Author Archives: Allan Halton

The Realm Of The True

Here is another excerpt from my book The True Worshippers, which is available on Other Writings (see menu bar above). This excerpt is from Chapter Two entitled The Realm Of The True.

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Neither in this mountain…

…Jesus, in saying to the woman at the well that the hour was at hand when people would no longer worship in “this mountain,” that is, Samaria—what he had in mind was the way the Samaritans attempted to worship God. The Samaritan religion was a mongrel mix of the idolatrous rites of foreign gods along with certain traditions rooted in the Law of Moses.

“Ye [Samaritans] worship ye know not what,” Jesus told her. “We know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.”

Now, any Jew listening in on this conversation would have given his resounding Amen to this Man (also a Jew) for that statement. Yes, salvation is of the Jews—more specifically of the house of David of the tribe of Judah. It’s what the Man had said just prior to this that caused all the trouble.

Nor yet at Jerusalem…

Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.

Blasphemy! Nor yet at Jerusalem? God Himself established the religion of the Jews, and Jerusalem was the exclusive city that He Himself ordained His temple to be built in! This was His habitation, and He Himself had called and inspired Moses the man of God to set forth in the Law all the ritual and sacrifice that was to be centred in this great city and temple! Blasphemy! Who is this heretic to say, “nor yet at Jerusalem”?

But this Heretic was speaking of the great transformation that this same God had sent Him to inaugurate, by which all the types and shadows of the Law would be fulfilled in Himself and His new covenant community the Church in the Kingdom of God. It was a transformation from type and shadow to the true.

For, in Scripture, the word true is contrasted not only with false, but also with type and shadow. Many of our fathers in church history saw this and embraced it, but in our day (to our great humiliation), Christian teachers in great numbers have carelessly relinquished this understanding. “Woman, believe Me,” Jesus had said: what He was about to reveal to her was going to take some faith.

Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.

Do we ourselves hear the same promise? The same call to faith? Do we believe Him?

It seems we do not. These days many Christian teachers and their followers are glorying in rituals and types and shadows that were once observed in old Jerusalem, but which Scripture clearly teaches are done away in Christ and His new covenant. They insist that God will one day soon suddenly rapture the Church out of the picture and return to His original plans with natural Israel. Apparently, we are told, He will have the temple in Jerusalem rebuilt so Messiah can come to His temple and be worshipped with all the types and shadows of the Law again, in the process necessitating that Isaiah Chapter 66, verses one and two, be struck from the scriptural record, and repudiating Jesus’ own words here in John 4:21. Earlier generations of the church had greater light than that. Even in my old King James Bible there’s a superscription above Psalm 72 that reads, “David, praying for Solomon, sheweth the goodness and glory of his kingdom in type, and of Christ’s in truth.”

That sets forth very well the nature of truth. Jesus, in talking of the true worshippers, is not saying that those who worshipped under the Mosaic system were false worshippers. They certainly were not; the Samaritans were the ones involved in the false worship. The Jews’ religion was the divinely-ordained one. But—oh for eyes to see—it was just in type and shadow. Jesus, in using the word true here, is contrasting the true with type and shadow.

Neither in this mountain…

The true worshippers, He was telling the woman, shall not worship in Samaria. That is false religion; that is comparing true and false. But the Jews were not false worshippers; they worshipped the one true God—even though they themselves were not true worshippers. Not yet, that is. The worship their God had ordained in Jerusalem was only the type and shadow of the true. And this is why Jesus adds these words, which were difficult back then and are still difficult to this day:

Nor yet at Jerusalem…

That is comparing true and type. And the time had come when the true worshippers need not go to the earthly Jerusalem centre anymore; to worship the Father they need not get involved in what were but representations of reality. How would they worship Him, then?

In spirit and in truth…

Truth? Perhaps reality is a better word, and for a start we want to look at a few of the many facets of this that are revealed to us in our New Testament.

The True Worshippers

The following is an excerpt from Chapter One of my writing The True Worshippers, which is now available on Other Writings (see menu bar above). I hope to publish this book eventually, and made some beginnings via Createspace (hence the ISBN numbers on Page 4) but at the encouragement of friends recently (in the mouth of two or three witnesses…) decided to put it here for a start. It’s a 224-page pdf document with bookmarks.

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And so, God—we take note that Jesus calls Him the Father—He is a seeker. There is great emphasis in Scripture on seeking God; this is very important. We are to be seekers. But, God Himself a seeker? Surely this must lay hold of us. Our own seeking is not going to get us very far if it is not in line with what He Himself is seeking.

What is He seeking, then? Jesus says the Father is seeking true worshippers. You mean He wants to teach us how to really get into it on Sunday morning when the “worship team” leads us in worship? Or maybe He wants to counsel us where to worship? Christians sometimes ask one another, “Where do you worship?” They want to know what church you attend. Does that define worship, then, and set its boundaries—where people go to church and what they do in church on a Sunday morning?

Or, serving God. A little further on in this writing we will see how closely worshipping and serving God are linked. This becomes a powerful pursuit for many who turn to Christ. They don’t want to waste their precious moment of mortal life serving themselves anymore; now they want to serve God. I knew such a young man myself long ago. He had wasted his youth seeking after all the things the Gentiles seek. Now he wanted to serve God, and there was no time to lose. He was thinking in terms of what has been called the “five-fold” ministry of the church—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. This, of course, might be God’s will for certain ones, those He calls to this.

But it is not His ultimate calling—even for them. In a message I listened to recently the speaker said something like this: “If God is grooming you for a very high calling, then know that He will first take you into the depths.” That is true, yet it saddened me that the man was speaking in terms of the apostolic calling. I wondered how many in his audience might have felt left out, that they had not been “marked out for a very high calling.” Yet Paul, himself a called apostle, wrote that he was giving his all in order to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). This ought to cause those who have been called to the ministry to search their hearts, and it ought to encourage also those who are not called to this. For, God’s ultimate call for one and all is, simply, to become true worshippers. The Son of God says that this is what the Father is seeking. True worshippers.

You mean this is all He wants? All He is seeking? Yes. All. If that seems kind of a letdown to us, it’s only because we have not yet discovered how utterly breathtaking this is—being one of the Father’s true worshippers. It is something they are more than something they do. Oh, for vision, then: open our eyes, Father. For, once we discover what becoming a true worshipper is all about, we will lose interest in our own ideas of something fulfilling for our lives.

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.

This is what, or should I say, who, the Father is seeking. True worshippers. We must ask the searching question, then, and it will take some courage. In all the activity that falls under what we know as church—all the ministry, all the preaching and teaching, all the outreaches, all the Bible studies, all the programs… all the activity we have come to consider church… is Father finding what He is seeking? If He is seeking true worshippers, is He finding them? Let’s bring that closer to home. Am I one of them? Am I at least becoming one of them? Hopefully this question causes me to pause, and then stop, and check my bearings… lest somewhere down the road I discover to my great sorrow that what I was seeking and what God was seeking were two different things, and I have arrived at a destination far from where God, if He had been given His way, would have led me.

The encouraging thing is that in asking this searching question—and asking God Himself to search our hearts about it so we may know for sure if He is or is not finding what He is seeking in our lives—we are right there becoming engaged in the Father’s own seeking. He is seeking true worshippers, and as we respond with an open and honest heart, a heart that is willing to give Him the desire of His heart, we are right there beginning to enter into the true worship He has in mind. We are totally helpless to come to this on our own. We would have no idea what steps to walk in to get to this destination, much less know what the destination actually looks like. But since God Himself is seeking this in our lives, we have much assurance. If we are truly desirous of becoming one of these true worshippers of His, He will see to it that we are not disappointed. He will not disappoint the desire of His own heart.

Jesus defines the true worshippers as those who worship the Father in spirit and in truth. What is this all about, then? We want to look at this, and hopefully discover in some measure, with His help, what He means by this. For, it is a beautiful discovery in our walk with God—the day we begin to see that, whatever our lot in this earthly life, the greatest of all fulfillments is ours in simply becoming one who worships the Father in spirit and in truth. This is all God is really after in our lives. There is nothing greater, nothing higher, nothing more fulfilling that we could possibly hope for, or attain to, than becoming a true worshipper. Coming to this, we have arrived at the destination of the walk of the disciple of Christ—only to discover that this destination is actually an eternal Way—and the deepest desire of God’s own heart. In fact there is a realm of worship that, as far as finding fulfillment is concerned, is exceedingly abundantly above anything we could ever ask for… or even think.

We think of worship as something we do on Sundays for an hour or so—the worship service. Our concept of worship must be enlarged. We think of ministry, of serving God, as something the man behind the pulpit is involved in. Our concept of ministry must be enlarged. There is a ministry beyond ministry: I mean beyond ministry as we are accustomed to think of it. In fact, when the ministries God has set in the church become an end in themselves and not a means by which the people of God are equipped to give Him the desire of His heart, those ministries have failed God’s purpose for them.

And so, let us examine this. What does it mean to be one who worships the Father in spirit and in truth? What is a true worshipper?

But let us ask first:

Just what is worship? 

Disciples Of The Lily

And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him: and He opened His mouth, and taught them…

These words in the Gospel according to Matthew introduce us to what has been called the Sermon on the Mount. It’s clear that the multitudes as well as the disciples had followed Jesus up the mountain, for we read at the end of the sermon that “the multitudes were astonished at His teaching” (Mt. 7:28). But it was primarily to His disciples that Jesus was speaking. The word disciple means, simply, learner. He was the Teacher, the Rabbi, they the learners.

What is it that He was teaching them? What were they to learn? The answer to that question is to be found in asking the better question, “Who is it that they were to learn?”

For, when He opened His mouth and taught them, it was Himself that He was revealing to them—Himself—the Life of the ages. John the beloved was there at that time, and no doubt it was this scene on the mount, among many others, that he had in mind when many years later he wrote of the Word of life that they had heard and seen and looked upon and their hands had handled, the Life eternal that had been with the Father, and was manifested to them. One cannot help seeing Him seated there on that beautiful day with His disciples around Him sitting or reclining in the grass, the flowers of the field blooming round about them, the birds of the air flying above.

It was the One now seated before them who had created it all, object lessons of Himself, and, perhaps with a motion of His arm He draws their attention upward, then downward.

Behold the fowls of the air… Consider the lilies of the field…

The context of these words is about two kinds of slavery—the slavery of Mammon and the slavery of God. Mammon originally meant “that in which one puts his trust, his confidence” and came eventually to mean (is it any wonder in this materialistic world?) “money, possessions, material prosperity.”

Jesus is teaching His disciples the Life that is not slavery to Mammon, is not anxious nor burdened with its own security, but rather trusts in the faithfulness of a heavenly Father to provide all that is necessary, both earthly and spiritual, while being bondslaves to Him. It seems an incongruous thought—slavery to God? But that is the word Jesus uses. “Ye cannot serve-as-bondslaves God and Mammon.”

And so He tells them, “Therefore…” What a precious place to find that word. Let us heed it. “Therefore, be not anxious for your life…” That’s what being a bondslave of the living God is like. It is the Life that is free from care, unburdened with the cares of this life.

Therefore, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air…

What about the fowls of the air? This. They are not sowing and reaping and gathering into barns, intent upon making sure they have in hand what tomorrow will need. What then? What resource do they have? “Your heavenly Father feedeth them.”

Remember that old poem?

Said the robin to the sparrow,
“I would really like to know
Why those anxious human beings
rush around and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
such as cares for you and me.”

It’s meant, of course, to remind us that we do have. And note that Jesus has said, “Your heavenly Father feedeth them.” Not their heavenly Father. The robin and the sparrow cannot call Him Father. The disciples of Jesus can. And will not this Father who feeds the fowls of the air feed His own children, and care for all their needs, whether earthly or spiritual? It is thus that they grow, not by “taking thought,” not by anxious care; they cannot by anxious care add so much as one cubit to their stature.

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow…

This is where Jesus calls His disciples to become disciples of the lilies of the field. The word consider comes from the same Greek root that the word disciple comes from. Consider also has the prefix kata, which is an intensifier, which is why Young’s Literal Translation has, “Consider well.” Thayer says it means “to learn thoroughly, to examine carefully, to consider well.”

Kata also has the idea down in it. This is likely why Halton’s Expanded Translation has:

Humble yourself, get right down on your elbows in the grass, and become a disciple of the lowly lilies of the field: recline at their feet, and learn from them, learn well from them, the secret of spiritual growth, the secret of the life that toils not, nor spins, yet because of that wondrous law of life within, they grow with a beauty that by comparison, Solomon in all His glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Now Jesus’ next word. “Wherefore…” Let us heed this one too:

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Much more? Wondrous words we are invited to trust, to believe. The lily in all its glory is clothed with a beautiful array that it does not spin for itself, does not toil to produce. It is God who so clothes it, putting within it a law of life that brings into being that beautiful raiment as the lily simply obeys that law of life. This is how it grows—simply by letting that law of life have its way, and trusting in its Creator to provide the needed sunlight, and water, and nutrients from the soil. Thus the lowly lily brings forth and displays an inimitable beauty that glorifies God, who created it for this very purpose—to glorify Him.

Shall He not much more clothe us, to the praise of His glory?

Help us, Jesus, help us to be no longer of little faith, but to fully believe you, and follow through on your counsel, and become disciples of the lily.

The Oracle Of Judgment

As one of the oxen of God—a teacher of the word, I mean—it is my lot to tread out the grain. I go round and round the word-of-God threshing floor, round and round, patiently plodding along, treading out the grain—work that I find fitting to my nature and so even enjoy, though I’m guarded as to who I admit that to; some are pained at the very thought; they are relieved they are not harnessed to such menial work.

But it’s in me to do this, at the same time often feeling… Lord, is my labour in vain? It seems to fall, oh so short of the word of God that is needed in this desperate hour.

I was praying along this line a few days ago when I became aware of a gentle correction from my Lord—that the word of teaching is the portion He has given me as part of a greater work. The ox that treads out the corn isn’t seeing the finished product; that is yet to come. And will certainly come. The very reason for which the ox must do his part.

And so let me do that; let me do my teaching part, small though it be. Hopefully it will prepare the hearts of the saints for the greater word of God that I know is surely, most surely building pressure, and cannot help but soon burst forth.

Let me tell you, then, of an experience I had recently. I was happily treading out the grain. I was reading an old book a friend gave me called Word Meanings in the New Testament (Volume 3, Romans) by Ralph Earle. He made a comment regarding the word oracles in Romans 3:2, stating that this word in its plural form means “the words or utterances of God.” Earle enlarged on that, adding something about the word in its singular form:

Logion [the singular] literally means “a little word” or “a brief utterance.” By Greek writers it was used of divine oracles, since they were usually brief. In the Septuagint it was used for the breastplate of the high priest, which he must wear when seeking to find out God’s will. It is always related to the idea of God speaking.

Isn’t that fascinating?

Well… let me tread it out; hopefully then you’ll share my excitement.

We first read of the breastplate of the high priest back in Exodus Chapter 28, where it is called in most of our English translations “the breastplate of judgment.” The words come from two Hebrew words which transliterated into English are khoshen, breastplate. And mishpat, judgment.

Strong’s Concordance has this to say about khoshen.

From an unused root probably meaning to contain or sparkle; perhaps a pocket (as holding the Urim and Thummim), or rich (as containing gems), used only of the gorget of the high priest.

The word mishpat, means “right, decision of right,” according to Old Testament commentators Keil and Delitzsch. Or again from Strong’s:

Properly a verdict (favorable or unfavorable) pronounced judicially, especially a sentence or formal decree… abstractly justice, including a particular right, or privilege…

It seems to me that the Septuagint translators (who translated the Hebrew scriptures into Greek around 200 BC) ought to have translated the Hebrew words khoshen and mishpat with whatever the Greek is for “pocket of judgment” or “gems of judgment,” or something like that. Why then, did they choose λογειο͂ν τῶν κρίσεωον (logeiōn tōn kriseōon) that is, oracle of judgment? There is no semantic reason why they should have translated the Hebrew khoshen with the Greek logeiōn.

Let’s see now why it’s likely that they did so.

The breastplate was a kind of purse or pouch the high priest wore upon his breast over the ephod. It wasn’t really a plate; it was intricately woven of the same fine linen material as the ephod, and folded double to form the pouch about nine inches square. The ephod itself was a garment the priests wore; it was a kind of servant’s apron uniquely proclaiming and qualifying them as servants in the priestly service of God. (This calls to mind the servant’s apron of humility Peter spoke of, 1 Pt. 5:5.) Into the breastplate the Urim and Thummim were placed. These are Hebrew plural words meaning lights and perfections. We are never told just what they were, but possessing the Urim and Thummim meant the certainty of the priest receiving a clear and specific and authoritative word from God—an oracle. And that is no doubt why the Septuagint translators chose for the breastplate the word logeiōn (which is built upon the Greek logos—word).

They are meaningful and beautiful words, then. The oracle of judgment.

Now, the oracle of Urim and Thummim was not primarily for the priest himself; he received the word on behalf of the people of God. Scripture carefully details this point; this was the purpose of the breastplate of judgment. It was for the priest on behalf of the people relative to the purposes of God. In fact, the breastplate was secured to the ephod, the priestly apron, with blue lace at its bottom edge, and gold chains from its top to two shoulder pieces that it “be not loosed from the ephod” (Ex. 28:28), demonstrating that it was not to be used for any other purpose.

The shoulder pieces were made of two onyx stones inscribed, six on each stone, with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. The breastplate also had on it the names of the twelve tribes inscribed on gemstones.

And Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD upon his two shoulders for a memorial (Ex. 28:12).

And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually (Ex. 28:29).

And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually (Ex. 28:30).

And so the high priest with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on his heart (the place of love) and on his shoulders (the place of strength) carried the judgment, the cause, of the people of God before the Lord. And was therefore assured of a clear, authoritative oracle from God. That is the very beautiful picture—and it is but a picture; this is all a highly symbolic portrayal of a powerful spiritual reality.

The reality is this (and let us meditate on those words in Exodus with this reality in mind):

We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the majesty in the heavens… (Heb. 8:1).

For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are figures of the true; but into heaven itself, there to appear in the presence of God for us… (Heb. 9:24).

The Urim and Thummim are His.

In view of this, it’s very enlightening that the initial revelation of the preparation of the priests states that it was Aaron the high priest who was to wear the ephod and the breastplate of judgment with its Urim and Thummim. “…They shall be upon Aaron’s heart when he goeth in before the LORD.” It doesn’t appear that Aaron’s sons were fitted with ephods and breastplates of their own (Ex. 28:40, see also Lev. 8:6-14 ff), although later in the scriptural record we read of priests who wore ephods. Aaron’s sons, then, were priests only inasmuch as they were participants in Aaron’s priesthood.

The significance of this for you and me is that it is our great High priest the Lord Jesus Christ who in the throne of God wears the ephod and has on His heart the breastplate in which are the names of the people of God. It is He who has the Urim and Thummim. He is not just a king on the throne of God, He is also a priest upon that throne: He is deeply indentified with those for whom He is making continual intercession before the throne. He bears our names in His heart and upon our shoulders—I will say further, upon His hands—having made our cause His own.

And His fellow priests are vital participants in His priesthood. Yes, it is He, the Holy One, who has the Urim and Thummim, the authoritative, pure, clear word of God in power for every need of this hour. It is He, the great high priest over the house of God, who has the word of grace needed to fulfill the cause of the people of God, and He will not fail to release that word, to reveal it, to the glory of God. But just as Aaron’s sons were sanctified to be participants in his priesthood, so too we who are sanctified by the Holy Spirit, being thereby made one with our great High Priest in the heavens, are participants in His priesthood. He shares with us that same priestly burden, and provision, for the people of God (Heb. 3:1, 10:19-22).

And so, dear saints of the Lord, partakers of His heavenly calling, let us be encouraged in this hour. Let us do as we are bidden; let us continue to draw near, draw near, draw near, with a true heart in full assurance of faith, that He might commune with us the same Urim and Thummim that are upon His own heart. God has this for His beloved people in this hour. Those who draw nigh Him on behalf of others are assured of the very oracle of God shining forth in this dark and desperate hour. That—the hour that is upon us—is particularly what is on my heart. No doubt we have known this precious oracle of judgment in countless ways, yet I tell you brothers and sisters, my friends, dear saints of the Lord, there is a word-in-waiting in God, hidden in the breastplate of our beloved high priest, and though it has tarried long, it shall not fail to come forth in this desperate hour, shall not fail to burst forth with explosive power and meet the cry of our heart exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.

The Lamb Is My Shepherd

In the following devotional the personal pronoun “I” has been used. Dear reader, if you are one of the sheep of His pasture, you are invited to take this “I” unto yourself. If you are not one of the sheep of His pasture, oh, become one!

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 I have a loving Shepherd of my soul, who, when I had gotten myself very lost (as all we of Adam’s race do) went as far as a hill called Calvary to find me in a valley called Sin and Death.

My Shepherd had to die to come to me where I was—dead in trespasses and sins.

Then, the God of peace brought again from the dead that great Shepherd of the sheep—my Lord Jesus Christ—in the blood of an everlasting covenant.

When He arose He brought me up with Him: He took me up in His arms and carried me in His bosom, and brought me out from that desolate valley into a green pasture called Resurrection Life, a high mountain pasture where, as the Lamb in the midst of the throne of God, He continues to shepherd me, by His Spirit leading me daily to fountains of living waters. I thirst no more. I hunger no more. I walk with Him daily in newness of life—His life. The blazing sun does not beat down upon me, nor any heat, for He who sits on the Throne has spread the shady Tabernacle of Himself over me.

This Lamb who gave Himself for me is my shepherd, the overseer of my soul. He watches over me daily, keeping me, protecting me from marauding lions and bears. He causes me to lie down in His green pastures of living truth. He leads me beside the waters of rest. Daily He restores my soul, provisioning me afresh with all I need to do His will, working in me what is wellpleasing in His sight.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His own Names’ sake.  Leads me, I say. For He Himself is ever with me. Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death with evil about me on every hand, I fear no evil. For, now I am no longer a subject under the shadow, the domain, of King Death. My Lamb-Shepherd has redeemed me from that king, and now, just as the children of Israel lived securely “under the shadow” of their kings, I live under the shadow of the Anointed King Jesus, the breath of my nostrils, whose shadow is the reign of grace, of righteousness and peace, of life and light and liberty.

And so we walk together, my Shepherd and I, He leading, and I following, in the Pathway He has chosen for us through the valley of the shadow of death. No longer a resident here, I am just passing through.

My Shepherd King is with me. So I fear no evil. He has a rod and a staff, and they comfort me—the rod to deal with my enemies, or to correct me when I need it myself, and a staff that sustains me, holds me up.

He prepares a table before me in the very presence of my enemies, who, though they continue to roar and threaten, can no longer torment me with fear.

The head of my Shepherd-king is anointed with oil, and that oil flows down upon my head, making me a king too.

It is all too, too much. His cup, my cup, runs over.

My Shepherd the Lamb of God went as far as Calvary and the grave to seek out and find this lamb. What comfort—to continue to lean on Him and trust Him daily in every circumstance great or small. He—my Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd and Bishop of my soul, “has come into my circumstances with divine and tender love, making Himself acquainted with all the little details of my life; and He has brought me, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in endless life, into His own magnificent circumstances, where I enjoy the light of His countenance… where I am the delight of His heart.” (J.B. Stoney)

Now, instead of my enemies pursuing me relentlessly every day, His goodness and His mercy pursue me all the days of my life.

I shall be dwelling in the House of my Shepherd forever. I know and trust that as I do so, God will, in His time, wipe away each and every tear from my eyes.

(Psalm 23; Hebrews 13:20,21; 1 Peter 2:25; Revelation 7:15-17; Lamentations 4:20)

 

 

 

 

 

Present Truth

The apostle Peter in his second epistle commends those to whom he was writing, acknowledging that they already knew the things he was writing about, and were “established in the present truth” (1:12). Even so, he wanted them to be able to have these things—this present truth—in remembrance. Thus, and very thankfully, we have his two epistles.

What is present truth? Perhaps we ourselves need to be reminded lest what was once truth present with us is now only a distant past we have forgotten. Or, perhaps we have put off into the future what is already present truth, and is therefore to be embraced by faith, and walked in now.

Peter has much on his heart this matter of spiritual memory, aware that living truth must be spiritually maintained, continually refreshed to the mind. And so he writes to “put you always in remembrance of these things” (2 Pt. 2:12). He writes to “stir you up by putting you in remembrance” (1:13). He is aware that very shortly he is about to put off his tabernacle for a permanent dwelling place, and wants those among whom he ministered “to have these things in remembrance” (1:15) after he is gone. In Chapter 3 he uses the same words as in 1:13, saying that in both of his epistles his intention has been to “stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance” (2 Pt. 3:1).

And so in his second epistle he lays out for his readers how the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is supplied to them. It involves an ever-increasing growth in spiritual virtues beginning with faith—mark that: beginning with faith—and culminating in love, all of which will involve them, he says, “in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It is just after this that Peter writes the words we’re focusing on:

Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.

(Do you catch in this the fragrance of the great humility of this great man? “You’re already well established in these things; I’m just refreshing what you already know.”)

Present here is a Greek word which transliterated is parousei. It is an adjective, a qualifier. What kind of truth? Present truth. The Strong’s definition is “to be near, at hand.” That is, present.

The same word stem is found a little further on when Peter speaks of “the power and coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pt. 1:16). Strong’s defines parousia as “a being near, that is, advent.” In the King James Version it is translated coming, or presence. In 2 Pt. 3:4 and 3:12, and in several other places in our New Testament, it refers to Christ’s second coming. But the word is also used of the coming of disciples who had not formerly been present, and had now arrived (1 Cor. 16:17, 2 Cor. 7:6). It also means simply presence. “His bodily presence is weak” (2 Cor. 10:10).

Present truth is truth that has arrived and is now here.

Vincent’s Word Studies points out that the phrase in 2 Peter 1:12 is also found in Colossians where Paul thanks God for their faith and love, and also “for the hope that is laid up for you in the heavens, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which is come unto you…” (Col 1:6). Or, as Vincent has it, “is present unto you. Has come, and is present.” Come is the Greek parantos, which has the same word stem as parousei in 2 Pt. 1:12.

So there it is. What is present truth? The word of the truth of the Gospel.

There was a time when this truth of the Gospel was not present. It was prophesied of by prophets who longed to see, but did not, “the things that are now reported unto you…” (1 Pt. 1:10-12). It was “kept secret since the world began, but is now made manifest…” (Rom. 16:25). It was “hid in God” (Eph. 3:9)—the Good News of a very great salvation that would embrace both Jews and Gentiles in “the mystery of Christ which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed…” (Eph. 3:4,5).

That is present truth—the now of the wondrous Gospel of Christ.

With this in mind, let’s look at another place where the word present appears in Peter’s second epistle, and we have already alluded to it. It’s back in verse 9, where Peter has said, “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins (2 Pt 1:9). According to Vincent’s Word Studies again, he “that lacketh these things” is he to whom these things are not present.” Present is the Greek parestin, which has the same word stem as the adjective in verse 12.

And so, the present truth for which Peter commended his readers is not present with the one who has forgotten the purifying from his old, his former sins. There is a lingering darkness in the conscience, the result of which is the stunted development of all the beautiful graces Peter mentioned. The one with whom these things are not present is blind and short-sighted—and forgetful. He has forgotten the foundational truth of the Gospel—that he was “purged from his old sins.”

Peter, tender and loving shepherd that he is, is doing some reminding here; this has been the object of his epistle. He is calling the flock of God, those who have obtained the same precious faith he himself had obtained, to remember that their sins are not with them anymore; they are old history.

When did this happen? It was the work of Christ at Calvary, who:

…When He had by Himself purged our sins sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (Heb. 1:3).

How, then, was this wondrous work of Calvary effected in the lives of those Peter wrote to? It was simply, or shall I say purely, because they had “received like precious faith with us through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pt. 1:1).

Peter in his first epistle marks this same truth concerning Christ and those who receive and believe Him:

Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness, by whose stripe ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but have now returned unto the Shepherd and bishop of your souls (1 Pt. 2:24,25).

Note the before/after in these verses.  Note the now. You were as sheep going astray. Now you have returned unto the Shepherd and bishop of your souls. You were once sick with the mortal sickness of sin. He Himself in His own body bore the stripe that slew, and healed, that sickness. The result is that now you are dead to sins. That is present truth. Now you live unto righteousness. That is present truth.

That is the Gospel, and when received, when believed… God imparts to the believing ones His Spirit bearing witness to Christ and His completed Calvary work, thus purifying their hearts by faith (those are Peter’s words in Acts 15:8,9). And, hearts now no longer in darkness, hearts now wide open to the healing rays of the Sun of righteousness, begin to bring forth unto God the beautiful fruit of the Gospel.

It is tragic when the wondrous present truth of the Gospel has been forgotten, even more tragic when it is entirely relegated to the future, and the saints are taught that they can never be completely purged, cleansed, of sin as long as we poor mortals continue to dwell in houses of clay. No. That is not so. This cleansing is for here and now. One who believes the Gospel does not await Heaven for this cleansing, nor even a mighty move of the Spirit in the future—although we anticipate such things and know that many in darkness shall yet be brought into the present truth. Even so, for those who now believe, it is present truth now. It is present truth to be embraced by faith, and walked in… and built upon, and enlarged, and added to, from faith to virtue to knowledge to temperance to patience to godliness to brotherly kindness to love. It is present truth that means growing and abundant fruitfulness, and the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

 

Silence In Heaven

A friend shared with me earlier today that she and her husband in a time of prayer together received an assurance that God was attending to a certain much-prayed, yet still unanswered, prayer.

The word she used—attending—took hold of me, and a line from a prayer in the Psalms came on my heart:

Hear my cry, O LORD, attend unto my prayer; from the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee when my heart is overwhelmed… (Ps. 61:1,2).

It’s a cry to God to attend, to give His attention, to that prayer.

Later, I thought upon a passage in The Revelation that I often dwell on:

And when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

Silence in Heaven? What is this about? What is happening during this time of silence in Heaven? Let’s read further:

And I saw the seven angels which stood before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.
And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand (Rev. 8: 1-4).

What is happening during the silence in Heaven? We see first of all that in this time of silence the seven angels who stand before God are handed seven trumpets. They are not sounding their trumpets just yet; they are just receiving them.

Then we discover that during this time of silence in Heaven it appears that the saints in the earth are offering up their prayers, and an angel is intermingling “much incense” with the prayers of the saints “upon the golden altar which was before the throne.”

Let’s drop back down into the earth for a minute. Here are the beloved saints of the Lord offering up their earnest prayers… and wondering, wondering, why the Silence? And it has been the heart cry of the saints of all ages to understand the silence of Heaven. Why, Lord, are you silent? Why do you not answer our prayers?

Unto Thee will I cry, O LORD my Rock; be not silent to me, lest, if Thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit…”

Keep not silence, O LORD, be not far from me…

How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD? Forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?

O LORD God of hosts, how long wilt Thou be angry against the prayer of thy people? Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure.

The cries go up to The Silence. Is God angry against the prayer of His people?  Never!  He has commissioned an angel who is given “much incense” to offer with the prayers of the saints. Where did the angel get this special incense? Where else but from the apothecary of God? For God Himself is burdened with the burdens of His people far, far more than we comprehend. And He has ordained that heavenly incense be added to our prayers—His way of saying Amen to our cries… His way of crying with us! His way of assuring us that our burden is His own burden!

Let us never fail, in the silences of God, to read His heart aright. Let us never interpret the silence of Heaven as a message that our loving God is careless about the prayers of His saints—the seekers, the humble, the broken, the destitute.

He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer (Ps. 102:17).

…Oh, far from not despising it, just before I began to write this something happened to me (and it seems I am to include it here, but I know I can’t adequately describe it). I unexpectedly felt pierced—yes, that’s the word I must use—pierced to the heart, and overwhelmed, with an awareness of God’s great great love and concern for my concerns—the darkness of the hour, the overwhelming needs on every front, yet God seeming so silent. I was pierced by the awareness of His love so great, so deep: it’s impossible that He could not be concerned. Oh, how it grieves me, that I seem to know so little the God of love!

Oh, let me never misinterpret the silence of Heaven. It is a very pregnant silence. Something very momentous and very powerful is about to burst forth. Seven angels are given seven trumpets, and stand in expectant waiting. At the same time, another angel having a golden censer stands before the golden altar before the throne of God, and continually adds his incense to the prayers of the saints.

And the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the saints ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.

Now something else happens. Now comes the response:

And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

The same censer full of incense intermingled with the prayers of the saints is suddenly cast into the earth! And there are voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

No silence now!

Notice the storm elements—thunder, lightning. The voices of Heaven…

Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before Him,   and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him” (Ps. 50.3).

A great eternal Storm is about to break forth!

And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

No silence now!

How long will our God be inattentive to the prayers of His people? He never has been. Not for an instant. The half-hour silence in Heaven is a time of great preparation; the angels with the trumpets are preparing themselves. And oh, we feel the growing pressure of the word God has been preparing, preparing, preparing…

And we know that the hour of its mighty release is at hand!

The LORD shall roar out of Zion, and utter His Voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth shall shake…” (Joel 2.16).

The silence in heaven precedes the silence there is going to be in the earth when the Lord God Almighty speaks from His throne!

But the LORD is in His Holy Temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him (Hab. 2:20).

Beloved of the Lord in great trial, at the end of your earthly resources with heart overwhelmed, let us never take the silence of Heaven to mean that our loving God does not hear, does not care.

He hears, oh, He hears, and cares, and is giving my prayers, and yours, His loving attention!