January 1st 2023: John Scanlon

2 kings 5:1-19

This was a great event in the life of Elisha, which is described in detail. The amount of detail shows that God wants us to pay particular attention.  “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). Presumably, the intention of the Holy Spirit for us is to give particular attention to reading this passage of scripture. It tells us of how Naaman was healed from leprosy.

The man who was the subject of this miracle was commander-in-chief of the Syrian army, the commander of an army of a very powerful nation. Very often Middle Eastern kings were afraid of their generals because of the position of power they were in. But this is not how it was with Naaman; he was esteemed by his master. Their relationship was good. The writer tells us this man was honourable. But he was also a leper. He was a man of considerable success. By him, God had won great victories for Syria.

“Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honourable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valour, but a leper.” (2 Kings 5:1-2).

This is interesting. This man was a pagan, an idolater. He was wicked and self-centered. But all victories were given by God because God rules this world. He makes use of the wicked as well as the righteous. Naaman was a mighty man of valour. He was a very imposing man. He was brave, daring, fearless – yet he was a leper. He was becoming a pitiful, repulsive object.

Whenever we come across the word ‘leper’ we come across ‘Selah.’ We should stop and pause, consider what we are reading. Leprosy is chosen in God’s word as a symbol and representation of sin. Of all the diseases mentioned in the Old Testament, it was only with leprosy there had to be a ritual of a special cleansing. The leper was thrust out of the congregation of God’s people and had to stay outside the camp until he was healed. It was lonely the leper that, when he was clean, he needed to be certified by the priest that healing had taken place.

Three whole chapters of Leviticus are devoted to leprosy. Like many diseases, it can start as an insignificant event. Many forms of leprosy are inherited. Sin is also inherited. Leprosy begins in a person and has no pain; you can have it for months before it becomes obvious.

It is only in the later stages it becomes obvious what it is and it becomes contagious. Some leprosy spreads rapidly, even affecting the bones. Leprosy is a living death, and in all cases, it leads to banishment. It affects every part of the person. Like sin, it spreads rapidly and banishes someone from God. It is the curing of such a leper we come to today, and we also learn something of the cleansing of sin.

The contributor to the miracle.

Naaman was quite unable to cure himself of this burden. There was no cure for this wasting disease, but God’s providence is already at work. One day, as head of the army, Naaman would have travelled into Israel. A little girl was snatched from her parents – all in the providence of God. Look at the contrast between Naaman and the little girl. Naaman was a Gentile, she was Jewish. Naaman was a great man, second only to the king. The little girl was a maid in his household. We don’t even know her name. After this passage, she is not mentioned again. Naaman was a commander, the girl was the lowest of all the slaves of the nation. Naaman was a leper. She knows the cure.

God has a reason for every earth-shattering event. We don’t see it at the time. We may see it sometime later. This little girl wasn’t resentful of her treatment. There was no bitterness in her heart. She shows concern for her master. She made the most of her opportunities. She speaks of how leprosy could be healed. God is in charge and decreed the leper would be cured. The maid’s words were received and acted on. God works in the hearer.

Mistaken views about a miracle that is to come to pass.

When it comes to the Word of God, people think they know better. Naaman is now mis-directed and sent to the wrong place – the King of Israel, “Then the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” (2 Kings 5:5). People are troubled by their sins and go to the wrong place. When Naaman went off to his cure, he took with him immense riches, an enormous sum of money, “So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing.” (2 Kings 5:5b). He thought he could contribute to his own healing. He took more wealth than a whole community would need.

The King of Israel’s response to the letter was poor; he didn’t give it to God. He didn’t even remember there was a prophet in Israel. That little servant knew better than the King.  Elisha sends a message to the King. He gives clear instructions what needs to be done.

Naaman goes to the prophet, with all his might, “Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house.” (2 Kings 5:9). It is an impressive sight, but he is still a leper. Verse 10 shows what is required for this miracle to take place, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” (2 Kings 5:10b). Naaman felt he was a great man who deserved special treatment. But he needed cleansing in the same way as everyone. There is only one door. Elisha didn’t even come to the door. He didn’t need to see the man’s self-importance. As far as Elisha is concerned, there’s just a leper, not a commander. He would do nothing to show deference to this man’s rank.

The Word of God is to show he is nothing in the eyes of God but a sinner. There is no help until he recognises it. Naaman needs to come down from his high horse and plunge himself where God’s spokesman tells him to plunge. He has nothing to pay, nothing to contribute. All he needs to do is obey and trust in the power of God.  No man can give the pardon we cry out for. The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanses us from all sin.

The prophet treated this man as if he were a nobody. If men, like the commander of the army of Syria, get treated as nobodies, they get cross. Naaman did! His pride was wounded, so he turned away angrily. He had just been told to humble himself. Whenever we tell that to unsaved people and point out that there is nothing they can do for themselves, we get the answer we hear from Naaman, “Behold, I thought.” That was his problem. Every sinner has his own idea of how he should be cleansed. This man, in his arrogance, thought he knew better. Naaman wanted things done on his own terms. He was concerned for his own honour. Humbling himself was not part of his plan.

Naaman had received what no king had been able to give him – full directions in how to be cleansed. But he had his own ideas for healing. No-one could touch him until a priest declared him clean. He needed to know the power of healing comes from God, not man.

Naaman thought of the rivers of his homeland. Eventually, Naaman tries what the prophet says and went into the River Jordan in obedience. Six times he dipped himself in the river and nothing happened. But on the seventh time there is a public testimony that God’s word is true. His body was cured, “So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.“ (2 Kings 5:14). Now Naaman seeks Elisha out and calls himself Elisha’s servant. He is transformed.

When we read this story, we see our own experience. The only way to be healed is to come to God in humble obedience, in humble repentance, and be washed in the blood of Jesus Christ. To be cleansed from our spiritual leprosy we need to humble ourselves. The only way is God’s way. Let us walk in that way.

Christmas Day 2022: Ian Middlemist

To watch this service, please click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/MBDZy7yEptM

Christmas can be a little like hide and seek for many people around us. Where can I find the real Jesus? It seems very different for some people. For some, we wish it would be a lot easier. The search for the real Jesus can seem like a game of hide and seek.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been hiding things in secret places. In the game of hide and seek someone hides and someone seeks. Seeking the real Jesus – who is the one hiding in your mind and who is the one seeking? Is Jesus hiding or is it you hiding? The light was coming into the world. Jesus is the light, so He isn’t hiding. We, therefore, are the ones who are hiding.

  1. Revealing the light.

 “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:9). The true light. ‘True’ here means genuine. Our pursuit this Christmas time is for the real Jesus, not the Nativity shown in school plays. John’s point is Jesus is the true light, the ultimate disclosure of God to man. The true light is revealed to every man who comes into the world. Coming into the world is repeatedly said about Jesus.

The following verses talk about Jesus being in the world. He comes into the world and enlightens every man. The light is shining for everyone. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20). This includes the right of conscience, of right and wrong. The Quakers say it’s the inner light God gives to everyone. We need to connect with that inner light and gain purpose. Some say the light is only for those who are born again. But verse 9 refers to the exposure the light brings when it shines on something. It’s not inner light, but the revelation of light that came into the world through the incarnation. It shines on every man, but it divides human nature. Those who hate the light flee. But some receive the light and respond and welcome the light.

In John’s gospel, the revelation of Christ is the revelation of light that shines on all and causes a distinction. The witness that comes through the light, Jesus, demands a response. It exposes sin. Some react angrily, others love the light, knowing it’s for healing.

  • Rejecting the Light.

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:10-11).

A sad sign of Christmas, of the things occurring around us, is rejecting Jesus. The tragedy of sin and terrible wickedness in human hearts. Sin is completely irrational. How irrational it is for people to reject the light of the gospel. Jesus paid the price for sin and offered the gift of light. Some love their sin so much they would rather face eternal judgement rather than receive the light to become God’s child, to receive the blessings, the riches of His goodness.

The world is a key concept for John; he uses it 78 times, mostly in reference to the evil system that is under Satan. It’s hostile both to Jesus and His followers. Verses 3 and 10 – Jesus made the world and yet the world didn’t know Him. When human beings do not recognise the Creator – as a nation we are seeking to remove the name of Jesus Christ from all consciousness. People are replacing Jesus’ name to make it a swear word. The world did not know Him. Knowing Jesus is central. Peter says, in chapter 6, “We have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 1:69). But in chapter 8 Jesus says to the hostile Jews, “But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.” (John 8:55).

Why didn’t the world know its Saviour? Because it is spiritually blind and loves its own darkness. People have no desire to know Jesus in a personal way. John says, He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:11). He came to His own kingdom and Hs own people didn’t receive him. They should have recognised Jesus as the prophesied one in their beloved scriptures. But He wasn’t the kind of messiah they wanted. They were hoping for a political messiah, to deliver them from Rome’s power. They didn’t want a Saviour to save them from sin. They rejected the light. This gift, at first sight, maybe doesn’t look like much, but it’s far better than anything you could have expected or imagines.

There are two applications:

  1. Make sure we are not rejecting the true light. He is seeking. The light is shining.
  2. Don’t be surprised when people don’t respond positively to the witness of Christ. People love darkness.
  • Receiving the Light.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13).

To receive light is the opposite to not knowing Him and rejecting Him. To receive light means to welcome Him. His name refers to all Jesus is in His person. It refers to all He did. By dying on the cross Jesus shed HIs blood as a substitute for my sin. You rely totally on what Jesus did for you on the cross. Your only hope is not in yourself but in Him and His works.

Receiving Christ means to rely on Him totally for the payment for sin. He gave us the authority to become children of God. Those who believe become children of God. Therefore, all people are not God’s children by natural birth. We cannot assume we have the right to be called children of God. We need spiritual birth, See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1 John 3:1).

What a wonderful privilege is ours today. Because He came, we can be called children of God. Children of God – not natural birth. This birth comes through the supernatural work of God through regeneration. All glory must be given to God.

Our responsibility today is to believe the light has shone, to believe in Christ today for salvation. Have you believed? We can’t take credit. All the glory goes to Him, for all that He has done. The Light has shone. Jesus Himself shines as the true light. The baby born in Bethlehem is the revelation for all time. It’s time to respond.  Will you ignore Him as you set out your own agenda? If you remain indifferent, you are someone who has been found but wants to remain hidden. Will you receive him by believing His name, so you become a child born of God?

December 18th 2022: Gaius Douglas

To watch this service, please click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/n0stMwafNwQ

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.”

Isaiah 55:6

Some say that this is no Christmas verse, but I tell you, every verse of the Bible is a Christmas verse. The true message of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. We celebrate God’s gift to the world, God’s gift to you and me. We can never truly celebrate His birth unless we know Him as our Saviour and our Lord. He is the most wonderful gift.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16). God sent His most wonderful gift, the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Are you rejoicing in Him? If so, you have something so precious, so holy! He is precious to me. This gift is so precious, more precious than any earthly gift because it is eternal.

Some people say Christians need to lighten up, to lay off and let them celebrate with family and friends, especially as we are experiencing hard times – the cost of living, heating. Tesco says they’re the joy of Christmas! Others say, ‘You Christians say God has given us freedom of choice, so we can choose whether we celebrate Jesus or not! Some say, ‘If God’s gift is available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, we have 361 days to consider – leave us alone for the 4 days we celebrate Christmas. People haven’t got 361 days. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Today may be your last day on earth. Do you know Christ as your Saviour? What is important is knowing Him, receiving Him as your Saviour and Lord.

Christmas is all about love, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17). Are you saved this morning? He came to seek and save those who are lost.

“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. (1 John 4:14). ‘Of the world!’ Believe that and receive it. Every man, every woman, every boy and every girl are accountable to God this morning. God left the heavens, His eternal throne, and came down into this world. He became man, He became sin for us, and He went to Calvary’s cross and there He died. He humbled Himself. He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. God now has exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every other name. At the name of Jesus, one day, every knee will bow.

Today is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the important day, not tomorrow. Today is the day you can receive the preciousness of the gift and receive Christ as your Saviour and Lord. Those of us who truly believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is our Saviour, love Christmas. I love Christmas! I look forward to it. It’s a time of giving and remembering God’s precious gift. It is the greatest gift you’re able to receive. When we’re giving gifts to each other, we are sharing of God’s bounty, remembering the greatest gift God has given us. ‘All good gifts around us’ He has given. The gift of God is God’s gift to us; He loves us and wants us to enjoy the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

We also have the gift of life. We are all breathing. That’s God’s good gift to you and me. You’re alive this morning. Are you thankful and appreciative? He has given you breath so you can sing His praises, so you can rejoice in Him and share His gladness with others. How ungrateful we are that we don’t always give Him thanks for it. How ungrateful we will be, even on Christmas Day – God willing, if our lives are spared – we have all these wonderful things around us, and we are not willing to give Him thanks for them.

He has invited mankind to, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6). He will not always be there. God has appointed a time for each of us to receive Him as Saviour and Lord. He is coming again. There will come a time when it is too late. He calls, He pleads, He encourages us. He shares His gift with us. We celebrate Christmas after Christmas after Christmas – and we still say no to Him. We are still rejecting Him.

“Because I have called and you refused,
I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
25 Because you disdained all my counsel,
And would have none of my rebuke,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity
 (Proverbs 1:24-26a)

Christmas is a happy time but also a serious time. God is reminding us of the preciousness of His gift. He is asking you to seek Him, but if you refuse Him, The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). My dear friends, there are two sides to the story: God has given us a gift, the Lord Jesus Christ, but if you refuse this gift, you have chosen death, you have rejected His Son. “The wages of sin is death.” We were born in sin, heading for a lost eternity. God came into this world through the person of His Son. He has shared His love with us. By rejecting Him He says, the same God who came to save is the same God who will judge. He will cast those who refuse Him into the lake of fire.

He has invited us. He wants us to come to Him. This Christmas, He wants you to appreciate His kindness, His truth, His love. But if your refuse Him, He will reject you. He knows everything you are experiencing in your life. As a man He lived in Nazareth. He had a family, went to a wedding, ate with Publicans and sinners, healed people, was homeless, rejected – even by his brothers. So don’t say He doesn’t know what we’re going through.

He loves us with such an everlasting love. God sent Him as our Saviour. You can enjoy the Christ of Christmas only if the Christ of Christmas is in your heart. You can enjoy Christmas! Many people don’t enjoy the Christ of Christmas. There is an opportunity this Christmas. God wants you to enjoy it, to enjoy His Son.

You can have a Christ-centred Christmas or a self-centred Christmas. Which will it be? One of the sad things is, for many people, this is their last Christmas. But if you know Christ as your Saviour you have an eternity to live with Him. You will be with Christ, which is far better. You can either receive Him this Christmas or reject Him. “The wages of sin is death.” Being separated from God. When He conquered sin, hell and death, we read that the Lord Jesus Christ say, ‘Because I live, you will also live forever.’ My dear friends, I’m rejoicing in the fact that I will never die. If you know Christ as your Saviour, you can rejoice. It is Christmas every day of my life because He is the Christ in Christmas. He is the Christ of Christmas. Regardless of what people may say, without Christ there is no Christmas. May God bless you.

December 11th 2022: Dan King

Isaiah 6: 1-8

There are many, many people who would consider themselves a good man or women – they help their neighbours, give to charity, pay taxes, obey speed limits etc. Some say others are great people. Then we have really extraordinary people. Isaiah is one of those. If you haven’t read Isaiah, do. It’s a great book, the ‘gospel’ of the Old Testament. It’s a stunning book to read.

Here we have Isaiah’s commission from God. At this point, Isaiah was chief priest, the best of the best. Even for the lowest entry order, you’d have to be able to recite the Torah perfectly. You’d have to recite its entirety to make entry level grade. Isaiah is a godly man who dedicated his life to scripture, to helping folks get closer to God. He then sees God. Isaiah, as chief priest, lives through four kings. The first one is Uzziah. It was a time of great turmoil. We are living through a time of turmoil, with many leaders. It was a bit different when a king died back then. Less media coverage! There would always be that huge uncertainty – what’s going to happen next?

Isaiah sees God. It’s beautiful, In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1). One of my favourite Christian stories is of the angels and the shepherds (Luke 2). Back then, working class folk would have been shepherds – those happy to do hard work, out in the cold. These rugged, predominantly males, come face to face with an angel of the Lord. They were terrified!

Here, on a similar level, we have the seraphim. Seraphim translates as ‘burning ones.’ Not only do these beings have 6 wings, they are also permanently on fire. Isaiah saw multiple beings above his head, burning. You’d be pretty terrified. They are holy, powerful creatures. Although they have 6 wings, they fly with only 2, the other 4 do different things: 2 cover their feet. In the Old Testament, feet are often seen as dirty, as unclean. So, 2 wings spread across feet because even the tiniest blemish would have been truly horrendous for these beings. 2 wings cover their faces. These are holy, powerful beings, yet they can’t dare look at God.

The seraphim call to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3b). There are no adjectives in Hebrew. If you wanted to describe someone, you would say it twice. For example, if I wanted to describe my wife as very pretty, I’d call her ‘pretty, pretty.’ If I was to say it is very cold outside, I would say, ‘It’s cold, cold.’

If you described something 3 times it would be perfect, the absolute. Holy, holy, holy is a perfect holiness. Wow! Perfect holiness. This is how they describe our Lord. Isaiah can’t even describe it. He says, “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1b). So powerful! So holy is God that all Isaiah can describe is the tail-end of His coat, which filled the temple.

Isaiah, himself, is a great, extraordinary man, is faced with this picture. He turns around and says, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5).

‘Woe is me, for I am ruined.’ We have the holiness of God. We have Isaiah, probably the best humanity has to offer. Isaiah knows he has sinned and is living in a nation of unclean lips. Do we still take God as perfectly holy? Isaiah very bluntly acknowledges his sin and the sin of his people. We are a nation of unclean lips. We are people of unclean lips. You have the holiness of God, sovereign of all, then burning ones who dare not look at His face, then we have the sin of man and the holiness of God. Isaiah admits his sin. I wouldn’t be surprised if Isaiah is on his knees, head buried in the ground.

It doesn’t end there. One of the seraphim grabs a pair of tongs and goes to the altar. Pretty special! He takes a burning coal and flies down to Isaiah. A terrifying prospect. He gently touches Isaiah’s lips, his guilt is taken away, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7). Wow! Isaiah is as close to being saved as is possible in the Old Testament. He is selected and chosen by God, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8).

If you read through the rest of the book of Isaiah, you will see that Isaiah’s life isn’t easy. He goes up against three kings who are worse than Uzziah. He sees the entirety of the nation absolutely crumble. He never loses faith! He never stops seeing the blessings that God has given him. Maybe you came here this morning having problems – with your job, heating your home? Isaiah was looking after a kingdom that was sinful and struggling. He never lost sight of how beautiful and holy God is. The vision he had carried him through, always seeing the beauty of God.

We have something even better than that. With the seraphim who goes over to the altar, we can see the altar where Christ died. The cross is the altar. This is an excellent metaphor. Through the cross comes the life, the beauty of Christ. God came, lived for thirty three years and died in one of the most brutal ways known to mankind. He didn’t do it to prove He’s a great person. No, He did it for you and me, because He loves us – a people of unclean lips. He loves you.

Ephesians 1 describes it as grace being lavished upon you. As we approach Christmas, we know that with any gift, you can’t earn it. A gift is given by someone who loves us, who cares for us. In the same way, you can’t go and get eternal life. The holiness of God turns round and says, ‘I love you.’ Psalm 37 talks of how His face shines upon us when we’re together. Stunning! He does it all because He loves you so, for no other reason than He loves you so.

You may be worrying about how you’re going to put food on the table. But in 50 years time, you’re not going to remember that. In a 100 years time you certainly won’t remember that. What about 500 years time? Where will you be? Where will you be in a 1,000 years time? In 10, 000 years? 

My faith is in the Lord Jesus. For many of you as well. What a joyous occasion that will be. Brothers and sisters, if you don’t know, you are loved beyond measure, you are wanted by the Holy of Holies so much so, that He died for you. Not only did He go through death, He went through death to create new life. Amen!

December 4th 2022: James Hughes

Jonah 1

            Have you ever been given a job you didn’t want to do? Or are you in a job you hate and would rather do something else? I recently changed career and am working towards becoming a teacher myself, so I know what changing jobs is like. But what if God gave you a job to do that you did not want to do? That is the situation here in Jonah. He was given a job he did not want to do. He had been given assignments that he was happy with in former times, but this task was one he simply could not bring himself to do.

            Now in our passage today I want to start by giving you an overview of the book, describing the main characters in the book, then I want to draw out three ideas from Jonah 1. After this we shall consider what the passage has to say about Christ, and we shall end with three points of application.

Overview of book

The main characters of the book are:

  • The big fish. Sometimes referred to as a whale in many books (especially children’s books) but most probably some very large fish we do not know much about. Although this is sometimes put as the main character, we read very little about him!
  • Jonah. He is known as the son of Amittai and he is referred to in 2 Kings 14:25 where we learn that he prophesied about the expansion of Israel. He was from Gath Hepher which was located in Zebulun. We learn from the book of Jonah that he was essentially a nationalist. He was more than happy to focus on Israel but not at all on other nations (except to preach against them).
  • Sailors. We know very little about these men except that as a group sailors they were very brave and (most probably) very experienced and knowledgeable concerning the sea and sea faring. They seem to have been a mixture of people for they were exhorted to call upon their own gods. Hence, they were all pagans but probably from different parts of the Mediterranean region.
  • Ninevites. Nineveh was a major city of Assyria, the super-power of that time. They were a particularly cruel people. They would probably not feature in the series of children’s books that go under the title: “Horrible Histories,” because of their violent cruelty. Their form of execution was particularly barbaric and they practised a variety of tortures.
  • God. God is the central character of the book.


            The events of Jonah occurred some 800 years before Christ’s first advent. The Assyrian empire was at its height in power, but Nineveh would be destroyed about 150 years after these events by the Babylonians and other confederates. All of this was prophesied in the book of Nahum.

The book.

            Jonah is very different in style to other prophets, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and so on. The form of writing is narrative and appears similar to the period when Elijah and Elisha prophesied. These were known as the ‘former prophets’ and Jonah seems to fit in with this type of writing. 

            Jonah was sent to the Gentile nation of Assyria whereas usually the prophets preached to Judah and/or Israel.

            The sending of a nationalistic Jew to a Gentile nation is rather surprising, and (humanly speaking) would not expect to succeed. But there is much more going on here than the mere deliverance of a message to a Gentile nation, for the prophet himself is also being dealt with by God. In this we see that God’s purposes are not thwarted. He can bring about His purpose even with means which might not appear promising! Isn’t this something we see time and time again?

Three features of Jonah 1!

            The book of Jonah is a deep well but for now we can derive three important features of this first chapter.

[1] The Just Judge. (Jonah 1:1-2).

            In the second verse we discover that the “wickedness” of Nineveh had come before the Lord. The Lord God is sovereign. He not only rules over-all, but further, He owns all things. He has seen the wickedness of the Ninevites and so judgment was to be handed out to them for their wicked ways.

            Don’t we find in modern life that people love judgement? People like to point the finger. If someone falls foul of modern ‘principles’ they are called out and shown up. None may make a mistake. As soon as someone is judged in error they are made to pay. They might lose their job or their reputation. Modern minds love to judge, to ‘cancel culture,’ and to point the finger. But what do we have here in Jonah? God is sovereign and owns all. He could very easily have rained down judgement upon Nineveh without informing any one and still have been acting justly. We must ask the question: why is God announcing judgement, and why does He not simply destroy them?

            There is a great difference between how modern man sees judgement and how God acts as Judge. God’s announcement is given to bring them to the point of repentance. God’s announcement of judgement to come is a great act of mercy. The Just Judge might easily and justly have destroyed the people of Nineveh, but He announces the judgement first.

[2] The Prodigal Prophet. (Jonah 1:3).

            Jonah was disobedient! He fled from the presence of the Lord. He went in the opposite direction to Nineveh, going to Joppa and then on his way to Tarshish. There are echoes of Adam and Eve’s response in the garden of Eden here. They fled from the approaching Lord. But there is a problem here isn’t there? In psalm 139 (and elsewhere) we learn that God sees everything and knows everything. How then can anyone flee form the Lord? It seems that he was running away from the presence of the Lord – from the felt knowledge of God’s being with him. Why was he doing this? It was not out of fear, nor out of fear of death, for he displays no fears when the storm rages.

            In Jonah 4 we learn that the reason for his fleeing from the Lord was because he knew the character and nature of God. He knew that God was a merciful and gracious God. But Jonah was of the opinion that the Ninevites were totally undeserving of any forgiveness. These Ninevites were so wicked they ought never to be the subjects of mercy and grace.

[3] The Sleeping Saint. (Jonah 1:4-6).

            The storm had become so bad that the cargo was jettisoned and the sailors (experienced men) became afraid. After all the sailors had cried out to their various gods, we see the captain of the ship going to Jonah and asking why he was sleeping in such dire and desperate circumstances. Why was he asleep? Was he tired? Was he sorrowful? Commentators differ on the reasons for Jonah’s sleep. But in reality, it does not matter why he was asleep. The fact was that whilst all around him were seeing the trouble of the storm and were desperately trying to do something about it, Jonah slept.

All about Christ.

            We remind ourselves that the Bible is mainly about Christ. Reading of Jonah fast asleep in a boat whilst there was a raging storm reminds us of a similar incident in the New Testament. Crossing the sea of Galilee one day the disciples were afraid in a terrible storm and there was Jesus asleep in the stern (Matthew 8:23-27). The disciples were astonished that Christ slept in the boat and they shrugged him asking Him why He did not care that they were perishing.

Disobedient and reluctant.Obedient fully pleasing the Father.
Uncaring for the Gentiles and foreigners.He cared greatly for the disciples and he faced much worse than a mere storm for them (the cross). Romans 5:8.

Three applications.

            What can we learn from Jonah chapter 1?

[1] The same Just Judge has pronounced judgement on all.

            Romans 3:10 tells us that there are none righteous at all among men. We often pass judgement upon others and in the process we neatly avoid judging ourselves. All of us fall short of what God requires. Now, the only means of escape is the cross of Christ. Nineveh had the hope of mercy from God. Jonah preached the message he was tasked and Nineveh repented. We too are in a very similar situation to Nineveh. We are wicked. We may have a different flavour of sin to the Ninevites, but it is still sin. We are still deserving God’s righteous judgement. Christ Jesus is our only hope. Only in Christ’s death and resurrection can we find hope! Could we offer our righteousness? By no means! All our righteousness is simply rotten rags. If we offer anything other than Christ, we will be eternally judged.

[2] What would our lack of compassion and our disobedience cost us?

            We might be tempted to think (like Jonah) that some people are outside of the realms of forgiveness. Some people (we might reason) are beyond the pail, beyond hope. Are we personally guilty of thinking about a certain group of people as being beyond forgiveness and deserving of God’s judgement immediately? Do we think that one group deserves judgement more than others? (Luke 13:1-5).

            All are judged already (John 3:36). Only those who have repented and put their trust in Christ will stand in a position of not being condemned (Romans 8:1).

            In the Lord’s model prayer we ask for forgiveness as we forgive others. Are we lacking the compassion of Christ? Let us examine our hearts. Do we consider some as being unforgivable? Are there some we think we simply cannot forgive? This cannot be! Jonah did not think Nineveh deserved mercy so he fled in the opposite direction, and in doing so he lost the presence of God.

[3] We need to awake!

            Are we awake to the situation around us? People are rushing in madness searching this way and that for some solution and hope. But all to no avail. In the world there is judgement with no mercy (cancel culture). But with God there is mercy and grace. He is long suffering! People in the world know that something is wrong. They get the details wrong and they seek for solutions in the wrong places. Now we (believers) have The Answer to the human condition and problem! Are we sleeping whilst everyone else is running around this way and that? Do we bring the gospel to the people? Are we saying to them that God has judged one and all, and all deserve condemnation but there is hope in Christ and His death?

            The Lord has passed judgement on sin and rebellion but has also provided hope in Christ – His death and resurrection. Awake! Rise up to you calling and proclaim the great goodness of God!

November 27th 2022: Ian Middlemist

John 12:36-43

“The Lord Jesus Christ is to be trusted.”

            Is Jesus trustworthy? This is my question. Think about situations you come to for the first time. A new job, or a new school, or a new place to live. Are the people you meet for the first time trustworthy? Can you trust these people with your life?

            We live on the edge of eternity. There are now eight billion people on planet earth. All of us live here on this wonderful planet, but we all face death at any moment, and so we live on the edge of eternity. Well, in the gospel of Jesus Christ we find that He is the only one who can take us into eternity with any hope. The Lord Jesus will take you through life here on earth, and He will carry you into eternity, for He is the only one who can do this. He is the only one who is really trustworthy.

            But still some may say: ‘but is Jesus really trustworthy?’ ‘Is He capable of bringing us through to eternity?’ At the time of His first coming when the people met Jesus they did not immediately trust Him. They asked: ‘is Jesus the Messiah?’ ‘Is He trustworthy?’ Of course, their thinking about the expected Messiah was not really correct, but still they asked the question of this man Jesus: ‘is He trustworthy?’ People of today must ask this same question: ‘is the Lord Jesus Christ as He is presented to us in Scripture trustworthy?’ ‘Can I rest my life wholly upon Him and His ways and words?’ If not, then we had better find out. If the Lord Jesus Christ is just an historical figure, even a great one, or if He is merely a myth made up to make people obedient, well we had better be sure. Is Christ Jesus trustworthy and reliable? If not then we of all people are to be pitied:

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.  (1Corinthians 15:19).

Well, of course the Lord Jesus Christ can be trusted! For though He was rejected and vilified by men, even to this day, nevertheless the Lord God, the Father, accepted Him and glorified Him. If God both accepted Him, was pleased with Him, and glorified Him, surely then He must be truly trustworthy? What value is man’s estimation of things?

            In this message we shall consider two things which should lead to an acceptance of Christ’s full trustworthiness.

[1] He had done so many signs before them. (John 12:37).

            Despite the fact that the Lord Jesus had done so many indisputable and awesome signs and miracles in front of their very eyes, yet still “they did not believe in Him.” In our text we are given two Old Testament quotations, and the first comes from Isaiah 53:1 whilst the second from Isaiah 6:9,10. Both of these indicate God’s sovereignty and demonstrate that God rules over all. We shall consider the first of these here and the second under my second point in a moment.

            John 12:38 brings in a quote from Isaiah 53;1, where we read of one was “despised and rejected by men,” who was “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” and who was “despised” and not esteemed by us. In Isaiah 53:4 we discover that this one was considered to worthy of being struck (“yet we esteemed Him stricken”), and He was “smitten by God and afflicted.” Could such a person be considered as the Servant of the Lord, the Messiah? But the text of Isaiah 53 tells us much more, for it leads us to look for one not only despised and stricken, but one who also “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” who was “wounded for our transgressions,” who was “bruised for our iniquities,” and who “bore the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:4,5,12). Though many would reject Him as not worth consideration, He is still God’s Servant! Through Him we are made right with the Creator, for He has come to deal with our great problem – sin – and has come to bring complete restoration.

            But why are so many people not turning to Him? Given the awesome nature of His mission, and given the great lengths He went to, to secure salvation, why do so many turn away and reject Him? If He was the one prophesied according to Isaiah 53, then why didn’t many people in New Testament days turn to Him for salvation, and why aren’t people doing so now? Still today so many people do not believe. Has something gone wrong? Is the Lord’s plan not working out? NO! By no means! For the text John quotes from Isaiah 53:1 shows everyone that the Lord knew about man’s rejection of His Servant. This did not surprise the Father. The rejection by man of the Servant of the Lord was not only expected, it was also foretold, and so when it comes to pass as John notes, such is a tremendous sign for us to believe! Look at verse 38 before the quote is given, where we read:

that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke … (John 12:38).

So that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah “might be fulfilled”! The Lord had all things planned down to the very detail of man’s foolish rejection of their Saviour. The rejection of Christ by men was not unexpected and it was most certainly foretold. The great question we need to ask ourselves is: ‘why on earth do men (including us) ever reject this incredible and glorious Servant of the Lord?’ They did reject Him and we have done so too, save for His incredible grace and salvation that brought us in. But why do we? The only answer to this is human pride and foolish rebellion. And so the very unbelief of the people at the time of Jesus was the very proof that Christ Jesus was the one expected, the Servant of the Lord, as prophesied by Isaiah.

            Even though there is such grief and trouble in the world, yet still society at large rejects Christ and people do their best to push Christ out of conscience and thought. Why? Why do they do this? People are very concerned about the future of the world today. We constantly hear about ‘climate change’ and the need to ‘save the planet,’ and yet they utterly reject the Saviour of the world who came not only as a ransom for men, but also as the Creator of the new heavens and earth. Well for believers the answer is that despite the rejection of Christ we readily see all around us, nevertheless God is still in complete control.

            A question that might be asked concerning this prophecy of man’s rejection of Christ and His sovereign rule over all is, ‘Does this make God guilty of making people unbelievers?’ To which question we must answer: ‘NO! By no means!’ For the Lord God has “done so many signs before them” (John 12:37). Consider the great efforts that Christ Himself went to in His ministry. Not only did He do “so many signs before them,” but He taught them in great patience and love. The Lord has not hidden Himself away, for He has given incredible witness to the truth by Creation, in and through His people (the patriarchs, Israel, the Church), by means of providence and in other ways besides. There are a ‘plethora’ of witnesses to God’s truths. And all of these were given unto mankind that he might not suffer eternal damnation in the fires and torments of hell. Our text comes shortly after one of the greatest miracles that Christ carried out – the raising of Lazarus who had been in the grave for four days (John 11). Why did the people not turn and repent on account of this incredible sign? Jesus simply issued a command that Lazarus should “come forth” which must have jolted their minds to consider creation, for Christ merely spoke and what He said was done (John 11:43). But the miracles were not the purpose of His coming. Miracles were designed to point to the fact that the Lord Jesus was the promised Messiah, in whom can be found the Father’s delight. The main point of the raising of Lazarus was to teach that Christ Himself was “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). He came primarily to take away sin. Is this not enough to render all who reject Jesus Christ as Saviour guilty? Yes, it most certainly is! The apologists use great arguments to prove the existence of God, but the truth is that there is no reason not to believe, for there were “so many signs” done in full view of the people, all of which signalled that the Messiah had come and they also displayed details concerning Him.

[2] He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts. (John 12:40).

            Many (at times it seems like all) reject Jesus. Yet how can we say that God is just if He makes people blind and hardens their hearts in unbelief? Do the words of John 12:40 mean that God is the cause of unbelief? NO! By no means! The second quote is from Isaiah 6:9,10. In this chapter of Isaiah the theme is holiness as we see, for example, the angels cry out in Isaiah 6:3: “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (this theme runs throughout the book as can be shown by the frequent use of the title “the Holy One of Israel”). The prophet Isaiah witnessed the holiness of God, and he was “undone” (Isaiah 6:5) as he recognised his own sinful state. All those who see the glory of God are immediately humbled. We see it here with Isaiah, we can see it also with Ezekiel in the first chapter of his book (Ezekiel 1:28), and we see it also with John the apostle in the book of Revelation (Revelation 1:17). Once Isaiah was humbled to see his sin, atonement comes to him almost immediately, and following this we see Isaiah offering himself in service. This is always the case when we look at salvation. A person meets with God, recognises their own sinful state, repents of sin and turns to God for mercy, and then when so delivered, they come to the Lord for service: “here am I! send me,”  (Isaiah 6:8).

            God showers us with forgiveness. He is utterly faithful to His gospel – all who come to Him and all who receive the Lord will be blessed, and incredibly so (Matthew 11:28-30; John 1:12,13). Those so forgiven are those who want then to follow and serve the Lord. Consider the former cricketer turned missionary C. T. Studd who once declared:

If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.

Peter, after he denied the Lord three times, was brought back and was told to feed the Lord’s sheep (John 21:15,16,17).

            Isaiah was sent out by God just as the Lord Jesus was sent by the Father, and both faced this terrible rejection of men. (Jeremiah seemed to experience it in a greater way which is probably why some thought of the Lord as the return of Jeremiah – see Matthew 16:14). Isaiah might have expected people to hear what God had to say, but instead the Lord told him they would not. But Isaiah was still to preach even if the people would not hear, and even if they would not come to hear him.

            There is an interesting tale concerning an American Sunday School Union meeting place out in Midwest America. On one Sunday morning one of the overseers went in the depths of winter to see how this work was progressing. As he approached, he could see smoke rising from the chimney of the place and heard the bell ringing to call the people to attend. Stirred with expectation he arrived at the hall and on entering discovered that there was just one fourteen year old boy there. So the overseer asked the boy, ‘Was that the last bell?’ The boy replied, ‘yes.’ The overseer asked how the work was progressing since this boy was all alone. The boy replied, ‘first rate, until this bad weather came along.’ So the overseer asked: ‘how many came last Sunday?’ The boy replied, ‘just me.’ So he asked again, ‘what about two weeks ago?’ The boy replied again,’ just me.’ But then the boy continued saying, ‘I come and warm the place and ring the bell for who knows whether they will come or not? What happens if I am not here and some come?’

            Isaiah was called to be faithful even though the prospects looked terribly bleak. And as he preached, the people seemed to get harder in heart against the word of God. This we may call a ‘judicial hardening.’ But do not think that God is unjust here. God never stops people from believing. The idea that God prevents people from believing is wicked. Rather we learn from Scripture that God takes no delight nor “pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33:11), and would that all mankind would come and “be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Timothy 2:4). But the simple fact of the situation is that every person is responsible for their own heart and way. The Lord sends His people to preach the word “in and out of season” (2Timothy 4:2). He is gracious and compassionate and long-suffering towards mankind. But people reject the message. How many times does the message come to a people and they reject it? Only the Lord knows the answer to that question (Genesis 6:3; 15:16), but there comes a time when the Lord allows those who reject His word to be confirmed in their rejection (Revelation 22:11). The people were determined to disbelieve Christ. They were stubborn and stiff necked. But there comes a time when the Lord will strive no more and the worst of all judgments falls upon such who act in stubborn pride – the hardening of their heart. We see such happening to Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. How many opportunities did Pharaoh have? But still he hardened his heart and God confirmed him in his settled desires.

What then shall we do?

            Christ Jesus is worthy of our trust. Give Him your whole life. Be captivated by Him. Trust in the finished work of the cross. You will not be disappointed, and you will be saved!

            God calls His servants to faithfulness and so we must continue to witness and preach the word, for today is still the “day of salvation” (2Corinthians 6:2).

            Both Pharaoh and Judas hardened their hearts against the Lord and His gospel. But neither of these prevailed, for God still worked out His purposes to bring about salvation despite their evil intentions. So even if all your neighbours, your friends, and your colleagues refuse to hear and reject your witness, do not fear for you are in good company. Keep witnessing to the truth and keep preaching the word, for God will prevail and all His plans will succeed.

November 20th 202: Alan Davison

Luke 16, focusing on Luke 16:13.

You cannot serve God and Mammon.

            I have been going through a book entitled: “I wish Jesus hadn’t said that!” It discusses many things that are a real challenge in this world and has been most useful as a challenge to the soul. One of the things you can find in that book forms the basis for this message. Our culture is very much opposed to the gospel, and to what the gospel considers to be right. In fact, what the world considers to be right is all wrong when viewed from the perspective of the gospel.

            In the current climate of financial difficulties around the world, the call to serve God rather than Mammon could not be more needed. Our Saviour’s view of finances and money could not be more different to the attitudes we discover in the world. The focus for our thoughts in this message will be Luke 16:13:

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon. (Luke 16:13).

That last phrase, “you cannot serve God and Mammon” is particularly important. In the previous two chapters of Luke’s gospel the focus for thought is how we can come to the Lord Jesus and how He cares for us, and in Luke 16 the question posed is, ‘Will we accept or reject the Lord’s offer of grace? Or will we manipulate it for our own ends?’

            The modern world corrupts the truth. A phrase you might have come across in public use is as follows: “Money is the root of all evil.” But the Scriptures do not say this, that the inanimate object of money is in any way evil. Rather, as Paul declared to Timothy, it is the love of money that is the danger.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1Timothy 6:10).

Money might be made good use of, but if our love is for money then all types of evil will be the result. It is the greed of humanity that leads to further sinfulness, not the object itself. Such greediness leads to “many sorrows.” Instead of money being the focus, it ought rather to be considered as a tool.

            John D. Rockefeller was the richest man in the world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He gave much of his money to help others particularly in the areas of education, health, and for some church activities. But when asked by a newspaper reporter, “How much money is enough?” he replied, “Just a little more.” This same sentiment is seen among the modern day rich of the world. They may have billions but just a few more is always needed. For such, money can become the controlling aspect of life. And so for many, money is the god of their lives, controlling their thoughts and behaviours.

            What we often find in Scripture is the two contrasts: The Way of God versus The Way of the World. In this case it is God versus Money (or Mammon). Luke 16 has two parables which pivot about the statement we find in verse 13 which pits God against Mammon (the love of money). In the first parable (the unjust steward) we see a challenge for the disciples, whilst in the second parable (the rich man and Lazarus) we see a challenge for the Pharisees. And so, we shall look at this great verse (Luke 16:13) with a view to these two parables, both of which illustrate the point that “You cannot serve God and Mammon.”

[1] The godly use of money – the parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-12).

            Many commentators find this parable somewhat awkward. Why does Jesus describe an unjust steward in such a way? What could He have intended here? Are the disciples to go around in the same unjust ways? Well clearly not. The Lord Jesus never condones unjust actions. The key to understanding this parable comes in verse 8 where we read:

So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. (Luke 16:8).

It was not Jesus who commended the course of action but the master of the steward. But what was going on here? What, in fact, was the unjust steward doing? To begin with we note that the steward was being called to account for his actions prior to the story we hear. He was to give an account of his stewardship for he had dealt unjustly by wasting the master’s goods. What did this unjust steward do? We read that he called the master’s creditors and made them pay less than they owed. To one he reduced the bill by half, to another he knocked twenty percent off. How should we understand this? Was the steward continuing in his unjust ways? If these actions were a continuation of his former unjust ways in wasting the master’s goods, then it is not likely that the master would commend his steward. What we need to understand is that the steward earned his money by taking a commission on the goods his master owned or sold. Different goods earned different commission which explains the differences we see in the text. So, by reducing the bills, what he was doing was removing his commission. The master would still get what he was owed by those in his debt, but the steward would forego his commission.

            But what advantage did the unjust steward gain by losing his commission? Why did he do this? There are two things we can say:

[i] He was NOT defrauding his master in doing this – hence the commendation he earns from the master.

[ii] But he was seeking to endear himself to the master’s debtors and clientele, in the hope of gaining future employment.

It was not simply that he was hoping that the master’s debtors would give him a meal now and then in gratitude. Rather he was establishing his reputation. He was also enhancing his master’s reputation by lowering their debts, on account of waiving his commission. The steward was still unjust – he still had to face the charges – but the master approves of what the unjust steward did. We are enjoined in this to not seek the gathering of money – but to put what money we have to good use.

            In Luke 16:9-12 we are taught to view money as a tool to make use of according to Biblical principles. We ought to put the money we have to proper use for the benefit others. The statement “when you fail,” (Luke 16:9), is a euphemism for death. If we use our money in this right way by making friends by “unrighteous Mammon,” (v9) then everlasting life is our hope and reward. In verse 10 we learn that what we do on earth with the small things shows how we will fare with the bigger things. In verses 11 and 12 we see this theme continued. If we are unfaithful with regard to Mammon, then we cannot expect to be trusted with the true riches. Then in verse 13 we discover that we cannot ever serve Mammon and God. Money must not dominate our thinking. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself. We need a godly use of money under God’s rule. God must be our only focus and money must always be considered a tool for use as God decides and desires.

[2] The Pharisees’ abuse of money – the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).

            But what then is the worldly view of money? The Pharisees were lovers of money (v14). They would have been unimpressed with Jesus’ first parable about the unjust steward. To them it would have been absurd for the steward to waive his earnings in such a way. In fact, we learn that they “derided” Him, by which we understand that they ‘turned their noses up’ at what He was saying. And so now the Lord Jesus switches focus towards the Pharisees and their attitude towards money. Note here that the explanation is given first and then the parable follows on. We ought to recall that the Pharisees were masters of manipulation and seeking out the loopholes. They had what may be termed “the rule of corban” (Mark 7:11). They had decided that all of their money was dedicated to the service of the temple. But, neatly, as they were the leaders of the system, they had charge and command of all the money! And so they could sidestep their obligations to parents by stating that what would have been used to help them was dedicated to God! All the while it was their money they had ring-fenced for their own use. There were some Pharisees who were truthful and faithful, of course, but by-and-large these lovers of money had their possessions and treasures under their own rule.

            In verse 15 we learn that these Pharisees were ones who justified themselves. They interpreted the Law to suit themselves. In verses 16 and 17 we are taught that the Scriptures (the law and the prophets) will not be passed over nor would they pass away. Not one smallest point of the law would fail. Then in verse 18 we get some teaching on divorce. This may seem out of place, but it was one of the key areas where the Pharisees side-stepped the law. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). There were provisions in the law for marital breakup and how this should be handled, but the Pharisees had all sorts of ways of getting rid of their wives for all sorts of petty reasons.

            In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus we are given an incredibly stark contrast. The rich man is incredibly rich. The purple may signify royalty. Some suggest that Herod Antipas may have been in view here. This man had the best of the food daily. And then we read of Lazarus. He could not walk and had to be carried to the gate. He aspired to feed on the crumbs that fell from the table of the rich man. Dogs licked the sores he sported. Dogs were considered the filthiest of animals in Israel. His was a pitiful existence in terms of this world. Now up to this point the Pharisees would have lauded and celebrated the rich man. He was successful. For them, they would have considered his possessions and money to be a blessing from God. In contrast the Pharisees would have thought of Lazarus as contemptible and not to be lauded. They held to the principle of retribution. Lazarus must have deserved his low and despicable position. A similar theme comes in John 9.

            And so the Lord Jesus flipped things over and turned everything around. Lazarus is the one who gets taken by angels to heaven. The rich man simply dies, is buried, and ends up in torments. In his torment he shows that he had not changed, for he is still commanding and ordering Lazarus to do various things. The rich man pleads with Abraham saying, “Send Lazarus that he may slip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue” (v24). He carries on in this way in verse 27 where he asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers. In this way we see that the rich man is unrepentant.

            In truth there was an immense gulf between where Lazarus was and where the rich man was. Lazarus experienced evil things on earth – we live in a fallen world – but all the while we note that Lazarus was silent. He does not complain and neither does he gloat. Then in great contrast we see the rich man with all his sumptuous riches and foods. He had plenty of opportunity to give Lazarus from his wealth. He could have simply opened his window and tossed out some of his food! But he didn’t!         The rich man simply saw Lazarus as a servant. But Abraham replied to the rich man by saying that his living brothers had Moses – the law and the prophets. This was, of course, the prime source for the Pharisees! God’s word was always available to the rich man, but they chose to do things from their own perspective. The rich man’s brothers were probably just as rich. If they do not hear what Moses was saying, then what else could they hear? Moses brought God’s word. If they do not hear Moses, then they would not listen to one who was raised from the dead. This was shortly to actually happen, of course, for the Lord Jesus would raise three days following His resurrection. Now when this actually occurred, after the resurrection, the elders of the people consulted and gave a large sum of money to the soldiers who were guarding the tomb to say that the disciples had spirited Him away (Matthew 28:11-15). How ironic it is that the Pharisees used their money to suppress the truth.

     In 1956 all USA banknotes were to have “in God we trust” printed on them. There is a certain irony here because this word “Mammon” comes from the same root as the word “Amen.” The root of the word Mammon is that in which we trust. In what should you trust? God or Mammon! Trusting in Mammon is essentially a trust in self. We either trust in God or we trust in self. Will you give yourself to the Lord and use all things in His service? Will you give yourself that He might use you in His service?

Jesus tells us you cannot serve God and mammon. To trust in mammon is really to trust in ourselves: my powers, my abilities, myself. But to trust in God is to lay that before His throne and to say to God, ‘You know best.’ We need to use everything God has given us in His service. It is all from God.

At the end we see that the rich man recognised what was needed because he wanted his brothers to repent, to give up what they were doing wrong. Yet that is something he did not do himself. We have so much, but most importantly, we have the scriptures, the Word of God. They tell us of the risen Saviour who calls us to come to Him and repent. Will we do that? The Christian life should be one of daily repentance. We are not called to give everything up but rather to use what God has given us in His service, rather than simply serving ourselves alone. That is the choice that lies before us. We have money, we have other resources. Will we keep it for ourselves, therefore having worldly abuse of our money, or will we thank God for what He has given us and make Godly use of our money and other resources? May God keep our hearts safe from the lure of mammon, that we may be true servants of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.


November 13th 2022: John Mann

2 Samuel 8:1-14.

The Victorious King

David given promises.

            Today is Remembrance Sunday so it is natural for us to remember battles, war and so on. We remember those who have given their lives in service for their country. We learn about such things at school, and they are still going on in the world around us today. Ukraine is at war with Russia and there are many other battles all around the globe.

            In 2 Samuel 7 we learn of the covenant that the Lord made with David. God promised David that He would never cease to have a man on the throne, but the greater promise was the coming of the Messiah, the true Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ. In that chapter David offered a great prayer of thanksgiving for this promise of the coming Messiah.

            The sure covenant of David is really the covenant of grace. Salvation comes only through grace. This promise given to David is also for us today, for the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, has come and fulfilled all that the Father tasked Him with. No works on our part are required. We can make no payment to be party to this covenant. It is free of charge, for the Lord has done everything necessary to bring salvation to us. The Eternal God of glory sent His Son to become the atoning sacrifice to bring reconciliation and redemption through the door of faith – and remember even faith is a gift!

The promise to David comes true.

            Now David was awestruck when he heard what the Lord planned to do for him, as you can read in 2 Samuel 7. But in 2 Samuel 8 the Lord begins to bring about the confirmation of the promises made to David. As a general principle, always remember that what God says or speaks, He always carries out and does. What God promises is that which He always does. He builds His kingdom irrespective of any threats that may be faced, or equally, irrespective of any lack of faith to be found in His people. David needed to believe the promises of God to him – and he did – but we too must believe the copious promises that the Lord has made.

            So, in 2 Samuel 8 we read of a series of David’s victories. All enemies were defeated and subdued. All opposition was put down. But David does not rest on his laurels. His faith is tested. Now if anyone could say that they needed to stop awhile and put their feet up surely it would be David? Hounded by Saul, and facing much opposition all around, David does not relent but carries on. He continues the fight, striving faithfully, defending the glory of God. And so, he carries on in victory after victory (as we can see in 2 Samuel 8). He sweeps through the surrounding nations and overwhelms the opposing armies. We read that he “subdued” the Philistines, that he “defeated Moab,” and that he “took” spoils of war. David placed “garrisons” in Syria and the Syrians became his “servants.” Throughout our text we read of what David did, but he did not presume on God, and neither did he trust to his own strength, for twice we read these words:

“The Lord preserved David wherever he went.” (2 Samuel 8:6,14).

The Lord God had given David a promise, and the Lord God was going to keep this promise (2 Samuel 7:9). God was with David and would aid him against all his enemies. And so, because of the Lord’s promise to preserve his line so that Messiah would come, victory was assured.

Promises to us.

            Now we too have received countless blessings from the Lord all based upon His precious promises – which cannot fail. These are as sure and certain as the promise given to David. In 2 Peter 1:2-4 we read these incredible words:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2Peter 1:2-4).

We have been promised a part in the divine nature. Look how this all comes about! The Lord God’s own divine power has made it possible, for He has given to us everything needful for “life and godliness.” This knowledge of God comes through the “exceedingly great and precious promises” by which means we can become “partakers of the divine nature.” The apostle Paul declared that:

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Everything we need for life (godliness, partaking of the divine nature, escaping the corruption in the world), has been given to us freely in His promises. If we possess true and real faith in Christ then we possess the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ and we are holy – set apart. We are partakers of the divine nature. Do we realise this? Do we joy in this? The Lord has given us His divine nature – His righteousness – but we still have to endure the things of this world although we are freed from its dire consequences. We must endure tribulation, but all the consequences of sin and death are gone! Our salvation is utterly secure. We are made righteous in Him.

From victory to victory.

            But what about sanctification? There is always the ongoing need for us to be sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). We stand justified by faith, and His righteousness is put to our account, whilst our sin is put to His. But still in this world we must experience the ongoing sanctification of the Holy Spirit. What also about our need to glorify God, to be His ambassadors, and to express the joy, peace, and contentment of our salvation? These too we need to grow in. But the question is: are we driven by these considerations? Do we desire to glorify God, to be His representatives and ambassadors? Are we eager to declare the great goodness and joy of knowing God? Are we victorious in these ways? David went from victory to victory. He defeated the Philistines. Then the Moabites. Then others. How about us? Are we winning the victories that Christ has purchased? Are we being lead as sons of God by the Spirit in the victories Christ has earned? What too about escaping corruption and the lusts of this world? Are we living in the light of the Lord’s great promises? Are we taking hold of the strength the Lord supplies? Are we winning the battles? Not, of course, in our own strength, but in the power and strength that the Spirit gives. Are we striving against sin, overcoming and gaining the victory, which Christ so readily supplies?

            Remember what Christ achieved. Complete and utter victory over Satan, sin, death and the world. These are ours! Paul wrote that:

… in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:37).

The Lord still stands with us. Remember that Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:8). The apostle John wrote these words:

And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4b,5).

We stand on the word of God. Victory is assured because of what Christ has done and all of that was promised of the Father.


            BUT we cannot rest on our laurels. We cannot relax spiritually. Just as David went from one campaign to another we too are in a lifelong fight. Paul spoke of this (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7). Now in an army there are a variety of positions, from generals and captains all the way down to the foot soldiers. The vast majority of the army is made up of these foot soldiers. These are the ones who do the lion’s share of the fighting. We are all foot soldiers in the army of God. Our task is to face the enemy (sin, Satan, the world) and to overcome, to win the day. You may ask: what do I have to offer, what can I do? I am just one foot soldier! Allow me to use an illustration. In the great western films where you see the fights between Cowboys and Indians, the attacking Indians would surround all the Cowboys who would circle the wagons to defend themselves. The women and children would be in the centre but they were not idle. They were the ones who loaded the guns and rifles for the Cowboys to shoot. The weakest among the company were the ones who enabled the strongest to fight the fight. How can we apply this? Well think of the following:

  • Faithful prayers for preachers, Sunday school teachers, evangelists.
  • A word of encouragement to gospel workers or the sick and despairing.
  • A kind deed done to enable relief for those under pressure.
  • A word in season for the battle weary.
  • A timely prayer and encouraging word for a servant who is struggling to make ends meet.

These are like those who load the guns for the ones who fight. Of course, we can apply this whole doctrine to each individual too. We each need prayer, encouragement, help and so on. But never think that you are merely a lone individual who can offer no help! Your prayers for the saints, your words offered in love, your helps done to ease the life of another are all needed.

            We are all in the one army. We are all in the same army. We may serve on different battlefields or in different places, but we all come under the One Commander. Such little acts are not really so little. Consider the following examples given to us by the Lord:

41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. 42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. 43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood. (Mark 12:41-44).

Those two mites were all the widow had. She did what she could; she gave all. Or consider this second example:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

By giving a cup of water to one of the Lord’s servants we are giving such to the Lord Himself who identifies with His people. By visiting those who are in darkness, or by entertaining strangers, we are about our Father’s business. Never think that the small things, the simple things done out of love mean little. Through David, God is establishing His kingdom. No power on earth nor beyond the earth can withstand or overcome what the Lord purposes. He will prevail!

A lesson from history.

            In Genesis 17 we read about the Abrahamic covenant. We have mentioned the Davidic covenant recorded in 2 Samuel 7 but what too of the covenant God made with Abraham? Well, the Lord promised Abraham that the land of Canaan would be for his descendants, and in David we see the fulfilment being fully accomplished. All the land, north, east, south and west was to be given to Abraham’s descendants. Spiritually we know too that the Lord promised David the Son who would sit on the throne in eternity, and in the same way the land (His inheritance) is being gathered in. Just as the Lord made good on His promise to Abraham in David’s victories, so too the Lord will make good on His promises in Christ. There will be a great in-gathering of all those for whom Christ has died and not one will be overlooked nor lacking. God’s promises in Christ are unstoppable. We are given the history of Abraham and the fulfilment in David’s day to help us trust the great faithfulness of God who cannot lie.

The gospel train is unstoppable!      

            Do you fear for the future of the fellowship? Are you worried about the smallness of the current church? It is true that some churches are closing and this makes us sad. But God’s church throughout the world is growing. It is like a runaway train! It is gathering passengers as it rides on its upward journey to glory. Sometimes the train stops and the platform is full of passengers waiting to climb aboard, but at other times there are a few passengers on the platform. We can see this in our history. Whilst today the platform may be bare, in former centuries there were large numbers being added to the kingdom. But do remember that such large in-gathering is taking place in other lands in our day. No power on earth and none in heaven can stop this train, and none can prevent the passengers who have been given their tickets from boarding!

            Do we have the confidence that David had in the Lord as he made conquest based on what God had promised him? Do we have such confidence? The Lord has said that He will build His church and the gates of hell will never prevail. Do we believe this? As believers we are on this gospel train and it runs according to the schedule and timetable that God has set. It may be that in our time the stops are few and few board, but who knows what is around the corner? Are we walking in obedience to the Lord? We do not know if there will come a stop sometime in the future (near or far) when we may see many climb aboard the gospel train! But even if we are in the outskirts and byways of the gospel train’s journey, our task is to keep fighting the fight and seeking the lost. The Lord’s gospel train will reach its destination sure enough. The Lord’s train always runs on schedule. There are no delays and no unnecessary stoppages.

Without the shedding of blood …

            Now in the course of David’s victories there was a great deal of blood shed. In many ways the accounts we read of in Scripture are gruesome. Many question these things. They ask: why did God allow and even promote such killings and bloodshed? We need to be careful here. We are not the Potter, we are but clay. God made all people, and so does He not have the right to deal with people as He pleases? Also remember that God is good, and He always does good. Let no man charge God with evil. Those who faced such judgement at the hand of David were not treated in any careless or cavalier way. The Lord strove with the people prior to the flood and gave them ample warning before judgement fell. He waits long until the iniquity of a people has had its full course. We do not know the details (how could we?) but we do know that God is a just Judge and that He is merciful and long suffering. Never let anyone spoil your understanding of the great grace and goodness of God, for He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Remember too that the people of Canaan were extremely wicked and barbaric. The Lord gives more than ample time for repentance. He has spoken openly and publicly from the dawn of time of His grace and mercy. How many times do we read of the Lord asking people to come, to turn, to seek Him for His mercy?

The Son of David leads to victory.

            And so just as David gained victory after victory, the Lord Jesus is leading His people in the same way by the Spirit of God. In 2 Samuel 8 we should note the futility of opposing David, for the Lord had promised him victory in the land. In the same way those who oppose us are acting in futility for the Lord will succeed in all His endeavours. The Lord Jesus is leading from one victory to another. There are many who seek to bring arguments against us and against the gospel. There are many ‘clever’ men who make great arguments – atheism, humanism, hedonism. These trouble many and lead to deception. We have wounded soldiers. There are those who have been caused to stumble. These enemies appear to have the upper hand. When we look at our nation we might consider that our enemies are far superior. BUT the Lord Jesus has won the victory! He has defeated all our enemies. They are on the losing side. Satan still seeks to snare and enslave. He still seeks to deceive and confuse. He is the thief and the murderer. But Satan can only go so far and no further. He is a created being under the sovereign rule of God. He cannot overstep the mark. He is a bound enemy. He may rage and snarl but he can only do what he is permitted. Remember the story of Job.

            The forces of evil, Satan and his hordes, and all those who spurn the grace of God, will be dealt with finally on “That Day.” They will all be thrown into the lake of fire of which we read in the book of Revelation. When that day comes those who have fallen under the sway of Satan will come to full realisation of their end.

To God be the glory!

            Now David never sought victory for his own purposes, or for his own glory. All that he procured in his battles he “dedicated” to the Lord (2 Samuel 8:11). The power behind all David’s victory was from the Lord. The glory was God’s too. Only God alone deserves the glory, the praise, and the honour, for God alone is good – truly good. Who should get the glory, the praise, the honour in our setting and time? Only the Lord!

            Another great victory was made for us at Calvary. An awful lot of blood was shed at Calvary too. The Lord Jesus fought the battle in Gethsemane and on Calvary and He gained the greatest victory bar none. The Lord Jesus took the spoils of His victory but He says that everything He won and took was for us! All that He won and achieved in His death and resurrection He says: ‘I give it to you’! Listen to what Paul wrote in the first letter to the Corinthians:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Corinthians 15:57).

Are we thankful for this incredible victory given to us? David won many victories as the Lord had promised him, BUT the Lord Jesus Christ won the greatest victory ever. He won the victory over all our enemies, sin, Satan, death, and the world. Are we concerned for the future? Are we worried about getting older and none will take up the mantle? Do not lose heart! Do not despair! Appearances deceive. David’s line seemed at times to be very near destruction – on one occasion all the princes were slaughtered save one baby boy (2 Kings 11:1-3) – but the Lord kept His promise sure. It may seem like God’s promises have failed (they haven’t) but always remember that the Lord never fails.

November 6th 2022: Rhodri Brady

Matthew 6:11

            The focus for our thoughts today are those words we find in Matthew 6:11, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We shall have occasion to look at other parts of Matthew 6, but we shall ask ourselves the question: are we praying for this on a daily basis?

            In Mark Twain’s novel about an adventurer called ‘Huckleberry Finn’ he warns the reader not to see any moral tales or deeper meaning in his work for it is all just an adventure. In other works, (e.g. C. S. Lewis’ Narnia tales), the authors would be rather upset if we did not see the deeper significance of the story that unfolds. Aslan was not just a lion but representative of the Saviour, for example. The Bible must also be understood at different levels. The writer of Scripture, the Holy Spirit, expects us to look deeper into the text to see more than the straight forward words. The words of Matthew 6:11 may seem straight forward enough, a prayer that we may have sufficient food. But what do they really convey? Is the Lord simply expecting us to ask Him for our daily food or is there something deeper?

[1] Is the prayer only about ‘baked dough?

            We are dependent creatures. We rely on physical nourishment amongst other things (air, warmth, water, shelter). When the Son of God came to earth as a man, He took upon Himself full human flesh and dwelt as a true human man. He was tired and weary on occasion, and He needed food and water just as any other man.

            Before He commenced His ministry, the Lord was taken into the desert by the Holy Spirit and was there for forty days without food. We might ask ourselves the question: why did He not eat? Why did He go without food for those forty days? One immediate answer is that there is much more to life than food. After the forty days the Lord was understandably hungry, and the Devil tempted Jesus to make bread out of stones (Matthew 4:3). Now if bread was the most important thing, He would have sought food, but instead the Lord responded to Satan with the words of Scripture as found in Deuteronomy 8:3:

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” (Matthew 4:4).

The word of God is far more important than physical food. But what is meant by the phrase: “Every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”? Well, of course, this signifies all the words that God has spoken, and which are written down inspired of the Holy Spirit in our Bible. But then also we learn from John 1:1f that the Lord Jesus is the “Word of God” who has come from eternity and who has made known the Father (John 1:1,14,18). Later in John 6 our Lord taught the disciples that He was “the bread of life” of which all must partake for eternal life (John 6:33,35,48,51). At that time, He pointed out that the manna given in the desert pointed to Him. He is our daily bread!

            We are not, therefore, to think merely of ‘baked dough’ when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” but we are to think of our greater need of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, the true Bread of Life.

            In some old ‘arcade games’ many of the characters employed could not continue in their quest within the game unless they had food. Some games displayed messages like: ‘wizard needs food,’ and when things were dire, the message would be ‘wizard needs food badly!’ But do we see such a message or hear such a warning concerning our need for spiritual food i.e., Christ Himself? We do not live by physical food alone, for the very words of God are necessary and essential.

            It is difficult to live in this way – to make our spiritual food the priority. We are all used to having physical food and we naturally defer to this as our most important need, but really our greater need is the spiritual food that Christ supplies. We do need physical food for our bodies but do we need as much as we consume? How does our consumption of the spiritual food compare to our physical intake? The other extreme is to neglect food altogether and this is unwise. But we need to have the attitude displayed in Matthew 6:33:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33).

We ought to be like Job who said:

I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food. (Job 23:12).

            The Lord Jesus enjoyed food. We see this in His interaction with many peoples as He dined with them. He was once termed a “glutton” (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34), although such an accusation was all wrong because Christ was sinless. He never did anything wrong. But such an accusation surely shows that He was one who enjoyed the hospitality of those around Him. And yet physical food was by no means His greatest love! After His meeting with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, whilst the disciples went off to get provisions, we find that when the disciples returned, they urged Him to eat something. However, the Lord replied by saying that He had food about which they were ignorant (John 4:32). When they heard this, the disciples then spoke among themselves asking whether someone else had brought some food to Him (John 4:33). To this the Lord Jesus replied:

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34).

If our Saviour lived off spiritual food can we do any less? Or do we say, ‘Well He was the Son of God so it was alright for Him to have such a priority’? But remember that Christ was fully man. And when He says that we need to live by the words that proceed out of the mouth of God who are we to say otherwise?

            So, the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” is not just talking about ‘baked dough.’ It does include this, of course, but the more important food of the Spirit is the essential need of the heart. John 3:16 sums up our need. We need Christ whom the Father sent. We need to believe in Him if we are to have eternal life.

[2] The prayer is for “daily” bread.

            When the children of Israel were in the wilderness, the Lord provided them with manna which they were to collect. But they were only to collect a day’s supply. They could not gather in more than what was required for a day, for if they did, that which was left for the next day went rotten breeding worms (Exodus 16:16,20). In the same way we need to rest and rely wholly on Jesus every day.

            We should remember that when God created all things, He made us dwell in the time of days (Genesis 1 & 2). We are designed to live day-by-day. At the end of Matthew 6 the Lord tells us not to worry about tomorrow,

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34).

We find this a hard thing to do – to live day-by-day. But we were created for such daily living. We automatically consider the future and how things will work out for us. However, despite our many plans and aspirations, we cannot do anything at all about tomorrow! Of course we need to make plans, but our heart should be one of dependence upon the Lord. James had something to say about our planning for the future,

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16).

The same is true with regard to sin. We ought not to worry about tomorrow’s struggles. Concentrate on what the Lord brings for us day-by-day. Are you convicted of a particular sin today? Well deal with it today. Seek the Lord’s forgiveness and repentance. Come to Him and receive from Him. Let tomorrow’s issues wait! We are to live our lives daily. In the midst of terrible troubles Jeremiah was inspired to write these words,

22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I hope in Him!” (Lamentations 3:23,24).

How is your morning routine? What do you do first thing when you wake up? Is life so fast that before you exit the bed you are thinking about the day’s activities and plans? Does your routine vary according to how you feel? What we ought to do is to wake up and seek the Lord as a matter of priority. We should wake up every day with the same intent to meet with the Lord. Is the Lord Jesus our first port of call day-by-day? Is the Lord Jesus the one we call upon in each and every trial and situation we face?

[3] How does your soul fare?

            Thinking about this prayer for daily sustenance of the Lord, how do we measure up? Remember that the Lord came from heaven to save souls and He has provided Himself for us that we might live. We need to think through our lives, our pattern of life, to see where our priorities lay.  If we find that we have not prayed this prayer for spiritual food on a daily basis, then we need to change our pattern.

            Adam was given a single command not to eat of one specific tree (Genesis 2:17). This was later expanded to ten specific commands for the nation Israel. Later the Lord Jesus explained that these ten commandments went far deeper than had been realised (Matthew 5-7). Adam failed, Israel failed, and we as sons of Adam fail too. We ought to have loved the Lord wholeheartedly and thence to love all others as ourselves (the great dual summary statement of the law). But the great story of the Bible is that the Lord has come to rescue fallen, needy sinners. He has come to save and to restore us. If we break the Lord’s commandments we will surely die.

After the fall in Genesis 3, the serpent was given no mercy but was simply cursed. Although Adam and Eve suffered curses too, they were also given a promise (Genesis 3:15). Immediately after this, the Lord made tunics out of animal skins for Adam and Eve. To do this He had to sacrifice an animal whose blood was spilled. In this we see the need for sacrifice on account of their sin and rebellion, and a covering for their nakedness. The promise of Genesis 3:15 and the action of the Lord in making clothes for Adam and Eve point directly to the cross, where our Saviour became our sacrifice. Even though our sin leads to death, what Christ has done has brought us life (Romans 6:23)!

            The Lord Jesus Christ sought His Father first, always. Even on the cross He called out to the Father (Luke 23:34,46). But then He also called out “My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Despite the fact that He was forsaken of the Father, the Lord still called upon God! How we need to rely fully, and wholeheartedly on the Lord. We need to trust Him, and we need to keep on trusting Him, and then we need to seek His promises. Such promises as:

Lamentations 3:23,24 – the great mercy and faithfulness of God which is new every morning.

Matthew 11:28-30 – the promise of rest for all who come to Christ.

John 3:16 – the promise of eternal life for all who truly believe.

There are many others!

We need to pray daily for the living bread of Christ! After the celebration of the Passover, before the Lord was crucified, He took bread and then broke it before His disciples, saying that they were to take and eat of it, for this was His body broken for them. Whenever we eat anything, we break the food up into pieces. In the same way we must take of Christ who broke Himself up for us. He has made Himself available that we might daily feed on Him. Let us taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)!

October 30th 2022: Ian Middlemist

Luke 10:25-37. “The Great Samaritan.”

            Being in prison is not pleasant (to say the least)! Imagine you are in a situation where you have done something and have been charged with a crime, but you want to be cleared of these charges.  You need a good lawyer or solicitor to get you off, to present your case in the best possible light. Well, that is what is happening here in this well-known passage most usually referred to as the ‘Parable of the Good Samaritan.’

            In Israel the Law was uppermost in their thinking. The Law of God, which makes demands on all mankind, can only be interpreted properly by the Creator, for it is He who has defined it. Many people interpret the Law in their own way, from their own perspective. Some say, “Well I have never murdered anyone, so I have kept the commandment ‘thou shall not kill.” But the Lord points out to us in Matthew 5:22 that anyone who is unjustly angry with another in their heart and refers to them as a “fool” is in danger of judgment and hell fire. The Law applies not simply to the external examples set down but to the very heart of each specific issue. Each command in the ten commandments acts as a heading.

            We have in our text a popular and to some their favourite story. This passage has inspired many to become better people (do-gooders) and may well have been the inspiration for charities like the Red Cross and others. We must be kind not simply to strangers but to those considered to be our enemies. But God’s Law is supposed to challenge us – who we are – it is not there for us to pat ourselves on the back.

[1] How may I inherit eternal life?

            We are introduced to a “certain lawyer” who wanted to ask a testing question of the Lord Jesus (v25). He asks: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” This is the question uppermost in this lawyer’s mind. Is this our question? Do we ask such a question today? I rather think not. We have other ‘more pressing’ questions (we believe). Questions such as: “how shall I pay my bills in this difficult time?” How will I cope with what I face at work? How will I pay for the petrol and heating bills? How will I deal with this illness I face?” Our questions are very much this world centred and earth-based. But this lawyer who has come to Jesus, is concerned with the issue of life and death. What happens after we die? He wants to know how he will fare in the life to come. Eternity awaits! He knows about heaven and hell. Where will I spend eternity? There is, in fact, no greater question to ask. Where will you go when you die? Do you have assurance of a place in heaven? Or do you deserve to be in hell?

            Now the lawyer spoken of here is a different kind of lawyer to the ones we know of in our day. This man was concerned about the Law and how we interact with God. Modern day lawyers are concerned with cases between people (person A vs person B). This lawyer was concerned with the cases between people and God.

            You may be asking this question, “Why cannot it be true that all people will inherit eternal life?” Surely, we might think, it is God’s good nature to welcome everyone? However, there is the great problem that none are good enough to enter heaven. None are as good as God who is the great definer of good, and He will not admit to heaven anyone who is not good. So, the lawyer asks what he might do to gain an entrance.

            Now the lawyer was well aware that the Lord Jesus would direct him to the Law to make a summary statement – the two great commandments. We get a similar incident in Mark 10 where the rich young ruler asks the same basic question (“good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life”? Mark 10:17). In that instance the Lord Jesus pointed the rich young ruler to the second table of the Law. So, the ‘answer’ to the question concerning eternal life was well known – do the Law and you will live (Leviticus 18:5). The lawyer knew the answer to his own question! However, what the lawyer did not know in truth was whether he met the standard of God. What the lawyer wanted was to justify himself. How could he be sure that he was actually keeping the Law? It is likely that in truth the lawyer knew that he did not keep the Law properly. So, his second question gets to the heart of the issue. He wanted to justify himself (v29). He wanted to have an assurance that what he was doing in his attempt to keep the law was sufficient. In many ways this second question (“and who is my neighbour”) is the lawyer’s attempt at getting around the Law, or of side-stepping it somehow by finding a ‘loophole.’ He wanted to know what he could practically do himself in order to be able to enter heaven.

            Now this, we know, is the wrong approach. None can keep the Law (except Christ Jesus) and so none can actually inherit eternal life by their own works. None can justify themselves. To attempt such is actually to be proud and even arrogant. We need the Law – it shows us the character of God and what is good – but we need deliverance, rescue and salvation.

[2] The good Samaritan, (v30-35).

            There are three options here to the situation described in meeting the requirements of God’s Law that people may adopt.

  1. Ignore the lawyer and his question. Don’t even bother to seek justification.
  2. Seek a loophole. Get knowledge of the Law to find a way of appeasement. This is what many ‘religious’ people do. They make an acceptable religion for themselves and stick to it as best they can.
  3. Humble yourself and seek the Lord for the one way possible. There is one way which will be true to the totality of all of the Law and which will bring great joy. Become a servant of the Living God.

The story that the Lord Jesus relates is very true to life. The priest and the Levite both ‘walk on by’ when they come across the poor beaten man. But we must not be too quick to judge these two men here in this story that the Lord tells. Have you ever done this? Have you passed by on the other side? There are many accounts we could speak of in contemporary life of a similar nature. I heard of a young two year old girl who was knocked down by a vehicle and left bleeding and unconscious and it was reliably reported in the media that many people saw her but did nothing. They just walked on by. There are many other similar accounts and maybe you too have walked by when you saw a beggar or someone in need by the road.

            The story is vivid. A Jewish man is on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. In those days the roads were dangerous on account of robbers who would take advantage of people in isolated areas. We have similar places in our world. Places you would not go about into at night or on your own. Now this Jewish man fell among the robbers who took his clothing and harmed him seriously so that our Lord described him as being “half dead” (v30). In this description of the plight of the robbed Jewish man we have a graphic picture of the threefold lost state of all mankind.

  • None one cared for him – those who should have cared all passed by.
  • He was in desperate need of rescue and kindness.
  • He could not save nor even help himself.

[a] The Priest (a ‘man of the cloth’ v31).

            The priest comes by and saw a man who looked and appeared, to all intents and purposes, as dead. Now the Law instructed this man that to go near a dead person was to become defiled (Leviticus 21:1,11). So rather than risk defilement he passes on by. One commentator puts it like this: “the priest transgressed the entire second half of the law to preserve his keeping of the first.” He was in a dilemma. If he touched the man to help him he would become defiled and then not able to do his duties. Because he wanted to keep his duties and perform his rites he walks on by. So he ignored compassion in order to preserve his own dignity.

[b] The Levite (of lesser rank v32).

            Levites were support workers to the priesthood. They performed various practical functions in the temple. The text indicates that he came by and had a closer look (“came and looked”). He also, however, passes on by. It would be too costly for his reputation to do anything for the man who appeared to be dead. Martin Luther King in his efforts to help the black sanitary workers in 1968 said this: “what would happen if we did nothing?” All acts of kindness are costly and will also cause suffering, but what happens if we do nothing?

[c] A certain Samaritan (v33).

            Now the lawyer may then have expected that the next person to come near would have been an Israelite layman. The priest and the Levite have been shown up as no help, but surely an ordinary Israelite man would do something? But no one expected the Lord Jesus to suggest a Samaritan man. The mention of such a person would have aroused deep feelings within the lawyer. The Samaritans were utterly detested. They were considered to be the scum of the earth. It was natural in Israelite company to pray for the destruction of the Samaritans – they were thought that bad.

            Now we are challenged, as this lawyer was, to show kindness to all people for all needs. But we need to go further than simply looking out for all mankind’s needs.

[3] The Great Samaritan (v36,37).

            Imagine if Jesus had told the story the other way around. Consider the scenario if he had a Samaritan man beaten and left for dead and an Israelite came by? No Jew would ever help the Samaritan! It would have been unthinkable. But Jesus is placing this lawyer in the story as-it-were, for the one beaten and left for dead is an Israelite. As we read the account we are meant to put ourselves in the place of the beaten man. The Lord Jesus is speaking to an Israelite lawyer, and the Israelite in the story is the man beaten and left for dead. The Lord effectively says to the lawyer: “wouldn’t you want even a Samaritan to help you in such a desperate condition?” To such a question the lawyer surely would have had only one response? When in such a poor and needy condition, then surely help from anyone is accepted. When you are poor and needy then anyone could be your neighbour.

            In Ephesians 2:5 we are taught that all people by nature are dead in trespasses and sins, and the only hope for us is rescue and deliverance – being made alive. The tragedy is that most people are unaware of their lost and needy condition. They are, as the Israelite man in the story, “half dead” (v30). They walk around and live in an earthly sense but they are spiritually dead – separated from God – and so half dead. All the people we see in the world are ravished by sin and are dying in sin as ‘that day’ approaches when Christ returns. Some take medication to dull the pain of their (unknown) sin. But sin renders a person helpless and legally undeserving of the kindness of God and eternal life.

            BUT One has come – one most unlikely, unexpected – to rescue and to deliver. His name is “Jesus Christ,” who was once called a “Samaritan”:

Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8:48).

Christ Jesus is the Great Samaritan. It was He who entered this world of sin and degradation. Jesus entered this dangerous world precisely to see us, touch us, lift us, to bring us to safety, to clothe us, and for this great help to be a permanent reality for the rest of our lives. This is exactly what the Samaritan man did. But Christ Jesus did it at the cost of His life.

            Don’t try to be a good Samaritan! Instead recognise yourself as the half dead Israelite robbed by sin and in need of rescue. You need to receive the love of Christ as depicted here in this story. You are in dire need! And there is One who has come and not passed on by. He has come to deliver and to give you a permanent place of safety. We cannot see ourselves as the good Samaritan. None are like this by nature except Christ Jesus who was once called a “Samaritan” (John 8:48). Stop justifying yourself! Recognise your state and be rescued by the Great Samaritan. And then follow Him as He continues in His plan of rescuing unworthy people. Have you been rescued by this Great Samaritan – Jesus Christ?