“Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.” (Psa. 119:114)
There is an affectionate tenderness about our Heavenly Father which helps us to realize His great love for His people and His special care over them. Through His Prophet Isaiah, speaking from the standpoint of the end of this age, He forewarned us of a great time of trouble. (Isa. 26:5-6, 21) It is to be “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” (Dan. 12:1), when the whole present order of things – civil, social and religious – will be swept with the “besom of destruction.” (Isa. 14:23) Yet in the midst of it all He would have His people to be in rest and peace in Him: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isa. 26:3-4)
Through another prophet the Lord gave us beautiful words of trust and confidence: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth [the present social order] be removed, and though the mountains [governments] be carried into the midst of the sea [anarchy]; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof . . .The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” (Psa. 46:1-3, 7) “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” (Psa. 103:13)
We are very grateful for our Heavenly Father’s special love and care for us as His people and the comfort, encouragement and protection afforded us in the midst of the world’s great tribulation. However, we would come far short of having His spirit if we regarded the matter with self-complacency, forgetting His great love for the whole world also, a love veiled behind the clouds of His righteous indignation against their sins. In His wisdom, He strikes the heavy blow which will shatter all their idols and humble their pride in the dust, so that the sore wounds of His wrath may prepare for their everlasting healing.
We are told, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish [eternally], but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) If He loved the world then, He loves it still, and it is His love that wields the rod for its correction. While His people rejoice in the sunshine of His favor, having by faith and obedience come into an attitude to receive it, He would have us point the world to the cause of its calamities and to the only remedy: “In returning [to God] and rest [in Him alone] shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” (Isa. 30:15) “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen [the nations], I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psa. 46:10)
But who are those the Lord is pleased to designate by the endearing name, “My people?” Does this class include everyone upon whom His name is named – everyone called a Christian? No, for that would include a great number who profess His name falsely. As the Psalmist expresses it, it includes only those who have made a covenant with God by sacrifice (Psa. 50:5), all the consecrated and faithful children of God, however young or weak they may be, whose hearts are fixed firmly and resolutely to be true, loyal and obedient children by His assisting grace.
To be numbered among the people of God is a very great privilege; but it means much more than many seem to understand, much more both on our part and on God’s part. On our part it signifies more than a name to live by and a place in some great organization which bears the Christian name. It means fully consecrating to God to follow in the footsteps of His dear Son. It means renouncing the vain pomp and glory of the world and covenanting to live apart from its spirit, ambitions, hopes and aims. It means striving daily to be faithful, meekly taking up the cross and following our Leader and Head, Jesus Christ.
On God’s part it signifies the fulfillment of all His gracious promises to His people through Christ, both for the life that now is, and for that which is to come. It signifies that in the present life we have His fatherly love, care, discipline, counsel, teaching, protection and encouragement to the end. It means that afterwards we shall be received into everlasting rest and joy and peace. Oh, how blessed to be the people of God! Even in the present life the reward of His favor is beyond computation.
Throughout the Gospel Age God has permitted His people to be scattered as sheep in the midst of wolves, and as wheat in the midst of tares; but now their gathering together unto Him is due. All during the age His people have been growing in the midst of that great organization, the nominal Christian church, which God calls Babylon (confusion), but which men call Christendom (Christ’s Kingdom). This great system has appropriated the name of Christ while misrepresenting His teachings and His spirit. This it has done despite being in possession of His Word of Truth and having many advantages of precept and example from His saints who were for so long permitted to dwell in her midst.
God has begun pouring His indignation upon Babylon and is involving the whole world with it. Before doing so, however, He issued this warning: “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:4) While calling them thus to come out of Babylon, He also called them to come into another place, or condition: “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.” (Isa. 26:20)
The place of hiding is the secret place of the Most High, under the shadow of the Almighty. (Psa. 91:1-9) It is the place of intimate communion and fellowship with God, through the blessed privilege of prayer and through faith in His precious Word and His promised providential care. Oh, how precious is this hiding place! What rest and refreshment we find in the midst of the commotion now roiling the whole world, especially the nations of Christendom. We find rest from the pride and folly of men in their abortive efforts to readjust the present unsatisfactory social order. We find rest from “the strife of tongues” engaged in the equally vain attempt to evolve clear principles of truth and righteousness from the present confusion of human traditions. (Psa. 31:20) Here we find rest, peace, light and joy, which the world can neither give nor take away.
Few indeed are those who can understand our motives in thus withdrawing from the world and from the various organizations of the nominal Christian church to walk alone with God. Many are the reproaches which must be endured for His name’s sake. But fear not; “shut thy doors [of faith] about thee.” Do not heed the reproaches; turn a deaf ear to them. “Above all, taking the shield of faith [for the conflict before you], wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” (Eph. 6:16)
In this time of greatest need, it is especially good that the Lord’s people should consider the value of this portion of the Christian’s armor – the shield of faith. The doors of their faith should thoroughly shut them into the secret place of the Most High. The time for firmly grasping the shield of faith is when the reproaches fall thick and fast. It is when they are told that they have left the faith and gone after fables. It is when they are told that they have incurred the Lord’s displeasure, and that suffering for Christ’s sake is the penalty they deserve. It is when their names are cast out as evil and they are separated from the company of those whom they have long regarded as the Lord’s people, because they bear His name. Then is the time for adopting the triumphant language of the Psalmist:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? . . . Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident . . . For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me upon a rock . . . When my father and my mother [my most trusted human friends] forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” (Psa. 27:1, 3, 5, 10) “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want . . . Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psa. 23:1, 4; Psa. 56:4)
It is to inspire such a faith as this that the Lord has offered us, in addition to all His precious promises, so many encouragements to simple, childlike trust in Him, and that He has bidden us turn a deaf ear to the reproaches of men: “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings . . . I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; And forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth . . . And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens [the new heavens], and lay the foundations of the earth [the new earth], and say unto Zion [the heirs of the new Kingdom], Thou art my people.” (Isa. 51:7, 12, 13, 16)
PROVE ALL THINGS
What benevolence on the part of the Almighty to thus consider our weakness! When the darts of the enemy wound our hearts, He pours in the balm of His consolation. He would not have one of His children whom Christ has made free to come again under the bondage of the fear of men. (Prov. 29:25) He would have everyone in Christ realize his liberty from sin and superstition and his solemn accountability to God for all his thoughts and words and doings.
The words of the Apostle Paul deserve special notice: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thess. 5:21) “But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” (Gal. 6:4) Thus every individual in Christ is reminded of his own personal responsibility in matters of faith and conduct. Only when he has proved what is truth and what is righteousness, accepting the Word of God as the only standard of authority, is it proper to take a resolute stand. Having proved “what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2), nothing should be able to unsettle his faith or turn him from the line of duty. Fear of man should never again bring him into bondage to superstition, human traditions, or opinions of others.
If each individual proves his own work – his faith in the doctrines and his conduct in life – by the square and compass of God’s Word, his faith will be so established by the Word of the Lord that it will be his own and in no sense dependent upon another, no matter through what privileged human agent or agency it may have been received. It was the neglect of the right and duty of individual judgment in proving all things by the inspired Word that brought upon the nominal church the snare of the great apostacy, setting up infamous popes to dictate in matters of faith and conduct and subvert the consciences of men.
Let us remember the command, “Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (Isa. 8:13) Let us fear and dread to displease Him; let us see to it that we know and love righteousness and that we have the Law of God, not in our heads only, but in our hearts; so shall we ever find acceptance with Him. To those who in faith continually rely upon the Lord, who go forth strong in the strength which He supplies through faith to do valiant service for truth and righteousness, comes also the blessed assurance that God will be our refuge and strength in trouble.
The storm of trouble engulfing the whole world will affect all people, both individually and collectively. The Lord’s people, however, those who seek only to draw closer to Him, entering more fully into the secret place of communion and fellowship and rest in Him, and shutting the doors of faith about them, will be safely hidden from the alarm and fear and trembling that will take hold upon all other classes. While they patiently endure the effects of the storm upon their temporal interests, they will rejoice in the knowledge of God’s overruling providence in the whirlwind and in the storm as well as in the calms of life. They have His blessed assurance that His wrath will be thus revealed only “for a little moment.” Then His righteous Kingdom will be manifested in power and great glory: “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matt. 13:43)
This article is based on Reprint 1787.
THE VICTORY OF FAITH
“This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4)
We are living in a time when faith is greatly discounted. People seem disposed to not care what others believe as long as they live honorably. This generally means that faith is of no consequence and honor is the highest goal. Plainly stated, this means that money and prosperity is the only goal now recognized by an increasing number of people, for without these no one can prosper in the present life, no matter what they believe or who they worship.
The Bible perspective, however, is the very reverse of this. God’s Word puts faith first, and builds character upon that faith. God has not made works the standard because, as He declares, no human being can do perfect works. Faith is God’s standard, and He assures us that whoever has the proper faith must necessarily have works which correspond to his faith. God’s favorites of the Bible have all been persons of faith. Their faith did not make them perfect, nor were their works always acceptable in God’s sight, but He punished them for evil works and rewarded them for their great faith. Some of God’s favorites committed grievous sins and made serious mistakes; yet they maintained God’s favor, by reason of their faith.
The Bible is perhaps the most candid of all religious books ever written. It tells of the mistakes and sins of the very characters it holds up as models and examples of men after God’s own heart. Yet the Bible leaves no room to assume that God loves wickedness, or that the friends of God are the depraved of mankind. On the contrary, the Bible inculcates the highest standards of righteousness in word, deed and thought, and plainly states that only those who seek truth and righteousness can have full acceptance with God.
We and all mankind are by nature sinners. (Psa. 51:5; Rom. 7:15-25) God tells us that we could do nothing to remove our own guilt and the sentence that stands against us as members of the fallen race, but He also tells us that He purposes to remedy that matter. Hence our responsibility is not for what we cannot avoid, but for what we can avoid. It is not for what we cannot do, but for what we can do. The foundation of all our noblest endeavors is confidence in Him. This confidence He calls faith. He assures us that without faith it is impossible to please Him, and He has shown us this in all the lessons of the Bible. (Heb. 11:6)
Many make the mistake of supposing that faith is credulity – the readiness to swallow any and every religious idea if told that God said it. This is not the faith encouraged by the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible would have us know definitely the things that God has promised, and exercise a definite faith in those things and give no heed whatever to the seductive vagaries of Satan, of our fellow men, or of our own imagination: “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” (2 Tim. 3:14-17)
It is not for us to quarrel with those religious leaders who bind their followers with ignorance and superstition, preventing them from using their reasoning faculties. We are to address those who are not content with superstitions, those who yearn to find God, those whose hearts and minds cry out for Him and His Word and long to know His plan and their place in it. Jesus and the Apostles did not attempt to teach everybody, but merely those who hungered and thirsted after righteousness. (Matt. 5:6) As Jesus said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt. 11:15)
THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM
Abraham manifested such great faith that God called him His friend and gave him the first revelation of His purposes respecting humanity. (Gen. 15:6; Jas. 2:23) Abraham knew that under the curse the whole groaning creation was going to the grave. God’s declaration to him was that in due time He would send a blessing instead of the curse. Instead of men becoming more imperfect and wasting away in death, they would be rescued from the dying condition, and resurrected from the power of the tomb. Abraham believed the message with childlike faith. Because of his faith, God promised to greatly bless him and his posterity, so that through them eventually the great work of blessing mankind would be accomplished, rescuing all from the power of sin, Satan and death. God’s promise is summed up in the words: “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 22:18)
Abraham’s faith in that promise meant that thenceforth his mind would have a larger view, encompassing all of humanity, instead of merely his own immediate family, flocks and herds, and his nearest neighbors. It meant that if God would so honor his posterity, Abraham would seek in everything to cooperate with God and that great promise.
God tested Abraham’s faith for years, yet he still believed. “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” (Rom. 4:20) Even when God directed the sacrifice of Isaac, the son in whom the promise centered, Abraham trusted that God was able to raise him up again from the dead. What a test of faith! Oh, for such a trust in God! What could not be accomplished in the world through the Divine Message if such faith prevailed among God’s children! What would God not do for children who would trust Him thus!
Isaac and Jacob also trusted the promise and it influenced the whole course of their lives. It made them more God-like and it shaped every interest of their lives. Although they understood practically nothing of how God would accomplish so great a blessing, their faith in its fulfillment was unshakeable. From their posterity God would raise up a holy people to be His agency and channel for instructing, ruling, and uplifting the world, resurrecting the dead, and bringing mankind back to all that was lost through Adam’s disobedience. If their faith had been weaker, they would have had many opportunities to stumble. If they had been more worldly-wise, they might have questioned how God could clear mankind from the justly imposed sentence against them and still be just. But their faith did not waver. They knew in their hearts that God will do what He has promised and He will have His own way of accomplishing it. (Isa. 55:11)
In time the nation of Israel as a whole entered into a Covenant with God through Moses, the mediator of the Law Covenant. Israel was motivated by faith in the promise made to Abraham that God would use his posterity to bless all people, both the living and the dead. If they would keep God’s Law blamelessly, God covenanted that in them He would fulfill the promise made to Abraham. Although God knew that imperfect human beings could not keep His perfect Law, He allowed them the opportunity to try. He allowed them to learn the lesson while also providing an example to the angels of His own righteousness.
The Law Covenant would also provide instruction to Spiritual Israel, who were to be developed later, and who were to be the principle channel through whom the blessings actually would come. This St. Paul explains, saying, “It [the Law Covenant] was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” (Gal. 3:19)
In other words, God’s work began with Israel in a typical manner, long centuries before the time for Spiritual Israel to be developed. However, He did not thereby do injury to the people who had covenanted to keep the Law, but who were unable to do so. On the contrary, they as a people were blessed by their endeavors to keep that Law, and blessed also by the chastisements which came upon them because of their failures and lack of faith.
God especially blessed those Israelites who shared Abraham’s faith. In addition to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Apostle Paul enumerates a considerable number who pleased God because of their faith, long centuries before the first advent of Christ, the Spiritual Seed of Abraham. (Hebrews, Chapter 11) Although they will not be the Seed of Abraham in the highest sense on the spirit plane, those Ancient Worthies will be the seed of blessing on the earthly plane – the earthly channel through which the heavenly blessings will ultimately be extended to all nations.
It was faith that motivated the Jewish people during those past centuries – faith in God, faith that He would fulfill the promise made to Abraham. That promise still motivates Jews who have not lost their faith – those that are still Jews. Those who have lost the faith of Abraham are no longer in any sense of the word related to the promise; for the promise was according to faith. St. Paul speaks sympathetically of the Jewish nation as relates to the original promise God made to them, saying, “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come.” (Acts 26:6-7) All Jews, to the degree they still maintain that hope, may still expect to realize its blessings.
THE FAITH ONCE DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS
The coming of Christ did not change the Divine purpose, and therefore did not change the faith of God’s people. Jesus and the Apostles believed and taught the same Gospel God preached to Abraham: “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen [all mankind] through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” (Gal. 3:8) The message of the Apostles was the same message – all the families of the earth were to be blessed through the Seed of Abraham.
However, there was an additional feature of the Gospel that was then due to be proclaimed and believed. That feature was that God had already begun the work of providing this Seed of Abraham, the Messiah; God had sent the Logos, His Son, into the world that He might become the Seed of Abraham on the spirit plane, and eventually fulfill every feature of the original promise.
At the time of Jesus’ first advent, all Jews were in expectation of the Messiah. (Luke 3:15) However, not every Jew was an “Israelite indeed;” not all had the proper faith. Consequently, God allowed some of them to remain in measureable blindness on the subject, while others were granted a special anointing to the eyes of their understanding, their eyes of faith, allowing them to recognize that Jesus was the Messiah. To this class Jesus said, “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” (Luke 8:10) Understanding went only to the meek, honest and faithful of God’s people then, and has continued to go only to this class all through the age.
The death of Jesus was another test of faith for Jesus’ followers. They had expected that He would be crowned their king and would then free them from the yoke of Roman rule, making them the Kingdom of God on earth. When He was crucified instead, they said, “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” (Luke 24:21) Not yet having received the Holy Spirit, they did not understand that Jesus had redeemed the whole world, not just Israel, and that the redemption was not only from the Roman yoke, but from Satan’s yoke.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost, the mystery was revealed: The Messiah would not be one person, but many persons. Jesus alone would not be the Seed of Abraham, but Jesus as the Head and the Church as His members, or Body, would be that Seed. St. Paul says, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” (Gal. 4:28) Here he shows that Issac is a type of Christ, Jesus representing the head of Isaac and the Church representing his body.
In another figure, Isaac types Jesus and the Church is represented by Rebekah, his bride. According to this figure, the antitypical Isaac (Jesus) has entered into glory, awaiting the development of the antitypical Rebekah (the Church). At the appointed and appropriate time He is to come and receive His Bride to Himself, and they become one. Through this One will come the blessing to all the families of the earth in the Kingdom of Glory, as promised to Abraham thousands of years ago.
This is “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3) It is the hope set before us in the Gospel – the faith that God will use the Seed of Abraham to bless all humanity. Let us not doubt the wisdom of God in the arrangement He has made and set forth in the Scriptures. This faith, based upon the Abrahamic promise, is the power that enables us to gain the victory over the spirit of the world, and to be separate, sanctified to God, for service here and hereafter.
This article is based on Reprint 5243.
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