Monday, December 1, 2008

A New Breed Of Sheepdog

(Permission obtained personally by Buddy Smith to use this article - though, since he had first given permission to Brother Cloud to use it, Buddy Smith has requested that I keep Bro. Cloud's headers and footers with the article.)

(Friday Church News Notes, December 28, 2007, www.wayoflife.org fbns@wayoflife.org, 866-295-4143) - The following is by Buddy Smith, Malanda, Queensland :

The old breed is almost gone. Border collies, Kelpies, Blue Heelers, and "Bitsers" (bits of this and bits of that) are seldom seen among the sheep any more. Instead of Old Blue guarding the flock, we see a new breed that is part poodle and part Basenji.

Basenji can't bark, but they can yodel and howl. Isaiah 56:9-12 is the only text in the Bible on sheepdogs. It describes "dumb dogs (that) cannot bark, sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber... greedy dogs which can never have enough... that cannot understand, they all look to their own way, every one for his gain." A better description of toothless, spineless, voiceless shepherds of God's flock could hardly be found.

We hear from them no warning growl to alert the flock of approaching apostasy. We hear no bark of authority from the pulpit. We see in them no fierce defenders of the lambs. Gone are the fangs, and the lightning attacks on ravening lions and wolves in sheep's clothing. How long has it been since we saw a pastor with backbone and grit who was set for the defence of the gospel? We might as well admit it; most of them have been pensioned off and replaced by a poodle/Basenji cross.

They can't bark, but they can put on a good show. They go to the hairdresser to be permed and perfumed, petted and pampered. They have been trained how to pirouette and beg and roll over and play dead. But barking is no longer part of the course.

Christianity Today recently printed an article on the "Attack Dogs of Christendom." The article was supposed to be an expose of the good men who still know how to bark. When I read it I thought I heard a "basenjipoodle" yelp because of a well aimed stone. Is it possible that Old Blue nipped a lapdog in the pocketbook? Or wakened it from its nap? Did someone rebuke a cute and cuddly clergyperson for welcoming a unitarian wolf into his flock? Did Fido eat Fifi's beefsteak? It might pay, the next time you hear one of the Pope's lapdogs howl to ask why?

If we listen to Christian radio stations and TV broadcasts, we will soon hear the yodel of a "basenjipoodle." It is a whiny sound that appeals to the megachurch crowd, and fits right in with the beat of CCM. But it has no resemblance whatsoever to the songs of the redeemed.

It isn't easy to find an old dog who still knows how to bark, but there are still a few around. If you come across one, hold on to him. They know how to obey the Good Shepherd, and will die for the sheep in order to protect them. Just like their Master.

[Distributed by Way of Life Literature's Fundamental Baptist Information Service, a listing for Fundamental Baptists and other fundamentalist, Bible-believing Christians. Our goal in this particular aspect of our ministry is not devotional but is TO PROVIDE INFORMATION TO ASSIST PREACHERS IN THE PROTECTION OF THE CHURCHES IN THIS APOSTATE HOUR. This material is sent only to those who personally subscribe to the list. If somehow you have subscribed unintentionally, following are the instructions for removal. To SUBSCRIBE or UNSUBSCRIBE: go to the web site and sign up or change addresses there: http://www.wayoflife.org/fbis/subscribe.html. We take up a quarterly offering to fund this ministry, and those who use the materials are expected to participate (Galatians 6:6). Some of these articles are from O Timothy magazine, which is in its 21st year of publication. Way of Life publishes many helpful books. The catalog is located at the web site: http://www.wayoflife.org/catalog/catalog.htm Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061. 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org (e-mail). We do not solicit funds from those who do not agree with our preaching and who are not helped by these publications, but for those who are, OFFERINGS can be made at http://www.wayoflife.org/fbns/offering.html PAYPAL offerings can be made to https://www.paypal.com/xclick/business=dcloud%40wayoflife.org]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Will Not Be in Heaven

The following is from the F.B.F. Bulletin, Jan.-Feb. 1989: In Re. 21-22, the Apostle John gives us a dual description of our final home through a picture of the cessation of that which is old, and the description of that which is new. To instruct us about the spiritual character of this city, John uses familiar scenes and experiences of this earthly life which he declares will be absent in that celestial city.

1. No More Sea (Re 21:1). It is not by accident that the sea is declared to be the first "no more" of heaven, for the elements, pictures, and symbols represented by the sea contain virtually all the rest of the "no mores" that follow. While the sea is a beautiful part of God's creation, the allusions in the Scripture to it refer mainly to its power or danger. (1) The sea represents danger, peril, and fear. The Noahic flood, the Red Sea exodus, and the experience of Jonah all portray the dreaded elements of the sea. (2) The sea is the symbol of distress, unrest, agitation, and commotion. Never still, it constantly moves in restless fashion. In Isa 57:20-21, the unsaved are pictured as being like "the troubled sea, when it cannot rest." ... The turbulence associated with man's journeying on this earth will someday terminate forever. (3) The sea is the emblem of division and separation. The sea, with its accompanying lakes, rivers, streams, and brooks, is a great divider. Three-fourths of the earth's surface is covered by the sea waters which serve as boundaries and barriers, limiting communication among nations. (4) The sea is the emblem of mystery, containing the secrets of past civilizations, countless thousands of human bodies and sunken ships. The mysteries of God, depicted by the sea, are numerous. The Apostle Paul summarized these inscrutable mysteries when he states that God's ways are "past finding out" (Ro 11:33). Who can fully understand, in this life, the mysteries represented by the believer's tears? (5) The sea also speaks of the storms of life; the deluge of temptations and the flood of persecutions which pour out upon us on this earth. For afflicted and persecuted believers, the stars sometimes seem to refuse to shine, and the night seems so dark as the waves of problems roll over our souls; but in that celestial city, all these raging storms shall cease!

2. No More Separation (Re 21:4). The word "death" in the Bible simply means "separation," never annihilation or cessation of existence. In biblical writ, the word "separation" has four distinct meanings: Spiritual Death, the separation of man's spirit from God's spirit due to sin. This is the separation of the natural-unsaved man from God (Ro 6:23); Physical Death, the separation of man's spirit and soul from his body; the separation of the visible from the invisible, and the temporal from the eternal (Heb 9:27); Temporal Death, the separation of the believer from sin in his daily walk (Ro 6:1-12); Eternal Death, the final, eternal separation of the unsaved from God in Gehenna, the lake of fire (Re 20:11-15). The believing saint is given the scriptural assurance that physical death, that "king of terrors," will be banished forever from the presence of God. For the child of God, death is only a temporary separation, for someday we shall meet to part no more.

3. No More Sorrow (Re 21:4). Sorrow is often symbolized by tears and crying. The tears of life are many: the tears of a soured life, bitter memories, broken hearts, grief, disappointment; even tears of repentance and godly sorrow. The Bible often speaks of those who weep, cry, and shed tears. In the inspired Word, we read about weeping saints (Jn 16:20-22); weeping soul-winners (Ps 126:5-6); weeping sinners (Mt 22:11-14); weeping sorrows (Jn 20:11-15); weeping servants (Ac 20:19); and a weeping Saviour (Jn 11:35). In this life, tears and weeping are a necessary portion of life. How blessed to know that God keeps the tears of Christians in a bottle in Heaven (Ps 56:8), and that the weeping and sorrowing of the believer is vastly different with regard to death than that of the unsaved (1 Thess 4:13-18). For the believer, "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Ps 30:5).

4. No More Sickness and Suffering (Re 21:4). Probably one of the most difficult questions believers are asked to answer is the "why" of the suffering; why do the believers suffer so much while ungodly sinners seem to escape unscathed in this life? Like Job, we sometimes cry out "My soul is poured upon me; the days of affliction have taken hold upon me. My bones are pierced in me in the night season; and my sinews take no rest" (Job 30:16-17). We have the assurance, however, that in our eternal home, all sickness and suffering shall cease!

5. No More Sanctuary (Re 21:22). While already mentioned, this deserves reiteration. The temple was a structure where devout Jews came to worship God and where God manifested His presence. There are no temple structures today in which God dwells, other than the temples of believers' bodies (1 Co 6:19-20). The ornate cathedrals, magnificent edifices, and costly sanctuaries are not dwelling places for God, and there will not be any such structures in Heaven. According to Re 21:22, the entire city will be a "sanctuary," with God the Father and God the Son being the new Jerusalem's "temple."

6. No More Shadows (Re 21:22; 22:5). The night speaks to us of weariness, tiredness, weakness, and sometimes of dread, fear, and crime. Believers live amid a world which resides in spiritual darkness (Jn 3:19; Eph 5:11), the darkness of sin and evil. Though there is less restraint today in daylight among the ungodly than in previous generations, the largest percentage of crime is still committed under the cover of darkness. In Ps 23:4, the believer is pictured as passing through the "valley of the shadow of death." Death is portrayed as a valley through which we pass in our entrance to the "house of the Lord." We "walk through" this valley; we don't reside or abide in it! Also, it is termed only a "shadow." While a shadow may temporarily scare, it has no harmful powers. The city beyond that tunnel of death is the "New Jerusalem." No special lighting will be needed in that fair land, since the Lamb Himself is the light (Re 21:22-23; 22:5).

7. No More Sin (Re 21:8, 27; 22:3, 15). Nothing that "defileth" will enter there, only those whose names are written in the "Lamb's book of life." The word "defile" means "to pollute" or to "make unclean ." This spotless city will not contain either the defilement or the curse of sin (22:3). Our present world is a cursed world, the curses of which can be traced back to the origins of sin (Ge 3:14-19). (1) The serpent is cursed (Ge 3:14). The most dangerous of all reptiles portrays the person and evil work of Satan (Re 12:9). When we think of the serpent, we think of the forked tongue, the blazing eyes, and the poisonous bite. Satan, the serpent, will be banished from the presence of God, eternally exiled in Gehenna, the lake of fire. There is also (2) the curse upon the woman (Ge 3:16), which involves sorrow in childbearing and subjection to a husband in marriage; (3) the curse upon the male (Ge 3:17-19), and (4) the curse upon creation (Ge 3:17-18). In spite of all the advances in medical science, every time a mother brings forth infant life, she goes down into the valley of the shadow of death. In spite of all of man's attempts, it is still by the "sweat" of his face that he earns his labor. In spite of all the ecological emphasis, creation still has its pollutants. The whistling of the wind, the echo of the lightning, the howling of the prairie dog, the screeching of the owl, and hundreds of other noises remind us constantly of the curse of creation. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, typhoons, and disease plagues are regular reminders of creation's curse. Re 22:3 reassures us that these curses will all be removed in that heavenly city.

The songwriter pictured it accurately when he wrote:

Heaven is a wonderful place,
filled with glory and grace;
I want to see my Saviour's face,
for Heaven is a wonderful,
Heaven is a wonderful, yes,
Heaven is a wonderful place.

Heaven will be Heaven, because it will be filled with the countenance, favor, beauty, and presence of the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is our privilege and responsibility, as believers, to point men and women to the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can lead them to that eternal city (F.B.F. Bulletin, January/February 1989).

(Used With Permission)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Supreme Commander - Joshua

The Companion of the Way - by H.C. Hewlett


CHAPTER FOUR

THE SUPREME COMMANDER (Joshua 5) - Joshua



I. THE SETTING -- PRELUDE TO CONFLICT


The years of Israel's wandering had passed. The feet often weary on the desert way stood at last in the land of promise. Nought had failed of all that the Lord had spoken to His people. Moses, their leader, had been called to Mount Nebo, where he was shown all the land which the tribes should possess, and was thence called to Heaven, there to rest till upon another mount, the holy mount, he would stand in glory with his Lord. In his place was Joshua, who would lead Israel across Jordan and into the possession of their inheritance in the land.

Neither in the desert nor in the land could the nation prosper save through the divine blessing and the divine presence. Accordingly, when Moses was taken from the sphere of his toil, and Joshua stood alone with his burden, the Lord spoke to him words which renewed the promise given to Moses at the burning bush. "Certainly I will be with thee," said God to Moses as He sent him to Egypt to deliver the people (Ex. 3:12). "As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee," said He to Joshua ere He bade him cross Jordan, and again, "Be strong, and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest" (Josh. 1:5, 9).

The happenings at Jordan were themselves true vindication of the promise of the presence, but there awaited Joshua that experience of the Lord that should meet his need in warfare, as the revelation to Moses in the bush had met the latter's need in the forty years. It was one thing to stand in the promised land; it was another to take possession of its length and breadth. "Every place," said the Lord, "that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses" (Josh. 1:3). The land, however, was held by the kings of the Amorites and others, and it was necessary for these to be driven out. Years of conflict and conquest lay before the warriors of Israel, and they must battle courageously, but only by the power of their God could they prevail. Even so did Joshua remind them, "The living God is among you, . . . he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites" (Josh. 3:10). It was to be Israel's conquest -- yet not theirs, but God's.

Before the first victory, which taught its own significant lesson, in that the walls of Jericho were razed by act of God and not by human prowess, Joshua received the great favor of an appearing of his Lord. It was his privilege to hear the voice that had spoken to Abraham, to Jacob, and to Moses, and to behold the One who had ever been with His people for their guidance, preservation, and empowering. Ere his warfare began, there was granted to Joshua a fresh display of the perpetual presence which would invigorate his heart and set before him the spiritual

Conditions Indispensable to Victory.

As a young man he had stood upon the shore of the Red Sea when Moses and the children of Israel had sung unto the Lord and had spoken saying, "I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: . . . The LORD is a man of war: . . . who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" (Exo. 15:1, 3, 11). Now beyond Jordan he stood with the weight of years upon him and the burden of the nation's welfare, and he must learn anew those things whereof they had sung.

Even with the vigor of the spiritual strength developed through those forty years, Joshua required yet more to appreciate the character of God and His claims upon him. Only thus would he be equipped for the forward march through the land and for all the problems that would confront him. The lessons he would learn were not for Joshua only but for us also who look back upon his life and around upon our modern age. It is the fresh vision that leads to the fresh victory. To content ourselves with past experience of His presence, past glimpses of His face, and past hearings of His voice, is to forget that His fullness and power are alike inexhaustible and that His name is Jehovah, the name of unceasing promise. As Joshua stood in the land, but must tread in every place to possess it, so we have been "blessed... with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3), but these require to be appropriated by faith for personal enjoyment. As there were foes to challenge Joshua's right to the land and to withstand his march, so there are mighty powers of darkness which challenge us whenever we seek to realize our high calling and to enter into our heavenly wealth. Woe to us if we seek to meet them in our own strength!


II. THE REVELATION -- THE SWORD OF THE LORD

"And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked..."
(Josh. 5:13). Repeatedly in the Old Testament this expression occurs (to lift up the eyes and look) and with most solemn association. Thus it is used of Lot's gaze toward Sodom, and of God's bidding to Abraham: "And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar . . . And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward" (Gen. 13:10, 14); of Abraham at Mount Moriah, beholding the place and the substitute: "Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off" and "Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son" (Genesis 22:4, 13); of Isaac as his bride drew near: "And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming" (Gen. 24:63); of Balaam's contemplation of the people he was compelled to bless: "And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him" (Num. 24:2); of God's bidding through Isaiah: "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth" (Isa. 40:26); and of Daniel's visions: "Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last" (Dan. 8:3) and "Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz" (Dan. 10:5). It indicates no casual glance, but the intent gaze, often with longing, with which the heart looks out in

Moments of Destiny.

Seeing that it is fraught with such importance, it is not surprising that it should be used of Abraham at Mamre when God visited His friend, of Jacob and Esau at their meeting, and of Daniel in the vision of God wherewith his earthly life was consummated. So Joshua in this scene, burdened with the nearness of the first city to be attacked and with the issues of the conflict, becoming conscious of the presence of a man who was outwardly a stranger to him, looked with keen eyes upon this One who confronted him.

We do well to pause and remind ourselves that we need to be men of uplifted eyes, who in every time of choice and crises and on every occasion that makes new demands upon us look with set purpose to the face of the Son of God. Lifting our gaze from the earthly to the heavenly, from our need to His fulness, and seeking Him who yearns to answer every longing of the heart toward Him, we shall not be disappointed.

"And, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand" (Josh. 5:13). Once more the Lord of Heaven deigned to present Himself in appearance as a man. His identity was not at first known to Joshua, but His acceptance of worship, His direction to Joshua to loose the shoe from his foot, and His use of the title, "Captain of the host of the Lord," combine to indicate who He was beyond all doubt. It was a true theophany, and, as ever, it was in the person of the Son that God was revealed. As befitting the occasion, He was seen holding

A Naked Sword.

That sword could not rest, for the land was in the power of those whose iniquity was full. As the Lord had executed judgment against the Egyptians for their sins, so must He execute judgment against the nations of Canaan. The driving out of those nations was not only necessary to the giving of inheritance to Israel but was merited by the appalling sins with which they had defiled the land. Since the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God had been longsuffering toward the inhabitants of Canaan, but the lesson had gone unheeded, and the time had come for the land to be cleansed.

Very early in human history was the sword of God seen. When the peace of Eden was disturbed by the sin of our first parents, God "drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" (Gen. 3:24). The flaming sword set forth the character of the throne of God, of which the cherubim were the attendants and ministers; God's holiness demanded that the way of the tree of life be closed to the sinner.

Yet again the sword gleamed, but to find its sheath in the heart of the substitute for sinners. At Calvary there was fulfilled the saying of the prophet, "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts" (Zech. 13:7).

Barred to me that heavenly Eden
Till the flaming sword,
In God's righteous wrath uplifted,
Smote Thee, O my Lord.

And now the Heaven of heavens stands open to the believing sinner, for the throne is satisfied, and the Saviour slain on the Cross is the Saviour exalted at God's right hand.

Thus the glory outside the garden of Eden and the sacrifice without the gate of Jerusalem both proclaimed the inflexible nature of God's dealings with sin. In Joshua's day the sword was drawn against the sins of the Canaanites, but the power that made Jericho defenseless before the warriors of Israel made those same warriors helpless before the men of Ai, and the Lord's verdict on their defeat was "Israel hath sinned" (Josh. 7:11). God has

No Differing Standards

for His foes and for His friends, so that sword was drawn also against the sin of Israel. This is seen markedly on two other occasions when Scriptures speaks of the One with "his sword drawn in his hand." When Balaam persisted in going to Balak, and his ass "speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet" (2 Pet. 2:16). "Balaam said unto the ass, . . . I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee . . . Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: . . . And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned" (Num. 22:29, 31, 34).

Again, when David sinned in numbering the people, "God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it . . . And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem . . . And David said unto God . . . even I it is that have sinned" (1 Chron. 21:15-17).

The hireling prophet and the shepherd king were met by the same One with the same sword.

The lesson is imperative to victory and to fellowship with the victorious Lord that on God's part there can be

No Truce With Sin.

That His grace has made us His own is no excuse for sin in our lives. It is not for us to presume upon grace. "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid" (Rom. 6:1, 2). If we would know our Lord as the mighty One who gives victory over every foe without, we must first know Him as the holy One who condones no sin within us.

"And Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come" (Josh. 5:13-14).

Not Merely As An Ally

revered and welcome must he be known to Joshua, but as supreme commander. Before He could unfold the plan of victory, He must be given His true place and honored with His rightful dignity. All sovereignty was His. Hence He spoke the word that proclaimed Himself as Captain and that bowed Joshua at His feet. The phrase "host of the LORD" is peculiar to the people as they left Egypt and entered Canaan. Of the Exodus it is said that "all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt" (Exo. 12:41).

From the first chapter of 1 Samuel the Old Testament writers speak not of the host of the Lord but of "the LORD of hosts." This title views armies, both heavenly and earthly, of angels and of men, as subject to the one Lord of all. His majesty and His power have surrounded His throne with shining myriads who do His will and of whom it is said, "The host of heaven worshippeth thee" (Neh. 9:6). His people Israel were likewise His host, but they often rebelled against Him. When at Kadesh-barnea they refused to enter the land of promise, they dishonored the divine captain and appointed from among themselves a captain to lead them back to the bondage of Egypt: "And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt" (Num. 14:4) and "refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not" (Neh. 9:17). Would Joshua and his people receive the blessing of an omnipotent commander? Then must they submit themselves unreservedly to His authority.

The Captain of the host of the Lord is none other than the Captain of our salvation: "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Heb. 2:10). This latter title takes cognizance also of the Lord's own path through this world in lowly manhood, for the word here rendered "captain" combines two thoughts. He is the author, the source of salvation; He is also the leader in the way, He effects deliverance, and as deliverer He goes before. In this title, "salvation" refers to the whole of His deliverance of His people from its beginning at their conversion to its consummation at their glorification. The title is rich in its certainty, for it is attested by the crown of glory and honor upon the victor's brow. It is rich in its promise, for it speaks not of a captain of defeat, but of "the captain of their salvation." His leadership knows no failure. "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:14).

"And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?" The secret of Joshua's greatness, as that of all the men of God in Scripture, is seen in his exercise Godward. Had we only the record of David's wanderings and warfare, we would know him as a warrior, but we would not know the real David. For this we must read his psalms and listen to the breathings of his soul in trial, in penitence, in rejoicing, and in adoration. We would not know the real Paul had we only the record of his journeys and not the intensely biographical passages of 2 Corinthians and Philippians. Similarly, it is Joshua's humility and worship before his Lord and obedience to Him that underlies his military prowess and his consistent witness to the Lord's power.

Worship is that unreserved homage of the creature which is to be rendered to the Creator alone; it is the prostration of heart in the presence of Deity. The realization of that presence should fill believing hearts with gladness; it must ever fill them with awe. Worship springs from appreciation of the greatness of God, the wonders of His attributes and ways, and, most of all, His revelation in His Son. With Joshua, worship was no formal thing; its reality was attested by the

Completeness of His Submission.

Placing himself entirely at the disposal of the One before whom he lay with his face on the earth, he sought at once to know His will. "What saith my lord unto his servant?" The emphasis of the inquiry rests on the words, "my lord." Like the apostle who saw the wounds in the body of the risen Christ, gazed into His face, and spoke forth his adoration in the words, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28), Joshua in the address, "my lord," owned His claims upon him. So it was through all those years of unfaltering allegiance till that day when he said to the tribes, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve... as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Josh. 24:15).

The path of blessing involves the active quest of the will of God. It is the exercised heart that is the guided heart. Our modern age is grievous because of the spiritual apathy of many who have been redeemed and the wastage of talent, gift, and years since there is so little seeking of the mind of God for His people's lives. The quest must be ceaseless. Had Joshua and the leaders of Israel remembered their necessary dependence upon the divine wisdom, they would not have been beguiled later by the Gibeonites, nor would it have been written of them that "the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD" (Josh. 9:14).

"And the captain of the LORD's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so" (Josh. 5:15). The first word of the Man with the sword proclaimed the majesty of His own Person, and the second the unfitness of His servant, in spite of his privilege, to stand in any personal merit in His presence. The ground itself was holy because of the infinite and eternal holiness of its Maker, who deigned to stand upon it. Accordingly, Joshua must show his own unworthiness and the reverence due to such august company by standing there with unshod feet. Not yet was a single word spoken concerning the approaching warfare or concerning Jericho and its capture. Joshua had sought his Lord's command. It had come, and he had obeyed at once. Even so had the Angel of the Lord spoken to Moses at the bush, and that before He proclaimed His purpose to deliver His people from Egypt. Only when Moses and when Joshua stood unshod in that presence could they hear the revelation of the divine will for the path that lay ahead. Herein may we find the cause of much of our failure. We assay to meet the foe, but we go without God. We surround our Jericho, but its walls mock our endeavor. Dispirited and embittered we turn from the path that would have given most glory to our Leader, and seek an easier task. But He looks for men who will stand in the secret of His presence and go out to triumph in His name.


III. THE BLESSING -- THE PROMISE OF VICTORY

Not till the servant was prepared for the message of victory did the Captain unfold the way in which Jericho would be taken. The sixth chapter of Joshua opens with a parenthesis touching the siege of the doomed city, but the second verse of the chapter continues the words of the Captain to Joshua. Here the narrative speaks of Him by the great name of "the LORD," which is the Lord God, or Jehovah, for Joshua had learned who He was, and had paid Him the homage which was due to none other. Well did he know the command of Moses, "Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name" (Deut. 6:13). Consider also Matthew 4:10 "Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."

"And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour" (Josh. 6:2). "I HAVE GIVEN." It was

A Word of Absolute Power.

Nought could frustrate it. By His own act God cast down the walls of the city, and "the people [Israel] went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city" (Josh. 6:20). "I have given." It was the word of One who, long after, ere ascending from Olivet to His throne, said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore... and, lo, I am with you alway" (Matt. 28:18-20), and of One who, appearing in glory to John in Patmos, spoke of Himself as "he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth" (Rev. 3:7).

Does He not still speak to those who wait His holy will? Does He not say of every obstacle that raises itself to oppose His sovereign sway, "I have given"? God means all His people to be victorious, but not in their own strength. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds" (2 Cor. 10:4). When the presence of the living God is known and honored, when His people have no truce with sin, when they bow in adoring submission to His blessed will and learn to stand in humility and reverence before Him to receive His bidding, then the highway to victory lies open. It is theirs to go ahead, not in the tragedy of an incomplete obedience such as Israel was made to mourn in Judges 2, but in implicit confidence in the Captain of their salvation and in the wisdom of all that He commands.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Dweller In The Thornbush - Moses

The Companion of the Way - by H.C. Hewlett


CHAPTER THREE

THE DWELLER IN THE THORNBUSH (Exodus 3) - Moses



I. THE SETTING -- THE TRIAL OF FAITH


A new phase in the history of the people of Israel began with their deliverance from Egypt. They entered it a family, they came out from it a nation. The long years of bondage were overruled of God to evidence the faithfulness of His care and the indestructibility of the people with whom He had made His covenant.

That the experience in Egypt would be one of servitude and yet of ultimate emancipation had been declared in the vision given to Abraham, as recorded in Genesis 15. While in a deep sleep he was told by God that his seed would be afflicted in a strange land, but they would emerge from it with great substance. Then he was shown a smoking furnace and a lamp of fire which passed between the pieces of the sacrifice which he had divided that day. Here was prefigured the twofold character of the sojourn in Egypt. On the one hand, the severity of their suffering would be as the heat of a furnace; on the other, there would be with them One whose glory was set forth as a lamp of fire. In the bitterest bondage He would be with them, and in all their affliction He would be afflicted:

"In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old" (Isa. 63:9),

so that their being preserved in Egypt would be a witness to His perpetual presence.

At length a redeemed people stood on the shore of the Red Sea and rejoiced in complete deliverance from the power of the enemy. Before them lay the desert and the years of wandering hidden from their gaze, but not from God's. As that which was to befall them in Egypt had been prefigured in the vision of Abraham, so their experience in the desert was shown in a revelation of God to Moses their deliverer. This revelation sent him back from Horeb to lead Israel forth from Pharaoh's sway.

In the desert of Midian a man who had been mighty in all the wisdom and learning of Egypt was humbly keeping sheep. Forty years of exile had reached their climax, and Moses approached Him in those long, lonely decades when he endured as

Seeing Him Who Is Invisible.

He had not forgotten -- and could not forget -- the people of God with whom he had chosen to suffer affliction rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.

The nature of his exercise of heart at this solemn crisis in Midian is surely seen in Psalm 90, "A prayer of Moses the man of God."

"LORD, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth. For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it"
(Psalm 90).

Though keenly aware of the brevity of human life, he rejoiced in One who was from everlasting to everlasting, One upon whom the changing years took no toil, One in whom His saints found the true home of the soul. "LORD, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations." The generations of strangership in the promised land had been followed by those of acceptance and favor in Egypt during Joseph's rule. These in their turn had been followed by those of sorrow and suffering, but throughout the years God had been their refuge, their hiding place.

In the tenth verse of the Psalm there is indicated the position of Moses at that very time. "The days of our years are threescore and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away."

He himself had reached eighty years of age. Having been maintained by God in full vigor, he sought to enter into

The Purpose of His Preservation.

The pent-up longing for his people in Egypt burst forth in eager prayer. "Return, O LORD, how long?" How long should the grief and bondage continue? "And let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil." He spread before God the tale of sorrow, dealing not with "second causes," but looking beyond them to His permissive will. "Thou hast afflicted us." Finally, he prayed that God would display His work and His glory to them and let His beauty be upon them.

To these petitions God gave full answer in His mighty deeds wrought in delivering Israel and in the many revealings of His majesty during their wilderness years. The first answer was granted to Moses himself in the appearing of the divine glory in the burning bush. It met all his yearning for his people and summed up that which God purposed to do for Israel in the years in which Moses would be their leader. In his prayer in Psalm 90 he had said, "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance." At the bush he was to learn how God would deal with a sinful people, acting in holiness and yet in grace, in judgment and yet in mercy, and in all manifesting among them His unchanging love.

And Moses "led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb" (Exo. 3:1). Whether the expression "mount of God" used both in Exodus and in 1 Kings 19:8 is a Hebrew idiom for the height of the mountain, or whether it refers to the mountain as the place where God gave His law to the nation, it was at Horeb, and particularly at Sinai (Horeb being a wider term than Sinai) that Moses beheld the glory of God. It was also at Sinai on a later occasion that Moses came forth from the divine presence with its brightness upon his face, so that "the skin of his face shone" (Exo. 34:29). There it was that the people were to serve God after their deliverance: "And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain" (Exo. 3:12), and it was there that God showed them His greatness, and they heard His voice: "And ye said, Behold, the LORD our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth" (Deut. 5:24).


II. THE REVELATION -- THE GLORY THAT TRANSFIGURED

A. In the Bush at Sinai

"And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt"
(Exo. 3:2-3).

He experienced, as did other men of God whose lives are narrated in the Scriptures, that the essential characteristics of his lifework were set forth in vision early in that work (see Isaiah 6; Jeremiah 1; and Ezekiel 1).

In the case of Moses we note four features of the Lord's appearing to him, for around these four the lessons of the scene may be grouped.

1. It took place in the DESERT.
2. It chose for its sphere a THORNBUSH (the thorny acacia of the Arabian peninsula).
3. It lit the bush with a FLAME that needed no fuel.
4. It culminated in the declaration of the NAME of God.

The bush with its thorns reminds of the Eden sentence: "Cursed is the ground for thy sake . . . Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee" (Gen. 3:17-18). A desert growth, it had little to attract the eye, but that which arrested the attention of Moses was its endurance in the fire that burned in it. He would expect the thorns to blaze fiercely and to disappear, but to his amazement no harm came to the bush. The fire enwrapped its branches but did not char them. It imparted its radiance to the bush but took nothing from it. Each twig glowed in the fire but was unimpaired, being beautified but not consumed.

The thornbush was a vivid picture of the nation that God was taking for His own. "He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness" (Deut. 32:10).

As The Thorns of the Bush

so were the waywardnesses of the people, and as the thorns witnessed to the curse, so the national behavior witnessed to the ravages of sin in the hearts and lives of men. When but three days from the song on the shore of the Red Sea, the children of Israel began to murmur, and throughout the forty years they provoked God by their complaining and their disobedience. When but a few months from Jordan, with the long years in the desert behind them, they still murmured: "Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread."

It was no ordinary fire that flamed in the bush, but

The Glory of the Lord

which often was manifested in like fashion. In the vision of Genesis 15, Abraham beheld a burning lamp. It was a pillar of fire which gave light to Israel in the passage of the Red Sea. When the people abode at Sinai, "the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount" (Exo. 24:17). Out of the midst of the fire the Lord spoke to them: "And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice . . . Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?" (Deut. 4:12, 33). Out of the midst of "a fire infolding itself" the cherubim and the throne were revealed to Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:4). In the Patmos vision John saw "seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God" (Rev. 4:5).

It pleased God to display His glory in the thornbush and likewise to manifest His presence in Israel. As the fire had lit up the bush but had not consumed it, so would God, the holy God, dwell among the people for their blessing, but the nation would still be preserved. True, on the one hand, were the words of Moses as he spoke to them at the end of his path, "The LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God" (Deut. 4:24). Israel would prove this, yet, on the other hand, they would learn that the Holy One would dwell in their midst in sovereign grace, and that on the ground of the blood of sacrifice. Thus the flame in the bush spoke of the marvel of the divine presence amid a sinful and failing people and His purpose thereby to irradiate them with His light, to enfold them within its blaze, and to transform them to the likeness of His glory.

From the bush God told Moses of His purpose to bring Israel from Egypt that they might serve Him upon the mount. He made Himself known as "the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Exo. 3:6). When Moses asked His name that he might tell it to the people, God said unto him: "I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations" (Exo. 3:14-15).

Three clauses claim our careful consideration.

"I AM hath sent me unto you."
"The LORD God . . . hath sent me unto you."
"This is my name for ever."


With these we link the words of Exodus 6:2-3: "And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them."

The name was Jehovah. Certainly it had been on the lips of the fathers of the nation ere God appeared to Moses, but now it was made known as to its sacred content. The declaration "I AM THAT I AM" was an unfolding of the meaning of the name Jehovah. The form of the word JEHOVAH appears deliberately to intermingle future and past tenses, i.e., He will be, He was, and so He is, and possibly even the sense the He causes to be, or brings to pass.

The name speaks of

The Unchangeable One

with whom essentially there is no past nor future, but rather an eternal present. That which He is, He ever has been. His progressive revelation to His creatures of His glory, and of His purposes for them, is the outflow of all that He is, but it betokens neither change nor development in Him. Again, that which He is He ever shall be. His name is therefore one of ceaseless promise. His infinite Person abides the same. With Him there can be no weariness and no exhaustion, but ever the greatness, the wealth, and the vigor of eternity.

The fire and the name proclaimed similar truths. The fire was self-sufficient; it required nought from any other source to support its blaze; it was a manifestation of the divine glory. The name told of the One whose being is independent of all other existence, the One who later said, "I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me" (Isa. 45:5). In His kindness He gives to His creation all that it needs, but He Himself is in need of nothing from it, "neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things" (Acts 17:25). All His works and ways in His universe have their fount in His own nature. Nothing external can impose any necessity upon Him, or add to Him, or take away from Him. Dependence is a basic law of all created existence. The Creator alone possesses the freedom of an absolute independence.

Because God, the timeless One, had been with the people in their sufferings in Egypt, they had not been destroyed, but the more they were afflicted, the more they multiplied and grew. God was about to manifest His presence still further in power and glory among His people, and this was indicated in the burning bush. As the bush grew in the wilderness, so would Israel be brought to that same place and, because of their unbelief, would be compelled to wander forty years along a desert way. Cut off from natural resources for daily supplies, they would learn the lessons of the wilderness and find that God alone could meet their needs.

Then, as the name of God was spoken to Moses from the flame of fire, so would God be revealed in Israel in the wealth of His character and ways. His mind for the nation was that He would use it to the proclaiming of His name to the sons of men. In spite of Israel's failure, the name was revealed, until amid the nation, and born of it as to His human birth, there was manifested the only sinless Man, and from His pure lips there came the words, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). To the Jews who heard Him the claim was unmistakable. For them there could be no middle course. Either they must own His rightful use of the title, "I AM," and worship Him, or they must account Him a blasphemer worthy of death. In their folly they rejected Him, but it was He who had spoken to Moses from the bush who now spoke to them in lowly manhood.

B. Amid the Nation at Sinai

The time came when the lessons of the bush were proved true indeed. The nation was encamped by Sinai, and while Moses was on the mount with God receiving the two tables of testimony, the people tired of waiting for him and sought gods to lead them. When Moses came down to the camp, he found them worshipping a golden calf. They had left Egypt, but were still tainted with its idolatry. So truly did the bush bear its thorns. Thus, at the very beginning of the national history, Israel commenced that course of perversity that would lead ultimately to the coronation of their King with a crown of thorns. Though Gentile hands would fashion the actual crown, did not Israel, in a deeper sense, even in Moses' day, begin to plat the thorns that would pierce His brow?

Not only did the Lord plague the people for the sin of the worship of the golden calf, but He said to Moses, "I will send an angel before thee . . . for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way" (Exo. 33:2-3). "And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth" (Exo. 33:15-16).

It was as if Moses had said,

"What Distinguished the Thornbush

from others in the desert but the presence in it of the Lord? What will distinguish and separate Israel from other nations but that same presence?" The thornbush had shone with a radiance not its own. So would the presence of God give the nation a unique character. The true mark of God's people is always God's presence. Yet the Lord had said that He would not go in their midst, lest He consume them in the way.

But was not the lesson of the bush that He would be in their midst, and yet they would not be consumed?

To Moses it was unthinkable that they should journey apart from the company of God. If he had found grace in His sight, then he craved the display of that grace toward the nation. Only on the ground of grace to the guilty could a people so guilty know the abiding of their Lord among them. The plea was granted, and the Lord replied, "I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name" (Exo. 33:17).

Again Moses prayed, "I beseech thee, shew me thy glory." As in Psalm 90 his prayer had been, "Let thy [glory] appear," so now he sought the fulfillment of the promise of the bush in a new glimpse of the glory. He was not disappointed, for when next he went up into Sinai, "And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" (Exo. 34:5-6). Moses did behold the glory, and that in accordance with the terms of the word in Exodus 33:23, "And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen." As from the flame in the bush the name was proclaimed, the supreme name, Jehovah, the I AM, so from the presence in the cloud that name was told out afresh: "[Jehovah] God, merciful and gracious."

In this case there was linked with it the unfolding of the divine character. God would deal in mercy and grace with His frail and sinful people.

He Would Abide Among Them

He would do marvels. Then, as the flame beautified the bush with its light, so the glory of the presence lit the face of Moses till it shone, not only accrediting his position as mediator of the covenant, but betoking the desire of God to beautify all His people. "He will beautify the meek with salvation," said the psalmist (Psa. 149:4), but in Moses the meek the lesson was taught long ago.


III. THE BLESSING -- THE GOOD WILL OF GOD

How truly Moses rejoiced in the kindness of God manifested at the bush was evident in his words as he drew near to the close of his life. With God-given sight, he looked back over the lessons of the past and forward to the goodness which God had decreed for His people, and he blessed the tribes. The blessing of Joseph, so stirring in its recital, reached its climax in the words of Deuteronomy 33:16, "the good will of

him that dwelt in the bush."


The experiences of the years of Israel's wanderings had not dimmed Moses' sense of the goodness of God. Rather the truth set before him forty years before had become increasingly precious, so that as he surveyed the blessings of God and the riches He would bestow upon His people, he found nothing to say concerning Joseph to surpass the kindness wherein God had deigned to dwell among the wayward tribes.

We must not miss the force of the word dwelt. Brief as was the actual flaming of the glory in the bush, God displayed His purpose, not merely to visit His people, but to dwell among them. It was this which was further manifested to Moses when he was instructed concerning the building of the tabernacle, "Let them make me a sanctuary; that I way dwell among them" (Exo. 25:8). It was this for which provision was made righteously in the many sacrifices of the Levitical order. And when the long drama of time is ended, and all things are made new, and death, sorrow, crying, and pain shall be no more, then will the voice from heaven declare: "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and

God himself shall be with them,

and be their God"
(Rev. 21:3). The desert will be past, and every mark of the curse will be removed, but the presence which has never failed will be the gladness of eternity.

Our Lord has not changed in His love for His redeemed ones. As He delighted to presence Himself with His people of old, such is His delight in respect to His own today. The passing years prove more and more the desert character of this poor world through which we pass and deepen within us the sense of our weakness and shortcoming, so that we who belong to Christ see ourselves not inaptly pictured in the thornbush. This is true, moreover, of each local company of believers, whether large or small. As a consuming fire, our holy Lord deals with our dross, but His heart's yearning is to display His own likeness in us. So will it be when we are with Him in Heaven; so would He have it even now while the desert lies about us. In the coming day we shall know the fulfillment of His words, "The glory which thou gavest me I have given them" (John 17:22), but here and now He seeks to light each believing life and each assembly of His people with the radiance of His presence and to reveal His blessed name more and more. Soon the desert will be exchanged for the paradise of God, "and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads" (Rev. 22:3-4).

Henry Nott - Herald of the Love of God in Tahiti

Giants of the Missionary Trail

Henry Nott
Herald of the Love of God in Tahiti


by Eugene Myers Harrison

In the shade of overarching palm trees on an island of the Society group in Polynesia, a white man and a native were talking. The former was a missionary, the latter a heathen ruler. The white man and his fellow missionaries had been repeatedly threatened with death. Three of them, in fact, had been killed. Four others were one day assaulted, robbed, stripped and dragged into a stream to be drowned. Managing to escape, they fled across the sea to a remote island, accompanied by all the missionaries except one. This lonely but resolute soul was Henry Nott. He had mastered the difficult Tahitian tongue and with toils and tears had proclaimed his message for more than ten years, but as yet he had not a single convert.

Turning to the native king, Henry Nott said: "For the sake of your immortal soul and of your influence upon your subjects, I urge you, for the thousandth time, to turn to Christ. Do not longer reject His glorious salvation. Every human soul is of infinite value to Him."

"Doubtless you are right," replied the swarthy native, "but for one who has sinned so disgracefully and wallowed in the depths of heathen depravities, there is no hope."

"There is hope," rejoined the missionary. And to prove his point he quoted these seraphic syllables: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Martin Luther called John 3:16 "the little gospel." When, during his last illness, someone recommended to him a certain remedy for his severe headache, he declined with these words: "The best prescription for head and heart is to be found in John 3:16." And in his dying moments he repeated the text three times.

Said Henry Nott: "The only sure and efficacious remedy for the ignorance, the depravities, the sorrows and sins of mankind, is to be found in the gospel of John 3:16."

In appreciation of the sublimities of John 3:16, Martin Luther and Henry Nott were of much the same mind.

I. John 3:16 Is the Only Sure and Efficacious Remedy for the Ignorance of Mankind

To establish a mission in Tahiti had as early as 1787 been the dream of William Carey, the consecrated cobbler, who in 1792 inspired the Baptists to organize the first Foreign Mission Society of modern times. Carey was led instead to India; and to Henry Nott, the consecrated brick-layer, goes much of the human credit for establishing a mission in Tahiti and throughout the Society Islands. He was born in Bromsgrove in 1774, and was a member of the first company of missionaries sent out by the newly organized London Missionary Society. They sailed on the Duff in September, 1796, and reached Tahiti March 5, 1797.

There were many evidences that the people were engrossed in strange and dark practices stemming from ignorance and superstition. It was amusing to see the young king, Otu, and his queen riding on men's shoulders. They were always carried about in this fashion, lest their feet should touch the ground or some other object, because whatever they touched became their own. The official report of the "First Missionary Voyage to the Southern Pacific," published in London in 1799, conveys much astonishing information, including the following:

The mode of carrying the king and queen is with their legs hanging down before, seated on the shoulders and leaning on the head of their carriers, and very frequently amusing themselves with picking out the vermin which there abound. It is the singular privilege of the queen that, of all women, she alone may eat the vermin, which privilege she never fails to make use of.

Several years prior to the arrival of the missionaries, two abandoned white men, dissolute sailors, had taken up their abode on the island. Their names were Peter and Andrew. Using these men as interpreters the missionaries explained to the king why they had come on such a long, perilous journey and inquired whether they would receive his protection in settling among the people. When the objects of the mission had been set forth, the king seemed greatly pleased. He forthwith gave the missionaries the largest house in Tahiti and ceded to them the district known as Matavai. As subsequent events made abundantly clear, the king welcomed the missionaries because he thought their presence would bring him prestige and a supply of Western tools, rather than because of a sympathetic identification with their spiritual aims. The king and the people were very generous in furnishing breadfruit, coconuts, hogs and other food for the missionaries, though they always expected generous compensation in the form of axes, hatchets and the like.

The most powerful man in Tahiti was Pomare. Because of his advanced age, he had given the title of king to his son, Otu, but he was still the real ruler. Pomare was a man of powerful physique and of aggressive, dominating personality. By dint of his ferocious courage, he had succeeded in bringing all of Tahiti under one ruler and had extended his sway over a number of other islands.

Pomare was very friendly with the missionaries and often came to see them. He always brought a voracious appetite and regularly stayed to eat. His favorite missionary friend, Henry Nott, watched him devour a quantity of vegetables and fruit, two chickens and two pounds of pork at one meal. One of his attendants always fed him; his dignity would not permit him to feed himself. The missionary was amused "to see so stout a man, perhaps the largest in the whole island, fed like a cuckoo."

One day Pomare and his wife, Iddeah, came for a visit, perched as usual on men's shoulders. Several of his attendants carried a large chest. When asked why he brought it, he smilingly replied, "To hold the presents you will be pleased to give me." He specifically asked for twenty axes, ten shirts, sixteen mirrors, twelve scissors, one hundred nails, ten combs, one cast iron pot, one razor and one blanket. When these had been given, he looked around and pointed out a number of other things he especially craved.

The natives were persistent in demanding presents. When the supplies of the missionaries ran low and they ceased to give out gifts with a lavish hand, they were robbed of things they desperately needed and which could not be replaced. Thievery was extremely common; in fact, it was a recognized part of the religion of the Tahitians. One of their gods, Hiro, was the protector of thieves. When they went out to steal, they promised Hiro part of the booty in exchange for his assistance.

The missionaries found a class of people called areois. They blackened their bodies with charcoal and dyed their faces red. They had no occupation but dancing, boxing, wrestling and indulging in acts of buffoonery. They made it a practice to kill their children as soon as they were born. Pomare's chief wife, Iddeah, was a member of this society and had killed three of her children subsequent to the arrival of the missionaries.

Soon after reaching Tahiti, Henry Nott and the missionary company conducted the first Christian service ever held on the shores of that dark island. It was Sunday, March 19, 1797. The meeting was held under cover of some enormous trees. The king and a vast concourse of people were present. Pomare said he had been "dreaming about the Book of God which the missionaries had brought" and was eager to hear its message. What was the text used by the missionary speaker on this auspicious occasion? It was John 3:16. As its majestic syllables were translated by Peter, the Swede, and its momentous truths explained, Pomare nodded his head in approbation and exclaimed, "My ty! My ty! Very good! Very good!" And this sentiment was echoed by a host of dark-skinned savages.

"We are an ignorant people and this message is good for us," said the king.

"John 3:16 is the only sure and efficacious remedy for the ignorance and superstitions of mankind," said Henry Nott.

"My ty! Very good!" agreed the people.

II. John 3:16 Is the Only Sure and Efficacious Remedy for the Sorrows of Mankind

As the Duff sailed away on her mission to the Friendly and Marquesas Islands, the missionaries settled down to their new life among savages and with abounding enthusiasm set about the divine mission on which they had come. The gospel of the love of God in Christ had a mysterious attraction for the dark hearts of Tahiti, but little did they comprehend what transformations this gospel demanded and was able to effect. The mercenary attitude of the people is indicated by the remark of their chief priest, Manne Manne: "You give me much talk and prayers, but very few axes, knives and scissors."

It would be difficult to exaggerate either the beauty of the island or the depravity of its inhabitants. A scene of unsurpassed beauty presented itself to the missionaries: verdant valleys and stupendous mountains, the rich foliage of the breadfruit tree, the luxuriance of the tropical pandanus, the waving plumes of the lofty coconut groves, the exquisite lacery of enormous ferns, and, around it all, the white-crested waters of the Pacific, rolling their waves of foam in splendid majesty upon the coral reefs or dashing in spray against the broken shore. It was of such a scene that Bishop Heber wrote: "Where every prospect pleases and only man is vile." The Tahitians wallowed in the abyss of sorrows into which flowed the contaminations and corruptions of barbarism.

The people were afflicted with the sorrows and desolations of war. A state of war was more normal than a state of peace, and there was a fearful destruction of life and property in their sanguinary conflicts. The houses of the defeated foe were burned, the prisoners were butchered in cold blood and those who fled to the mountains were hunted down and slain like wild beasts. Oro was both the Mars and the Moloch of Polynesia. His altars were often stained with the blood of human sacrifices, offered to ensure his blessing in war or to appease his wrath.

The Tahitians were afflicted with the sorrows of cruelty and other abominations. In their wild longing for revenge, they would either openly pursue or secretly watch the object of their enmity as he went from place to place. When the enemy had at last been trapped and slain, the murderer, as likely as not, would take a large stone and pound the body to pulp; then, having dried it in the sun, he would cut a hole in the center, thrust his head through and wear it as a tibuta (Tahitian garment), the arms dangling down in front and the legs behind.

A priest who officiated at one of the temples of Oro said to Nott: "When this temple was erected, every pillar which supports the roof was driven, like a stake, through the body of a human victim."

In his Voyages Capt. Cook gave an accurate description of the appearance and dress (or lack of it) of the Tahitians, but his estimate of their character was far too flattering. He did not remain with them long enough to discover fully the abominations which they practiced. It was commonplace to sacrifice children to their idols, to throw them into the sea to propitiate the sharks or to hurl them into the crater of a seething volcano as a sacred offering. Drunkenness, which was almost universal, was produced by a drink called kava, which caused the people to look and act more like demons than human beings.

When a man wished to atone for some crime he had committed, he would take to the sacred edifice a pig or fowl as an offering. If his crime was considered very serious, he would seek to find a human sacrifice. Pointing to a large tree a native said to one of the missionaries: "Thousands of human sacrifices have hung from the branches of that one tree."

In the house of one of the chiefs there were many wooden gods, including those of the sun, moon, stars and sharks. Each had a sword, axe, or hammer in his hand. This, the priest said, was to be used to kill those who offended them, unless an acceptable sacrifice was offered in atonement of the crime. Many were the cruelties perpetrated upon the people as a part of their religion. By virtue of these offerings the Tahitians were kept in a state of dire poverty. Nott says of a certain temple: "I saw offerings of whole hogs, turtles, large fish, plantains, coconuts, etc., all in a state of putrefaction and sending an offensive odor in all directions."

An idea of the barbarity of the Tahitians may be formed from the dreadful weapons with which they slew one another. Among these was an instrument in the form of a long shaft, to the end of which were attached three spines from the tail of the rayfish. These spines were strong, sharp bones, deeply barbed; and they were so artfully fastened, that, when struck into the body of an enemy, they were instantly detached from the handle and remained rankling in the wound, from which the barbs prevented their being withdrawn. To be pierced by one of these meant certain death, after days or weeks of the most excruciating torture.

The missionaries found that the population of Tahiti was only about a tenth of the estimate made by Capt. Cook thirty years earlier. It may be that Capt. Cook's estimate was high, but it is certain that there had been a startling decline in population. Two of the principal contributing factors were these: (1) the frightful licentiousness of the people; (2) the introduction of venereal and other diseases by the crews of foreign vessels. Concerning the lechery of the Tahitians, Capt. Cook, the great explorer, said: "There is an abyss of dissolute sensuality into which these people have sunk, wholly unknown to every other nation and which no imagination could possibly conceive." Henry Nott expressed the considered opinion that there was not in Tahiti a girl of twelve years who had escaped moral and physical contamination. In consequence, there was frightful suffering and the race was threatened with complete extinction when the heralds of the gospel arrived with their message of pardon, peace and purity.

Nott affirmed that two-thirds of all babies were killed at birth either by one of the parents or by one of those who were infant-killers by trade.

One of the monstrous practices of these islanders was to bury alive those whose infirmities made them a burden. They would dig a hole in the sand on the beach, then, under pretense of taking the aged or sick relative to the sea to bathe, they would take him to the spot, tumble him into the open grave, throw stones and earth upon him, trample the covering down with their feet and go away unconcerned. Then they would coolly share the spoil of his property, which usually consisted of a few paltry articles.

It was among such a people that the missionaries began their apparently hopeless labors. Several of the unmarried men forsook the mission and married heathen women. One of them, Brother Lewis, was murdered a few months later. Several other missionaries went to Port Jackson and entered mercantile pursuits. Another, Brother Waters, went insane, tried to teach the natives Hebrew and imagined himself in love with the queen. With heavy hearts the other missionaries continued their ministries of mercy and their efforts to master the language. In the early days they had to address the people through the instrumentality of Peter, the Swede, as interpreter. This was very unsatisfactory, since Peter was an extremely dissolute man and hostile to the objects of the mission. It was a day of rejoicing when, August 10, 1801, the missionaries wrote to the treasurer of the London Missionary Society, Mr. Hardcastle: "We have the satisfaction of informing you that by the grace of God we hope, for the first time, publicly to address the natives on the next Lord's day. Brother Nott will be the speaker."

Henry Nott was only a bricklayer, but like William Carey in India, he had marked linguistic abilities. He was the first to address the Tahitians publicly in their own tongue. As he faced the people on this auspicious day, with a rapturous gladness welling up in his soul, what was the message and the text that fell from his lips? He said: "O Tahitians, I come with a message of infinite compassion to those in deep distress. I bring glad tidings of salvation to those in sin's control. I proclaim a gospel of comfort to those in sorrow's gloom." And then he quoted the first verse he had translated into the Tahitian tongue -- John 3:16.

A message of infinite compassion to those in deep distress!

Glad tidings of salvation to those in sin's control! A gospel of comfort to those in sorrow's gloom! "God so loved the world."


III. John 3:16 Is the Only Sure and Efficacious Remedy for the Sins of Mankind

There were many things Henry Nott did not know, but he did know that his message was one of salvation, not of civilization. He knew that even if the savages could be civilized without being converted, their basic nature would remain unchanged and they would merely exchange the vices of barbarism for the vices of civilization. His message, therefore, was uncompromisingly evangelical and fervently evangelistic. But he was at great pains to make it clear that the regeneration wrought by the Spirit of God within, must find expression in changed ethical and moral behavior without. It was chiefly this emphasis which aroused the natives' hostility. They were quite willing to become Christians in name, if only they could continue their heathen practices and would be supplied with useful tools and novel toys from western countries.

There were many heartaches, many hardships for the valiant missionary band. Due to the Napoleonic Wars, four years elapsed without supplies or letters reaching them from England. During the ensuing seven years, supplies came only twice and in one of these instances they had been ruined by salt water. The missionaries' shoes were completely worn out, their clothes were but rags and tatters. At times they could obtain food only by scouring the mountains for wild fruit. The Duff was captured by the French on its second missionary voyage in 1799 and all the twenty-nine missionary recruits, except one who died, returned to England.

The missionaries preached and prayed and did their utmost to bring King Pomare to a saving knowledge of Christ, but he died in 1803, a savage monster to the end. From the information obtainable, Nott estimated that, during his reign of thirty years Pomare had sacrificed 2000 human victims as offerings to his idols. His son, Otu, assumed the title Pomare II. He was, if possible, more vicious and violent than his father. He committed so many acts of violence and incited the people to such hostility that in 1805, after eight years of great suffering and of apparently fruitless endeavor, six of the missionaries removed from Tahiti to Huahine. Henry Nott was the moving spirit of the few who did not flee. He repeatedly went on long, arduous preaching tours. He spent months and years over his lexicons, in the study of Hebrew and Greek, and in the translation of the New and Old Testaments into the language of Tahiti. As rapidly as possible the Word of Life was printed and distributed.

In 1808 the house of the missionaries was destroyed, practically everything they had was stolen and their printing type was melted for bullets. Some of the missionaries fled at that time, others the following year. By the beginning of the year 1810 Henry Nott was all alone. He was "troubled ... persecuted ... cast down ... but not in despair," for he believed that the cause of Christ would one day triumph. Looking up at the majestic mountain, called "The Diadem," he said: "That mountain is symbolic. It is a prophecy. This island will yet become a diadem of redeemed Tahitian jewels."

Prior to this, a group of brave English young women sailed for Tahiti to marry men they had never met and to make homes for them. One of these married Henry Nott and proved to be a worthy helpmate.

Nott one day quoted John 3:16 for possibly the thousandth time. A native exclaimed, "Is that true?" Assured that it was, he replied, "Your God is unlike our gods. Your God has love; our gods have only cruelty. The offerings we make to them are only to propitiate them." Then he added sadly, "Your God has love for you, but not for us wicked Tahitians." Nott tenderly replied, "God's love in Christ extends to all. John 3:16 says, 'whosoever believeth.' That includes you." Henry Nott was convinced that any and every human heart could be won, if only made to realize that the wondrous love of God extends to him just as truly and completely as though no other soul existed on earth.

For many years Nott had given special attention to King Pomare II. Finally, his dark mind and savage heart began to respond to the message of John 3:16. He began to attend regularly the services held on the nearby island of Eimeo. With his help and encouragement a chapel was built. It was dedicated July 25, 1813. During the ceremony of dedication Nott announced that on the following day a meeting would be held for those who were ready to renounce idolatry and to learn about the service of the true God. Thirty-one natives responded and a few days later eleven others forsook their idols. The heathen called them "praying people." The number who renounced idolatry soon increased to about 800. Following a victorious battle on November 12, 1815, Pomare destroyed all the idols and altars he could find. The great idol, Oro, was first made a post for the king's kitchen and then cut up for firewood. Pomare took his own idols, twelve in number, to the missionaries and requested that they be sent to the headquarters of the London Missionary Society. Schools were established in all parts of Tahiti, the abominations of heathenism were largely discontinued and thousands flocked to hear the sermons by Nott and his fellow workers, for by this time some of the missionaries who had fled to New Holland and New South Wales had returned. Also, new recruits had arrived.

Pomare provided the materials and erected a church at Papaoa, Tahiti, which measured 712 feet in length by 54 feet in breadth. It contained three pulpits, 260 feet apart. Thus three sermons were preached simultaneously. It was called the Royal Mission Chapel and was dedicated Tuesday, May 11, 1819. The following day Pomare promulgated a set of Christian laws by which the people were to regulate their conduct. Written by the bricklayer-missionary, Henry Nott, they were the pattern for similar sets of laws adopted subsequently by Christian rulers on other Pacific islands.

Sunday, May 16, 1819, in the presence of 5000 people, King Pomare II was baptized. The contemporary account printed at the mission press, Tahiti, two days later says: "Pomare was observed to lift up his eyes to heaven and move his lips in prayer. The sight was very moving, especially to our older brethren who had been watching over him for so many years."

Thus, after more than two decades of tears and toil, occurred the first baptism in Tahiti. Twenty-two years of hardships and disappointments, and Henry Nott began to see the travail of his soul satisfied. In all the thrilling annals of missionary heroism, is there to be found anywhere a devotion to duty in the face of manifold perils, a fortitude under accumulated sufferings, and a fidelity that held on so long with no evidence of harvest, to surpass that of the bricklayer of Tahiti?

The harvest was at last ready and the reapers were busy. During the ensuing decade hundreds of baptized Tahitians became eager students of God's Word and earnest seekers of souls. Some of them, and also some of the missionaries, went forth to take the gospel to Borabora, Raiatea, Huahine and other dark islands. Nott preached in the huge Royal Mission Chapel on Sundays and Wednesdays, and went on preaching tours through Tahiti and other islands. On Eimeo a building, formerly used for the offering up of human sacrifices and other abominable practices of the Areoi Society, was solemnly dedicated as a house of Christian worship. With 3000 people in attendance Nott preached the dedication sermon, using the text: "Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool."

During nearly 50 years of missionary service, Nott returned to his native land only twice. Since only certain portions of the New Testament had been printed in Tahiti, he was eager to see the whole Tahitian Bible through the press. This he accomplished during his second furlough, from 1836 to 1838. While in England he had an interview with Queen Victoria and presented her with a copy of his Bible. At her request he read John 3:16 in Tahitian.

Returning to Tahiti, he labored on till, on May 1, 1844, he heard the Master's summons and went Home. One of his colleagues, Joseph Moore, wrote: "During his last days he conversed much on the great subject of salvation."

When the books at God's right hand are opened, it will be revealed that some of the noblest "Giants of Faith" were men who, with only the rudiments of a formal education, lived lives that were yielded truly to Christ and wielded mightily in His service. High on the Roll of Honor will be the following:

William Carey, the consecrated cobbler, who stirred a sleeping church to action and labored so valiantly in India.

Alexander Mackay, the consecrated mechanic, who endured such tears and toils in banishing the darkness of Uganda.

Henry Nott, the consecrated bricklayer, who, by his heroic sufferings and unwearied labors, opened the door of Tahiti and Polynesia to the sublime tidings of a matchless text: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

For more chapters of these inspiring missionary stories:

Giants of the Missionary Trail - by Eugene Myers Harrison

From The Wicked Gate To The Wicket Gate (Dreamer)

A Dreamer And His Wonderful Dream

The Story of John Bunyan and The Pilgrim's Progress


by Alfred P. Gibbs

Chapter Four - From The Wicked Gate To The Wicket Gate



OBSTINATE AND PLIABLE

Two men, however, determined to run after him and bring him back by force. Their names were Obstinate and Pliable. They soon caught up to him, and Graceless seeing them inquired why they had followed him. They replied that they had come to take him back to the place where he belonged. But Graceless answered, "That can by no means be, for you dwell in the City of Destruction, the place where I was born, and where, if you die, you must be lost eternally. Nay, my friends, come along with me." "What!" objected Obstinate, "and leave all our friends and comforts behind us?" "Yes," replied Graceless, "All the pleasures of the City of Destruction are not to be compared for one moment with the glorious things laid up for them that love God; and if you go with me, you shall share in them for there is enough for all, for the same Lord over all is rich unto all them that call upon Him." At that Obstinate inquired, "What are the things you seek since you leave all the world to find them?" Graceless rejoined, "I seek an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled, and which fadeth not away, that is reserved in heaven for all who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation."

When Obstinate heard this he said to his companion, "Come on Pliable, and let us leave this fool to his folly." Pliable, however, impressed by the earnestness and sincerity of Graceless replied, "Don't revile, for if what he says is true, the things he seeks are better than ours, and my heart inclines to go with him." "What?" roared Obstinate, "more fools still! Come be ruled by me and let us go back." But Graceless, seeing Pliable's hesitancy, invited him warmly to accompany him on the pilgrim journey, so Pliable consented and Obstinate as angry as could be, returned to the City of Destruction.

As they journeyed together, Pliable eagerly questioned his companion as to how far off the Celestial City was, and what things he would get when he arrived there. Graceless, as best he could, tried to describe the glories of that eternal home where all who love the Lord Jesus shall one day be gathered together. He told him of the endless kingdom and of the everlasting blessedness all its inhabitants enjoyed. He spoke of the crowns of reward to be given to the faithful, and of the garments of glory in which the redeemed shall eternally shine. He described the perfection of "that land that is fairer than day," where there is no more crying or sorrow; where there is no more sickness, pain, or death; but where all tears are forever wiped away. He spoke of that city that needs not the light of the sun or moon, but where the Lamb of God is the light thereof (Rev. 21).

Pliable interrupted him every now and again by exclaiming, "Well said! And what else shall I get?" Thus encouraged, Graceless continued to point out the wonderful sights he would behold in that glorious place. He described the seraphims and cherubims whose glory would dazzle the eye. He spoke of the holy prophets, and the noble army of martyrs who had laid down their lives for the sake of the Gospel; of the thousands upon thousands and thousands of thousands of the redeemed, all in robes of purest white, who would sing the great hallelujah chorus; of the myriads of angels who lived only to do the bidding of Him who sits upon the throne; and of the center of all heaven's glory -- the Lamb of God who had loved them and had given Himself for them. As Pliable listened rapturously to this graphic portrayal of the glories of heaven he exclaimed, "The hearing of this is enough to ravish the heart! How glad I am that I came with you! Come, let us hurry up and get there quick!" Graceless replied, "I cannot go very fast because of this burden on my back."

THE SLOUGH OF DESPONDENCY

While they were thus busily talking about the beauties and glories of heaven, and not looking too well to their feet, they did not notice that right in front of them was a great pond filled with mud, the name of which was the Bog, or Slough, of Despondency. Into this mire they fell headlong and were soon covered with the filthy mud, and Graceless, because of his burden began to sink. Then cried Pliable, "Ah, neighbor Graceless, where are you now?" Graceless replied, "I do not know." Pliable now began to be offended and cried angrily, "Is this the happiness you have been telling me about? If at the beginning of the journey we are thus treated, what will it be like before we reach the journey's end?" With these words, he gave a desperate struggle or two, and climbing out of the side of the bog nearest to the City of Destruction, he made his way back to his own home, and Graceless saw him no more. On his return to the city some called him wise for coming back, some called him a fool for ever starting out; while others mocked him for his cowardice. Thus Pliable sat sneaking amongst them, until at last tongues ceased to wag, and he returned to his old time pursuits, companions, and the pleasures of sin.

John Bunyan has given us in these two men a splendid illustration of the difference between a real, earnest, sin-convicted seeker of salvation, and a mere empty, sentimental, and shallow inquirer. You will have noticed that Pliable had no burden of sin. All he was interested in was what he was going to get. Graceless, on the other hand, started on the journey because he realized he was a guilty sinner, needing deliverance from the burden of his sin. Pliable is thus a picture of a mere, empty professor of religion, who, when the slightest opposition shows itself, is immediately offended and throws up the profession he has made and goes back again to the pleasures of the world. He very often terms himself "a backslider," when he has never really been "a frontslider!" It is this type of person who brings shame and disgrace to Christianity.

Graceless, however, keeping his face turned away from the City of Destruction, struggled as best he could to get across the bog; but all his struggles but sank him deeper into the mire, and he began to despair of ever getting out alive. Just as he was about to give up hope, a man named Help came to the edge of the bog and asked him who he was, and what he was doing there, so Graceless explained how he had fallen in. Then Help asked him why he had not looked for the steps across the bog, but Graceless replied, "Fear followed me so hard that I fled." Then said Help, "Give me your hand." Thus advised, Graceless placed his hand in Help's hand, and was thus lifted up out of the quagmire.

The Bog of Despondency, as it name suggests, is a picture of the desponding or sorrowful fears and doubts that fill the mind and soul of the anxious sinner, and sink him deep into despondency, doubt, darkness, and despair. These fears and doubts, suggested by the Devil, combined with the evil reasons of the sinner's own wicked heart of unbelief, all unite to suggest to the sinner that he is too bad to be saved, or failing this, that Christ will not receive him, even if he does come to Him. If this does not succeed he tells the sinner that he will not be able to hold on, even if Christ does receive him. How many a poor soul, bowed down with the weight of his sins, is kept from trusting Christ because of these lies of the Devil!

Help is a picture of the promises of God, which are at the disposal of all in such difficulty. Inasmuch as Graceless had to grasp Help's hand in order to be lifted out of the bog, so the sinner must grasp the promises of God by the hand of faith in order to be delivered from his despondency, doubt, and despair.

If Satan suggests to the sinner that he is too bad to be saved, then here is a promise for him to grasp, "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).

If the evil one is whispering that Christ will not receive the sinner, then this promise will avail to deliver: "him that cometh to me [Jesus said] I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).

If there is any doubt as to the keeping power of the Lord Jesus then this promise that Christ made should be grasped: "I give unto them [His sheep] eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (John 10:28).

If these, and many more exceedingly great and precious promises, are laid hold of in simple faith, the sinner will be taken out of the miry clay of his own fears, and put on the solid rock of God's assuring Word.

MR. WORLDLY-WISEMAN

As Graceless proceeded on his way to the gate, guided by the light, he saw a man coming to meet him whose name was Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, and who lived in the town of Carnal Policy. When they met, Mr. Worldly-Wiseman asked, "Where are you going in such a burdened manner?" Graceless replied, "I am going to the Wicket Gate to be told how I may be rid of this heavy burden that is upon me." Mr. Worldly-Wiseman next inquired if he would like some good advice, to which Graceless replied that he would, providing it was really good. His new acquaintance now proceeded to ask him who had sent him on his journey. When Graceless informed him of Evangelist's visit and counsel, Mr. Worldly-Wiseman waxed indignant and declared that Evangelist was a dangerous and troublesome man; and that the way he had directed him was wrong, as the mud of the Bog of Despondency could testify. He dolefully predicted that there was worse yet in store for him if he persisted in following the light.

He then inquired how he had come to realize that he had a burden of sin. When Graceless replied by saying it was through the reading of the Bible, Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, with a knowing look remarked, "I thought so, and it has happened unto you as to other weak men, who, meddling with things too high for them, get the same ideas as you have which unman them to such an extent that they start on desperate ventures to obtain what they know not." Then continuing in an oily, smooth, and self-confident tone, Mr. Worldly-Wiseman advised Graceless to reject Evangelist's counsel and turn from the light he had been told to follow, and go to a friend of his named Mr. Legality who lived nearby. He assured him that this man would give him the best advice as to how he could be eased of his burden and live in a respectable fashion.

Alas for poor Graceless! Taken in by the fair speech and apparent sincerity of Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, he turned his feet from the way that led to the Wicket Gate, took his eyes off the light he had been asked to follow, and made his way in the direction of the residence of Mr. Legality or Lawyer, who lived near to a mount called Mount Sinai.

WHO ARE THE MR. WORLDLY-WISEMEN?

John Bunyan has given us in this incident a graphic description of what is occurring even now in the life of many a poor sinner. Awakened to a sense of his guilt through the reading and the preaching of the Word of God, the sinner is directed by some Christian to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the door through whom alone pardon, peace, and life may be obtained. While on the way to Christ, he is met by some person, who, never having been born again by the Spirit of God, and consequently ignorant of God's way of salvation, yet seeks, guided by the wisdom of this world, to advise sinners what best to do! It is thus a case of the blind seeking to lead the blind, and the result is disastrous to both. We are told in the Bible that the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, and that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). Let us never forget that "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18). Beware of any man, however well educated, eloquent, and kind, who seeks to turn a sinner from Christ, the only way, and from the Bible, the only guide, to another way that the Scriptures condemn.

But let us return to Graceless. Presently he reached Mount Sinai; but what a fearful sight it presented! It seemed to him as though the whole mountain was about to topple over and crush him. From its summit which was encapped with clouds, came great tongues of fire as if eager to devour him! His burden of sins seemed to increase in weight and poor Graceless began to be exceedingly afraid and shake with terror at this awe-inspiring sight, and regret he had ever listened to the advise of Worldly-Wiseman. As he thus stood, expecting nothing but death, he saw Evangelist coming towards him, who, when he came up to him asked, "What are you doing here? Are you not the man I found crying outside the City of Destruction?" "Yes," replied Graceless faintly. "Then what are you doing here, seeing I directed you to the Wicket Gate?" next inquired Evangelist. Graceless then told him all that had befallen him concerning his meeting with Worldly-Wiseman and of the wrong advise that he had so foolishly taken.

Evangelist sternly rebuked him for his folly and sin in having turned from the path of faith to the way of human wisdom, and said, "Stand still a little that I may shew thee the words of God. 'See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven,'" (Heb. 12:25). At this, Graceless fell at his feet as dead crying, "Woe is me! for I am undone!" But Evangelist took him by the right hand and said, "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men... be not faithless, but believing." With such words Graceless revived somewhat.

Evangelist next pointed out to him what evil Worldly-Wiseman had done to him, and said, "He is called Worldly-Wiseman because he savours only of the doctrine of this world, because it saves him from the cross with its offence to the world. You must, therefore, hate three things in this man's counsel: first, his turning thee out of the way; second, his attempt to render the cross distasteful to thee; third, his putting of your feet in the way that leads only to death." Evangelist then began to speak more fully of these three things and showed Graceless the real meaning of Mount Sinai.

THE MEANING OF MOUNT SINAI

He unfolded to him that Mt. Sinai was a picture of the holy and righteous law that God had given through Moses to the children of Israel long ago. This law not only revealed the righteous requirements of God's holiness, righteousness, justice, and truth, but at the same time exposed man's sin, for sin consisted in coming short of, or transgressing, this holy law. He pointed out to him from the Scriptures that "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20). He showed him that Mr. Legality was a picture of a person who vainly imagines he can get right with God by an attempt to keep the law; in other words, by his own good works, good thoughts, and good words. Such a person seeks to teach others this, thus leading them into the bondage of legalism and the condemnation which the law imposes on all who fail to keep it in its entirety.

After this, Evangelist called to the heavens for confirmation of the truth he had uttered, and from the mount there came in words of thunder: "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal. 3:10).

Graceless was now in a lamentable condition. He saw how sinful and foolish he had been in attempting to gain favor with God by trying to keep a law that he had already broken thousands of times. He realized as never before the holy character of the God against whom he had so grievously sinned. His eyes were opened to the fact that by God's holy and righteous law he was condemned, for he had not kept it, and neither could he ever keep it. He, therefore, began to cry out most pitiably, "Is there any hope? May I now go back? I am sorry I ever listened to the counsel of Worldly-Wiseman, but may my sin be forgiven?" To this Evangelist replied, "Your sin is great, yet the man at the gate will receive thee for he has good will to men. Only take heed that thou turn not aside again, lest thou perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little" (Psa. 2:12). Thus comforted, Graceless thanked Evangelist for his timely help, and paying no heed to anyone else, walked back till he came to the place from which he had been turned aside. Once more, by the light of the Word of God, he walked in the direction of the Wicket Gate.

WHAT MESSAGE DOES SINAI HAVE FOR US?

Let us, too, learn the very necessary lesson that no person can ever be justified before God by keeping the law. In the first place no one has ever kept it fully and completely, except the Lord Jesus Christ; and secondly, because no one can ever keep it. It may be asked, "Why was the law given, then?" We reply in the words of Scripture, "the law entered, that the offense [or sin] might abound" (Rom. 5:20). In other words, it is the law that reveals our sinfulness, and therefore, our need of cleansing from those sins.

We may well thank God that the same Bible that reveals to us our guilt and need, also tells us of God's remedy for that need in the person and through the work of our blessed Saviour. He fulfilled all God's law in His life, and yet met all the claims of that law against us (who had broken it) by His death, leaving nothing for the sinner to do to be justified before God but to believe in His finished work and accept Him as Saviour and Lord. It is written, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal. 2:16). Turn from Mount Sinai to Mount Calvary from your own works to His finished work! Through Calvary's work alone can salvation full, free and eternal be obtained by faith in God's Son!

Presently Graceless saw right ahead of him the Wicket Gate to which he had been directed. When he came closer he saw written over it the words, "Knock, and it shall be opened unto you." He knocked therefore, saying as he did:

"May I now enter here? Will He within
Open to sorry me, though I have been
An undeserving rebel? Then shall I
Not fail to sing His lasting praise on high."

In response to his knock a person named Goodwill came to the door; who asked him who he was and what he wanted, to which Graceless replied: "Here is a poor burdened sinner. I come from the City of Destruction, but am going to Mount Zion that I may be delivered from the wrath to come. I would therefore, sir, since I am informed that by this gate is the way thither, know if you are willing to let me in." To this speech Goodwill replied by saying, "I am willing with all my heart," and opening the gate, he held out his hand in welcome. As Graceless grasped the outstretched hand and was about to cross the threshold, Goodwill gave him a pull that brought him in quickly. When Graceless inquired the reason for this action, Goodwill informed him that within bowshot of this gate, Satan had erected a strong castle, from the top of which he and his servants shot with arrows at the pilgrim, if perchance he could prevent him from escaping his clutches by crossing the threshold of the door. When Graceless heard this he exclaimed, "I rejoice and tremble."

THE LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE WICKET GATE AND THE DEVIL'S ARROWS

We may well pause here and seek to learn the lesson of the Wicket Gate and of the Devil's arrows. The Wicket Gate, as we have already mentioned, is a picture of the willingness of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life; and no man can come unto the Father but by Him. All who come to the Father through Him, owning their sin-burdened state, are assured of a welcome, for the Saviour said, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out."

The Devil, however, is ever ready to hinder the sinner from coming to Christ and uses all his wisdom, subtlety and power to keep the sinner in his clutches. Let us name some of the arrows that Satan is using today and perhaps is even now using to deter the reader from being saved.

First, there is the arrow of Laughter.

When Satan sees a person about to trust the Lord Jesus and thus be saved, he fits into his fearful bow this arrow and shooting it at the pilgrim whispers, "Listen! If you come to Christ and confess Him before others as your Lord and Saviour, you will be laughed at, ridiculed and scorned, and thus lose your popularity."

Alas, many have been kept from crossing the door of decision as a result of this arrow, and have been lost when they might have been saved. Lost through a companion's laugh! It has been well said that thousands of people have been laughed into hell but not one has yet been laughed out of that fearful place. Are you going to allow this arrow to have any effect on you? Suppose your friends do laugh at you. It cannot hurt you. Remember the world mocked, derided, despised, and rejected God's Son. Are you any better than He? Listen to His own words: "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." Would you like the Lord Jesus to be ashamed of you? Then be not ashamed of Him, and let not the arrow of Laughter keep you from accepting Him and confessing Him as your Saviour.

Next, there is the arrow of Pleasure.

This terrible arrow has done great execution. When Satan shoots this, he suggests to the sinner that if he becomes a Christian he will not have any more fun or pleasure, and that all the joy of life will be gone so that he will be miserable all the while. Many have listened and believed this lie of the Devil, but the Lord Jesus said regarding Satan, "When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it." There are thousands of people today who seem to imagine that to become a Christian is to be a weakling, and that the child of God is a sad and sorry specimen of humanity! They imagine that because the Christian does not indulge in what they are pleased to call pleasures, that therefore he has no pleasure. This is false!

There is no pleasure in the world to be compared for a moment with the pleasure that God gives to His children. Not the pleasures of this world with its pomp, fashion, popularity, power, lust, and sin; but the real genuine pleasure and joy that comes through the knowledge of sins forgiven; of perfect peace with God; of the knowledge of Christ as Saviour and friend; of the happy fellowship with the one whose friendship never changes and whose love never dies; of the assurance of a home eternal in the heavens, and of the joy that springs from the heart that has Christ within. If you are not a Christian you are the one to be pitied. The believer alone can say:

"I tried the broken cisterns, Lord, but ah, the waters failed;
E'en as I stooped to drink they fled, and mocked me as I wailed,
Now none but Christ can satisfy; none other name for me;
There's love and life and lasting joy, Lord Jesus, found in Thee."

Remember, God doesn't want people to "give up" things in order to be saved. He wants them to take something infinitely better than what they now have. Are you going to allow the arrow of Pleasure to rob you of your soul?

But now comes the worst arrow of all. We will call it the arrow of Plenty of Time.

This is Satan's most successful weapon. He will allow the sinner, if necessary, to believe all the truths of the Gospel. He will whisper, "O, yes, it's quite true you are a lost sinner. It's quite true that if you die in that state you will be eternally lost. It's quite true that God loves you and gave His Son to die for your sins. It's quite true that Christ by His death and resurrection has accomplished all that is necessary for your salvation. It's quite true that all you need to be saved is to believe the Gospel and to accept the Lord Jesus as your own personal Saviour -- but there's plenty of time. Put it off! Wait a while! Do it tomorrow, or some other time! Wait until you are older or on your dying bed, and then, like the dying thief you can be saved in the eleventh hour!"

How many have been deceived by this terrible lie! There are thousands, right now, in a lost eternity who never intended to be there. They put off their soul's salvation to some more convenient season which never arrived and death came in, and before they were aware, their eternal doom was sealed. God's time is NOW! Listen to His Word: "To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts" (Heb. 3:7-8). "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" (Prov. 27:1). "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). Well did the poet sing:

"Fairest flowers soon decay,
Youth and beauty pass away,
Oh, you have not long to stay,
Be in time!
While God's Spirit bids you come,
Sinner, do not longer roam,
Lest you seal your hopeless doom,
Be in time!"

Chapter Five - In The Interpreter's House

Table Of Contents For A Dreamer And His Wonderful Dream