernacle straightened out in his mind the subject of justification, and this includes what he thereafter called tentative justification. Do you think the Lord answered the earnest prayer of his faithful and wise servant for special guidance deceptively, giving him an erroneous understanding of the tabernacle types to pass on to his household? I think not! I think it was "meat in due season" as it was written, and it still is.

The very beginning of the truth movement was based upon the realization that Christ’s second presence began in 1874. Examining the scriptures together with others, Brother Russell came to that conclusion in 1876. Of that time he writes:

"The evidence satisfied me. Being a person of positive convictions, and fully consecrated to the Lord, I at once saw that the special times in which we live have an important bearing upon our duty and work as Christ’s disciples; that being in the time of harvest, the harvest work should be done; and that present truth was the sickle by which the Lord would have us do a gathering and reaping work everywhere among his children. . . . The knowledge of the fact that we were already in the harvest period gave me an impetus to spread the truth such as I never had before. I therefore at once resolved upon a vigorous campaign for the truth. I determined to curtail my business cares, and give my time as well as means to the great harvest work." —Reprints, page 3822.

"And be you like men waiting for their Master, when he will return .

. . that when he comes and knocks, they may instantly open to him." —Lu 12:36, Diaglott Notice how promptly and positively Bro. Russell acted when he realized the Master was there! It was the truth of the Lord’s presence that triggered the commencement of the harvest work. Is it reasonable to suppose the Lord permitted the harvest work to start and the truth movement to begin based on a fraudulent assumption? I don’t think so!

The Harvest

What a glorious time the harvest has been for the Lord’s faithful people! To see the very truth that was enjoyed by the early church unfold and restored in all its beauty and purity! To see the divine plan of the scriptures topically arranged, as a series of Studies in the Scriptures , and a Chart of the Ages! To see the fulfillment of the prophecy, "Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it." (Hab 2:2) To enable the called ones to run for the prize of the high calling! To have the truth firmly and unchangeably established as a rallying point for all the people of God to gather around! To enable God’s children in Babylon to hear, understand, and heartily respond to the call:"Come out of her, my people!" (Re 18:4) To realize that the Millennial Age has actually started, that we are living in it! This was the joyful message that first attracted many of us to the truth. It was the main feature of the Harvest Message.

Brother Russell’s Last Sermon

Before Brother Russell started on his last trip during which he passed beyond the vail, he wrote a sermon. He intended to deliver it at the New York Temple upon his return. He never gave that sermon in person, but it was printed in December 1916 and also as the last sermon in the Sermon Book. In it Brother Russell, with a tone of exultation, reiterated what had been the theme of his preaching from the very beginning. He said:

"Let us awake, and take note of the fact that the dawning of the New Age is already here. We have been in it, and enjoying many of its blessings for the past 42 years. . . . Some few have been calling attention to the fact that we have been in the Millennial dawn ever since the year 1874. Bible chronology quite clearly teaches that the six thousand years from Adam’s creation have ended; six great days of a thousand years each, mentioned by St. Peter—" a day with the Lord is as a thousand years." (2Pe 3:8) Now the great Seventh Day, also a thousand years long, has commenced! We have been enjoying its dawning. It is to be a grand Day!" —Reprints, page 6013.

In the October, 1916, foreword to the second volume, written only a few days before his change, Brother Russell said:

"The Bible chronology herein presented shows that the six great thousand-year days, beginning with Adam, are ended; and that the great seventh day, the thousand years of Christ’s Reign, began in 1873. The events of these 43 years, which this volume claims as the beginning of the Millennium, we still find fully corroborating Bible prophecies, as herein set forth."

In passing, it is interesting to note how the Dawn Magazine came to be so named. We read from a Dawn publication:

"It was called THE DAWN in keeping with the original MILLENNIAL DAWN literature; and because of a deep conviction that we are living in the dawn of the Millennium."—When Pastor Russell Died , 1946 edition, page 28

This is still "meat in due season." Here are some of the scriptures that clearly indicate that the reign of Christ has begun and that it began before the time of trouble started:

"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. . .

. Thou hast taken to thee thy great power and hast reigned; and the nations were angry and thy wrath is come."—Re 11:15, 17, 18

"Why do the nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed. . . . Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion."—Ps 2:1, 2, 5, 6

"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great Prince which standeth for the children of thy people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation."—Da 12:1

"And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. And the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever."—Da 2:44

Then there is a scripture proving Christ reigns as king during the harvest:

"And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle."—Re 14:14

We are told by Isaiah what the theme of the preaching of the feet members of the body of Christ should be:

"How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, THY GOD REIGNETH!"—Isa 52:7

This is the same "God" as described in another prophecy of Isaiah:

"And the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."—Isa 9:6

Brother Russell comments on this scripture:

"This proclamation [" Thy God Reign—eth"] is now due, before the feet are joined to the body in glory, and before the judgments of the Lord go abroad; for then it will need no proclamation."

Meat and Milk

All cannot digest meat. Some of the Lord’s children are on a milk diet. They are immature and easily led away from "the meat in due season." The scriptures said it would be so. Paul said that such:

"are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which is the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age; even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised, to discern both good and evil."—Heb 5:11-14

Then Paul counseled us:

"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight [or trickery] of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive [" in systematic deception"—Diaglott)."—Eph 4:14

"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip."—Heb 2:1

"Ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."—Jude 3

Paul indicated to Timothy the serious necessity of holding to sound doctrine, that he would be saved by so doing:

"Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine. Continue in them; for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."—1Ti 4:16

"O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust; avoiding profane and vain babblings, and opposition of science falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith."—1Ti 6:20, 21

"But shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker."—2Ti 2:16, 17

Paul, invoking the name of God and of Christ, gave a solemn charge and a grave warning to Timothy. He indicated that it would especially apply at the end of the age during the time of his second presence, just before the full establishment of the kingdom which will bring about the resurrection of the dead. In other words, he described the time in which we are living:

"I charge thee, therefore, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season.

Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things."—2Ti 4:1-5

As we would say today, "Watch out!" This solemn advice of Paul’s is "meat in due season" to which we do well to take heed. We read of those who are:

"Always learning something new, and yet are never able to arrive at a real knowledge of the truth."—2Ti 3:7, Weymouth Instead let us be as one described in Titus:

"Holding fast the faithful word, as he hath been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers."—Ti 1:9, 10

How very precious the truth should be to each one of us! How grateful we should be to the heavenly Father for opening our eyes to the grandeur of the Divine Plan of Salvation, and our part in it! How very much we should appreciate and honor the instruments he has used :the prophets, the apostles, the early disciples, the reformers, and, at this end of the age, the returned Lord himself who used a special pastor, a faithful and wise servant, to give us his "meat in due season"! Let us eagerly and heartily partake of it! May it be said of us:

"These wait all upon thee, that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. What thou givest them, they gather. Thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good."—Ps 104:27, 28

Let us gather what the Lord has given us and be "filled with good."

Miracles at the Sea of Galilee

THE incidents of our lesson occurred in the early part of the third year of our Lord’s ministry, in the spring nearing the time of the passover. John the Baptist had just been beheaded by King Herod, which greatly surprised and stunned the people of Israel. The ministry of John, followed by the ministry of Jesus, had stirred their minds and awakened them to Messianic kingdom hopes. Huge numbers were attracted by Jesus’ healing activities and by the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. Up to now their civil rulers had been conciliatory and permissive. The Romans seemed to have adopted a "hands-off" policy toward Israel.

The people first began to get uneasy when John the Baptist was imprisoned. Now they were appalled to learn that he had been beheaded under the most ghastly circumstances. This spread consternation among those who had appreciated his ministry as well as among those who recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Devout Jews were greatly shocked and considerable excitement prevailed. There was speculation as to what Herod might do next. Would the Lord Jesus himself be safe? What of the apostles and those who trusted in him?

The matter aroused great interest and drew unusually large crowds to the preaching of Jesus especially at this season when hundreds of thousands of Jews were enroute to the usual passover festival at Jerusalem. Business was practically suspended by a considerable proportion of the population. As some departed others were coming; thus our Lord and his apostles were kept extremely busy. It soon reached the point that they were not getting enough rest and were even interrupted during the few minutes they took for their meals.

Although Jesus himself could stand the stress, he was always tenderly alert to the needs of those around him. He realized they were near collapse and should get away from all the pressure for a while. So we read in Mr 6:31, "And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a—desert place and rest awhile." Weymouth says, "A quiet place." Moffatt says, "And get a little rest." The verse continues in explanation:"For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure, so much as to eat." We can imagine that Philip now spoke up and said,

"Master, I know just the place, near my home town of Bethsaida.

We can go there by boat and thus avoid the crowds."

So this is how it was that the Lord and a few of his disciples entered a fishing boat and sailed across the northern tip of the sea of Galilee, landing near Bethsaida. Leaving their boat they walked leisurely up a pleasant grassy hillside and sat down in the shade of a grove of trees overlooking the sea. As Joh 6:3 describes it, "Jesus went up into a mountain and there he sat with his disciples." It was quiet and pleasant, and as Jesus talked to them and reassured them, their tensions and fears left them. The Master’s voice was sweet music to their ears and they relaxed in the warmth of his radiant and loving personality. What a wonderful little one-day convention of Bible Students that was! In our conventions today we do feel the nearness of the Lord and hear his words through the lips of his servants; it is an exalting experience. But how very blessed it must have been for those disciples to have the Lord right there before them, to feel the magnetism of his literal presence, to hear the melody of his own voice speak the wonderful words of life to them!

It seems that they had not brought any food with them. One wonders at this until it is remembered that Philip’s home was in nearby Bethsaida. Perhaps they had planned to go there for their evening meal before returning across the sea. But their plans suddenly changed. A cloud of dust appeared on the horizon raised by thousands of tramping feet. The disciples were alarmed. Was it a Roman legion coming to take Jesus and them to suffer the fate of John the Baptist? Jesus calmed their fears. He knew who they were.

The multitude had missed Jesus. Some had seen him enter the boat and sail in a northerly—direction across the lake. Word got around spreading like wildfire, and a huge segment of the multitude began to walk around the lake in that direction to find Jesus. It was a spontaneous thing. They depended upon him so much. They needed him. He was all they had. He healed them and taught them and sympathized with them, and told them about the Kingdom of God.

He gave them love and hope. No one else did this. Other leaders had failed them. This Jesus was indeed their Messiah sent from God. So they came, singly and in family groups, women, children, and aged ones, leaning upon their staffs. Many were sick. Some had to be carried on stretchers. Now they had found him at last! They assembled on the grassy hillside below where Jesus was standing, a very great company. Mt 14:21 says there were "about 5, 000

men, beside women and children." From this we might estimate the total number to be as high as 15, 000 people.

Jesus Had Compassion

As he looked upon them, Jesus’ heart was deeply touched. We read in Mr 6:34 that Jesus "was moved with compassion toward them because they were as sheep, not having a shepherd." There is nothing more pitiful than a sheep without a shepherd. Sheep are helpless and dependent. Unless led they will go astray and be lost. They must sicken and die. They must be led to streams of pure water or else they will die of thirst. They cannot defend themselves against wild animals. If they fall into a ditch, they cannot extricate themselves.

They are easily injured and require attention to their hurts. They must be treated gently. All these things the shepherd must do for them.

The Lord had always set shepherds over his people Israel. Moses was their first great shepherd, leading them like a flock. Jesus identified the shepherds of his day saying in Mt 23:2, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat." But these shepherds were not functioning. Not only were they neglecting the sheep, but instead they were feeding upon the flock, enriching themselves by virtue of their positions. Thus they fitted the prophecy of Eze 34:2-5,

"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds, Woe be to the shepherds of Israel, that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed, but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered because there is no shepherd; and they became meat to all the beasts of the field when they were scattered."

This is what Jesus must have thought of when he looked out over that vast multitude. Neglected and betrayed by their leaders, they had followed him into the wilderness as lost sheep seeking a shepherd.

They loved him and trusted him. Jesus’ heart went out to them. He came down the hillside and mingled with the crowd. He quickly sought out those that were sick. At each touch of his strong hands a tremendous surge of vitality flowed into them and healed them. As is written in Mt 14:14 of this occasion, Jesus "was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick." Thus he became their shepherd in contrast with the evil shepherds that had failed them. As he himself said,

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."—Joh 10:11

After he had healed all their sick we can imagine that he stood upon a rock and the multitude crowded around to hear him. He began to speak. The account says, "He began to teach them many things." (Mr 6:34) Without the need of a public address system his beautifully resonant voice reached the ears of each one of that vast multitude, encouraging them, inspiring them, and telling them of God’s love for them and of the coming kingdom of God. Thus in the

Lord’s providence the little one-day convention of Bible Students culminated in a very well attended public meeting.

Late in the afternoon the disciples began to get worried on behalf of the people. Perhaps they heard some of the little children whimpering for food. We read:

"And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed. Send them away that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat."—Mr 6:35, 36

Mt 14:16 tells us, "But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart. Give ye them to eat." Now we read from Joh 6:5-8 that Jesus turned to Philip, whose home was in the vicinity and asked,

"Philip, whence shall we buy bread that these may eat? And this he said to prove him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little."

Two hundred pennies was no small sum in those days. We know from a parable of Jesus that a penny was a day’s wages at that time.

We continue from John’s account:

"One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here which hath five barley loaves and two small fishes. But what are they among so many?"

Then we read that Jesus said, "Bring them hither to me." (Mt 14:18) We continue the account from Mr 6:39, 40,

"And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties."

We read now from Matthew’s account:

"And he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude."—Mt 14:19

The Loaves and Fishes

If our estimate of 15, 000 persons is correct, this would mean that they were seated in a hundred groups of 150 each.

If the disciples served the food, each one would have to serve only ten groups, turning the food over to the leader of each group for further individual distribution. Thus the work involved would be divided among many hands, and quickly accomplished. We continue the account:

"And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up of the fragments that remained, twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand, beside women and children."

We should remember that in those days, loaves of bread were flat and circular, about an inch thick, and ten inches in—diameter, and pliable in texture. Bread is still baked in this form in Near Eastern countries. My mother used to bake this kind of bread. The loaf was broken by tearing it apart into two pancake-like layers. Then the rest of the meal, whether cheese, meat, or whatever, would be rolled up in the bread and eaten like a sandwich. Thus it was possible to do very nicely without individual dishes or other utensils.

I don’t think many of us realize what a really stupendous miracle this feeding of the multitude was. Consider the facts. The five barley loaves and two small fishes could not have weighed more than a total of five pounds. But the food distributed to that multitude, allowing

only about half a pound per person, weighed almost four tons! We see that whatever the Lord did he did generously and lavishly. He told his disciples to give, "Good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over." (Lu 6:38) But he himself far exceeded this standard, setting a glorious example of bountiful dealing.

After they had eaten, and the fragments had been gathered up, Jesus told his disciples to board their boat, and return across the Sea of Capernaum while he dismissed the people. The disciples left, but the people were reluctant to go. They were greatly excited over the miracle they had seen. That was the best bread and fish they had ever tasted. They were thrilled at the gracious words of God that had proceeded out of Jesus’ mouth. They had literally tasted of the Lord’s goodness. We read:

"Thereupon the people, having seen the miracle he had performed, said, this is indeed the Prophet who was to come into the world."—Joh 6:14, 15 (Weymouth] They remembered God’s promise to Moses:

"I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him."—Deuteronom y18:18

We continue from John’s account:

"Perceiving, however, that they were about to come and carry him off by force to make him a king, Jesus withdrew again up the hill, alone by himself."

Matthew’s account says that,

"He made the disciples go on board the boat, and cross to the opposite shore, leaving him to dismiss the people. When he had done this, he climbed the hill to pray in solitude. Night came on, and he was there alone." [Weymouth] Meanwhile things were not going well for the disciples in the boat.

The wind was against them so they could not use their sails. They began to row as hard as they could but even then could make no headway. "But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves, for the wind was contrary." (Mt 14:24) John says, "And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew." (Joh 6:18) They had embarked at dusk and now it was the "fourth watch, " which a footnote of the Diaglott says was between three and six in the morning. In all this time according to John’s account they had gone 25 to 30 furlongs, only 2.5 to 3 miles. Reprints, page 2649. How tired they must have been! They had come on this outing to "rest a while, "

but what had—happened? They had rested only a couple of hours.

Then the multitude had arrived and they had served food to thousands of people. Now they had been rowing against the wind for

over eight hours! As their efforts grew weaker, the wind seemed to get stronger and the waves higher. They were nearing the end of their endurance and thought they must surely perish in the sea.

Although it was dark and they were many miles away, Jesus saw them; another miracle. We read, "And he saw them, toiling in rowing, for the wind was contrary unto them." (Mr 6:48) The disciples were rowing desperately, their muscles aching, their heads bowed with weariness. The waves of the angry sea crashed against the boat causing it to pitch wildly. They were being driven backward. It was only a matter of time when their strength would fail and they would no longer be able to keep the boat headed into the wind. Then they would surely capsize.

Jesus Walks on the Sea

Stormy as it was, the approach of dawn brought some light.

Suddenly the disciple at the helm saw an object moving over the waves near the boat. It looked like a man walking upon the water!

But that’s impossible! Thinking he must be having hallucinations, he called out to the others to look also. It was no hallucination. They all saw the same thing; a man walking upon the sea! They screamed in terror not recognizing who it was in the dim light of dawn. Now we read from the account:

"And in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, it is a spirit; and they cried out for fear."—Mt 14:25, 26

Moffatt says, "They thought he was a ghost, and shrieked aloud."

Then we read:

"But straightway, Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good courage; it is I; be not afraid."

Then the impetuous Peter did a characteristic thing:

"And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee, on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me! And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased."

We conclude the account from Joh 6:21, because there it tells of still another miracle of Jesus, which many overlook:

"Then they willingly received him into the ship; and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went."

Moffatt renders it, "And the boat instantly reached the land they were making for." Considering that according to Mt 14:24 they were then in the middle of the sea, this was faster transportation than by modern jet! It was a miracle of the first magnitude.

Some Lessons for Us

Let us go back and see what lessons there are for us in these incidents at the Sea of Galilee. First of all, when Jesus suggested to his disciples that they leave the service of the multitude and go to a quiet place and rest awhile, he was not seeking to evade responsibility toward the multitude. He knew very well what would happen, that the multitude would regather to him on the other side of the lake. But he also knew that sailing across the lake would give his disciples needed relaxation and that a few hours alone with him on the hillside would relieve their tensions. Then they would once again be ready to serve a multitude greatly stimulated and elated by the miracle of the loaves and fishes. We too, the Lord’s present-day disciples, are invited to occasionally go to a quiet place and rest awhile. We go to conventions, not only for physical rest but to "rest in the Lord." (Ps 37:7) The Lord says:

"Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest for your souls."—Mt 11:28, 29

As we who wear the yoke of consecration gather to hear the Lord’s words through his servants, we too are stimulated and refreshed and better able to serve the Lord with renewed zest.

That mixed multitude setting out by common consent to seek Jesus on the mountain above the sea reminds us of the time coming mentioned in Isa 2:3, "And many people shall go and say, Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord." We are also reminded of Jeremiah’s words:

"They shall go and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord."—Jer 50:4, 5

As that multitude sought their Messiah with all their heart, and found him, we read, in Jer 29:13 of the time of the Messianic Kingdom:"And ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."

When Jesus saw the multitude approaching, was he resentful of the intrusion upon his privacy? Did he attempt to evade them? No! Quite the contrary. He welcomed them. He was moved with compassion toward them. His heart of love went out to them. He eagerly seized the opportunity to heal them and, most importantly, to preach the gospel of the Kingdom to them. In this he set an example for us as enunciated by Paul:"Preach the word; be instant, in season, out of season." (2Ti 4:2) Following in the footsteps of Jesus, we will witness to the truth whenever opportunity presents whether convenient for us or not, whether "in season, or out of season" for us.

The shepherds of Israel had failed them and the people flocked to Jesus as their shepherd. Jesus had compassion on them "because they were as sheep not having a shepherd." (Mr 6:34) But only a few became the true sheep of Jesus at that time. It was to such that Jesus addressed himself just before his betrayal at Gethsemane:

"Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night; for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad."—Mt 26:31

When Jesus said, "It is written, " he quoted in part from Zec 13:7,

"Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts. Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered; and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones."

Although Jesus was the Great Good Shepherd, called in 1Pe 5:4 the Chief Shepherd who gave his life for the sheep, there have been other shepherds—under shepherds over the flock of God. The apostles were special shepherds and the elders of the church are shepherds also. Paul was speaking to the elders when he said:

"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers [or shepherds], to feed the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."—Ac 20:28

Thus we see that it is the responsibility of shepherds to feed the flock of God.

We note that Jesus did not quote Zech—ariah 13:7 in its entirety. He did not quote the part about "the man that is my fellow, " or as Leeser renders it:"The man whom I have associated with me." Why not? I think it was because this part referred to someone else, another shepherd at another time, a shepherd who would be feeding the flock at the time of Jesus’ second advent. A definition of "shepherd" given by Dr. Strong is "pastor." It is of this person we read:

"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so

doing. Verily I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods."—Mt 24:45-47

Brother Russell was a faithful shepherd or pastor, the Lord’s special instrument at the time of his second presence, to restore to his people the doctrines of the early church, "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Beside the basic doctrines he fed the Lord’s sheep with dispensational truths, designated "meat in due season." His voluminous writings are "meat" to the Lord’s household to this very day. No modern man lived closer to the Lord than he did.

The Lord well described him as "the man that is my fellow, " or, "the man I have associated with me." The Lord’s people depended upon him so much.

I remember the day Pastor Russell died. Our feelings must have closely paralleled those of the early disciples when the Chief Shepherd was smitten. We cried, my brother and I. The prophecy of Zechariah now had a secondary fulfillment. Again the sheep were scattered; they did not know where to turn. Strange shepherds arose each calling the sheep in a different direction with enticing voices.

For a while there was confusion and chaos. Powerful leaders led many astray. Many of the sheep isolated themselves. It was the greatest time of testing the harvest church has ever had to endure.

Then the latter part of Zec 13:7 began to be fulfilled. "I will turn mine hand upon the little ones." The sheep began to regroup under the Lord’s hand and his power to protect and lead. As Ps 37:23, 24 expresses it:

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand."

The Lord sought out his true sheep, found them, and brought them together again. That is why we are here today. But there was no successor to Brother Russell nor will there ever be. There can be no improvement on the Divine Plan of the Ages which the Lord revealed to us by the ministry of That Servant.

Lessons from the Feeding

Now let us consider the lessons contained in the feeding of the multitude. First, we can make a personal application. When the disciples reminded Jesus what a large quantity of bread would be required, Jesus asked, "How many loaves have ye? Go and see." (Mr 6:38) The disciples returned and said to Jesus, "There is a lad

here which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes. But what are they among so many?" (Joh 6:9) Someone may say, "My talents are so few and so small. What are they among so many? There are so many who have so much more than I have." But what did Jesus tell his disciples when they reported their meager resources? "Bring them hither to me." (Mt 14:18) The Lord wants you. He will accept your small offering of five barley loaves and two small fishes.

He can greatly multiply the effects of your small efforts in ways you never dreamed of. "Bring them hither unto me!"

If nothing else give a little word of—encouragement to someone, a little smile. Write a little letter of cheer and consolation, a little visit to someone sick or suffering. Give a little witness to a neighbor or relative. Put a tract under someone’s door. Build someone up a little in the truth. Let your light, dim though it be, shine out just a little in the darkness of this world. If you can do nothing else, offer a little prayer for the harvest work. These are small things but they are things the Lord can bless and use. If we cannot do them all, we can do some of them, at least one of them. The Lord can greatly amplify their effect just as he increased the loaves and fishes. Let us bring the Lord all we have whether great or small.

There is another more general application of this incident. Jesus said:

"Ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."—Ac 1:8

"This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come."—Mt 24:14 "The gospel must first be published among all nations."—Mr 13:10

It seems to me that a mere circulation of the Bible without explanation does not completely fulfill this requirement. It must be the gospel of the Kingdom which Jesus preached because he plainly said, "THIS gospel of the Kingdom." Have there been any missionaries since the early church who have preached the Millennial Kingdom of Christ beside Brother Russell and those with him? "Gospel" means "good news." Certainly the hell-fire doctrine preached by nominal church missionaries is not the good news which must be published among all nations. The handful of true Christians today who have the true gospel may say,

"Lord, this task is too great for us. What are we among so many? We cannot reach them all. Let others feed them. Let them just take the Bible and find their own spiritual food therein."

But Jesus says to his people:"Give ye them to eat!" "Others do not have the truth, the gospel of the Kingdom. Others cannot feed them like you can." We may answer, "But Lord, we are so few, and have very limited resources. We have only five barley loaves and two small fishes! We do not have enough!" "Bring all you have to me, "

Jesus answers, "I will bless what you have, and make it do. It will be more than enough. There will even be some left over."

Miracles of Our Day

In the account Jesus performed a staggering miracle and the multitude ate and were filled. What a magnificent fulfillment of this we now see possible with only a limited expenditure of money aptly comparable to only five barley loaves and two small fishes. By an equally staggering miracle—that of radio, television, tapes and mass media, facilities Brother Russell never had—the power to give a tremendous, worldwide public witness is now in our hands! Instead of thousands, millions can be fed with the sound, satisfying message of truth, the true gospel. Many ecclesias are taking full advantage of these opportunities. Although we are not seeking to—convert the world but only to garner the wheat, who can say what a powerful effect our sowing of the seed of truth may have in preparing the hearts of men to receive the blessings of the kingdom?

"In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good."—Ec 11:6

This scripture applies now. We are in the evening of the Gospel age and the morning of the Millennial Age.

Then there is still another application of this event. That multitude that Jesus fed also pictures the world during the Millennial Age. As Jesus gave the bread to his disciples to pass on to the people, those wh o are now the Lord’s faithful disciples will in the Kingdom be the dispensers of this Bread of eternal life to all the families of the earth.

Jesus told the multitude later:

"The bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world."—Joh 6:33

The Church glorified will be the channel through which the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice will be applied to the world. As the hungry multitude ate all they wanted and were filled, life will then be freely dispensed to all the willing and obedient. We read of that time:

"The Spirit and the bride say Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely."—Re 22:17

Communing with God

After feeding the multitude Jesus "climbed the hill to pray in solitude. Night came on, and he was there alone." On some occasions, Jesus prayed in the presence of his disciples. These public prayers were invariably simple and short, and the disciples were able to remember and record his words. But Jesus frequently sought the Father alone and held long communion with him. On one occasion he "continued all night in prayer to God." (Lu 6:12) We too are encouraged to go the Heavenly Father alone for secret and personal communion with him. Jesus said:

"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet [or private room], and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."—Mt 6:6

There are times when we can open out hearts to God alone. Unlike public prayers the words we then use are not important because God listens to our hearts and not our stammering lips. These private and personal prayers may often be long. We may have much counsel and help to seek of the Lord, or much joy to share with him, or much love, and praise and thanks to express to him. But by the example of Jesus, our public prayers should be short.

After Jesus parted from his disciples and went up into a mountain to commune with his Heavenly Father, we see the disciples rowing against a contrary wind, tossed with waves. Nineteen centuries ago Jesus left his church to ascend to his Father. After his departure the Lord’s people embarked upon stormy seas. They were in the world, but not of the world. The winds of life were contrary. They were buffeted by the world, the flesh and the devil. As the Dark Ages closed around them, progress was difficult and for a while impossible. They were driven back and lost ground when "Darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people." But they struggled and toiled on throughout this night of the Gospel age. Then came the dawning of the Millennial morning when, lifting up their weary eyes, they suddenly saw a most wonderful sight! They saw Jesus returning to them walking on the billows of the world’s stormy sea. The Lord’s people discerned Christ’s second presence. Many cried out in disbelief saying it was impossible, that it was a phantom. "Be not afraid!" Then they realized, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand."—Ro 13:12

The account says that when they received Jesus into the ship, the wind ceased. The realization of Christ’s second presence brought a flood of truth to the church. Doubts and conflicts dissolved. The imminence of the Messianic Kingdom was realized and the harvest work was pursued with zeal and vigor. Under the—direction of the returned Lord the world’s stormy sea lost its terror. The restless masses could now be viewed with detachment as something prophesied and to be expected. This resulted in a great calmness and serenity of mind among the Lord’s people.

Peter’s desire to walk to the Lord upon the water was admirable. It showed a high degree of faith, and faith is always pleasing to the Lord. We read that "Without faith it is impossible to please God." (Heb 11:6) But we can learn a lesson from Peter’s failure of

faith. Looking to Jesus he stepped down from the boat onto the raging sea with superb confidence and, for a moment, actually walked upon the water! But he didn’t keep his eyes upon Jesus!

Instead he looked up at the black clouds and down at the wind-tossed waves. He became frightened, his faith failed, and he began to sink!

Let us learn from this. In the storms of life let us always look to—Jesus and never take our eyes from him. Let us maintain our faith.

"Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith."—Heb 12:2

There is another lesson here also. When Peter began to sink, he cried,

"Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately stretched forth his hand and caught him. It is not written that Jesus then carried Peter into the ship. No! He caught his outstretched hand and at that moment, Peter must have again walked on the water side by side with Jesus; they went aboard together. Which one of us does not at times become distracted and frightened in the storms of life and begin to sink in despair? When this happens, let us as Peter did look to Jesus and cry,

"Lord, save me!" And he will!

Then the narrative says, "And the boat instantly reached the land they were making for." What land are you making for? This illustrates something which has not yet happened to us here. This is something we will experience individually. It will be much quicker than jet-travel! We read,

"Behold, I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye!"—1

Corinthians 15:51, 52

Let us be found worthy of experiencing this miracle also!

We thank God for the miracles of Jesus and the lessons they contain for us. We thank Him for the greater miracles to come in which we will have a part and by which all mankind will be restored to life.

May He save us from the contrary winds and overwhelming storms of life, and bring us at last to our desired haven!

More Than Conquerors (Stephen & Paul)

"Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ."—1Co 11:1

IT WAS shortly after Pentecost and the early church was in its formative stage. Full of the holy spirit bestowed in great abundance, the apostles and disciples preached Christ. We read:"The Lord added to the church daily, such as should be saved." (Ac 2:47)

"Then there arose certain of the synagogue which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia, and of Asia, disputing with Stephen." —Ac 6:9

Why did they dispute with Stephen? He was a deacon, not an apostle.

A short time before in the early church, there had been a complaint made to the twelve that service of material things was being neglected. This was important in those days because:

"The multitude of them that believed, were of one heart, and of one soul; neither said any of them, that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common."—Ac 4:32

With thousands added to the church, this posed quite a problem of administration. Impartial distribution of food, clothing, and other materials must be made. Wishing to use their time for the more important spiritual duties, the apostles directed that seven deacons be appointed for serving tables and other such service. The qualifications were that they should be, "Men of honest report [or reputation], full of the spirit of wisdom." (Ac 6:3) Stephen was one of the seven selected to be a deacon.

Stephen did not limit his service to—material things. At every opportunity, he preached Christ.

"And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people."—Ac 6:8

This was far beyond the scope of a deacon’s duties. It would seem that the Lord recognized Stephen as an elder before the brethren discovered his ability. Like Jesus, he went into the synagogue to preach. According to the law of the synagogue, any Jew may express himself on the scriptures publicly. Those of the synagogue could not prevent this. That is why they attempted to nullify Stephen’s preachings by disputations. But "they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake." (Ac 6:10)

How could this young deacon speak with such authority and force of reasoning that the wise ones of the synagogue could not resist him? These were highly educated men who made a career of their religion.

But these dignified men, robed and bearded, were not able to resist before their own congregation this young Christian upstart, a deacon! How humiliating! It must have infuriated them. Yet how encouraging to Stephen to realize he was a direct recipient of a promise by Christ:"For I will give you eloquence, and wisdom which all your opponents will not be able to gainsay or resist." (Lu 21:15, Dia—glott)

This was a testimony that he had been with Jesus and learned of him, that he had patterned himself after the Master. Just as the chief priests, elders, scribes and Pharisees, when they failed to gainsay or resist Jesus, sought to destroy him, these of the synagogue employed the same tactics toward Stephen. This identified them as being of

"their father, the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning." (Joh 8:44) Now we read:

"Then they suborned [or bribed] men, who said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words, against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders and the scribes; and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council; and set up false witnesses, who said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us."—Ac 6:11-14

Stephen Preaches to the Sanhedrin

The council then arrested Stephen and set him in their midst. This was the famous [or infamous] Sanhedrin, the same court that had condemned Jesus. "And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face, as it had been, the face of an angel." (Ac 6:15) What a s uperabundance of grace and power God had given

Stephen; it literally shone from his face! Standing before that court, Stephen realized that the charges against him were the same as those against his Master. It gave him great joy to be accounted worthy of treading so closely in his footsteps. He was transported by this realization. It glowed within him and showed in his face. "Then said the high priest, Are these things so?" (Ac 7:1) This was an illegal question—a man need not testify against himself. But the question gave Stephen the opportunity he was waiting for. He knew this counsel had the power of life or death, yet he faced them boldly, and he spoke boldly. He did not dignify the false accusations made against him by answering them directly. He simply preached the gospel to the council.

He started with the call of Abraham out of his native country. He told them of Isaac and Jacob and Jacob’s sons. He told them the story of Joseph, how the children of—Israel came to reside in Egypt, and how they fell into bondage there. He related the raising up of Moses and the deliverance of Israel through his leadership, the great signs and wonders performed through him, and the weary wilderness journey of forty years under Moses. He showed them that Moses had pointed to Jesus:

"This is that Moses which said unto the children of Israel:a prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear."—Ac 7:37

Next he reminded them of the fantastic and incredible history of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. Here was a people who had frequent and mighty demonstrations of God’s powerful care over them; physical demonstrations they could see, hear, taste and feel. Faith was not needed. In spite of this they spurned God and turned to the most abominable idolatry—not once, not twice; they did it again and again and again, for decades!

As a surgeon probes deeply into a wound to cut out the rotten flesh, Stephen relentlessly reminded them of their national—disgrace, telling them of the golden calf erected as soon as Moses’ back was turned, of their idolatrous worship of the corrupt host of heaven (the fallen angels), of the sacrifice of their living children to the cruel and fierce Moloch, the "eternal torment" deity, and of their worship of the mocking god Remphan.

Every word was true and they knew it. But instead of bringing sorrow and repentance, this recital of their national sins stung and goaded them. Stephen looked around him, and saw not a single sign of remorse in their faces. He realized that further reasoning was not possible. So now, like his Master before him, he spoke words of condemnation. Jesus had called them a generation of vipers, killers of prophets. Now Stephen, facing his tormentors, said:

"Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart, and ears; ye do always resist the holy spirit. As your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which showed before, of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers."—Ac 7:51, 52

The Council Turns Vicious

As he spoke these words, the air became charged with the horrible compelling power known as mob psychology. A viciousness, communicating itself unspoken from one man to another, turned them—almost instantly from human beings into bloodthirsty beasts. At that moment Stephen knew he was going to die. He could read it in their cruel, twisted faces, and bright staring eyes. They had become as ravening wolves! The record says:"When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart; and they gnashed on him with their teeth."

They were ravenous animals!

The Lord never fails his people. That does not mean he spares them every painful and distressing experience. Not at all. But he does give us the strength to bear them. At this point, the Lord showed his approval by graciously granting Stephen a wonderful heavenly vision:

"But he, being full of the holy spirit, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God."—Ac 7:55, 56

This was the last straw! The charge against this man was blasphemy because he preached that Jesus was the Son of God. Now he claimed he had looked into heaven itself and had actually seen this Jesus on God’s right hand! This was too much!

"Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord. And cast him out of the city, and stoned him."—Ac 7:57, 58

"With one accord!" One dissenting voice would have raised a diversion. One dissenting voice might have broken the evil spell. But in all the council, there was not even one voice! Just as Satan had entered into Judas, he now dominated every one of these men!

Stephen Is Executed

As the stoning began, Stephen again demonstrated how very much like his Master he had become. Hanging on the cross just before his death, Jesus had cried:"Father, into thy hands, I commend my spirit." (Lu 23:46) Stephen now said:"Lord Jesus, —receive my spirit." Then Stephen kneeled down, giving his murderers a more

compact target. As the heavy stones thudded against his body, he cried out:"Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." (Ac 7:60) He just fell asleep. There is something so serene and comforting in this expression—a peacefulness and rest. It describes a child, tired at the end of the day, who falls asleep in its mother’s arms. I like to—believe that the Lord tempered Stephen’s suffering at the end, that he died peacefully and gently, not in agony. He just fell asleep!

The word "sleeping" indicates a future awakening. Stephen’s Christian career had been intense and brief; now it was complete.

God gave him rest until the first resurrection when he would be awakened to the glorious divine nature.

The flame of mob violence went out as suddenly as it had been kindled. Sheep—ishly, and hardly looking at one another, the mob dispersed, stopping only to pick up their garments over which a young man, named Saul was watching. This Saul was a member of the Sanhedrin that condemned and killed Stephen and he was fully in sympathy with the acts of that council. We read:

"And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad, throughout the regions of Judea, and Samaria, except the apostles. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church; entering into every house, and, haling men and women, committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad, went everywhere, preaching the word."—Ac 8:1, 3, 4

Here is another example of how God uses the wrath of men to praise him. The brutal stoning of Stephen and the persecutions of Saul caused many of the church to flee from Jerusalem. Wherever they went, they preached Christ and the gospel spread! Thus what first appeared to be a triumph of Satan was transformed into a victory for Christ. How often we see this principle illustrated in the Bible. It is so encouraging to see that our Lord is always the complete master of every situation.

Saul Becomes the Apostle Paul

"And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings, and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest; and desired of him letters to Damascus, to the synagogue, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem."—Ac 9:1, 2

This Saul had fully consented to what we would today call a lynching. Stoning a man to death is a brutal and bloody affair. Not only did this stoning of Stephen leave Saul unmoved by pity, it appears to have actually encouraged him. Now he wanted authority to capture other Christians and bring them bound, like criminals, to Jerusalem, to be tried by the same kangaroo court that tried Stephen, and to probably meet the same fate as Stephen. He wanted it expressly understood that Christian women would be similarly treated.

What opinion would you form of a man like that? Human judgment would say:

"Here is a cruel sadist; a monster, without natural pity; delighting to inflict pain and suffering; even willing to see women publicly stoned. Here is a depraved character, thoroughly worthless, to be shunned like a mad dog."

God Selects Saul Would you select such a one for God’s service, to be a leader and foremost instructor to the Church, to become the great apostle Paul? Human wisdom would indignantly rebel at the thought. But see what happened:

"And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus; and suddenly there shined, round about him a light from heaven; and he fell to the earth; and’ heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest. Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee, what thou must do."—Ac 9:3-6

In what sense did Saul persecute Jesus? Jesus was then glorified and quite safe from all his enemies. As far as we know, Saul had never harmed Jesus when Jesus was on earth. But Jesus considered every act against his followers, his little ones, his sheep, as a personal act against himself. Do you get the full implication of this? It means that he loves us as himself, his own body. He knows what we are going through from day to day, what we are up against every day. He watched Saul persecuting his church, and he cared. He watches over us, every one of us, individually. He cares, and, when necessary he intervenes.

In a vision the Lord instructed a disciple named Ananias to meet Saul and accept him into the brotherhood. But Ananias had misgivings:

"Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard . . . of this man; how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem. And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on Thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way; for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel; for I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake."—Ac 9:13-16

You and I would never have selected Saul for such a service, for a ministry of such scope. Here is a prime example of the fact that "The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." (1Sa 16:7) Also:"The Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts." (1Ch 28:9) The Lord looked into Paul’s heart and saw he could use this man. He has looked into every one of our hearts before he called us to his truth. What did he see in Paul’s heart? He must have seen a consuming dedication of purpose, that Saul was sincerely and conscientiously doing what he thought was right.

But how could a man with such sincerity of purpose be so wrong? Consider Paul’s background. He said:

"I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee."—Ac 23:6

"My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most strictest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee." —Ac 26:4, 5

There’s the clue: " the strictest sect of our religion ." He was from childhood thoroughly imbued and saturated with the customs, traditions, and distorted doctrines of the Jewish religion of that time, what Jesus called "doctrines of men." Because he was so conscientious, he hated with all his heart anything that seemed to threaten that religion. Remember, it was a Pharisee who asked Jesus:

"Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?" (Mt 15:2)

This is what they resented.

Many today have had a strict religious upbringing, but their hearts are closed and sealed to the truth. These are those to whom the gospel is hid, whose minds the god of this world has blinded, lest the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them. (2Co 4:3, 4)

In the case of Saul, it would take a light and a voice from heaven to convert him. Yet there are some today who think they can simply witness to such as these and, by so witnessing, fix their eternal

destiny, that if they refuse to hear, they are doomed to the second death. This is obviously absurd. A blind man cannot see, it is not to be expected. But these blinded ones shall indeed have a light and a voice from heaven in due time:

"And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations shall walk in the light of it."—Re 21:23, 24

"And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them; and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God."—Re 21:3

In the kingdom, these presently blinded ones will have a real opportunity to accept God and they will know where the light and voice originate. They will accept or reject God and Christ with complete knowledge. Then, and only then, can they be completely responsible.

Jesus Saw Saul’s True Character

So Jesus saw in Saul a man willing to leave his home, suffer personal hardship, and travel about the country pursuing with great energy and determination what he thought was right. He also saw that after being converted and shown the true way, he would be just as energetic in following the right course. "I will show him, how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake, " he said.

And Paul did suffer! He said about himself:

"In stripes above measure; in prisons more frequent; in deaths oft.

Of the Jews, five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods; once was I stoned. [Now he knew how Stephen had felt!] Thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day have I been in the deep. In journeyings often; in perils of waters; in perils of robbers; in perils by mine own countrymen; in perils by the heathen; in perils in the city; in perils in the wilderness; in perils in the sea; in perils among false brethren. In weariness and painfulness; in watchings often; in hunger; and thirst; in fastings often; in cold and nakedness."—2Co 11:23-27

He bore it all with great joy as he said:"I am exceedingly joyful, in all our tribulation." (2Co 7:4) How glad we are that God reads our hearts, that he "seeth not as man seeth; but looketh on the heart." Our fallen humanities are so imperfect. We cannot express ourselves as we would like, even to God in prayer! We must use imperfect language to express ourselves. We even think with imperfect language. How can we adequately express to God the longings of our innermost hearts, our—sorrows, our disappointments, our hungers and our thirsts? With our miserable human limitations, we cannot even adequately express to the Lord how much we love him! This would be most frustrating if we did not know that while we are expressing ourselves, haltingly, as best we can, he reads our hearts; he sees and understands what we would like to express but cannot. It is like a little hurt child who needs only to run to its mother with tears and without a word to be completely understood and comforted. What a wonderful manifestation of God’s power or spirit, this is!

"The spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for, as we ought, but the spirit itself maketh intercession, with groanings which cannot be uttered; and he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is in the mind of the spirit."—Ro 8:26, 27

What of the blood guilt Paul incurred when he became an accessory in the stoning to death of Stephen? Stephen’s last prayer was, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." This prayer was heard and granted in the case of Paul. As Paul himself said, "I am pure from the blood of all men." (Ac 20:26) Yet this was not quite enough. He always remembered the bloody scene of the stoning to the end of his life.

When the sword of Nero’s executioner flashed in an arc to cut his head from his body, his last earthly thought must have been one of satisfaction and joy to finally expiate by his own martyrdom the martyrdom of Stephen.

The instantaneous conversion of Paul "puts us on the spot" so to speak. How can we hate an enemy, no matter how evil he appears to be, when there is a possibility the Lord may almost instantly show him the light? How can we judge a man to be truly an enemy since we cannot read his heart? An enemy’s ugly exterior may, as in the case of Paul, hide a gem of rare and transcendent beauty and worth.

How humble, and tolerant of others, this should make us!

The Disciples Feared Paul

After his sudden conversion, the disciples were naturally, afraid of Paul. They were suspicious of the sincerity of his conversion.

Perhaps it was only a scheme to gain admittance to their meetings to complete a list of names which would be followed by wholesale arrests. But when Paul preached Christ in the synagogues and the Jewish leaders turned on him and tried to kill him, the disciples were convinced.

Paul had much to learn but the Lord—arranged that Luke should become associated with him. In his writings, Paul calls Luke "the beloved physician" (Col 4:14), and "fellow-worker" (Philemon 24). He wrote:"Luke alone is with me." (2Ti 4:11)

Those originally called by Jesus himself were a most favored group.

For more than three years they were his constant companions. Let us remember that aside from his spiritual powers, Jesus was a perfect man with a vital and magnetic personality. He could and did impress his mind upon those so constantly under his influence—even before they received the holy spirit. Dr. Luke was one of these. As a physician, Luke was trained to be logical and methodical, and he had a retentive mind. In the prelude to the gospel which bears his name, Luke wrote:

"It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things, from the very first, to write unto thee."—Lu 1:3

Though Paul lacked the personal association with Jesus, Luke supplied what Paul lacked. Under the guidance of the holy spirit, Paul absorbed the mind and spirit of Jesus to a remarkable degree. A striking similarity of thought runs throughout Paul’s writings. Here are a few examples:

Jesus:"Whosoever exalteth himself, shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted."—Lu 14:11

Paul:"Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate." —Ro 12:16

Jesus:"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me."—Mt 25:40

Paul:"Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?"—2Co 11:29

Jesus:"Blessed are they, which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake."—Mt 5:10

Paul:"I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake."—2Co 12:10

Jesus:"Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on."—Mt 6:25

Paul:"Be not anxious about anything." —Php 4:6, Diaglott Jesus:"There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him, can defile him."—Mr 7:15

Paul:"There is nothing unclean of itself."—Ro 14:14

Jesus:"Judge not, that ye be not judged."—Mt 7:1

Paul:"Let us not, therefore, judge one another any more."—Ro 14:13

Jesus:"Love your enemies; and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."—Mt 5:44

Paul:"Bless them which persecute you; bless and curse not.

Recompense to no man, evil for evil."—Ro 12:14, 17

Jesus:"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first commandment."—Mr 12:30

Paul:"Love is the fulfilling of the law." —Ro 13:10

Do you see the beautiful similarity and harmony between these two minds although they never met in the flesh? Some have said:

"If only I could have lived while Jesus was on earth!—to sit and learn at his feet! To have through him, direct access to the fountainhead of all knowledge! To ask any questions, and receive exactly the right answer! To hear his encouragements, and precious promises, and expressions of love, while looking into his eyes!"

Of course it would be wonderful! But Paul did not have such a personal contact with Jesus, and yet, in the Lord’s providence, he surpassed those who did. He wrote more than half the New Testament. He was used mightily by the Lord. He was able to develop the mind of Christ. As he wrote, "But we have the mind of Christ." (1Co 2:16) He also wrote, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ." (Php 2:5)

The Bible Provides Everything

In the Bible the Lord has furnished to us everything we need, and he has given us helps to understand the Bible. As Paul himself said to Timothy:

"From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

All scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable :for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect [or complete], thoroughly furnished unto all good works."—2Ti 3:15-17

Is your faith strong enough? If it is, you can, here and now, sit and learn at Jesus’ feet. You can, here and now, have access to the fountainhead of knowledge. You can, here and now, receive the answers to your questions. You can, here and now, feel his nearness, receive his encouragements, and claim his precious promises.

Paul’s faith was so strong that he spoke of Jesus as an old familiar friend and Master. To him Jesus was a real and living presence. It can be the same with us, too if our faith is strong enough. Paul said:

"I shall speak to you either by revelations, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine." —1Co 14:6

Sometimes he spoke by his own knowledge. For example, on the subject of marriage relationships he wrote:"But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment." (1Co 7:6) Again he said:"But to the rest, speak I, not the Lord." (1Co 7:12) Again:"I have no commandment of the Lord, yet I give my judgment." (1 Corinthians 7:25) He speaks of women’s conduct in the church and adds:"But, if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom; neither the churches of God." (1 Corinthians 11:16) Some have concluded that they may or may not take Paul’s advice as they choose. But as for me, I’ll take Paul’s opinion any time. He had the mind of Christ to a superlative degree. Therefore the conclusions reached by that mind must be correct. He invited us to follow him as he followed Christ. Let us be willing to do that.

Even though he gave some advice as his own personal opinion, I believe his entire—writings were under divine inspiration whether he himself realized it or not.

When one consecrates, he determines to do God’s will at all times with all his might. But very early in our Christian careers, we discover that there is an opposing force to contend with, and we sometimes lose to this opposing force. Our new, consecrated minds, do not always fully control our old, imperfect human bodies. This would be very discouraging to us if we did not realize that all the Lord’s people have had the same problem including the great apostle Paul who had the mind of Christ. We know because he wrote:

"For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now, if I do that I would not; it is no more I that do it, but the sin that dwelleth in me. I find, then a law; that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God, after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"—Ro 7:19-24

What did he mean by "the body of this death, " or "this dead body"? He referred to an ancient and horrible Roman cruelty practiced on condemned prisoners. It was a method of execution worthy of Satan himself, a method of slowly tormenting a man to death. They bound a dead body to a living man, obliging him to carry it about until the contagion from the putrid mass took away his own life.

This is the thing to which Paul likens our fallen natures. "Who shall—deliver me from this dead body?" he asks in seeming desperation.

Then he answers his own question, reassuringly and confidently:

"I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. . . . There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus; who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For the law of the spirit of life

in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."—Ro 7:25; 8:1, 2

In succeeding verses Paul gives us some of the most encouraging and heartwarming words, ever written:

"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea rather, that is risen again; who is even at the right hand of God; who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay! in all these things, we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come; nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."—Ro 8:33-39

Naaman, the Syrian

"And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet.

And none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman, the Syrian." —Lu 4:27

TODAY we are going to consider the account of the healing of Naaman, the Syrian, as found in chapter 5 of 2 Kings. The kingdom of Syria bordered the land of Israel on the north and east. At the time of our lesson, about 840 BC, it was quite influential among the nations of the earth.

Naaman was commander-in-chief of the army of Syria, under King Ben-Hadad II. He was noted for his personal ability as a soldier and strategist. We are told that, "By him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria." (2Ki 5:1) He is also called a "mighty man in valour."

But Naaman was a leper. Although this disease can now be controlled, in those days leprosy was incurable. It was synonymous with a horrible, lingering, certain death. There was absolutely no hope. It usually began with little specks on the eyelids and on the palms of the hands, and gradually spread over different parts of the body, bleaching the hair white wherever it showed itself, crusting the affected parts with shining white scales. From the skin, it slowly ate its ways through the tissues, to the bones and joints, and even to the marrow, rotting the whole body piecemeal. Fingers and toes, and eventually the hands and feet, dropped off. It dulled the nerves as it progressed and was comparatively painless until the final stages when the vital organs were attacked. The process often took many years, but death was inevitable.

So we can imagine Naaman’s consternation and frustration in having this disease. A human enemy he could face in battle, fearlessly, and with "valour." But this was something else! This was something he could not cope with. It is probable that, under the circumstances, a man of his character would contemplate suicide.

But in Naaman’s darkest and most—desperate hour, a ray of hope appeared. It seems that some time before this incident, the Syrians had conducted raids across the border into Israel. On one of these forays they had captured a young girl, called in the account "a little maid." She had been sold as a slave to the household of General Naaman and became his wife’s personal maid. She had apparently been treated kindly and therefore felt kindly toward Naaman. When this little Hebrew girl heard that Naaman had contracted leprosy, she was concerned.

"And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samar—ia! For he would recover him of his leprosy."—2Ki 5:3

She referred to Elisha, who was then prophet in Israel, and who was living in the capital city of Samaria. When this girl was in Israel, she had undoubtedly heard of the miracles Elisha had performed :the dividing of Jordan; the waters of Jericho sweetened; the widow’s oil increased; the Shunammite’s son raised from the dead; the deadly pottage rectified; 100 men fed with 20 loaves; plus other wonderful things. Reports of these miracles of Elisha were current in Israel.

Because she knew that Elisha was an instrument of God’s power, she reasoned, correctly, that even leprosy could be cured by that power.

Her remark to her mistress was immediately communicated to Naaman. Ordinarily, Naaman would have entirely discounted the possibility of miracles. As a military man, he was a realist. He believed in physical force, not ethereal power. He was not one to be swayed by superstition or vague rumor.

But Naaman was at the point of desperation. He was ready to grasp at straws. He must investigate even the seemingly idle words of a little Hebrew slave girl. It was now the only hope he had. So he went to the king of Syria and asked for a leave of absence, telling him of his intention to go to Israel where there was a prophet who supposedly had the power to heal him of his leprosy. The king who had been worrying about losing his most able general, was enthusiastic at the prospect that he might be healed. "Go, by all means, " he told Naa—man. "I’ll give you a letter of introduction to the king of Israel. A prophet who can perform such miracles must be well known to the king. No doubt he is a high official and a member of the royal court. Out of courtesy to me, the king of Israel will see that you receive the very best attention from this miracle-worker."

Naaman gladly accepted the letter and lost no time in leaving for Israel. We read in verse 5: "And he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment." This was a great fortune in those days—and even in these days! This probably represented all his wealth. Naaman was a rich man and was prepared to pay richly for his healing. To convey such a treasure safely over dangerous, robber-ridden roads, all the way to Israel, Naaman’s chariot was probably accompanied by a strong troop of cavalry.

Naaman Meets Israel’s King

In due time, Naaman arrived and presented to the king of Israel the letter from the king of Syria. It was brief and to the point. After the usual formalities of greeting, it simply said:

"Now, when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman, my servant, to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy."—2Ki 5:6

Notice that there was not a word about the Prophet Elisha in the letter. It was presumed that the king of Israel would know where to direct Naaman.

To better understand his reaction to the letter, let us remember who the king of Israel was at this time. It was Jehoram, the son of Ahab, of whom it is written:

"And he wrought evil in the sight of the Lord . . . He cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin."—2

Kings 3:2, 3

While professedly making some acknowl—edgment of Jehovah, Jehoram was really an idolater. He had no dealings with the Prophet Elisha nor scarcely any knowledge of him. The result was that he completely misconstrued this sincere and courteous letter. He thought that the king of Syria, by asking him for something impossible, was trying to provoke a quarrel with him, to provide an excuse for invasion. And the fact that Naaman was a—Syrian general, accompanied by a strong detachment of cavalry, contributed to this erroneous conclusion. Accordingly, we read in verse 7:

"And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me, to recover a man of his leprosy? Wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me."

Of course he did not say this in the presence of Naaman. He had undoubtedly with—drawn and called a hasty counsel of his—advisors to determine what to do.

Perhaps it was one of these advisors, —secretly sympathetic to Elisha, who informed the prophet of the situation, or it may be that the Lord told Elisha. In any event, Elisha knew it and sent a servant with a message to the king. We read in verse 8:

"When Elisha, the man of God, had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel."

In those days, people were more demonstrative of their emotions.

The tearing of one’s outer garment was a sign of sorrow and despair, denoting a hopeless situation. So Elisha’s message to the king was:

"Why do you despair? Why do you not consult God, through his prophet, —regarding your problem? Don’t you know God has a

prophet in Israel? If you don’t know, Naaman will soon know. Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel."

This was a rebuke to Jehoram, the idolater. But the king was happy to be so easily rid of Naaman and his problem, and he gladly directed him to follow the servant of Elisha.

Elisha lived very simply, in a small, plain house. We know this because "the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us." (2Ki 6:1)

"Strait" means narrow, difficult, distressful. So we can imagine Naaman’s surprise, and disappointment when his chariots and horsemen arrived at the home of Elisha. He—expected a splendid palace, befitting a person with supernatural powers. Here was a hovel. Is it possible that a miracle-worker would live in such a lowly place? Naaman dismounted from his chariot, and Elisha’s servant, who had guided him there, disappeared into the house.

Naaman Does NOT Meet Elisha

Naaman naturally expected that Elisha would immediately appear and greet him. He waited and waited. Verse 9 intimates this when it says that "he stood at the door of the house of Elisha." Finally the door opened, but it was not Elisha. It was his servant with a short message from Elisha saying:"Go, and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean."

THAT’S ALL!

We read in verse 11 that "Naaman was wroth." He had expected great consideration for his rank and as a representative of the king of Syria. He had come many days’ journey bearing costly presents. This man would not even come out of his house to see him. Should not a healer be expected to see his patient, to make gestures over him, and pray? Should not a prophet of God be expected to conduct some sort of ceremony, offering sacrifice and incense, make a great ado to bring about a cure from such a serious disease?

"This man turns me away like a dog with a bone. As to his direction to wash seven times, this is nothing but an insult, Does he intimate that I need a bath? Besides, if washing were necessary, we have rivers in Syria with much cleaner water than this muddy river Jordan of theirs!"

So Naaman was very angry and gave the order to start back to Syria immediately.

"But Naaman was wroth, and went away and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of Jehovah his God, and strike his hand over the place, and

recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean? so he turned and went away in a rage." —2Ki 5:11, 12

As to the superior quality of the waters of Syria, Naaman was quite correct. For example, an ancient writer says of the Abana river which is fed by the snows of Hebron:

"It has the clearest waters possible, and singularly bright in color; in the morning a full, deep, emerald green; in the evening, a sapphire blue; like a gem."

But to return to Syria, Naaman and his company had to cross the Jordan. They probably stopped at the river to rest and water their horses. In the meantime, Naa—man’s anger had cooled somewhat, as anger will. He began to think more rationally. He reminded himself that the prophet’s reputation for miracles was far too widespread to be groundless. His humble abode might indicate nobility of character rather than meanness. It might mean that he was not accustomed to taking bribes or payment for his services and this might account for the fact that he did not come out. Perhaps he simply did not want to claim a reward for his prescription to heal Naaman. Besides, Naaman may have reasoned that Elisha was a representative of Jehovah God, the Lord of Hosts, the greatest king of all. Therefore, it was not entirely unreasonable that Elisha’s dignity of office would prevent him from coming out to a mere general of the king of Syria.

So might it not only be his pride that made him angry with Elisha? As he was resting on the bank of Jordan, Naaman was musing over these things. At this point, a delegation of his soldiers approached, asking to speak with him. It was a tribute to Naaman’s character that he was beloved of those under his command. He was a father to them. They sincerely wanted him to be healed. They said to Naaman:

"If the prophet had asked you to perform some great exploit, such as leading an army against Israel’s enemies, as a condition for your healing, would you not do it? But he has not asked any hard thing of you. He has asked something very simple and easy. Why not do it? Here we are at the river. It would be easy to do as the prophet says."

Thus we read in the account:

"And his servants came near and spake unto him, and said :My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather, then, when he saith to thee, Wash and be clean?"—2Ki 5:13

This was all the encouragement Naaman needed. He arose and walked down the bank into the water. We read in verse 14:

"Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God. And his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean."

We can imagine his solders watching Naa—man from the bank as he went down to the water. He immersed himself once and then looked at his horribly leprous skin. No sign of improvement. He dipped himself again; still no improvement. Three, four, five, six times; still no sign. A lesser man would have been discouraged. But Naaman was a man of discipline. He knew how to give orders and how to carry them out. The prophet had said seven times. He dipped himself once more. The last dip only took one second, but this time, when he came up, his leprosy was clean gone, and his flesh was like that of a baby :soft, smooth, pink and healthy. Naaman was the happiest man in the world.

We know from what happened later that Naaman must have knelt down, then and there, on the bank of the Jordan, together with his soldiers, and raised his voice in thanks to the God of Israel, and swore that thenceforth he would worship no other God but Jehovah.

So Naaman was healed, not only of his leprosy, but also of his idolatry.

He immediately started back to Samaria to see Elisha. We read from the account:

"And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came and stood before him."

Naaman DOES Meet Elisha

This time Elisha came out to see Naaman. Naaman said:

"Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel. Now, therefore I pray thee, take a blessing [or present] of thy servant. But he said, As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it, but he refused."

Thus Elisha, who lived frugally in a small house, turned down a gift of ten talents of silver, six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment! Elisha could certainly have made good use of the money as well as the clothes in the Lord’s service. He had, under his care and instruction, a group of young men known as "the sons of the prophets." There were fifty of these (2Ki 2:7). Sometimes they did not have enough to eat. (2Ki 4:38) Why, then, did Elisha not take the gift? Because accepting it would have meant the selling, and making merchandise of, the divine power operating through him.

Elisha well knew that God’s gifts are not for sale.

Then Naaman made a request which showed his conversion to the worship of Jehovah God. We read:

"And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant, two mules’ burden of earth? For thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto Jehovah."—2Ki 5:17

This demonstrated a most unusual degree of dedication. Because they were the chosen people of God, Naaman considered the very soil of Israel to be sacred, the only earth upon which an altar to Jehovah might properly be erected. Then, as further proof of his sincerity, he asked forgiveness in advance for the times when, in the discharge of his duties, he would have to accompany the king of Syria into the temple of the idol Rimmon; saying in verse 18: "In this thing may Jehovah pardon thy servant." Elisha replied, "Go in peace, " and Naaman returned to Syria.

What do you suppose was the first thing Naaman did when he got home? The scriptures do not say, but I think that the first thing he did was to release from servitude that "little maid" of Israel. Perhaps he bestowed upon her much of the treasure that Elisha would not

accept, then escorted her happily back to her family. I like to think he did that.

A Picture of the Divine Plan

There are many lessons we can derive from the story of Naaman, the Syrian. First there is a general, broad outline of the—Divine Plan of the Ages for the salvation of mankind.

Leprosy is a symbol of sin, and a very fitting one it is. Note the similarities:as, in the time of Naaman, leprosy was incurable, sin is incurable without divine intervention. It is loathsome. It is contagious. It has a small beginning and becomes progressively worse. It is terribly destructive. It deforms, distorts, and makes ugly.

Once the nerves of conscience are dulled, it is, like leprosy, deceptively painless as it progresses. It ends in death. As James puts it:"And sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." (Jas 1:15) As Naaman became a leper, Adam contracted the leprosy of sin and passed it to all his posterity. Every member of Adam’s race can say, as David did:

"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."—Ps 51:5

As centuries rolled by, the situation appeared hopeless, just as Naaman lost all hope. Then, as in the case of Naaman, a ray of hope was given to mankind through Israel. Moses said:

"The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me. Unto him ye shall hearken."—De 18:15

In due time, the prophet foretold by Moses came to earth. As Naaman had heard from the little Israelitish maid that there was a prophet in Israel capable of healing his leprosy, the people of Jesus’ day realized that there was, among them, a great prophet who was endowed with power over sin and death. When Jesus at Nain raised up the widow’s son from the dead, we read that, "They glorified God, saying, that a great prophet is risen up among us." (Lu 7:16) We read that on the way to Emmaus, the disciples spoke, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people." (Lu 24:19) The "little maid" of our story may have used similar words to describe Elisha to Naaman.

Then the apostle conclusively links "that prophet" with the "times of restitution" during which the whole world will be healed of the leprosy of sin:

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, who before

was preached unto you; whom the heaven must retain, until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me. Him shall ye hear in all things, whatsoever he shall say unto you." —Ac 3:19-22

When Naaman told the king of Syria that he had heard there was a healing prophet of God in Israel, the king said:"Go to; go!" This reminds us of Isaiah’s words:

"And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."—Isa 2:3

As Naaman hastened to go to the land of the Jews, to the capital of Israel, to seek healing from Jehovah God at the hand of his prophet, others in the future will do the same:

"And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of Hosts. I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you."—Zec 8:21-23

Does this not also remind us of the woman who came to Jesus and touched the hem, or skirt of his garment and was instantly healed?

Perfect Health Is a Great Incentive

This brings to mind one of the great incentives that will be offered to man to fall in line with the kingdom of God under the—administration of the Ancient Worthies. Physical healing will be a positive in centive. As people hear that those in Israel who are obedient to the Lord are attaining perfect health and are getting younger instead of older, there will be a veritable stampede to find out how they also can attain such benefits. Thus they will learn of the Lord’s ways and walk in his paths. The coming of leprous Naaman from Syria to Elisha the prophet in Israel for healing may well picture the world of mankind, aliens from God and leprous with sin, submitting themselves to the "princes in all the earth" for deliverance from sin and death.

Elisha’s directing of Naaman to the river to be healed of the curse of leprosy reminds us of the beautiful promise in Revelation when the curse of sin and death will be washed away:

"And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

And there shall be no more curse."—Re 22:1-3

We also think of that wonderful time foretold in verse 17:

"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."—Re 22:17

Naaman found that the river was indeed the "water of life." A few moments before, sitting on the bank of Jordan, he was—despondent, discouraged, afflicted, and—facing death. After the seventh dip he was—delivered from his affliction and his flesh became "like the flesh of a little child"—soft, smooth, pink and healthy. We are immediately reminded of that grand restitution promise in Job to all mankind afflicted by the leprosy of sin:

"Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, —Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom. His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s. He shall return to the days of his youth."—Job 33:24, 25

Just as Naaman acknowledged Jehovah as the only true God, and said that he would thenceforth serve no other, we read:

"For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord [Jehovah], to serve him with one consent."—Zep 3:9

"For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."—Hab 2:14

The dipping of Naaman seven times is also significant. A similar picture is given in Daniel chapter 4. We remember that Nebuchadnezzar was deprived of his sanity until "seven times" had passed over him. Then his reason returned to him and he "praised and extolled and honored the King of Heaven." Six thousand years of sin and death have already passed over mankind. When seven thousand years have passed, at the end of the Millennial Age, man’s reason will have fully returned. As also pictured by the "seven times" of Naaman, the leprosy of sin and death will be cured. Then all mankind will "praise, and extol, and honor" Jehovah God, the great King of Heaven.

Spiritual Lessons

In addition to this general outline of the Divine Plan, the account of Naaman the Syrian contains valuable spiritual lessons for the

"household of faith." Let us consider some of them.

First of all, we see the progression of a Christian life. Naaman was a man of Syria, of an alien nation, having neither part nor lot with Israel, having no covenant relationship with God; he was a hopeless leper. It is written of us, while we were yet sinners:

"At that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world."—Eph 2:12

Consciousness of Sin Is Necessary

Then the Lord draws us. But before he does so, there must be a consciousness of sin, a realization that of our own selves we can do nothing, just as Naaman was aware of his hopeless, leprous condition. Just as Naaman heard that there was a prophet who was able to save him from his leprosy, we are given "ears to hear." Our attention is drawn to our Saviour, Jesus Christ, of whom we read,

"The blood of Jesus Christ . . . cleanseth us from all sin." (1Jo 1:7) The Lord draws us to his truth. We discern the ransom by which sin may be remitted.

In Naaman’s case, a "little maid" was the agency used. One wonders at this. In view of the fact that Elisha had done so many wonderful things in Israel, should not the people of Syria, a nation immediately adjacent, know something about them? Granted, there were no newspapers in those days, but caravans performed the same function, carrying news as well as trade goods from country to country.

Miracles of the magnitude Elisha performed would be exciting news indeed. In those days, as now, nations who were potential enemies had spies in each other’s territories. Should not Syrian spies have reported to General Naaman the miracles of Elisha? It would be reasonable to think so. Yet Naaman heard of the prophet-healer of Israel only from the mouth of a little slave girl. Similarly would it not be logical today to expect to hear the message of truth from the churches of the world? But that is not where we get it. Instead we are put in contact with the truth in all sorts of strange ways, often by unusual agencies. This should not surprise us.

The Lord sometimes uses methods to accomplish his purpose which appear illogical to our minds. For example, the tremendously important event of Jesus’ birth was not announced through the Scribes, Pharisees and religious leaders of Israel, as would appear to be logical, but by a few humble and unlearned shepherds to whom

people paid almost no heed. So with us. We may come to a knowledge of the tremendously important message of truth, a force that will transform us from sinful humans to the divine nature—to glory, honor and immortality, the highest prize in the universe—perhaps by means of a simple tract which just happened to be put under our particular door by some poor sister who could scarcely walk.

I have heard of one who was brought into the truth by a robin. The bird took a sheet of paper from a trash pile and made it the foundation for her nest. She wove her nest upon it and raised a family. The next winter a windstorm dislodged the nest and deposited it with a thump upon a front porch. When the lady of the house came out to pick it up, the big black word HELL caught her eye. She smoothed out the paper, and saw the title to be WHAT SAY THE SCRIPTURES ABOUT HELL? She had been worrying sick about hell-fire, and had been earnestly praying about it.

There is another instance where a tract was put under the door of a small Jewish store. But apparently that wasn’t where it belonged.

Later in the day, a man living several blocks away came into the store to make a small purchase, which the thrifty storekeeper wrapped in the tract. You know in the old days, tracts were quite large, about magazine size when folded. So that is how the tract came to be delivered to the right place. The brother read it and accepted the truth.

Many other such instances can be given. Let us not despise the small opportunities of service :mailing a comforting tract to the bereaved, distributing invitations to hear a local public lecture, or a radio or television program, a word to a fellow-worker, neighbor or relative.

This is what the "little maid" did. The Lord uses various means to draw his people. Although they are sometimes unusual, they are rarely spectacular. It may be a chance turning of the radio dial, a sudden impulse to change channels for no logical reason at all, a rambling walk on Sunday that brings one to a meeting hall where a Bible study is in progress.

There must also be some cooperative efforts by the Lord’s people to do things that an individual or small ecclesia cannot do alone. Tracts and other literature must be printed. Radio programs must be prepared and broadcast. Television films must be produced. Tools must be provided for willing workers to use. Everyone can have a part in this also, even if it is only by offering a sincere and earnest prayer for the harvest work.

As Naaman came to the capital of Israel to find the prophet, we read of the household of faith:

"But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem . . . to the general assembly, and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven."—Heb 12:22, 23

As Naaman was drawn to the prophet, we are drawn to Christ:

"No man can come to me, except the Father . . . draw him."—Joh 6:44

Elisha told Naaman that if he immersed himself in water seven times, his leprosy would be healed. We know that water—immersion is a symbol of consecration and that the number seven means completeness. So combining the two symbols would indicate that a full and complete consecration, a perfect submission to the will of God, is required to bring about the cancellation of Adamic condemnation.

But at first Naaman was not willing to do what the prophet said. He

"went away" grieved. This reminds us of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus, also seeking life:

"Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions."—Mt 19:21, 22

Naaman sat on the river bank thinking over Elisha’s instructions and was undecided what to do. We "sit down and count the cost, " as instructed in Lu 14:28. The apostle Paul did some reckoning too, and he reached the right conclusion:

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."—Ro 8:18 Paul referred to a spiritual glory, but what an earthly glory was revealed in Naaman! As in the case of some us, Naa—man required a little persuasion. But once having made up his mind, he promptly and completely carried out the prophet’s instructions. Upon rising up from the water, his leprosy was completely gone, his flesh was new as a little child’s, his life saved. It might be said that he had an earthly "newness of life." It was like a resurrection from the dead.

One might say he was "born again." For years he had been haunted by death and despair; now, in an instant, it all slipped away. All his worries were gone, and his mind was at peace. Similarly, of us it is written:

"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection."—Ro 6:4, 5

"Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." —Ro 5:1

Cured "Leprosy" Brings Joy What a joy to know our leprosy is cured, that we are justified in the sight of God, that our sins are forgiven, that the robe of Christ’s righteousness covers us, that we are released from the power of sin, and death! As David expressed it:

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity."—Ps 32:1, 2

In due course we too shall be "born again."

Upon being cleansed, Naaman offered Elisha all his wealth. The refusal of Elisha to accept it, and his permitting Naaman to retain control of it, may well illustrate the fact that when we consecrate our all to the Lord—our means, our time, our strength, our talents, our influence, our opportunities, our lips—he hands it all back to us to administer for him as his stewards. He notes our faithfulness in our stewardship, and rewards it. As we read, "It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." (1Co 4:2)

Personal Lessons

There are some lessons of personal application as well. There is a lesson about pride . Naaman was offended when no deference was paid him and his high position. The prophet did not even come out to see him. Was he not a great general, the comman—der-in-chief of the armies of Syria? Should there not be some special recognition, some pomp and ceremony? Those of the Lord’s people who happen to be better endowed than others, whether in means, or talent, or opportunities of service, should not—expect to be treated preferentially or different from others, as though they were heaven’s favorites. None have anything in which to glory. All come short of the perfect standard. We read:

"For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?"—1Co 4:7

"For there is no difference. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."—Ro 3:22, 23

Let us remember that all are "unprofitable servants" (Lu 17:10) and that it is only by the Lord’s grace and provision that our poor offerings are acceptable.

As Elisha lived in a small and humble house, Bible students often meet in dismal and unpretentious halls because they can afford no

better. Yet in spite of outward appearances, these humble meeting places are the embassies of a great king because, "We are ambassadors for Christ" (2Co 5:20). If God had any regard for external appearances, he would not have permitted his son to be born in a stable.

Then of course, there is the lesson of faith. Naaman had great faith.

He believed that there was a great prophet in Israel. It took faith to take his entire wealth with him and journey to Israel to find the prophet. It took faith to follow directions which seemed foolish and dip himself in the Jordan seven times as the prophet said. There must have been thousands of lepers in Israel at that time, many of them in the very city of Samaria. Some could probably have gone around the block to Elisha’s house, but none did. They didn’t have faith. Almost a thousand years later Jesus paid a great compliment to Naaman’s outstanding faith which was greater than any in Israel. He said:

"And many lepers were in Israel, in the time of Elisha the prophet.

And none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman, the Syrian."—Lu 4:27

Let us emulate Naaman’s faith.

One wonders what the status of Naaman will be in the kingdom. Of course, he was not of the High Calling for that was not then open.

Nor would he be one of the Ancient Worthies, although he did have their kind of faith. But he was not of the commonwealth of Israel, he was not in covenant relationship with God. What then, was his standing? Since Jesus found him worth mentioning as a high example of faith, and since he dedicated himself to the worship of Jehovah, the true God, I have no doubt he will be accorded some special place in the government of the world, and be a ready, able and willing instrument of the "Princes in all the earth."

Nehemiah

THE name Nehemiah signifies "Consolation from God, " and this is what we will receive by a consideration of some of his experiences recorded in the book that bears his name.

Nehemiah was the son of Hachaliah, of the tribe of Judah, of one of the prominent Hebrew families of the Babylonian captivity. The Medes and Persians had conquered Babylon. The second universal empire, represented by the breast and arms of silver of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, now ruled the world. Our story starts at about 445 BC, at Shushan, the palace of Arta-xerxes, king of Persia.

Josephus tells us that Nehemiah was a very young man at this time, probably in his twenties. In spite of his youth, he held a high rank in the royal court, that of cupbearer to the king. This title, sometimes translated "butler" is somewhat deceptive to modern ears and does not give the proper conception of the dignity of his position. His duties did not consist solely of tasting the king’s food and drink to prevent poisoning. He was, in fact, one of the most trusted officers of the realm, a confidant of the king, always at his right hand. He was one whose advice the king valued and sought, what today we would call a Minister of State. Daniel held a similar position in his time in the universal empire of Babylon.

We are not told how it came about that young Nehemiah was appointed to such an exalted station. We can only surmise that as in the case of Daniel, it resulted from some sort of competitive examination in which Nehemiah excelled. We may be absolutely sure by his conduct that he was reared by Godly parents who from earliest infancy inculcated in him a reverence and love for the God of Israel; who taught him the history, language, and law of Israel; who imbued him with his ancient and rightful heritage, so that, although he was in Persia, he was not a Persian.

As confidential officer and counselor to the king, it was Nehemiah’s duty to be acquainted with the mood and temper of the people so as to be able to advise the king of any potential threat to the empire. To this end, it appears to have been his custom to mingle, unrecognized, with the people in the marketplaces and especially among those of arriving caravans who could tell of conditions in other parts of the realm. Josephus tells us that he was doing this one day when he heard some new arrivals speaking the Hebrew language. He engaged them in conversation and was delighted to find that one of them was a close relative returning from an extended visit to Jerusalem. It was a tribute to Nehemi—ah’s upbringing in the faith of his fathers that he eagerly inquired respecting the holy land, the holy city, God’s holy temple, and the conditions of the Jews who had, years before,

returned from captivity in Babylon under the proclamation of Cyrus.

He was deeply interested in the welfare of Israel. Now let us read the record in Nehemiah’s own words:

"Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction, and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven."—Nehemi—ah 1:2-4

Do you see how keenly young Nehemiah felt about his people? How closely he identified himself with them and the holy city? He had never seen Jerusalem. He had never been there. All he knew about its former glory was from nostalgic accounts by his parents and others of the captivity. Yet he was deeply moved and distressed to hear of the devastation and degradation of Jerusalem, so much so that he wept. It is an evidence of his great faith in the God of his fathers that he immediately and naturally turned to prayer.

Nehemiah Reverenced God

Let us consider some aspects of this beautiful and effectual prayer as found in Ne 1:5-11.

"I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments."

In effect Nehemiah said, "How great thou art!" He had a proper conception of the majesty of God. That word "terrible" in the original does not mean terrifying but rather "greatly to be revered."

Then he showed his familiarity with the holy scriptures by an almost direct quote from De 7:9, which reads:

"Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant, and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations."

We continue from Nehemiah’s prayer, verse 6:

"Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee."

This reference to the ears and eyes of God reminds us of Hezekiah’s prayer when he spread before the Lord the insulting letter from Sennacherib. He said, as recorded in 2Ki 19:16:

"Lord, bow down thine ear, and hear; open, Lord, thine eyes, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he hath sent to reproach the living God!"

Such an expression is not at all presumptuous; it is entirely in harmony with one of the precious promises the Lord has given his people, found in Ps 34:15, "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry." In the prayer Solomon made at the dedication of the temple, he said:

"Now, my God, let, I beseech thee, thine eyes be open, and let thine ears be attent unto the prayer that is made in this place."—2Ch 6:40

Then in his prayer Nehemiah made a confession, not only for himself, but for all Israel. He said:

"Both I and my father’s house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandest thy servant Moses."

A confession of sin should be a part of every prayer. Then Nehemiah reminded the Lord of certain promises he had made to his people. He said:

"Remember I beseech thee, the word that thou commandest thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations. But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part—under the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen, to set my name there."

In saying this, Nehemiah cited to the Lord his own edict of Le 26:33:

"I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you, and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste."

This is exactly what had happened to the holy land and the city of Jerusalem. This was a curse upon Israel because of their disobedience. But Nehemiah was a good Bible Student. He also knew that a blessing was promised if Israel obeyed the voice of the Lord. He called to mind, and cited to the Lord, the promise of De 30:1-3:

"And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and

thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; that then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee."

Do you see what Nehemiah did here? First, he quoted to God his own word, that he is a covenant-keeping God, a God that will surely perform what he has promised. Then he reminded the Lord of a promise he had made to regather his people under certain circumstances. Then he claimed the promise. This is reasoning with God. Then he concluded his prayer by specifically referring to the distressed inhabitants of devastated Jerusalem who desired to return to God and prosper. He said:

"Now these are thy servants, and thy people whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name, and prosper. I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man."

The one referred to as "this man" was Artaxerxes, the king, an absolute monarch, not accountable to any parliament or laws, whose every whim was law. History records that he was arbitrary and self- willed, easily aroused to violent anger, often killing on the spot those who offended him. Artaxerxes was also called "Longimanus, "

which means "long-handed." His right hand was longer than his left.

He was proud of this deformity, claiming it was the result of his frequent and sudden use of the sword. This was the man through which Nehemiah must work to accomplish his purpose!

God Answers His Prayer

Nehemiah did not pray only once and then wait for the Lord to answer him. He says that he prayed day and night. So this prayer is merely a summation of what he prayed continuously for four months. We know this because the first verse tells us that it was in the month Chisleu when he learned of the plight of Jerusalem and began to pray. We are told in Ne 2:1 that it was in the month Nisan that he finally received an answer to his prayer, a lapse of four months. If his custom was the same as that of Daniel who prayed three times a day with his windows open toward Jerusalem (Da 6:10), Nehemiah must have uttered the sentiments of this prayer at least 360 times!

The answer came suddenly and unexpectedly. The king had prepared a banquet for his nobles at which the queen also was present. We can imagine that the guests were all attired in their best silks and jewels, and were smiling and joyous. Nehemi—ah, as usual, was at the king’s right hand so that he might taste of the food and wine before it was served to the king. As he served the wine, the king glanced up and noticed the contrast between Nehemiah and the happy guests. He saw a sadness and pallor he had never seen before. After all, let us remember, Nehemiah had not only been praying, but had also been fasting, eating sparingly for four months, sorrowing on behalf of his people. He was gaunt and hollow-eyed. Artaxerxes placed his hand on Nehemiah’s arm. "What’s troubling you?" he asked. "Everybody else here is happy, and you are sad. Are you sick?" "Oh no, your majesty, " Nehemiah replied, trying to smile, "I am quite well." The king’s eyes bored into his own. "Well, then, " he said, "If you art not sick, it must be a great sadness of the heart. It shows on your face."

Nehemiah was terrified. As he himself expresses it in Ne 2:2,

"Then I was very sore afraid." Or, as Moffatt puts it:"I was dreadfully afraid at this."

Why was he so frightened? It was because he well knew the temper of his king. He had seen this man summarily thrust through with his sword any who offended him. Nehemiah realized that his sadness of heart might be misconstrued. It might indicate to the king a spirit of discontent and loss of interest in his duties, even disloyalty and treachery. An urgent, silent prayer, went up to God and Nehemiah quickly recovered his poise. He instantly realized that this might be the Lord’s doing, proving just the opportunity he sought. We read his words in Ne 2:3, 4:

"And I said unto the king, Let the king live for ever. Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my father’s sepulchres, lieth waste and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven."

The exact words that he should speak to the king now came easily and readily to his lips, as though prompted from above:

"And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favor in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my father’s sepulchres, that I may build it.

And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him), For how long shall thy—journey be? And when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time."

Nehemiah Receives a Leave of Absence

It was no short time that Nehemiah set. We know from Ne 5:14 that he asked for and got a twelve-year leave of absence!

It took great courage for Nehemiah to make the request he did. The king could easily have considered the rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem an act of rebellion against his rule—a desire by Nehemiah to set up the nation of Israel as a separate and rival government with himself as king. In fact, we read in the fourth chapter of Ezra that this same king, Artaxerxes, had previously stopped the restoration work of Ezra because of similar accusations.

So when Nehemiah asked for what he did, he laid his life on the line.

He won, because the Lord had answered his oft-repeated prayer:

"Grant me mercy in the sight of this man."

Nehemiah had complete confidence that his prayer would eventually be answered. He didn’t know just how or when it would be answered, but he knew it would be. He had complete faith. We know this because he had carefully planned in advance just what he would need for the success of his undertaking, just what he would request of the king when the opportunity came. He didn’t have to go away and figure it out, then come back and ask the king for more favors.

He struck while the iron was hot without hesitation. This is evident from the next two verses:

"Moreover, I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over, till I come to Judah; and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me."—Ne 2:7, 8

So we see that Nehemiah had the necessities of the work all laid out in his mind. He had done his homework. This also indicates how closely he had previously questioned his kinsman as to the details of the damage which must be repaired. Such foresight and thoroughness impressed the king with his wisdom. He not only granted Nehemiah’s requests, but gave him what he had not requested. He appointed him Governor of Judea, and gave him a strong military escort of cavalry befitting a governor.

A four-month journey brought them to Jerusalem where Nehemiah was welcomed by the desolate city’s inhabitants. He did not at first reveal the object of his coming, nor the fact that he had been appointed their governor. To them he was simply a visiting dignitary, a wealthy young Hebrew who had attained high office in the Persian gov ernment. This they could see from his military escort and the richness of his caravan. He wanted to first make a personal appraisal of the situation. After three days of mingling with the people and becoming well acquainted with them and their tribal rulers, he secretly made his inspection of the ruined city. He waited until everyone was asleep. Then on horseback accompanied by a few trusted servants on foot, he toured the broken walls by moonlight.

We read his own words:

"And I arose in the night, I, and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem.

Neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.

And I went out by night, by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool; but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass. Then I went up, in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall; and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned. And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work."—Ne 2:12-16

This moonlight ride would have been a—distressing experience for Nehemiah. If before he had wept when he had merely heard of the plight of Jerusalem, how overwhelmed he must now have been to see it with his own eyes! But now he had firsthand knowledge of the facts. What he had seen confirmed the feasibility of his plan for rebuilding.

The next morning he called together the elders and prominent representatives of the people and explained to them the real—object of his coming. He showed them his authority from the king and told them how God had heard his prayer and how wonderfully he had prospered him in this undertaking. Then he outlined to them a method whereby the repair work could begin immediately. We read his words:

"Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in; how Jerusalem lieth waste and the gates thereof are burned with fire.

Come, let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a

reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God, which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build! So they strengthened their hands for this good work."—Ne 2:17, 18

Do you see how Nehemiah was able to inspire the people? He fired them with his own zeal. It was they who said:"Let us rise up and build!" As they went to work, Nehemiah worked with them. He worked as hard as any of them with his hand, with stone, mortar and heavy timbers.

Why was the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem considered so important? Was it merely a status symbol? No, it was not just that.

There was also a very practical aspect. With the city walls broken down, the enemies of the Jews raided and robbed them regularly.

They were at the mercy of every nomadic tribe that chanced to ride that way. But if the walls were repaired, it would be a different story.

My Bible dictionary says of the original walled city:

"Jerusalem was an almost impregnable Gibraltar. The steep sides of the ravines on the east, the south, and the west provided bulwarks against siege. The north was the only direction from which a foe could attack the city, under the conditions of ancient warfare."

No one knows how high the original walls were but as restored in 1542 AD, they ranged from 20 to 60 feet high. It seems likely that the original walls formed an irregular quadrangle a little more than two miles in circuit.

In the third chapter of his book, Nehe—miah lists 50 families as participating in the building work. This would mean an average of about 240 linear feet of wall for each family to repair. It was Nehemiah’s plan that each family would work on that portion of the wall nearest its home quarters. This was a wise plan. Each would be specially interested in having the wall strong in his own neighborhood. There would be a certain degree of proper pride of workmanship, each family making their portion of the wall a monument to their skill.

Through many trials, difficulties and discouragements, which could well be the subject of another discourse, the work progressed. Every difficulty was overruled by the Lord and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, with the original stones, was completed in the incredibly short time of 52 days!

Lessons for Us

Now let us consider some of the valuable lessons to be learned from this account. —Although Nehemiah was a very young man, he was held in high esteem by the king as possessing rare ability. This

reminds us of Paul’s words to Timothy, in 1Ti 4:12, which I will read from the Weymouth translation:

"Let no one think slightingly of you because you are a young man; but in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, be an example for your fellow Christians to imitate."

The younger brothers and sisters of our fellowship should not be despised. It must not be presumed that they are "shallow" because they are young. This is a serious mistake. Stephen too was a young man, but in a few months he made his calling and election sure. By contrast, I have been in this narrow way for 67 years. The Lord held young Stephen in such high esteem that he was accounted worthy of the honor of being the first to follow his Master’s footsteps even unto death.

The fact that Nehemiah was so carefully reared in the faith of his fathers has a lesson for those of us who are the parents of young children. Just as Nehemiah was born in Persia and received his formal education in that heathen nation, our children are subject to the influences of this present evil world. But these influences can be counteracted by godly parents. Nehemi—ah’s intensity of feeling for the welfare of Jerusalem indicated that this had been accomplished in his case. Similarly it is our privilege and duty to imbue our children with the truth, with a feeling for the Lord and his people. As Nehemiah was taught the Hebrew language by his parents, we can teach our children the language of the truth. Who knows if the Lord may not draw them and use them for exalted service as he did Nehemiah? Let us at least prepare them for the Master’s use.

In the World But Not Of It

As Nehemiah was in Persia, but was not a Persian, the Christian is in the world, but not of the world. Jesus said of such:"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." (Joh 17:16) No matter what our positions in the world, whether high or low, our primary interest should be the welfare of Zion. We should have an intensity of feeling for the truth and its service, praying for opportunities, ready to act when the Lord opens the way.

The thing that particularly distressed Nehemiah was the condition of the walls of Jerusalem. We read in Ne 1:3, 4 that they reported to him:"The wall of—Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire." Then he gives us his reaction to this report, saying:"And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept." Without walls, Jerusalem was no city. It had no cohesion, no integrity, no honor. Enemies could invade and rob and plunder at will. It was a by-word and a laughing-stock. In the words of Ne 2:17 it was "a reproach." The Church, as established by our Lord and the apostles, was a city or community of God. As we read in Heb 12:22, 23:

"But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven."

The primitive church was a city that had walls. It had integrity and cohesion. It was held together by a strong faith in the truth, "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3) The great Divine Plan of Salvation was understood. As Isa 60:18 expresses it prophetically:"Thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise." This "most holy faith" was its protection against the assaults of the adversary. The walls of sound doctrine kept the church apart and safe. But after the apostles fell asleep, the walls began to be broken down. Paul foresaw this, saying:

"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things."—Ac 20:29, 30

False doctrines and evil practices began to be introduced into the Church. Paul’s prophecy of 2Ti 4:3, 4 was also fulfilled:

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables."

As the great antichrist system developed, the walls of Zion were broken down more and more until, in the Dark Ages, little remained of the original structure of sound doctrine. Even the great foundation stone of the Ransom was lost amid the rubble. Then came the reformation and the walls began to be rebuilt, in spite of great opposition. David’s prayer of Ps 51:18, echoed by faithful Christians, began to be answered:"Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion. Build thou the walls of Jerusalem." Truths long lost sight of were rediscovered and placed in their proper settings. The work of rebuilding accelerated. Then Christ returned and by the hand of a Faithful and Wise Servant, the structure of sound doctrine was rebuilt to completion. Don’t forget that Nehemiah used the same old stones to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He did not quarry new ones. Similarly it was the old, old story, "the faith once delivered to the saints, " that was restored.

Rebuilding Spiritual Walls

There is a tendency to disturb the walls of Jerusalem again. Some feel they can improve the walls by substituting new stones for the

old ones, by changing the contour, chipping off a little here, and adding a little there. Such feel they know more about how it should be than the original architect and the faithful restorer. I don’t think they do.

Then there is another meaning to a city with broken-down walls. It is a more personal application and is given in Pr 25:28: "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls." The "spirit" referred to here is the spirit or disposition of mind, the thoughts of the mind that control our—actions. We must rule our thoughts and imaginations, and cast out and keep out anything unprofitable to us as new creatures. Our warfare is in the mind. The new creature is developed in the mind.

The new creature must use our fleshly mind as its instrument, making it a captive of the new will, the mind of Christ. This is concisely stated in 2Co 10:5:

"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God; and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."

This is not something which is easily accomplished. The building of stone walls is not easy. It takes energy and stamina.

Those who come into the truth have their spiritual "walls" in varying stages of disrepair. Some of us have more work to do than others.

But as we learn to exercise self-control, first in little things, and then, persistently and progressively conform our thoughts and words and deeds to the perfect standard, we will gain in strength of character.

This is illustrated by the legend of Milo of Croton. To develop his strength, Milo one day lifted a small calf to his shoulders and carried if for a mile. The next day he did the same thing, and the next day, and the next day. He carried that same animal for a mile every day for four years. As the calf gradually grew, Milo’s muscles developed correspondingly, until at the last he was able to carry a full-grown ox upon his shoulders. Of course our flesh will never be brought under complete control, but the will must be there. The spirit must be ruled.

Such a development of character is highly prized by the Lord. He has caused to be written in Pr 16:32: "He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city."

Walls also have another significance for the Lord’s people. There are walls between us and the world. We are separated from the world by walls of thought and action. Our thoughts are not their thoughts neither are their ways our ways. Let us keep the walls of separation from the world in good repair. As we are exhorted in 2Co 6:17: "Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord."

As Nehemiah earnestly prayed for the welfare of Jerusalem and of fleshly Israel, our earnest prayers should be in the interests of Zion, for spiritual food:"Pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest." In harmony with this, our resolution is:

"Daily will I remember, at the Throne of Heavenly Grace, the general interests of the harvest work, and particularly the share which I myself am privileged to enjoy in that work, and the dear co- laborers everywhere."

We should, as Nehemiah was, become personally and emotionally involved, thinking of our part in the Lord’s work. We have a work of development in ourselves; we also build up one another in the most holy faith; and we witness to the world, as we have opportunity. As Nehemiah cited and claimed God’s promises to Israel, we should claim and lay hold upon all the "exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we might be partakers of the divine nature."—2Pe 1:4

Answers to Prayer May Be Delayed

Nehemiah prayed four months before the answer came. That does not mean God had not heard his prayer. There was good reason for the delay. Not only was it a test of Nehemiah’s sincerity and faith, but favorable circumstances were being shaped. In due course there came the occasion of a special banquet at which the queen was present and the king was in an expansive mood. In the meantime Nehemiah’s long, self-imposed, ordeal had altered his appearance so that the king noticed it and made sympathetic inquiry. Thus the stage was perfectly set for Nehemiah’s best interests. So with us. When we have made a request, the Lord often keeps us waiting. We cannot always understand why, but there is always a good reason. In addition to being a test of our sincerity and faith, perhaps it is a shaping of circumstances, so that the outcome may be more glorious.

Let us be persistent in our prayers for the right things as Nehemiah was, remembering the precious promise of Ro 8:28 that "all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are the called according to his purpose."

Sometimes when things seem to be—going the worst, they are really going the best. When the king noticed and commented on his paleness, Nehemiah says:"Then was I very sore afraid." He thought the worst had happened and that he might lose everything, although it was really the beginning of the answer to his prayer. A good maxim is:"When in doubt, pray." —Another way of saying the same thing is:"When your knees are knocking, kneel on them." At the time of his greatest fear, —Nehemiah prayed. This was his instant

and automatic reaction. As we read in Ne 2:4, "The the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of Heaven." It was a—silent prayer, a prayer of the heart. The—answer came instantly. This time it didn’t take four months! So let us never be terrified when everything seems to be going wrong. It may be, as the poet has said:"The clouds ye so much dread, are big with mercy, and shall break, in blessings on your head." Nehemiah had prayed:"Grant thy servant mercy in the sight of this man." He got the help he sought. Similarly in the language of Heb 4:16,

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

The king gave Nehemiah more than he requested. He not only approved his mission but, additionally, appointed him governor of Judea and assigned him a military escort. This reminds us of the case of Solomon, related in 1 Kings chapter three. When the Lord said to him, "Ask what I shall give thee, " Solomon simply asked for an understanding heart. The Lord was pleased and granted him not only a wise and understanding heart, but much more than that. He gave him great riches and honor besides. So with us. The Lord is very generous to his people. If we ask in accordance with his will, he will not only grant our request but give us much more than we ask, things that we do not even think to ask for. He has the power to do so. It is written of him:"Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." (Eph 3:20) In Mal 3:10 he says for us to try him and prove if this is not so:

"Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

We too have been granted a powerful military escort by our great king. We have the same protection that Elisha had, of whom we read in 2Ki 6:17, that:"The mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." These forces of the Lord encircled him for his protection, and they encircle us. Just as Nehemiah’s escort of cavalry surrounded and protected him on his journey, we read of our heavenly escort in Ps 34:7, "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them."

Nehemiah was undoubtedly one of the faithful ones referred to in the 11th chapter of Hebrews who will be "princes in all the earth." He fits the description. He "wrought righteousness; obtained promises; escaped the edge of the sword; out of weakness was made strong; had trials of cruel mockings; of whom the world was not worthy." He finally "obtained a good report through faith."

Nehemiah somehow sensed that the Lord would have use for him at another time, in another age. He wanted so much to continue to serve his God beyond this life. He wanted to be remembered and resurrected, and given more opportunities to serve. So in the last chapter of his book he expresses a certain wistfulness and yearning.

It is similar to that of Job who prayed:"O that thou wouldst appoint me a set time and remember me!" In Ne 13:14, h e says, with great earnestness:

"Remember me, O my God, concerning this; and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God."

Then in Ne 13:22 he refers to his restoring of sabbath observance, and expresses his heart desire:"Remember me, O my God, concerning this also; and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy." His last word, in the last verse of his book are:

"Remember me, O my God, for good!"

Do you see how Nehemiah casts himself on the mercy of God? We can do this, too. We can pray,

"Remember me for good. I don’t know how faithful I have been. I have tried so hard! I cast myself upon thee. Into thy hands, I commend my spirit. Remember me, O my God, for good!"

Ointment, Very Precious

"Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her."—Mt 26:13

WE ARE told that "God is love." (1Jo 4:8) Love is God’s predominant characteristic. It tempers his every act. Everything he has done, is doing, or will do, is motivated by love. When God created his only begotten son, who became Christ Jesus, he endowed him with his own attributes. Therefore love was the dominant trait of Jesus also. God loved his human creation even when they were sinners:

"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."—Ro 5:8 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."—Joh 3:16

But the love of God did not compel the sacrifice. Not at all. Jesus Christ in his prehuman existence also loved the world with the same intensity as his Father. At one time he told his disciples, "I and my Father are one." (Joh 10:30) He told Philip, "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." (Joh 14:9) When he saw Adam’s race suffering and dying under the heel of Satan, his heart went out to them. He demonstrated his great love by volunteering to be the redeemer, the ransomer. It was the greatest love that could possibly be demonstrated because we read, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) When Jesus became a man, his every act was characterized by love and compassion, just like his heavenly Father.

"But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd."—Mt 9:36

He demonstrated his love by giving lavishly of his strength and vitality, healing all their diseases.

But there are different degrees of love. For example, as members of the Little Flock, we love the world of mankind in general. It must be so because we are looking forward to blessing them in the millennial kingdom. We long for those times of restitution to fully come—times when we can give life and health to the people of the world. But we love the members of our earthly families more than we love the world, do we not? It is only natural that we should do so. If we are obedient to the—command, we also love our enemies. But of course we do not love our enemies as much as we love our brethren in

Christ. So although Jesus had compassion on the multitude, the lame, the halt and the blind, and his heart of love went out to them in miracles of healing, yet he loved his—disciples more. He prized them highly. He thanked God for them:"Thine they were, and thou gavest them me." (Joh 17:6) This, too, is only natural.

Love intensifies love. The multitude had regard for Jesus, but only because of the material benefits they received. As—Jesus himself said when they thought to take him by force to make him a king:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you :Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled."—Joh 6:26

His disciples were different. They loved him for himself, because of his message, because of his gracious words, because he came from and represented the heavenly Father, and because of his personal goodness. As to material benefits, the disciples left more than they got. As Peter expressed it:"Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee." (Mt 19:27) So it is natural that Jesus would love them more than the others.

Jesus Could Read the Heart

Let us go one step further. Jesus was extremely perceptive. He could read men’s minds. He knew what they were inside—their characters and heart’s desires were an open book to him. He could see and measure their degree of love for him. In regard to their love for him some of his disciples were more noble than others. Jesus knew it and reciprocated. He loved some of his disciples more than others. John, for example, is frequently referred to as "the disciple whom Jesus loved."

There were other disciples whom Jesus especially loved:"Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister [who was Mary], and Lazarus." (Joh 11:5) Why did Jesus love them especially? Probably because they loved him especially. They loved to have Jesus in their home and he was a frequent guest there. Jesus greatly appreciated their hospitality. He had no home of his own:"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." (Lu 9:58) He wandered from place to place in his ministry, without a home.

Once he had returned to his childhood home in Nazareth. This was the only real earthly home he had known. As he neared it he must have had some feelings as he saw the house he had lived in as a boy.

—Perhaps he hoped to rest there for a while among old friends, perhaps in the very room he had occupied as a child. But what happened? His home-town people tried to throw him headlong over a cliff! The—account is found in Lu 4:16 to 30. That wasn’t much of a home. In other places when he entered into a house, the people crowded in after him so there was no room to move around, much less rest. There is an account in Mark chapter 2 about such an incident. The doorways of the house were so jammed that a man with the palsy could not be brought to Jesus to be healed. They finally removed the roof tiles to let down the bed upon which the sick man lay so Jesus could heal him.

When Jesus was in the vicinity of Jerusalem in the evening after his work was done, he used to slip away from the multitudes and walk about two miles from Jerusalem to the quiet little village of Bethany, to the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, where he was assured of a warm and hearty welcome, where he could eat, rest, relax and restore his strength. This was the closest he came to a home of his own on this earth.

On one occasion when Jesus was teaching in Jerusalem, he walked through that part of the temple called Solomon’s Porch.

"Then came the Jews about him and said unto him :How long dost thou make us to doubt [or, hold us in suspense]? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly."—Joh 10:24

That sounds like a sincere and innocent question. To the casual reader, the implication is:"Tell us plainly that you are the Christ, the Messiah, and we will accept you, and follow you." Ah, but there’s something wrong here. Notice that they came "round about" him; they made a ring around him, they surrounded him. If they had come to him with a sincere desire to hear and learn, they would have stood before him. They would have faced him. Jesus immediately sensed that they had violence in mind and that the question they asked was designed to provide an excuse for it. He did not show the slightest fear, but—answered them plainly, saying that he was indeed the Son of God. He even said, "I and my Father are one." (v. 30) This is what they were waiting to hear him say! This was blasphemy! Then, suddenly, an astonishing thing happened :there was a stone in the hand of each Jew who surrounded Jesus.

Let us remember that this was in the temple at Jerusalem, the very center of Jewish worship. It was a revered and holy place. They were in that part of the temple called Solomon’s Porch, a very special place in the temple. We read in 1Ch 28:11 that David himself had designed this porch and had given the pattern to Solomon to incorporate in the temple plan. Do you suppose there were a lot of stones lying around on the floor in such a place as that, stones the Jews could stoop down and pick up? You see what was happening.

This was premeditated murder. Each of those men had brought a stone with him, concealed upon his person, with the express object of killing Jesus. Jesus looked around at them, and what he said next showed his contempt for them. He calmly reiterated that God was his Father:

"Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father. For which of these works do you stone me? The Jews answered him saying :For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God."—Joh 10:32, 33

Then Jesus completely exploded their accusation of blasphemy by pointing out that in their law, even their human judges, or rulers of old, are called gods:

"Thou shalt not revile the gods [margin, judges] nor curse the ruler of thy people."—Ex 22:28

But of course they had not come to reason, they had come to kill.

The stones were raised and in the next instant they would have been cast. But something happened. Their arms did not function and they fell back as Jesus calmly walked through their midst. The Diaglott says that "He went forth out of their hand." (v. 39) Jesus knew they would try again to stone him. Since his time had not yet come, he left Jerusalem to teach elsewhere. He and his disciples journeyed to the far region beyond Jordan where John the Baptist had first preached. The scripture says, "Many believed on him there." (v. 42) This is where Jesus was when Lazarus the brother of Martha and Mary took sick. The account is found in John chapter 11. We read:

"Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold he whom thou lovest is sick." This was no ordinary sickness. It was serious enough for Mary and Martha to be very worried. They had to be to send someone about two days journey to ask Jesus to interrupt his ministry and return to Bethany. They expected, of course, that Jesus would come immediately because they knew he loved Lazarus very much. But Jesus remained where he was until Lazarus died. When he finally returned to Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days.

When Jesus approached their home, Martha came out to meet him and said:"Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died."

Then Mary also came to Jesus, fell down at his feet, and said:"Lord if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died."

This affected Jesus very deeply, to see those whom he especially loved so sad and stricken. Lazarus was dead, Mary and Martha were weeping, overwhelmed with deepest grief, and he loved them all so dearly. "Jesus wept." Perhaps this is one of the scenes that Isaiah saw centuries—before in prophetic vision when he wrote:"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." (Isa 53:4) This was a demonstration that human griefs and sorrows do touch Jesus’ heart. He takes them to heart. He feels them! They become his own.

He does something about it. The magnificent display of God’s power

with which he then raised Lazarus from the dead, the way he instantly changed the sorrow and weeping of Mary and Martha into joy, illustrates and foretells how he will, in due time, use the merit of his ransom sacrifice in a great resurrection, turning the present night of weeping into a morning of joy. This is what the psalmist saw when he wrote:"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." (Ps 30:5)

Lessons for Us

There are further lessons we can learn from this incident. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he did not immediately come; he stayed away until Lazarus died. Sometimes we reach a serious crisis in our lives, something we cannot handle by ourselves. We go to the Lord urgently asking for help just as Mary and Martha who sent for Jesus to come. Sometimes the Lord does not respond as quickly as we think he should. In fact, a response may be withheld until, as far as we can see, it is too late. The damage has been done. Lazarus dies, so to speak, and nothing is more final than death. Then we despair.

Although we may not reproach God, we do say, in effect and with aching heart:"Lord, if only you had done something faster!" It is like Mary and Martha who said, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died!" However, Jesus’ —delay in returning to Bethany resulted in a much more glorious demonstration of power than a mere healing. An unheard-of thing happened! The grim finality of death was shattered:"He that was dead, came forth!" So with us. When our prayers are not answered, we sometimes think in our human wisdom that all is lost, that the—results are so final, that it is too late for—anything to be done. But it is in just such—

"impossible" situations that God often gives his more glorious demonstrations of power, raising dead hopes to newness of life and turning the deepest sorrow into the greatest joy.

It was after this incident of raising Lazarus from the dead that the chief priests and the Pharisees held a council and condemned Jesus to death in absentia. Their problem was to catch him. We read:

"Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews, but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples."—Joh 11:54

But the chief priests and Pharisees had a plan. The time for the Jewish Passover was near and they knew it was Jesus’ custom to celebrate the feast in Jerusalem with his disciples. So they set out spies in the temple and elsewhere, probably with a promise of reward, to let them know when Jesus appeared:

"Then they sought Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple :What think ye; that he will not come to the feast? Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that if any man knew where he was, he should show it, that they might take him."—Joh 11:56, 57

They were right. Jesus did intend to keep the Passover at Jerusalem.

After leaving Ephraim, he approached Jerusalem several days before the Passover. He knew he was about to die. He knew the Jews would take him, that he would suffer, that he would be crucified.

Knowing this, where do you suppose he would want to spend some of his last hours on earth? I think you can guess it.

Skirting Jerusalem, Jesus, accompanied by a few disciples, came to Bethany in the evening, to the home of those whom he loved and who loved him—to the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. What a warm and hearty welcome he must have received! "Master, we have missed you so much. You must be tired and hungry. Here is water for washing the dust of the road. Rest yourself until supper is ready."

The supper was soon prepared and served. We read:

"Then Jesus, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.

There they made him a supper, and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him."—Joh 12:1, 2

Martha was serving, but where was Mary? Jesus must have remembered a similar—occasion in the past when he had supped here before. That time also, Martha served but Mary sat at his feet, hearing his every word. Martha had come to him then, saying, somewhat impatiently:

"Dost thou not care, that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her, therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her. Martha, Martha; thou art anxious about many things; but one thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."—Lu 10:38-42

Both women loved Jesus, but they manifested their love differently.

Jesus did not disapprove of Martha and her carefulness as a cook in providing for his comfort, but he especially appreciated the spirit of Mary, a spirit that drew her to his feet to hear his every word. What gracious words, what wonderful words they were! They were wonderful words of life! What a privilege it was to hear the words of God directly from the mouth of the Son of God! In her fascination with the heavenly conversation of Jesus, Mary had forgotten about the need for the preparation of material food. In this, her spirit reflected that of Jesus after he had fasted for 40 days. He said:"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Mt 4:4) The same thought is expressed by Job: "I have esteemed the words of his mouth, more than my necessary food." (Job 23:12) Mary was just as hungry for the words

of Jesus as a starving man is for bread, and Jesus loved her for it.

Jeremiah felt the same way:

"Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart."—Jer 15:16

Jesus must have fondly remembered that previous occasion. Now he was once again at supper in the same home in Bethany. Once again, loving and faithful Martha was serving alone. Where was Mary, the one who loved to sit at his feet and hear his word? Martha must have known where Mary was, that she had gone to get something very special, because this time Martha did not come to Jesus, demanding that Mary help her with the work. Then, as Jesus and his disciples and Lazarus were at the table, Mary quietly entered the room.

Mary Anoints Jesus

Let us try to visualize the scene. It was the custom in those days to eat at a low table in a half-reclining position, with the feet drawn up, on mats or couches arranged around the table. Mary came up behind Jesus holding a beautiful alabaster box in her hands. She quickly broke the seal and poured the contents of very precious perfume, first upon Jesus head, then upon his feet. Kneeling down, she began to wipe Jesus’ feet with her hair. The whole house was filled with the delightful fragrance of the perfume. The account is found in Matthew chapter 26, Mark chapter 14, and John chapter 12. It was not a tiny vial of perfume that Mary poured upon Jesus. John says it was a whole pound of spikenard. Spikenard is an essence derived from a rare and aromatic root. It would take an enormous quantity of this root to yield a pound of essence. Perfume of spikenard was so costly in ancient times that it was reserved for use only by kings, princes and other nobility. It was prepared in a manner similar to attar of roses, which was—another perfume made in ancient times.

My encyclopedia says it took 100, 000 roses to produce only 180 grains, or less than half an ounce of attar of roses. 100, 000 roses, arranged side by side, would extend almost five miles and would weigh over three tons. Such a quantity of roses after laborious treatment and distillation would yield only half an ounce of perfume. Mary poured a whole pound of spikenard on Jesus. That’s why Matthew and Mark call it "very precious"; John calls it "very costly."

Now we can better understand the reaction of the disciples to this act of Mary:

"Then said one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for 300 pence and given to the poor? This was said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief and had the bag, and bare what was put therein."—Joh 12:4-6

Although Judas had an ulterior motive, the others were swayed by him and immediately agreed. Matthew says:"But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying :To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor." Mark reports:"Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than 300 pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her."

In those days a penny was a day’s wages for a man. (Mt 20:2) Ignoring the Sabbaths and other holy days when no work was done, 300 pence was a year’s wages at that time. How much is a year’s wages today? This alabaster box of perfume must have been either an heirloom that had been handed down in Mary’s family, or else the result of Mary’s own labors over a long period of time. It was apparently not purchased for the occasion because if it had, Judas would have deplored spending the money in the first place. Instead he suggested its sale for 300 pence. Judas, the thief, had probably known of its existence and had his eye on it for some time. He undoubtedly expected Mary would eventually sell it and donate the money for Jesus ministry. Then he would have it because Judas had charge of the treasury. The Diaglott says he "stole what things were deposited in it." He had apparently gone to the trouble of having the alabaster box appraised. How else could he quote an exact figure of 300 pence so readily? He was terribly disappointed when Mary poured out the perfume on—Jesus.

We can see what a lavish act of love this represented on Mary’s part.

She loved Jesus with her whole heart; nothing was too good for her beloved. She freely poured out to him her most precious possession and then, lest her act be construed as containing any element of pride or vanity, she knelt down and with her hair, her crowning glory, she humbly wiped his feet.

I think we can guess what was going through Jesus’ mind just before Mary did this beautiful thing. During the last few days, Jesus had been trying to tell his disciples that he was going to leave them—that he would go to Jerusalem, be delivered into the hands of the Jews, be tormented and crucified, and return to his Father in heaven. But they wouldn’t believe him.

"From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples how he must go into Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee."—Mt 16:21, 22

They just didn’t understand. Had they—understood and believed he would be with them just a few days longer, how different their attitude would be! How they would prize the last few hours of his presence! How lovingly and carefully would they listen to his last words. He had so much to tell then before his death. He yearned to tell them many things. But no. When he referred to his death, they thought he spoke in parables. "Be it far from thee, Lord, " they said.

They didn’t understand. There was no one on earth that understood.

These must have been the thoughts of Jesus at the supper table there in Bethany that night. They were sad, lonely and disappointed thoughts. It was then that Mary came up behind him with her precious alabaster box of spikenard. So rare was this perfume that emperors and kings used it sparingly. But so full was Mary’s love that she lavished a whole pound on one anointing of Jesus; and, by so doing, proclaimed him to be above all the emperors and kings of the earth—to be King of Kings and Lord of Lords! How refreshing it was to the spirit of Jesus! What lift and buoyancy of spirit it gave him! He took it, as well he might, as a sign from heaven that all was well and would be well. Mary’s act was the act of an angel, ministering to him.

Then, suddenly, a clamor broke out all around. Carping, criticizing voices arose. "What a waste!" "Why was not this ointment sold and the money given to the poor?" "This woman has no regard for the poor!" "Lord, rebuke her! She has thrown away 300 pence!" It was the disciples of Jesus, incited by Judas. Instead of commending, they condemned. They spoke as though, by this tender act, Mary had been guilty of a great sin. Mary was hurt and humiliated. Tears came to her eyes and she bowed her head in shame. Jesus turned and laid his hand softly, with a blessing, on Mary’s head. Turning to his disciples he said:

"Why do you criticize her? Let her alone. She has done a wonderful thing for me. Without realizing it, she has poured this ointment on me before my death; but really to prepare my body for burial. The poor ye have always with you; but me ye have not always. I have been telling you of my impending death, but me ye have not understood. She hath done what she could, and this is such a wonderful act of love, and devotion, THAT I WANT ALL AGES AND GENERATIONS to know about it. Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached, in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her."

Do you realize what this means, what a wide publication this implies? Jesus said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world , for a witness unto all nations." (Mt 24:14) That is how widely he wanted this incident related.

Thus, Jesus rebuked the attitude of the disciples, impressing on them that there are things far more important than money. They humbly took his rebuke and were ashamed—all, that is, except one. In the next verses after this narrative, we read:

"Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot went unto the chief priests, and said unto them :What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him, for thirty pieces of silver."—Mt 26:14, 15

This event at Bethany had been the last straw for Judas. He had been following Jesus for his own personal enrichment, systematically stealing from the treasury of the group. Now Jesus was apparently encouraging his followers to dissipate their resources and the money would no longer fall into his hands. Jesus had plainly said he was going to die. Judas knew that the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees had offered a reward for anyone betraying Jesus into their hands. To the perverted and twisted mind of Judas, it was but a natural decision; he may as well have their money as anyone else.

Mary’s act of devotion with the alabaster box had touched Jesus’ heart as nothing else had done, so he commanded that it be brought to the remembrance of all to whom the gospel is preached. But there are other reasons too, for remembering and considering this episode.

There are precious lessons to be learned and much encouragement to be derived from doing so. Let us now consider some of them.

Lessons from Mary’s Act

Whenever Mary was in the presence of—Jesus, she forgot everything else except to listen to his words, to learn of Him. When Martha protested that Mary was not helping her serve, Jesus implied that what Mary was doing was good, and was also important. "Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her, " he said. (Lu 10:42)

The lesson is that the Lord does not condemn those who, lacking the ability and opportunity for prominent service, simply sit at the feet of Jesus and hear his word. Neither should we be critical of such. It has been suggested that Martha was not concerned merely with her cooking, but also in the niceties of hospitality which in our Lord’s and Mary’s estimation were not important compared with the words Jesus had to say. This could be implied from what Jesus said to her:"Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things."—Lu 10:41> What did the very precious ointment or perfume, which Mary lavishly poured upon the head and feet of Jesus signify? I think the primary significance is love, pure, fervent love. "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of a man’s friend." (Pr 27:9) "A friend loveth at all times." (Pr 17:17) This is what Mary demonstrated.

In the highly figurative language of the Hebrews, the sensing of an aroma is used to denote the perception of a moral quality in another.

Thus, God is said to "smell a sweet odor" from a sacrifice to signify he perceives with pleasure the good disposition which the offerer expressed by such an act of worship. (See Diaglott, page 656) David expresses a similar meaning:

"Let my prayer be set before thee as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice."—Ps 141:2

The fervent, sincere prayer of the heart is to God a sweet savor. This is confirmed in Revelation which speaks of "golden vials, full of odors [or perfume], which are the prayers of saints." (Re 5:8) Mary first poured the perfume upon the head of Jesus. Our love and adoration is primarily to our head, Christ Jesus, the head of the body of Christ. Our sacrifices which rise as a sweet odor before God are acceptable because of him. Our prayers are heard, because they are made in his name.

Then Mary poured the perfume upon the feet of Jesus. This refers to the "feet members" of the body of Christ mentioned by Isaiah:

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him, that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!"—Isa 52:7

These are the ones who today are preaching "good tidings, " good news, happy news; not the news of pointless slaughter nor universal Second Death. These are they who "publish peace" and "bring good tidings of good." They tell of a time of trouble, but emphasize the enduring peace to follow, the good tidings of God’s kingdom on earth. These are they who "publish salvation, " the pure, unadulterated doctrine of a ransom for all, together with the blessing of all mankind. These are they who "say unto Zion, Thy God reigneth, " who see and preach the presence of Christ, the great King.

These are our brethren, those of "like precious faith, " fellow- members of the Body of Christ. Just as Mary poured the very costly perfume upon the feet of Jesus, we should love and serve our brethren lavishly with the same love and service we render our Head, because of this principle:

"As ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."—Mt 25:40

John says in his account that after Mary anointed the feet of Jesus she wiped his feet with her hair. What was the result? You may be

sure that this caused her hair to be thoroughly perfumed. Blessings given bring blessings in return. This is a law of God.

"There is he that scattereth, and yet increaseth. . . . The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."—Pr 11:24, 25

"He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given, will he pay him again."—Pr 19:17

Can you imagine lending to the Lord? This means if you do a service to one who cannot repay you, and you do it without any hope or expectation of repayment, the Lord considers it as lending to Him!

He will open the windows of heaven to such, pouring out spiritual blessings in return. There is even some evidence that the Lord often makes it up to them in temporal matters as well.

It is written of this act of Mary:"And the house was filled with the odor of the ointment." The house of God is his Church; and the costly sacrifices of the Mary-like members bring sweet and savory blessings upon all God’s household. For example, there are ecclesias and individuals who produce truth literature such as reprints, volumes, booklets, tracts; others put on—radio and television programs, here and abroad, and make audio tapes; others—perform other services. Like Mary’s spikenard permeating the house with a delightful fragrance, these efforts permeate the House of God far and wide. There is no competition in the Lord’s service:"Go ye also into the vineyard, " the Lord said.

Devotion to God Is Not a Waste

"What a waste!" they said when Mary’s sacrifice was poured out.

"What a waste!" our worldly relatives and friends say when we consecrate our all to God :our time, our talents, our energies, our resources, everything. Ah, but as Jesus said, "The poor ye have always with you; but me ye have not always." There will always be the poor heathen, and other unbelievers, until the Kingdom has done its work. But the body of Christ will not always be here. "Me ye have not always, " Jesus said. "The last members of my Church will soon be glorified. So lavish your love and service upon these, while you have the opportunity."

Some of the disciples were critical of Mary’s generous act and some of the Lord’s people today react the same way. They tell the humble Marys of today:"Do not break the seal of your alabaster box. Do not give too generously of your time, talents and means to the friends.

You will only impoverish yourself. You will ruin your health. Hold back." But Jesus said: " Let her alone! She hath wrought a good work upon me." Just as Jesus deeply loved Mary of Bethany, you

may be sure he loves the Marys of today as well. Regarding Mary of Bethany Bro. Russell says:

"Not only was the Lord willing that the matter should be told for a memorial of Mary, but we may safely conclude that in the everlasting future, Mary will be ranked very high amongst the faithful followers of the Lord. She may not be one with the apostles, upon the twelve thrones of Israel, but we may be sure that she will have some grand, some honorable place, near to the one she loved, and for whom she showed her devotion."—Reprints, page 3878.

I think he is absolutely right.

"Our Baptism Into Christ"

THE disciples of Jesus loved him very much, being constantly with him during the three-and-one-half years of his ministry. They had been—personal witnesses of his great compassion and loving kindness demonstrated by his many miracles of healing as well as the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. They had never seen anyone like this before. They knew he was indeed the Messiah; they adored him. They had given up everything for his sake and in exchange for this, Jesus had made them a wonderful promise. We read:

"Then answered Peter, and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all and followed thee. What shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily, I say unto you, that ye which have followed me; in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory; ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."—Mt 19:27, 28

He thus promised that they would be a part of his glorious kingdom which would regenerate the world, that they would reign with him and inherit everlasting life.

Now the time neared when Jesus must be offered up as a ransom on a fixed date pre-determined by prophecy. So he turned his steps toward Jerusalem for this purpose. When his disciples saw where he was heading, they were surprised and frightened, because they knew of the vicious opposition of the Scribes and Pharisees and the personal physical danger Jesus would be faced with in Jerusalem. Jesus knew their thoughts so he took them aside and talked to them, telling them exactly what was going to happen to him. He was very frank and did not gloss over anything. We read from the account in Mark:

"And they were in the way, going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them; and they were amazed, and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and—began to tell them what things should happen unto him. Saying, behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles; and they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him, and the third day he shall rise again."—Mr 10:32-34

At this point his disciples, James and John, apparently realized the import of what Jesus told them. If he was going to rise again from the dead, he would be glorified. They presumed he would immediately set up his glorious kingdom so they spoke up and asked him if he would grant them a special favor. We continue the reading:

"And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us, whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, what would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask. Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? And be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can."—Mr 10:35-39

They said this without hesitation. Jesus looked at them. He loved these two disciples so young, impulsive, and enthusiastic, these brothers whom he fondly referred to as "sons of thunder." (Mr 3:17) As he looked at them, his prophetic mind leaped years ahead, and what he saw saddened him. James would be the first of the apostles to die, hanged against a pillar by Herod Agrippa. His brother John, the disciple whom he especially loved, would not be so fortunate. After a long imprisonment on a stony island of Patmos, he would suffer martyrdom by frightful torture. Jesus’ heart filled with compassion for them:"And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I shall drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized with, shall ye be baptized."

When James and John said, "We can, " they knew what was involved, that it was some kind of death. Jesus had just been telling them of his coming ordeal of suffering and of death. They understood perfectly that this was the "cup" he referred to, that this was the baptism he was talking about. Yet they unhesitatingly said, in effect, "Yes, Lord, we have a desire to do the entire thing whatever it may be."

They were fully devoted to the Lord to do his will. They would be willing to do anything. Their association with Jesus had given them such an appreciation of the kingdom he preached and such confidence in their Lord that whatever he was about to do, they were willing to do. "We can, " they said. Or, as Matthew has it, "We are able."

Jesus’ Baptism by John

Consider the circumstances of Jesus’ baptism by John in the river Jordan. Of John it is written:

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness; prepare ye the way of the Lord; make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him, all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins."—Mr 1:3, 5

John prepared the way of the Lord. He said:

"There standeth one among you, whom ye know not. He it is who, coming after me, is preferred before me; whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose."—Joh 1:26, 27

John preached that the time for Messiah to appear was at hand.

When the invitation to come into the real kingdom of God would be given, he exhorted the people to get ready for this event; otherwise they would not be prepared to receive Messiah.

The people washed away their own sins typically by acknowledging them and repenting of them. John the Baptist did not wash their sins away. Those of Israel who had not been living in harmony with their Law Covenant but heard John gladly and turned from sin, were the very ones to whom the message respecting the coming Messiah appealed. Thus they became "Israelites indeed, in whom there was no guile, " as was Nathanael. (Joh 1:47) This washing away of sins was not actual cleansing from guilt; only the blood of Jesus, the merit of his ransom sacrifice, could actually take away sin. Reprints, page 5962.

But it "prepared the way of the Lord." It prepared the minds of the people. It generated a consciousness of sin, and emphasized the need of a Savior. It prepared the people to accept Jesus as their Messiah when he appeared.

One day as John was waist deep in the water of Jordan busily immersing all who came to him, he looked up and saw a strikingly handsome young man striding toward him. Suddenly, by some inner prompting, he knew who it was! Greatly elated he pointed to Jesus and loudly announced for all to hear:

"Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!

This is he of whom I said, after me cometh a man who is preferred before me; for he was before me. And I knew him not; but that he should be made manifest to Israel! Therefore am I come baptizing with water."—Joh 1:29-31

John quickly went up to Jesus on the bank. "Why do you come to me?" John asked. "To be baptized, " Jesus answered. "I couldn’t do that, " John said. "My baptism is for the repentance and remission of sins. You have no sin! You are the Son of God, you should baptize me instead." Then we read, "And Jesus answering said :Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." In other words, "You may not now understand why but my immersion will fulfill a good and righteous purpose." Then John consented and led Jesus into the water. We can imagine that John omitted his usual exhortation to renounce sin and silently immersed Jesus. As Jesus went down into the water it is entirely possible he prayed to his Heavenly Father with the words of Psalm 40:

"Lo, I come in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God! Yea, thy law is within my heart!"—Ps 40:7, 8

Now what was the special significance of this immersion of Jesus? He had no sins to wash away. He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." (Heb 7:26) Although immersed by John his—immersion was different from the others. What did it signify? In the case of Jesus, immersion was a symbol, a symbol of his consecration to the will of God. What was the will of God? Jesus knew what it was from the prophecies. He was familiar with the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. He knew the prophet referred to him when he said:

"He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter." Hadn’t John just called him a lamb? He knew that Isaiah had also prophesied of him:"Who shall declare his generation? For he was cut out of the land of the living. For the transgression of my people was he stricken." He also knew he was the one referred to in the—passage:"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin." He was very familiar with verses 11 and 12 with which he identified himself:

"He shall see the travail of his soul, and be—satisfied. By his knowledge shall my righteous—servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide the spoil with the strong.

Because he hath poured out his soul unto death. And he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

Thus Jesus knew that the will of God for him was death—a sacrificial death, the death of his sinless humanity to provide a ransom price for Adam. He knew what was written of him, "In the volume of the book." So his consecration to the will of God was a consecration unto death. This is what he symbolized when he permitted John to immerse him in water.

Baptism as a Symbol

What an appropriate symbol it was. Going down into the water and being completely covered by it represented death and the grave.

Being raised up out of the water—pictured a resurrection from the dead which the prophecies also indicated. So for Jesus this was merely a symbol of the real baptism. His real baptism into death progressed for three and one-half years, from Jordan to Calvary.

When he cried on the cross, "It is finished, " he meant that his baptism into death was completed. This is what he had anticipated when he said, "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am straitened till it be accomplished." (Lu 12:50) This is what he had referred to when he asked the sons of Zebedee, "Are ye able to drink

of the cup that I shall drink of, and be baptized with the baptism what I am baptized with?" (Mt 20:22) In other words, "Are you willing to follow in my footsteps :to die with me, that you may live with me?" "Yes, " they answered, "we can, we are able, we are willing."

It was later that Paul echoed their—answer:"It is a faithful saying, For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him." (2Ti 2:11) He also wrote:

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; That like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection."—Ro 6:3-5

What did Paul mean when he said, "We also should walk in newness of life"? The Diaglott renders it, "We should walk in a new life." The answer is very concisely given by Paul:

"Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a New Creature. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."—2Co 5:17

When John raised Jesus up out of the water, a wonderful thing happened. Matthew’s account reads:

"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:and lo, the heavens were opened unto him; and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him, and lo, a voice from heaven saying :This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."—Mt 3:16, 17

At that instant Jesus became a new creature. He was consecrated; now he was spirit begotten.

Our Consecration

Let us talk about our consecration of which immersion is only a symbol. First, we might say that consecration has always been proper. It is the normal attitude of all God’s intelligent creatures.

They are all under obligation to God for every blessing they enjoy, for life itself. Consecration is only their reasonable service to their creator and benefactor. This is the minimal expectation. The whole world of mankind will be given the opportunity of consecration eventually. It is written that they shall "all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent."—Zep 3:9

Without consecration no one will ever gain everlasting life on any plane. Whether angels or man, all should be in this attitude. But the consecration we are talking about today is more than this. It goes immeasurably further than this. Its object is much more sublime. It leads not merely to everlasting life, but to glory, honor, and immortality! It leads to the divine nature. It is an induction into the mystical body of Christ. As Paul tells us:

"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many are one body, so also is Christ. For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body."—1Co 12:12

The holy spirit which descended upon the head of Jesus at Jordan comes down and anoints and imbues each member of his body. As Ps 133:2 expresses it, "It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard; that went down to the skirts of his garments!"

The ointment covered his body. By this consecration, by this justification, and by spirit-begettal, we become members of the most unique and exclusive group in the history of the universe. This is not a group whose names are known and recorded on earth but a

"Church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven." (Heb 12:23) One hundred and forty four thousand kings and priests who together with their head, Christ Jesus, will rule the world for a thousand years, speak peace to the nations, restore health and life, and bring all the willing and obedient into perfect harmony with God. What a tremendous honor it is to be of this group. How do we ever aspire to it? We cannot of ourselves. We do not choose to be of this body. We are chosen! We read, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." (Joh 15:16) Also, "No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." (Heb 5:4) This confirms what Jesus said:

"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. No man can come to me except the Father who hath sent me, draw him."—Joh 6:37, 44

Do you fully realize what this means? It means that every one of you who have come to Jesus have been personally selected by God himself, for we read:"The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him." —2Ch 16:9

Think of it :the eyes of God the Father move back and forth in the earth, passing by many great, wise, and noble people and fix upon you! He does not look upon your outward appearance but looks at your heart. 1Sa 16:7 is a companion text of thought. God likes what he sees. He sees a heart of love and devotion to him and a

desire to do his will. He also sees certain potentialities there. He sees that you have the willingness and the ability, with his abundant grace to help, to conform yourself to the likeness of his son, to give up your own desires, aims, and ambitions and follow in the footsteps of Jesus; that you "are able" in the language of James and John. He then draws you to Jesus. He points you out. He tells Jesus about you, that he has selected you as a member of Christ’s body to be sacrificed with him, to die with him that you might reign with him.

Do you see what a wonderful thing this is, to be personally noticed and selected from among so many millions by the great God himself, to be led to Jesus, to be consecrated and justified? What great mercies of God these are!

To those who are so selected of God, the ones who are also drawn of God, Paul says:

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice; holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."—Ro 12:1

When we present our bodies it means all our human faculties, our wills, our hearts, health, strength, time, talents and possessions:

everything. This presentation of our bodies is the right thing to do, it is the reasonable thing to do, and it is a happy and joyful thing to do.

It was for Jesus:

"Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."—Heb 12:2

If it was a reasonable and joyful service for Jesus to leave the heavenly glory, to become a man, and to sacrifice himself unto death, then surely ours is most reasonable and joyful. Let us remember that our Heavenly Father did not permit Jesus to sacrifice his life for humanity without any reward of a future life. To have done so would have been a most unreasonable thing. No! The Father set before the Redeemer a great joy to be the recompense of his obedience. And Jesus entered into that joy. "I delight to do thy will, O my God, " he said. So with us. The Lord does not invite us to sacrifice ourselves at the present time without any reward from him, without any incentive. He tells us that if we do this, he will make us joint-heirs with his son, participators with him in all the joys of the kingdom.

After beseeching us to present our bodies living sacrifices, Paul continues:

"And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."—Ro 12:2

This transformation by the renewing of our minds is the development of the new creature. This is the work of sanctification which follows justification. "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification." (1Th 4:3) How is this sanctification accomplished? The answer is found in a prayer Jesus made on our behalf:"Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth." (Joh 17:17)

God’s Word Sanctifies

Everything necessary for the furtherance of our sanctification and development as new creatures is in the inspired scriptures. In 2

Timothy 3:16 Paul writes:"All scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable; for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." Then Paul adds:"That the man of God [or new creature] may be perfect [or complete], thoroughly furnished unto all good works." This is the key as to how this work of sanctification will proceed. We are to be helped onward by the power of the revealed word, by the message of truth. "But, " you may ask, "how will God’s Word sanctify? Has everyone who has ever read the Bible been sanctified? Have the learned scholars who translated the Bible been sanctified? Have the monks, confined in monasteries, who copied the ancient Bible manuscripts been sanctified? Have the printers who set the type for our modern Bibles been sanctified?"

Some few of these may have been but I am sure most were not. Why not since Jesus promised sanctification through the word of truth? There must be a missing ingredient somewhere. There is indeed!

Jesus referred to it many times when he gave his parables. He said,

"He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Then our Lord added when speaking to his disciples:"It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; but to them it is not given."

What makes the difference between "you" and "them"? What do you have that they do not have? Paul gives us the answer:

"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; neither have entered into the heart of man; the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

But God hath revealed them unto us, by His Spirit; for the spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."—1Co 2:9, 10

It is the holy spirit that is what is missing from all others. Without it the scriptures may indeed be valued as an ancient historical record; a compendium of laws and statutes, a collection of fascinating stories, teaching lofty moral precepts. But without the holy spirit it contains

no message from God, no revelation. The essence of the scriptures cannot be extracted and appreciated, cannot sanctify us, without the holy spirit.

Things Are Not Necessarily What They Seem

Consider a phonograph record. Given to a savage, a phonograph record may be highly appreciated and greatly prized because it is a disc made of a shiny, black, ebony-like substance. It is perfectly round, beautifully designed with a colorful seal in its center containing characters inscribed upon it. It has mysteriously engraved grooves on either side which give a peculiar sensation to the touch. It has a hole in its center by which it can be strung around one’s neck as a magical charm. This is the limit of a savage’s appreciation of a phonograph record.

Let us suppose he has possessed it for many years. Although it is valuable to him, he has no conception of its full potential. One day a missionary arrives with a phonograph machine. Seeing the record hanging from the neck of the savage, he asks:"Do you know what you have there?" With great pride the savage describes the various unique and ornamental features of the record. Then the missionary takes the record, places it upon the phonograph turntable, puts the needle in the groove and magnificent music fills the air! Beautiful voices, recorded years and years before, come alive and are heard in all their glory

Do you see the application of this—picture? When the phonograph record was made, a diamond stylus cut those grooves. Similarly the Bible was written long ago by holy men of God as they were moved by the holy spirit. (2Pe 1:21) All the glorious music of God was recorded by that spirit. The Bible is the original high-fidelity recording of God’s supreme greatness, his mercies, his loving attributes, his magnificent divine plan of the ages. It also has his exceeding great and precious promises, his counsel with his encouragements, and expressions of his love and care. These are all recorded by the spirit in the Bible. But as far as the world is concerned, like the savage with a record in his possession, the deep things hidden in the grooves of the record are inaudible. The world does not have "ears to hear." But when one has the diamond needle of the holy spirit, the very same holy spirit that moved the writers to make the record, the scriptures come beautifully and magnificently alive. Then are made manifest the deep things of God which Paul describes:

"Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is, made manifest to the saints."—Col 1:26

At this end of the age we once again have the truth "which was hid from ages and generations" and which by Satan’s devices, was largely lost during the Dark Ages and the passing generations. It has been made manifest to us, his saints. How was it restored and by what instrumentality? When the due time came at this end of the age, the details of God’s glorious divine plan of the ages, hidden for so long, were made manifest to a saint of the Lord, a saint of God, a faithful and wise servant, Brother Russell. He was consecrated and spirit begotten. He was ready, able and willing to be used of the Lord to revive the old truths. He was faithfully watching, anxious to dispense meat in due season to the household of faith. Jesus said of him, "Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing." (Lu 12:43) His mind was, in the language of the prophet:

"I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower; and will watch to see what he will say unto me. . . . And the Lord answered me, and said, write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it [meaning he that reads it may run for the prize of the high calling]."—Hab 2:1, 2

That is how I got the truth and how you got the truth, the whole truth, entirely and only through the writings of that servant. When we came into the truth, we proved all things and found them sound and good. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be in the truth now. The apostle in 1Th 5:21 tells us to do just that. But he also tells us something else which some are inclined to ignore. Paul first says,

"Prove all things." Then he adds, "Hold fast that which is good."

Once you’ve proven the truth to your thorough satisfaction, hold on to it; never let it go. Don’t keep questioning it and feel that you have to prove it over and over again. Don’t be like those who are "ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2

Timothy 3:7) If you have found the truth and found it good, hold it.

Keep it. It is the most precious thing in the world. Do not change it.

The wise man says, "My son, fear thou the Lord and the King. And meddle not with them that are given to change." (Pr 24:21) I recommend reading the six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures regularly, so many pages a day. I do. This will keep me in the truth. I agree with Brother Russell when he says in the first paragraph of the first volume:

"We believe the teachings of divine revelation can be seen to be both beautiful and harmonious, from this standpoint and from no other."

You Have a Personal Relationship with the Father

Jesus spoke five words which are precious and thrilling beyond measure:"The Father himself loveth you." (Joh 16:27) This ties in with the words:"No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him." (Joh 6:44) This identifies you. So it is to you Jesus spoke when he said, "The Father himself loveth you." Do you fully realize what this means? It means that the heavenly Father doesn’t just give impersonal orders to his angels to take care of you and then busy himself with more important affairs. He doesn’t delegate your care and well being to others. No, he himself, personally knows you and loves you and has selected you. He takes a continuous and personal interest in all your affairs, even the smallest matters. This is what Jesus meant when he said, "The very hairs of your head are all numbered." (Mt 10:30) The great God of the universe, the Creator of heaven and earth, himself loveth you. So talk to the Lord often. Lay all your problems before him, and also your love and joys. Do not only tell him your troubles, but talk to him when things are going well too. Don’t be stiff and formal in these conversations. He is your Father. Talk to him freely and frankly as you would talk to your earthly father. He understands you far better and loves you far more than any earthly parent. This will please the Lord. By his loving providences he will tell you as he told Jesus, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Tell him you love him. He already knows it, of course, but tell him just the same. It will serve to remind you of the wonderful promise:"All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called—according to his purpose." (Ro 8:28)

This is a promise that nothing can really hurt you any more; that henceforth everything that happens to you is for your eternal spiritual welfare :everything, even the seeming calamities.

When you consecrate, you say good-by to fear. Jesus speaks to you and says:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."—Joh 14:27

Our Lord also said:

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."—Mt 11:29

Remember this along your Christian way :Jesus is your yokefellow.

A yoke has two sides and you are walking side-by-side with Jesus.

You are weak but he is strong. When you stumble, he bears you up.

He shares your burden. He makes up for what you cannot perform.

No wonder his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Never leave that yoke. Never take it off. You cannot stand alone. But together with Jesus, you can win the crown of life.

Consecration is not an ending, it is a beginning, the beginning of a new nature, a new creature. It is the beginning of trials and testings, yes, but also the beginning of wondrous joys and blessings.

Eventually it will culminate in pleasures for evermore at God’s right hand. (Ps 16:11)

Peace Be Still

OUR lesson today centers on the Sea of Galilee, a large fresh water lake in the land of Israel. My Bible dictionary says:"The water of the lake is sweet, cool and transparent, and, as the beach is everywhere pebbly, it has a beautiful, sparkling look. It abounds in fish now, as in ancient times."

How true this is today I do not know. I imagine that by this time it has been considerably polluted like every other lake.

The Sea of Galilee lies about 700 feet—below sea level, surrounded by a high and almost unbroken wall of hills. These hills are pierced by deep canyons and ravines which, under certain atmospheric conditions, act like gigantic funnels to draw down the cold winds from the mountains. Thus the lake is exposed to frequent and sudden violent storms. These would be particularly dangerous to boats propelled by sails or oars because the strong off-shore winds coming from every side would make it—almost impossible for such boats to reach land. A traveler who witnessed such a storm on Galilee writes:

"The sun had scarcely set when the wind began to rush down toward the lake; and it continued all night long with constantly increasing violence so that when we reached shore the next morning the face of the lake was like a huge boiling cauldron. The wind hurled down every wady, from the north-east and east, with such fury that no efforts of rowers could have brought a boat to shore at any point along that coast."

Now let us consider an incident which is related in three of the Gospels :Matthew chapter 8, Mark chapter 4 and Luke chapter 8. It was in the second year of our Lord’s ministry. A multitude had gathered to him on the shore of Galilee. He had been teaching them all day, standing in a boat anchored a few feet from shore. The boat must have belonged to one of his fisherman disciples. This was an ideal position from which to speak to a large audience. The beach sloping down to the water’s edge formed a natural amphitheater and thus all the multitude could see and hear him.

At about three in the afternoon, Jesus ended his teaching and dismissed the multitude. He then asked his disciples who were with him in the boat to take him over to the other side of the lake. Thus we read:

"And the same day, when even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over to the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude they took him, even as he was, in the ship."—Mr 4:35, 36

Jesus was very tired. Even a perfect man has his physical limitations. Healing in particular depleted his vitality, as we are told in Lu 6:19. So he went to the stern of the ship and lay down on a cushion on a sheltered bunk. He immediately fell into a deep sleep of exhaustion.

A Vicious Storm Arises

When the boat was in the middle of the lake, there suddenly arose one of the vicious storms for which Galilee is famous. The wind blew a howling gale, whipped up the water, and great waves began breaking over the side of the ship. It was impossible to row against the wind and, in spite of desperate bailing by all hands, the boat began to fill with water and threatened to founder. We read from the account:

"And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow."—Mr 4:37, 38

Although as we have seen storms of Galilee are a common natural phenomenon, I am sure this particular storm was whipped up by Satan. He was an implacable enemy of Jesus and always sought to destroy him because he knew that Jesus was the Seed of Promise who would eventually deal him a mortal blow. God had told the serpent in Eden:

"I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed. It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." —Ge 3:15

The creation of such a storm was entirely within Satan’s capability.

He is designated "the prince of the power of the air." (Eph 2:2) He had the power to manipulate atmospheric conditions to bring vicious winds down upon Galilee.

He had done this sort of thing before. He had wreaked his wrath upon Job by killing his children with a hurricane. As the messenger said to Job:

"Behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead."—Job 1:19

That storm was pretty selective. It hit only the house where Job’s children gathered. Do you see Satan’s power to maneuver and manipulate the air? So when he saw Jesus exhausted and fast asleep in that small boat in the middle of the lake, he seized his opportunity and made a brazen attempt to quickly destroy him. It would be all over in a few minutes and Jesus would be dead, or so he thought. How foolish Satan was!

He forgot that this was the one who could walk on water if he wanted to.

As the storm raged, Jesus still slept. At first the disciples did not want to awaken him. But when their best efforts failed, they ran to him. They shook him awake and shouted above the roar of the wind.

I will read what they said from each of the three accounts, because they vary somewhat:

"And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us; we perish!"—Mt 8:25

"And they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?"—Mr 4:38

"And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, Master, we perish!"—Lu 8:24

Which one of these accounts is true? I think each one is. Some said one thing and some another. They reacted differently to the situation.

Although there is no contradiction here, the differences do have significance as we shall see.

Then Jesus performed one of his most magnificent miracles. We read:

"And he arose and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, PEACE BE STILL! And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm."—Mr 4:39

Jesus Calms the Sea

Do you know what the greatest part of this miracle was? It was not so much the stopping of the wind. Wind can stop almost instantly as it sometimes does under natural conditions. The most astonishing part of the miracle was the instant calming of the sea. This could not be a natural thing. Waters which have been lashed to fury by gale winds do not quickly subside. Waves normally persist for days after a hurricane at sea. This quick calming of the sea demonstrated a tremendous supernatural power. When Jesus "said unto the sea, Peace be still!" and immediately there was a great calm, his fishermen disciples who knew the ways of the sea were astonished beyond measure. One moment they were reeling and staggering around on a flooded, pitching deck, holding on for dear life, their shouting voices drowned out by the shrieking of the storm; the next moment Jesus raised his hand, spoke a few words, and everything changed! They found themselves gliding along, in peaceful silence, on an even keel, on a glassy smooth sea! No wonder we read:

"And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"—Mr 4:41

When the disciples awakened Jesus, and expressed their fear, Jesus spoke to them before he performed this miracle. Combining the reports of Matthew, Mark and Luke, he said to them:"Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? How is it that ye have no faith? Where is your faith?" They had been with Jesus for two years. They knew he was the Son of God. They had witnessed his mighty miracles. They should have known that he could handle this situation also. By this time they should have developed an implicit faith in him. They should have felt safe with him in the boat, realizing the Heavenly Father’s protecting care over him. So it was with sorrow and disappointment that Jesus asked:"How is it, that ye have no faith?"

Jonah’s Experience

We find a similar storm at sea related in the Book of Jonah. The Lord told Jonah to go to Nineveh, but Jonah took a ship going in the opposite direction in an effort to flee from the presence of the Lord.

We read:

"But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.

Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god.

But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not."—Jon 1:4-6

The mariners finally concluded that the storm had resulted because God was displeased with someone on board. They cast lots to determine who it was and the lot fell on Jonah. Then Jonah admitted that he wa s the one at fault:

"He said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you; for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not; for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them. Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life; and lay not upon us innocent blood; for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea. And the sea ceased from her raging."—Jon 1:12- 15

Jonah did not drown in the sea. God had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah and transport him to Nineveh where he should have gone in the first place. What a way to go! I think that must have been the very first submarine voyage on record. It is indeed true, as the Wise Man has said:

"There is no new thing under the sun. Is there anything whereof it may be said, See this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us."—Ec 1:9, 10

Lessons for Us

Returning to the incident at the Sea of Gal—ilee, let us consider some lessons. The—waters of Galilee are beautiful, sparkling, clean and sweet. It receives its waters from the River Jordan and gives them forth again. Thus it remains sweet, fresh, and lifegiving.

Further along the Dead Sea receives the same waters from the Jordan but it does not give them forth. That is why it is dead.

Pure water is a symbol of truth. We must not only receive the truth into good and honest hearts but we must give it forth to others in all its beauty and purity. We must ever give out the truth to keep it fresh and sweet in our own hearts and minds. Jesus said:

"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; that it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men , that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."—Mt 5:14-16

The Sea of Galilee is only a small sample. We look forward to the time when "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Isa 11:9) Satan is a very sneaky and cowardly person. He is malicious, ferocious, and heartless. He has no honor or sense of fair play. He takes advantage of every circumstance suitable to his evil purpose without pity or remorse. We remember that it was after Jesus had fasted for forty days that Satan tempted him with food. Now when he saw Jesus exhausted and fast asleep in a fragile boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, he took advantage of it and made a vicious attack just like the bully that he is.

There are important lessons here for the Lord’s people. As Satan attacked Jesus when he was physically exhausted and asleep, he attacks us at a time when we are the most vulnerable, when our spirituality is at a low ebb. As he brought the storm upon Galilee, he comes upon us like a flood. Such an attack and the remedy is described in Isaiah:

"When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him."—Isa 59:19

What is this "standard" that is lifted up against Satan? It is the Standard of Truth; it is a faith and strength in the Lord. We read:

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." How? "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." (Eph 6:10, 11) We must ever be on guard and keep up our spiritual vigor . . .

"Lest Satan should get an advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices."—2Co 2:11

How do we maintain our spiritual health and vigor, and put on the whole armor of God? We do it by studying and maintaining the Standard of Truth, the pure truth which our returned Lord has provided us through a wise and faithful servant, and by daily

conforming our lives thereto. There is no other standard of truth. It was to spiritual prosperity and health that John referred:

"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. For I rejoiced greatly when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth."—3 John 2, 3

As the normally tranquil Sea of Galilee suddenly became stormy, our circumstances can change suddenly and drastically for the worse.

When this happens, let us realize that we are sharing the experience of Jesus on Galilee, and rejoice. Thus we read:

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."—1Pe 4:12, 13

The storm on Galilee did not last long. It passed as suddenly as it had come because Jesus took charge. He will do the same in your storm.

And It Came To Pass

Once at a testimony meeting the leader asked each one to quote a favorite Bible verse. One brother simply quoted the words, "And it came to pass." This surprised everybody because it is not even a verse. Yet he insisted that the phrase "and it came to pass" was the one most meaningful to him. "Why?" asked the leader. The brother explained that in every trouble the problem or the difficulty did not come to stay; it came to pass. It came to teach its particular lesson; to leave its imprint upon his character; but it was not, of itself, a finality. It did not come to stay—" It came to pass."

Our trials will never be more severe or last longer than we can bear.

That’s a promise:

"No trial has assailed you, except what belongs to man. And God is faithful, who will not permit you to be tried beyond your ability; but with the trial, will also direct the issue, that you may be able to bear it."—1Co 10:13, Diaglott It is commendable that the disciples did their best to reach shore and to keep their ship afloat before they asked for help. We learn from this that we should always do our best to resolve our own difficulties—before expecting the Lord to perform miracles on our behalf.

According to the three gospels that describe this incident the disciples expressed themselves differently when they ran to Jesus for help in their extremity. This may show how individuals with different

personalities and various stages of Christian development react to an overwhelming crisis. According to Matthew’s account, some cried,

"Lord, save us!" This is the cry of faith. It says, "You are the Lord, we know you have the power to save us!" Then, according to various translations of Mt 8:25 and Lu 8:24, some said, "We are perishing! We are lost! We are drowning! We are going down!" This is the cry of despair, of little faith, of fearing the worst, that it is too late for anything to be done. According to various translations of Mr 4:38, some plaintively called in question the mercy and compassion of Jesus, saying, "Master, carest thou not that we perish? Does it not concern thee that we perish? Master, we are sinking! Do you not care? Don’t you care that we’re drowning?" These disciples not only exhibited little or no faith, they actually showed an active distrust. They reproached Jesus, —accusing him of insensitivity to their problem. In effect, they said:"Here we are, in terrible trouble, and YOU DON’T CARE!"

How do we compare with those disciples? When some serious storm of life overtakes us and the relief we seek does not quickly come, does our faith fail? Do we tend to despair and accuse the Lord of not caring? The Lord may permit some such experience to see how we react to test our faith. Let us determine that after doing our very best we will go to the Lord and simply say:"Lord, help me!" Let us never doubt that he does care, that he is there with us in the boat. Thus we will obey the admonition, "Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you." (1Pe 5:7) We also have the assurance that no storm will ever overwhelm us:

"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee. He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved."—Ps 55:22

"He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."—Heb 13:5

Let our reliance on the Lord be such that he need not sorrowfully say to us, as he did to his disciples that day:"Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? How is it that ye have no faith? Where is your faith?"

Peace Be Still

This experience of the storm on Galilee not only tried the faith of the disciples, but it crystallized and established their faith. "What manner of man is this?" they said, "that even the wind and the sea obey him!" How could they ever again doubt Jesus’ power to save? So with us, when we have had a severe crisis and have been carried through it, and have heard the Lord’s "Peace be still, " how can we ever again doubt the Lord’s power on our behalf?

And this experience also made a strong impression on Jesus. We know this because later, when he gave a prophecy regarding the end of the age, he remembered that roaring storm on Galilee, and the perplexity and heart-failing fear it had caused the men in the boat.

He used that very incident to describe the great Time of Trouble.

Note his words:

"And upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth."—Lu 21:25, 26

Doesn’t that describe the storm on Galilee? As the winds suddenly came upon Galilee from every direction, causing a cyclone, the four winds of earth, spoken of in Re 7:1, are loosed by the four angels and great calamities come upon the world. We read:

"Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation; and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth."—Jer 25:32

"For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind."—Ho 8:7

Proverbs says that Israel and the world of mankind, like the men on Galilee, will, in the final stages of the Time of Trouble, call upon the Lord in their extremity:

"When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind, when distress and anguish cometh upon you; then shall they call upon me."—Pr 1:27, 28

"Woe to the multitudes of many people, which make a noise like the voice of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters; but God shall rebuke them."—Isa 17:12, 13

This great Time of Trouble and its termination is graphically described in Psalm 107:

"They that go down to the sea in ships; that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.

For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven; they go down again to the depths. Their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.

Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble; and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. O that men would praise the

Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"—Ps 107:23-31

Be Still

We read in the psalms of the tremendous power of God to still the Time of Trouble, the very same power that Jesus used to quickly quiet the raging waters of Galilee:

"O Lord God of hosts; who is a strong Lord like unto thee? . . .

Thou rulest the raging of the sea. When the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them."—Ps 89:8, 9

"O God of our salvation Who stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people."—Ps 65:5, 7

As Jesus said to the troubled sea, "Peace be still!" God will proclaim to a troubled world, in the words of Ps 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God."

The psalmist said, "Then are they glad because they be quiet. So he bringeth them unto their desired haven." What is the world’s desired haven? We read:

"For thus saith the Lord of hosts, Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land.

And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come."—Hag 2:6, 7

The "desired haven" is "the desire of all nations." It is the Kingdom of God that is desired. The world earnestly desires it without knowing exactly what it is and how it will come. All they know is that they are suffering and want relief from their troubles—from sickness, sorrow, sighing, pain and death; from poverty, hunger, tyranny and anarchy. Paul describes this time:

"For we know that the whole creation is groaning together, and suffering the pangs of labor, which have not yet brought forth the birth. For the longing of the creation looks eagerly for the time when the glory of the sons of God shall be revealed."—Ro 8:22, 19, Conybeare Yes, they will finally come to their desired haven of rest when the sons of God, Christ and the church, are revealed in kingdom power and glory. Then will be fulfilled the prophecy of Re 21:1,

"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea"—no more restless and discontented masses of humanity.

After the psalmist says, "Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven, " he exclaims:

"Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"—Ps 107:31

The last verse of the last psalm voices this fervent hope:"Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord." (Ps 150:6) This hope will be realized.

When the kingdom has done its work, every intelligent creature in the universe will praise the Lord for his goodness. John saw this time in prophetic vision:

"And every creature which is in heaven and on earth, and such as are in the sea; and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever!"—Re 5:13

The terror of the men on the boat that day on Galilee aptly pictured the world at their wits’ end during the Time of Trouble. But it did not picture any fear on the part of the Lord’s true people. We who know the plan of God, who know the blessed outcome, will not fear. Psalm 46 describes our position:

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled. Though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof."—Ps 46:1-3

This brings to mind what happened to Jonah. He also was in a ship and as was the case on Galilee, a terrible storm arose and the ship was about to be capsized. The men on board were frantic, reeling to and fro, their hearts failing them for fear. But where was Jonah? He was fast asleep in the hold. He was completely relaxed. He knew the hand of God was upon him, that nothing could happen to him without God’s permission. Even when they threw him into the sea, he was not worried. In fact, he told them to do it. He was always safe. He was safe on board ship. He was safe when he dropped over the side. He was safe as he sank deeper and deeper into the water. He was worried for a moment when a huge fish with wide-open mouth rushed toward him. Then he was safe in the fish’s belly. It didn’t hurt a bit. Did you know that prayers can go through water, too? We read that "Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly." (Jon 2:1)

Notice this :It was not a prayer of fear but one of thanksgiving and praise. Jonah actually thanked God for casting him into the sea—not the men on the boat, but God. He said:"For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about." (Jon 2:3) He thanked God for the storm too! "All thy billows, and thy waves passed over me, " he said.

This beautifully illustrates what should be the attitude of the Lord’s people during not only the great Time of Trouble, but any trouble in their lives. If we are the Lord’s, we are always safe, always in his hands. As Jonah was cast into the sea but was safe in the belly of the fish, we can be in the midst of the raging sea of trouble, and yet safe from it. Any storm that may come is His storm. Regardless of where we are and what he may permit to come upon us, we are safely and securely under his hand. Realizing this we can repeat and apply to ourselves the beautiful sentiments of Psalm 139:

"Thou hast hedged me in, behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is high. I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there. If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me."—Ps 139:5-10

Winds of Doctrine

Now we come to a lesson which is not so pleasant but which must be learned. There is another kind of wind blowing today and it is blowing upon the church of God. It is causing waves of dissention and division. Some are being carried away by this wind and are in danger of shipwreck. It is the "wind of doctrine." Paul describes this wind and those who bring it upon the church:

"That we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ."—Eph 4:14, 15

Here is the same text from the Weymouth translation which brings the thought out very clearly:

"So we shall no longer be babes, nor shall we resemble mariners, tossed on the waves and carried about with every changing wind of doctrine, according to men’s cleverness, and unscrupulous cunning, making use of every shifting device to mislead. But we shall lovingly hold to the truth, and shall, in all respects grow up into union with him who is our head, even Christ."

In these stormy days when changing winds of doctrine are blowing, let us "lovingly hold to the truth." Let it not be necessary for Jesus to sorrowfully say to us,

"Where is your faith? Where is the Most Holy Faith which I revealed to you through my faithful and wise servant upon my

return?—the Divine Plan in all its beauty and purity which I have caused to be written upon tables, and a chart for you to read. How is it that you have let it slip? Where is your FAITH?"

If we waver in our understanding of the truth and are tossed about with winds of doctrine, we will not receive the promised reward.

"He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord."—Jas 1:6, 7

"Be not carried about with diverse and strange doctrines; for it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace."—Heb 13:9

"Retaining faith and a good conscience, which some, having thrust away concerning THE FAITH, suffered shipwreck."—1Ti 1:19, Diaglott Let us take Paul’s advice to Timothy:

"Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine; for in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee."—1Ti 4:16

Let us not forget the qualification for eldership given in Titus:

"Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught; that he may be able by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers."—Ti 1:9

We read, "When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?" (Job 34:29)

Satan whipped up that mighty storm on Galilee. But when Jesus raised his hand and quietly said, "Peace, be still, " Satan’s power utterly failed "and there was a great calm." If we constantly bear in mind that this tremendous power of God is always available on our behalf in our storms of life, what quietness of mind and heart it will give us!

"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds, through Christ Jesus."—Php 4:7

Let us trust in this promise. As we read:

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee."—Isa 26:3

Jesus spoke to you too when he said, "Peace be still!" He said:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."—Joh 14:27

We thank our Heavenly Father for the—lessons taught us by his son, our Lord Jesus Christ. May we learn them well and achieve that peace of God which passeth all understanding.

Peace on Earth

MOST people consider the hope of peace on earth as wishful thinking; .something quite impossible to attain. "Man is a warlike animal, " they .say. "He has been fighting from earliest antiquity. The histories of every nation, from the most ancient times to the present, are filled with accounts of wars and bloodshed. This is the very nature of man, " they say. But the Bible clearly teaches that war and violence are not the true nature of man.

Man was not originally created a warlike animal. The first man, Adam, was created in the image of God:

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. . . . So God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him."—Ge 1:26, 27

We also read, "God is love." (1Jo 4:8) This is his image. Jesus confirmed this when he said:

"Love your enemies . . . and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven."—Mt 5:44, 45

"Love your enemies . . . and ye shall be the children of the Highest; for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful."—Lu 6:35, 36

We read a description of the character of God in Psalm 145:

"The Lord is gracious and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works."—Ps 145:8, 9

God-like conduct is described in the words, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him. If he thirst, give him drink." (Ro 12:20) This is the character image in which man was originally created, but it is certainly not man’s character now. Mankind has, to a large degree, fallen from the image of God in which Adam was created; he has been transformed into another image.

In Genesis chapter 3 we are told how this transformation started. The perfect Adam and his wife Eve, created in the image of God, were given a beautiful garden home where all their needs were abundantly supplied, and where they might live for ever in happiness. Then God put Adam to a test of obedience. This was entirely proper. Is it not right for a parent to require obedience of his children? Adam fully intended to obey God. But Satan, the devil, a powerful spirit being who had rebelled against God, induced Adam’s wife to disobey and to influence Adam to also disobey. God had previously told Adam that if he disobeyed, he would surely die. (Gen—esis 2:17) When he

pronounced sentence upon him, he told him that he would "return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken. For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." (Ge 3:19) Sin is defined as disobedience to God’s law. Thus it was that sin entered into the world.

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."—Ro 5:12

It was after Adam sinned that he had his children. Thus all of Adam’s children were born imperfect. They were all "born in sin and shapen in iniquity." (Ps 51:5) Sinful Adam could not bring forth a perfect race. Job says, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one." (Job 14:4) Not one of Adam’s descendants was without sin and each succeeding generation fell still further from the image of God.

War has been called an evil disease which afflicts mankind, but war is not the disease. It is merely the symptom of the real disease which is sin. This is the underlying cause of all unhappiness in the world.

Sin not only accounts for wars between nations, but also antagonisms within nations, disharmony between parties and organizations, strife between and within families, and the lack of tranquility in a person’s mind.

This steady degeneration of mankind from the image of God, going deeper and deeper into sin and death, would present a hopeless prospect were it not for the sure word of God. The Bible gives us the only hope of the world. It foretells a wonderful future for mankind when all wars and violence will cease, when sin and death will be completely eliminated, when even those who have already died will be restored to life, and when all the willing and obedient will live for ever in perfect health and happiness upon the earth, having been restored to the image of God. Then there will be true peace on earth.

Let us cite some of these prophecies, starting with one which has already been partially fulfilled. The prophet Isaiah described a most joyful occasion, the birth of a mighty Ruler who would eventually bring peace on earth:

"Unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end."—Isa 9:6, 7

This foretold the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who is to rule the world. To bring peace on earth, it was necessary for Jesus to first eliminate the underlying cause of all the trouble, which was sin and

the sentence of death. It was sin that alienated man from God and resulted in the present deplorable condition of the world. Jesus had first to provide a basis for the removal of sin and for the reconciliation of mankind to harmony with God. This he accomplished by his sacrificial death nearly two thousand years ago, giving his life for the life of Adam and his race. When Adam—disobeyed God, he forfeited his life and brought forth an imperfect and dying race. Jesus, whose father was God, was born on earth and grew to perfect and sinless manhood—the exact equivalent of Adam before Adam sinned. Unlike Adam, Jesus was obedient to God. He died without deserving to die, giving up his unforfeited life in exchange for Adam’s forfeited life—thus redeeming Adam and all his descendants. He thus became a ransom for Adam, releasing him and all his children from the sentence of death.

"For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."—1Co 15:21, 22

"Therefore, as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."—Ro 5:18, 19

Peace Via the Ransom

Paul refers to Jesus, "Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1Ti 2:6) This means that in due time, as a result of the ransom that Jesus provided, all mankind will be released from sin and death. When this has been accomplished, there will be peace on earth. Then will be fulfilled the words of Isaiah:

"They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."—Isa 2:4

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain [kingdom]; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."—Isa 11:6-9

That Faithful and Wise Servant

"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due—season? Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods."—Mt 24:45-47

WHEN Jesus was on earth, he was the head or ruler of his own spiritual household, the household of faith, the house of God. Just as the head of a literal household provides food for his family, Jesus, when present in the flesh, fed his disciples as much spiritual food as they could absorb. But they could not absorb everything he wanted to tell them because the holy Spirit had not yet been sent. Their natural minds had not been stimulated and sensitized to spiritual things. As it is written:

"The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God . . .

because they are spiritually discerned."—1Co 2:14

On one of the last talks he had with his disciples before his crucifixion, Jesus said to them:

"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when the spirit of truth is come, it will guide you into all truth."—Joh 16:12, 13

Notice that he said ALL truth. Of course this does not mean all scientific truth, or all the facts pertaining to the universe, or all the unsearchable wisdom of God. But it does mean every spiritual truth, every basic doctrine, every concept essential to our making our calling and election sure—" that the man of God may be perfect [or complete], thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2Ti 3:17) They remembered this promise in the dark days that followed when they saw their beloved master betrayed, unjustly accused, scourged, tormented, and put to an agonizing death upon the cross. Even his body was missing from the tomb! We read:

"Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves; and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass."—Lu 24:12

Yes, they wondered. It was all very confusing to them. But Jesus had promised that they would understand, and they waited for that promised spirit of understanding to come.

They were in this frame of mind when, after the crucifixion, two of the disciples decided to walk from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus. Emmaus means "hot springs" and was about eight miles

from Jerusalem. One of the disciples was Cleo—pas and the other is thought to have been Peter. They probably wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city to a quiet place where they could talk and think, and perhaps understand. Their hearts were heavy and as they walked the record says:"They talked together of all these things which had happened, " and "they communed together, and reasoned." (Luke 24)

In other words, they tried to make sense out of the situation but had difficulty doing so. Jesus joined them on the road in a form they did not recognize. "And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these ye have one to another as ye walk, and are sad?" They must have sensed a sympathetic understanding in this stranger because they poured out what was in their hearts. They told him how their beloved master whom they described as "a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, " had been delivered up by the chief priests, condemned to death, and crucified; how all their high hopes had been shattered; and they added wistfully:"But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel." Then we read:

"[ Jesus] said unto them, O foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them, in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself."—Lu 24:25-27

What a feast it was for their souls! What a balm for their hearts torn by grief and confusion! What a thrill! What an exaltation of spirit!

To see everything fall perfectly into place as he talked, to see the reason for it all, to know that it was the truth! Confusion and doubt dissolved and the mystery of recent events became an open book. As they said later after Jesus had revealed himself to them and departed:

"Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?"

Here is a prime example of "meat in due season." These were things Jesus had not told them before. Why not? Because as Jesus had said,

"Ye can not bear them now." When Jesus was on earth as a man, his disciples looked for him to set up an immediate earthly government, to supplant Roman rule, to wrest the sovereignty of Israel away from Rome. As they said:"We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel." They had stubbornly held to this idea and closed their minds to any other. When Jesus told them of his impending suffering and death, they said:"Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee." (Mt 16:22) They simply refused to believe it. Things were going too well for them. Now it was different. Jesus had indeed suffered and died. They had to face this grim reality. As a plow rips deep into the hard subsoil to soften and prepare it to receive and nurture the seed, so their hearts had been

bruised, torn, humbled, and made ready for what was NOW meat in due season for them. What did Jesus tell them, as he walked with them to Emmaus? "Beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself." These were the "many things" he had to say to them which they could not "bear" before. But they could bear them now!

Now it was meat in due season. It gave them a key to the scriptures.

They learned their lesson well. They remembered. After the holy spirit was given at Pentecost, Peter spoke these words:"Those things which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets , that Christ should suffer." (Ac 3:18) Then he pointed to the future saying:

"When the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ which was before preached unto you; whom the heaven must retain until the TIMES OF RESTITUTION OF ALL THINGS, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."—Ac 3:19- 21

This is what Jesus had revealed to them on the way to Emmaus.

Now the seed had borne fruit.

If there is one central, predominating theme, common to the preaching of all God’s holy prophets since the world began, it must be of vital importance in the plan of God, it must be an essential, basic doctrine. Let us consider the messages of these prophets and see the thread that runs through them all—the common denominator.

Let us take each prophet in turn, selecting and paraphrasing for the sake of brevity, a few prophecies from each.

A Look at the Prophecies

Jude quotes ENOCH, the seventh from Adam, as prophesying:

"Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints; to execute judgment upon all." (Jude 14, 15) Here we have a prophet living way back there, the seventh from Adam, telling of the second coming of Christ, the exaltation of the church with him, and the judging of all men in righteousness. This implies ransom and restitution.

Next JACOB prophesied (Ge 49:10): "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and to Him shall the gathering of the people be." Here we have the coming of Christ, with the sceptre or right of rulership, to gather and bless the people. This also implies ransom and restitution.

MOSES, as a historian, recorded the circumstances of man’s creation and God’s original purpose to give him dominion over the earth. (Ge 1:28) He recorded God’s declaration to the serpent

that the seed of the woman would bruise its head. (Ge 3:15) He wrote of the promise to Abraham that in him all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Ge 12:3), that Abraham’s inheritance should be an earthly one (Genesis 13:15), an everlasting one (Genesis 17:8), that all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him (Genesis 18:18), and that in his seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 22:18) This promise was renewed to Isaac and Jacob.

From the statutes recorded by Moses we see that the sacrifices on and after the day of atonement and the blessing of the people typically showed the ransoming and perfection of mankind in the Millennium. (Le 1:5) The glory appearing unto all the people foretold their future release from sin and death. (Le 9:23) In the sounding of the Jubilee trumpet and the return of every man to his possessions, we see the world’s restoration to the image and likeness of God. (Leviticus 25:10) Could ransom and restitution be more clearly taught?

As a prophet , Moses declared that God would raise up a great prophet and deliverer like unto himself to whom all the people shall give heed in the Millennial age (De 18:15, 19); that this great deliverer would set before the people life if obedient and death if disobedient. (De 30:15) In the 90th Psalm, called "a prayer of Moses, " we read:"Thou turn—est men to destruction, and sayest, Return, ye children of men."

This is what Moses taught. So when—Jesus began with Moses and expounded to them the scriptures on the way to Emmaus, these are the things he must have talked about. What is the central, predom—inating theme? Ransom and restitution!

The prophet SAMUEL recorded Hannah’s prophecy:"The Lord killeth, and maketh alive. He bringeth down to hell, and bringeth up." (1Sa 2:6) Again, ransom and restitution.

The prophet JOB in his suffering prayed that he might be hidden in the grave and stay there until God’s wrath should be passed—that God would then remember him in resurrection. Job also records ELI- -HU’s prophecy reiterating ransom and restitution:

"If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to show unto man his uprightness; then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit; I HAVE FOUND A RANSOM. His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s. He shall return to the days of his youth."—Job 33:23-25

The prophet and sweet psalmist DAVID foresaw and wrote that after this dark night of weeping will come a morning of joy (Ps 30:5); that the meek shall inherit the earth (Ps 37:11); that

whereas now men are like sheep laid in the grave, they shall come forth, and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning (Ps 49:14); that mercy and truth will meet, righteousness and peace kiss each other, and truth spring out of the earth when righteousness looks down from heaven (Ps 85:10, 11); that the heavens, earth, seas, fields, and trees of the wood, shall rejoice because the Lord is coming to judge the earth with righteousness and the people with his truth (Psalms 96:11-13); that all the earth shall join in a joyful noise to the Lord with songs of praise, harps, psalms, trumpets and cornets, while the seas, floods, and hills clap their hands because he comes to judge the earth (Psalms 98:4-9); and that the foundations of the earth have been laid so that it shall not be removed but be forever the home of man. (Psalms 104:5) What is the theme of all this? The common thread is ransom and restitution.

SOLOMON declared in his Proverbs that the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it (Pr 2:21) and that the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth. (Pr 11:31) He says that the earth abideth forever. (Ec 1:4)

There are over forty references to—ransom and restitution in ISAIAH. Time permits the mention of only a few. He prophesied that in the last days the Lord’s Kingdom will be established on the ruins of all earthly kingdoms, all nations will flow into it to learn of his ways, at which time they will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning-hooks, and learn war no more (Isa 2:2- 4); that the poor and the meek will be lifted up and the earth filled as full with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isa 11:4-9); that at the time the pillar of the Lord is recognized in the world, the world will return to the Lord and he will be entreated of them and heal them (Isaiah 19:22); that the Lord will make to all people a feast of fat things—doctrines of joy—well refined, will swallow up death in victory, and wipe away tears from off all faces; all the people will say, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us (Isaiah 25:6-12); that when the Lord’s judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness and the dead will live again (Isaiah 26:9, 13, 19); that the inhabitant shall not say I am sick because the people shall be forgiven their iniquity. (Isaiah 33:24)

Isaiah also declared that the wilderness and solitary places shall blossom as the rose, the weak hands and feeble knees be strengthened, the fearful be encouraged, the blind have their eyes opened, the deaf have their ears unstopped, the lame made to leap as an hart, the tongue of the dumb made to sing (Isaiah 35); that all the prisoners in the great prison-house of death shall be brought forth (Isa 42:7); that the Lord will establish the earth and cause the people to inherit the once desolate heritages (Isa 49:8-13); that the

redeemed of the Lord—which is all mankind—shall return from the tomb and gain salvation with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; sorrow and mourning shall flee away (Isa 51:11); that the Lord will make this earth, his footstool, glorious. (Isa 60:13) How unmistakable the common, predominating theme of all these prophecies :ransom and restitution!

The prophet JEREMIAH foretold that the Lord will give the people a heart to know him and they shall return to Him with their whole heart (Jer 24:7); that the children shall come again from the land of the enemy and shall no longer suffer for the sins of the parents; that they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord, " for they shall all know Him, from the least even unto the greatest (Jer 31:16, 29, 34); that the Lord will give the people one heart and one way and make an everlasting covenant with Israel and the world of mankind, and not turn away from them to do them good; that they shall not depart from Him. (Jeremiah 46:27)

EZEKIEL foretold a coming time when the Lord will take away the stony hearts out of the people and give them hearts that are warm and tender (Eze 11:19); that the Sodomites, Samaritans, and the Jews shall return to their former estate; that the Lord will establish his covenant with them (Eze 16:55); that it will no more be true that the children suffer for the sins of their parents (Ezekiel 18:2, 3); that it will no longer be necessary for anybody to die (Ezekiel 18:31, 32); that the Lord will put his spirit into the people and cause them to walk in his ways, and the land that was desolate shall become like the garden of Eden. (Ezekiel 37:24; 36:35) What is all this but ransom and restitution?

DANIEL foretold that the God of Heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed but shall break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms and shall stand forever (Da 2:44); that the dominion and greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the saints of the Most High as an everlasting dominion. (Da 7:27)

HOSEA prophesied that the Lord will break the bow and sword, stop battles, make all to lie down safely, and hear the cries of men (Ho 2:18, 21); that the people will be raised up and live in the Lord’s sight (Ho 6:2); that he will ransom them from hell and redeem them from death, and destroy hell altogether. (Hosea 13:14) The prophet JOEL prophesied that the Lord will cause the pastures to spring, the trees to bear fruit abundantly, and that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered. (Joe 2:22-32)

AMOS was the next holy prophet. He said that the Lord would return and build again the tabernacle of David and set it up—which

means to re-establish the Kingdom of God on earth—that the residue of men, all the rest of mankind, might seek after the Lord. (Am 9:11, 12) Again, the common theme is ransom and restitution. In the last verse of OBADIAH’s short prophecy he says:"And saviours shall come up on mount Zion, to judge the mount of Esau."

In other words, Jesus Christ and his body members, the church, shall constitute the heavenly phase of the kingdom and shall judge the world in righteousness.

The prophet JONAH, by his experiences with the great fish, prophesied of Jesus who was sacrificed and was three days in the grave. The sparing of Nineveh pictures God’s mercy upon the poor world in the times of restitution.

The prophet MICAH wrote of the coming of the kingdom of God on earth accompanied by the rebuking of strong nations afar off; that then they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into prun—ing-hooks; that nation shall not lift up sword against nation neither shall they learn war any more; that they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid; that all people will walk in the name of our God; that the first dominion lost by Adam in Eden will be restored to Christ the Tower of the flock. (Mic 4:1-5, 8) Could restitution be more clearly taught than this?

NAHUM prophesied that the Lord will revenge himself upon Satan, undoing his work; that the Lord will rebuke and quiet the sea, the restless masses of humanity (Na 1:2, 4); that upon the mountains will be seen the feet of him that bringeth good tidings and publisheth peace. (Na 1:15)

HABAKKUK was the prophet who foresaw that at the time of the end a faithful and wise servant would attune his ear to the word of God, especially the dispensational truths, saying according to Moffatt:"On my watch-tower I will stand, at my post upon the turret, watching to see what he will say to me, what answer he will offer to my plea"; that the Lord would bless that servant’s efforts and lead him to make a chart of the Divine Plan of the Ages, saying:

"Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it." (Hab 2:1, 2) Habakkuk also wrote of the time when

"the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Hab 2:14)

ZEPHANIAH foresaw the time when the entire social order of the earth would be devoured by the fire of God’s jealousy; that then he would turn to the people a pure language or doctrine with the result that they would call upon the name of the Lord to serve Him with one consent. (Zep 3:8, 9)

HAGGAI said that, "The desire of all nations shall come." (Hag 2:7)

ZECHARIAH prophesied that many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that Day and be his people, and he will dwell in the midst of them (Zec 2:11); that the ground shall give its increase and that the Lord will remove the fears of the people (Zec 8:3, 8, 12); that the battle bow shall be cut off and the Lord shall speak peace to the people (Zechariah 9:10); that the Lord shall be king over all the earth and men shall dwell in it; that there shall be no more utter destruction but all shall be holiness unto the Lord. (Zechariah 14:9, 11, 20)

MALACHI foretold that from the rising of the sun even unto the going down thereof the Lord’s name shall be great among all the people, and in every place heart adoration shall be offered to His name (Mal 1:11); that a Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in its beams. (Mal 4:2)

JOHN THE BAPTIST was the last of the holy prophets because Jesus said:"The law and the prophets were until John." John turned and looked at Jesus and said:

"Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world."—Joh 1:29

Thus, we can scripturally confirm Peter’s words that the time of restitution of all things was spoken by the mouths of ALL God’s recorded holy prophets since the world began. What an abundance of testimony! We are indeed "compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses"! (Heb 12:1) While these prophets spoke of many other things, there is one central, predominating theme common to them all :RANSOM and RESTITUTION.

The Loss of Ransom and Restitution

Where is this doctrine today? With a doctrine as prominent as this found on almost every page of the Bible you would think it would be clearly taught and understood by all who name the name of Christ in every corner of the world as the waters cover the sea. But search as we might among the hundreds of nominal Christian denominations throughout the world, we find not one that teaches the pure doctrine of ransom and restitution! This seems incredible. How did such a state of affairs ever come about? Let us see.

In the early church through the preaching of Peter and other apostles the significance of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice and the coming restitution of all things "spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, " was clearly seen. They clearly saw and fully appreciated their part in the high calling, to be the joint-

administrators of that restitution. As Paul said, "Ye see your calling, brethren." But Paul also warned them of things to come. He told the church:

"For I KNOW this [he was positive about this] that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw disciples after them. Therefore, watch and remember [Note :he said REMEMBER] that I ceased not to warn every one, night and day, with tears."—Ac 20:29-31

Paul had been given a revelation about this. "For I KNOW this, " he says. If the revelation was important enough for him continually to warn every one night and day with pleading and tears, it must be of utmost importance to the church THEN and NOW.

Let us see what happened and whether Paul’s warning was justified.

After the apostles fell asleep in death the lights—began going out.

Paul had "departed" and the "grievous wolves" he had foreseen so vividly had entered in among the Lord’s people. "Perverse things"

began to be—spoken. For a while they did heed Paul’s warning and

"watched" and "remembered, " and held to the pure and precious truths. It did not last; the pressure became too great. It was easier to submit to powerful leaders than to continually challenge and resist. It is always easier to drift with the current. Darkness gradually settled upon the earth. When new thoughts were introduced—" new light"—the apostles were no longer there to consult about their validity. It was all very subtle and gradual which is the way Satan works. The time finally came when the obliteration of the pure doctrine of ransom and restitution was virtually complete. Instead of the ransom paid by Jesus once for all, there was a constantly repeated, ceremonious celebration of the Mass. Instead of a future kingdom of Christ on earth to bring about a restitution of all things, there was a counterfeit kingdom, reigning now with popes as Kings. Instead of the restoration of man to human perfection to live forever upon the earth, there was the repulsive doctrine of eternal torment. Instead of a merciful and compassionate God to be loved with all one’s soul because he is good, there was a demoniac God to be feared with terror! Instead of one God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, there was a three-headed, six-eyed Trinitarian monster!

One by one, all the beautiful and harmonious doctrines of the Divine Plan so familiar to the early church were subverted, transposed, twisted, and corrupted. With each substitution of error for truth the light became dimmer and dimmer. The rivers and torrents of truth that the original Christians had enjoyed slowed down to a trickle, then finally sank and disappeared into the quicksand of error and confusion. A counterfeit kingdom of God was established which was great and powerful. "Darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people." Even the reading of the Bible was forbidden and the translation of it from dead languages was prohibited.

Satan’s Apparent Triumph

It would seem that Satan had completely triumphed. As always happens when Satan has his way, terror and frightfulness held sway.

The name of God was dishonored and degraded by the horrors committed in his name. Inquisitions were instituted against so-called heretics and every conceivable instrument of torture was used to obtain conversions. Tens of thousands died after long agony, their consciousness deliberately prolonged to the utmost so that the greatest possible suffering might be experienced. All happened in the name of God and Christ!

"After all [they reasoned] what are the tortures we inflict compared with the eternity of torment ordained by God for sinners? And it has been estimated by those who seemingly have given the subject thorough investigation, that this great counterfeit kingdom of God has, directly or indirectly, during the past 1300 years, caused the death of fifty millions of people!"—Volume 2, p. 346.

It has been said that the darkness is greatest just before the dawn.

We find that the same scripture that foretold the darkness also foretold the lifting of it and the restoration of the old truths:

"For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people. [That’s the DARKNESS] But the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. Arise, shine; for thy light is come; and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee!"—Isa 60:2, 1

How was the restoration of the light of truth to be accomplished in the face of such utter darkness and savage opposition? It was accomplished in a simple but effective way which God has often used. God stirred up the hearts of honest and consecrated men. He inspired them with the courage to proclaim what light they had and to suffer martyrdom if necessary. This spirit is exemplified by Martin Luther’s declaration at the Congress of Worms. When he stood alone before the princes of Germany and the stern Emperor Charles V and was commanded to recant his teachings, he boldly said:

"Unless I shall be convinced by scriptures—for I can put no faith in popes and councils, as is evident that they have frequently erred, and even contradicted each other—UNLESS MY CONSCIENCE SHALL BE CONVINCED BY THE WORD OF GOD, I neither will nor can recant, since it is unworthy of an honest man to act contrary to his own conviction. Here I stand! It is impossible for me to act otherwise; so help me God!"—Reprints page 504.

God did help Martin Luther and all the other great reformers.

The Lord never lacked a man to represent him in the earth. There were Zwingli and Carlstadt under whose preaching the images of the church were being dashed to pieces and the ceremony of the Mass abolished. There were Calvin, Knox, Wesley, Wycliffe, Huss, and others. The old truths, long forgotten, slowly began to emerge. Satan fought it, every inch of the way!

The span of human life is short. When each great reformer died, Satan saw to it that his work died with him. He saw to it that organized religious systems were built around the reformer’s teachings and further progress hedged and hampered with creedal and dogmatic fences. But this did not mean a reversion to the former darkness. The reforms were cumulative thanks to the art of printing.

As one lost momentum and stopped, another picked up where it left off and the restoration of truth steadily advanced. It could not be stopped in spite of persecutions and book-burnings. When God’s time comes for his word to go forth, it MUST be accomplished. The words of Isaiah now had direct application:

"So shall my word be, that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it."—Isa 55:11

Now let us reason together. If something has been possessed, then is lost, then is steadily restored, the time must eventually come when restoration is complete. This is only logical. For example, if you had a thousand dollars and lost it, then—began a program to make regular deposits to regain that amount, the day would come when you once again had one thousand dollars. By the same token the time must come when the basic truths of the Divine Plan enjoyed by the early church but lost in the dark ages, are fully restored to the watching ones. The time must come when there is a LAST reformer because the reformation work is complete. It follows that any reformer arising beyond this point is spurious. It is possible for the basic truths to be restored 100% but they cannot be restored 150%.

The Last Reformer

The last great reformer to whom was given the honor of being the instrument for the COMPLETE restoration of "the faith once delivered to the saints, " was Charles Taze Russell.

He made no claim of a special revelation from God. He only claimed that because it was God’s due time for the Divine Plan of the Ages to be understood, because he was fully consecrated to God and ready, able, and willing to serve God, his mind was stimulated and illuminated. He was permitted to understand the plan and transmit his knowledge to others. He was not the founder of a new religion and never made such a claim. He was only an instrument. He simply

revived the great truths taught by Jesus and the apostles which were spoken by the mouth of all God’s holy prophets. It was God’s due time—the time of Christ’s second presence. This very fact further identifies Pastor Russell because our text says:"Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, WHEN HE COMETH, shall find so doing." Doing what? Giving the Lord’s household "meat in due season." Dispensational truths are meat in due season. Whom did the Lord find so doing? Was anyone else extensively preaching dispensational truths at the time of our Lord’s return? The timing is perfect. It just could not be anyone except Pastor Russell.

Then in this same text we have a statement of tremendous significance. It says:"He shall make him ruler over ALL his goods!"

All the beautiful and harmonious doctrines of the Divine Plan were restored and dispensed by the ministry of "that servant." All the basic truths spoken by the mouths of all God’s holy prophets since the world began were included!

Brother Russell was a modest man. But he knew he had the truth. He was so certain of it that his modesty did not forbid him to write these first 49 words of his first volume of Studies in the Scriptures:

"The title of this series of studies, The Divine Plan of the Ages, suggests a progression in the Divine arrangement, foreknown to our

God, and orderly. [Note what he says next.] We believe the teachings of Divine Revelation can be seen to be both beautiful and harmonious from this standpoint and from no other."

Thus he lifted up a positive standard for the people of God. (Isa 62:10)

During his ministry, Pastor Russell traveled more than a million miles and this was before the advent of air travel. He delivered 30, 000 sermons many of them three hours long. He wrote over 50, 000 pages of Bible teachings which were circulated by tracts, newspapers, and books, by the—millions of copies and in many languages throughout the entire world. He wrote about a thousand letters a month. Is it any wonder that he is called "the man . . . which had the inkhorn by his side?" One of my favorite pictures of Pastor Russell shows him at his writing desk with a fountain pen in his hand.

At one time his writings were subjected to an analysis of 20, 511

scripture references. These were assembled in Biblical order and disclosed only six points of inquiry, all easily harmonized.

Through his writings the scriptures were once again seen to be beautiful and harmonious, teaching a loving plan of redemption and honoring God. Faithful hearts seeking to walk in the way of the Lord who were confused and distraught just like those disciples on the way to Emmaus, now had the pure gospel preached to them.

Through the instrumentality of Pastor Russell the Lord joined them on the way and spoke to them. Once again beginning at Moses and all the prophets he expounded unto them all the scriptures. Once again the hearts of these modern disciples burned and glowed as the treasures of the scriptures were opened to them and everything fell perfectly into place! As Jesus’ words were "meat in due season" for those who walked with him to Emmaus so long ago, so those who now sought to walk in his footsteps were supplied the same abundant and nourishing "meat in due season" through the ministry of Pastor Russell.

He called his books "Berean Studies." By this he encouraged his readers to emulate those noble ones of the early church who

"searched the scriptures daily, " to prove "whether those things were so." (Ac 17:11) He did not desire anyone to accept what he taught because it came to them through a certain channel. Not at all! The scriptures must be searched and—everyone fully persuaded in his own mind. But he also taught that doctrines once proven are to be faithfully held.

Pastor Russell fulfilled his ministry and passed beyond the veil in 1916. Then were the words of Ezekiel fulfilled:

"And behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me."—Eze 9:11

What had he done? He had been the ready instrument in God’s hands for the restoration of the basic truths of the Bible—the faith once delivered unto the saints. These basic truths of the Divine Plan are not subject to change; they are ETERNAL truths.

After Pastor Russell died Paul’s prophecy regarding "grievous wolves" had a—secondary fulfillment. "Perverse things" again began to be spoken. Ambitious leaders repudiated Brother Russell’s writings and many were drawn away from the truth. I saw this happen; I was there. It was a heart-breaking experience.

Now after many years Paul’s warnings are once again appropriate.

"WATCH and REMEMBER, " he said. Let us remember and hold to the old truths.

The truth regarding the ransom and sin-offering has not changed.

Justification is still the same as Brother Rus—sell saw it and taught it.

The words he used to describe it are still good. Tabernacle Shadows is still correct as he wrote it. Chronology is still accurate even though some hoped-for events have not yet occurred. The chart of the Divine Plan of the Ages is still correct as drawn. There is no doubt that we are in the seventh thousand year period of man’s history, the Times of Restitution. The time prophecies of the Jubilees fit too well to be denied. It is still true that Christ has returned and that he came as king. There is no change in the future role of Israel as a channel of blessing to the world. These and other truths promulgated through

"that faithful and wise servant" are worth holding and fighting for.

As Jude 3 says, we "should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." That is why the reprinting of all of Brother Russell’s works is so important.

But someone may quote, "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." (Pr 4:18) This is supposed to prove that we must always expect new light to be revealed until God’s kingdom is fully established. But that isn’t what this scripture says. Let us look at the context. Verse 14 reads:"Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men."

The subject here is paths. This is—followed by three verses emphasizing the sinfulness of a wrong course, or path, in life. Then by way of contrast it says in verse 18: "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." In other words, "Avoid the wrong path, the evil way; but rather walk in the right path, the path of the just." What are the rewards of the right path? As we walk in it there will be an increased

"shining"—an individual development and growth into the likeness

of our Master—a development of character. This is exactly the same thought that we find in 2Co 3:18: "But we all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, " or "shining more and more unto the perfect day." When is that "perfect day"? Paul describes it:

"Till we all come, in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a PERFECT MAN, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."—Eph 4:13

The perfect day for each one of us will come when, having walked in "the path of the just" to the end of it, we are considered worthy to hear the Lord’s "Well done"—when we have made our calling and election sure. This does not mean, of course, that nothing will be seen clearer than what Pastor Russell saw. We are bound to see things clearer as prophecies begin to be fulfilled before our eyes. For example, the restoration of Israel as a nation; the division of the world into Communistic and Capitalistic camps—East and West; the development of the atomic bomb which for the first time in history threatens "all flesh"; and other such events. BUT THE FUNDAMENTAL DOCTRINES OF THE TRUTH REMAIN THE SAME! Tampering with any one of them destroys the balance of the entire structure. The pieces no longer fit. As Brother Russell said, they are harmonious from this one standpoint, and from no other!

Although to the Jews "were committed the oracles of God" (Ro 3:2), they were always straying to other pastures. They had been delivered from bondage in Egypt, sustained with food and drink in the howling wilderness, and brought at last to their Canaan. Yet they repudiated their Master’s provision again and again, and went after idols. Isaiah aptly puts it:

"The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his Master’s crib; but Israel doth not know; my people doth not consider. . . . They have forsaken the Lord; they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger; they are gone away backward."—Isa 1:3, 4

We too, the Israel of God, have been delivered from the bondage of false doctrines. We too have been sustained and fed with the word of truth from our Master’s table as served to us by that faithful and wise servant amid a howling wilderness of confusion all about us. We too have been brought at last to a Canaan of brilliant enlightenment and rest in the Lord. Should we as the Jews did, forget OUR Master’s—table and long for the leeks and onions of Egypt—the so-called "new light" doctrines of sensual appeal—to exchange our heavenly manna for the fleshpots of Egypt—to go backward into error? Did any of you come into the truth by yourself? Did you without assistance and guidance discover for yourself all the precious details of the Divine Plan? Of course not! We all received the truth through

the voice of the seventh angel, Brother Rus—sell—the COMPLETE truth, the FINISHED truth. As it is written:

"But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be FINISHED, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets."—Re 10:7

It is no longer a mystery. It is a RE-understanding of the Divine Plan for the "restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."

It is once again appropriate to remember Paul’s warnings which he made with pleadings and tears concerning grievous wolves and men speaking perverse things. Let us remember that Paul also said:

"Be no more children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, and cunning craftiness."—Eph 4:14

"Be ye steadfast, unmovable."—1Co 15:58

"Rooted and grounded."—Eph 3:17

The Admonitions of Peter

JESUS had just partaken of his last Passover, and had instituted the Memorial supper. After supper, he and his disciples went out into the Mount of Olives. They were nearing a place called Gethsemane.

Satan must have been right there with them, invisibly present. He would certainly want to be on the scene of his great triumph which was about to take place—the betrayal of Jesus with a kiss by his own disciple, Judas Iscariot. If the disciples had known that the Prince of Darkness was at their side, they would have been terrified. But Jesus knew he was there.

Then Jesus did an astonishing thing—he read Satan’s mind! We know this because he then turned to Simon Peter and said:"Simon, Simon; behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." This must have startled Peter, so the Lord reassured him, saying:"But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." Then he added something Peter would remember and act upon in the days to come:"And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Lu 22:31, 32)

To be converted, means to turn, to change. Peter’s triple denial of the Lord and the remorse that followed "converted" his headstrong and impetuous will into a humble and a contrite heart. (Ps 51:17)

We read:"And Peter went out, and wept bitterly."

After the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the several appearances of Jesus to his disciples there was a short time when the disciples did not know just what to do. One day about seven of them who used to be fishermen, including Peter, gathered at the seashore. They enjoyed the old familiar sights, sounds and smells of the sea. They were all of the same mind as to what they would do, but each hesitated to make the first move. You can well imagine who did make the first move:

"Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth and entered into a ship immediately."—Joh 21:3

What a powerful natural leader Peter was. He said, "I’m going fishing!" The others said, "We’ll go fishing with you!" And that’s what they did.

This incident illustrates how easy it is to lose direction—to misplace one’s energies when the leader is gone and the objective is not clear.

These were the ones Jesus had for over three years made "fishers of men." He had left them for just a few days, and now, once again, they were back to being "fishers of fish!"

All that night they caught nothing. They tried again and again, but no luck. Perhaps in the silent watches of the night, they began to have some doubts as to the wisdom of going back to the fishing business.

Early the next morning, Jesus appeared to them for the third time since his resurrection. He revealed himself in a characteristic way, by a miraculous incident. This they could instantly recognize because they had witnessed his loving miracles for 3 1/ 2 years. Objects were indistinct in the early morning light, but at the direction of a man on shore, whose face they could not recognize, they let down their net once more. Then, after catching not one single fish all night, their net now—contained 153 great fishes! They instantly knew it was Jesus on shore. They knew by the sheer bounty of his gift. "Great fishes" must weigh at least 30 pounds each, wouldn’t you say? So, one moment they had nothing; the next moment they were practically engulfed by over two tons of fish! It took another miracle to keep their net from being torn by the weight of their catch. (See Joh 21:11.) Besides being a gesture of recognition, why did Jesus allow them to make such a stupendous catch? Wa s it to encourage them to remain in the fishing business? I don’t think so; quite to the contrary.

Two tons of fish would have a considerable market value, and money could finance their return to the ministry as "fishers of men."

When the disciples came ashore, Jesus had food prepared for them.

He invited them to eat, and he served them. Think of it! This was no longer the man Christ Jesus, this was the resurrected Jesus, a mighty spirit being, a divine being, who said of himself:"All power is given unto me, in heaven and in earth." (Mt 28:18) He made them sit down and he served them! No, he had not changed in character. He was still the same Jesus who came not to be ministered unto but to minister; who taught them that the chiefest among them should be their servant (Mt 20:27, 28), and who demonstrated it by washing their feet. He still serves us our spiritual food to this day if we have not left his table. Now we read from the record:

"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter :Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these [these boats, these nets, these earthly interests]? He saith unto him, Yea Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him :feed my lambs. Jesus saith unto him again, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him :Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him :feed my sheep [or :tend my sheep, Diaglott]. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he said unto him the third time :Lovest thou me? And he said unto him:

Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, feed my sheep."—Joh 21:15-17

When Jesus asked Peter the third time, Peter suddenly understood.

Three times he had denied the Master even though he loved him deeply. He had been remorseful and heartbroken. Now he was

required to affirm his love three times as if to expiate. This was the punishment his Lord imposed—the only punishment he imposed—and

it was a gentle punishment indeed. With it Jesus imposed a duty upon Peter, a duty by which Peter could prove his love. The duty was threefold:"Feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep."

Don’t you think under these circumstances Peter would have a tremendous incentive, an eager and consuming desire, to comply with the Lord’s wishes? He had miserably failed his Lord before.

Now he was being accorded another chance to prove his love and devotion. This time he would not, he must not, fail.

And he did not fail! In his years of faithful ministry, he fed the Lord’s lambs, those immature in the truth. He tended the Lord’s heep as they matured, warning them against false teachers, damnable

heresies, and denial of the ransom. (2Pe 2:1, 2) He fed the Lord’s sheep, those established in the truth, with meat in due season, stirring them up and stimulating them to progress in the race for the great prize of the high calling. You may be sure he would not disappoint the Lord again! As he said:

"Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle to stir you up, by putting you in remembrance."—2Pe 1:12, 13

Let us consider some of Peter’s admonitions to us—we who are the Lord’s lambs and sheep—admonitions which are a part of Peter’s efforts to prove his great love for his Master by feeding and tending us.

"Simon Peter, a servant, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us, through the righteousness of our Lord, and Saviour Jesus Christ; grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord; according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue; whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you, that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren; give diligence to making your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."—2Pe 1:1-11

We are told to "add to our faith" certain things. This implies that we can’t even start to carry out these instructions, unless we have this faith. This automatically eliminates a lot of people in the world, even good people. There are some people in the world who are naturally noble and good, who possess an excellent character. They prefer righteousness to evil and conduct their lives accordingly. Does this qualify them for the prize of the high calling? Not for a minute!

There must be a foundation of faith, a faith of a certain kind, before the structure built upon it can be recognized by the Lord.

Peter directs his opening words "to them that have obtained like precious faith with us." (2Pe 1:1) This is not—ordinary faith, it is

"like precious faith." Mere faith in God is not enough. "The devils also believe and tremble." (Jas 2:19) What is required is an absolute faith in the redemption accomplished through the precious blood of Christ, a firm belief in the application of that blood to ourselves by which we have a standing before God, are justified, accepted, begotten, and in the race for the high calling. It is an abiding confidence in the divine plan for salvation, not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. It is upon this "like precious faith" —a faith like the faith of the apostles—that we are to build.

Fortitude

"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue." The word "virtue" is better translated "fortitude." It is strength of character in righteousness and implies the cultivation of the strictest integrity in all our dealings, both with God and with our fellow-men.

It means scrupulous honesty, justice and truth. The psalmist defines this characteristic for us:

"Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speak—eth the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoreth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved."—Ps 15:1-5

"He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart, " the psalmist said. The same thought is expressed in Proverbs:

"They that are of a froward heart, are abomination to the Lord; but such as are upright in their ways, are his delight."—Pr 11:20

There are many among our nominal Christian friends, who walk as uprightly as they possibly can. Many work righteousness with all their might, often risking great personal danger in missionary work among savage aborigines. But do they speak the truth in their hearts? Sometimes it is their personal fear of hell fire that impels them to "be good, " and try to make others be good as well.

Sometimes their frantic missionary efforts are motivated by their conviction that the heathen would otherwise go into eternal torment or the second death. This is the wrong motive. The truth is not in their hearts.

Of course, any effort by anyone at any time to walk uprightly and work right eousness brings a blessing. Of course the one who has

"escaped the corruption that is in the world" and is qualifying to become a partaker of the divine nature does walk uprightly and work righteousness. But he does more than that:"he speaketh the truth in his heart." His motives are pure; he has taken the truth to heart. "Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh." He speaks the truth gently and without malice, without God-dishonoring threats, of either hell fire or wholesale second death.

The psalm also says, "He backbiteth not with his tongue; nor doeth evil to his neighbor; nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor."

One that is striving for the prize of the high calling should certainly not indulge in evil-speaking or character assassination. One who knows the importance of developing character surely will not destroy another’s character. There is a poem, translated from the Arabic, that contains some excellent advice:

"If you are tempted to reveal a tale to you someone has told, Make it pass, before you speak, three gates of gold. These narrow gates :First, Is it True? Then, Is it Needful? In your mind Give a truthful answer. The next is last and narrowest, Is it Kind? And if, to reach your lips at last, it passes through these gateways three, Then you may tell the tale, nor fear what the result of speech may be."

The Harm from Evil-Speaking

The frightening thing about evil-speaking is that the harm done may be irreparable. There’s a story illustrating this point. When a man asked the Moslem prophet Mohammed how he might make amends for false—ly accusing a friend, he was told to go and place a goose feather on each doorstep in the village and he did it. The next day Mohammed said, "Now go and collect all the feathers." The man protested:"That’s impossible! A wind blew all night, and the feathers are scattered beyond recall." "Exactly, " said Mohammed. "And so it is with the reckless words you spoke against your neighbor."

Along the same line, Paul wrote:

"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good, to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice; and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted; forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you."—Eph 4:29-32

"Bitterness, and wrath, and anger." Anger has been compared to drunkenness and insanity. The speech and actions of a drunkard or insane person are not under the control of a logical mind. Such control is also lost in anger. When we lose our tempers, we lose the power that tempers and logically controls our actions. Aristotle is quoted as saying:

"Anybody can become angry. That’s easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not within everybody’s power, and is not easy."

The only person, other than God himself, who could qualify in these respects was Jesus Christ. When he was angry with the Scribes and Pharisees, the money-changers and others, he could read their hearts, minds, motives, and innermost thoughts. We can’t! But, someone might claim, "My anger is righteous anger, as Jesus’ anger was."

Perhaps it is, in some measure. But Jesus’ anger was truly righteous anger because he himself was truly righteous. If I am not righteous, how can my anger be righteous anger? "There is none righteous, no not one." (Ro 3:10) Then we read, "Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted; forgiving one another." The fallen human nature is a bundle of perverse and illogical contradictions. For example, we can be our most charming and gracious selves to utter strangers. But familiarity breeds contempt and we often become careless in our attitudes to those closest to us.

As the poet expresses it:

"But there’s one truth in life I’ve found, While journeying east and west; The only folks we really wound Are those we love the best.

"We flatter those we hardly know, We please the fleeting guest; And deal full many a thoughtless blow To those we love the best."

Psalm 15 continues:"In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoreth them that fear the Lord." It is easy to love those who love the Lord. They are our brethren, our spiritual associates, fellow- partakers of the precious promises, joint-heirs of Christ and of God.

But to love an enemy, a vile person, that’s different! True, we are told to love our enemies, but we are not told to love the vileness of our enemies. There’s a big difference. When I was told, long ago, I must hate a man’s bad actions, but not the man, I used to think it was a silly, hair-splitting distinction. How could I hate what a man did and not hate the man? Years later it occurred to me that there was one man for whom I had been doing this all my life :myself. If I am to love my neighbor as myself, I must extend the same consideration to him.

"He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not." An honorable person who has made a contract and later finds it to be to his disadvantage will nevertheless perform it even if it means a loss.

This is basic integrity. But this scripture has a deeper significance.

All the consecrated have "sworn to their own hurt." We have vowed to "suffer with him, that we may be glorified together." Let us not change. Let us add to our faith, fortitude, to continue in the footsteps of Jesus.

Knowledge

Peter says we must add to virtue [or fortitude], knowledge.

"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting, get understanding."—Pr 4:7

Does this mean that we must be "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" (Ac 7:22), that we must all pursue the higher education of this world? No. The kind of knowledge that is required is that which will make us "wise unto salvation" (2Ti 3:15). A sound knowledge of the truth represents the wisdom that "is the principal thing." Scientific knowledge and wisdom can release the power of the atom and unleash its tremendous physical forces. It can put men on the moon. But it cannot invoke the "power of God unto salvation" (Ro 1:16), the mighty power that takes the foolish, the weak, the base, the despised, those who in the eyes of the world are nothing (1Co 1:27, 28) and exalt them to the pinnacle of life, the divine nature. That is real power!

In adding knowledge, we should, as the apostle says:"Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you." (1Pe 3:15) We should have a sound knowledge of the fundamentals of the divine plan, —especially the ransom. We must be—convinced in our own minds, beyond the possibility of shaking, that ransom means corresponding price. We must be convinced in our own minds beyond the possibility of shaking that the ransom given by our Lord Jesus was a man’s life, for a man’s life. There are other fundamentals of truth revealed through a faithful and wise servant. Many who once walked with us and who did not diligently add to their faith this unswerving fundamental knowledge have been deceived and have fallen from the way.

Self-Control

Then we are told to add to our knowledge, temperance, or self- control. This is one of the most important elements of good character. The wise man said, "He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city." (Pr 16:32) Self-control has application to our every activity. It has to do with all our sentiments, thoughts,

tastes, appetites, labors, pleasures, sorrows and hopes. Its successful cultivation means a high order of character development. The fruit of self-control is moderation. Paul—exhorts, "Let your moderation be known unto all men." (Php 4:5) It takes strength of character to be moderate in all things. It is contrary to the spirit of the world, with its depraved tastes, appetites and excesses. Moderation balances all the other virtues. A philosopher named Ogburn has written a bit of worldly wisdom worth repeating:

"Moderation is the only virtue. The other so-called virtues are virtuous only in-so-far as they are joined with moderation. To be over-courageous, is to be foolhardy. To be over-thrifty, is to be parsimonious—miserly. To be over-loving is to be doting. To be too unselfish is to weary the world with the spectacle of your martyrdom. To give a child, a mate or a friend too much attention, or too little, is equally disastrous. Self-abnegation and self-glorification are both vices. To be too thoughtful is to be incapable of action; to be over-active is self-defeating and likely to prove fatal. Moderation is what counts."

But we as Christians know that there is one thing in which we must not be moderate, to which we must give no restraint—" Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Mt 22:37) There is no moderation here!

We must go all the way!

Patience

We must add to temperance (or self-control), patience. Jehovah is called a "God of patience." (Ro 15:5) How true this is! He has plenty of time. The psalmist wrote, "From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." (Ps 90:2) Extending from everlastingly into the past, to everlastingly into the future, without the necessity of hurrying to "meet a deadline, " as human creatures are always doing.

He has taken millions of years to create the universe, and ages upon ages, to create the world. Peter tells us:

"Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is, with the Lord, as a thousand years; and a thousand years as one day."—2Pe 3:8

Think of it! Man’s creation, fall, redemption, resurrection and restitution, all happen in only a week as far as God is concerned! Let us remember this the next time we are impatient with the seeming delay in the outworking of God’s plan.

There is a text that indicates patience will be one of the final and most shaking tests upon the church at the end of the age—where we are now:

"Cast not away, therefore, your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward, for ye have need of patience that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come, will come, and will not tarry."—Heb 10:35-37

Many have said, "We have done the will of God. The ‘times of the Gentiles’ have ended. 1914 has come and gone. Is it not time for our change? We know the reign has begun, but is it not time for Christ the Lord to appear openly and to manifest his kingdom on earth in power and glory?"

Lacking patience some were disappointed at the delay and "cast away their confidence, " and with it, "the great recompense of reward." They lost interest in the truth; they lost their calling and election. Others with impatience took action by trying to hurry things up. They tried to hasten the work of the kingdom by their own efforts. They established Kingdom Halls. They twisted, perverted, and misapplied the prophecies. One error led to another until the fundamental doctrine of the ransom was tampered with—all because of a lack of patience.

The outworking of the times and seasons should be left to the Lord!

We read:"Wait ye upon me, saith the Lord." (Zeph—aniah 3:8) Wait! This applies also to our development as new creatures. It takes time for anything worth while to mature. Hastily picked fruit is unripe, hard, sour and bitter. But time, as well as pruning, fertilizing, cultivating, and exposure to sunshine and rain produces ripe and luscious fruit which delights the taste. This is confirmed by James:

"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the—coming of the Lord.

Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth; and hath long patience for it; until he receive the early and latter rain.

Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts."—Jas 5:7, 8

The child of God must have patience, —patience with the poor blinded world, with our enemies because they know not what they do, with the "babes in Christ, " with the slow and ignorant, with the excitable and blundering, with the over-confident Peters and the skeptical Thomases. By the application of the time element, patience will work to perfect our characters in love. "Let patience have her perfect work." (Jas 1:4) There is no substitute for it, there are no short cuts. Once when James Garfield was president of Hiram College in Ohio, a father asked him if the course of study could be simplified to enable his son to "go through by a shorter route."

Garfield replied:

"Certainly, but it all depends upon what you want to make of your boy. When God wants to make an oak tree, he takes a hundred years.

When he wants to make a squash, he requires only two months."

We are being schooled and prepared for an exceedingly high position. It takes time! We are of "them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honor and immortality; eternal life." (Ro 2:7) "He that endureth to the end, shall be saved." (Mt 10:22) "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us." (Heb 12:1)

Godliness

Next, we are told to add to patience, godliness, or God-likeness.

This comes with Christian maturity. As we learn of God’s plans and ways, we conform our plans and ways to his. We taste of his goodness and see positive evidences of his leadings and disciplines in our individual lives. Through constant communion in prayer over the years we become very close to our Lord. As a son who loves and admires his father, seeks to emulate him, and copy his ways, we pattern ourselves after God and Christ. We reach the point when, even with our finite minds, we reason like God does. He has said,

"Come now, let us reason together." (Isa 1:18) We learn to love him with all our hearts, minds and souls. We heartily, cheerfully and lovingly conform to his will. Just as an earthly father loves a son who emulates him, God loves us for it!

This Godliness is a later development of Christian character; and a very vital one if we are to gain the prize. It is what Paul describes as the "Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." (Heb 12:14) Let us not be discouraged by the seeming stringency of this requirement. We are not required to be sinless. Please notice that the same verse of scripture that invites us to "come, let us reason together, " is the one that assures us "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isa 1:18) Confirming this, John wrote, tenderly and reassuringly:

"My little children, these things write I unto you that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."—1Jo 2:1

Praise God for such a wonderful provision!

Brotherly-Kindness

We are counseled to add to Godliness, brotherly-kindness. Does this mean we are to be kind only to the brethren? No! The prefix

"brotherly" describes the quality of kindness, not its scope . We are to manifest this choice variety or degree of kindness known as brotherly-kindness to all but, as with any other good thing, especially to the household of faith. In this we are also being God-like because

God is—described as "a God ready to pardon; gracious and merciful; slow to anger; and of great kindness." (Ne 9:17) Some may say, "Of course he is merciful and kind to his own people- -to those who are in covenant relationship with him; but others can expect no mercy. For them the second death awaits." There is a large society holding to this view today. This view puts a false limit on the goodness of God. Jesus himself said of the Heavenly Father:

"For he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful as your Father also is merciful."—Lu 6:35, 36

We are of all men most fortunate to have been called and enlightened of God. Our hearts should be tender toward those less fortunate than ourselves. It is through us that the Lord will manifest his kindness and mercy to the world in the future; we are expected to demonstrate kindness and mercy now. But in this we will often be misunderstood by the world. Many of the world cannot comprehend unselfish kindness. Do good to such, and he will say or think,

"What’s your angle? What’s in it for you? What’s the gimmick? Nobody gives something for nothing!" Doing good without any hope of return is simply incomprehensible to the world. But how astonished they will be when during the kingdom, the very windows of heaven will be opened and they will be deluged with good things beyond their imaginations! When "whosoever will" can take freely of the rich blessings provided. (Re 22:17) With the application of the principle that "it is more blessed to give than to receive, " we, the instruments of dispensing good things, will be very blessed indeed!

Love

Finally we are told to add to brotherly-kindness, charity or love. The kind of love here referred to is the highest form of love. It is higher than the love suggested by brotherly-kindness. It is this kind of love:

"God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." (Joh 3:16) This love, which God exemplifies, is the kind he sets before us as the highest standard, or "mark" toward which we must run. This perfect standard of love is impossible to our fallen flesh. But it is possible and—attainable, by our renewed minds, wills and hearts.

We read:"The end of the commandment is love" (1Ti 1:5), this highest form of love. The object of all God’s counsel and discipline is to bring us to this character-likeness to himself—this exalted form of love. As we read:

"God is love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him."—1Jo 4:16

Love to God alone is not the full manifestation of this grace. There must be a corresponding love to man. John wrote:

"If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen?"—1Jo 4:20

Jesus said:"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (Joh 13:35) With diligence let us add to our faith, virtue [or fortitude], knowledge, temperance [or self- control], patience, godliness, brotherly-kindness, and the highest form of love.

"For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these thing’s is blind, and cannot see afar off; and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins."

Some in the Society who were formerly of like mind, have scoffed at character-development and have become blinded to the true counsel of God in this respect. They are short-sighted and "cannot see afar off." They cannot see that as a man sows now, he reaps in the future. They have forgotten the years already spent in developing character fruits, and the measure of cleansing that resulted. They have forgotten that they were purged from their old sins.

"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall."

Someone might say, "There’s a big if here. The Jews could have attained life, too, if they had kept the law perfectly." True, but there’s a big difference here. With us, the contingency is not in the doing of these things perfectly as it was with the Jews. We have at our disposal the righteousness of Christ to cover our transgressions and to compensate for our daily shortcomings. But if, added to our faith in the imputed righteousness of Christ, we have cultivated all these graces to the extent of our ability, we shall not fall!

That is a positive statement:"Ye shall never fall." You shall never cease to be in line for the great prize of the high calling.

"For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

Notice :It is an abundant entrance! There is nothing grudging about it! It brings to mind a wide open door, open arms, a hearty welcome home with those we love best, after a long and weary journey.

The Astonishing Doctrines

"And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the—people were astonished at his doctrine; for he taught them as one—having authority, and not as the scribes."—Mt 7:28, 29

VERY early in Jesus’ ministry, almost from the very beginning, the Jews sought to kill him. Why did they want to do this? Everything Jesus did was good. It is written that he was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." (Heb 7:26) He went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed. (Ac 10:38) He was anointed to "proclaim the gospel to the poor, bind up the broken- hearted, and preach deliverance to captives." (Lu 4:18) These are good things to do and should gain a sympathetic response from all good-hearted people. He faithfully did these things with all the might of his perfect human organism. "And the common people heard him gladly" (Mr 12:37), or as the Diaglott has it:"And the great crowd heard him with pleasure."

Wherever he went, he performed miracles of mercy, love and compassion. He did it lavishly and freely, to all who had need. The poor people, the common people, the poverty-stricken, the sick, the oppressed, the tax-ridden, those in servitude, the unfortunate who had never in their lives gotten anything free before, flocked to him in huge numbers. They had been waiting for Messiah, the Christ. Luke says that at this particular time, all men in Israel "were in expectation of him." (Lu 3:15) From the prophecies, they expected Messiah to come with great power, performing miracles. Here was a man who fitted that description. This must indeed be the Messiah.

This rising tide of sentiment infuriated the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees who saw their positions threatened. As we read:

"And many of the people believed on him and said :When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these, which this man hath done?"—Joh 7:31

The Pharisees Try to Take Jesus

The Pharisees heard that the people—murmured such things concerning him, so what did they do? "And the Pharisees and the chief priests, sent officers to take him." Think of it! These were the religious leaders of the people, the teachers, the models of morality and truth. They sat in Moses’ seat and were the custodians of the oracles of God. What was their first reaction when faced with a rival? They had no consideration as to the mercy, goodness and truth being brought to the people; they had not even a shrinking or a fear of opposing a work that was obviously blessed of God. Their only primitive, savage reaction, as old as Cain, was:"Take him, and kill

him!" So we read:"The Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him." They undoubtedly had a plan. Perhaps they would judge him to be a wizard and stone him. This was perfectly legal according to Mosaic law. A few false witnesses procured with pieces of silver could testify about a number of acts punishable by death.

Then they would be rid of him. It was as simple and as crude as that!

They sent officers to take him and waited for them to return with Jesus. They waited, and they waited. There seemed to be some delay, but finally, "then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees." (Joh 7:45) Jesus was not with them! They were empty- handed and shame-faced. "And they said unto them, why have ye not brought him?" The officers answered, "Never man spake like this man!" What kind of an excuse was this for such men to make? These officers were hard, tough-minded men, callused to all kinds of violence and cruelty. They were of the same band who were later assigned to go with Judas to Gethsemane, who watched, unmoved, the most loathsome betrayal in history, a betrayal which has become a byword, to this day :the Judas Kiss. These were the ones who captured Jesus, bound him, and took him to the palace of the high priest for questioning. (Joh 18:15) They were the same band of officers who slapped Jesus with the palms of their hands (John 18:22), who dragged Jesus to Pilate’s judgment hall (18:28), and turned him over to the cruel Roman soldiers for scourging and other indignities.

These were not soft men by any means. They were strong, reckless men, armed with swords. All Jesus had was his manner and speech, but it was quite enough! As Jesus spoke they stood, listened, backed away, and returned to the chief priests without him and with the lame excuse:"Never man spake like this man!" What had happened? I think it is obvious that being men used to authority, they had met a superior authority; they had met their master! Later, when Jesus had completed his ministry, he would permit them to take him; but it was not yet time. Even in Gethsemane, when the time had come for Jesus to submit to them, the superior authority of his manner and voice almost prevented these men from carrying out their mission even then. We read from John:

"Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests, and Pharisees, cometh thither, with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus . . . went forth and said unto them :Whom seek ye? They answered him :Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them :I am he. . . . As soon, then, as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. Then asked he them again:

Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered :I have told you, that I am he."—Joh 18:3-8

Do you see what happened here? It was the custom in those days for officers to step back and prostrate themselves in the presence of a king. Jesus had but to say three words, "I am he, " and the power and authority of his speech caused these hard but simple men to prostrate themselves before the king of kings! But Jesus’ time had now come and he had to actually help these men take him!

Jesus’ Sacrifice Was Voluntary

There is a very important reason why it had to be this way. Jesus’ sacrifice was to be voluntary so he laid down his defenses, he relinquished his command over more than 12 legions of angels, and gave himself a ransom for all (1Ti 2:5, 6). As Jesus himself said:

"Therefore doth my Father love me; because I lay down my life . . .

No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself."—Joh 10:17, 18

These men did not forcibly take Jesus; he gave himself into their hands!

There is another illustration of the power of Jesus’ presence and speech. The rulers of the synagogue were present when he taught one Sabbath day. As usual the—common people heard him, hungrily and gladly. We read:"And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth." (Lu 4:22) Then we read:

"[ Those] of the synagogue when they heard these things, were filled with wrath and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them, went his way."—Lu 4:28-30

These people had murder in their hearts. They fully intended to push Jesus over the cliff and kill him. Jesus allowed himself to be pushed along to the very edge of the cliff as a witness against them, to confirm their murderous intentions beyond a doubt. Then he simply turned around and walked "through the midst of them." If he said anything, it is not recorded. He certainly did communicate his authority to them, by his looks and manner. As he advanced, their murderous spirit suddenly evaporated and they fell back allowing him to pass. Even these evil men knew when they had met their master! Then we read:

"[ He] came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them, on the sabbath days; and they were astonished at his doctrine, for his word was with power."—Lu 4:31, 32

He radiated power and authority. It was something you could feel, that took hold of you, that moved you.

There was also the incident when "the Pharisees took counsel, how they might entangle him in his talk" by asking him whether they should give tribute to Caesar or not. (Mt 22:15) Jesus answered:"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s." (Mt 22:21) Then we read:"When they had heard these words, they marvelled."

The Multitudes Were Amazed The Sadducees also tried to trip up Jesus before the people, by dreaming up a strange case of the woman who had had seven husbands in her lifetime. "In the resurrection, " they asked, "Whose wife shall she be, of the seven?"

Jesus gave a concise answer and we read:"And the crowds, hearing this, were amazed at his teaching." (Mt 22:33, Diaglott) They had never heard anything like this before. His teachings were obviously true but they hope lessly confounded the chief priests, Pharisees, scribes and Sadducees, the most brilliant minds in the land! It was amazing, indeed!

It is written of Jesus that "there followed him, great multitudes of people." (Mt 4:25) "And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain, and when he was set, his disciples came unto him; and he opened his mouth, and taught them." (Mt 5:1, 2) Then follows what is generally known as Christ’s Sermon on the Mount comprising the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Matthew. At the end of this sermon, we read the words of our text:

"And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine; for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes."—Mt 7:28, 29

It would seem that when he started his sermon, only his disciples were present; it was intended for their ears. By the time he had finished, "the people" were there as well. The multitudes sought him out and found him; what they heard of the sermon astonished them.

People are amazed and astonished to this day. Here is a quote from the writings of the eminent psychiatrist:

"If you were to take the sum total of all the authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene; if you were to combine them, and refine them, and cleave out the excess verbiage; if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley; and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge, concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount."—Dr. James T. Fisher

Doesn’t that show a great deal of amazed admiration? In 2, 000 years this sermon by Jesus has lost none of its magnificent power and is acknowledged today, even by a worldly psychiatrist, to be a veritable model of sound thinking. Yet they do it only lip service. They do not follow its precepts. Jesus’ teachings were directed primarily to his disciples, his footstep followers. His doctrines were of God and ran counter to the ways and wisdom of the world. "The wisdom of this world, is foolishness with God." (1Co 3:19) Let us consider some of the doctrines Jesus taught which are strange, astonishing and amazing to the world, yet are the wisdom of God and the very lifeblood of Christian development. Jesus said to his disciples:"The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." (Joh 6:63) In other words, they are your very breath of life! Jesus was referring to the man of God, the consecrated and spirit-begotten person, when he cited the scripture:"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Mt 4:4) When Jesus delivered his sermon on the mount, he astonished his hearers from—beginning to end. His opening statement, which might be considered the text of his sermon, was a bombshell to them:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit [or humble-minded] for theirs is the kingdom of hea—ven." (Mt 5:3) Then he said:"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (Mt 5:5)

They said to themselves:

"What a preposterous thought. Humble-minded indeed! Meek indeed! We are a proud people. We Israelites are God’s chosen people. There is nothing humble or meek about the way that God, with a mighty hand and a stretched out arm (De 5:15), delivered our forefathers from Egypt. The cream of Egypt’s manhood, the firstborn, was slain for us; the Red Sea was divided in our behalf. We’re important! There was nothing meek or humble about Joshua’s decisive victories, and the forcible occupation of Canaan by our forebearers. And what about the mighty dynasty of David and the pomp, glory, and riches of Solomon? And it is that same "throne of David" that our Messiah is to restore to us and make worldwide. And now this man, who purports to be the Messiah, talks to us about the humble gaining the kingdom and the meek inheriting the earth!"

Most Did Not Understand

You see why they were astonished at his doctrine! But they did not understand that Jesus was giving natural Israel a chance to become spiritual Israel. In his sermon he enunciated the principles that would transform their characters, cause them to follow in his footsteps, to be filled with the holy spirit, to become new creatures, to give up their earthly rights, privileges and prospects, to lay down their lives as he was doing, to humbly and meekly submit to the directions and chastenings of the Lord, to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, to be chiseled, polished and fitted as instruments to "bless all the families of the earth" as the spiritual seed of Abraham, the stars of heaven; to become the "sons of God!"

They did not respond to these teachings of Jesus. Instead they were "astonished at his doctrine." They did not accept and receive the principles of Jesus’ sermon. As John so well expressed it:

"He came unto his own, and his own received him not; but as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God." —Joh 1:11, 12

Ah yes! Some did receive him. The disciples accepted Jesus and did seek to conform their lives to the heavenly standards he set for them.

They grasped the power or privilege of becoming the sons of God!

Let us come down to the present day, a day described as a time of increased knowledge. (Da 12:4) The present time is often referred to as "the Space Age." Man’s horizons have been tremendously widened. At one time, the thought of conquering the whole world was the ultimate in selfish ambition. Greater possession than this earth could not be humanly conceived. "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" (Mt 16:26) But now man covets not just the earth, but the heavens as well! Men have already visited the moon. Now space craft are being prepared to visit the other planets of the solar system. Some have even dared to think of visiting other solar systems! A desperate race is now on to see which nation shall be first to claim these heavenly bodies by right of possession—in other words to gain a "kingdom of heaven." Only a few years ago, such a thought would have been considered fantastically imaginative—pure science fiction. Now in this "space age" hard-headed and practical men are pouring time and treasure into such projects.

Suppose we were to gather together some of these modern "wise men" who think to conquer heaven and earth—political leaders, business tycoons, military strategists, and other intellectual giants—and say to them:"Gentlemen, there is a way you can obtain the kingdom of heaven, and inherit the earth. It is a very simple formula, not classified top secret but openly and plainly stated in a book which has the freest and greatest circulation of any book in history. The formula is this:blessed are the poor in spirit [or humble- minded] for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; and Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

What do you suppose their reaction would be? We can imagine the politician saying:"Humility? Meekness? That won’t elect anybody!

It just isn’t realistic, not good politics. You’ve got to denounce the opposition; build up their shortcomings, play down their successes.

Promise anything to get the vote. You don’t have to deliver. Once you’re in, what can they do about it? Humble? Don’t be silly!"

The business man would say:"Blessed are the meek? That’s not the way I heard it! Sentiment has no place in business. You’ve got to be tough-minded and aggressive. Beat the next guy to the punch! To be successful, you must be spurred by self-interest and self-will; push yourself forward, even to the point of belligerence! Shoulder your competitor aside, and grab the business away from them!" An executive vice-president of an advertising agency is quoted as saying in a speech:"In new business, if you engage in anything short of a direct assault on the jugular vein, you’re in the Mickey Mouse league."

The military man would say:"Humility and meekness won’t win battles. You’ve got to get there first with the most, and press every advantage. In the face of a—superior force, you must be cunning and audacious, confusing the enemy; striking unexpectedly where it hurts the most. You must impress them with your fearlessness. When you have gained the advantage, demand unconditional surrender with the alternative of complete slaughter. If you’re humble-minded and meek, you’re dead!"

Others will say:"Being meek and lowly goes against everything we’ve been taught about life and character. To be servile, poor in spirit, goes against everything we’ve been told is right and necessary and great. On the contrary we should be spirited, not poor in spirit.

When we say someone has plenty of spirit, it’s a compliment. Don’t let anybody push you around! Look out for Number One! God helps those who help themselves!" They would go on to say:"If you want others to think well of you, think well of yourself! Brag a little, bluff a little; no one will give you credit for more than you claim; a little haughtiness will impress people; meekness is weakness. What we need in the world today is strength not poor weaknesses! Think highly of yourself!"

Aren’t these familiar terms? This is the current pattern offered for success. It was the same in Jesus’ day. Do we wonder that they "were astonished at his doctrine" when he told them they could inherit heaven and earth by being poor in spirit, humble and meek? This method did not appeal to them at all; it violated their every standard.

This may be what Isaiah meant when he described Jesus prophetically:

"He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him; He was despised and rejected of men."—Isa 53:2, 3

His Doctrines Had No Beauty

I believe that as a perfect man, Jesus was comely and did have great physical beauty. How could it be otherwise? Is a perfect—human son of God, ugly? Of course not! But it was his teachings, his astonishing—doctrines, that did not conform to their worldly ideas. It was in these that they found no form, nor comeliness, nor beauty nor anything desirable from an earthly standpoint. So they despised and rejected him, hid their faces from him, and esteemed him not. (Isa 53:3, 4) As Matthew later expressed it:"They were offended in him." (Mt 13:57)

They simply did not understand. They were only concerned with how they might fill their bellies with food each day.

What did they know about inheriting the earth, and the kingdom of heaven? The whole idea was staggering to their minds; it was an incomprehensible mystery!

The disciples were different. They had a hunger and a thirst for what Jesus taught; Jesus promised that they would be filled, that the mysteries would be revealed to them. As Jesus said to his disciples:

"It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; but to them, it is not given. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which saith:by hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive; for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them; but blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears, for they hear."—Mt 13:11, 14-16

Blessed indeed! In this astonishing doctrine of humility which the world despises and rejects as ugly, repugnant and worthless, we find a fantastic and soul-satisfying beauty! The child of God experiences the utter joy of being poor in spirit, the powerful, sweet joy of coming to God with nothing at all! Nothing! Coming so poor, so stripped, so without the necessities of spiritual life, that everything you can have, everything you need, everything you want, must come to you as a gift of God, through Jesus Christ! This is a joy the world can never experience, can never understand! It is the joy of giving up everything, counting all things as loss and dross that we may win Christ.

Humility and Meekness in Our Lives

How should humility and meekness be applied continually in our day-to-day lives as Christians? Peter tells us:

"Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour :whom resist steadfast in the faith."—1Pe 5:5-9

We are not to humbly subject ourselves unnecessarily to this world and the evil ones of this world. This would be conforming to this world. We are told:"Be not conformed to this world." (Ro 12:2) Peter says, "be subject one to another and be clothed with humility one to another." When he says "one to another, " he is speaking of the brotherhood of the truth, the fellowship of those of like precious faith, "the body of Christ, the church of God." In the next verse he says:"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God." Don’t humble yourselves to just anybody and under any circumstance, but under the mighty hand of God! We are not to humble ourselves under Satan and the evil men he controls. Peter specifically emphasizes this when he describes Satan as a rampaging, defiant, roaring lion; and adds:"Whom resist steadfast in the faith."

So we are not to be always humble, submissive and meek to any and all persons and conditions. There is a time to resist, a time to fight the good fight of faith, a time to withstand as Paul withstood Peter to the face (Ga 2:11), a time to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. Ah, yes! That is important. Once many years ago when I objected to certain new doctrines being introduced in the church by the Society, I was advised to be humble enough and meek enough to accept what comes from the channel without question. I’m certainly glad I didn’t take that advice!

But even when we do not agree with others, we can and should be gentle with them. We don’t have to stir up opposition and fan the flames of dissension. As Paul told Timothy:

"The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men . . . in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves."—2Ti 2:24, 25

As representatives of Christ, we must not be servile or slavish, groveling before the world. As the ambassadors we are, we should walk with dignity, with our heads high, befitting our high calling.

Herein is another danger. Out of the billions of earth, only a few have been invited to this wonderful calling. We are the light of the world, we are the salt of the earth, we are a most unusual and unique

group. The Lord deals with us in a very special way. Because of this, it is so easy to fall into a self-important and haughty attitude. It may be gradual, and initially imperceptible. It seems so human to think well of ourselves, and we should, to a certain extent. Yes, we should even love ourselves, to a—degree. Jesus said:"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Mt 22:39) This certainly teaches that you must love your neighbor, does it not? But how much? To what degree? Why, as much as you love yourself! This is the measure of it. Thus if this teaching of Jesus admonishes us to love our neighbor, it implies that we also love ourselves because we must love our neighbor as ourself. But of course it is not our old, degraded, sinful human selves we are to love, nor our dead bodies, but our new creature selves, the begotten of God. It may be called self-respect as new creatures.

There is a serious danger here, too. This spirit of self-love can be carried too far and can sow the seed of our destruction as new creatures. This is because the next human step is to try to impress others by showing them how great, fine and good we are, even though we know we really are not. Before long we start to believe it ourselves! As Paul said:

"For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."—Ro 12:3

Yes, we should think soberly, or realistically, of ourselves, not making ourselves something we are not. But at the same time, we should not hide away any small talent we may have which may be used in the Lord’s service. Although not thinking of ourselves "more highly than we ought to think, " we should, nevertheless, realistically evaluate what abilities the Lord has endowed us with and use them to his glory. Sometimes having too low an opinion of our own abilities may result in our neglecting to use what we can in the Lord’s work. A wise man has said:"Use what talents you possess. The woods would be very silent if only the best birds sang."

Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" or humble-minded. They are blessed indeed. Being humble-minded makes us charitable and forgiving to the faults of others. Because we are humble-minded enough to realize our own unworthiness, we overlook the faults in our brethren. We look for their graces instead, the indications of their development as new creatures. This is not always an easy thing to do. A lecturer once hung a large square of white paper on the blackboard. Then he made a tiny black spot in the center. He asked various ones in his audience what they saw. They all replied, "A black dot." The speaker asked:"Don’t any of you see a large square of white?" The blemish, the spot, the defect, even though

exceedingly small, is seen and pointed out. The big white preponderance of lovely graces are ignored. This is a fallen human trait and is unworthy of the consecrated people of God.

Being truly humble-minded makes us merciful, kind, patient, forbearing, forgiving and charitable:

"Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. . . . And above all these things, put on charity [or love], which is the bond of perfectness."—Col 3:12, 14

Clothed with Humility

These are the things we are to "put on." The Diaglott says we are to be "clothed" with them, enveloped with them, wrapped up with them. The first quality mentioned associated with humbleness of mind is mercy. If we are humble-minded enough to know how poor we are, how unprofitable we are, how very much we ourselves are in need of mercy, we will be merciful to others. Don’t forget that every such act of mercy is noted by the Lord. He uses them as a measure to return mercy to us:"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." (Mt 5:7) This is one of the treasures you lay up in heaven.

Those who are most used in the Lord’s service are in the most danger.

Satan suggests to them that they are doing a great work, and perhaps they are. But the subtle suggestion is that they are doing it by their own strength and they begin to glory in it. How foolish!

"Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? As if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up; or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were not wood!"—Isa 10:15

The humble-minded child of God will yield himself as a tool in God’s hand, to be wielded and used by him, but will never presume that any of what is accomplished is by his own merit or strength. "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." (1 Cor—inthians 1:31) Yes, in humility our Lord—Jesus is our supreme example. As it is so beautifully stated by Paul:

"Let this disposition be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who, though being in God’s form, yet did not meditate a usurpation to be like God; but divested himself, taking a bondman’s form, having been made in the likeness of men; and being in condition as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross! And therefore, God supremely exalted him, and freely

granted to him that name which is above every name."—Php 2:5-9, Diaglott We can never attain to this measure of humility, to give such a demonstration of it as this. It is not expected of us. We are not, and have never been, exalted spirit beings from which condition we might humble ourselves as Jesus did. None of us will ever literally be brought so low as to die the death on the cross; such a great humiliation as our Master suffered can never be ours. How then do we walk in his footsteps? Paul explains it in the very beginning of the scripture quoted:"Let this disposition be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, " or as the old familiar King James version has it:

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ We must have the same humble mind or disposition as Jesus. As he said of himself:"I am meek, and lowly in heart." (Mt 11:29) Paul said:"Now I, Paul, myself beseech you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ." (2Co 10:1) How did Paul know about the meekness and gentleness of Christ? Paul had never met Jesus in the flesh. Ah, but he had savagely persecuted Jesus’ followers and had witnessed their reactions under trying circumstances. Just as the chief priests, seeing the boldness of Peter and John, marveled and took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus (Ac 4:13), Paul had learned of the meekness and gentleness of Christ through his disciples—by their minds and dispositions when he persecuted them, as well as in his later association with them as a brother in Christ.

Jesus also said:"I can of mine own self, do nothing." (Joh 5:30) Thus he humbly acknowledged that every one of his mighty miracles- -his thousands of healings and all the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth—were really of the father and only through himself! As he said:

"I have not spoken of myself; but the Father who sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak."—Joh 12:49

Think of it! He gave God credit for every word he spoke! He did not take credit for a single original idea. What a flawless example for us to emulate!

Jesus taught other astonishing doctrines which the world does not understand. He taught that men get by giving , they win by losing , they live by dying . Try that on your next door neighbor! Pure nonsense he would say, but to us, the elect of God, these are sublime thoughts. They are precepts worth living by and dying for!

We are all familiar with the golden rule:

"Therefore, all things, whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." —Mt 7:12

This has been considered the highest possible standard of human conduct. But for the humble-minded, there is an even grander rule than this. I call it the diamond rule:

"In lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves!"—Php 2:3

Esteem them not as yourself, but better than yourself! This goes beyond the Golden Rule. If you can do this, if you can live this, you are one of the blessed ones that Jesus was talking to on the mount.

Yours is the kingdom of heaven. You shall inherit the earth!

The Bible Versus the Evolution Theory

THE theory that man had no designer or creator, but is the product of nature by an evolutionary process, is very generally accepted today as true. It is widely taught in our schools and colleges in contradiction of the Bible statement that man was a direct creation of God. But the evolution of man is only a theory. When logically examined, it is a very unreasonable theory. It not only contradicts the teachings of the Bible, it violates simple common sense.

It must be self-evident to every reasonable mind that effects must be produced by competent causes. Nothing can design and create itself.

A thing of beauty, symmetry and intricacy cannot be produced by an—unintelligent blind force termed "nature." The maker must of necessity be superior to the thing made.

Consider the human organism. It is a masterpiece of design and workmanship, combining mechanical, chemical and electrical principles, superbly interrelated and interacting with harmony and precision. It is so complicated that modern science can not explain its every operation. It is obviously beyond human ingenuity. Thus it clearly exhibits the hand of a master—designer and craftsman. In addition to physical attributes, man is endowed with a high degree of intelligence, with moral and ethical qualities, that could not possibly come by chance.

The theory of evolution utterly lacks proof. All about us we see various creatures of fixed natures that do not evolve to higher natures. Although those who hold to this theory have tried repeatedly, they have never succeeded in blending different species, or in producing a new fixed variety. No instance is known where one kind has changed into another kind. Surely if unintelligent nature were the creator, the process would continue and there would be no such thing as fixed species. Without intelligence nothing would arrive at fixed conditions. Evolution would be a fact today and we would still see fish becoming birds and monkeys becoming men. But no "missing link" has ever been found nor will it be found. It does not exist.

Many sincere Christians have attempted to harmonize the theory of evolution with the Bible saying that the Genesis account of the creation of man is merely allegorical, that Adam was not a direct creation of God but was the end result of millions of years of evolution from the ape, that he was in fact a monkey-man. They say that mankind has been evolving upward ever since, steadily developing higher physical and mental qualities until, in the far

distant future, the human family will attain perfection. But besides being contrary to known facts, this idea is diametrically opposed to the Bible. The two cannot be reconciled.

First there is every evidence that man has been degenerating, not advancing, over the centuries. Ancient records prove that men used to have the vitality to live many hundreds of years. Today it is rare for anyone to attain to the age of one hundred.

The most ancient human skulls unearthed show a brain capacity superior to modern man. In art, architecture, sculpture and poetry, nothing today is superior to that of the ancients. The ancient laws of Moses have been a pattern for the laws of all modern civilized nations, and are superior to them in many respects. The upward evolution of man has no basis in fact.

Most important of all, if the evolution theory were correct, there would be no need for Jesus Christ. Why? Because the whole plan of God as revealed in the Bible relates to the fall of man into sin and death, and his salvation therefrom. If there was no fall because man had been evolving upward, where is the need of a Savior? The Bible throughout teaches that there is to be a restitution of mankind, a restoration to a condition previously enjoyed. Every prophet of God spoke of restitution. Peter spoke of, "times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." (Ac 3:19) If the theory of evolution were correct, restitution would be a great calamity to humankind because it would mean a return to the state of monkey-man.

In contrast with the illogical and unproven theory of evolution, the Bible view is beautiful, reasonable and heart-satisfying. The scriptures teach that there is a—supreme creator, a God of wisdom, justice, love and power that has a grand Plan of the Ages whereby sin and death, which have been permitted for man’s experience, will be eliminated. The result will be a perfect race of human beings, living forever in health and happiness in a worldwide garden of Eden. Let us trace this loving plan as taught in the Bible.

After preparing the earth for man’s habitation, God proposed to bring into being, as ruler of earth, a noble earthly creature, in his moral likeness, described as "a little lower than the angels." (Ps 8:5)

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion . . . over all the earth. . . . So God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them; and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish [fill] the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion."—Ge 1:26-28

We further read in verse 31 that "God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good ." It was perfect . We are told in Ge 3:22 that Adam was designed with the ability to live forever.

Being created in "the image of God" means Adam was made in the creator’s moral and character likeness. Unlike the lower animals with their compelling instincts, Adam was endowed with a moral sense, and a freedom of choice. He was able to reason independently, to reach decisions and to freely act in harmony with them. He was what we call a free moral agent. This is exactly what God wanted—a man capable of making his own decisions who would obey his God and do what is right by freedom of choice, because he wanted to do so, not because he was compelled to do so.

Adam was tested to determine whether he would, of his own free will, obey God’s laws and thus be worthy of continued life. The option given to Adam was obey and live, or disobey and die. The test was eminently just and fair. God purposely made it simple and easy.

Adam was to abstain from eating the fruit of a certain tree. But Adam failed the test. By the connivance of Satan, Adam deliberately and knowingly disobeyed God. This was the greatest tragedy in the history of the world, this is how sin entered the world and condemned Adam and his entire race to death. Since that time, all have been born sinners, have been born dying. Thus we read:

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."—Ro 5:12

This happened a little more than six thousand years ago. Since then mankind, instead of progressing as evolutionists claim, has been degenerating—mentally, morally and physically.

Now we come to the most wonderful part of God’s plan. God provided a redeemer for Adam and his entire race.

"God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."—Joh 3:16

Jesus was born on earth as a perfect, sinless man, not under the Adamic sentence of death. He laid down his unforfeited human life in the place and stead of Adam’s forfeited life, as a ransom price; he redeemed Adam and all his race from death.

"For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."—1Co 15:21, 22

For this purpose, a kingdom of God with Christ as king is even now dawning upon the earth. During this kingdom there is to be a resurrection of the dead. All the willing and obedient will be restored to human perfection to live forever in a worldwide garden of Eden.

The Boy Samuel

AT THE time of our lesson, which was about 1170 BC, .there lived in Ramah, in the hill country of Ephraim, a devout man of the tribe of Levi , named .Elkanah. He had two wives. The first was Hannah, whom he loved the best, but who had no children. The second was Peninnah, who bore him several sons and daughters.

In those days the Tabernacle of the Lord was located at Shiloh, a few miles north of Jerusalem. The priest in charge was Eli, but being an old man, he had entrusted the work of sacrificing to his two sons.

Elkanah was a godly man, and used to go up to Shiloh every year, taking his entire family with him, to worship and sacrifice to the Lord. On one of these occasions he divided the sacrificial animal, probably a bullock, into several parts, giving a portion to each member of his family for their offering. He gave his wife, Peninnah, and each of her children, equal portions, but, because he loved Hannah the best, and she had no children, it was his custom to give her a double portion to offer. This annoyed Peninnah, and she continually jeered at Hannah, reproaching her for her barrenness. We now read from 1Sa 1:6 to 8 [Moffatt]:

"Her rival used to taunt her bitterly, to irritate her. . . . And this went on year after year. Whenever she went up to the house of the Eternal, she taunted Hannah. One day when Elkanah was sacrificing, Hannah wept and would not eat. So her husband Elkanah said to her, Hannah, why are you weeping? Why are you not eating? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?"

Although Elkanah’s love was a great consolation to Hannah, she so much wanted to have a son. For years she had yearned and longed for one, and she was so tired of being taunted by Peninnah.

Now here she was, at the Tabernacle of God, the place of prayer and sacrifice. So she decided what she would do. She would implore God, with tears, to please grant her heart’s desire, and she would make a solemn vow unto the Lord, promising what she would do if her request was granted. We now read from the record, 1Sa 1:9-11

[Moffatt]:

"Hannah rose and stood before the Eternal, where Eli the priest was sitting on his chair at the doorposts of the Temple of the Eternal.

With a sore heart she prayed to the Eternal, weeping bitterly, and she

made this vow :O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look upon the plight of thy servant and remember me, and not forget thy servant, but will give thy servant a son, then I will give him to the Eternal for the whole of his life, and no razor shall ever touch his head."

She repeated this prayer and this vow, with great fervency, over and over again, pouring out her very soul to the Lord. She prayed silently, from the heart, only her lips moving.

Eli was watching her from where he sat. He was accustomed to seeing the women come in, and make short, perfunctory, emotionless prayers, and quickly leave. So he was puzzled at Hannah’s actions. He concluded that she was intoxicated, and if so, it was his duty to reprove her and remove her from the sacred premises. So he went to her and reprimanded her for drunkenness.

We read:

"And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him. . . . So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad."—1Sa 1:15, 17, 18

Although he did not then know the reason for it, Elkanah rejoiced to see the happy change in his beloved Hannah. They got up early the next morning, worshipped once more before the Lord, and then journeyed home to Ramah.

When Hannah knew that the Lord had granted her request, and that she was at last to have a child, her joy knew no bounds. It was natural that she would tell her husband of the vow she had made—to give the child to the Lord for all the days of his life. Elkanah must have rejoiced with her, and given his complete approval.

The Birth of Samuel

In due time Hannah gave birth to a beautiful little boy. How lovingly she must have held and hugged her precious baby, in arms that had been so long empty! She gave the proper credit to the Lord for hearing her prayer, by naming the boy Samuel, which means

"Heard of God." She did not forget her vow. She was determined to keep it.

When the time came for the next annual pilgrimage to Shiloh, Hannah did not go with the rest of the family. We read from the record in 1Sa 1:22, 23:

"But Hannah went not up, for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide for ever. And Elkanah

her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth good. Tarry until thou hast weaned him."

When Hannah said she would give Samuel to the Lord when he was weaned, she did not mean weaned from the breast. Rather she meant when he was weaned from his mother, in the sense of being able to get along without her care. This would be when he was ten to twelve years of age. This is confirmed by the Jewish historian Jose—phus, who says Samuel was twelve when he was given to the Lord. It is interesting to remember that—Jesus was twelve when he first presented himself at the Temple in Jerusalem. Also, it is the custom of the Jews to this day, to consider a 12-year-old boy as entering the age of responsibility.

So Hannah loved and enjoyed her little son, Samuel, for many years, telling him that he belonged to the Lord, instructing him in the scriptures, and preparing him for the service of God. So it was no surprise to Samuel when he was finally taken to Shiloh. He had anticipated it, and had eagerly looked forward to it for a long time.

We now read from 1Sa 1:24 to 28 [Moffatt] regarding Hannah’s great sacrifice, which she so willingly gave:

"Then, after weaning him, she took him with her, along with a three-year-old bullock, a bushel of flour, and a bottle of wine. She—entered the house of the Eternal at Shiloh, —accompanied by the boy.

And after the bullock had been slain, she brought the boy to Eli. As sure as you live, sir, she said, I am the woman who stood beside you here, praying to the Eternal. I prayed about this boy, and the Eternal granted me what I asked. So I have lent him to the Eternal. As long as he lives, he is loaned to the Eternal."

Thus Hannah paid her vow unto the Most High. Eli questioned the handsome lad and found him to be reverential and knowledgeable beyond his years. He gladly—accepted him from Hannah. He would be a father to the boy, and Samuel’s responsibilities would be that of a dutiful and helpful young son to an aged parent, who was also a High Priest of God. Thus he would be serving God.

The Nazarite Vow

When Hannah first made her vow concerning Samuel, you will remember that she said:"I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head." Why did she vow not to cut his hair? She thus indicated her—intention to consecrate Samuel as a Nazarite from his birth, in accordance with the regulations given in the 6th chapter of Numbers. "Nazarite"

means "one separated." It described a person who was bound by a vow of a peculiar kind, to be set apart from others for the service of God, either for life or for a defined time. Besides being forbidden to

cut his hair, he was required to abstain from wine, grapes, and every—intoxicating drink, and he must not approach any dead body, not even of his parents. There were other restrictions also. Some took the Nazarite vow for a limited time, for a specific purpose, but very few took the vow for life. The three Nazarites for life mentioned in the scriptures are Samuel, Samson and John the Baptist.

The question may be asked:"How could Hannah commit Samuel to the Nazarite vow, and consecrate him to the Lord before ever he was born?" It was done by the exercise of parental authority, followed by a careful rearing of the child "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph 6:4), so that upon arriving at the age of—responsibility, he would freely accept and ratify the parental decision made on his behalf. This is what Samuel did. He was so reared, that he expected and desired nothing less than to serve the Lord for ever.

Such early consecrations are still in order. In this regard Bro. Russell said:

"It is a question with many how early in life a child may give its heart to God, and be fully consecrated to him. But the scriptures make very plain the fact that they may and should be consecrated to the Lord by their parents before their birth, or even their begetting, that thus their pre-natal influences may insure them a mental and spiritual inheritance tending to godliness, and that with the dawn of intelligence, this disposition should begin to be cultivated and warmed into vital, active piety, so that at a very tender age the little ones may intelligently ratify the parental covenant of entire consecration to God. This they should be expected and led to do as early as possible."—Reprints, page 1671.

Of such early consecrations to the Lord, we have many notable examples in the scriptures besides that of Samuel. In Jud 13:5 [Revised Version], we read that the angel of the Lord announced the forthcoming birth of Samson, saying to his mother:"You shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazarite to God from birth." We read in Lu 1:15 the words of the angel to Zacharias, the—father of John the Baptist, regarding John before he was born:"He shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. And he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb." Thus Samson and John were consecrated to be Nazarites for life, even before their birth.

Another example of pre-natal consecration is the apostle Paul. He said that God had ordained him to preach Christ to the Gentiles even before he was born. We read in Ga 1:15, 16:

"It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen."

Paul reminded young Timothy that he had been born with a strong, consecrated faith, and had been reared in the truth. He wrote in 2Ti 1:5 and 3:15:

"I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded in thee also. . . . And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus."

Moses, too, was consecrated from his birth. His mother, seeing "that he was a goodly child, " defied the law of Pharaoh, and committed his life to the Lord. (Ex 2:1-9; Heb 11:23-28) And Moses was a special instrument of God for as long as he lived.

These and other such examples are—recorded for our admonition, to encourage the Lord’s people to devote their children to God. Those thus early devoted to the Lord, and then carefully reared in the truth, escape many a snare of the devil, into which the children of worldlings fall. Just look at the corruption of youth in the world today! How wise is the counsel of Ec 12:1: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not." Those evil days of bitter disappointment and despair will never come to those who, in youth, commit their ways unto the Lord, and trust him to guide their paths.

Although Hannah loved little Samuel very deeply, she did not give him to the Lord grudgingly and sorrowfully. We know this, because after giving him, she made a wonderful prayer of joy and praise to the Lord, which is given in 1Sa 2:1 to 10. Far from expressing sadness, the opening words are:"My heart rejoiceth in the Lord!"

This prayer of praise and thanksgiving bears a striking resemblance to that of Mary, mother of Jesus, given in Lu 1:46 to 55, the opening words of which are:"My soul doth magnify the Lord."

Hannah left little Samuel with Eli, and went home to Ramah. Eli loved the boy, and fitted him with a little linen ephod, like the one he himself wore, thus indicating that the child’s service in the Tabernacle had official sanction. We read that "Samuel ministered before the Lord."

A touching insight into Hannah’s continued devotion to her son is given in 1Sa 2:19: "His mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice." This indicates that the boy grew up rapidly, since a new and larger coat was necessary every year. Thus we read in the 21st verse, that "the child Samuel grew before the Lord"—not only physically, but also spiritually, in grace and relationship with the Lord, and also with men. It was similarly said of Jesus, in Lu 2:52 that "He increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man." The blessing of the Lord was upon Hannah, and she bore other children, three sons and two daughters.

These helped to fill the void left by absence of her beloved Samuel.

The Sons of Eli

Eli had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who were engaged in priestly functions, but who were not really priests at heart. They were actually, faithless, corrupt men. We are told in verse 12 that

"they knew not the Lord." They used their priestly office for personal profit and immoral gratification. They stole from those who came to offer sacrifices, and verses 15 and 16 indicate that, instead of burning the fat of the sacrifices, as the law demanded, they forcibly took the fat for their own use. Thus they gave a bad name to the Tabernacle services. As a result, honest men began to have a contempt for the holy sacrifices. This situation was very displeasing to God. So we read in the 17th verse:"Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord."

The people complained to Eli. He knew what his sons were doing, and he told them rather mildly to stop their evil practices. But he did not insist upon it. He did not remove them from office, as he should have done. He had more regard for his sons than he had for the law of God. His sons continued their evil course. Then a man of God was sent to Eli with a message telling him that both his sons had been condemned, and would die for their transgressions, and that Eli himself would be removed from the priesthood for his neglect. From then on, the Lord no longer communicated through Eli, neither by vision nor by Urim and Thummim. Thus the Word of the Lord became a rare thing in those days.

Now we come to the charming narrative of how the Lord began to communicate with Israel through the boy Samuel, indicating that he was to be the prophet of God. We read from the Revised Version, starting with 1Sa 3:1:

"Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days. There was no frequent vision. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim, so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down within the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, ‘Samuel! Samuel! ‘and he said ‘Here I am! ‘And ran to Eli, and said,

‘Here I am, for you called me. ‘But he said ‘I did not call, my son, lie down again. ‘So he went and lay down. And the Lord called again, ‘Samuel! ‘And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said ‘Here I am, for you called me. ‘But he said ‘I did not call, my son, lie down again. ‘Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel again, the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, ‘Here I am, for you called me. ‘Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, Speak Lord, for thy servant hears. ‘So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! —Samuel! ‘And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for thy servant hears. ‘"

A mighty angel appeared before the wondering eyes of Samuel, and then the great God of heaven clothed that little boy with the awesome dignity of a prophet of the Lord, by entrusting him with the final message of condemnation to Eli and his house.

Samuel could sleep no more that night, and the next day he was troubled in mind, as he went about his duties. He loved Eli, and could not bring himself to tell him the Lord’s message of

condemnation. But Eli insisted himself upon knowing every word of it. So we read in 1Sa 3:18:

"And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the Lord. Let him do what seemeth him good."

Then we read in the 19th and 20th verses:"And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord." How very proud his mother must have been of him then!

Hannah and Sarah

Now let us consider some further lessons in the story of the boy Samuel. First of all, there is a striking similarity between the family of Elkanah and that of Abraham. As Hannah was barren, Sarah was

barren. As Elkhanah’s second wife, Peninnah, who had children, looked with contempt upon the barren Hannah, Hagar who had Ishmael, looked with contempt upon the barren Sarah. Then in due course, both Hannah and Sarah bore dedicated sons of promise, Hannah bearing Samuel, and Sarah bearing Isaac. I think this is more than merely coincidental, especially since the name Elkanah means

"God the Creator." We can safely conclude that Elkan—ah’s wives also pictured Covenants, just as Abraham’s wives did.

The inability to have children was a special reproach for the women of Israel. There was a very significant reason for this. Every woman in Israel was familiar with the prophecy of Ge 3:15, that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent, Satan. Each was familiar with the often repeated promise to Abraham, that in his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed. So every woman who was a descendant of Abraham had the hope of perhaps being the one through whom the Messiah would be born. This would be the greatest honor possible for womankind. This is confirmed by the fact that centuries later, the angel Gabriel greeted Mary, mother of Jesus, with the words found in Lu 1:28: "Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women." So Hannah, too, had this hope. That is why she felt her barrenness so keenly.

To attain her hope, she made it a subject of special prayer, with deep feeling and great fervency, pouring out her heart before the Lord, making a solemn vow, and repeating her prayer and vow over and over again. What can we of spiritual Israel learn from this? We, too, have a hope—a "blessed hope" according to Ti 2:13. It is the hope of being members of the Messiah, the Christ Company, the Body of Christ, to be of the Spiritual Seed of Abraham, which is to bruise the serpent’s head, and bless all the families of the earth. It is the hope of glory, honor and immortality. It is a high and rich calling. We read in Eph 1:18:

"The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints."

It is a hope that is mysterious to all except those who have it, as expressed in Col 1:26, 27:

"Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to the saints, to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."

It is a sure and positive and oathbound hope, of which we are assured in Heb 6:17 to 19:

"Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us, which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail."

Hannah’s Vow Is Like Our Vow

As Hannah made a vow consecrating her son, we, too, make a vow of consecration. We should be as earnest and fervent and persistent as Hannah was, pouring out our souls before the Lord, as she did.

Hannah’s prayer was heard, and her barrenness was removed. As for us, after naming the various fruits and graces of character likeness to the Lord, we are to develop, the apostle says, in 2Pe 1:8:

"If these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Before Hannah prayed, she was very sad, and in great turmoil of spirit. She could not eat or sleep. Then she laid her problem before the Lord, crying to him, and telling him her inmost feelings. Then what happened? A great peace descended upon her. We read that she

"went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad." (1Sa 1:18)

Why the change? Simply because once she placed it in the Lord’s hands, it wasn’t her problem any more. Let us learn from this that, once we leave something to the Lord, and ask him to take care of it, we should stop worrying or grieving over it. This is the counsel of 1Pe 5:7: "Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you." And Ps 55:22: "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee. He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." The most beautiful assurance of all along this line is found in Psalm 37:

"Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desire of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass."—Ps 37:4, 5

This is what Hannah did, and this is what we can do.

Hannah paid her vow unto the Lord in full. She willingly and joyfully gave up the dearest treasure of her heart and never—regretted it. This is the way our consecrations should be. In one sense, Hannah never really lost Samuel. Although he was lent to the Lord for life, he was still her son. Only, instead of being at home, her treasure was in Shiloh. This is where her heart was. Similarly, although we have given up every earthly thing in consecration, we have a great treasure in heaven. As Jesus counseled us:

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth. . . . But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . . . For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."—Mt 6:19-21

"Sell all that thou hast . . . and thou shalt have treasure in heaven." —Lu 18:22

After the boy Samuel had been given to the Lord, his mother regularly supplied him with a little coat. The—Revised Version calls it a "robe" instead of a coat. This suggests to our minds "the robe of Christ’s righteousness" with which all those who are consecrated to the Lord, and accepted by him, are clothed.

After the boy Samuel entered God’s service, we read that he grew

"and was in favor both with the Lord, and also with men." Similarly, after we commence our consecrated lives, we also should grow. We should:"Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2Pe 3:18) As to our standing among men, we should heed the counsel of Jesus:"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Mt 5:16) The wicked sons of Eli, who were unfaithful priests of Israel, who forcibly took and ate the fat of the sacrifices, pictured the corrupt priests and ministers found among the clergy of nominal spiritual—Israel. These enrich themselves at the expense of their parishioners without feeding them the spiritual food for which they are starving. I am not suggesting that all the clergy of Christendom are wicked men. I am sure most of them are not, but are sincerely doing the best they know how. But there is a Clergy Class today which is prophetically described in Eze 34:2 to 4:

"Son of man, prophecy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophecy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds :Woe be to the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed; but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost, but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them."

As a result of such conditions, many decent and honest persons turn away in disgust from all religion, thinking that such men represent God. The language of 1Sa 2:17 is again true, that "men abhor the offering of the Lord." As the unfaithful sons of Eli died in battle because of their sins, the unfaithful shepherds of Babylon will cease to exist as a class when Babylon is utterly—destroyed in "the battle of that great day of God Almighty." (Re 17:14)

Eli’s Inconsistent Character

The character of Eli presents some strange contradictions. Although he himself was completely loyal and faithful to God, he was weak in the discipline of his sons along these very lines. Although he had been a poor and permissive father to his own sons, he had, on the other hand, been an excellent foster-father to the child Samuel. Also, although he had been ready to eject Hannah from the Tabernacle because of her supposed drunkenness, yet he permitted his own sons to steal, extort, and commit gross immoralities in the holy place.

Again, although he thoroughly disapproved the waywardness of his sons, he failed to vigorously denounce their course, and, if need be, remove them from office. God does not approve of such contradictions of character. The Lord prefers characters that are strong, consistent and positive, uncompromisingly for the right, as our great example Jesus was. There must be no contradictions in our characters, if we would make our calling and election sure. If there are, we, too, will be disapproved by God as was Eli.

Now let us further apply the lesson of Eli, by asking and answering to ourselves, some practical and timely questions. Do we have our children in subjection as instructed in 1Ti 3:4? Or are we permissive as Eli was? Do we tolerate servants in the Church who walk disorderly, bringing reproach upon the cause of Christ? Paul said in 2Th 3:6:

"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us."

This is not just a suggestion, it is a command, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul also said in Ti 1:9 to 11:

"Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught. . . . For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers . . . whose mouths must be stopped."

If unfaithful elders persist in teaching new and strange doctrines, do we content ourselves with mildly remonstrating with them, as Eli did with his sons? Or do we firmly remove them from office, as Eli should have done? We cannot escape responsibility. Remember that Eli, —although personally faithful, was condemned because he did not curb his sons who were unfaithful in the priestly office.

Lessons for Us

Now we come to that part of our lesson where the Lord called the boy Samuel in the night. We are impressed by Samuel’s quick and unquestioned obedience. He thought it was Eli calling him. But after the first two times, when Eli denied it was he, it would have been quite natural for young Samuel to think:"There is no one else here.

The poor old man must be calling out in his sleep, without—realizing it. No need for me to respond any more." But when the third call came, Samuel obeyed instantly. He once more left his warm and comfortable bed, and ran to Eli, saying, "Here am I!" That was the time he got the most important instruction of his life resulting in his becoming that very night a prophet of the most High God. That is when he learned to say to the Lord:"Speak, for thy servant heareth!" Let us also learn this lesson. We, too, are called of God.

We are called to a High Calling. Upon hearing the call, our instant response should be:"Speak, for thy servant heareth!" This should be the continual sentiment of every Christian all his life.

God Speaks to Us Through His Word

Although we do not hear the audible voice of the Lord in the night, as Samuel did, the Lord does speak to us in various ways :first of all, he speaks to us through his Word. Studying the Bible, with the helps he has provided, we get to know the Lord. We learn of his glorious attributes of character. We become familiar with his Plan, and his ways. We learn what he approves and what he does not approve.

From all the illustrations and examples found in the Bible, we are able to determine what he wants us to do in any given circumstance.

We conform ourselves to his Word. Thus God "speaks, " and we "hear."

God speaks to us through his providences, by what he permits to happen to us, whether good or evil. Yes, he does sometimes permit evil things to happen to us, but they are always for our good, to teach us needed lessons, to show the direction we should be going. Let us be alert to recognize these providences of the Lord, and "hear" what he says.

He speaks to us through our brethren in Christ. He speaks through the talks of the elders, often giving us the answers to our problems.

He speaks through the comments of the brethren in study meetings.

Also through the experiences of the brethren related in testimony meetings. In this way the humblest sister can often impart a needed lesson to the most mature elder; without even knowing that she is being thus used of the Lord. We should be ready to "hear, "

regardless of the humble instrument it may please the Lord to use.

God speaks to us through private conversations with those of like precious faith. In such conversations, the Lord will often permit a brother or sister, without any prompting on our part, to suggest to us the very answer to our problem that we need. If we would be used of the Lord to help others in this way, we must heed the admonition of Eph 4:29:

"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."

The Lord never uses the lips of gossips to edify his people. But by wholesome, spiritual conversation, the humblest brother or sister can be a channel of God Almighty, to bless or help someone.

One wonders how it was that the Lord took a young boy and endowed him with the dignity of a Prophet of the Most High God. If it were suggested to the President of the United States that he appoint a teenager to be his ambassador, I am sure the response would be:"But he’s only a boy!" But God’s reasoning is different.

He says:"What kind of a boy is he?" God looks at the heart, and not at the calendar. Let us learn from this, never to despise the young brethren in our midst. It is the Lord who has selected them.

The message the Lord gave to Samuel was one of condemnation upon Eli and his house. Samuel felt badly about this, because he loved Eli. When morning came, he hesitated to tell Eli what the Lord had said. There is a lesson here, of humility and kindness. Samuel might have felt puffed up that the Lord had spoken to him. He might have felt himself honored above Eli, as indeed he was. Pride might have made him boastful, and inconsiderate of Eli’s feelings, so that he would have taken delight in telling him of the calamities to come.

But Samuel didn’t react that way. He was grieved. He would have preferred not to burden old Eli’s heart with the message. Similarly, we should, in humility, be sympathetic toward those whom the Lord has not honored with the privilege of hearing his voice of present truth, and we should prefer not to stress the calamities coming upon the world, but rather, be a comfort to all with whom we come in contact.

At Eli’s urging, Samuel reluctantly told him everything the Lord had said. Then Eli responded with the most beautiful expression of submissiveness, "It is the Lord. Let him do what seemeth him good."

With all of Eli’s contradictions of character, this is one trait we can emulate.

Let the Lord do what he pleases with us. He knows best.

He has promised that all things shall work together for our good. Let us trust in that promise. In the language of Job 13:15: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him."

Hannah’s Prayer

Now let us briefly consider Hannah’s exultant prayer of joy and praise to God, when she gave little Samuel to the Lord. It is found in 1Sa 2:1 to 10. Do you realize that verses 6 to 10 of this prayer contain a prophetic outline of the entire Plan of the Ages? Verse 6:

"The Lord kill—eth, and maketh alive. He bringeth down to the

grave, and bringeth up." We know what that means. God condemned Adam to death, and his entire race followed him into the grave. But God provided a Ransom, to make Adam and his race alive again, bringing them up from the grave in a great resurrection. Verse 7:

"The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich. He bringeth low, and lifteth up." This refers to our Lord Jesus, who, as we read in 2

Corinthians 8:9: "Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." Although he was the Logos, he became a man. God permitted him to be brought low, even to the death of the cross, and then lifted him up to the Divine Nature, giving him a name which is above every name. Verse 8:

"He raised the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes and to make them inherit the throne of glory." This describes the Church, the Body of Christ, taken chiefly from the poor of the world. The Lord lifts us up from the "dunghill, " the miry clay, and sets our feet upon a rock. We are set "among princes, " we are to be Kings and Priests, to "inherit the throne of glory, " together with Christ Jesus. Verse 9: "He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness."

This brings the prophecy right down to the present day. We are the

"feet of the saints, " the feet members of the Body of Christ. We are

"kept by the power of God" (1Pe 1:5) in this evil day, and the wicked institutions of this world will shortly be destroyed. Verse 10:

"The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces, out of heaven shall be thunder upon them." Is this not a good description of

"Jacob’s Trouble, " when the armies from the North are destroyed by the Lord? Next is a prophecy of the Messianic reign of Christ, and the judging of the world in righteousness:"The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his King, and exalt the horn of his Anointed."

There, in a few words, is the entire Plan, from Genesis to Revelation.

The fact that Hannah uttered this prophecy made her one of the prophets. We read in Lu 13:28: "Ye shall see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the Kingdom of God." Heb 11:32 and 39 speaks of the prophets as "having obtained a good report through faith." This means that Hannah is one of the Ancient Worthies. She will be a PRINCESS in all the earth, together with her beloved son, Prince Samuel.

Now we can better understand what Hannah meant when she said in 1Sa 1:28: "I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he liveth, he shall be lent to the Lord." I think she knew that the time would come when she would have her son back again, and that they would serve the Lord TOGETHER throughout eternity!

The Burning Fiery Furnace

"In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, came—Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.

And the Lord gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah, into his hand." —Da 1:1, 2

AT THIS time Nebuchadnezzar took captive to Babylon the very cream of the Jewish nation. Verse six says:"Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah." In Babylon the names of these four young Hebrew boys were changed.

Daniel was now called Belteshazzar; the other three were named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

After an intensive course of study in which they greatly excelled they were assigned as advisors of the royal court. Then came the incident of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great multi-metallic image, which a stone struck upon the feet and demolished—a picture of the kingdom of God supplanting the kingdoms of this world. By the Lord’s intervention, Daniel interpreted the dream which all the wise men of the realm had failed to do. It produced this result:

"Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Then Daniel requested of the king and he set Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon, but Daniel sat at the gate of the king."—Da 2:48, 49

Now let us go forward about fifteen years. Daniel has a very high position in the empire and his three companions are magistrates in the provinces of Babylon. Leeser says that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were "over the public service of the province of Babylon"; Moffatt says they were "in charge of the business of the province." These three were evidently not only judges and managers in the civil service but auditors as well, supervising business transactions. The king had wisely set them so. He knew of their absolute integrity and honesty because of his previous experience with them. In such positions as these we can well imagine they made powerful enemies of other government functionaries. Especially in eastern governments, graft was and is almost a way of life. Their interrupting or hindering of—dishonest practices and contracts with the government must have been bitterly resented. This, coupled with jealousy and—rivalry for the king’s favor, would cause their enemies to conspire to destroy Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. But try as they might, they could find no valid occasion against these men of God whose every act was above reproach. Over the years the frustration of these enemies of the three Hebrews grew and accumulated.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar did something that played right into their hands. He did it with all sincerity and was probably actuated by the highest motives. He still vividly remembered his dream of many years before of the great multi-metallic image and Daniel’s interpretation of it. Daniel had said:

"Thou, O king, art a king of kings; for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold."—Da 2:37, 38

After telling him of the arising of other kingdoms inferior to his and how they would all be destroyed, Daniel had said that "the God of heaven shall set up a—kingdom which shall never be destroyed."

More than this, Daniel, who was at Nebuchadnezzar’s right hand, had undoubtedly told him of the hope of Israel as embodied in the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: "In thee, and in thy seed, shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." Daniel must have related this promise to the kingdom represented by the "stone which smote the image, " and filled the whole earth; embracing and blessing all nations—a universal empire lasting forever. These things would start Nebuchadnezzar thinking. Added to his pride as a powerful and absolute monarch, conquer—or of the world, it would cause him to reason thus:

"The great God of heaven himself considers me a ‘head of gold. ‘I am the ornament of the ages. I am the wisest and most capable man in the world. My kingdom is of God. All men, and even the brute creation, have been given into my hands by God. And I already have a universal empire. I am now a king of kings. So why shouldn’t my kingdom last forever? Why shouldn’t I be the agency to bless the world? As for these promises to Israel, have I not conquered Israel by my great power? I have thus succeeded to all their rights. The promises to them are now mine!"

Do you see how natural it would be for such a man to reach such a conclusion?

Establishing a Common Religion

The next logical step for Nebuchadnezzar to take toward his objective would be to unify his empire which extended over all nations and tongues, having a great variety of cultures, customs and religions. He would want to create a "United Nations" organization, subservient to him. To accomplish this he must find a common—denominator, something upon which all could agree, a force to draw and hold them together in loyalty to him and his empire. After thinking about it and consulting with his wise men, he undoubtedly

reached the conclusion :What greater universal force is there than religion? The faculty of veneration is inculcated in every human being. He must worship something, some god or idol. He cannot help himself in this. It is a compulsion every man has regardless of nation or tongue. This, then, is the force to be harnessed to unify the nations of the world, to give them common ground, to make permanent and peaceful the universal dominion of Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzar decided to establish a common religion throughout his realm. You might call it the original ecumenical movement. But acceptance of this new religion was not to be voluntary. The king was practical enough to know that the hundreds of nations and tribes, with their varying languages, customs and cultures, could not be expected to agree on anything voluntarily. Since he was not one to resort to half-measures, he decided to use force of the most savage kind to impose obedience. After all, had he not conquered the world by brute force? This was a proven method that would work.

First it would be necessary to create a suitable symbol of the new, unifying religion. It must be an imposing and spectacular figure that would fascinate and over-awe all who beheld it. Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar considered making an image of the God of Daniel for this purpose. He remembered how, years before, when Daniel had interpreted his dream and given all the credit to the God of heaven, he, the great Nebuchadnezzar, had fallen on his face and said to Daniel:"Of a truth it is that your God is a god of gods, and a Lord of kings!" But there was no image of Daniel’s God for him to copy. These Hebrews, with their strange customs, did not make a likeness of their God to bow before it as other people did before theirs. Ah, but there was a god of which he did have a likeness, a god he himself venerated. It was the god Bel-Merodach, to which he attributed all his victories. This was a god that would fitly represent him and his irresistible conquering might. This would be a symbol all would fear and bow down to. This would be the god of nations.

So Nebuchadnezzar made a colossal golden statue of his god, a hundred feet high and ten feet broad:

"Nebuchadnezzar, the king, made an image of gold, whose height was threescore, cubits, and the breadth thereof, six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon."—Da 3:1

This image was about the height of a—modern ten-story building.

The Statue of Liberty which dominates the New York harbor is about the same size as Nebu—chadnezzar’s image. Forty people can stand within its head. But the Statue of Liberty is quite a different symbol, a symbol of—enlightenment to the world. I could see it from the window of my room at the Bethel Home many years ago. I used to look at it every evening and see the light of its torch and think

how appropriately it had been placed in such plain view of Bethel.

Bethel contained Pastor Russell’s study from whence shone the Lord’s enlightening truth to the whole world!

The Incredible Image

Nebuchadnezzar’s idolatrous image was a most imposing one. We are told it was made of gold. It may not have been of solid gold although the historian Herodotus mentions a statue at Babylon of smaller size that was of solid gold and weighed 43, 000 pounds.

After all, Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the "princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up." All the rulers of his vast empire were summoned to Babylon. What a colorful assembly it must have been! There must have been thousands of them, of all nations, kindreds, and tongues, each one arrayed in his most splendid native robes, to do honor to the great king. The image, so terrible in its dimensions, was probably covered, adding to the air of mystery. This shrouded figure was the first thing they saw when they arrived.

Let us picture the scene. The silent, looming image, draped in black, stood so tall in the center of the parade ground. It dominated everything. Beyond it, against a hillside, an enormous furnace had been constructed. It was burning so furiously that the heat of it could be felt even from that distance. It added a sinister note to the otherwise festive occasion. At the feet of the image a platform had been built upon which was assembled a great orchestra, com posed of performers on every kind of musical instrument and of every nation. Before this stood the nobles, rulers and officials of the realm, row after row, the noblest in front, extending backward in decreasing degrees of importance. At one side, and overlooking the entire assembly, there is an elaborately decorated platform upon which is seated King Nebuchadnezzar surrounded by his court. All eyes are fastened upon the huge draped image. It seems to move and writhe as the breeze stirs its covering. There is an awed hum of anticipation from the multitude. Suddenly a herald of the king mounts the platform before the image, and raises his hand for silence. We now read from the account:

"Then an herald cried aloud, to you it is commanded, O people, nations and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar, the king, hath set up."

At this point we can imagine that some idolaters in that great crowd would say to themselves, "Why should I worship any god but my own? My god may be offended if I do so. I won’t do it!" But then the herald continued:

"And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace."

That did it! All opposition evaporated. Now they understood the significance of the nearby burning furnace.

At a signal from the king, the orchestra played, the drapery fell to the ground, revealing a glorious, glittering golden image, which, as the drapery fell, seemed to soar up to heaven before their eyes. Every man went down before it in a wave, like wheat before a scythe. All, that is, except three men! Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood on their feet, heads held high. Actually if all the others had strictly obeyed the king’s command, no one would have noticed that the three Hebrews did not obey. One who is prostrate, with his face to the ground, cannot look about him. But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were under constant observation. Their enemies had been spying on them, day and night, to find some occasion against them.

You may be sure one of these spies had been assigned to take up a position near the Jews, to watch them on this occasion. Now at last they had the evidence they needed! For this crime the penalty was a fiery death. How they must have hugged themselves with delight at the way things had turned out!

As soon as the ceremony was over and the king had returned to his palace, satisfied with the success of his plan, they made their move.

We now read from the Leeser translation:

"Therefore, at the same time, certain Chaldean men came near, and accused the Jews treacherously. They spake, and said to king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live forever. Thou, O king, hadst made a decree that every man that should hear the sound of the cornet, flute, guitar, harp, psaltery, and bagpipe, and all kinds of music, should fall down and bow himself to the golden image; and that whoso should not fall down and bow himself, should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are—certain Jewish men whom thou hast appointed over the public service of the province of Babylon:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These men, O king, have not paid any regard to thee; thy god they do not worship, and to the golden image which thou hast set up, they do not bow themselves."

The King is Enraged

The king could hardly believe his ears! It was incredible enough that his beautiful plan involving the eternal rule of Babylon over the millions of people of the whole world should be frustrated by only

three men, but to think that these three were the men he himself had taken up when they were nothing, had favored, exalted and made what they were. These men were, by their example, fostering rebellion against him, their benefactor, using against him the influence of their high positions in which he himself had placed them. THIS WAS TOO MUCH!

"Then ordered Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Then were these men brought before the king."

The three Hebrews showed no fear when brought before the king, but faced him calmly and serenely.

"Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it out of disrespect, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? My god ye do not worship, and to the golden image which I have set up, ye do not bow yourselves?"

Then seeing their utter lack of fear and—remembering their past fine record of absolute integrity in his service, he thought that perhaps the accusation was not really true. Knowing the penalty of being roasted alive they certainly should be fearful if guilty, he reasoned. So he decided to give them another chance to demonstrate their obedience. He would repeat the ceremony for their benefit.

"Now then, if ye be ready, at the time when ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, guitar, psaltery, and bagpipe, and all kinds of music, to fall down and bow yourselves to the image which I have made, well; but if ye bow yourselves not, ye shall be cast in the same hour, into the midst of a burning fiery furnace."

He motioned to the furnace, still burning, in plain view from the window. Lest they have some foolish notion of possibly escaping the penalty for disobedience, he arrogantly added:

"And who is the god that can deliver you out of my hand? Then answered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and said to the king :O Nebu—chadnezzar, we have no need to answer thee a word in this matter. Behold, there is a God whom we worship; he is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace. And out of thy hand, O king, will he deliver us. But if not, then be it known unto thee, O king, that thy god will we not worship, and to the golden image which thou hast set up, will we not bow ourselves."

In other words:

"We don’t have to answer your question as to what God can deliver us out of your hand because you already know the answer. You know the God whom we worship. He is quite able to deliver us from your furnace. But even if he does not, we still will not bow to your god. We would rather die than do so."

What made them take this stand? These young men knew the commandments of the God of their fathers and took them literally.

They were familiar with these commandments:

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven—image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them."—Ex 20:3-5

"Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image."—Le 26:1

"Thou shalt not bow down to their gods [the gods of the heathen], nor serve them."—Ex 23:24

Obedience to God Came First

In obedience to their God, they were willing to lay their lives on the line, defying the decree of the most powerful ruler in the world.

There was nothing for Nebuchadnezzar to do but enforce the penalty.

He was playing for exceedingly high stakes, an enduring universal empire, and he was being defied by three of his most trusted governors. This was open rebellion, witnessed by all, and must be ruthlessly dealt with. Leniency would cause the rebellion to spread.

"Then Nebuchadnezzar filled with fury, and the form of his countenance was changed, because of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And he spake and ordered that they should heat the furnace thoroughly seven times more than it was wont to be heated."

The use of a furnace to inflict punishment was a custom borrowed from the Persians. We know from other records that Nebu—chadnezzar’s furnace was built like a brick kiln. It was about forty feet tall and urn-shaped. It had a large arched opening at one side, near the bottom, through which it was stoked, and which also served as an observation window. It tapered to a smaller opening at the top, providing draft to the flame, and through which the victim was inserted. It was built against a hillside to provide greater concentration of heat and to make the top opening easily accessible by a ramp up the hillside. If fueled by naphtha, which was plentiful in that—region, and might have been used in this case, the heat of such a furnace could reach thousands of degrees. We can imagine how hot the furnace became when the king—ordered it heated seven times more than normal.

Since by this time all would have heard of the rebellious Jews, the king would want all to witness their punishment, to impress upon them the futility of opposing the king’s will. So the representatives of every nation and tongue of the empire would again assemble at the king’s order, this time facing the furnace. Stocked beyond its utmost capacity, the flames of the furnace probably leaped a hundred feet in the air, illuminating the monstrous image with a flickering, unnatural light, making it appear to live and dance. The king gave an order and the strongest men in the army were summoned. They were giants compared with the three young Hebrews, and could lift them with ease. They seized the young men and trussed them up, fully clothed, with strong ropes. Then, at a signal, they raced up the path on the hillside to the top of the furnace, using the Hebrews as shield against the intolerable heat. As they dropped Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the furnace, these mighty men of the army were, for a moment, enveloped in the flame which soared skyward. They breathed in the flame, their lungs scorched and shriveled, and they died instantly.

"Now, because the king’s command was so urgent, and the furnace exceedingly heated, the flame of the fire slew those men that carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace."

Because of the brilliant white heat of the furnace, every detail of its interior was—vividly visible through the arched window. Watching intently, the king saw the three young men drop, one after another, into the flames. Then the king saw an astonishing thing which made him rise bolt upright from his chair! He had seen men burn before. In such heat they should be reduced to ashes in seconds. Now he not only saw the three walking alive and unbound in the furnace, he saw another person there walking with them and having such a glorious brightness that it shone even above the incandescent glow of the furnace!

"Then was king Nebuchadnezzar astonished, and he rose up in haste, and said unto his counsellors, Did we not cast three men, bound, into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, Certainly, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men, unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and there is no injury on them; and the appearance of the fourth is like the Son of God!"

The great golden image was forgotten. The grandiose plan for an eternal Babylonian empire was forgotten. The dignity of the kingly office was set aside. Nebuchadnezzar ran to the furnace, approaching as close as the heat would permit. As he did so the fourth person disappeared.

"Then came Nebuchadnezzar near to the door of the burning fiery furnace, and said, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, step forth, and come hither. Then stepped Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego forth out of the midst of the fire.

And the lieutenants, superintendents and governors, and the king’s counsellors, being assembled together saw these men over whose bodies the fire had had no power, and the hair of whose head was not singed, whose mantles were not changed and on whom there was not come the smell of fire. Then spake Nebuchadnezzar and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Me—shach and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that had trusted in him."

Without a doubt he caused the great golden image which was no longer of any use, to be broken to pieces. This is implied by these words from Jeremiah:

"Declare ye among the nations, and publish and set up a standard.

Publish, and conceal not. Say, Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, Mer—odach is broken in pieces; her idols are confounded, her images are broken in pieces." —Jer 50:2

"And I will punish Bel in Babylon, and I will bring forth out of his mouth that which he hath swallowed up. And the nations shall not flow together any more unto him; yea, the wall of Babylon shall fall."—Jer 51:44

Lessons for Us

This fascinating account of the three Hebrews and the fiery furnace was recorded for the benefit of the Lord’s people as was all inspired scripture. But it is not necessary that we determine this incident to have been a type and look for every feature of it to have an equivalent and connected fulfillment. Without so regarding the—account, let us now consider some of the valuable and inspiring lessons it was intended to teach us.

First, let us remember that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were only about fourteen years old when brought to Babylon as captives.

They quickly absorbed higher education and at the time of their refusal to worship the image they were young men of thirty-five occupying important positions. What was their secret? They had been reared by godly parents and had never departed from the God of their fathers. In spite of their exalted positions in a heathen government and the temptations inherent in their daily contact with corrupt and crooked idolaters, they strictly adhered to the laws of their God. There was quite a contrast between them and their associates. They stood out as shining examples of good for all to see.

Likewise we must maintain Christian integrity in an adverse environment, being:

"Blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life."—Php 2:15, 16

We also see in this experience that depth of consecration and godliness is not necessarily a matter of one’s age. The young in Christ often overtake and excel in Christ-likeness those who have been much longer in the narrow way. To the young in the Lord I would say in the language of Paul:

"Let no one despise thy youth; but become a pattern of the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity."—1Ti 4:12, Dia—glott Nebuchadnezzar erected a golden image and sought to unify all the families of the earth into one lasting empire under his rule. This aptly illustrates Satan’s ambition and constant aim. Just as Nebuchadnezzar coveted the promised kingdom of God and sought to establish it under his own rule, Satan coveted the heavenly Father’s rulership, and sought to usurp it:

"Thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High."—Isa 14:13, 14

Satan’s Attempt at Unification

Very early in human history, Satan attempted the unification and cementing together of the families of the earth by the erecting of a structure to provide a rallying point. He first suggested this to the minds of men:

"And they said, Go to, let us build us . . . a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."—Ge 11:4

The scheme failed. I am sure it is not a coincidence that the name of that place was called "Babel." From this name would be derived the name "Babylon, " where Satan would make another similar attempt, as we have seen.

He made the same attempt to usurp God’s kingdom with every succeeding universal empire:babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. Each one failed. He tried it when he sought to obtain Jesus’ cooperation and worship by his temptation in the wilderness. Again failure. He almost succeeded with the great Papal system. For a while this monstrosity held absolute sway, crowning and uncrowning kings. As with Nebuchadnezzar, it compelled worship and obedience by the most cruel and savage means. Thousands of so- called "heretics" were tortured to death and some literally burned.

This attempt too, eventually failed. Then came the unsuccessful League of—Nations followed by the United Nations, which isn’t doing too well either. Now we have something else, another image of gold. It is the image of ecumenism. The cry is:

"Why can’t we all have one religion? Why have so many church organizations? Let us fuse them, and melt them all into one glorious object we can all bow to. We must present a united front to Communism—one united image. Believe what you please privately, but let the public image be one, beautiful golden image." This is Satan’s latest attempt to unify and consolidate his empire. This too shall fail.

The record nowhere mentions that the three young Hebrews prayed to God when faced with death in the fiery furnace, but we know that they did. How do we know? They claimed and obtained one of the precious promises God had given Israel:

"Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel. Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee. When thou walkest through the fire, thou shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee; for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour."—Isa 43:1-3

I imagine that after their refusal to bow before the image they went to their apartment knowing full well that the king’s officers would be there in minutes. I picture them as kneeling before a window open toward Jerusalem, with hands joined, praying to the God of their Fathers. Taking turns they would express their devotion to God, and their determination to keep his statutes at all cost, even unto death.

Then they probably said something like this:

"O Lord, Thou hast promised thy—people, through thy prophet Isaiah :‘When thou walkest through the fire, thou shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. ‘We claim this promise, if it be thy will. But if our time to die has come, well and good; and we will await thy great resurrection."

It may have been at this point that there was a loud knock at the door. "Open, in the name of the king!" They went with the—officers and faced the enraged Nebuchadnezzar calmly and serenely because they had placed the matter completely in God’s hands. That is why they were able to say to the monarch of the world:"Our God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us.

But whether he does or not, we still will not worship your god, nor bow to the golden image."

This precious promise from Isaiah is also ours. We too are the Israel of God. We are spiritual Israel. When he says, "I have—redeemed thee, " it refers to the precious blood of Christ first applied on behalf of the church. "Thou art mine, " he says. We also read:

"They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them."—Mal 3:17

God Is With Us in Our Trials

God is speaking to us. He has promised to be with us when we pass through the "waters." This refers to the present time:

"Upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear."—Lu 21:25, 26

He has promised to be with us in fire also. This does not just refer to the fiery time of trouble through which the world is passing. Each of us individually have "fiery furnace" experiences during our walk in the narrow way, but he has promised:"When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the fire kindle upon thee." The Lord knows what each one of us is going through. If he permits fiery trials, it is for our good, for our testing. As Job said:

"But he knoweth the way that I take. When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."—Job 23:10

Peter expresses it:

"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."—1Pe 1:7

As the three young Hebrews were not alone in the furnace, neither are we. How alone they must have felt when they were the only ones standing, surround by thousands who were prostrate before the image. How alone they must have felt when facing a hostile king and court. How alone and helpless when seized and ignominiously trussed up by rough and powerful men. How terribly alone when they were flung into the flames! Ah, but as they dropped into the fire a wonderful thing happened. Their cords instantly burned and fell away from them. They were free! We know this because they were seen walking about in the furnace. Their cords burned but not one hair of their heads was singed! Most wonderful of all, they were no longer alone. A glorious being, luminous even above the flame of fire, greeted them, embraced them, and walked with them. I have no doubt that this was "the bright and morning star, " the Logos, the personal representative of the great Jehovah God, the one of whom it was prophesied, "The people which sat in darkness saw a great light." (Isa 9:1, 2; Mt 4:16) He who is now our Lord Jesus Christ will walk with us too in our fiery furnace. In his company we will receive no injury. No hurt will jeopardize our eternal welfare.

Only our cords will be burned away, only the dross will be removed.

We shall come forth as gold!

We read of the three Hebrews that in the burning fiery furnace their mantles were not changed nor was even the smell of fire upon them.

So with us. As we walk amid the world’s time of trouble and as we have our personal fiery experiences, our mantles are not affected.

The fire does not kindle upon us. The new creature is not vitally touched. We still retain the mantle or covering of the robe of Christ’s righteousness. This can never be taken away from the faithful. When released from the furnace of trials, there will be no burns, no scars, no smell of smoke, no evidence of contamination.

It is significant that the mighty men who threw the men of God into the furnace died in the act. One cannot help but think of the words of Jesus:

"Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come; but woe unto him through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he be cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones." —Lu 17:1, 2

"And whosoever shall offend [Diaglott :ensnare] one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea."—Mr 9:42

After their fiery furnace experience we read that the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the kingdom. We too, will be promoted. When our suffering with Christ is finished, our Great King will say to us, "Come up higher!"

The three young Hebrews learned a lesson they would never forget, and they taught us a lesson we should never forget. They believed God absolutely, obeyed him at all cost, and relied on him implicitly. Because of their supreme faith, they received a miraculous deliverance. They lived in faith all their lives, and they finally died in faith. It was of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that Paul wrote in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews as he spoke of some "who, through faith . . . quenched the violence of fire."

Because of their faith, they will receive "a better resurrection." But we, the body of Christ, are assured that God has provided even better things for us! If faithful, we will appoint them to be "princes in all the earth!" (Heb 11:40)

We thank God for these inspiring examples of faith and integrity, and of his great power to preserve his people in every situation. May the Son of God walk with us in our fiery furnace so that ultimately we come forth as gold!

The Child Jesus

AFTER it was announced on that tragic day in Eden so long ago that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, implying that a .Saviour would be born who would undo the works of Satan and restore Eden, from that time forward faithful and God- fearing women had a golden hope—to be the mother of that child.

As history advanced and the vague hope given in Eden was augmented and amplified into clear and definite promises and covenants confined to the nation of Israel, every godly woman of Israel nurtured that hope, that she might perhaps be the mother of Messiah, the Anointed. That is one reason it was considered such a reproach in Israel to be barren; to be unable to have children. It was equivalent to being told, "You do not have a chance for the greatest honor possible for womankind, to be the mother of the Christ."

So when the time finally came when, by virtue of the prophecies, men were in expectation of Christ, this wonderful age-long hope to be his mother must have flowed with special fervency in the hearts of the women of Israel of that time. It was the most blessed thing they could think of, an indication of the greatest possible favor of God With this background in mind we can better appreciate the events which transpired when, as written in the first chapter of Luke,

"The angel Gabriel was sent from God, unto a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary."

Mary was a devout young girl, a linear descendant of David, and thoroughly familiar with the hopes and promises of Israel. We may be sure that she too had the hope of perhaps being selected to be the mother of the Holy One who was to sit on David’s throne. So we can well imagine her emotions when Gabriel, whose name means "the mighty one of God, " appeared to her and said:

"Hail! Thou art highly favored. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her :Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."

To say that Mary was "thrilled" at the prospect of being the mother of Messiah is to use an entirely inadequate expression. She was overwhelmed by the great honor and yet she reacted with humility.

The record says that she went in haste to the hill country of Judea to visit her cousin Elizabeth and to tell her the good news. But she didn’t have to tell her. As soon as she saw Mary, the holy spirit prompted Elizabeth with prophetic insight to proclaim:

"Blessed art thou among women; and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"

As soon as she had heard this confirmation, Mary expressed her innermost feelings:

"And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord; and my spirit hath rejoiced in God, my Saviour; for he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For, behold, all generations shall call me blessed."

In due time Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the angelic announcement of his birth was made, not to the proud and haughty leaders of Israel, but to humble shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. The shepherds lost no time in visiting the babe Jesus lying in a manger. They told Mary what the angel of the Lord had told them. They related how the glory of the Lord shone round about them, that a multitude of the heavenly host had appeared to them praising God and saying:"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Then we read that "Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."

Praise Came From Many

In due time the babe Jesus was taken to Jerusalem and presented to the Lord as was the custom. In Jerusalem a man named Simeon, who is described as "just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, " took Jesus in his arms and proclaimed that he was the Christ.

In the temple the prophetess Anna also recognized the babe Jesus as the Redeemer. Then we read:"And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him." These were more things for Mary to ponder in her heart.

Let us not forget the visit of the wise men from the east. We are informed by the historians Tacitus and Suetonius, and by Josephus, that there prevailed throughout the entire east at that time an intense conviction that before long a powerful monarch would arise in Judea and gain dominion over the world. This conviction was said to derive from ancient prophecies. Virgil, who lived a little before this, says that a child from heaven was looked for who should restore the Golden Age and take away sin. Confucius also had prophesied the appearance of such a deliverer. But the clearest of all these

prophecies was one by Zoroaster. It is claimed that this great Persian religious leader was at one time a disciple of the prophet Jeremiah.

It seems that Zoroaster taught the Persians concerning a coming Christ. He declared that in the latter days a pure virgin should conceive and as soon as the child was born a star would appear, visible even at noonday with undiminished luster. Zoroaster said to his disciples regarding that star:

"You, my sons, will perceive its rising before any other nation. As soon as you see the star, follow it wherever it leads you, and adore the mysterious child; offering your gifts to him with the profoundest humility. He is the almighty WORD which created the heavens!"

We should also remember that Daniel and the three Hebrew children, Hananiah, Mi—shael and Azariah, were princes in Persia and intimates of the wise men of that country which was then the principal—nation of the world. It is easy to see how prophecies concerning Jesus would be handed down as tradition through that channel also. So Daniel’s prophecies respecting the time of Messiah’s birth would also be well known to the disciples of Zoroaster, Persia’s wise men. Furthermore, there were Jews scattered abroad throughout that country who still, more or less, kept alive the thought of Israel’s hope for the great Messiah, the one so long promised of God, prophesied as the bringer of blessings not only to Israel but to all the families of the earth. See Reprints, pages 3703 and 4098.

After the wise men had followed the star, found and worshipped the babe Jesus, and left their rich gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, Mary must have pondered this even in her heart too. Then came the frightful repercussions from the visit of the wise men—the necessity to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s pitiless slaughter of the babes of Bethlehem. Then, after the death of Herod, the return from Egypt, and the change of residence to Nazareth or Galilee.

At this point a curtain descends. From this time forward we find no scriptural record of Jesus until he is 12 years of age. There are traditions of course, telling of wonderful and sometimes mischievous miracles supposedly performed by the child Jesus. But we know that these traditions are false because when he changed water into wine at a wedding, after he had begun his ministry, we read:

"This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him."—Joh 2:11

Mary’s Reaction to her Son

We have no record of what transpired during this period of Jesus’ childhood. We do not know. But isn’t it natural to want to know? It is to me, and I think we can make some reasonable assumptions. I think it is reasonable to assume Mary fully realized that her son was the long-promised Messiah. Why so? Because she had seen and talked with the angel Gabriel face-to-face and was told that her son Jesus would be called the son of God. She had heard a firsthand account of the angel’s announcement to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth when he was called "a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

She had heard the witness of Simeon and Anna, that Jesus was the Christ and Redeemer. She had seen the wise men of the east fall down and worship Jesus. Now don’t you think it is reasonable to assume that Mary, who had pondered and treasured these things in her heart regarding her precious baby, would want to find out all she could about him? Wouldn’t you, under the same circumstances? If men were in expectation of Messiah, as we are told they were, she would want to know why. Since they went up to Jerusalem to worship each year, Mary would probably ask the priests respecting

the prophecies concerning Messiah. They would tell her because it was their duty to do so. So I think she accumulated a considerable fund of knowledge about Jesus and his place in prophecy—who he was and what he would do. She certainly knew better than anyone else that he was not begotten of man but was begotten of God, that he was the son of God.

I am sure that Mary felt the responsibilities of her position very keenly. She realized that she had the privilege of rearing a child who actually was the son of the Most High God, to care not only for his physical needs, but to nurture his growing and inquiring mind as well. She must have made it the subject of daily prayer, to be guided in the performance of this important task, to say the right thing, to give the right answer. Jesus was a perfect child with mental and physical endowments far beyond other children his age. All children ask questions. That is how they learn. —Jesus must have started to ask questions at a very early age. What sort of questions do you suppose they would be? One day, when very young, he may have innocently asked, "Mother, why do people stop and point to me, and say, ‘What a beautiful child’?" Mary perhaps replied, "It is inner beauty that is the most important, my darling—to be a good boy."

Perhaps another day, when older, Jesus may have said, "When I climb the hill with the other children, they quickly tire and want to sit down. Why is it that I do not?" What could Mary do but answer,

"Thank God that you are a strong and sturdy child, my son."

Of course Mary and Joseph took the child Jesus to worship regularly.

At the synagogue the commandments were recited each sabbath and a portion of holy scriptures read to the congregation. This might have resulted in the child Jesus one day asking his mother, "Why is it that the other children do not remember the scriptures that are read at the synagogue, while I can remember every word I have heard?" It became increasingly hard for Mary to answer questions like these.

"Thank God for a good memory, my dear, " she would reply. But it was not the whole truth. Jesus was beginning to realize he was, somehow, different.

Mary and Joseph must have been familiar with, and lived by the words of, De 6:4-7:

"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

Supplementing the teachings of the synagogue Mary and Joseph must have diligently taught Jesus the words of the Lord at home also, creating an atmosphere of love and reverence for God. Jesus, with perfect capacity, would heartily respond to this wholesome influence. When Jesus was older, perhaps about ten or eleven, he might say to his mother:

"My mind seems always to turn to thoughts of the great God of our—fathers, the Creator of heaven and earth. I feel a strong tie to Him, a tenderness even greater than I have toward my father Joseph. When I speak of this to my companions, they think it strange. Mother, am I so different from others?"

When Mary heard this question, she knew the time had come to tell Jesus all the things she had pondered and treasured in her heart for so many years. "Yes, Jesus, " she said, "you are different from others.

Very different indeed. It is time you knew why. Sit down my sweet son, and I’ll tell you all I know, from the beginning."

Let us listen in on the conversation that might have taken place between Mary and Jesus. To assume the possibility of such a conversation occurring is not irreverent since every aspect of it is scriptural as you will see.

Mary Instructs Her Son

"Jesus, " Mary said, "Do you know that I have seen the mighty angel Gabriel? Many years ago, before you were born, just before I married your father Joseph, Gabriel appeared to me. He was as close to me as you are now. It was the same bright and shining Gabriel that appeared to the prophet Daniel hundreds of years ago." Jesus’ eyes grew wide with wonder. "Did he speak to you, mother?" he asked.

"Indeed he did, " Mary answered. "He greeted me very heartily, saying :‘Hail; you are highly favored; the Lord is with thee. ‘I was afraid at first, but he reassured me, saying, ‘Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. ‘Then Gabriel told me the most wonderful thing! He said that I would have a son by the power of God, and should call him Jesus. Then he said some things about you which I think you are old enough to hear. You asked me if you are different from others. What the angel Gabriel said will answer your question. He said of you :‘He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, the Son of God; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David; and he shall reign over the house of David for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. ‘So is it any wonder, my dear son, that your heart and mind always turn to your heavenly Father? It is because you are His son, and not the son of Joseph. And there is much more to tell, " Mary continued.

"I have pondered these things in my heart for so long, waiting to tell

you. We have already told you that you were born in Bethlehem when we were there to register for the tax. But we did not tell you of the glorious things that happened the night you were born. Near Bethlehem there were some shepherds, keeping watch over their flock by night. Suddenly, the angel of the Lord shone round about them. They were afraid, of course, just as I was, when Gabriel appeared to me. Then the angel said to them :‘Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. ‘And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying :‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. ‘And the angel told the shepherds exactly where to find you; so they left their flocks and came to see you; and they told me all about what they had seen and heard. That night the angel called you a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

Jesus was overwhelmed by what his mother told him, but a great peace descended upon him. Now he knew the reason for many things. But he felt very humble, saying:"Mother, is it possible that I shall inherit the throne of David and reign for ever; that I shall be the King of Israel; that I shall be the Saviour, which is Christ the Lord?"

"There is no doubt of it, my child, " Mary answered. "But let me tell you even more. When you were a little baby we brought you to Jerusalem to present you to the Lord. As far as others knew we were simply doing as the law prescribed for a firstborn son. But to me it was much more than that because, you see, I knew who you really were! When you were presented before the Lord, I said in my heart:

‘Lord God, I present to you your own baby son! ‘Then something else happened. In the temple at Jerusalem there was an old man named Simeon who had been told by the power of God that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. When Simeon saw you he tenderly took you in his arms and, lifting up his eyes, he praised God, and said :‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen the salvation which thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. ‘After that the prophetess Anna came in. When she saw you, she thanked God and said to everyone there that you were the one who would bring redemption to—Israel."

"Oh, mother, " Jesus said, "These things you tell me are so wonderful, and so great. How can I ever measure up to them? I am but a little child!" "Never fear, my child, " Mary answered. Your Father is the Almighty himself and he will guide his son. You are always under his care. He has already saved you from great danger.

Let me tell you about it. When you were a little baby and we were still living in Bethlehem, some prominent wise men came from a far

country in the east. They went to Jerusalem and asked King Herod, ‘Where is he that is born king of the Jews? ‘It seems that a mysterious star had appeared to them, low in the heavens, moving before them, to lead them to a new-born king, the Messiah who will eventually rule the world. The star led them to our nation. They said they had come to worship this new king. Herod and all his court were worried about this news of a new king of the Jews. So Herod called together all the chief priests and scribes, and asked them where, according to the prophet, Christ should be born. They told Herod of the prophecy of Micah :‘But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me, that is to be ruler in Israel whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting. ‘Herod intended to kill you because he did not want any other king in Israel. So he sent the wise men to Bethlehem to find you and asked them to let him know when they had done so.

Then the star went before them and led them to our very door! I’ll never forget that day! A wonderful brilliance permeated everything and this grand oriental caravan stopped right in front of our house.

The dignified wise men, in their colorful costumes, dismounted and came to the door. They seemed overjoyed. They pointed to the bright star hanging overhead and said that it meant that the new king was here and that they had come to worship him. We invited them in and when they saw you, those big men fell down before you and worshipped you. They cried in happiness and adoration. ‘This is the WORD who made heaven and earth, ‘they said. ‘This is the Son of God! ‘Then they brought in heavy treasure chests and opened them.

One chest was full of gold coins, newly minted. Another was full of precious frankincense; another of costly, sweet-smelling myrrh. You laughed merrily as they presented these gifts to you, Tiny as you were, you seemed to thank them with your eyes and smile. They left us as suddenly as they had come and the wondrous light disappeared with them."

"That night we were warned by an angel from God that Herod would try to kill you. We were told to take you and flee to Egypt. We obeyed at once. The gifts of the wise men gave us the means. When Herod’s soldiers came for you, they found the house empty. Then Herod was exceedingly angry and did a very wicked thing. He ordered all the children in Bethlehem and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, killed by the sword. We stayed in Egypt until Herod died and we were told by an angel from God that it was safe to return to the land of Israel. Then we came here to Nazareth. So you see, my son, your heavenly Father is caring for you, and you may be sure he will help you fulfill everything that has been prophesied of you."

Jesus was silent for a long time, his head bowed in thought. Then he raised his head. "Mother, " he said, "I have heard the book of the

prophet Isaiah read at the synagogue and I know every word of it.

Isaiah said in one place, ‘The Lord himself shall give you a sign.

Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. ‘(Isa 7:14) Was this spoken of you, mother, and of me?" Mary answered, "Yes, Jesus, I think it was." "But you named me ‘Jesus’ and not ‘Immanuel. ‘""The name Jesus means Saviour, " Mary answered. "God, through Gabriel, said to name you so. The angels said to the shepherds on the night you were born that you would be ‘a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. ‘""But why did Isaiah say I would be called Immanuel?" "I have wondered about that, too, " Mary answered. "Immanuel means ‘God with us. ‘Perhaps the prophet means that God is with us since he has given us his son to be a saviour."

Jesus nodded. "And I remember Isaiah also said, ‘For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. ‘Mother, is it possible this prophecy refers to me and all these titles shall be mine?" "Yes, Jesus, " Mary answered, "There is no doubt that you are the son of God. You are the promised Messiah and Saviour." "If that is so, "

Jesus said, getting up, "should I not be about my Father’s business? There is so much to do!" "But you are so young! You are only a child!" "But mother, the prophet Samuel was only a child when he began the service of God in the temple. I feel that I should be about my Father’s business!"

Of course this conversation between Mary and Jesus is an assumption, pure and simple. Yet it is useful to bring out the incidents surrounding Jesus’ birth and the prophecies relating thereto.

Considering the perfect and keenly active mind of the child Jesus, the mental powers far beyond his years when compared to other children, it is certainly not an unlikely assumption. We read in Lu 2:40, "And the child grew and waxed strong, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was with him." Note that he was "filled with wisdom." Is it not likely that he obtained much of this wisdom from his mother? All the ingredients of such a conversation—existed and it could have taken place. Assuming that it did take place makes subsequent events more meaningful.

The record says that Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. The entire celebration took eight days of which the feast of Passover was one, followed by seven days of unleavened bread. At this particular Passover season, Jesus was twelve years old. A Jewish boy was considered "a son of the law"

when he had attained his twelfth year. He was considered on the threshhold of manhood. It was the age of responsibility. He then became responsible under the law and from that age forward was required to keep its festivals and other ceremonials. This particular trip to Jerusalem had special significance for Jesus not only because he could now attend as a participant, but for a deeper reason. He reasoned that since at twelve years of age Jewish boys came under the requirements of the Law Covenant, this arrangement might have been made to indicate his proper course and duty. Perhaps this was the time he was expected to begin some phase of his ministry. He was so anxious to please his Heavenly Father. Even at that age it was his burning desire. He therefore resolved that he would settle this question when he got to Jerusalem. He decided that he would consult the very highest authorities respecting the teachings of the law in this matter. There is no doubt in my mind that he told his mother what he intended to do.

When they got to Jerusalem, he attended the necessary ceremonials with his parents. But as often as he could get away by himself, he sought out eminent teachers of the temple. I am sure that his parents had complete confidence in him and were not worried about him, giving him much freedom of movement. But we can imagine that during most of the Passover feast and the days of unleavened bread the great scholars of the temple were busy with important functions.

Waiting to see them, perhaps Jesus had access to some sort of library of scrolls connected with the temple and engrossed himself in the study of these. At any rate, it appears that he did not have an opportunity for a conference with the teachers until the close of the feast.

The Teachers Are Amazed

At this time we can imagine the custodian of the temple entering the private chambers and saying to the teachers and doctors of the law,

"There is a boy outside who has been here every day of the feast seeking a conference with you. He says he must have answers to some questions." "But we can’t talk to every boy who has a question.

Send him to one of the priests." "But sirs, this is such an unusual boy. He reasons and talks like a mature man. I have never seen the like of him. And he has a fantastic knowledge of the scriptures.

Frankly, I was not able to answer him myself. I do wish you gentlemen would see him." The teachers sighed and sat down. It was the custom for teachers to sit on benches in a half-circle with the pupils sitting on mats on the floor at their feet. "Send him in, " they said wearily. When the winsome and charming boy Jesus walked in and respectfully greeted them, they smiled and motioned for him to sit down.

The time came for those who had come to the feast from a distance to leave for home. Different families from the same—locality usually traveled together as one caravan. Jesus’ parents, thinking he was in the company of some of their relatives, went a day’s journey toward home before they discovered he was not in the company. Then they returned to Jerusalem journeying another day. We can imagine Joseph saying to Mary, anxiously, "Jerusalem is such a big city.

Where do you suppose that boy can be?" We can imagine Mary replying, "I think I know just where he is, Joseph." That is why, on the third day, they went straight to the temple. We read:

"And it happened, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers; both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all were astonished at his intelligence and replies. And seeing him they were amazed. And his mother said to him, ‘Child, why hast thou done thus to us? Behold, thy father and I seek thee sorrowing. ‘And he said to them, ‘Why did you seek me? Did you not know that I must be in the house of my Father. ‘—Lu 2:46-49, Diaglott

Yes, he had told his mother where he would be in Jerusalem. But she did not expect that his intense interest in the scriptures would cause him to miss the caravan home and completely absorb him for three days.

Jesus apparently received the information he sought, that, although a boy at twelve became amenable to the law, none could enter upon a teaching or preaching service until thirty years of age, the age of a mature man. But I am sure he obtained much more information than that. I am sure Jesus was wise enough not to disclose his identity to the teachers, was respectful enough to his elders not to contradict them in any errors he may have detected, and tactful enough to ask for the information he most wanted without being too insistent. What was the information he most wanted and obtained? It was much of the same information he later gave to his disciples on the way to Emmaus:

"And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he expounded unto them, in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself."—Lu 24:27 Knowing he was the son of God, knowing he was the Messiah, what could be more natural, even at twelve, than that he shoul d seek to know from the teachers of the temple what the scriptures said concerning himself. I am sure the teachers told him all they knew. This handsome boy, so earnest in his desire to know the scriptures, and asking such intelligent questions, must have thoroughly captivated them. He drew them out so that they vied with

one another to tell him of the prophecies concerning Messiah. Jesus remembered every word. Jesus left with his parents, and we read:

"He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and in manliness, and in favor with God and men."—Lu 2:51, 52, Diaglott

Now another curtain descends and there are eighteen years of silence insofar as any specific acts of Jesus are concerned. But that one sentence, "Jesus advanced in wisdom, and in manliness and in favor with God and men, " tells us all we need to know. He advanced in wisdom by contemplating the scriptures and observing his fellow-man. Many of his parables he would later tell were based upon what he observed during this period. Being a carpenter he could speak with authority about a house built upon a rock and a house built upon the sand, and the necessity for counting the cost before building a tower. Having contact with farmers he later told the parable of the sower, the wheat and tares, and the laborers in the vineyard. Knowing the ways of shepherds, he would use the illustrations of a shepherd and the sheep, the lost sheep, and the sheep and the goats. Talking with fishermen he would later speak of the net cast into the sea, and the pearl of great price. We know something else of those years. We know that it was his custom to stand up in the synagogue and read the scriptures aloud to the congregation. This is disclosed by Luke describing his visit to Nazareth after he had begun his ministry:

"And he came to Nazareth where he had been brought up, and as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read."—Lu 4:16

He remembered every word. These were fruitful years, full of rich experiences he would later draw upon. He advanced in favor with God and men. The Lord loved him, and so did men. Being perfect he must have attracted people to him by wholesome goodness and sheer personal magnetism. But all the while he was counting the days because he knew that David had written of him:

"Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me; I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.—Ps 40:7, 8

He was counting the days until his thirtieth birthday. I think it was on that very day that John the Baptist, waist-deep in the waters of Jordan, looked up and saw the perfect man Jesus coming toward him. He pointed to Jesus and said in a loud voice, for all to hear:

"Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" (Joh 1:29)

Jesus eagerly entered the water. Now he could really be about his Father’s business!

When he arose out of the water and the holy spirit of God flooded his being, from that time forward he was in direct communication with his heavenly Father—no more necessity to be taught of his mother, to be told who he was, that he was the son of God, or to seek counsel from teachers in the temple. Now he directly heard his heavenly Father’s audible voice:

"And, lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."—Mt 3:17

The Counsel of God

"Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory."—Ps 73:24

ALITTLE child, mystified about something, says to himself:"I’m going to .ask my dad about that, when he comes home." Later he asks his question .and listens, wide-eyed, to his father’s answer. This is one of the great rewards of parenthood—the little child trusts his father fully and completely. He believes that his father’s words are always true and right. His father may actually be an ignorant and unlearned man; but the child values his counsel above that of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He points his father out to his playmates and says proudly, "That’s my dad! He knows everything!"

On one occasion, the disciples came to Jesus and asked:"Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (Mt 18:1) "And Jesus called a little child unto him." It seems that the little children were never very far from Jesus. With natural curiosity, and attracted by his warm and loving personality, they got as close to him as they could, so close sometimes that the—disciples felt that they had to shoo them away! So:

"Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them; and said :Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."—Mt 18:2, 3

"Except ye be converted!" That was a strange thing to say! These were his disciples he was talking to—weren’t they converted already? In a very important sense they were not. Their very question disclosed their selfishly ambitious state of mind. They wanted to know which of them would be the greatest in heaven, which of them would be higher than the others in heaven! Doesn’t that sound familiar? There was a shocking similarity here between their spirit and that of Satan who had said, "I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God." (Isa 14:13) Jesus quickly detected this similarity of spirit and told them plainly that—unless they became as little children, they would not even enter into the kingdom of heaven, much less be the greatest there. They must first be converted, that is, changed in disposition to that of a child.

A little child, before it is exposed to the world, is simple of heart:

meek, humble, truthful, free from ambition and rivalry, faithful, trusting, loving. A little child is obedient, teachable, without guile, indifferent to social distinctions and popular notions. Black, white, yellow, rich or poor—these mean nothing. Such are the attributes of

character that Jesus must have had in mind when he said also, on another occasion:

"Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven."—Mt 19:14

A natural child grows up and, in this evil world, often departs from the counsel of his parents. He seeks and finds other counsel, some good, some bad. But the child of God remains a little child in the sense that he does not depart from the counsel of his Heavenly Father but fully trusting, seeks more and more of that counsel. David wrote:

"When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up."—Ps 27:10

Have you ever been lost? One of my most vivid memories is of such an incident, which occurred when I was about three. We lived in the country, and very seldom went to town. On this occasion my father brought me to the city. Holding me by the hand he took me into a large department store, the first one I had ever seen. I was dazzled and enchanted by all the bright and glittering things in the store. I let go of my father’s hand to get closer to what I wanted to see. For a few moments I was completely engrossed in some attractive display.

When I eagerly turned to talk to my father about it, HE WAS NOT THERE! A moment before I was gay and carefree, full of delight; now I was terror-stricken. I looked wildly about for my father, running here and there, trying to raise myself up on my tiptoes to see farther. Tears filled my eyes and my throat tightened. The beauties of the store were just the same as they were before, but suddenly they were no longer of any interest to me. I wanted just one thing—MY FATHER. I wanted to hold his hand again; nothing else mattered.

Never before in my life had I felt so terribly alone, forsaken, and miserable. The whole thing lasted only a few minutes. My father quickly found me. Seeing my confusion and tears he took me in his arms and comforted me. Then we went on again hand in hand. My wondering delight in all the things around me quickly returned; everything was joyful, good, and right once more.

Have you ever felt forsaken? Human parents eventually die and otherwise forsake their children. They let go of their children’s hands—it is inevitable. But how fortunate the one whom the Lord takes up—his hand never fails ; it is always there to hold, to comfort, and to protect. That is what David meant when he said:

"When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up."—Ps 27:10

The Lord will never forsake you. He will always guide you with his counsel. How very fortunate the one whom the Lord takes up and guides with his counsel!

Jesus called these child-like ones who seek and delight in the counsel of the Lord, his little ones. Of these it is written:

"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly; nor standeth in the way of sinners; nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree, planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish."—Ps 1:1-6

"And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water." How beautiful and refreshing that sounds :drawing abundantly from the water of truth, bearing much fruit, and prospering in the heavenly way.

"Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out."—Pr 20:5

The water is there, but it is deep. It must be found and drawn out.

The scriptures contain "the whole counsel of God." But, to the uninitiated—to those whose minds have not been illuminated by the holy spirit—these things are too deep.

Finding the Counsel of God

How can a Christian find and avail himself of the counsel of God? He must first learn the basic principles of the truth, which Paul describes as "milk" in Heb 5:12. He later must be able to also assimilate the "meat" of the scriptures. Of course when a child is weaned and starts eating meat, he does not entirely stop drinking milk. The wise parent knows there should always be a glass of milk on the table. So to understand the deep things, we must often go back to first principles—to the milk of the word.

How does a Christian find the counsel of God in the maze of scripture provided? We read:

"Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little."—Isa 28:9, 10

God has been very gracious to us at this end of the age. Jesus was talking to his disciples about the end of the age and when he would come again. In Matthew chapter 24 he told them to "watch" for his coming (verse 44). It was at this point in his discourse that the relative time of the application of his words was fixed. He promised a faithful and wise servant who would give his household meat in due season. That servant was Pastor Russell. By use of his books, the "keys to the scriptures, " we have been enlightened, and bountifully fed "meat in due season"—present truth.

"Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning; and from ancient times the things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."—Isa 46:9, 10

God’s Purpose for the Church

What is God’s pleasure? Jesus himself answered this question:

"It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom."—Lu 12:32

Let us well remember this point—the selection and development of a church class to rule with Christ in his kingdom was not an alternative plan should other plans fail. It was not an afterthought. It was the original purpose and counsel of God! It was his "good pleasure"

from the beginning. Paul plainly states this:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as he hath chosen us in him BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us, unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will."—Eph 1:3-5

To become a member of this predestinated group of 144, 000 kings and priests is a GREAT prize—an exceeding high calling. Paul calls it "the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Php 3:14) It is also described as "glory and honor and immortality." (Ro 2:7)

In another place it is called "partaking of the divine nature." (2Pe 1:4) It is termed "the crown of life." (Jas 1:12) The crown is the highest part of the person. The promised "crown of life" is the highest form of life.

Our poor human minds cannot really grasp the magnitude of this thing. How can we, by using imperfect, earthly language, describe so lofty and glorious a condition? How can we measure the difference

between the human and divine? IT’S IMPOSSIBLE! But we do have a hint in Isaiah where Jehovah God says of himself:

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."—Isa 55:9

This suggests a measure. But how high are the heavens above the earth? Let us see. Light travels at the speed of 186, 000 miles a second. Now suppose that instead of traveling only one second it traveled a whole year at that same rate of speed. Just consider how many seconds there are in one year and allow 186, 000 miles for each second. That would be the distance known as one light year. It is difficult for us to grasp the vastness of such a distance. Yet many of the stars of heaven are millions of light years distant from the earth!

Now we begin to appreciate how much higher than ourselves God is as indicated by the expression, "As the heavens are higher than the earth."

Bearing this in mind, let us now consider a scripture showing the similarity of our glorified Lord Jesus to the Heavenly Father.

"Who, being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person . . . sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."—Heb 1:3

This places the glorified Christ on that same lofty position described by the phrase, "As the heavens are higher than the earth." This is further confirmed by the scripture that tells us that Jehovah God:

"Raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places; far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named." —Eph 1:20, 21

Now we quote a scripture that is almost incredible in its implication.

It is addressed to the "beloved" of God, the members of his church, to you and to me:

"Beloved; now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is!"—1Jo 3:2

There we have it! First Jehovah God, so very high above us—" as the heavens are higher than the earth." Then Jesus Christ, the express image of his person, on the same plane. Then WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM! It sounds impossible doesn’t it? It sounds so impossible that some of the Lord’s children have said:

"I don’t aspire to such glory. I could not. If I can just squeeze, unnoticed, through the side door into heaven, and take a humble place in the Kingdom, a back seat, so to speak; I shall be completely satisfied."

That attitude does show commendable humility. Our Lord Jesus showed a similar humility. When the bitter cup of an agonizing death was imminent, he prayed to his Heavenly Father:

"I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me, with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."—Joh 17:5

God had promised him much greater glory than that, but Jesus would have been content with his previous condition. We read:

"He humbled himself . . . Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow."—Php 2:8-10

We also read that he was "made so much better than the angels." (Heb 1:4)

Just as the Heavenly Father gave his son Jesus abundantly more than he asked, so he will do for each of his beloved and faithful children. It must be done; he has promised it. His word does not return unto him void. As the apostle says:

"We shall all be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption; and this mortal must put on immortality."—1

Corinthians 15:51-53

Glory, honor and immortality! Let us accept the promise with joy and not be overwhelmed by it. As the apostle counsels us:

"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith, WITHOUT WAVERING for he is faithful that promised."—Heb 10:23

So we see that although the reward promised is very high and great, IT IS OBTAINABLE. Not only is it obtainable, God wants us to have it. It is his good pleasure to give it to us. Every necessary facility is furnished us so that we may qualify for the prize.

The Search for God’s Counsel

We are counseled and told just what to do as it is written in our text:

"Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory." (Ps 73:24) Someone may say:

"Wonderful! Tell me just where this counsel is found and I will follow it faithfully. I will write it all out in a manual, classify it, and index it. Then I will know the Lord’s counsel in every event of life!"

It’s not as simple as that. We have to search for this counsel. It is a rare and precious thing, "hid from ages and generations." (Col 1:26) But it can be found because Jesus said:"Seek and ye shall find." (Mt 7:7) Just as one may follow a treasure map, there are clues in the Bible. It is a fascinating thing to follow them

and uncover the precepts of God applying to us. Let us follow one of these clues now and see where it leads us.

Instead of a pirate’s treasure map we will start with a map of Paul’s missionary journeys. Paul stopped at Ephesus on one of these journeys and preached to the ecclesia there. On his next journey he was again in that vicinity. He sent for the elders of Ephesus to come to him, he had a meeting with them, and gave them the benefit of his advice. On this occasion he spoke these words to them:

"I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and in your houses. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."—Ac 20:20, 27, 28

Here we have a hint as to where "the counsel of God" may be found, the counsel that will lead us to glory. Paul told the Ephesians that he had "kept back nothing." He told the Ephesians he had declared unto them "all the counsel of God." He told the Ephesian elders to use this "counsel" to "feed the Church of God."

"Why that’s fine, " someone may say. "Now all we have to do is to find out what Paul told the Ephesians! Then we’ll have it!" But wait.

Paul probably gave many discourses to the brethren at Ephesus.

Some of these discourses may have been several hours in length. He had been known to speak all night. Just exactly what he told them we do not know. A word-for-word transcript of these talks would fill

hundreds of pages. But they were never recorded; there were no shorthand writers or tape recorders in those days. Does this mean that all the wonderful things Paul told the Ephesians—" all the counsel of God" he had not shunned to declare, all the precious things of which he "kept back nothing"—were forever lost except for the memories of those who saw him and heard his voice? It does not seem right that this should be so.

Let us follow another clue in the same direction. Paul is in Rome in bonds and is ready to be offered. The time of his departure is at hand. He has fought a good fight, he has finished his course, and he has kept the faith. There is laid up for him a crown of righteousness as he himself said. (2Ti 4:6-8) He knows that he must shortly die and then he will be silent. His personal influence for good on the church will be at an end. Chained and immobilized it is only natural that he would think of his missionary journeys and of the many ecclesias he had served—the delights of the service, the dear friends he met, the faith, the zeal, the love, the steadfastness, and the charity he has seen. He looks down at his chains and feels a sudden sorrow:

he will never meet these dear ones in the flesh again.

Ah, but though his body is chained, his mind is free! He thinks back.

As his thoughts roam from place to place he thinks of the brethren at Ephesus. He wonders if they are still faithful to the counsel of God he had declared to them. He longs to see them, to talk to them again, to remind them of all the precious treasures of truth they have, to stir up their minds and hearts to a keener appreciation of them. Oh if he could only talk to the beloved Ephesian brethren again! Then he realizes there is a way he can talk to them again! He reaches for a piece of parchment and a quill. He begins to write slowly and laboriously with large characters to aid his dimming sight:

Chapter 1

"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God; to the saints which are at Ephesus, " he writes. He pauses at this point and thinks:

"Those at Ephesus will send this letter to the other churches also—I must greet those dear ones too. And he adds:and to the faithful in Christ Jesus." This is his salutation and it is the first verse of the first chapter of Ephesians.

What do you suppose he would want to write in a letter like that? Don’t you suppose he would want to reiterate to them many of the elements of the "counsel of God" by which they may inherit glory, honor and immortality? Of course he had already given it to them verbally in many discourses, but now when his time of departure had come, he would want to leave them a permanent record—a record in his own hand, which would not later be changed or distorted. Before

his death, which was now so close, he would want to bequeath to them all his spiritual wealth—the heavenly treasures, more precious than gold—" ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD." This is just what he did in his letter to the Ephesians :it contains the essence of the counsel of God. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, " he wrote. (1:3) His pen scratched on the rough parchment. He wrote steadily and firmly and out of the fullness of his heart. He started with the predestination of the church class, as a class, before the foundation of the world, their redemption through Christ’s blood, and "the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace." He spoke of their knowledge of God’s divine plan of the ages in these words:

"Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself."

He reminded them of the glorious culmination of God’s loving plan for mankind, saying:"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one, all things in Christ; both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in him." (1:9, 10) He told them that this was, "According to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." He beautifully summed up the philosophy of the ransom—the buying back and restoration of Adam and his race—calling it:"The redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." (1:14) What a lovely expression that is!

Then he spoke of the treasures he wanted them to have here and hereafter, saying that he ceased not to make mention of them in his prayers:

"That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you, the spirit of wisdom, and revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in his saints."

The Diaglott renders it:"The glorious wealth of his inheritance."

These words apply not only to the Ephesians but to us too—to you and to me. Why? Don’t forget that in his salutation he added the words:"And to the faithful in Christ Jesus." If you are faithful in Christ Jesus, the apostle Paul has prayed for you personally. He has prayed that God may give you the spirit of wisdom and knowledge of him, for you to know the hope of his calling; for you to receive the "glorious wealth" of his inheritance!

But you may say, "How could Paul have prayed for me before I was ever born?" In the same way that Jesus prayed for you when, after

having prayed for his apostles, he said:"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on me through their word." (Joh 17:20) Paul also prayed for the Ephesians and for us that we might know and understand, "The exceeding greatness [of God’s power] which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand, in the heavenly places."

Paul continues with words that are so powerfully descriptive of Christ:

"Far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named; not only in this world but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."—Eph 1:21-23

This is all in what we call the first chapter of Ephesians. Of course, the letter was not divided into chapters and verses until much later.

Chapter 2

In the second chapter he reminded the Ephesians and us that:

"In time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us; even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."

Lest anyone think they sit together with Christ because of personal worth, he adds:

"For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast."—Eph 2:2-9

At the end of the chapter he refers to Jesus as being:"The chief corner stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord." This suggests a pyramid structure a form that has been so useful in the chart of the divine plan of the ages.

Chapter 3

In the third chapter Paul tells how by God’s grace he was made a minister to "Preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." (3:8) He says that he has asked God, "That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with might by his spirit, in the inner man." Do you see how many times

Paul uses the words "riches" and "glory"? These are what he is seeking to bequeath in this letter. He goes on to say:

"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love; may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge; that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God."—Eph 3:16-19

All the fullness of God! That has a familiar ring. Might it be the same, or the result of, ALL THE COUNSEL of God which Paul had not shunned to declare? I think it may.

How does Paul say it is attained? First, he says that we must be

"strengthened with might, by his spirit, in the inner man, " or as the Diaglott renders it, "Powerfully strengthened through his spirit in the inner man." Someone may say:

"That is what I want to attain! Then I shall indeed be victorious!

Tell me what sacrifices I must make, what course of study I must pursue, what deep wisdom I must attain, what expensive offerings I must give, what years of service I must render, what elaborate religious ceremonies I must attend—before I can attain this powerful influx of the holy Spirit—THIS STRENGTHENING OF THE INNER MAN!"

I’m going to answer that by reading Jesus’ words:

"I say unto you, ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you; for everyone that asketh—receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or, if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or, if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"—Lu 11:9-13

The Holy Spirit—Yours for the Asking

This is an astonishing thing. The holy Spirit is the most valuable asset of all. It is beyond price. It is the spirit of wisdom which guides us into all truth. It "powerfully strengthens" us in our fight against the world, the flesh and the devil. By the use of it we win the victory and make our calling and election sure. What do we have to do to get it? JUST ASK FOR IT! It is as—simple as that. God earnestly wants you to have it just as much as you want your children to have food!

That’s what the scripture says!

This is something even the world can understand. This is something even the most degenerate tribes of earth can appreciate. When a child

asks for food, the parent will give it to him, gladly and lavishly if he has it. It delights him to give food to his children. This is a strong and intense quality even in fallen man. "How much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy Spirit to them that ask him?" Do you want to be "powerfully strengthened through his spirit in the inner man"? This is the way—just ask him! Claim the promise and claim it with faith, expecting to receive it. Make room for it and it shall be given you. Ye shall find and it shall be opened unto you!

Starting with the 17th verse of chapter three Paul gives the Ephesians the reasons for their being strengthened by the spirit in the inner man:"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." If we claim the promise of the holy Spirit with full faith, Christ will dwell in our hearts. We will even have the Heavenly Father in our hearts through his spirit as Jesus himself said:

"If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."—Joh 14:23

This is really an overwhelming thought, is it not? Could all the powers of evil, could Satan and all his demons dare to touch one with whom God and Christ dwell? Then Paul wrote those sublime words of praise which the angels must have leaned over his shoulder to read:

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."

Chapter 4

In the fourth chapter Paul exhorts to lowliness and meekness and longsuffering. The Diaglott renders this more clearly as humility and gentleness and patience:"sustaining each other in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (4:2, 3) Then he gives a bit of the counsel of God which, if heeded, could have preserved many who have strayed from the right way:"Ye are called in one hope of your calling!" he said. No earthly calling, no modern worthies, no Jonadabs, just one hope now:"Christ in you, the hope of glory." It is glory, honor, and immortality—the high calling. There is no other calling now! "Ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism." A baptism unto death:

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?"—Ro 6:3

There is no other baptism now. Even though 7, 000 may be immersed in water at a single convention, there is still no other

baptism! Let us heed well this counsel of God. Here is verse 14 from the Diaglott:

"So that we may be infants no longer; tossed and whirled about with every wind of that teaching which is in the trickery of men, by cunning craftiness, in systematic deception."—Eph 4:14, Diaglott I don’t think any comment is required except to say that it took a great deal of tossing and turning around and juggling of doctrine by tricky and crafty men to cunningly and systematically undermine the truth and lead thousands away from the right path. Paul foresaw it all as his pen slowly scratched its way over the parchment that day so long ago in Rome. Paul ended the fourth chapter by counseling us to:

"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice; and be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you."—Eph 4:31, 32

Chapter 5

There are many rare gems in the fifth chapter. Here are some of them:"Let no man deceive you with vain words." (5:6) "The fruit of the spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth; proving what is acceptable unto the Lord." (5:9, 10) "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." (5:16) "Giving thanks always for all things, unto God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (5:20)

Chapter 6

In what is now the sixth chapter of his letter to his beloved Ephesian brethren, Paul starts to write his final bit of counsel, "the counsel of God." We might imagine at this point that Paul pauses in his writing to look out the window of the house where he is bound as a prisoner.

Perhaps he wonders what words he should use as his final exhortation. He looks out. This is Rome the seat of the brutal fourth universal—empire, the iron legs of the image of Ne—buchadnezzar’s vision, the unspeakable beast of Daniel’s vision. It has the most efficient military organization that has ever existed to that time.

Suddenly Paul hears a heavy tread on the street. As he watches a fully armed and armored—Roman soldier strides by—a symbol of Rome’s strength and power. Paul picks up his pen. He has found the words he wants:

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole—armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the

rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day; and, having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore; having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God."—Eph 6:10-17

What part of this defensive armor is most important? Paul identifies it:"Above all, taking the shield of faith." (6:16) As we read:"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (1Jo 5:4)

"His truth shall be thy shield and buckler." (Ps 91:4) Yes, that is the most important thing—to keep our faith in the truth! This is indeed the counsel of God!

All the armor is defensive "that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day." There is only one offensive weapon mentioned here:"The sword of the spirit, which is the word of God." This is the same bright and shining sword that Jesus used when Satan attacked him, after his 40 days fasting in the wilderness. Three times he thrust Satan with this sword. Three times he said "It is written!" What happened next? "Then the devil leaveth him, and behold, angels came and ministered unto him."

If you use this sword faithfully, angels will minister unto you, too!

"For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."—2Pe 1:11

The Day of Small Things

"For who hath despised the day of small things?"—Zec 4:10

TODAY we are going to consider the tremendous importance and influence of small things. Let us first trace back to the cause of all human misery. It all started with such a little thing—a single forbidden fruit, a thing you could hold in one hand and scarcely feel the weight of it. What a small thing that was! There were literally tons of other fruit. There were thousands of varieties of fruit-bearing trees in Eden. Genesis tells us how much fruit God had made available in that beautiful garden:

"And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth; and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed. To you it shall be for meat."—Ge 1:29

This means that every tree in the world bearing wholesome fruit was represented there in Eden. What a wide variety of choice Adam had.

If he wanted to, he could eat a different kind of delicious fruit at each meal for a whole year and not have to eat the same fruit twice. So it was indeed a small thing that the fruit of just one tree was prohibited.

Thus we read:

"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die."—Ge 2:15-17

Although the forbidden fruit was such a small thing, weighing only a few ounces, the penalty for disobedience in this matter was enormous and frightful. Its effect filled the whole earth. Just for eating that small fruit, 6000 years of sickness, sorrow and pain, of viciousness, violence, and cruelty, of ugliness, degradation and depravity, of decrepitude and old age, and, finally, the supreme penalty :death. All this happened to billions of human beings. That one small thing caused a glorious race of beings—designed to be the kings of earth, created in the image of God with beauty and dignity only a little lower than the—angels, with a magnificent organism designed to live forever in health and happiness—to be stricken down in death like a beast after only a few brief years of miserable life.

The earth, too, instead of being made a paradise was polluted and converted into one vast graveyard! The forbidden fruit:a small thing?

Let us digress a little. Although it certainly was not true in the case of Adam, it seems to be a trait of the fallen human nature to especially desire forbidden things. There seems to be a perverse fascination for things forbidden. I remember back on the farm, we had an old cow that always got caught in the barbed-wire fence. She was always trying to reach over and nibble the grass in the next field.

It was exactly the same kind of grass, in exactly the same condition.

It must have tasted exactly the same. But it seemed more desirable than what she had in her own field because it was fenced off from her. It was forbidden.

Along the same line, former President Herbert Hoover told how he once went fishing but had no luck. On the way home, he met a small boy carrying a fine catch of speckled trout. "Where did you get them?" Hoover asked. "I found the perfect spot, " replied the boy.

"Just walk down that lane marked PRIVATE PROPERTY, NO ADMITTANCE until you come to a sign saying TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED. Just beyond is a stream marked NO FISHING—ALLOWED. That’s the place!"

Mark Twain, somewhat irreverently and quite inaccurately, ascribed this trait also to Adam. He wrote:

"Adam was but human. This explained it all. He did not want the—apple for the apple’s sake. He wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent. Then he would have eaten the serpent."

If it weren’t so tragic, it would be funny.

This fallen human trait is fostered by Satan to draw men away from the commandments of God to cause them to rebel and go exactly opposite to God’s expressed will. This perverse trait is so evident today. It seems to have come to the full; it is the cause of all the civil disobedience and disorder we see about us. Laws enacted for the common good which have been on the books for centuries are now challenged and an exactly opposite course taken. Open anarchy is the result. It is particularly evident among the young. It seems to be a kind of sickness. It has come to such a point that parents are afraid to lay down prohibitions to their children for fear it will prompt the doing of the very thing prohibited. Indeed, this "disobedience to parents" is one of the signs of the times mentioned in 2Ti 3:2.

We now return to our subject, "The Day of Small Things." The Great and Almighty God, ruler of heaven and earth, respects small things. He loves and honors small people, those who are small in their own eyes. He tells us this:

"For thus saith the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place; with him

also that is of a contrite and humble spirit; to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."—Isa 57:15

"Thus saith the Lord; the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. . . . For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord. But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word."—Isa 66:1, 2

Moffatt renders the last phrase:"What I care for are humble, broken creatures, who stand in awe of all I say."

Do you fit this description? If you do, the Lord cares for you above all others! It is to such who feel small and childlike that the Lord reveals himself and his truth, ignoring those who are great and wise in their own conceits. Thus we read:

"In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said :I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight."—Lu 10:21

God Favors the Small and Humble

This favoring of the small and humble is a fixed principle with God.

It was demonstrated in the glorious announcement at the birth of Jesus:

"Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."—Lu 2:10, 11

This announcement was not made to the wise and prudent leaders of Israel—the High Priest, the Scribes and Pharisees, the ones who sat in Moses’ seat. They were too wise and too prudent. They would have been skeptical of his word. No, the most important announcement in history was made to poor and humble shepherds who literally trembled at his word, and were "sore afraid." (Lu 2:9) The Lord had—selected a very humble young maid to be the mother of the Holy Child. Although Gabriel had told Mary, "Thou are highly favored, the Lord is with thee, Blessed art thou among women, " yet in her song of—exultation she humbly said:"He hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden." (Lu 1:48) Then she cited God’s fixed principle of favoring the small and humble, saying:"He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away!"

This fixed principle of God is incomprehensible to the world. Let us take an illustration from the business world. Suppose there is a seminar for business executives who are studying methods to attain

success. The chairman asks each member to give what, in his opinion, are the most important secrets of success. We can imagine the standard replies:

"Show some ambition. Push yourself forward. Assume more and more responsibility, even if you have to usurp it. Milk the brains of those more knowledgeable than yourself. Be quick to take advantage of the neglect of others to enlarge your own sphere of authority. Get people to work for you. Delegate duties but take all the credit for good results. Act as a boss and some day you’ll be boss. Always try to displace the man in the job ahead. Cater and pander to those who are in a position to advance you. Curry favor. Flatter the chief. Play politics, backing the likely winner. Seek social prominence; etc."

Although not expressed in just so many words, this is the probable sense of their replies. I have attended such seminars. But let us imagine that there is one man who has not replied so the chairman asks him for his secret of success. He gets up and says, "To become the greatest of all, make yourself the smallest of all. Humble yourself." Can you imagine the scornful laughter that would greet such a reply? Yet this is exactly what the greatest authority in the world taught his disciples. This is the true secret of gaining the highest position in the universe. We read the words of Jesus:

"If any one wishes to be first, he must be last of all and the servant of all."—Mr 9:35, Weymouth

Jesus also taught that the inverse of this is true :those who seek to exalt themselves will be brought down. He said:

"But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant; and whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."—Mt 23:11, 12

Jesus illustrated this principle by a parable when he was the guest of honor at a dinner in the home of one of the chief Pharisees. Many other guests, presumably Scribes, Pharisees, and Doctors of the law, were also there. As was the custom, there was a long table. The host and the guest of honor reclined at the head of it; the other guests were seated according to their rank with the most honorable nearest the host. Jesus was a keen observer of human nature and as the guests arrived, he noticed that each one invariably took the highest ranking place available at the table, thus exalting himself above those who might come after him. We now read from the account in Luke:

"And he spoke a parable to those who had been invited, observing how they were choosing out the chief places, saying to them :When thou art invited by any one to a marriage-feast, do not recline in the chief place; lest one more honorable than thou may have been

invited by him, and he who invited thee and him should come and say to thee, Give this man a place and then, with shame, thou shouldst begin to occupy the lowest place. But when thou art invited, go and recline in the lowest place; that when he who invited thee comes, he may say to thee, Friend, go up to a higher place. Then thou wilt have honor in the presence of all those reclining with thee."—Lu 14:7- 11, Diaglott

Then Jesus drove home the lesson of the parable with the words:

"For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Contrasting Satan and Jesus

We have a demonstration of this fixed principle of God in Satan and Jesus. Satan sought to exalt himself as we read:

"For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds. I will be like the Most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to the sides of the pit."—Isa 14:13-15

Contrast this with the career of our Lord Jesus who humbled himself and whom we are to emulate:

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father."—Php 2:5-11

To us, the followers of Jesus, the apostle says:

"Be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time."—1Pe 5:5, 6

God Resists the Proud

"God resisteth the proud!" What chance would we have if God would resist us? How wonderful it is to enjoy the grace of God which he shows to the humble. Do any think they do not need this lesson? Bro. Russell wrote:

"No other lesson requires to be so carefully learned by the Lord’s people as this lesson of humility. It has to do with the very humblest of the flock, as well as those who are teachers and elders and pilgrims, etc. But the degree of force that seems to come with the besetment or temptation seems to multiply in proportion to the position and attainments of the individual. Pride and ambition may be in those who have no official position in the Church. Little men, like little ships with broad sails, are in great danger of being capsized if too strong a wind of popularity play upon them."—Reprints, page 3363.

Isn’t that well put? In conformity to his fixed principle, the Lord has always selected for his service men who were small in their own eyes. For example, when the prophet Samuel told Saul that he had been selected to be King of Israel, Saul was very small in his own eyes. We read:

"And Saul answered and said, Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel:and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Wherefore then speakest thou so to me?"—1

Samuel 9:21

When Samuel wanted to present him to the people as their first King, Saul in his humility hid himself. Thus when he considered himself small, he was made great. Later he became proud, haughty and disobedient. When Samuel told him of his rejection by the Lord, he reminded Saul of God’s fixed principle:

"And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own eyes, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee King over Israel