Luke chapter 2, 1-24

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These events serve to underline to our souls that God is in control.  He moves Caesar in Rome to set conditions for a census of everyone under Roman dominion.  Joseph and Mary are caught up in that, but Jehovah is ensuring that His Son, in accordance with the prophetic scriptures, would be born in Bethlehem.  Little do we realise how God still controls events today as He works out His purposes that you and I are part of.

The shepherds are among the remnant few who were waiting for the Messiah to come.  God rewards their faith with an angelic choir and an announcement that filled their hearts with joy.

We too ought to find our joy in Christ the Son of God.  What they had heard and seen made a difference to their testimony and worship.  So ought we to “make it known abroad” that Jesus is still the only Saviour for sinners.

The Decree (verses 1-5)

God moves the most powerful man in the world, Caesar, to issue a decree to order everyone under Roman dominion to be taxed.  Luke makes the historical note that this happened when Cyrenius was governor in Syria. It meant that everyone had to go to register in the city of their birth to complete the census Caesar had commanded.

Joseph was forced then to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem in Judah, because he was descended from David the King and Bethlehem was the city of David.  So Joseph made the journey and took with him Mary to whom he was betrothed, and Mary was very near to the delivery of her child.

The Days were accomplished (verses 6-7)

While there at Bethlehem, Mary delivered her child.  The birth is simply stated and happened in a natural way.  Mary wrapped the child in swaddling bands and laid Him in a manger.  They had evidently tried to find a place at the inn, but, because of the amount of people registering for taxation, there was no room for them in the inn.

The Display of glory (verses 8-14)

Near to Bethlehem, shepherds watched their flocks in the fields.  They must have been part of the remnant of Israel waiting for Messiah to come. So the angel of the Lord appears and the glory of the Lord shines around them.  Fear filled their hearts, but reassurance is immediately given by the angel with the simple instruction to “Fear not.”  The revelation of the Saviour’s birth is then proclaimed and the sign of the babe in swaddling clothes in the manger given to guide them.  Suddenly the whole sky was lit up with a whole host of angels praising God and saying “Glory to God” and “good will toward men.”

The Decision of the shepherds (verses 15-20)

Once the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds determined to go immediately to see the things they had been told and hurried on their way to Bethlehem.  So they found Mary and Joseph, and the child in the manger, as directed by the angels.  When they had taken in the scene, they made known to everyone round about what had been revealed to them about this child by the angels.  This caused great wonder amongst the people at what had come to pass.  However, Mary kept her thoughts to herself about these momentous things and simply kept turning them over in her mind and heart.  The shepherds then returned full of joy and worship to God because of the great privilege they had been given to witness these events.

The Duties of the law (verses 21-24)

As with John Baptist, so now with the Lord, He is circumcised on the eighth day and given the name Jesus, as the angel had decreed to Mary. Then, after 40 days, the little family made their way to Jerusalem so that Mary could make an offering for her purification.  It was required that the firstborn son should be presented to the Lord according to Exodus 13.  We also learn here how poor Mary and Joseph were, in that they could offer only the lowliest of sacrifices for Mary’s cleansing in the turtledoves or young pigeons (see Leviticus 12.1-8).

Luke Chapter 1, 57 – 80

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It is a good thing to rest in the promises of God. Zacharias and Elisabeth learned to do that here, and saw the promise fulfilled.

2nd Peter 1.4 records that there are given unto us “exceeding great and precious promises” and we need to lay hold upon them today.

Another feature of this section is the reliance put upon what scripture has stated. Zacharias in his song quotes from Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Malachi. It reminds us how dependable and inerrant the Holy scriptures are, and we can have the same confidence in them that Zacharias did in this passage.

May we be like Sarah in Hebrews 11.11 who “judged Him faithful that promised.”

The Birth of John the Baptist

The delivery of a son

The time arrived according to the mercy of God that Elisabeth gave birth to a son. Back in verse 13, Gabriel had predicted this event and told Zacharias it was the result of answered prayer.

The demonstration of God’s mercy

Newberry says in his marginal reading that the Lord was “magnifying His mercy with her.” We receive the benefit of God’s mercies every day, but sometimes that mercy is revealed in an exceptional way, as it was for Elisabeth here.

The delight of her family

Their neighbours and relatives were filled with great joy at the birth and they rejoiced with Elisabeth. We are encouraged to rejoice with them that do rejoice, and the birth of a new child is a great occasion to do so.

Circumcision according to the law

On the eighth day, they gathered to circumcise the child according to Leviticus 12.3, and this reminds us of the personal obedience of this couple as recorded in chapter 1.6. How obedient are we to all the word of God?

Confirmation of his name

They wanted to call him Zacharias after his father, but Elisabeth said: “No, he shall be called John.” They argued with her that none of her relations was called John and signed to Zacharias that he should clarify what the child’s name ought to be. Zacharias wrote: “His name is John.” This is what Gabriel had revealed, and again they adhered exactly to what he had said. Everyone marvelled, the mouth of Zacharias was opened and the meaning of all the sayings about John and the manner of this child caused a great stir throughout that region.

Clear indication of Divine support

“The hand of the Lord was with him” (verse 66). What a blessing to be assured of the Lord’s power and the Lord’s presence!

The Song of Zacharias.

The prophetic scriptures realised

Zacharias is filled then with the Holy Spirit and he prophesies. He blesses the God of Israel for His visitation and redemption. He speaks of the promise of God through the prophets to raise up a deliverer from the house of David to save His people from their enemies.

The covenant of God remembered

He remembers the covenant God made with Abraham that would result in His people worshipping and serving God without fear in holiness and righteousness.

The service of John anticipated

He then speaks about John that he would be the prophet of the Highest. John would be the forerunner of the Lord, going before His face and preparing the way for Him who was to come. Isaiah 40.3 and Malachi 3.1 had predicted this very event. He would give knowledge of salvation to the people through the remission of their sins according to the mercy of God.

He speaks of Divine visitation and of the light that would shine upon the people who were in darkness and under the shadow of death, to guide them into the way of peace.

We are told of the growth of the child and the strength of his spirit and the seclusion that he knew living in the deserts waiting for the time when God would show him that he was to go with his ministry to the people of Israel. John, like many others, had to learn the necessity of private preparation before engaging in public service.


Luke chapter 1, 26-56

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The truth of the Incarnation is vital for our salvation. John in his gospel says: “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1.14). Paul writes: “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in flesh …” (1st Timothy 3.16). The writer to the Hebrews emphasises in chapter 2, verses 14-15 that, “as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

It was as a man that He redeemed men by the shedding of His blood at the cross.

Gabriel appears to Mary – (Verses 26–38)

It was in the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy that Gabriel was sent to Mary at Nazareth.

Gabriel’s Salutation – (Verses 26-28)

Mary’s heredity is first mentioned by Luke. Gabriel came to Mary who was of the house of David. Clearly there is a double link back to David the king through both Mary and Joseph. This is why we have two genealogies; Matthew taking up Joseph from the legal standpoint, and Luke taking up Mary. These are the only genealogies in the New Testament and are to prove the real humanity of the Lord Jesus.

Mary’s purity is also emphasised. She is called a virgin twice over in Luke 1.27, and there can be no doubt that this means a woman who has not had sexual relations with any man and who is still unmarried. Mary at this point was betrothed, she was promised in marriage but not yet actually the wife of Joseph. That she remained pure until after the birth of the Lord is also emphasised. Here, in verse 34, she says: “I know not a man.” In Matthew 1.18 she was found to be with child “before they came together,” and in Matthew 1.25 Joseph “knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn Son.”

Mary’s acceptability is clearly stated by Gabriel in verse 28. She is highly favoured, and verse 30 further states that her favour is with God. She is truly blessed among women, the idea being, well-spoken of. Maybe we should pause to consider how we ourselves might be spoken of in heaven?

Mary’s consternation is evident in verse 29.

Mary became physically agitated and her mind was reeling wondering what this could mean.

Gabriel’s Communication (verses 30-33) She would conceive in her womb and give birth to a son. 3 matters are stated about this Son.

  • He is to be called Jesus, “Jehovah the Saviour.”
  • He is Son of the Most High.
  • He is Sovereign over Israel and will reign forever.

These are 3 distinct Messianic truths about the child to be born.

Mary’s question is then raised, which enables further details to be furnished. “How shall this be seeing I know not a man?” – (verse 34)

Gabriel’s explanation (verses 35 – 37) must have been staggering to Mary.

Previously she had been told what would happen; now she is told how it will happen. The Divine Spirit was to come upon her. Note it is the action of a Divine Person. Here the work of the Holy Spirit is in view. In Hebrews 10.5, “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me” attributes the work to the Father, and in John 1.14 “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” is the clear action of the Son. Thus Divine Persons together were involved in the incarnation. Then there is the operation of Divine power, “the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee.” This is no doubt a reference to the overshadowing of the Shekinah. The glory of God was going to protect and permeate this One who would be born. Compare the cloud that overshadowed in Luke 9 at the transfiguration and the overshadowing of the mercy seat by the cherubim in Hebrews 9. Thus at His Incarnation, Transfiguration and in the work of Propitiation, the Shekinah is present!

The conception was Divine, but the birth was perfectly natural and normal!

However, the Person presented from the womb was born Holy (“that which is begotten holy”) and called the Son of God. It is as if Gabriel anticipates the mystery of all this to Mary and gives her support to believe, through the confirmation of the conception of Elisabeth. Then Gabriel states absolutely, “with God nothing shall be impossible.”

Mary’s submission – (verse 38) “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” Ultimately the Incarnation is a matter for faith and submission, and surely we rest today just where Mary rested!

Verses 39 – 45 record Mary’s visit to Elisabeth in the hill country of Judah, where she stayed for 3 months. At Mary’s greeting, two unusual events take place. The baby leaps in Elisabeth’s womb and, filled with the Spirit, she confirms the blessing of Mary and the certainty that what Mary has been told will be fulfilled.

Verses 46-56 bring out Mary’s praise to God for His grace towards her. Mary seeks to magnify God out of her joyful spirit and acknowledges here that God is her personal Saviour. She marvels that God should look on one so lowly as she is and appreciates the blessed place she will be given in the generations to come.

She records the attributes of God; He is mighty and holy and shows mercy to those that fear Him. He puts down, he exalts, he fills the hungry, he sends away the rich empty and he remembers His promises to Abraham and the fathers of the nation.

Luke 1, 1-25 – Zacharias and Elisabeth

Introduction (verses 1 – 4)

Luke was a doctor, and he accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys. As well as writing this gospel, he also wrote the book of Acts, and each book is addressed to his friend Theophilus.  Theophilus appears to have been a person of some importance by the fact that he is addressed as “most excellent,” which was quite often the way officials in government were addressed.  Luke writes later than others, and he refers to the fact that many who were eyewitnesses have declared already the matters which are “most surely believed” among the Christians.  These witnesses are described by Luke as official ministers of the word (verse 2), and by this time both Matthew and Mark would have written their gospels.  Luke declares that “it seemed good to me also” to gather this material together, having checked its authenticity, and so to write.  However, what he wrote was under the guidance and control of the Holy Spirit of God. Luke had acquired an accurate knowledge of the life of Christ from the very first and now wishes to set out the details in an orderly way, with method, to confirm the things Theophilus has already been taught.

Zacharias and Elisabeth (verses 5 – 25)

Fitness of the couple

Luke begins by telling us about the character of this godly couple, who were to become the parents of John the Baptist.  Both were righteous, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the law, blameless (verse 6).

Function of Zacharias’ service.

Officially Zacharias was a priest and functioned according to the course of priests to which he belonged by burning incense at the altar of incense in the temple holy place.  There were twenty-four courses of priests in the Jewish system, and he belonged to the course of Abijah (1 Chronicles 24.10).  Elisabeth was also of priestly descent and is called a daughter of Aaron, the original high priest.  They were now advanced in years but had no children, owing to Elisabeth’s physically barren condition.  The offering of incense was linked with prayer (Psalm 141.2 Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense), and as he offered in the Holy Place the people prayed outside.

Favour shown by God

It was then that Gabriel appeared on the right side of the altar.  The right side is usually the side of favour, and clearly God was showing His favour in what was to happen to this couple.

Fear of Zacharias

Understandably, Zacharias was terrified and agitated when he saw the angel (verse 12).

Foretelling of a son

He is told not to be afraid and that God has heard his prayer in the past and is now answering it.  (Note: Zacharias means remembered of Jehovah.) His wife will have a son and his name is to be called John.  He would bring them joy and gladness, and many others would also rejoice when John was born.

Features of John described

He was going to be great before God and would be a Nazarite.  Nazarites were separated to God, did not drink alcohol and made sure they were free from any defiling contacts in their lives.  That is, separated in: appetite, associations and appearance (compare Numbers 6).  John was to be filled with the controlling power of the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb and would turn many of the Jews to God.  He was also to be the forerunner of Messiah, going before Him in the same zeal and power that Elijah had, to prepare a people for the coming of the Lord into the world.

Failure of Zacharias to believe

In verse 18, Zacharias can’t believe this can happen as both he and his wife were too old.  The angel then emphasises who he is, and where he has come from, and that this is the message God has sent him to deliver. As a consequence of not believing, Zacharias is to be struck dumb until the child is born.  By this time, the people waiting outside were becoming concerned that Zacharias was so long in the temple.  When he eventually came out and they saw he was dumb, they realised he had seen a vision from God in the temple.

Fulfilment in the conception of Elisabeth

When the work of Zacharias was finished at the temple he returned home. Just as the angel predicted, Elisabeth became pregnant and for five months was confined to her house.  She accepted that this was the Lord dealing with her and that he was treating her with favour in taking away the stigma of her previously barren condition.

Exodus 17.8-16 “Then came Amalek”


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We, as the people of God, face a threefold enemy: the world, the flesh and the devil.

The devil is pictured in the form of Pharaoh in the beginning of Exodus. The Israelites were delivered from his dominion by blood and by power.

The world is seen in Egypt itself, and God separated them from that when they crossed the Red Sea.  So the Lord Jesus “gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil world” (Galatians 1.4).

However, they took the flesh with them, and we do also.

There were constant outbreaks of carnality, and 1st Corinthians, chapter 10 records that “with many of them God was not well pleased.”  Exodus 17 teaches us lessons in type to help us deal with the flesh.

May we, like Joshua’s chosen men, rise to do battle and to know the victory over our greatest enemy.

Exodus 17.8-16 “Then came Amalek”

The timing of the attack is emphasised in verse 8.  It throws us back to consider the conditions amongst the Israelites when this happened.

The naming of the place by Moses as Massah and Meribah is a testimony to the carnal behaviour of the people.  They tempted the Lord, and strife had broken out between themselves and their leaders.  They had lost the sense of the Lord’s provision, purpose and presence in verse 3 and verse 7. Even though Moses’ appeal and miraculous action in verse 6 brought floods of satisfying streams out of the rock, the people had opened the door to an attack by Amalek.

Amalek is surely a telling picture of the flesh as the inveterate enemy of the Lord’s people.  The antitypical passage in the New Testament that deals with the flesh is surely Galatians chapter 5, where Paul raises a number of principles to help the believer overcome the flesh.

In order not to fulfil the lusts of the flesh, we need Regulated feet, so that Paul writes: “walk in the Spirit.”

We also need to understand that the flesh is a Relentless foe, for “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit.”  This is an enemy that never lets up.

Paul speaks of the works of the flesh and lists some Revealing features: “… the works of the flesh are … these” (Galatians 5.19-21).  Let us ensure that we never practise any of these.

However, there is now a whole set of Spirit-given graces as a Replacement strategy, provided in “The fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5.22-23).  These graces are listed as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”  And, in a statement which is simultaneously simple and profound, Paul adds: “against such there is no law.”

Finally, Paul demonstrates that the flesh cannot be improved or controlled, and we must take a Ruthless stand against it (verse 24). “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Notice that the fight against Amalek was taken in the valley and on the hill.  In the valley we have warriors, and on the hill intercessors!

On the hill there is Moses the mediator, Aaron the priest, and Hur, a prince of the tribe of Judah.  Aaron and Hur hold up the heavy hands of Moses.  This speaks of moral support in prayer and how necessary this is. When a brother prays publicly in the prayer meeting, do we silently support and uphold him as he leads the company?

In 1st Timothy 2.8, Paul instructs the males to pray everywhere “lifting up holy hands.”  This emphasises moral suitability in prayer.  He that ascends into the hill of the Lord must have clean hands!  (Psalm 24)

Then, in Hebrews 12, the Spirit of God instructs us to “lift up the hands that hang down.”  Here, there is the requirement for moral strength, so that we do not become enfeebled in the matter of spiritual intercession.

Verse 12 then records the moral steadfastness of the intercessors, for “Moses’ hands were steady until the going down of the sun.”  It encourages us to know that prevailing prayer will surely win the victory!

This enabled Joshua to break the power of Amalek (verse 13 – JND Translation) with the edge of the sword.  So we have learned how the flesh can be overcome in our experience: Submission to the Spirit of God, intercession at the throne of God, and the application of the word of God!

In the remainder of the chapter, attention is drawn to the book, the blotting out of Amalek, the building of an altar, and the banner.

What was written in the book was not just a record of what took place, but the import of it was to be rehearsed in the ears of Joshua.  There needs to be repeated recourse to the inspired Word so that its freshness is always with us.

God’s pronouncement regarding the blotting out of Amalek was absolute and would come to pass.  There will be a day when the flesh will be eradicated from these bodies of ours.  When the Saviour comes at the Rapture, our body of humiliation will be fashioned like unto His own body of glory (Philippians 3.21).

In verse 15, Moses built an altar (the first since leaving Egypt), no doubt to worship but also as a witness that the victory was all of God.  Let us acknowledge that – from start to finish – it is all of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.

The name Jehovah-Nissi (the Lord my banner) was given to it.

The Psalmist writes: “Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth.  Selah.  That Thy beloved may be delivered; save with Thy right hand, and hear me.” (Psalm 60.4-5)

We do well to remember that “God is stronger than our foes.”

The Journeys of the Children of Israel

Exodus chapters 13-17

The Principle – God was in control of their lives.

The first reference to journeying is found in Exodus 13.20-22:  “And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness.  And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.”

Note there was

  • Direction in His leading – The Cloud to lead them the way (verse 21)
  •  Illumination in His light – The Pillar of fire to give them light (verse 21)
  • Communication through His word – Chapter 17.1, where “command” simply means “mouth” or “word.”

How much are we consciously being led by and given light from the Lord, and receiving communication through His word?

Paul says in Galatians 5.18: “If ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”  And, in verse 25, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  That word “walk” means to walk in an orderly way, or to have our steps guided.  In the journeys of the children of Israel, God determined when they went, where they went, how they went, and for how long they went.  Read Numbers 9.17-23 to see how God regulated their movements.

17.  And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents.

18.  At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents.

19.  And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord, and journeyed not.

20.  And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the Lord they abode in their tents, and according to the commandment of the Lord they journeyed.

21.  And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed.

22.  Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed.

23.  At the commandment of the Lord they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed: they kept the charge of the Lord, at the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses.

Notice that the tabernacle was the focus of their camp, and everything they did was ordered around it.  It is called the “tent of the testimony” in Numbers 9.15 and was an ever-conscious part of their daily living.  How much is my life governed by the local assembly of God’s people where His testimony rests today?

The Places they visited – God Himself brought them to these places.

Not all of the places are mentioned in the book of Exodus, but a full catalogue is given in Numbers 33.  These places are typical of experiences into which God may bring us in the course of our lives.  Deuteronomy 8 reveals the reason they found themselves in adverse situations:

2.  And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.

3.  And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.

4.  Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.

5.  Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee.

Marah, for example, reminds us that God is able to make bitter experiences sweet (Exodus 15.23-26).  “… the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet.”  Is there a bitter experience presently burdening us?  Perhaps because of the loss of loved ones, maybe difficult health situations, or personal problems causing trouble in our experience?  Look to the tree and bring the Man of Calvary into your experience, and you’ll find a sweetness that leaves no bitter taste.

Elim was where they found twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees (Exodus 15.27).  It speaks of the blessedness of fellowship that strengthened them in God.  Elim means “strong ones, and there they experienced the shade of the palms and the satisfaction of the refreshing waters in fellowship with God.  Those who absent themselves from the gatherings, deny themselves that refreshment and rest which renews the strength of those that collectively wait upon the Lord.

In Exodus chapter 17.1 they have been at the Wilderness of Sin (Bush), and there God’s fulness of provision is seen in the manna, when God rained for them bread from heaven.

The manna on the wilderness is a lovely picture of the fulness of Divine provision in the Person of the Lord Jesus.  Note those features of the manna which are emphasised in Exodus chapter 16.

Its source – from heaven (verse 4)

Sufficiency – bread to the full (verse 8)

smallness – small as the hoar frost on the ground (verse 14)

shape: round –the eternal character of Christ (verse 14)

suitability – an omer for every man (verse 16)

stench – when they left of it until the morning and it bred worms and stank (verse 20) – a lesson on the importance of freshness

stainless character – white (verse 31)

sweetness – taste of it was like wafers made with honey (verse 31)

The Lord Jesus is the answer to the manna, as He is the living bread that came down from heaven.  Are we gathering our portion every day and feeding our souls on Christ?

Rephidim means “plains” or “reclining places.”  It represents the leisureliness of the people.

This could be representative of a good relationship with God, as in Psalm 25.13: “His soul shall dwell at ease,” that is the man that fears the Lord. However, it can also suggest the complacency of the people and lead to complaining, as in Exodus chapter 17.2.  Note that there was a cause: 

There was no water there (verse 2) and

The people thirsted there (verse 3).

Psalm 107.5 says: “Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.” “Fainted” here means “showed itself feeble.”  It would seem this was God’s way of teaching them about the feebleness of self!  Have we learned that lesson in the experiences of life?

Do we faint, or are we like the psalmist in Psalm 63?  “My soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.”

The apparent lack of necessities can never be used as an excuse for carnal behaviour and murmuring against God.

“He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness,” we read in Psalm 107.9

Notice now in Exodus chapter 17

The People’s Contention

      • Demands are made upon Moses by the people – strife and contention is evident (verse 2)
      • A disaster scenario is painted by them (verse 3)
      • A confused attitude towards the Lord results (verse 7): “Is the Lord among us or not?”
      • Moses’ Challenge
      • Why chide ye with me
      • Wherefore do ye tempt the Lord
      • Sometimes we fail to realise the consequences of complaining!
    • Moses’ Cry – He turns to the Lord for help.
    • “What shall I do unto this people?”
    • Such behaviour needs to be challenged, but a solution also requires to be presented.
    • The Lord always has a solution!  The answer is threefold:
      • Leadership – “Go on before” (verse 5)
      • Fellowship – “take with thee of the elders” (verse 5)
      • Stewardship – “thy rod … take in thine hand and go.” God had given him in his hand what he needed.
  • In Verse 6 we have Moses’ course of action
  • The Lord stands before him
  • Moses smites the rock (Note not the people)
  • Water is supplied in abundance
  • “He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river.” – Psalm 105.41

“And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 10.4

It is a picture of God’s provision through the smitten Saviour (Isaiah 53.4). “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”

In Micah 5.1, we read: “They shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.”  And in Zechariah 13.7, we read: “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.”

The answer to strife and contention among God’s people is to drink deep from the supply that comes from an appreciation of the smitten Man of Calvary!

May we be encouraged to look again to Calvary in the varied struggles of life, knowing that the answer to our need is always found in Christ.

Colossians chapter 4.10-18


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The final section of this letter is not just casual greetings formally presented.

In it we understand who accompanied Paul at Rome and supported him in his first imprisonment.  Some of these servants of God had travelled many weary miles and borne hardships in spreading the gospel with Paul.

Have we gone the extra mile with the word of life, and have we borne any hardships for the Lord Jesus?

Paul’s care for the assemblies is also evident in the mention of Laodicea and Hierapolis along with Colosse.  Evidently he desired the same truth contained in the Colossian letter to be accepted and practised by the other assemblies as well.

It is a reminder to us that what is truth in one assembly is without doubt truth in every assembly!  We cannot pick and choose what to accept and what to refuse.

Colossians chapter 4.10-18


In verses 10-11, three of Paul’s companions in Rome, who are Jewish men, send greetings: Aristarchus, Marcus and Jesus Justus.  There was great antagonism against Paul among the Jews, but here were three men who stood with him, soothing and consoling him, and prepared to be prisoners for Christ.  Aristarchus is with Paul in Acts 19, and is mentioned again in Acts 20 as a man of Thessalonica, and he evidently travelled to Rome with Paul, as Acts 27.2 confirms.  Marcus is identified as the relative of Barnabas, whom Paul and Barnabas disagreed about in Acts 15.37 – 38. However, any questions or doubts Paul may have had regarding Mark are no longer valid, and he confirms Mark has to be received by the Colossians.  Later, in 2 Timothy 4.11, Paul requests Timothy to bring Mark with him as “he is profitable to me for the ministry.”  Mark, of course, is also the disciple who wrote the Servant Gospel, which bears his name.

Do we embrace all the believers in our greetings?

Of the next three men, we can highlight the fervent prayers of Epaphras, the faithful presence of doctor Luke and the faltering position of Demas. The intimacy of Epaphras with the Colossians is seen in that he is one of them.  Then we have underlined for us his dignity as a servant of Christ, and his consistency as a man of prayer, always energetically interceding that they may be consolidated and complete according to God’s will for them.  The constant presence of Luke in ministering to the needs of Paul was undoubtedly a tower of strength to the Apostle and draws out the affectionate term “the beloved physician.”  In 2 Timothy 4, Paul writes “Only Luke is with me.”  Demas is mentioned, but only in sending greetings, and we are left to wonder if Paul already had some sense of the defection that he would later record in 2 Timothy 4.10, where we read: “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica.”  The third Jew is Jesus Justus, of whom we know nothing else but that he was a co-worker with the others in presenting the claims of God’s kingdom through the gospel.

Three final names are recorded: Nymphas, Archippus and Paul himself. There is some textual uncertainty as to whether we should read “Nympha” – in the feminine – and “the church which is in her house.”  If that be the case, here is a sister noted in scripture who provided accommodation in her home for the assembly at Laodicea to gather together.  As such, she joins others like Priscilla and Aquila (1 Corinthians 16.19) and Philemon, who also made room in their homes for the assembly to gather.  Paul refers here to another letter from Laodicea which is to be read at Colosse, and some think this may in fact have been the Epistle to the Ephesians, which was intended to be circulated to the other assemblies in that region.

In verse 17, Archippus – who is also mentioned in the epistle to Philemon – is exhorted to make sure of the accomplishment of the work of God which he has received from the Lord.  It is sad when the service of God is littered with unfulfilled tasks, and the challenge here ought to be felt by all of us!

The last verse gives authentication to the whole epistle.  Paul writes the final greeting in his own handwriting.  Forged letters were used to undermine the faith of the believers, as referred to by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2, for example.  It was necessary then to complete the dictated epistle by signing it off in his own hand.

Thus he concludes with an appeal to remember his bonds, and an assurance in his final benediction of the accompaniment of grace, ever present with them.

Colossians chapter 4.1-9


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Great importance has been given to prayer from the start of this epistle. Now here, at the end, the apostle encourages the Colossians to keep on praying.  Elsewhere (Luke 18.1) we are told that “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.”  Are we tempted to give up?  No, don’t lose heart, for “God’s eyes are over the righteous and His ear is open to their cry.”

Sometimes servants of God ask us to pray for them and their circumstances.  How often do we say we will, and then forget them?  Let us try to be more faithful in remembering them!

Approaching and reaching unbelievers is quite a daunting task.  We need to pray for two things here:

  1. How to be wise in our approach, and not just to blunder in, cutting off ears.
  2. That God would open up opportunities for us that may not be missed and will prove to be fruitful!

Colossians chapter 4.1-9

The chapter break is very unfortunate, and it is evident that verse 1 belongs to the final section of chapter 3.  Christian masters are reminded that they must maintain a sense of what is right in dealing with those who work for them.  Equal treatment forbids the indulgence of favouritism or partiality.  Finally, masters must ever be aware that they are responsible to a superior master who is above, in heaven.

Watching in prayer, walking in wisdom and words of grace (verses 2-6)

Three features ought to qualify our prayers: namely perseverance, perception and praise.  We have to work at our prayers and not give up, following the example of the widow in Luke 18.  We are also to be alert and aware of circumstances around us when we pray.  The Lord instructed the disciples in the garden to “watch and pray,” but sadly, when He returned, He found them heavy with sleep.  Paul himself is a great example of giving thanks in prayer, as chapter 1 verse 3 and verse 11 demonstrate.

Paul requested that he and the servants with him might have a place in their prayers.  He wanted a door to be opened, not a door of liberty from prison, but a door of opportunity to speak the message of the gospel, which he calls here the mystery of Christ.  Verse 5 emphasises that it takes wisdom to approach non-Christians, but nevertheless we are to buy up the opportunities afforded to us.  Time is passing swiftly, and the question is, are we using it to present Christ to the perishing?

People around us are looking for answers, but it is important not only to know what to say but also how to say it.  That is why, like the Lord Jesus, we will use gracious words and guarded words, guided by God to put before individuals the very specific response that they need.

Paul’s commendation of Tychicus and Onesimus (verses 7-9)

Paul has spoken little about his own personal circumstances in the epistle. He leaves the details of that to the discretion of Timothy to inform the assembly when he arrives in Colosse.  How precious, though, the confidence he has in Tychicus, who will carry this letter and the letter to Ephesus, along with a personal letter to Philemon.

Paul tells of his intimate affection for him as a brother, his complete trust in him as one who has proved faithful and his fellowship with him in the service of God.  The earliest reference to him is in Acts 20.4, where we learn he was a man of Asia and accompanied Paul with others at the end of his third missionary journey.  Besides this passage and Ephesians 6, Tychicus is also mentioned in 2 Timothy 4 and Titus 3, where Paul would send him to help the saints at Ephesus and Crete.

Accompanying him was Onesimus, no longer returning as a runaway slave but as a faithful and beloved brother.  Notice that faithfulness comes first here, to demonstrate the trust Paul now had in a man whose life and character had been changed by the power of the gospel!  Paul’s affectionate relationship with him was the basis to endear Onesimus to the Colossians that they might warmly receive him.  For, says the apostle, “He is one of you.”

Next time:

Meaningful salutations

Colossians chapter 3.12-25


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 God does not intend the Christian life to be lived in a vacuum.

The old has to be discarded, and the flesh ruthlessly dealt with. However, there is a new attire to be clothed with that speaks of the graces of Christ, for God would have us all to be like His Son.

Such features will help us in the assembly to maintain an atmosphere of love and respect.  They will help us in the family – whether wives, husbands or children – and they will govern our behaviour in the work place as well.

Wherever we are and whatever relationship we are found in, we represent the name of the Lord Jesus (chapter 3.17).

This ought to cause our hearts to well up in thanksgiving to the Father through Christ, whose peace rules in our hearts.

Colossians chapter  3.12-25

Graces to put on (verses 12-14)

What we have to put on is in keeping with what we are before God.  We are the subjects of Divine election, sanctification and affection, and certain Christ-like characteristics need to be displayed.  We are to have a heart of compassion which demonstrates a practical goodness and tender consideration of others.  We should be characteried by a genuine lowliness of mind, coupled with the ability to maintain control of personal strength and to bear up under pressure and opposition, while showing the quality to exhibit patient endurance with each other.  If we have a complaint against someone, it affords the opportunity to show them the kind of forgiveness that the Lord Jesus has already shown to every one of us.  Then, to crown these graces, Paul says “put on love.”  Love is that which binds believers together and provides the impetus to make progress towards the spiritual completeness intended by God.

Presiding peace and the indwelling word (verses 15-17)

– Love is the crown of all the graces

These verses may be paraphrased as follows: Allow the peace of Christ to arbitrate if disputes arise among you.  Let the word of Christ abide in you in all the richness of its wealth.  Let the wisdom of the doctrine of Christ admonish each one of you.  Let the worship of Christ arise as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, being thankful to God.  Everything we say and do must be in subjection to the authority of the Lord Jesus, and through Him our gratitude is directed to God the Father.  Is Jesus Christ Lord of my words and works?

Christian behaviour in various relationships (verses 17-25)

Paul deals with the home and the workplace in these verses.  In every mention of wives in the epistles, the principle of subjection is emphasised.  Note, it is always to her own husband that the wife is to submit, and Paul adds that this is befitting in the Lord.

Husbands have to love their wives and not to be irritating them out of a bitter spirit.  Here the love is unqualified, but in Ephesians 5, a husband must love his wife as he loves himself and “as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it.”

Children are exhorted to obey their parents, and, Paul adds, “in everything.”  Note the higher thought that this is well pleasing not just to the parents, but is in keeping with a desire to please the Lord Himself.

This instruction to children is balanced by the requirement that fathers should not provoke or stir up their children.  By displaying the wrong attitude, it is possible to dishearten your children so as to take any feeling or passion out of them.

In verse 22 we enter the work place with an appeal to servants or slaves. Perhaps with the background of Onesimus (chapter 4.9), the converted slave being sent back to his master Philemon, Paul deals more extensively with responsibilities in this context.  Obedience, continuance, diligence and reverence are the features that must characterise their service. Whatever they are asked to do, and whether anyone is watching or not, they will work, putting their soul into it with energy as serving the Lord Himself.

They may be slaves down here and may have nothing of their own in this life, but the Lord will recompense their labour with a heavenly inheritance.  What dignity is conferred on the Christian slave and indeed all of us, when we remember that we serve the Lord Christ!  William Kelly has made the following observation on this passage: “No person becomes obedient by good rules. The heart must be filled with right motives.” It truly elevates even the most mundane level of service when the motive is to serve the risen Christ.

Next time:

Exhortations, the opening of doors and opportunities.

Colossians Chapter 3.1-11


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As a risen people enjoying the life of Christ we have a new object for our minds.  It may be good to examine how much time we actually spend being occupied with the things which are above.

What do we know of heaven and the place of exaltation where the Lord Jesus is now enthroned?

People in the world wonder where our pleasures are and what our life consists of.  Christians are an enigma to unbelievers!  However, one day we will come out of heaven with Christ when He returns to set up His visible manifested kingdom in this world that, today, has rejected Him and us.  Then the true nature of what it means to be linked with a glorified Man will be made evident to all.

Thus, in a world that is so concerned about “image projection,” we as believers endeavour only to present the image of our exalted Lord.

Colossians chapter 3.1-11

Risen with Christ

At the end of chapter 2 Paul reminded us that we died with Christ when He died.  Now we are instructed that we were also raised with Christ and as a result our ambitions are completely changed.  We are to demonstrate an earnest desire for heavenly things, being occupied with the truth that the Lord Jesus is on the right hand of God.  The right hand is the place of power and privilege.  Could it be that our minds are more often directed towards the horizontal outlook of this world rather than the more spiritual vertical sphere.  We are to have elevated thoughts because we are linked with an elevated Person in glory.  We died, and the self-life, living for earthly temporal pleasures, no longer appeals to us.

Our actual life is not evident here on earth, it is lived where Christ is and hidden in God from the eyes of men.  However, our life will be seen one day when the Lord Jesus Christ returns in His manifested glory.  Paul anticipates that day in 2 Thessalonians 1.10 “When He shall come to be glorified in His saints and admired in all them that believe.”

Having dealt with the occupation of our minds, Paul now turns to the mortification of our members in verses 5-8.

Paul deals with three categories of sins which may be summed up under the following headings: immoral lusts (verse 5), injurious actions and inappropriate language (verse 8).

We have to put to death any of these sins whenever they raise their heads, and we must be ruthless and relentless in attending to them.  They include: illicit sexual intercourse; impure thoughts; lustful passions; evil desires; and the basic root that covers all of these, namely the sin of covetousness.  This is literally “the desire to have more,” and reminds us that the flesh is never satisfied.

Covetousness is called idolatry because it dethrones God and displaces Christ in our affections, in order to pursue what the flesh craves for itself.

For the practice of these sins, the retribution of God will fall on those characterised by unbelieving disobedience.  These sins once belonged to the past life of the Colossians, before they were saved, but now their behaviour is different.

Next, Paul instructs them that they are to discard and be done with behaviour that disturbs and damages other people.  Wrath means a settled indignation fermenting in the heart, anger is the furious outburst of temper like a fire bursting out in the straw!  Malice is the perverse inclination to cause harm to someone, slander is to revile, and filthy communication is abusive speech.  Along with all these, lying, which is really any kind of falsehood, is to be discarded once for all.

The old and the new man

Paul reminds them that the old man has been put off, and the characteristics just listed all belong to the man we once were in Adam. There is therefore no place for these in the expression of the new man created by the Lord. The new man is renewed in knowledge and represents Christ, as well as resembling Him in reflecting His image.  The ultimate purpose of God for us is that we might be “conformed to the image of His Son,” and the inward work of accomplishing that has begun with the creation of the new man.

In this new creation there is no place for racial, religious, cultural or social boundaries (verse 11).  Paul asserts that there is only Christ, who is all and in all.  He is everything that is required and He is in everything that is worthwhile.

Next time: Respect and Relationships