March 26th 2023: Ian Middlemist

Joshua 1

In this passage of scripture we have a war theme. When marching to war three things are vital:

  1. There needs to be clear direction and purpose for the mission ahead. A regiment needs clarity for its purpose.
  2. To know unity, togetherness, camaraderie.
  3. We are to actually go, to make those first steps with bravery and courage.

These things often seem to be absent in church life.

  1. People appear to be proactive but they are motivated by a fear of inability that can lead to just doing something.
  2. Someone can have a clear idea in their homes and expect every one else to get it, but their vision isn’t communicated clearly to everyone.
  3. There can be such lethargy in church life. We become depressed and don’t get engaged, preferring to build more walls. It’s just disobedience. Jesus Christ said to His disciples, ‘Go!’

By the presence of the Holy Spirit all of these three things are present in this passage. As God’s people march onwards, they have the sure promise of God’s hands.

  1. God’s word and His promise.

As the Israelites stood to enter the Promised Land, they are ready, posed to march forwards. God’s main emphasis to Joshua is upon the law of God. Very early on in history of the planet, people were ready. They were a people of the Book. A spiritual reality of Christian life must be being a people of the Book. These people weren’t merely readers of the book, they were lovers of the words. They loved the writings of Moses. Without the book of the law of God, they would be lost and confused. They read and loved the book. They engaged with it.

Joshua was to have special revelations from God through the priest, “And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the Lord. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the people of Israel with him, the whole congregation.”  (Numbers 27:21). Joshua was to stand before the priest, receive special communication from God and tell the people.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)

There are three things are in this verse. The law is to be on his mouth. He was to talk about, meditate on it and do the work of God.

  1.  He was to keep it on the mouth, speaking it, not just internalising it.
  2. He was to meditate on it day and night. We have increased as Christians in our love to grow and meditate on God’s word. We can draw deep lessons and be taught new things when we read the word. We are to absorb the word, chew over its truths – God, His person, His ways, His gospel.
  3. Do it. This word is to be living and active in our lives. Are you keeping the word on your lips, meditating on it, as if it were your life? Are you putting it into practice?
  • God’s Presence.

When he commanded Joshua to conquer the land, God said, ‘Do not be afraid.’ Joshua didn’t need to be afraid because God was going to be with him every step of the way. The command most frequently found on the Lord Jesus’ lips was ‘fear not.’ Men and women are prone to fear under the shadow of death. The Lord assured Joshua He was going to be with him.

Today, we are more and more a people who are afraid to make a stand, therefore we don’t often have fear. We hide ourselves away. We’re not afraid because we fall often or because we tried and failed. We’re afraid because we haven’t made that step and tried. If we’re going to see revival, we need to become a people who know reality, who are courageous in the midst of our fears.

The greatest gift the Lord Jesus gave the church was the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not the most important, it’s the Holy Spirit. The pinnacle of Christian experience is the Lord Jesus Christ. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,” (John 14:16).

Jesus Himself is the first comforter. The Holy Spirit is the second. Have you trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as the first comforter? In Jesus Christ we have the help of the helpless. He will abide with you. If we’re to be involved in the battle, we need all the comfort and reassurance we can get. If we’re truly in the work, we will know this comfort and encouragement. The encouragement and strength you really need is the Holy Spirit. Comfort comes from the Latin words meaning strength.

The Holy Spirit, the paraclete, comes not to console after the battle, but to fortify us before and in the midst of the battle. He will be with us through it all. You are going to face difficulties again and again. Right now, get to appreciate, to look to and to believe that the Spirit of God is with you. Christ is sufficient. He speaks comfort. That’s the strength of the Holy Spirit.

  • Let’s go! The first steps.

Joshua is a vital book. It bridges the gap between the Torah and the history teachings section of the Old Testament. It speaks to us of God’s redemptive purposes. Moses is dead but the purposes of God are not. The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness of wandering with Moses.  Then Moses dies. Surely, there must have been people there wondering if God’s purposes had also died? There is temptation to think, because a strong leader has died, other purposes have died. How dejected some must have felt. The Kingdom of God isn’t dependent on such things. The purposes of God are sure, so is the strength God gives for us to move and take those first steps.

Joshua stands in a moment of transition. God says, ‘Remember my promise.’ So we need to go and believe. The purposes of God are not over – not in your personal life, not in this church, not in the global church. We have Christ’s own promises which cannot fail.

March 19th 2021: Adrian Brake

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel:

Genesis 6

If someone asked you, who was Noah? What would you say? He lived long ago, he was married, had 3 sons and was a ship builder. But I want to look at the most important thing about Noah, But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8). That, in a sense, is Noah in a nutshell.

That’s the first time, in Genesis 6:8, that the word grace appears in the pages of scriptures. Grace is at the very heart of the message of the Bible. Grace is woven into the very fabric of scripture. The Bible is from the beginning to the end, the story of God’s grace towards human beings. The Bible is a story; one, unified, developing, growing story of God’s grace through Jesus Christ to human beings. If you’re a Christian, if you don’t get excited about grace, you need a renewing of your heart. Every hymn is a celebration of God’s grace. Every hymn is a response for us to God’s grace. Grace is the beating heart of the church’s hymnary.

What is grace?

First of all, grace is not an object. It’s an attitude. We don’t receive grace, we are shown grace. It describes the way somebody thinks about us, the way somebody relates to us and the way that somebody acts towards us. To receive grace from God means to receive something we don’t deserve, something we have no right expect. It is something we have no claim upon.  Grace is unmerited kindness, something which hasn’t been bought, something which hasn’t been worked for but has been gladly, freely, lavishly shown. That is how God dealt with Noah.

God gave Noah something he didn’t deserve, something he wasn’t entitled to, something that if God has acted purely in justice, he would never have received. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8).

God was gracious to Noah. We forget that Noah, by nature, was no different to other people that lived. We almost think here the world was in a terrible mess, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” (Genesis 8:5) but that Noah was a shining light whom God rewarded for his inherent godliness. It’s not that at all. Noah, by nature, deserved to perish with everyone in the flood, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). There’s no exception clause for Abraham, Moses, David and others. All those great men of the Bible were not great by nature. They were sinners by choice. Noah began life in the same boat as his contemporaries. He was under God’s condemnation.

How is it that Noah ended up on the ark? God was going to save Noah, 17 And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark – you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.”.  Genesis 6:17-18).

God marks Noah out. Why? What was there about Noah that led God to treat him in this remarkable way? Nothing! But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8). There was nothing about Noah that he could bring before God and say, ‘Lord, you can’t do that to me.’ Noah found grace. He didn’t deserve it, he wasn’t entitled to it. He hadn’t bought it, he couldn’t claim it, he hadn’t worked for it, he was simply shown it.

God shows Noah grace. Why? Because He chose to. Because God, in His heart, provided a way of escape from His judgement, a way of rescue. Noah didn’t deserve it but God choose to be gracious and merciful, generous and kind to him. It’s a wonderful act of a large heart that God has.

“Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” (Genesis 6:9b). Perfect means blameless, he wasn’t guilty of great public sin. He was perfect in his generation and walked with God. Hang on! Noah was a godly man, so he did deserve a place on the ark. No. He didn’t begin like that. Noah found grace – that’s the foundation (verse 8). But in verse 9 we have the fruit of grace, “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” (Genesis 6:9b). Noah was what he was in verse 9 because God had first shown him grace.

God’s grace to Noah is seen in two things:

  1. Before the flood waters were ever mentioned, God was gracious to Noah and gave Noah a new heart. There became a point in Noah’s life when he became a different man. When other people were hating God, he began to love God. Once Noah had shown no interest in relating to God, now he wanted to walk with God. He reaches out to God. He looks to Him. He longs for Him. He listens and speaks to Him. He fellowships with Him. Why is he so different? “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8).

  2. God gave Noah what he didn’t deserve in the form of safety from judgement. Noah’s story was a story of receiving that to which he had no claim: a new nature and a Saviour.

We are dealing with historical facts here but what happened in those days was a warning, a warning given by God to the whole of the human race. What happened in Noah’s day was a foretaste, a glimpse of a day yet to come. The flood was an expression of God’s wrath against sin and against sinners. We see the consequences of sin, Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5). The destruction that comes on the Earth is a settled, judicial response to man’s sin. “And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:13). Because of sin, God is bringing this judgement, And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die.” (Genesis 6:17). It was a deliberate, decisive, purposeful act of God – judgement upon Man’s sin.

God doesn’t always act in that cataclysmic way to deal with Man’s sin, but there are occasions in scripture where He does that. Sodom and Gomorrah is an example of a dramatic way in which God pours out His wrath upon sin. Sometimes, God needs to make an example of somebody, or a generation, as a warning for others.

On occasion, God, in His grace to us, shows us what sin will bring about if it is not dealt with, not repented of. The flood was God speaking to us today saying sin is serious, it’s not to be taken lightly. Sin grieves God, “And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” (Genesis 6:6). God was wounded to see His creation so reject Him. It’s almost as if He wept over Man’s rebellion against Him. It brings down God’s wrath. Paul tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God.

In grace, God issues warnings. The warning is that what happened in those days is a glimpse of the Day ahead, the Day of the Lord. This is the day when God’s wrath will be poured out. As sinners, we store up judgement for the day of God’s wrath. God acted in Noah’s day there and then to deal with their sins.

Generally, God holds off, He waits. He has already appointed a particular day in history, which hasn’t come yet, when He will call all men and women to account. We will have to appear before Him to answer for our rejection of Him. That day is coming. The judgement poured out on that day will make the flood waters seem like a bath, when we will be cut off from the presence of God forever. We will experience throughout eternity no trace of God’s mercy, no trace of God’s grace, no trace of God’s kindness, only his righteous wrath upon us.

That day is coming. God has appointed that day. He has appointed the judge. We are moving closer and closer to it. Through a chapter like this God, in His grace, comes to us today, comes to Roch today through you bringing the message out, saying the day is coming, flee from it.

If you are a Christian, like Noah, it’s a reminder that on that day when Christ returns, when judgement comes, you will have nothing to fear. Nothing. The flood would have been an horrific experience for the people, but Noah wouldn’t have been perturbed at all because God had already, in grace, provided a way of safety for him. The day of the Lord will be a terrifying day for those who have rejected the gracious offer of God in Jesus Christ. But the astonishing thing is that although it will be terrifying, for Christians it will not be terrifying at all. It will be a day of joy and celebration. It will be a day when we will go to be with Christ.

How will it be a very different day for you than for others? Will you not be judged because you don’t deserve to be judged because you decided to turn over a new leaf? No. You will have nothing to fear for one reason, and one reason only, because you will have found grace in the eyes of the Lord. You don’t deserve that, you have no claim to it, but that will be you experience. Because just like with Noah, God graciously provided you with a way of escape in Jesus Christ, and God graciously, by His Spirit, provided you with a new nature.

Your story here today is that you are somebody who has found grace in the eyes of the Lord. People might ask, ‘Who are you? Tell me something about yourself.’ We think about where we were born, what we do for a job, what family we have, where we live and our hobbies. But friends, surely our first response should be, ‘I am somebody who has found grace in the eyes of the Lord.’ That is our story. That is who we are. Our epitaph includes our name, but it would be wonderful to have engraved, “He/She found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” What do you want people to know about you? What is your legacy? What is your testimony? It is that you found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

This is our story, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Sometimes, people tell us we need to forget the past, but sometimes, as believers, it is good to remember the past. It is good to remember where we came from, how we began. Then we marvel at where we are and who has brought us there. Paul says,”Let me remind you of how you once were, “in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:2). You began dead to righteousness. You were under the power of Satan, a child of disobedience. In verse 3 the great apostle Paul says he was like that. By nature, we are no different to everyone else in this world. On that last day you won’t be safe because of anything you’ve done. Christians here in Roch this morning, by nature you are no different to anyone else in this world. On that last day you will not be saved because of anything you have done.

In verse 4 Paul says, ‘But.’ Something has happened, “But God.” We are immediately taken away from ourselves. Paul begins by saying this is where you were, but something happened. God! “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (Ephesians 2-5). ‘But’ says Paul. God, who is rich in mercy and love made us alive. He raised us from the dead. By grace you have been saved. You didn’t do anything. God, in His rich mercy and great love did something. He made us alive. He raised us from the dead.

In the ages to come God is going to showcase the exceeding riches of His grace. How? “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:7-8). How is God going to show the exceeding riches of His grace? In His kindness toward us kin Christ Jesus.

If you want to know how gracious God is, look at His church. Look at how He’s dealt with sinners. Look at the transformation He’s brought about in the life of sinners. Look at what divine grace can produce. We are trophies of grace. It is all from Him. He has lavished something on us which we don’t deserve: a new nature, a Saviour, a new life, eternity. It is all from Him. Everything you have is a gracious gift from God.

Paul reminds Titus to tell the people he is pastoring now, “To be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. Paul is basically saying, ‘Don’t go round condemning people, tutting and shaking your head.’ We do that as Christians. We see the government passing a new legislation, a new law, and we see the sin there is repulsive. But let’s not go condemning people about how awful they are. Paul reminds us, “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3)

Paul says, ‘Here we are, the church of God, this is what we like to begin with. But there’s been a change. What have we done? Nothing.“ But when the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 34-7). Look at what we were. Look at what we are. What produces this astonishing change? The kindness, the grace, the love, the mercy of God toward us.

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 3:11-14).

There, but for the grace of God, go I. It is only the grace of God that put you in the community of the redeemed today. If you have a love for the Bible, God gave it to you. If you have a love for God, God gave it to you. If you have a hatred for sin, God gave it to you. It’s all of Him.

God is most wonderfully gracious. We read of an abundant God, a lavish God, an exceedingly rich God. God, in His grace today, warns you if you do not know Him, of the day of judgement that is coming. He urges you, He pleads with you to come to Him, to climb on the ark that He has provided – the ark that is His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are a believer here today, let us never forget what we have been shown. Let us never find grace to be something common. Something incredible has happened to us. God lavished upon us the riches of His kindness. That’s our story. Don’t you want to go out and tell somebody that you have found grace in the sight of the Lord? To tell them, ‘Let me tell you what I was, let me tell you what I am. Let me tell you what I would be if it wasn’t for the grace of God.’

That’s your message to Roch. We are a people who have found grace in the eyes of the Lord. We are different. We are what we are because of God’s grace. We want you to experience that and enjoy it too.

We want to celebrate, we want to praise God, but remember, as Paul says, Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.“ (Romans 12:1b) Everything you have, devote it to the service, worship and praise of God. Lay it all on the altar before God. Serve Him. But Paul doesn’t begin there. Before that he says, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,” (Romans 12:1a). In other words, Paul says first of all, before I give you any command or instruction, I encourage you to think on the mercies of God. Think of what God has done for you. Think of how God has dealt with you. Think on your salvation. This will let you offer your body as a living sacrifice, as you serve Him.

March 12th 2023: Paul Daniel

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel:

Psalm 1

The first psalm sets the tone of how we are to read the psalms, in your walk with God, in your experiences, your emotions, your knowledge and your worship. It’s the gateway to the psalms.

Have you ever had an argument with your husband or wife? Sometimes, we are told that we do things, but we tend to do easy things. We tend to put off the more difficult things and don’t want to do them. Easy things we like, we’ll do without question. There are things that are hard to do, and we put them off.

If you’re a Christian, do you really want to be a committed Christian? There are degrees of being committed as a Christian. You might be a Christian but are you committed to being one? Being a Christian is a gift of salvation. Once you’ve been saved, are you committed to your walk with Jesus?

Psalm 1 sets the tone of what it looks like to be a follower of God. The follower of God is fully committed,

Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;”
(Psalm 1:1)

This person is wholly committed to following the Lord. It’s a challenge to us. How committed are we? Is our Christian life deliberate? We can be passive as we listen to preaching and join in singing. Do we engage? What do I need to repent of, to delight in the law of the Lord, day and night? As we come to Psalm 1, what does the Christian life look like to be blessed? God wants us to be a happy believer. It’s a psalm about being blessed. If you’re a committed Christian, in the sense that you are wholly committed to the Lord, you will find blessing. But the reverse is also true. If you’re a Christian and not fully committed to the Lord, you will probably find yourself in paths that are not going to be blessed and take away your blessing of salvation.

Psalm 1 was written in the context of an Israelite worshipping the Lord. What does God say in the Old Testament about following Him? “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse:the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.” (Deuteronomy 11: 26-28) That was the pattern for Israel, if they followed the Lord they would be blessed, that they would be rescued from Egypt. They were told that if they followed the Lord and obeyed His command, that is the path that leads to blessing. But if you don’t do that, it’s going to end up badly.

We see in Ephesians 1 the New Testament context for us, Christians today, who have every spiritual blessing in Christ, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his willto the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.”  (Ephesians 1:3-4). Extraordinary!

As New Testament Christians we’ve been spiritually blessed with every spiritual blessing. You’ve got it all! You might not have the sort of career or house you’ve always wanted, but if you are a Christian you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. You have redemption. You have been forgiven. You have God living in you. You are truly blessed.

When we look at Psalm 1. The first question we ask, in the context of being a New Testament Christians, is ‘Are you happy? Are you blessed?’

The world tells us that we are happy if I …. It’s conditional. Sometimes, it’s an economical term; it’s a relative measure – I’m happy compared to my neighbours because I have more than them. For us, what does it mean to be blessed?

“Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;”
Psalm 1:1

God is completely happy in Himself: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When we listen to God, this is what it looks like to be blessed. To be blessed is to consider the company we keep, the direction of that company and the environment. If we persistently keep the company of the ‘counsel of the wicked,’ standing in the way of sinners, sitting in the seat of scoffers, there is a direction of travel here. To walk – that’s a kind of dabbling a little. Then standing – mixing with. Then to sit is to get cosy with it.

To follow the path of the ungodly – standing, mixing and sitting – there’s a direction to the path. There’s a cosiness to the direction of unhappiness. The path of being blessed is staying well away from what is evil and wicked, running a mile away from it. Instead, to be blessed is,

“but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.”
(Psalm 1:2)

My friends, we can sometimes look at the world and think that what it means to be truly happy, to be truly better, is to maybe have what they have, or maybe what the tv adverts say you should have because it’s good for you. But to be truly blessed is to delight in God and His ways. God is the Creator is the one who made us, the one who loves us. God is the one who wants to protect us. He sent His Son to do just that. If you do that, look at what happens,

“He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.”

(Psalm 1:3)

Yes, we are thinking of the Old Testament here, where there was a blessing followed by obedience. But what does it look like for Christians today? If we look at the imagery we see a tree that looks healthy; it’s planted by a stream of water, it yields it’s fruit in season and grows as it should. There are signs of life.

For today, there’s a sign of life, health, stability. When Israel was not being obedient, they were full of problems. When they repented, they had a period of peace and blessings. When we’re Christians we want the things of God, we cling to the promises of God, who is able to provide all things.

Secondly, we see that stepping away from God leads to chaos,

“The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”
(Psalm 1:4)

It’s an image of wheat and chaff. When the wheat is thrown into the air the chaff falls away and the wheat falls down. The chaff in the wind goes all over the place. When you step away from God there is chaos. It’s not the same picture you see in verse 3, where there is a picture of stability, of health and of order. Consider what the world takes offence at, what churches sometimes do. Stepping away from God’s will leads to chaos. It is chaos when God’s ways and God’s laws start being re-written. It is chaos when God’s plan, the Creator’s plan, starts to be re-read and re-ordered in many different ways.

The law of the Lord is for everyone. When you tinker with God’s Word it says it will affect the next generation and the generation after that. Whatever we decide, whatever we teach, stepping away from the Lord can lead to chaos. Don’t’ step away from God’s Word.

Finally, as a Christian, are you aware that there is no in-between, no grey area?
“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.”
(Psalm 1:5-6)

It’s God’s way or it’s chaos. There is no opinion. It is God’s Word. God very clearly defines for us His Word. Nothing is subjective. There is no philosophy that we’re meant to listen to. There’s no politics. There is no opinion. God is the one we need to listen to. The righteous will be watched, the righteous will assemble. If you are a Christian you have this wonderful inheritance, this wonderful hope that we are heading to. We are going to be with Jesus Christ, we are going to see Him face to face. We will have that ultimate blessing of no more pain, no more mourning, no more sickness, no more death.  We will be with Him.

The ungodly, the unrighteous, will not stand. This is why we have to take the message of the gospel to the ends of the earth. There are no ‘what-if’ scenarios. Either you walk with the Lord or you don’t. It’s why, when churches are looking for a pastor or calling a pastor, it’s not whether you like him or not, or whether he does this or is able to do that. Those things matter but it’s not what it’s all about that. What matters is that the church asks someone to come who is going to preach the word of the Lord in a way that people will listen. This is what it means to be blessed, to meditate on the Lord both day and night. It’s getting somebody who can teach and when they teach, we listen. He’s going to be able to teach not just in here, but out there as well because you want everybody to hear the Word of the Lord.

When we come to church we don’t sit on top of the Word, we sit under the Word. In Titus chapter 2 Paul talks to younger men and older men, younger women and older women, to the whole congregation, about what can often happen as we grow in our Christian walk. As we get older we can start to get grumpy and stop wanting to listen. Keep listening. He says to the women things like ‘don’t drink too much, don’t slander, don’t gossip.’ He talks about things that you and I are very prone to, which leads us to start challenging God’s word. We say, ‘Well, actually I’m a Christian but I don’t want to submit to these particular things.’ My friends, there are no grey areas.

To be blessed is to be obedient to God’s Word, to be in that path where God calls us, where we find peace, contentment and joy. The Christian life is not an easy life. But when you start to see those signs in your Christian life where things are not going maybe as well as they should, in the sense where something in your own Spirit does not sit right, God is asking you to deal with it. Come to Him, do not ignore it. Work out whether it’s because it’s external, whether it’s actually something to do with others – that we’re standing in the wrong place, or where we’re sitting where we shouldn’t be.

There are common things that you and I do, as Christians, which eat away at that blessedness that we’ve been given. There are certain things that we might experience as Christians, that often happen, which take away that joy that we’ve been given. We have every spiritual blessing in Jesus Christ, why would you want to move away from that? Sometimes, it comes down to our attitude. “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13-18).

When you find, as a Christian, you are slightly unsettled, when there’s something eating at you and you don’t feel peace or joy and you’re restless, it becomes an obsession and you’re troubled by it. Just ask this, is it your attitude coming from heaven? Is your attitude out of purity? Is your attitude after this wonderful peace that you can have from God Himself? We sometimes lose that joy, that blessedness, because our attitude is not from heaven but from a selfish heart.

Then, there’s anger. Anger takes away that blessedness and joy. Listen to James again, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1) James talks about quarrels and fights. When we argue and when we fight, James says it comes from our desires that battle within us. Is it the other person or the frustration that comes from within? Often or not, the reason we get angry is not because what someone else has said but because we’re frustrated with our own inability. God calls us and challenges us when we’re unsettled and fired up, just don’t look at the other person, look at yourself.

Anger and anxiety grates at you. It troubles you. You can’t have that sense of joy of the Lord that is yours. Philippians 4 reminds us to, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7).

God wants to bless us. Yes, we’re anxious and worried, but God says to come to Him. You have received every spiritual blessing. Pray with thanksgiving, and God’s peace will guard you. My friend, when we find ourselves walking away from that path of blessing, that spiritual blessing in Christ, it unsettles us. If it doesn’t unsettle us, we might have walked too far. What are we called to do? We are called to come back, look at our hearts, then look to the Lord.

The Lord Jesus Christ left glory. He lay aside His own happiness. He put that aside so that He could go to the cross for you. When He went to that cross for you and me, He went so that you and I would be fully blessed. He did it so that we could be one with the Lord. He did it so we could be one with each other. Sometimes, how pathetic I can be, and how pathetic you and I, as Christians, can be. We forget that God sent His Son in order to bless us. He wants us to keep staying close to Him, both day and night. He doesn’t want us to dabble and to go back. He doesn’t want us to get angry and troubled, to fall out and to overthink anything. He wants us to stay close to Him. When we stay close to Him we will find that peace, joy and contentment. One day, it will be complete and we will stand in the assembly of the righteous.

February 26th 2023: Alan Davison

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Matthew 5: 21-26

I’ve been working my way through a book called “I wish Jesus hadn’t said that … but I’m glad that He did.” It looks at a particular side of Jesus. Very often there are certain things that we don’t really consider. This study is the penultimate one drawn from that book.

As Christians, we can find issues inconvenient. The Bible has numerous inconvenient truths, most notably some of the declarations made by Jesus.  There are certain parts of Scripture we find ourselves not spending much time on because they are inconvenient, so challenging to human nature. Today, we are going to look at how we manage anger. We all get angry at times. Some people are better at concealing their anger than others. Anger is something everyone is going to experience in their lives and we need to consider how we will approach it.

Matthew 5:21 begins a section looking at anger, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’A lot of sentences Jesus says begin with ‘It is written,’ drawing us back to the scriptures. However, this sentence beings, ‘You have heard of.’ Here we see the things of men.

A worldly view of anger:

Anger to the world is a natural reaction we can all identify with. Scientists speak of the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. When we feel anger, that can reveal what is most dear to us. What would make us feel angry? Injustice would be one example. When we think we are the ones being mis-treated can also stir up anger as an initial response. ‘I should have had that promotion, I deserved it. I won’t help the promoted person in their new role.’ Anger rises when we are denied that something we really want.

The world’s response to anger can take two main paths:

  • To let it out, to release the pressure in a controlled way, to vent it in a way which doesn’t hurt others e.g. kick boxing. This can lead to worse actions, which the coping mechanism resources aren’t available in a situation which causes anger.

  • Suppressing your anger, bottling it up. This requires extraordinary self-discipline. Some count to 10, others need to count to 100. It can be impractical.

The world tries to deal with anger as symptoms, not the root cause of it. More often than not, it will be personal and selfish. The world has redefined anger as ‘I am offended.’ This is the excuse for all kinds of bad behaviour. The world views anger as something to be vented, covered up or nurtured.

The Biblical view of anger:
The general rule is anger is a bad thing and should be avoided. There is such a thing as righteous anger – but the criteria are so high we can rarely reach it. Righteous anger can become self-righteous anger. We need to look at Jesus’ example.

We all know about Jesus driving out the money lenders in the temple. It looked like anger but John 2:17 says, “His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Jesus’ anger was zealous rather than rage.

There is another example where Jesus appears to be angry, “Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus,[a] to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.” (Mark 3:1-6).

Jesus’ anger led Him to continue to do the right thing, despite the reaction of the Pharisees. Jesus, while angry, responds in a positive way, helping the victim. The Pharisees anger led directly to thought of murder, “But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” (Luke 6:11). This led to the thoughts of murder, and ultimately the murder of Jesus.

Jesus is comparing this anger that rises in our hearts to actual murder. The Pharisees and Scribes were angry with Jesus. They nurtured their anger and plotted against Jesus. They saw Jesus as a target to be attacked. Their own anger was their only justification they needed.

The Bible speaks to the human condition. Anger, we need to recognise, is something that builds up within us. Anger should not be a characteristic of a Christian. If we’re angry, we’re not displaying the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), which are characteristics to aspire to. They are incompatible with anger. The works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) will bar us from heaven and negatively impact our relationship with others. This is the way of the world. The fruit of the Spirit is displayed in those whom God has made fit for heaven and, therefore, will be a blessing to others around them. Jesus made this clear in His teachings and He lived it out in His own life. He expects no less from us.

God’s anger, God’s wrath, is at sin. It is entirely righteous and, therefore, just. God’s wrath against sin means that anyone who is a sinner, by right ought to end up in hell. Sin is our natural state. On the final day of judgement, humanity will stand before God’s judgement throne and be declared guilty. Humanly speaking, there is no escaping the fate of hell, eternal death. But, praise God, His throne is a throne of grace. Those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus and not in themselves for salvation, will be ushered into heaven for eternal life. The underpinning reason why we won’t have to face the wrath of God is that because it’s already been poured out on the cross upon Jesus Christ at Calvary.

We trust in Jesus because He has paid the penalty for our sins. He didn’t just stand in our place, He hung there to, nailed to a cross, to pay the price for our sins. Doctors tell us about the physical pain that Jesus went through, the truly excruciating experience He endured on that cross. Even beyond that, what about the emotional and spiritual suffering He went though? Think of the descriptions they gave to Jesus on the cross – the innocent One, the spotless Lamb, the perfect sacrifice, the only One who lived without committing sin. Yet, here He is, dying for the sake of the sins of the world.

Have you ever been punished for something you didn’t do? How did that make you feel? Jesus went to the cross willingly. He knew the charges against Him were false, but He did it anyway. The disciples didn’t understand why it happened, but Jesus had been telling them for some time exactly what would happen. Jesus was in the right place at the right time.

The world is full of anger. The level of anger in conflicts happening around the world is boiling over. In the matter of our sin, God is the offended party. He is right to be angry at our sin. He created a perfect world for us to live in and then created us to live in it, giving us dominion over it. It’s ours in trust. But have ruined the world. Adam sinned, just as any of us would have done in his place. God have every right to be angry with us. Our sin declares us guilty. The punishment upon us is clear; the wages of sin is death. We deserve it. Yet, the offended One came to Earth, lived a fully human life and laid it down upon the cross of Calvary so that He would come under the wrath of the Father upon sin, instead of us. The penalty had to be dealt with. Jesus said, ‘I’ll pay it.’

God’s response to His own, just anger was to take it upon Himself. He put us first rather than Himself. When I’m angry I so often glare at the sins of others. So often, God will gently turn my attention from them to the sinfulness of my own life. Sometimes, am I angry at others so I can deflect attention away from my own faults? But when I look at myself, when God turns my attention there, I see again my need for Christ. In so doing, my anger should dissipate because, generally speaking, it’s outward and of no practical value to me unless it leads to a true desire to help others. But how often is that really the case?

In Jesus, I have all I need. Most of the time I become angry when I lack something or when something is being denied to me or taken away. But if I truly have Christ and am walking with Him, that anger becomes redundant. I need to repent of my angry desires. So often, repentance comes down to laying aside an idol and not being angry at this loss.

Jesus suffered the Father’s anger in my place. What must He think when I’m angry at someone else instead of sharing God’s love with them? Anger leads us to the precipice of something worse – hatred, violence, even murder.

We will get angry; it’s part of being human. How will we respond to that? Will we nurture it, become enraged and lash out at those around us or will we remember God’s response to His own anger? That was to take it upon Himself.

King David had so much to be angry about yet his response to anger was to write a psalm of praise to God. The underlying principle is, as David considered what had happened to him and all the difficulties that he was facing, he looked at it in the light of God’s ongoing care for him. This allowed him to offer up his anger to God and to leave the matter with Him.

When we find ourselves angry, may we have the Lord Jesus Christ in our minds as we respond. May we have the heart of David, who knew His God cared so deeply for him that whatever negativity he was experiencing from everyone else around him, he knew his God was with him. May it be so for each of us.

February 19th 2023: Graham John

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Mark 8:1-10 The Feeding of the Four Thousand

This miracle may initially seem like a carbon copy of the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 recorded in Mark chapter 6, but it is not. There are sufficient differences in the details to make it clear that Mark is talking about a different event. He is not repeating himself.

One important detail is the composition of the crowd; the people who benefitted from the first miracle were predominantly Jews, whereas those who benefitted from this second miracle were predominantly Gentiles. Mark makes this clear by mentioning a few geographical features. Jesus is not in the land of Israel. In chapter 7 we read that left the land of Israel and made His way to Tyre and Sidon. Here, He is still travelling in Gentile lands, lands considered unclean by Jews. In Matthew’s gospel we’re given a parallel account and strong hints that Jesus is still in foreign lands. When Matthew reports the reaction of the crowds to some of the miracles Jesus did there, he says the people glorified the God of Israel. That wouldn’t be said of Jews, they worship the God of Israel anyway. The Gentiles didn’t worship the God of Israel until they met the Lord Jesus. Jesus is still on this extended missionary tour, in Gentile lands north of Israel. Christ’s interest in the Gentiles must have encouraged the first readers of Mark’s gospel. We believe it was written and read first in Rome and the Roman countries.

Compassion and Concern:

The first thing we learn from this passage is the compassion and concern of the Lord Jesus to reach out to Gentiles, to reach out to the non-Jews. Jesus says here, ‘I have compassion on the crowds.’ (Mark 8:2a). He has compassion on the crowds, to reach out to unclean Gentiles, as the Church has stretched out and expanded around the world. Christ commanded the apostles in the Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations. This, of course, extends all the way down to include us – unclean Gentiles of the 21st century.

Jesus is willing to feed both Jews and Gentiles. It reminds us, as Paul puts it, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).

As far as salvation goes, the old boundaries, including national boundaries, have been done away with. Both Jews and Gentiles, if they are to be saved, must depend totally on the Lord Jesus Christ, who has mercy on them. Whoever we are today, wherever we come from, whatever our background, we can come to the Lord Jesus today in our spiritual longing. We see Christ’s concern to reach out to sinners. The gospel call is ‘whosoever will.’

The Lord Jesus is still the same today. He has the solution to all our sins. All we need to do is trust in Him, cast ourselves upon Him, and depend totally on that atoning blood that was shed for us at the cross of Calvary.

 Maybe you stand outside of the Kingdom today, maybe you don’t belong to the people of God. You can’t offer Him any previous merits, yet you too may come to the Saviour with a sure and certain hope that He is willing to do for you what He has been doing for two millennia – taking, receiving and welcoming new friends from among the godless Gentiles. Here is the Saviour who goes into the unclean lands, touches them, delivers those oppressed by the devil, feeds the crowds with just a few morsels – just as He did a few chapters earlier, among the Jews, the 5,000.

The invitation of the gospel here has its root in the compassion of the Lord Jesus. His compassion is mentioned most, out of all His feelings. His compassion is mentioned frequently. It’s the foundation of our salvation. We see compassion and concern for the unclean Gentiles.

The contradictions in the faith of the disciples:

In this situation, the disciples feel perplexed. Had they forgotten how, just a few weeks earlier, they fed the 5,000? They were involved in that miracle. So how could the disciples, who had been remarkably used in a similar miracle, be so completely out of depth here? What’s the problem?

May be, we shouldn’t be too hard on these disciples. How many times have we forgotten the mercies of the Lord? How many times have you been like these disciples, contradicting yourself, irregular in your following the Lord Jesus? This is most understood by those who have had lapses in their faith. The Lord reveals Himself to us, answers our prayers, reveals His compassion and love. He is still transforming us. Once we promised Him unfailing allegiance. A month or few weeks pass and we are drawn into trying circumstances, finding ourselves questioning, ‘Is there a God in heaven?’ Or we find ourselves planning and arranging our own deliverance, as if the Lord wasn’t carrying us up, bearing us up. Or we find ourselves anxious about a situation, as if we had no friend in Jesus, as if there was no mercy seat, as if there was no throne of grace to go to. Subconsciously, may be we find ourselves asking, ‘How can God possibly help in this situation?’ In other words, we are just like the disciples.

We are just like the disciples, they are just like us. We’ve let down our God, we have failed to be watchful, we haven’t trusted in His daily care. We’ve allowed doubts to enter in. It’s not just us, we see this in those who crossed the Red Sea. In the desert they start to complain – after a miraculous deliverance. They cry out, as if the Lord hadn’t proved His presence. Even Moses starts to falter later on when they cry out for food. He feels the burden of leadership.

After we’ve already experienced God’s blessings, we soon forget. We fail to allow the beam of light from the past to enlighten the present. People of faith use the deliverance of the past to change the present. David uses past deliverances to fortify his present troubles, “And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” (1 Samuel 17:37). Faith uses the ammunition of the past in present day challenges. Do you and I rely on the Lord’s deliverances in the past? Or are we unused to trusting in the Lord in this practical, everyday way?

You shouldn’t shun the opportunities that God gives us to prove Him. Think of the widow who threw her last mite. That was an act of faith born of a lifetime of trusting God, seeing how He rewarded those who trusted in Him. The Lord, who noted her service and sacrifice, would reward such faith. She trusted Him in the past and she trusted Him for tomorrow.

As Christ calls us to take His gospel to the dark, pagan world outside, we might feel cry with the apostle Paul, ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ We feel our inadequacy so often. Our resources are so diminished, yet Christ is in the habit of multiplying our insufficient means again and again and again, like the loaves and the fish. He uses weak, frail disciples to turn the world upside down.

A complementary way of viewing this incident:

Augustine, a great man of God, suggests another way of looking at the words of the disciples, which complements what we’ve already said. He says that the perplexity of the disciples arose not through any unbelief in Christ’s power, but from their doubts as to whether Christ was willing to exercise His power among these idol-worshipping Gentiles. This corresponds with stories in the book of Acts. Years after Christ had ascended, after the day of Pentecost, God had to almost force-march the church into evangelising among the Gentiles. No-one had a vision for the Gentiles. No-one. No-one prayed with a burden for the Gentiles. No-one. Despite the great commission, there are doubts as to whether God could work among the Gentiles, whether He wanted to!

The Saviour will feed these unclean, pagan nations with His words, with His gospel. He will draw them after Himself. He will lead them to belong to a greater community than they presently know – whether they were Jews or whether they were pagan Gentiles. He will lead them to belong to a kingdom that will endure, a kingdom that will never go into exile, a kingdom that will never be improved upon, never replaced – the Kingdom of those who have been washed by the precious blood of Jesus. Sinners were now being renewed by the transforming work of the Spirit of God, submitting to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus went to the outcasts, the rejects, the despised Canaanites, the Gentiles. We have to follow His example, to further His mission field, to build His Kingdom among the Gentiles. That is our roll. Christ’s compassion is mentioned for our benefit. We hesitate. We hesitate to walk in Christ’s ways. We should remember, when we doubt, our Saviour is full of compassion. He will remember our sins no more. He will supply all your truest needs. No-one has ever found the bottom of His well.

When we are weary, as we often are, we should remember our Lord’s compassion. He knows what it is like to live in a world like ours. He has been here. He has stepped in our shoes, into a world that weighs us down, a world that makes us feel frail and feel our tiredness. He never forgets. We forget often, His grace, his mercies, His compassion, His love. He never forgets His forgetful people. His compassions fail not, they are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness.  

February 12th 2023: Mike Viccary

TEXT: Isaiah 43:8-13; 43:22-28; 48:12-19; 51:9-16.


# The Lord is GOOD. Do you agree? I hope you do!
# What are you here for? What do you expect to hear?
# My ONE aim is to speak about what God has said.
# I have as a principle the words Paul spoke to Timothy:

Now the purpose of the commandment [instruction/teaching] is love from a pure heart,  from a good conscience, and  from sincere faith. (1Timothy 1:5).

# One of the interesting things about the book of Isaiah is the many references to the Lord by His various names:

LordMighty OneLight of IsraelCreator
GodBranch of the LordRoot of JesseFirst and Last
Lord of HostsKingSaviourMaker
The Holy One of IsraelWonderful CounsellorRighteous OneHigh and Lofty One
RockMighty GodUpright OneSpirit
Sovereign LordEverlasting FatherLiving GodFather
RedeemerPrince of PeaceEverlasting GodPotter
ShepherdHusbandGlorious CrownJudge

Also in Isaiah we have some interesting references to two phrases which speak of the NAME of the Lord.
In the NKJV these are:
“I am He”
“I, even I”

There are seven “I am He” statements in Isaiah: Isaiah 41:4; 43:10,13,25; 46:4; 48:12; 52:6

There are four statements where the Lord uses the personal pronoun twice one after another which is most often translated as “I, even I”, Isaiah 43:11,25; 48:15; 51:12.

I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no saviour. (Isaiah 43:11).

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25).

I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called him, I have brought him, and his way will prosper. (Isaiah 48:15).

“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die. (Isaiah 51:12).

These four phrases tell us some incredibly important things which I feel would be greatly encouraging at this time. There are two things on my mind:

[1] The fellowship and its future. We celebrated 200 years last year and it is noteworthy that the church started during a time of war in the early 1800s amongst other difficulties but also at a time when  mission was on the rise We are thinking about the future and whom might be leading us. It is an exciting time. We dare not presume upon the Lord! Rather we seek to trust Him all the more.

[2] The rise in rejection of the faith in our country and the possibility of persecution. The C of E is in disarray and their vacillation and failure to speak truth will have repercussions. The country considers the C of E to be Christianity’s spokesman so-to-speak. They are not, of course, but we will have to deal with how people perceive things.

We have to be careful here because we do not want to be reactionaries simply reacting to the situation, and equally we do not want to be like ostriches burying our heads in the sand. What we want is to be lead by the LORD and to go in the power of His strength! So, I propose to look at these four verse where we see the Lord saying: “I, even, I” and ask what the Lord might want us to know.

[1] The Lord is Saviour!

Bring out the blind people who have eyes, and the deaf who have ears. Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled. Who among them can declare this, and show us former things? Let them bring out their witnesses, that they may be justified; or let them hear and say, “It is truth.” 10 “You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. 11 I, even, I am the Lord, and besides Me there is no saviour. 12 I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you; therefore you are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “that I am God. 13 Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:8-13).

[A] I, even I am the Lord.

The first thing we need to address is this wonderful title or depiction of the Lord as we find it in these four verses: “I, even, I.”

But before this we need to look at the title: “Lord.”

[a] The Lord (Yahweh).

In this first passage we have the name of Yahweh added:  “I, even, I am the Lord.” Although the title does not come in the other three statements, it is very clear that the LORD is indeed meant! The Lord revealed Himself to Adam as Yahweh Elohim – The Lord God. [“Yahweh Elohim” : 11X in Genesis 2 and 9X in Genesis 3.The title LORD (Yahweh) occurs in over 180 verses in Genesis and   only does not appear in some of the later chapters. What of Exodus chapter 6 where the NKJV reads, “And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Lord I was not known to them.” (Exodus 6:2,3).

But God revealed himself to Abraham as Yahweh before declaring his name to be El-Shaddai (God Almighty). See Genesis 15:7. He also revealed himself to Jacob as Yahweh-Elohim. See Genesis 28:13. Abraham named the place where he had been about to sacrifice Isaac, “Yahweh-jireh.” See Genesis 22:14. That Moses, the compiler of Genesis, regarded the name Yahweh as known even earlier, appears from Genesis 4:1 where Eve said, as she was giving birth, “I have acquired a man from the Lord” (Yahweh). Many commentators are in agreement that what we have in Exodus 6:3 is a question:

“Rather, was I not made manifest to them.”   Charles Ellicot.

“Rather, interrogatively, by My name Jehovah was I not known to them?”  Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary.

What then do we understand by this title “Lord” (Yahweh)? “13 Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” (Exodus 3:13,14).This name “Yahweh” is derived from the verb “to be” and essentially means: “The Self-Existant One.” This is vital teaching!

Some applications.

We tend to think of God as Creator from the title Elohim and from Genesis 1 indicating His immense power. This is good of course. But the title “Lord” is much more frequent than the title “God” (Lord occurs about half as much again). What does this mean?

[i] The Lord is eternal. You and I had a beginning. There was a time when we did not exist at all. We are immortal beings so when we die physically we will still exist. But we once did not exist. This is not the case with God! He is eternal from everlasting to everlasting. And so He will never end. We read this in our text:

13 Indeed before the day was, I am He. This is a clear reference to the Lord being before ever a day was created – it points us back to Genesis 1:1. Surely this humbles us?

[ii] The Lord changes not. You and I not only had a beginning but we started off as a baby and  then grew. But the Lord simply IS. This means He never changes. What He was yesterday, He will be tomorrow, and He will be forever the same. This gives us great confidence in Him for we know He is The Rock upon whom we can depend. He is not capricious nor moody given to any variations.

[iii] The Lord alone is independent. Because He simply IS and EXISTS eternally, He depends upon no one and nothing other than Himself. We are dependent. This is something we do not fully realise. We are apt to accept our dependence to a degree – after all we know that the Lord made us and gives us breath and holds our bodies together moment by moment, but how does this affect what we think and actually do day-by-day? Are we ones who rely heavily on ourselves for many tasks? I am always struck by the Lord Jesus – the God Man – who speaks frequently of His dependence upon the Father:

Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. (John 5:19).

I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30).

When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. (John 8:28).

Now you and I are dependent upon God for EVERYTHING.

# Gaius – giving thanks for all things – even for the electricity in the home – whenever we turn the light on we should give thanks.

# But we also see in the Lord Jesus something of the way in which we ought to operate. Full trust in God. We do not do anything except the Lord say so.

# We need to add that all people that ever existed, that exist today, that will exist in the future owe their lives to the Lord – we are all utterly dependent upon Him.

# How does this affect how we view those around us?

# The Lord’s independence means that He can do whatever He pleases and none can stay His hand.

# We read this in our text:

13 Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?”

# What the Lord does cannot be undone.

[iv] The Lord is thus the source of all life and being.

# Since He IS and He needs nothing to support Him or to help Him in any way it follows that He is ultimate reality.

# Before there was any creation God was and was perfectly happy and content.

# He did not need to make anything.

# He is also the measure and standard for all things.

# There was nothing beside Him – no external law, no standard, no measure – by which He could be measured.

# He IS and so He is our starting point and from whom we derive all truth!

[b] “I, even I.”

# The word “even” which is given in italics is not in the original Hebrew. This translation is unfortunate – almost as though it is a startling thing that this one speaking is truly the Lord.

EHVI, yes I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no saviour.
ESVI, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no saviour.
YLTI — I [am] Jehovah, and besides Me there is no saviour.

# The word “yes” in EHV added to show the idea of emphasis.

#BUT what we have literally is: “I, I the LORD.” There is no verb to be – this too has been supplied by translators.

# The doubling of the personal pronoun is taken to give an emphatic statement. However what we really have is: “I, I” and “I AM.”

אָנֹכִי אָנֹכִי יְהוָה

# Veiled reference to TRINITY. See this more explicitly (48:16).

# Taken simply as a declaration we note that ONLY the self-existent One can say “I” with any authority.

# Since we are dependent created beings our “I” is never like this.

# We are personal & individuals. We respect this and honour all.

He fashions their hearts individually … (Psalm 33:15).

# But only the Lord can say “I” and have none question Him.

# As individuals we may say “I like this …” OR “I would like to do that …” BUT we are under authority and we are dependent.

# Centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant. When the Lord said He would come we find the centurion responding with these words:

8 … “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it. 10 When Jesus heard it, He marvelled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! (Matthew 8:8-10).

# An oblique ref. to TRINITY and a statement of emphatic intent.

[B] “… and besides Me there is no saviour.”

# We might think that the statement “I, even, I am the LORD” ought to be enough, but even though we have an emphatic declaration of the nature of the Lord here, He spells it out clearly for us.

[a] “besides Me …”

# What could stand besides the Lord?

# Since He alone IS and all else (creation, people, angels …) are dependent how could any compare?

# Our problem is that we have such a SMALL view of the Lord and an INFLATED view of ourselves, other people or of certain things.

# The Lord makes this idea clear in verse 10:

10 … Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me.

# Whatever may be called “god” is utterly nothing besides Him.

# The opening words of the Bible & John’s gospel affirm this truth:

[] In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1).

[] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (John 1:1-3).

# Father, Son and Holy Spirit existed before ever there was any creation in perfect love and harmony.

# There cannot be anything “besides” the Lord. No comparison.

# The Lord stands alone in a class of His own. He alone is God!

# This is why idolatry is so heinous – in Isaiah this is a theme.

[b] “… there is no saviour.”

# But we must take this further, for not only can there be nothing “besides” the Lord, there can be no other SAVIOUR.

# The Lord makes this clear in the text we read for He asks whom among the nations can make any declaration? Verse 9 reads:

Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled. Who among them can declare this, and show us former things? Let them bring out their witnesses, that they may be justified; or let them hear and say, “It is truth.”

# Note He speaks of “all the nations” and asks who can bring forth any “truth”?  The answer is NONE!

# Oh people today may say: well that was way back in Isaiah’s day which is 2,700 years ago but now we know better!

# Really? Seriously?

# The Lord who made all things and who came down at the right time and died for sins, rising again, and being taken up into glory where He reigns supreme, and who indwells His people by His Spirit  is now to be sidelined or thought little of because modern man has done some investigations into the universe?

# What can man boast of? Do we know anything at all?

# Where are the wise and learned men of today?

# Can they stop wars? Can they eliminate sickness? Can they prevent earthquakes and other disasters?

# How far has man surveyed the universe?

# He has travelled about a quarter of a million miles from earth in 6 short trips to visit the moon but what does that compare to the One who has traversed the depths of the oceans, walked on the wings of the wind, and walks above the circle of heaven?

[] Have you entered the springs of the sea? Or have you walked in search of the depths? (Job 38:16).

[] He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters, who makes the clouds His chariot, who walks on the wings of the wind. (Psalm 104:3).

[] Thick clouds cover Him, so that He cannot see, and He walks above the circle of heaven. (Job 22:14).

# The thought that modern man is so superior over the ancients is utter pride and arrogance.

# Can anyone save? Can anyone offer hope? NO! Only God can.

# Only He has done so! Look at what He has done!

# We read:

12 I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you; therefore you are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “that I am God. 13 Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:12,13).

# The Lord alone has “declared” and “proclaimed.”

# None other has announced the way of salvation and then – true to His word – brought it all to pass!

# But wonderfully we read here that the Lord has “saved.”

# Salvation is an accomplished fact.

# When the Lord does anything none can undo it and none can “reverse it!”

# This ought to make us greatly confident of our salvation in Him.

An exhortation.

# The context of verse 11 is against the backdrop of false and vacuous empty idolatry.

# What can the world and its varieties of idols offer? NOTHING.

# BUT the people of God are God’s “witnesses,” and His “servant” (verse 10).

# Note that “witnesses” is plural but “servant” is singular. We are individual witnesses for the Lord and to Him but we are as ONE BODY the servant of the Lord.

# Therefore we ought to put our shoulders to the plough both as individuals and in harmony with one another!

# Let us determine in our own lives to seek Him and know Him earnestly, AND, let us ensure the unity and harmony of the church.

# This means we must bear with one another, and we must respect one another’s gifts.

# Our confidence to witness both individually and collectively stems from three incredible facts:

{1} God has spoken: He has “declared” and He has “proclaimed” (v12).

{2}  God has stated clearly that: “besides Me there is no saviour” (v11). (There are no other gods in truth).

{3} God has “saved” (v12). The work is all done! Christ has done it all!

[2] The Lord deals with sin for His sake.

22 “But you have not called upon Me, O Jacob; and you have been weary of Me, O Israel. 23 You have not brought Me the sheep for your burnt offerings, nor have you honoured Me with your sacrifices. I have not caused you to serve with grain offerings, nor wearied you with incense. 24 You have bought Me no sweet cane with money, nor have you satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices; but you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your iniquities. 25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins. 26 Put Me in remembrance; let us contend together; state your case, that you may be acquitted. 27 Your first father sinned, and your mediators have transgressed against Me. 28 Therefore I will profane the princes of the sanctuary; I will give Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches. (43:22-28).

[A] He who blots out your transgressions …”

[a] What He has done!

# We ended on a note of salvation (the Lord ALONE is Saviour). He has actually “saved” (past tense) and so accomplished the work.

# In Isaiah 43:25 we get the means the Lord has procured salvation.

# We have this designation “I, even, I” again but this time we have the third person pronoun “He” added: “I, even, I am He.”

# Literally in the Hebrew this reads: “I, I, He.” אָנֹכִי אָנֹכִי הוּא

# Whom is “He”? Our text: “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.

# Who blots out transgressions and remembers our sins no more?

# The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in wonderful communion and harmony planned in eternity this great salvation.

# The Father chose us in Christ before the world began (Ephesians 1:3-6) and He commissioned the Son to come (John 3:16).

# The Son willing obeyed the Father and gave His life as a ransom for us (Ephesians 1:7-12).

# The Holy Spirit sent of the Father and the Son came and brings comfort to those chosen, regenerating them and applying the work of Christ to those saved (Ephesians 1:13,14).

# He has blotted our sins out! Cancelled! Removed! Not reckoned!

[b] The context!

# Before we get so excited look at the context our text is situated in.

# Jacob (Israel) had not “called upon” the Lord but had become “weary” of Him (v22).

# Their worship of the Lord and their fellowship with the Lord was pathetic and weak (v23,24).

# Instead they had “burdened” the Lord and “wearied” Him with their sins and iniquities (v24). They had even forgotten Him (v26).

# The Lord points to the origin of this sinful nature (v27):

Your first father sinned, and your mediators have transgressed against Me.

# Paul speaks of this in Romans 5. We are all “In Adam” and thence in Adam’s sin from the beginning by nature.

# Their “mediators” faired no better. Judges, the Kings, or the priesthood matters little. The whole system the people were in was a failure. The tabernacle, sacrifices, temple, priesthood were all pointers to the Saviour and were only intended as a temporary thing.

# Sad to say but the people relied on these and put their trust in the types and shadows of the good things that they pointed to.

# This is the setting for our text! In the midst of such rebellion and failure, the Lord blots out transgressions and sins!

# What am amazing Lord! When did the Lord die for us?

# It was at the right time but it was:

  • when we were still without strength
  • (when we were) ungodly
  • while we were still sinners
  • when we were enemies

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodlyFor scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11).

[B] “for My own sake.”

# We are so bound in and to self! We think the Lord has saved us for our sake. Of course He has saved us! He has wonderfully saved us.

# But He has done this for His own sake, for His own purpose.

# Focus upon the Lord (great goodness glory grace Psalm 145)!

# If we look to self = doubt/worry. The Lord saved for His sake!

none can forgive sins but him: and this  he does for his own sake; it is not procured by anything of the creature; not by riches, nor by righteousness, nor by repentance, nor by faith, nor by obedience to any ordinance; it is not for the sake of these that the Lord forgives sin, but for his own sake, and his Son’s sake, which is the same; it is an instance of unmerited and distinguishing grace; it flows from the free grace of God; it is a branch of the covenant of grace; it is through the blood of Christ, and yet according to the riches of grace; and it is for the glory of all the divine perfections, justice, truth, and faithfulness, as well as grace and mercy; and after such a list of sins of omission and commission, to hear such language as this is surprising grace indeed! (John Gill. 18th C Baptist Pastor).

# Such an act displays His glory as well as His grace.

# He does this wonderful work of salvation to declare His just goodness and His mercy to all. He truly is:

… “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6b,7).

# He is so merciful! He tarries so that all may hear and all may come.

Some further exhortations.

[i] Put the Lord in remembrance (v26). We are apt to forget!

[ii] Know that none but the Lord can save:

Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God. (Psalm 146:4-6).

[iii] Remember that the Lord saves for His good purposes.

# It is for His glory! He is WONDERFUL & GOOD!

 [3] The Lord has spoken and sent His Son!

12 “Listen to Me, O Jacob, and Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last. 13 Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand up together. 14 “All of you, assemble yourselves, and hear! Who among them has declared these things? The Lord loves Him; He shall do His pleasure on Babylon, and His arm shall be against the Chaldeans. 15 I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called him, I have brought him, and his way will prosper. 16 “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. and now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me.” 17 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go. 18 Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. 19 Your descendants also would have been like the sand, and the offspring of your body like the grains of sand; His name would not have been cut off nor destroyed from before Me.” (Isaiah 48:12-19).

[A] “I have spoken: yes”

# We have spoken of the Lord alone bringing salvation to bear by blotting out sins through Christ’s death on the cross.

# Here we learn more of the greatness of the Saviour’s work.

# First: “I, even, I” but this time there is no name (Lord) or pronoun.

# Instead we have these words: “I have spoken.” DEEP words!

# V13. The Lord spoke all into being (Genesis 1 – 10 times “God said” and so what was spoken came to be (6 times: “and it was so”).

# The Lord Jesus is described as “The Word” made flesh – the One who communicates to us the Father (John 1:14,18; 14:1f).

# When the Lord speaks He brings about what He intends absolutely, with perfection and holiness and all in His perfect timing.

# He needs no addenda, no corollary, no erratum, no appendixes, no plan B. And we have the word of God here before us!

# Note small word “yes” after the words “I have spoken.”

# An affirmation! What He says is true. Someone might say: “are you sure He has spoken?” or “did the Lord really speak about that”?

# Well this little word “yes” removes all doubt!

[B] “I have called him, I have brought him, and his way will prosper.”

[a] him?

# The first thing we need to ask here is who is the “him”?

# The answer is shown in the next verse:

“Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. and now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me.” (Isaiah 48:16).

# Note: this verse is in speech marks – another person is speaking.

# From verse 12 to verse 15 we have the Father speaking.

# In v14 of NKJV “Him” and “He” but v15 “him” –  same person!

# These pronouns should all be capitalised “Him” not “him.”

# In v16 we have the one of whom the Father was speaking (“Him”).

# But look at verse 16. This One says that He has openly spoken in public from the beginning.

# And then we find that this same one was before creation, for He says: “from that the that it was, I was there.”

# I think John refers to this in his opening section:

He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:2).

# Whatever the case, this one was there in the beginning.

# But then this one tells us that “the Lord GOD and His Spirit have sent Me.”

# Could any indication of the TRINITY be clearer?

# The Father sent the Son.

# Jesus – the Word made flesh – was conceived of the Holy Spirit.

[b] “I have called him, I have brought him, and his way will prosper.”

# The Father has called the Son (Hebrews 5:4) to come and has made the way open, and we discover that the Son’s way will be successful.

# What a glory!

# He who called the whole creation into order and being (verse 13) is obeyed willingly by the Son (v15).

Some applications.

[i] The Lord has spoken.

# The Lord has spoken publicly and openly from the beginning.

# His word is not far from us.

# He exhorts us to: “Come near to Me, hear this.”

# What an amazing thing that the Lord of glory says to you and I to come near to Him. (Matthew 11:28-30).

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8).

# We must draw near to Him frequently.

# But we must hear what He has to say and be ready to do it.

[ii] The Lord says He is our Redeemer who teaches us.

# V17. I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go.”

# We have already been shown that the Lord has done all and that His way prospers in verse 15:

I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called Him, I have brought Him, and His way will prosper. (Isaiah 48:15).

# We are not orphans. We have His word and His Spirit within!

# Let us put our full trust upon the Lord and NOT on men!

# We can ask for help and advice from others BUT our hearts should always be looking ONLY to the Lord – there is no other Saviour.

[iii] Consider the consequences of neglecting what the Lord says.

# His word never fails. Here in v18,19 we have a WARNING.

# If we reject what He says or spurn it or neglect it we will suffer grave consequences.

# This is something we need to listen to with regard to the future.

# I refer to the calling of a pastor and to whatever the future holds with regard to the country and its deterioration.

# I exhort you all to earnestly seek the Lord in His word for the future – both with regard to your own personal life and with respect to the calling of a pastor. See Ephesians 4:11-16.

# In this text we have the warning of Israel who did not heed the word of the Lord:

18 Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. 19 Your descendants also would have been like the sand, and the offspring of your body like the grains of sand; His name would not have been cut off nor destroyed from before Me. (Isaiah 48:18,19).

# If the church is to prosper we need to heed His commandments.

# Let us love one another, bear with one another, and seek Him earnestly!

[4] The Lord comforts us by His Holy Spirit.

Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord! Awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, and wounded the serpent? 10 Are You not the One who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep; that made the depths of the sea a road for the redeemed to cross over? 11 So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. they shall obtain joy and gladness; sorrow and sighing shall flee away. 12 “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, and of the son of a man who will be made like grass? 13 And you forget the Lord your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth; you have feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, when he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor? 14 The captive exile hastens, that he may be loosed, that he should not die in the pit, and that his bread should not fail. 15 But I am the Lord your God, who divided the sea whose waves roared— the Lord of hosts is His name. 16 And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, that I may plant the heavens, lay the foundations of the earth, and say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’ ” (Isaiah 51:9-16).

[A] A look at the context.

# See how the Spirit comforts amidst grave troubles/worries!

# The people cry out to the Lord to “awake” in v9 even though they knew the Lord never slumbers (Psalm 121:3,4).

# The people forgot their Maker (v13) and so “feared continually every day” in the face of the oppressor (v13).

# In the midst of this heed the Lord’s exhortations:

{1} The ransomed of the Lord will return with joy (v11).

{2} The oppressor (Satan) is no more a threat. “And where is the fury of the oppressor?” (v13).

{3} The Lord had rescued from Egypt so why not now (v15)?

{4} The Lord has put His words in the mouths of those who trust Him, has protected them, and He is building His new creation (v16).

16 And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, that I may plant the heavens, lay the foundations of the earth, and say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’ ” (Isaiah 51:16).

[B] “I, even I, am He who comforts you.”

# We have noted the work of the Saviour in coming and blotting out sins, and we have considered the Lord and His word.

# Now we see the work of the Holy Spirit.

# It is the Lord, the Holy Spirit who brings strength.

# We have mangled this word “comfort” in modern times.

# We tend to think of ease and sitting back and relaxing.

# But Scripture never points us in such a way of idleness.

# That is not to say we cannot have rest and restoration – far from it.

# But comfort really speaks of strength.

# Composite: com = with, and fort = strength. So “with strength.”

# It is interesting how often we see prayer for strength linked to the work of the Holy Spirit:

that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man. (Ephesians 3:16). See Acts 9:31.

# It is God who is the “God of (all) comfort” none else (Romans 15:5; 2Corinthians 1:3; 2Corinthians 7:6)!

# What brings comfort? OR how does the Spirit comfort us?

[i] Humble ourselves and mourn for sin we shall be comforted.

Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4).

[ii] Through the Scriptures:

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15:4).

[iii] God Himself comforts us:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfortwho comforts us in all our tribulation. … (2Corinthians 1:3,4a).

[iv] Those who have been comforted can comfort others:

… that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2Corinthians 1:4b). See also 2Corinthians 7:13.

[v] By faith of others:

therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. (1Thessalonians 3:7).

[vi] Note: Christ will return for us and will judge the world:

Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1Thessalonians 4:18).

[vii] By the ministry of the saints one to another:

[] Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. (1Thessalonians 5:11).

[] comfort the faint-hearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. (1Thessalonians 5:14).

# Now all of these comforts stem from the Lord Himself but He uses whom He will!

[C] Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, and of the son of a man who will be made like grass?

# How many times do we hear this kind of statement?

# The phrase “fear not” comes 10 times in the NKJV.

 [i] In Genesis 21:17: spoken to Hagar in her distress:  

Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.

[ii] In Isaiah 41:10:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

[iii] In Isaiah 41:13:

For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘fear not, I will help you.

[iv] In Isaiah 41:14:

Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you,” says the Lord and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

[v] In Isaiah 43:1:

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.

[vi] In Isaiah 43:5:

Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west.

[vii] In Isaiah 44:2:

Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you: ‘fear not, O Jacob My servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.

[viii] In Daniel 10:19:

And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!” So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, “let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”

[ix] In Joel 2:21:

Fear not, O land; Be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done marvellous things!

[x] In John 12:15:

Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.

# “Do not fear” (or similar) found frequently spoken by the Lord.

# Our Saviour Jesus Christ issues a similar appeal exhorting at the same time to have fear of the Lord:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28).

# This rather reminds us that there are but 2 ways:



# But why fear man when his breath is given by the Lord?

Sever yourselves from such a man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for of what account is he? (Isaiah 2:22).

# See also: Psalm 146:3,4 and Jeremiah 17:5.


# There will be joy and rejoicing (v11). 1Peter 1:6,8.

# The Lord has given us His Holy Spirit. Why fear mere men?

# Let us never forget our Maker – He is powerful (v13)!

# The Lord has done two incredible things for His purpose:

FIRST – PROVISION:  “And I have put My words in your mouth” (v16). [James 1:21 word implanted].

SECOND – PROTECTION:  “I have covered you with the shadow of My hand” (v16).

PURPOSE: “that I may plant the heavens, lay the foundations of the earth, and say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’ ” (v16).

FINAL EXHORTATION. Our Lord is glorious! The four texts we read:

[] I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no saviour. (Isaiah 43:11).

[] I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25).

[] I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called Him, I have brought Him, and His way will prosper. (Isaiah 48:15).

[] “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die. (Isaiah 51:12).

# Think often on the Lord!

  1. The Lord is eternal. He is infinite. All else is created and finite.
  2. The Lord does not change. He is reliable. Man changes with the wind.
  3. The Lord alone is “I AM.” We are ALL dependent upon Him.
  4. The Lord is the source of life and understanding. Not man!

# Consider whom you are!

  1. We are His witnesses (each) and His servant (body). (Isaiah 43:10).
  2. The Lord alone is Saviour – none other can even help. (Isaiah 43:11).
  3. The work Christ was sent to do is complete and perfect. (Isaiah 43:11).
  4. The Lord saves for His good purposes. To us added bonus. (Isaiah 43:25).
  5. Put the Lord in remembrance – see: Hebrews 2:1f. (Isaiah 43:26).
  6. The Lord has spoken! (Isaiah 48:15).
  7. The Redeemer teaches us and leads us in the way. (Isaiah 48:17).
  8. Let us heed the warning of Isaiah 48:18,19.
  9. There will be rejoicing, both in heaven and through trials. (Isaiah 51:11).
  10. The Lord has given us His HS so why fear men? (Isaiah 51:12).
  11. Let us never forget that the Lord is our Maker! (Isaiah 51:13).
  12. The Lord rescued before (Egypt) so why not now? (Isaiah 51:15).
  13. The Lord has given PROVISION (His word inside) and PROTECTION (The covering of His hand) for His purpose in the new creation. (Isaiah 51:16).


20 Now to Him

who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, 

according to the power that works in us, 

21 to Him 

be glory in the church

by Christ Jesus

to all generations,

forever and ever.

Amen. (Ephesians 3:20,21).

January 29th 2023: Ian Middlemist

January 29th 2023: Ian Middlemist

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel:

John 14:15-31

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27).


            In 2011 there was a devastating hurricane which hit the Caribbean and the east coast of the USA. It was a category 3 storm with winds reaching 120 mph. There was widespread destruction with damage estimated at $15.6 billion, and 56 deaths. It was amongst the top five worst storms on record at the time in terms of financial loss. These tropical hurricanes are given names alphabetically, and this one being the ninth was named “Irene,” which is of Greek origin with the meaning “peace.” This name will not be used again! The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom.”

            I draw your attention to this particular storm because it is illustrative of the world within which we live. There have been some incredible storms of various kinds in recent years, including war, financial crisis, economic poverty and so on. However, someone has calculated that in the last 3,400 years of history, only 268 years have been years of peace. The rest have been years of conflict and war. Apparently (not quite sure how these figures were arrived at) there have been 14,351 wars both large and small in which 3.6 billion people have been killed. During all this time, indeed throughout all human history, there have been repeated calls for peace and there have been poems, essays, songs, lectures, appeals and so on all calling for peace, but all to no avail.

            True peace can only come through knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. In our passage we find that Jesus was about to leave His friends at the end of His earthly ministry by going to the cross, being raised, and then in His ascension. He says to His disciples that even though He was about to depart this world, He would not leave them as orphans (John 14:18). He speaks of three especial blessings that He will leave them as He goes. There is the blessing of joy (John 15:11), the blessing of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), and then also the blessing of peace (John 14:27).

            We shall consider what peace is not (“not as the world gives”) before considering what this peace is that the Lord freely gives.

[1] What this peace is not.

            It is important to begin with a negative, as it is necessary to remove obstacles in the way. We are told expressly that the peace which the Lord gives is “not as the world gives,” so how then does the world offer peace? What are the counterfeits or false offerings called “peace” in our day? We may define peace as the rest, guidance and control of God opposed to self wisdom and control. People know very little of such peace! Let us consider three things which peace is not.

[a] Not avoiding conflict.

            This is a typical route taken by many. Something goes wrong and there are arguments or excess of noise and mayhem and so on, and what do people do? They scatter. People think that peace is merely the absence of conflict. They have a concept of peace that tries to eliminate the trouble or conflict. Either they attempt to smother the war or run away from it. Can we have peace in the midst of strife and storm? Well, the very night before Christ would face betrayal, rejection by His disciples, and the agony of the cross at Calvary, we find the Saviour not just speaking about peace but dispensing it too.

            We remind ourselves that although Jesus is the eternal Son of God, nevertheless He is also fully man. In His flesh He felt true pain and agony both of body and (on the cross) of His soul. Yet now in the midst of this coming event He takes time to minister to His disciples by saying:

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  (John 14:27).

The wrath of God is that decided, settled anger against sin. It is not an ‘off the cuff,’ raging out-of-control anger we usually think of. Now this is the storm that Christ was to face. He did not run or avoid this storm. In fact, He set His face to go to the cross:

Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51).

[b] Not indifferent to sin.

            The peace that Christ brings is not a cheap peace arrived up through cover-up, or by means of sedation or dulling of the mind. It is not just a cease-fire. A cease-fire in the current Ukraine-Russia war would be welcomed, of course, but such is not true peace. In a cease-fire the conflict is still in place, for it does not deal with any of the difficulties that brought about the conflict. True peace speaks of the conflict dealt with and settled. Peace cannot be arrived at by simply blocking out stuff, by a person saying “I have learnt not to care.” This type of attitude does not deal with the heart issue.

            Christ was most certainly not indifferent to sin but was concerned that justice would be done. Paul wrote these vital words:

19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.[1]

The peace Christ was speaking of was the peace He achieved through His death on the cross. How costly was this peace! This peace meets trouble head on. Christ dealt with the storm He faced and came out bringing peace.

[c] Not just a mystical sense of well-being.

            Those who opt for a mystical idea of peace abandon logic and reality. Mysticism does not make any logical sense. The peace Christ gives is real, spiritually and physically real. It is also connected and logical and not abstract and ethereal. The Lord does not give to us a worldly peace, but a true peace that dealt with justice and sin and was perfect.

[2] Objective and subjective peace.

            The New Testament speaks of two kinds of peace. There is an objective peace which deals with our relationship to God, and there is a subjective peace which is our experience in everyday life.

[a] Objective peace.

            The ‘natural man’ (that is, a person left to their own devices and left without God and His blessings), lacks peace with God. People may be successful and happy in experience but have no peace with God. All man is described by Paul as being “in Adam” (Romans 5:10). We are all by natural birth enemies against God. We are at war against God. Not everyone is a blasphemer in actual experience, and maybe many are living without expressing an active hatred of God, but practically all ignore, forget, and operate against God and His ways. All operate in their own ways.

            In diplomacy the whole point is to bring two groups together for the purpose of peace, to ratify a treaty which brings peace. In Genesis 26 we have an example of this type of treaty formation. Those at war with Isaac saw that the Lord was with him and sought to strike a treaty to ensure that there would be no harm done them. There had been battles over wells and now there was an established peace. But this was limited.

            Jesus speaks of peace only here in John 14 and also in John 20 (where He speaks peace to the disciples after He had risen from the dead). The gospel is God’s treaty. John MacArthur suggested that ‘peace comes where truth is known and acknowledged, the issues are settled and dealt with, and the parties involved embrace each other.’ From this, we need to think about reconciliation between the two parties, which involves reaching a friendship rather than merely the removal of hostilities.

            The cross of Jesus Christ was the greatest act of conflict and violence possible. Much of Jesus’ ministry involved Him entering into conflict. He confronted evil doers, evil speakers and evil teachers. He was not afraid of conflict. The Lord Jesus became man stepping out of heaven’s glory into the world of conflict, war and animosity. He came to bring reconciliation and true lasting peace. In reconciliation there remains no longer any issue between the believer and the Lord. And so hostilities are all over and have been fully been fully, and finally dealt with. The Lord Jesus has written His treaty in His own blood – the covenant or bond of peace – an eternal treaty which meets all the requirements for a true and lasting eternal peace. In Ephesians 6:15 we hear of the “gospel of peace” so that in the gospel, true terms of peace are made. The effect of Christ’s coming (He who is our peace) is to make man who was at war with God, now to be at complete peace with Him. Our experience of peace follows as a result of this objective peace provided by the Lord. This peace is accomplished and a settled fact, for it is the objective peace that God brings in and through Christ. The world writes its treaty for peace but cannot deal with the problems and the reality. They offer meditation, drugs, cover-ups and avoidance measures or compromises, but none of these deal with any of the essential issues. Only Christ has dealt with the problems and conflicts and has come up with an eternal and true peace.

[b] Subjective peace.

            Here we are speaking of sanctification, a growing in peace. Our Lord continued saying: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14;27). He has gained objective peace by and through His death. This is settled and available for all who believe. But do we experience peace day-by-day and moment-by-moment? Let us consider three aspects of this subjective sanctification in the realm of peace.

[i] Lay hold.

            We ought to lay hold onto the peace purchased for us at Golgotha. Peace is ours because of what Christ has done, so we ought to take hold of it. Do you have a troubled heart? You can take hold of the peace the Lord has won. If we continue in such fear and trembling through our day we are not believing in the Lord. Are we anxious and in trouble of mind? Are we worried for things future or worried about things past? Both of these things (past worries and future ones) are all under God’s control. Now God is for us, for His treaty of peace has been made (Romans 8:31; Ephesians 2:14). The Lord has made provision for your past concerns and your future worries.

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. (Colossians 3:15).

We must let peace rule, for this is what we have been called to. From the peace which Christ has won we are enabled to traverse the conflicts of this world. And, what-is-more, we can offer the gospel to others as we go. Is the peace of God ruling in you, or are you walking in fear and trepidation? Where are your eyes? Where is your heart? Feed on Christ and rest on His wonderful provision! Do you face difficulties, problems, hard times, harsh decisions? Let the peace of God rule in your heart. Christ won this peace so it is yours to live in. We need to examine our hearts in the light of this. Christ has made peace and we can live in it.

[b] Sin robs us of peace.

            You cannot have peace and knowingly walk in rebellion against God and His word. The peace of God is available only in the gospel and this demands that we come to Christ naked and open before Him ready to forsake sin and cling to Him. If we go to the Lord with sin harbouring in our hearts we ought not to think we will walk in peace. So examine your hearts. We can confess our sins and be washed clean, but this requires a forsaking of the sins committed (1John 1:8-10).

[c] Do not avoid all conflict and trouble.

            It may well be necessary to avoid conflict on occasion, of course. But conflict and tribulation are the lot of the believer who walks with the Lord (John 16:33). We are in this world and we are not immune to the trials and difficulties of life. We are called to walk within the world displaying the great goodness of God. We are called counter to this world’s attitudes and ways. Therefore we will face greater conflict and troubles because the world objects to Christ and therefore to us (John 15:18,19; 17:14). Do not hide or run away, but face things in Christ with the peace of God won for you. We are not to be ashamed of Christ nor of His words (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26).

            In His high priestly prayer the Lord spoke of His disciples as being in the world, which we may characterise as a world of storm, and so He prays that they may be kept by the Father in the world to do His will (John 17:11). We must endure this world’s wars, its economic hardships, its ‘natural’ disasters, its diseases, and along with these, the world’s ridicule and scorn as well.

            In 1555 Nicholas Ridley was burned at the stake for his faith in Christ. The night before his execution his brother asked if he wanted him to stay with him through the night in his final hours on this earth. Nicholas declined this gracious offer saying that he wanted to sleep and rest in quiet before the big day. He was at peace! How so? Only because he trusted that the peace of Christ won for him at Calvary was his to dwell in. We too can have such peace, but only on the basis of the objective peace won for us by Christ’s death.

            Christ has gained peace for us with God. We can walk in this peace by faith. We must not avoid conflict and trouble. We must ensure that we have forsaken sin. We must rest fully on the hope of salvation. May the Lord enable each of us to see His peace and live in it!

[1]            Colossians 1:19-22.

Sunday 22nd January 2023: Ian Jones

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: Kings 4:8-37

The faith of a Shunammite noble woman.

            What struck me on reading our passage, and what grabbed my attention as I was studying it, was the woman’s twice repeated reply: “it is well,” which was given when she was asked if there was anything wrong, when it was clear that things were not well at all (verses 23 and 26). We are like this often in church, aren’t we? When someone asks, ‘How are things?’ we often reply with ‘they’re fine’ or ‘it is well,’ even though we have problems and difficulties like anyone else. Perhaps we are embarrassed to say what our troubles are as others seem to be getting on fine, or maybe we do not want to tell people because they may not understand.

            But why did this woman say twice “it is well” when things were so desperate? Was she in shock perhaps? Her son had suddenly died on her lap. Maybe she was confused and did not know what to say to people? The grieving process can throw up a range of unusual responses. Well, I do not think that any of these types of arguments fit the events at all. She was not in shock and neither was she confused. She did not hide things because she was afraid people would not understand or may judge her. No! She appears to show no emotion in the events described her after her son had died. She simply took her son and laid him on the bed where Elisha stayed, and then made request of her husband to send a young man and one of the donkeys so that she could go quickly to Elisha and then return (verse 22). There was only one thing on her mind. She had to get to Elisha, the “man of God.” After her husband presses her further as to the need for such a journey, she responds by saying “it is well,” (verse 23), and then proceeds to go with speed. She tells the servant to “drive,” “go forward,” and not to “slacken the pace” unless she said otherwise (verse 24). She is clearly a strong-minded woman with some determination, for she had one thing on her mind, to get to the “man of God,” and she was not going to be distracted or deviated by any means. Somehow, she knew that all would indeed be well when she arrived and met with the “man of God.”

            I wonder, can we too say “it is well” when a crisis occurs? Can we sing the hymn:

[1] When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

It is well with my soul;
it is well, it is well with my soul.

[2] Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control:
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and has shed his own blood for my soul. Refrain

[3] My sin oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
my sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more;
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! Refrain

[4] O Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend;
even so, it is well with my soul. Refrain *

Do we become emotional and out of control in a crisis? Or are we like this woman and can say, “It is well?”

            On approaching Mount Carmel where Elisha was to be found, the prophet sent his servant Gehazi to enquire if all was well, to which the woman replies with the same words she uttered to her husband “it is well” (verses 25 to 27). But when she arrived at where Elisha was, she immediately “caught him by the feet,” an action which Gehazi tried to stop but Elisha allows. The “man of God” knew that there was deep distress in the woman’s soul and that the matter had been hidden from him (verse 27). What we have here pictured for us is a woman who sought out God, for the “man of God” was the mediator here. It is at this point that she pours out her heart. We know little of this woman’s background or what tragedies she may have experienced, but in this event we find her going directly to the “man of God” and pouring out all her deep concerns. What is going on here? What is the Lord saying to us? Well in answer to these questions, what we see is this woman’s faith.

            In the darkest and most distressing of circumstances, this woman’s faith shines out. We ought to paint the picture of the times. Israel, the northern kingdom, had been pushed further toward idolatry by their first king Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had installed idols at Dan in the north and at Bethel in the south. Elijah, Elisha’s predecessor, had won a stirring victory on mount Carmel against the numerous prophets of Baal installed by Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel (1Kings 18:20f). You may recall that Elijah became rather downcast after this event thinking he was the only one who truly followed the Lord (1Kings 19:14). But the Lord pointed out that He had reserved seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1Kings 19:18). It would seem that this Shunammite woman was probably one of those seven thousand. Now we too live in desperate days. The darkness seems to be getting darker. Not only is God’s Word not revered and honoured today amongst the populace, but it is slighted and treated with utter contempt by those who ought to know better, by those claiming authority in the state or national church and in other denominations too. At such a time we need to express our faith in the same way that this woman did.

            Recall that at the very start of the passage, amidst gross idolatry all around as we have noted, that this Shunammite woman gave hospitality to the “man of God.” She was a highly respected woman for the text calls her a “notable woman” (verse 8). But we find that she did not simply give hospitality to Elisha for “she persuaded him to eat some food” (verse 8). Elisha happened to come to Shunem, but this notable Shunammite saw him and seems to have sought him out to bless him with a meal. Are we keen to bless those who are ministering the Word of God in our day? Do we offer such directed and pointed hospitality? We all have differing gifts. But what this notable Shunammite woman does is simply to attend to Elisha’s needs. We can all do this in a variety of ways according to the gifts and talents God has given us. Are we open to bless in whatever way the Lord leads us?

            At first the Shunammite woman simply persuaded Elisha to take food with them (verse 8). This soon became a habit so that when he returned it became natural for him to “turn in there to eat some food” (verse 8). After some time, presumably through conversation over meals, the woman comes to know this prophet Elisha as “a holy man of God,” and she uses this title to refer to him rather than his name Elisha (see 2Kings 4:9,16,21,22,25,27). The name Elisha only occurs in the narrative at 2Kings 4:8,17,32. Presumably in their conversations the woman comes to understand the things of God amidst a dark and idolatrous nation. And so she seeks to make these occurrences more suitable. Rather than just provide food, she asks her husband if they cannot provide a room with the essentials for him such as, a bed, a table, a chair, and a lampstand (2Kings 4:10). In this simple act it serves to show that God was at work in her life. She wanted to bless Elisha, the “man of God,” but she did not worship him! The description of the provision of a room is quite telling. It was not ostentatious and over the top. It was simple and comfortable with all that was needed. She was not trying to exalt herself in the eyes of Elisha. She was not flattering him. She was not seeking glory by giving so much that Elisha might feel awkward. If she had gone over the top and given luxurious provisions for Elisha that would be like the overly showy cathedrals and great churches, or the super-apostles and evangelists with their showy cars and so on. No! She simply wanted to encourage this “man of God.” There was no need to go over the top. She provided a place for him to stay, to sleep, to study, and to pray whenever he was nearby. She wanted to bless this man in his ministry. Presumably the meals and conversations would continue too.

            Now when we give to the Lord’s work we should be blessed from the ministry, and so Elisha then asks the woman what he could do for her (verses 11 to 13). Again, in her response we see the woman’s faith. She is content. She does not want anything at all. Elisha had suggested some possibilities. He could intercede or mediate for her in regard to dealings with the king or the commander of the army (verse 13). But she simply responds by saying “I dwell among my own people.” It would appear that she was part of a community that cared for one another. We are not told any detail, but the implication is that she wants for nothing, for all was provided and she was content. We might imagine some people making requests of Elisha at this point. But the Shunammite woman was content. Now in the course of time Gehazi finds out that she was childless with an old husband (verse 14)! We are reminded here of other barren women such as Sarah and Hannah. The way the text reads in verse 14 gives us the impression that she was sad about this lack. It was the desire of all Hebrew married women to provide a son to continue the tribal line and maybe even to be included in that line through whom the Messiah would come. And so Elisha calls her and prophesies that in one year’s time she would be able to “embrace a son” (verse 16). Her response seems to indicate that she had already had some sorrow in life, for she imagined the worst and could not face this not coming true. Nevertheless the prophecy was sure and so she had her son “when the appointed time had come, of which Elisha had told her” (verse 17). Thus the Shunammite who responded in such a hesitant or even negative way had to learn that when God said He would do something (for Elisha did not speak from himself but as a “man of God”) then He would most certainly do it.

            The child was born and then grew, but all of a sudden a day came where tragedy takes place (verse 18 and 19). They were wholly unaware of this, of course. There was no gradual preparation of what was to occur. This incident reminds us that we are in a cursed world where disease and disaster are natural occurrences – all on account of curse due to mankind’s sin. After suffering some severe head pains whilst in the field with his father, the boy was taken to his mother where at noon he died as he lay on her lap (verses 19 and 20). Tragedy strikes when we least expect it. They were in the field at harvest time, for there were “reapers” there (verse 18). This was a time of great joy when the harvest was gathered in. But tragedy strikes! When all was seemingly going well, the boy falls ill and dies within hours. But we must always remember that all of this, both the harvest and the boy’s sudden death, were in the hands of the Lord.

Why did the Shunammite not tell her husband as the boy died? Why did she go with haste and immediately to the “man of God” shunning all distractions? The only satisfactory answer is that she wanted to be with God. Elisha had frequented their house and she had come to know of him as “a holy man of God.” He was God’s representative. And she was desperate to get to God. It was, after all, God who gave her this child (Elisha did not suggest this off his own mind for he was acting as God’s man). God knew her pain and suffering and so she must by all means get close to God and so seeking out Elisha, the “holy man of God” was all she could do. Was it not he who had prophesied about her son in the first place? However good and God-honouring her husband may have been (we know little of him) he could not do anything for her in this tragic situation. Only God could do something and so she makes haste to get to Elisha. Why go elsewhere?

Could she not have come to God alone in the house in the quietness of her own home? Well, what we are presented with here is Elisha as a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the New Testament we see many bring their sick relatives to Him for healing and other miracles. This is a similar situation. Perhaps she could have cried out to God in the solitude of her home, but going to Elisha shows to us the essential need of coming to Christ. We are dependent. And we are dependent upon Christ. This Shunammite woman had nowhere else to turn. Her husband or the other men in her community and even her own people could do nothing. Her son was dead. What could mortal man do? But Elisha was the one who said she would have a son – this “holy man of God” who spoke from God – so it was essential that she make haste to see him now.

Elisha is given here as the type of Christ. His life foreshadows that of Christ’s, and his ministry showed what we might expect of the true Messiah (although Elisha operated in much smaller measure). Where does our faith lead us? Only to God and only through Christ. All else is false and vanity. And so, it was needful for this woman to run to Elisha, the “man of God.” Now when the woman meets with Elisha, the prophet first sends Gehazi back to the house with his staff which he was to lay on the child (verse 29). Gehazi was to make haste and not deviate or get distracted on the journey. But the Shunammite woman is not going to leave Elisha. She says: “as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you” (verse 30). She is clinging to the “man of God” (Elisha).

            Consider the amazing story of the raising of Lazarus as recorded in John 11. Mary and Martha, who were sisters to Lazarus, thought that if Jesus had been there before he died then He could have saved their brother. But Jesus purposely delayed his coming in order to show them that He was indeed “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).  Both Mary and Martha had to learn that God could not only give life, but He could also give back life or restore it. Does this not thrill us? God can bring life again to us! Are we clinging to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Shunammite clung to Elisha? Servants may be able to lead us to Christ but none can restore life save Christ!

            Now Gehazi set off in haste and did what was asked of him by the prophet, but the child did not come back (verse 31). Meanwhile the prophet and the woman by this time were also on their way, and as they travel Gehazi returned with the news that the child had still not arisen. Eventually Elisha goes to the child in that upper room and he does something that some suggest is a form of resuscitation or perhaps some form of medical procedure. He goes into the room, shuts the door behind him and the first thing he does is to pray to the Lord (verse 33). Following this he lay on the child putting his mouth to the boy’s mouth, his eyes to the boy’s eyes, and his hands to the boy’s

hands (verse 34). Such actions are said by some to be some form of medical procedure or resuscitation, but this is not what was happening at all. Remember that the boy died about noon and then the woman had to arrange to go to Elisha and then they had to return to the house. At least several hours would have passed by this time so what occurs here is not simple medical procedures. We are pointedly told that the child was in fact “lying dead on his bed” (verse 32). As Elisha stretched himself upon the boy, the boy “became warm” (verse 34). After this Elisha walked around in the house and then repeated his act of stretching out on the child at which point the boy sneezed seven times and then opened his eyes (verse 35). At this Elisha calls Gehazi to call for the woman and tells her to take up her son (verse 36). The Shunammite came in to the room and fell at Elisha’s feet bowing to the ground before picking up her son and leaving (verse 37).

            So what was Elisha doing by stretching himself out on the child and putting mouth, eye and hand to those of the boy’s? Well, it seems that in such an act there is an identification of Elisha with the boy. It would also seem as though the prophet is pictorially (that is, in typical fashion) showing us the imputation of life. By laying on the boy in mirror image, such an act points us to Christ’s substitution and identifying with us. He took upon Himself all our sins and died for them in our place. He did what we could not do. In rising from the dead He gave us new life. Thus in a representative way, Elisha demonstrates something of what Christ did for us at Calvary. Why the mouth, the eye, and the hand, and not any other parts? Well (perhaps) these three parts indicate significant aspects of life. The eye is what sees and beholds, the mouth speaks and declares what is in the heart, and the hand does and engages in activities. By such the Lord wants us to see that just as Elisha identified fully with the dead boy and typically imparted his life to the boy, so Christ took upon Himself our sin and rebellion and gave us His life instead! What a glorious Saviour we have!

* This hymn was written by Horatio G. Spafford, a Chicago lawyer who knew the evangelists Moody, Sankey and Bliss. In 1873 Spafford’s wife and four daughters were advised by their doctor to take a holiday in Europe to improve Mrs Spafford’s health. Mr. Spafford was delayed, but his wife and daughters set sail on the S.S. Ville du Havre in November, 1873. On November 22nd an English vessel (the Lochearn) collided with it, and the S.S. Ville du Havre sank in minutes. Sadly all four daughters were lost but Mrs Spafford was rescued. On December 1st when the survivors were landed at Cardiff, Mrs. Spafford sent the message, “saved alone.” Horatio G. Spafford wrote the words of this hymn as the ship taking him to meet his wife neared the spot of the tragedy.

January 15th 2023: Philip Meiring

To watch a recording of this service, please click on the link to our YouTube channel:

Luke 2:41-51: The Boy Jesus

“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49

This is such a profound, prophetic answer precipitated by such a common incident of life. We have all heard those highly emotional words of Mary from our own mother’s, haven’t we? “Philip, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” (Luke 2:48).  Remember the embarrassment of the scene? Your mother’s red eyes, your friends looking on and your dad shuffling uncomfortably in the background.

But this was different. It wasn’t a thoughtless adventure on Jesus’ part. He had been left behind! Have you done that too? Left a child behind? I have. That’s mega-embarrassing!

Notice the pivotal word here, “father”. “Your father and I…” My Father’s house”. This answer is most profound. It is not a statement to counter embarrassment or guilt, rather it is an emotional declaration from the heart of the boy Jesus, saying out loud what he had already come to realise within his own consciousness. Jesus knew he was indeed, “The Son of the most High.” God was directly his “Father” and he was captivated.

The questions found in verses 49-50 would have been unfeeling and impertinent questions had not there been plenty of clues as to the probable whereabouts of their son. Having returned to Jerusalem, they spent near on a whole day looking in the wrong places. Had they not noticed his intense delight at the Feast of the Passover celebrations and the spectacle and worship of the Temple?  Everything about their son was uniquely of God, His birth, His names, His conversation and especially His behaviour day on day – otherworldly holy – you might say.

You see the Temple was that one special place of God dwelling with His people. It was there that God’s people could through sacrifice and worship come especially close to their God. To the people it proclaimed, “God with us – Immanuel.” However, God was certainly not restricted to His Temple since He is the God of heaven and earth, but it was His appointed place and designed to meet His requirements.

If one of Jesus’ school mates in Nazareth had asked Mary where Jesus was, she would probably have often answered, “He’s up the workshop with His dad …spends most of His time up there!” You see over the 7 days of Passover, the Temple for Jesus had become a home from home. It is clear that Jesus’ parents were struggling with His identity. He’s just like other boys but yet He’s so different. You can see that in v50 and v51, they couldn’t get the pieces of the jig-saw together. Astonishing things were happening but they still “did not understand”. However, in v 51 you can see that Mary is keeping the pieces safe in her heart. She was treasuring up the words of God.

Providentially, it was important that Mary and Joseph did not have the full picture at this stage. Just think how it might have impacted upon their family life. The realisation would have been overwhelming and Jesus might have had a less than a normal upbringing.

Do you find you have a lot of questions? Well, take heart. Great theological minds have struggled with passages like this one down through the centuries. This story is a powerful example of the two particular incarnation truths expressed in Hebrews and Philippians:

  1. He was “Made like his brothers in every way”    Hebrews 2:17
  2. “Taking the very nature of a servant.” Philippians  2:7

 “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.” (Luke 2:52) Jesus, the eternal Son of the most High, in His voluntary state of humiliation had to grow and develop. We can only tip-toe with great care to the edge of this incredible mystery. The self-existent One chose to have a childhood. We can truly say, our Saviour is indeed one of us. We see him as baby, toddler and adolescent! And this is not the superman Jesus of the apocryphal writings either, doing meaningless stunts e.g. making clay pigeons that fly away.

What are we to make of this amazing Jesus? The data of Scripture clearly shows that He did not have a dual personality. He was one and the same person as He was before time began. He had two natures, the one from eternity and the one which He took on at the incarnation. He was fully God and fully Man at one and the same time. Augustine said “He became what he was not, but did not cease to be what he was.”

How could he become like us then? Again, the data of Scripture would lead us to the conclusion that “He places in abeyance for a time and by Covenant agreement, his right to draw on the resources of his own Godhead” but instead “he drew all his strength from God through the Spirit.” He had “the Spirit without limit”. Dr Hugh Martin [1822-1885]

An example of this is here in the passage at v46.  This is mystery of all mysteries.  Mary and Joseph find him at an open university session held on the Temple terrace. What was Jesus doing? He wasn’t teaching (although His insightful answers would have been “amazing” to hear and were “astonishing” to His parents), He was listening to the Word of his Father (the Law and the Prophets) expounded and confirming His growing understanding with questions and answers. Because he was the Son of the Most High and knew the Holy Spirit intimately, His conclusions were spiritually astonishing.

As impossible as it might seem, Jesus’ earthly spiritual pilgrimage was mediated by the Holy Spirit similar to how it is with us. Jesus had to assimilate Scripture and pray like us but without sin to hinder and a perfect Father-Son relationship to sustain.

  • “Taking the very nature of a servant.”                 

In one sense we have already touched upon this but look at that verse v51 and take it in conjunction with v 52. “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” Why is this statement here? Did it mean that from now on Jesus was going to be good? Does it imply that until the Feast Jesus’ behaviour had been a bit up and down?

Not at all. He had declared openly to his parents His true identity. The feelings developing over time in His heart had been irrepressible. He was the Son of the Most High, directly and not by adoption. He could have stood immediately upon His status and ordered everyone in His sight to prompt obedience.

This statement is astounding. It is our Saviour “Taking the very nature of a servant” expressed at this time in His being an adolescent boy, under Law, honouring His mother and father. Down to Nazareth is literally down. From Jerusalem at 2,500 feet to Nazareth at 680 feet below sea level! Jesus was on the downward path of His humbling and fulfilling that crucial role of servant. The road was to lead into obscurity for 18 years. Most likely He became head of the family looking after His siblings and putting bread on the table from His carpentry trade. How He must have longed to be on the road teaching folk about the way of salvation. But whilst it seemed wasted time, it wasn’t. Every bit was necessary for our salvation. What a truly wonderful Saviour we have. Truly indescribable! 

This morning, we have two fathers if we are believers. Our biological earthly father and our Heavenly Father who has adopted us. And what is true of Jesus should become true for us.

  1. Is the Father’s business your business? Is it the main driver in your life to be in fellowship with God about those things that please him?
  2. In your servanthood as a believer, no step down should be too low. How low have you gone for Christ?
  3. Is your holiness gaining “favour with God and men”? Is your holiness attractive?
  4. Do you realise? He knows just how you feel.  He’s been there before!

Have you got two Father’s? And I am not talking about a biological father and a step-dad? You need to be adopted by the one in Heaven. It can happen immediately the moment you repent of your rebel ways and trust in His Son who took your penalty at the cross 2000 years ago. You won’t have to wait for adoption papers or trial visits etc. The cost was entirely borne by Jesus himself. The Fatherhood of God is a free gift that he offers you right now.

January 8th 2023: John Funnell

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Text reading: Psalm 51

Text focus: Matthew 6:12: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

            The topic for today’s messages is “forgiveness.” This morning we shall look at the first part of Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts …” and this afternoon the second part, “… as we forgive our debtors”.

“And forgive us our debts …”

            The context of this statement is the model prayer the Lord gave to His disciples. In many ways this verse is the fulcrum or pivot of the whole. The root of all of humanity’s problems and difficulties is the need for forgiveness. But forgiveness from what? The Greek word translated as “debts” is a legal term meaning “to what is justly owed.” In Luke 11:4 where the model prayer is given again the word used there is “sins” (“and forgive us our sins”). This word is rightly translated in Luke as “sins” as it means “departing from doing what is right.”

            Now we have in the model prayer a daily request for forgiveness. Why? Why request this daily? Why is sin seen as a debt to the Creator of all things?

            The answer to these questions is that it is God the Creator who gave us life. Here are just a selection of Scriptures which affirm God’s right to ownership of our lives:

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4).

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.  (Psalm 139:13).

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10).

God gave us our life. So, every breath we take, every step we make, is all because of God who made us. We owe Him everything. Without Him we have no life.

            Pause a moment. Take a deep breath in and then out. God gave that breath to you – all our breaths are God-given.

            Now God gave us life so that we might delight in Him and glorify Him. But instead, we waste life doing what we want rather than what God (who is utterly good) desires. This departure from what God desires from us is called “sin” and this sin creates a debt. We use our breaths (given of God) for self to do as we please, whereas God actually gave us these breaths to glorify Him.

            I wonder if you have ever borrowed money or maybe you have lent money to someone? What happens if the debt owed cannot be paid? If such occurs, then various things result. There is estrangement. The debtor avoids the lender because they cannot pay. When the lender comes around for the money to be repaid the debtor hides or doesn’t answer the door. There is also the terrible feeling of guilt. The debtor is always in debt to the one who lent the money, and this imbalance doesn’t go away. The debtor feels guilt at not being able to repay the debt owed. Debt also causes shame. A person in debt is considered to be of lower value generally in society. The wealthy are situated in the top ranks whilst those in debt are considered of lower value. Finally, debt causes anxiety. It is something that always hangs over the person. They are never free from the problem, and it leads to worry about how they can continue on and get clear of the debt. Estrangement, guilt, shame, and anxiety are some of the fruits of being in debt when you cannot repay what is owed. Debt is a terrible thing for relationships. If you owe a friend money you cannot repay you will likely feel these effects in your relationship to that friend. Debt causes fear, loneliness, separation, guilt, shame and so on.

            But the same is true with regard to God. However, in the case of God, the problems and breakdown is that much greater, for God is prefect and true. We are not in debt to God concerning money or Mammon, but in respect to life. The life we have is given of God for a purpose – a good purpose. We have taken that life and squandered it on baseless, worthless things. As we do so we run up more and more debts in connection with the Lord.

 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23).

Breaking terms with God is breaking terms with the life-giver. This leads to death and ultimately to eternal damnation. God is a God of order and justice, and this problem of our debt is a legal one. We are legally bound and are now owing God what is justly owed. All who sin are breaking the law and become lawless (1 John 3:4). All sin is lawlessness. The use of legal language in the model prayer is given because sin is utterly serious. It is not a matter which can easily be discarded. When we break the law, just reparation and repayment must be made.        

            Sin, our ongoing sin, is the cause of our debt, our increasing debt, to God the life-giver. We cannot give back the life He has given because we do not have the ability to create life. Life can only come from God, the source of life. When He gives life it is a very precious thing and to waste it in sin and all that opposes God is a serious matter. What will happen now? We have squandered life given of God and we cannot ever repay this debt incurred because we do not have the ability to create the life we have wasted. Sin creates: loneliness, guilt, shame, estrangement.

            Now notice also that this is very personal. It is “our” sin. It is “my” sin. It is not just sin in general, but the wasted life moments I have squandered. Now God is just and wholly so. The debt we have built up creates a terrifying situation for us. The Lord God who gave us life holds us totally accountable for this debt that we have incurred personally. All of us are in this predicament. Each of us has wasted the life-breaths we have been given for folly and rebellion, and now the Lord looks on and asks: what have you done with the life and the life-breaths I gave you? Now many will reply at this point: is not the Lord gracious and merciful? Will He not simply let these things go and make no mention of it all? Well, we must understand that God is just and holy. The reason He takes our sin so seriously is because He takes us (His created image-bearers) seriously. Dr. Paul Blackham put it like this:

“He does not hold us to account because He is a tyrant. He holds us to account because He loves us.”

Here is the good news. God values us so highly. He values us so much that He is jealous when we turn from Him and commit sin. Imagine a good father with his children. When they disobey and cause mayhem the father does not stop loving them but disciplines them and brings them to see the error of their ruinous ways. God values us so highly and He will not let us go. He is so serious about us and about our debt that we have incurred that He will do anything necessary to redeem us. He is so serious about dealing with our debt and our due, and so serious about getting us back on track, that He gave us His only begotten Son.

            If you doubt that God is serious about you and your debts He replies: “I am Jesus-serious!” He says unequivocally: “I sent My Son, My Precious Only-Begotten Son for you!” He came into that which He had made (in the incarnation). He became history to pay off all the debt you owed. Your sin was so expensive – seriously, astronomically expensive – that it cost the Son of God His life. Christ fulfilled our potential for He was perfect and sinless. And on the cross He died the just death that we deserved. On Calvary all sin was paid in full.

            If we now have faith in Him and trust Him truly then we are moved from the red to the black! He has done everything legally required to clear all of the debts. There is no limit to what God will do to free you from guilt, isolation, anxiety, fear and estrangement that such debts caused. God the Father loves you, but He hates the sin. He loved you so much that He sent His Only Son to pay the debt you owed by dying in your place, and He lived a perfect life which you ought to have given in return for the life-breath He gave you.

            Why did He do this? It is so you no longer have to hide from God and you don’t have to avoid Him anymore. You do not need to worry about how to make amends. You do not need to be ashamed, nor to feel guilty at all anymore. All that the Saviour did in His life and in His death met the requirements each of us should have given to God our Creator. If you truly trust in Him, you have been washed clean, and the slate of debts has been scrubbed and wiped clean. There is no need to be anxious, nor fearful anymore, for all sins have been dealt with in Christ. And so, we can readily come to Christ for all has been forgiven. Not simply swept away under a carpet, but dealt with fully and legally. There is now no debt left for it has all been paid in full.

            The word “forgive” in Matthew 6:12 is from a Greek word which can also mean “to let go,” “to be released,” or “to be sent away.” It has the idea of freedom and it can also mean “to cover.”

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:36).

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1).

And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. (1John 3:5).

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (1Peter 4:8).

having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:14).

The Lord has covered, He has washed, He has sent away our sin and released us from it so we can live in free fellowship with Him. Christ paid for it all!

            The Lord wants you to believe the truth that all sin has been wiped out, annulled, dealt with, paid for, and removed, and He wants you to trust this daily. Remember that He asks us to pray this prayer daily. Not simply because we sin every day, but He asks us to pray this daily so that we do not forget that our sins are utterly forgiven. We can thence rest in blessed, loving, full, communion with Him who has freely forgiven us all our sins.

            We can only pray this prayer because of what Christ has done in His life and on Calvary in His death. As a result of Christ’s work we have full and free forgiveness. Now forgiveness comes to us only by us truly knowing Christ. Do we know Him? It is not enough to just believe intellectually – the devil does that, but it does him no good. Do you know Him? Are you in right relationship with Him so that you know that your sins are all dealt with completely?

“… as we forgive our debtors.”

            Sin causes damage to relationships, but God has forgiven us freely. In Matthew 18:21-35 we read the parable of the unforgiving servant. Peter asks the Lord: how often should we forgive someone a debt? Up to seven times? The Lord replies by increasing what Peter thought was a perfect number (7) and multiplies it to 70 x 7, which effectively indicates an infinite number – the complete (7) completion (7) multiplied by all-encompassing (10). Now if we truly recognised the scale of forgiveness by God for our own sins, we must conclude that we have no right to bear a grudge against others. If God has forgiven me all of this, how can I not forgive others when they sleight me or sin against me? In the parable, the amount of debts for each one are meant to show us the incredibly large debt owed to God, compared to the much smaller debts we incur one to another. We might say that the unforgiving servant was forgiven a debt of £1000,000, whilst the debt he was owed was just £10. How we need to recognise the incredible and awesome release of debts we have been given of God! And how insignificant are the debts we are owed one to another. One person likened the difference between the debt we owed God and the debts we owed one another to the height of the cathedral roof in comparison to the minor undulations of the floor surface. The vast distance between the ground and the roof in a cathedral speaks of the immense debt we owe to God, whilst the little bumps and indentations in the floor are the depth or height of the debts we owe one to another.

            Now it is essential we recognise our complete forgiveness in Christ for all sin we have committed, past, present and future. We are now utterly secure with God. We have peace with Him. And so, because God has forgiven us so much, we ought also to forgive one another. If we cannot forgive others, then it is doubtful that we appreciate that we have been forgiven by the Lord. Now in Matthew 6:14 we learn that the forgiven one is a forgiving person. The same is true with regard to mercy. The one who has received mercy is himself merciful. The model prayer of Matthew 6 is a beautifully crafted prayer, but there is a significant amount of space given in this to the topic of forgiveness.

            Stephen, the first martyr, prayed for his murderers as they stoned him, asking for their forgiveness. Now forgiveness is not something we understand as something we earn. Because we are forgiven, we can therefore freely forgive others. If we do not freely forgive others, then there is an issue concerning our salvation. Psalm 137:9 might be considered a very unusual text to turn to. It does not appear to be a very Christian sentiment. However, it is important to note that the Psalmist is not taking such an action himself and he is not telling anyone else to do it either. What he is doing is speaking honestly. He knows that the Lord will bring about justice, and when justice is done it will be good. We have clear commands in the New Testament about forgiving one another.

12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  (Colossians 3:12,13).

And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32).

Let us bask in the forgiveness of God in Christ and let us freely forgive one another!