There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
[John 1:6-13 NKJV]
John — in speaking of his namesake John, the Baptist — twice says that he came to ‘bear witness to the/that light’. This works on two levels; for emphasis of John the Baptist’s role as a witness, and that ‘two’ is the number used in Scripture to denote ‘witness’, or ‘agreement’.* John is also making a clear distinction between John the Baptist’s purpose and that of the Light that he came to announce.
Furthermore, these verses speak of two people, ‘The Baptist’ and ‘The Light’, who was Jesus, who was to become ‘the Christ’. In the beginning was one, ‘The Word’, and now we have two. Now we have the embryo of a movement; a seed planted which will grow and bear fruit, which is shown in the third part of these verses — that those who follow, as many as received Him ... who believe in His name, is given the right to become children of God. This was no advertising gimmick or foolish promise, as we know. This seed has grown to become still — despite the decline of Christianity in Western society — the largest religion in the World today, by far. What began as ‘the true light’ has become an incandescent flame illuminating the whole earth, if only many more had a heart to perceive and eyes to see, and ears to hear. [Deuteronomy 29:4 NKJV].
And if each of us who have ‘seen The Light’, bear witness to The Light, we shall be helping keep that flame alive.
* Two. Denotes difference. If two different persons agree in testimony it is conclusive. Otherwise two implies opposition, enmity, and division, as was the work of the Second day. Compare the use of the word “double” applied to “heart”, “tongue”, “mind”, &c. [E W Bullinger ‘The Companion Bible’, Appendix 10: “The Spiritual Significance of Numbers”]
The Apostle James will have nothing to do with pious talk that is not backed by the life. Pious words without works are so much wind.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
[John 1:1-5 NKJV]
What a beautiful name. ‘The Word’. Verse 1 expresses and explains in a few short words the conundrum which is Jesus Christ to us, and it does so, not from our perspective, but from God’s. These five verses which announce John’s Gospel have an unsurpassed resonance in the New Testament — an echo of the first five verses of Genesis announcing the Old.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.
God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
[Genesis 1:1-5 NKJV]
Both of these quotations are ‘eternal’ in their expression. John’s Gospel is the most overtly Spirit-led of the four; but that is not to say that Matthew, Mark and Luke are not. John seems less interested in ‘telling the story’ of Jesus, than he is in revealing the Son of God. John, we understand, was the disciple ‘that Jesus loved’ and we sense the closeness of the relationship throughout the book. This, after all, was the disciple who was lying on Jesus’ breast, hearing His heartbeat; the one would ask Jesus the question on behalf of the others (see John 13:18-30).
John also wrote his three letters and the book of Revelation, quoting Jesus as saying “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” [Revelation 22:13 NKJV]. John, as author of a gospel and the final book of the New Testament, provides his own beginning and end to Jesus’ purpose for us all — a beginning which had no beginning and an end which is never ending. Jesus is forever; He is ‘The Eternal Word’
This song, to which Annea introduced us, seems easily the most appropriate song for this meditation and scripture reading.
If you are a saint God will continually upset your programme, and if you are wedded to your programme you will become that most obnoxious creature under heaven, an irritable saint.
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
[Revelation 22:16 NKJV]
This post was intended for yesterday morning, but a change of plan intervened. Changes are happening fast and furiously in these peculiar days. We watch or listen to the news with a ‘did I really hear that?’ amazement. An American president impeached for a historic second occasion for inciting insurrection; NHS hospitals almost overwhelmed by coronavirus cases in some areas; climate change happening faster than anticipated — but all concern swept aside in a moment and expressed in the smile on newsreader George Alagiah’s face with an uplifting story of a newborn baby (baby only known of less than 2 weeks before being born).
It really feels like this was what was meant by the end times. Is that to be our focus? Should we quiver in fear? Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. [2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NKJV]
Our eyes should always turn to the eternal, as evidenced by Jesus, our bright and morning star. A star heralded His birth and now He is the star who brings light and life to each one anew morning by morning. He is the star of greater light who guides those lesser lights, meaning His saints, who are sons of God at His choosing and stars in the heavenlies looking to Him.
As His saints, and stars in the firmament of God, the disasters and calamities around us are of little or no moment. They are under our feet. Certainly, these things will have an effect on our lives — maybe a serious effect — but we must concentrate on Him, for only in that way will we have peace. Follow your star!
Beware of the storms of spiritual misgiving. The security of the saint’s life is his relationship to Jesus and obedience to His Word.
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow labourer, to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
[Philemon 1:1-3 NKJV]
The short New Testament book of Philemon, seems like a punctuation mark in the grand line of intensive spiritual truth around it. In my experience it is only rarely referenced by ministry. However, we know that All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV], and Paul’s letter to Philemon is therefore no exception.
In its mere 25 verses, we get a valuable insight into the inner processes of Paul’s ministry. We see him building faith and confidence; encouraging and supporting; fine-tuning relationships amongst his ‘workers for Christ’ without condemnation or reproach.
We feel the genuine love and concern; not just for his pupil Onesimus (a onetime slave, deserter and thief), but for Philemon and the other names mentioned. Paul mentions not just Philemon and the small family church of which he is a part, but includes others that Philemon would know, reminding him that there are faithful brothers and sisters beyond his small circle. It is easy to feel isolated and downcast — we all need to know that we are not alone in the difficulty and the struggle. Paul shows that he has no doubt that love and forgiveness will win through, mentioning Jesus’ name seven times in this short message.
This is not the apostle preaching or arguing doctrine or laying out spiritual principles, but putting his belief into practice in a tender, caring and loving way. In many ways this letter speaks every bit as powerfully of Christ as does the great statement that is the book of Hebrews which follows it.
When you are brought face to face with something in God’s word, watch your circumstances: the tyranny of things will either imperil your faith or increase it.
Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword”; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
[Isaiah 1:18-20 NKJV]
The words of Isaiah are among the most revolutionary in the entirety of Scripture. Why do I say that? Again and again in the Old Testament, we hear about the wrath of God, or of His plan for mankind; but here at the centre of the Bible, Isaiah has this amazing revelation — Almighty God desires a relationship with His people where we can reason together; discuss things with our Creator; ask questions and get an understanding of our purpose in His universe.
Suddenly, we need not be afraid. Surely, we must fear the Lord, have a healthy respect for Him, know that He is in control; but God is revealed as a loving Father and not an autocratic ruler. At least, that was my feeling when I first read those words.
Here God also sets out the basic terms and conditions of His covenant with us His people — if you are willing and obedient ... No wonder Isaiah is seen as the first of the great prophets, for he lets us see our Heavenly Father in the light of our experience and less of an otherworldly deity. He brings God to us, and God used Isaiah to bring some of the clearest of prophecies regarding the coming Messiah — Jesus of Nazareth — who completely and utterly fulfilled that promise of forgiveness in Isaiah 1:18-20.
The Christian life is the simplest, the gayest, the most regardless-of-consequences life, lived as it is taught by Jesus. The plan of our life comes through the haphazard moments, but behind it is the order of God.
Now when the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his daughter, to go in to the king, she requested nothing but what Hegai the king's eunuch, the custodian of the women, advised. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all who saw her.
So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.
The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.
Then the king made a great feast, the Feast of Esther, for all his officials and servants; and he proclaimed a holiday in the provinces and gave gifts according to the generosity of a king.
[Esther 2:15-18 NKJV]
Milady was looking for these verses today and I could find no better to meditate upon this morning.
There are some books in The Bible that yield ‘something beyond’ what one might expect. I do not mean this to disparage others; merely that The Lord uses certain books at times in our walk with Him to speak to us precisely what His purpose is for us, either individually or corporately. Along with Song of Solomon, Ruth, Zechariah and John’s Gospel, Esther has often said so much to me personally.
Esther (her name means ‘star’), finds herself before King Ahasueras (most likely Xerxes) in the winter month of Tebeth. This is his seventh year as ruler, telling us that he has come into the fullness of his power.
Esther had an unusual family situation; she is the daughter of Abihail (meaning ‘my father is strength, or might’), but is also taken as a daughter to her cousin Mordecai, which is explained in verse 7:
And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah (Myrtle), that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman was lovely and beautiful. When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. [Esther 2:7 NKJV]
There is the germ of the notion that individuals of great significance are fatherless, or perhaps better, have been adopted into another family. The most obvious example of this is Jesus, of course, and the ‘virgin birth’. (You will note that Esther is presented to the King by the King’s eunuch, testifying to Esther’s virginity). Matthew’s Gospel also give Jesus’ genealogy in chapter 1, and taking the two ideas together could be meant to confirm Jesus as God and man.
For Esther — drawing together the threads of her story — we are being presented with evidence that she is ‘God’s woman’ in that hour, and as a woman, she is a type of God’s church on earth — the ‘Bride of Christ’, if you will — and thus most deserving of the grace and favour of the King. We too will be seen as beautiful in His eyes and worthy of His grace and favour if we in turn commit ourselves fully to the King, remembering always that He sees us exactly as we are.
PRAYER: We thank you Lord, that we can be adopted in Your family by giving ourselves completely to Your care, receiving and benefitting from Your amazing grace, Your abounding favour and Your great love.
Humility is the one stamp of a saint. Beware of the complacency of superiority when God’s grace has done anything for you.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
It is not often that someone gives you an assessment of the person you are or have become. I can think of two such cases that stand out in memory, and on both occasions I was a little taken aback — even although on mature reflection there was much that was accurate in the assessments.
The first was when I was in my twenties and working for a major insurance company at their branch office in Hamilton. I was told that I was ‘a dreamer’, which I took to be a derogatory remark. The second memory was of an elder in church asking me if I felt I would be more at home in a monastery. My mother used to call my bedroom at home (in the annex) ‘The Hermitage’, and not after the famous Russian palace and art museum either.
The word ‘Hermitage’ derives from Old French hermit, ermit, "hermit, recluse", from Late Latin eremita, from Greek eremites, literally "people who live alone", which is in turn derived from ἐρημός (erēmos), "desert". More than my mother have mentioned this perception of me over the years.
So why this introspective interlude? Since I last wrote a couple of days ago, I have been asking The Lord for some direction, or maybe a clearing out of the mental clutter accumulated over many years. Yes, I am a dreamer; a thinker; prone to what Conan Doyle called ‘a brown study’. Looking for something fresh and enlivening; a snapping-out from that feeling of lethargy. It is common for us all to seek a fresh slate at the beginning of a new year, and especially after the rigours of the last one. Nothing too exciting maybe, just refreshing; a clarity in these most over-excited times. I found this:
What is peace? You have seen a water puddle in the road, I’m sure. It is peaceful. There is not the slightest stirring in it. The water is smooth and unruffled. The colours of nature are reflected in it. That is not peace, but stagnant death!
Have you ever seen a child spinning a top? When the top is going its fastest, it is at perfect rest. The peace of God is perfection of energy; it is a healthy vigour of the soul. The peace of God is not the peace of stoicism or passivity. It is the most intense activity.
Some people say that they are tired of life; they mean to say that they are tired of dying. They are tired of the spiritual death that stops activity. They are tired of life getting so sluggish. What does Jesus say? “I have come that ye might have life and that ye might have it more abundantly; but ye will not come to me that ye might have it.” Everything in this natural world is pitted against you, and unless you have His life you will never have real peace. May the Lord have a NEW YEAR in you!
[OSWALD CHAMBERS: ‘Devotions For A Deeper Life’]
That helped me — more than a little — and who knew that peace was such an energetic and energising thing, or that it was a free gift? We knew. Jesus brings peace; but it also means that we are never 'people who live alone'.
And do children still play with spinning tops today? I don't know.
The tendency is strong to say—“O God won’t be so stern as to expect me to give up that!” but He will; “He won’t expect me to walk in the light so that I have nothing to hide,” but He will; “He won’t expect me to draw on His grace for everything” but He will.
GEORGE and GILL STEWART
Archive by Month