November 21st 2021: Rhodri Brady

“Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend,
    and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity.
Better is a neighbour who is near
    than a brother who is far away.”

Proverbs 27:10

This proverb shows us where we should go when things go wrong. It is found in the second collection of Solomon’s proverbs, gathered together by Hezekiah. We can learn three points from this:

  1. Disaster will strike
  2. Our instinct when disaster strikes will be to go to a relative who may live far away.
  3. The correction Solomon gives is for the Christian’s emphasis to instead be to be placed on friends – best summed up as the local church.

Disaster will strike. Not if, but when. This may seem a bit of a bleak outlook at first glance. For some, disaster striking is familiar. However, for others, you may have been relatively sheltered so far and may think it will continue like this. But Solomon says, ‘When disaster strikes.’ We need to be prepared for disaster. It is a reality in outlook because we are living in a fallen world. We are all going to die. Solomon asks, ‘What do we do in the light of the fact that we are all going to die?’ We also face the death of those around us. What will you do if their death comes? Where will you turn? There are other disaster, such as accidents, divorce, storms, suicide. Solomon says, it is not if disaster strikes, but ‘when.’

What perspective do you have when disaster comes? The Lord protects and cares for us but He has never promised to make us immune from disaster. You need a plan of action for when disaster strikes. Do you think about what happens right at the start of the Bible? We sinned, the curse of the fall, death. They are painful but shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Solomon’s second assumption: we may be keener to seek out relatives far away. How far will a disaster tempt you to travel for help? Solomon detected within himself and people he observed for people to neglect the church family in favour of others. It is better to prioritise the local church. Our instinct is to neglect the local church and go to neighbours, no matter how far off.

The way we act on a crisis is much more difficult to control than we think. We need to be prepared. In Solomon’s context we would be more willing to seek help from family members who live miles and miles away, rather than the local church. Or we may prefer to go to a self-help book or a YouTube video for advice, as opposed to a church family. We need to admit our bias. We are living in a very individualistic culture, where people often feel, ‘I don’t need church.’

The correction Solomon gives: instead of forsaking the local church and travelling away, a Christian’s emphasis should be placed on ‘friends, friends of your father and neighbours.’ In other words, the local church. Church members are friends, family and neighbours. There are three terms used here by Solomon, which, when placed in the context of the Bible’s teaching on church, should be seen as descriptions of church members.

Church members are friends. One way the Bible describes church family is as a group of friends. Our culture has kidnapped the word ‘friends’ to describe people who are all the same age, tastes, people who you choose. But the Bible has a much richer definition of friends. The Bible says that in the church there should be good friendship among believers. They have a unique unity because they all love and fear the Lord, they worship together. David speaks of one of his friends as,


 “A man, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
    within God’s house we walked in the throng.
(Psalm 55:13-14)

Church members are our friends because we worship together. Church members are also friends because they are meant to share possessions, food, money (Acts). Church members are friends because they are meant to serve together, to work for the Lord, which is why Paul can talk of the Philippian believers as his friends. They had a partnership in the gospel.

Church members are friends because they pray for one another. In the book of Acts we see the church family meeting together for prayer, praying out loud for each other. Think how often Paul said to church members, ‘I prayed for you.’ Church members are friends because they shouldn’t keep a record of wrongs that have been done against them. Church members are friends because of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus is the friend of sinners. We can have this relationship as friends because He first loved us.

The next description of church family which Solomon uses is ‘friend of your father.’ Solomon is saying church members are family. When you become a Christian you are adopted into the family of God. Jesus told us to pray ‘Our Father.’ We’ve heard the Lord’s Prayer so many times, we skip over these words. Jesus says we can call ‘My Father, your Father.’ He says, ‘Let’s go together, to my Father, Our Father.’ God the Father is the Father of every single member of the church. The world says ‘blood is thicker than water,’ but baptismal water is thicker than blood.

Church members are neighbours, a word especially used in the books of Moses, especially when Moses gives the law to the people, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18).

Church members are our neighbours. Our culture describes our neighbour as a person who lives next door to you or in close proximity. The Bible sometimes uses the word in that way, but it has a much broader teaching on neighbours. The core concept in the Bible is church family are neighbours. Paul writes, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25) We are all members of one body. Neighbours – begin with church members and expand from there.

Solomon is stating not to neglect the church members we have been given. We must not neglect the church in any way. There is a practical element here. Do not forsake your church family, do not take away the privilege of helping you in a disaster. If you have people near you, from your local church, don’t pursue people on the internet you have never met, don’t rely on family who live miles and miles away. Prioritise church family.

We need to be able to discriminate between those who we should contact in a disaster. Church members should be our first port of call. As a church we must be ready to do that for our church family. Don’t neglect your church family, make the most of them.

We need to cultivate and work on our church relationships, support and encourage, share joy and sorrow, lovingly rebuke, share unity and fear of the Lord, show sacrificial service to one another.

Start with the small things – asking church family to help us, to call on them. When the big disaster comes, they will help you. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to cultivate the small things now? Whatever it might be, ask your church family for help. Pray for one another. What is the spirit of your prayer meetings? Do you have a close-knit fellowship going together to the throne of grace?

Do you live peaceful lives together as church members? Do we cover our each other’s sins in a good sense? As a family, we don’t keep a record of each other’s wrongs (1 Corinthians 13). When there are sins that need to be exposed, we have a choice to cover it with love or confront it. The only way love can cover wrongs is by the blood of Jesus. Instead, we often choose to harbour it, but that is detrimental (Proverbs 10:12).

The purpose of church discipline is to lead to repentance. Ultimately, the Lord Jesus Christ came to us when we weren’t His friends. When we were still His enemies, He called us His family, He called us His friends. He died for us. He left His Father’s house, heaven, to come to us, to save us. How amazing it was the Lord Jesus didn’t forsake us. When disaster struck us, He came to save us, even when it meant leaving the Father. The Father could never have been further from His Son then when He was on the cross, when His Son became sin in order to save us. That was the extent to what He was willing to go for us. We must accept and rejoice in this gift, repent of our sins and respond accordingly. We need to take the Lord Jesus as our example and live as He lived.

So, when disaster strikes, don’t forsake our friends, family or neighbours. Prioritise Penuel Baptist Chapel family. Call on them when disaster strikes. May the Lord Jesus enable us to look to Him, as the one who ultimately left everything in order to make us friends, family and neighbours.

October 1st 2017: Mike Viccary

Mike Viccary - Oct 2017

Isaiah 27:1

‘In that day the LORD with His sore and great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, even Leviathan that crooked serpent; And he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.’ (Isaiah 27:1).

‘There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.’ C.S. Lewis.

‘In that day.’ This phrase is frequent in Old Testament prophets. We hear it four times in Isaiah 27. In verse 1 it speaks of punishment, in verse 2 it refers to the song of the vineyard, in verse 12 it refers to a great gathering (the return from exile) and in verse 13 it is associated with the great trumpet. The phrase ‘In that day’ often refers to both Christ’s first and second coming. Here, the chief emphasis from these verses refers to the second coming.

Looking at our text in Isaiah 27:1, it gives two characters: the Lord with his sword, Leviathan – the dragon serpent.

We shall look at the verse under three headings:

  1. Leviathan defeated and judged
  2. By the sword of the Lord
  3. Application

1.Leviathan defeated and judged:

We shall consider:

  • Identity – who is Leviathan?
  • Character – what is he like?
  • Destiny – what will happen to him?

(a) Identity: who is Leviathan?
He is not a chaos monster of any myth. He is described as being wreathed, twisted in flesh, a serpent – the serpent who deceived Eve in Genesis 3:1. He is also described as a dragon (reptile in the sea). In Revelation 12:3 we read of the ‘great fiery red dragon with 7 heads.’ Compare this with psalm 74:13. In Job 41 he is described as a ‘vast sea creature.’ Leviathan is Satan, the Devil.

(b) Character: What do we learn of this creature?
He has four features:

  • He is vast (Job 4:1). You cannot defeat or tame him on your own. Perhaps Job was a little too self-sufficient? Job 1 starts with Satan attacking Job and Job 41 has God telling Job that he could not defeat Leviathan. A.W. Tozer states, ‘I’m not afraid of the devil. The devil can handle me – he’s got judo I never heard of. But he can’t handle the One to whom I’m joined; he can’t handle the one to whom I’m united. He can’t handle the One whose nature dwells in my nature.’
  • The devil is a fugitive, a fleeing serpent. The idea of a fugitive suggests homeless, restless, roaming, cast out. We see this picture in Job 1 and in reference to Satan being cast out of heaven (Revelation 12.9). He is not at peace but a restless, roaming rogue – a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). Having rejected God, rebelled and intent on setting himself up in opposition to God, he has found that he is like a fugitive with no place to rest.

‘The devil is no idle spirit, but a vagrant runagate walked that never rests in one place. The motive, cause and main intention of his walking is to ruin man.’ Thomas Adams.

  • The devil is a twisted serpent. He is a deceitful thief, subtle, cunning, proud, accusing, tempting, a liar and murderer. In contrast, Christ is upright, the Lord our righteousness, He is truth and light.
  • The dragon in the sea. The statement of Isaiah 27:1 is very clearly linked to the description of Satan in Revelation 12 and 13 – the dragon who is in the sea is Leviathan. This is complex. The imagery is very important. In Revelation we read that the sea represents all the people in the world. I John 5:19 tells us that the world lies in the sway of the wicked one.
  • Destiny: What will become of Leviathan?
    We come back to Isaiah 27:1. This creature will be punished and will be killed. He will be held to account so that judgement can be carried out. He will be killed, cast into the lake of fire and separated finally from the goodness of God. He will have no more power, influence or effect (Revelation 20:10).

  1. By the sword of the Lord.

This is a theme that runs throughout scripture.
First, a flaming sword was guarding the way back in Eden after Adam and Eve were ejected (Genesis 3:24). It was protecting divine things.

Secondly, there are a variety of places where the pre-incarnate Christ appears with a drawn sword (theophany, Christophany): Numbers 22:23 (Balaam / donkey), Joshua 5:13 (Joshua outside Jericho). In all these instances God is protecting truth and attacking anything which would ruin divine truth

Thirdly, we have texts which indicate God’s stated enmity against all evil, sin and wickedness – pictured as swords and fighting. Deuteronomy 32:39-42. God will kill and has a sword to reek vengeance on His enemies and which will devour flesh. Compare with Ezekiel 21, especially verses 14-16.

Fourthly, in contrast to these images which portray judgement in graphic, we have statements connecting the sword with the Word: Isaiah 49:2 He has made my mouth like a sharp sword, Revelation 1:16, ‘Out of the mouth went a sharp two-edged sword (c/f Revelation 2:12, 16). Hebrews 4:12, The Word is a two-edged sword. Ephesians 6:17, the sword of spirit, the Word of God.

I do not think we realise how powerful God’s Word truly is!

Fifth, we read of a clear connection between God’s sword and man’s action. Judges 7:18 & 20.

Sixth, we read wonderfully of the Lord being our sword. He is not just a shield but a sword for us. Deuteronomy 33:29, ‘Who is like you [Israel] a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help and the sword of your majesty.’

Seventh: The sword of the Lord is against sin, of unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). But listen to these words:  “Awake o sword against my Shepherd, against the man who is my companion,” says the Lord of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered.” (Zechariah 13:7) He has experienced the sword on our behalf. God enacts vengeance by the Word of God.

Let us look then at the text. The sword is described in 3 ways:

Severe (NIV – ‘fierce’). It is unrelenting. It will not stop and it will not be short, it will reach to every act of wrongdoing.
Great. Infinite. There is nowhere where this sword cannot reach.

Strong (NIV ‘powerful’). It is able to meet any opposition. Only God’s sword can defeat Behemoth (and Leviathan). Job 40:19 – only the one who made the creature can do so.

All sin, all wrongdoing, all evil, all rebellion – all will be judged and ‘executed’ by this sword.

According to works we shall be judged! Revelation 20, 17, 13.

Who can escape the sword?

Thanks be to Jesus Christ who has taken the sword for us (Zechariah 13:7) and who has worked well.

There are only two options – obey or rebel. Isaiah 1: 18-20 2Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord . . .”If you are willing and obedient you shall eat the good of the land. But if you refuse and rebel you shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. We should much rather allow the surgical knife and scalpel of God’s Word cut us and charge us than that the sword of God’s vengeance against us and rebellion devour us.

With regard to Leviathan, the dragon’s serpent, the proud rebel wandering this earth, there is nothing left but destruction.

  1. Application:

(a) You cannot fight Satan alone – this is where Job failed (perhaps). You need God, His Word and chiefly dependence upon Him in prayer. Samuel Chadwick writes, ‘Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisom, but he trembles when we pray.’

Corrie Ten Boom wrote, ‘When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians the devil rules. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy.’

(b) Remember where you are – we are in this world where we will experience tribulation. It is the realm of the enemy’s ‘rule’ or influence for the whole world under lies under the sway of the wicked one. From this we need to remind ourselves that we are:

– Citizens of heaven translated from darkness into the kingdom of the Son (Colossians 1:13).

– ambassadors for Christ in enemy territory.
– In a fight and war.

(c) Remind yourself that Satan is a fugitive defeated and on death row. He may be reeking havoc and destruction but he cannot operate outside of the sovereignty of God (Job 1).

(d) Have Christ always in view. Meditate on Him and His beauty. The world takes on board the twisted and evil nature of Satan and so we need to good antidote to the effects of the world – feast on Christ.

(e) Do not underestimate the power of God’s Word. Combine this with much prayer. There are 2 equally disastrous attitudes people adopt – either prayer and no study or study and no prayer. We need both.

(f) Some ‘pointers. ‘Draw near to God, resist Satan and he will flee from you (James 4:8)

Appeal to the Word of God.
Flee (worldliness), follow (right, godliness), fight (keep hold of life). 1 Timothy 6:11.

 

June 4th 2017: Norman Gilbert

Luke 18:1-8

We are living in a day in which there is much to be despondent about. In this parable of the persistent widow, the Lord shows us two encouragements we really need: we need to pray, we need never to lose heart.

In the previous chapter the Lord has been speaking about the day of judgement and talks of the last days. Believers are living in the last days – we may be in the last of the last days. Jesus is reminding followers we’re living in last days. Now, after 2,000 years, we are closer to that day. When Jesus first came, He came to bring Salvation. His return will bring judgement. He will introduce a new heaven and a new earth. In this particular section Jesus is people to have hope. In Luke 17 everyone was carrying on with life as normal, not preparing for judgement. In the light of the days in which you live, do not lose heart. We need to continue in prayer and not to lose heart.

IN this parable there are two main characters – a judge and a widow. The judge oversees the affairs of a particular city. We are told two things about this man; he had no regard for God and no regard for man. He had no reverence for God, no reverence or concern for fellow man, he was self-centred. The widow lived under the jurisdiction of the judge. She was in a vulnerable position. It was the culture of the day for widows to be taken care of by their family, but she may have had no-one to be concerned for her welfare.

Looking at the context of the parable, the widow needs to address her problems. Her only solution is to go to the judge to seek justice. We are not told what her problem was. Initially, when she sees the judge he had no concern for her problem whatsoever. He was not interested. We then see the true character of the widow. Her complaint was so urgent she kept on coming. She shows great determination. She was tenacious, she wouldn’t be fobbed off. In the modern world, she would probably be continually emailing her complaint, the one resorting to Twitter or holding a placard as she sought justice. The judge then decides he will grant her justice. Why? Not because he had a change of heart because he had pangs of sympathy for her; he wanted to get rid of this nagging woman. She got her result in the end by nagging. Her perseverance won the day, it had nothing to do with the heart of the man.

Looking at the application of the parable we see the purpose of it in verse 1, ‘Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.’ (Luke 18:1). We must always pray and not lose heart. This is the reason for the parable. Jesus’ disciples needed to hear those words; they would go through horrendous times. Throughout history there are times Christians need to be reminded to pray and not to lose heart. We may go through those times when we ask ‘Is there any point in asking God to stem the tide of evil of our days? Is there any point praying for youngsters who are fuelled by credit? We live in a generation of people fuelled by alcohol and drugs, a generation who have been provided for by the previous generation and have become self-centred – people who only know Jesus as a swear word. We have every encouragement to pray for people to find a real purpose and meaning in life, to turn from their old ways and follow Christ, who is all we need.

The parable is a challenge to us to continue to pray, not to lose heart. We don’t need to equate the judge to God. It is a contrast. If a wicked judge can help a widow, how much more will a God who loves His people be concerned for them? God doesn’t always give us what we want. The widow kept on praying. God sometimes has to give us time, give us trials to go through. We need to pray day and night. That’s the requirement. If we don’t pray we have to question where we stand. Prayer is an evidence we are a true believer. It is a time when the Christian communes with their heavenly Father. We have a great advocate who presents our prayers faultless before the Father. Pray at all times, in all situations, in any place. We need to pray at prayer meetings. Some don’t like to pray openly, but God knows our hearts. Prayer is vital for the church of Jesus Christ. The church has to gather together to pray continually, encouraging one another.

But don’t use prayer to twist God’s arm. Pray and then qualify it with ‘Thy will be done.’ Be bold in prayer, but praying that God’s way will be done. Have confidence.

At the end of Luke 17 there is a warning; no-one knows when the end of the world will take place but we need to be ready. At the end of this parable Jesus asks ‘will the Son of Man really find faith on earth?’ The widow did not give up, she continued in faith. True faith endures to the end. We have hard days and easy days. When Jesus returns will He find faith? We must not give in, believing He knows best and leaving everything in His hands. Our God graciously wants to provide for our needs.