Beginning a new year
We have recently passed a significant turning point in our
daily activities. We have completed another year of our lives. Can we say that
we have completed another year of service to our Lord? Or have we merely passed
the time with our minds and energies intent only upon this life that will soon
pass away? Let us remember the words of wisdom to be found in Isa
"All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the
field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the spirit of the Lord
bloweth upon it. Surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower
fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand for
According to the prophet Isaiah, the grass here represents all
man-kind. We cannot console ourselves with the belief that this is speaking only
of those who know not the Truth. Isaiah says... "all flesh". He is speaking of
each one of us -- even though we understand the Truth and have accepted it in
baptism. Just as the plants around us, we are each in the process of withering
and fading away. "In Adam all die." "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou
return." This sad decree set by God upon the head of Adam has never been lifted,
and it applies with equal intensity to all of his descendants.
We know that (physically, at least) we are "in Adam", that we
must die. What is the use of God repeating the fact to us so many times
throughout the Bible? Let us read again the last phrase in that quotation from
"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand for
Here is the lesson God would have us to learn -- that only in
His eternal word is there any hope of life. Only in the Bible can we learn the
secret of a satisfying and rewarding life in this present time. And only in the
Bible can we learn how to obtain everlasting life in the future.
As mentioned just before, we have passed a significant point
in our everyday life. We have completed another calendar year, but more
importantly we have completed another reading of our Bibles with Robert Roberts'
"Bible Companion". In the past year we have gone through the Old Testament once
and the New Testament twice. Since we have accomplished this over the last 12
months, why not just put our Bibles away in a comer and find something else to
read? We have given it a lot of attention in the past; we have read every bit of
it carefully. Doesn't it seem silly to start right over and read the same book
The only explanation we can give for such odd behavior is that
we know the Bible to be unlike any other book that has ever been written. Jesus
tells us, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
"Study the scriptures, for they are they that testify of me." As Isaiah said,
"The word of our God shall stand for ever.' This is why we must be concerned
with our Bible reading, and why we should be thankful for the works of John
Thomas and Robert Roberts and many other brethren. The only other worthwhile
books besides the Bible are the books that can faithfully help us to understand
God's Word better.
It is well worth noting that each of our three reading
sections for the year closed with words of blessing. In Job and Malachi and
Revelation, we must remember and ponder these blessings. And we must strive to
see that they apply to us. If we knowingly turn our back upon the promises of
our Father, all we can expect is shame and rejection when we stand before the
Son of God.
Let us remember that such blessings as these do not come to us
if we merely sit complacently and tell ourselves that "we have the Truth".
Unless we work eagerly to fulfill His requirements, we will be like the servant
who hid the talent which his master left with him. What was said by his lord
upon his return?
"Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping
and gnashing of teeth" (Mat 25:30).
The first of the three instances of blessing occurs in the
last chapter of Job. Job had been a righteous man all the days of his life. He
had led his family in worship of God. He had taken up as his own the cause of
the poor and the orphans. He had "feared God, and eschewed evil" (Job
God caused many trials and sufferings to come upon His servant
Job. Through this Job came to a more perfect realization of the power and
majesty of his God. And he repented of his few presumptuous words and thoughts,
and humbled himself before his Creator:
"Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes"
In many ways Job typified our Saviour Jesus Christ. He endured
many sufferings of a physical nature. And, possibly even more difficult, he
endured the ignorance and false accusations of both his family and his friends.
And in the end he proved to be a faithful servant, and he offered up sacrifice
and prayed on behalf of his antagonistic friends.
In all these ways Job represented Christ. And since we are
commanded over and over to be followers of Christ, these incidents in Job's life
may apply to us as well. We are tried and chastened, that our faith may be made
more perfect. We may suffer embarrassment and ridicule from our friends and
families if we try to live according to the Truth.
But if we, by "a patient continuance in well-doing", are found
to be worthy as Job was, then his blessings may apply to us:
"The Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before... So the Lord blessed the
latter end of Job more than his beginning... After this Job lived an hundred and
forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations" (Job
Each of these things given to Job were wonderful gifts, but
only very small in comparison to the crown of life which waits for us, and which
these blessings represent.
The second of the three blessings occurs in the last two
chapters of Malachi. Malachi was the last of all the Old Testament prophets. He
prophesied only about 400 years before the coming of Christ. The major portions
of his message, like many of the prophets before him, concerned the children of
Israel and their wickedness and neglect of God. Malachi accused both the common
people and the priests: The commoners had offered polluted and feeble and
worthless sacrifices to God, and had kept the best for themselves. Therefore
they were lying and stealing from God. And the priests, by both word and deed,
encouraged the people to do this:
"Ye (the priests) are departed out of the way: ye have caused many to stumble at
the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi" (Mal
"Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed
Thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse; for ye have robbed
Me, even the whole nation" (Mal 3:8,9).
But even in the midst of such widespread hypocrisy and false
worship, there remained a remnant of faithful ones who sought to obtain the
blessings of their Lord:
"Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord
hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for
them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be
Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up My jewels; and I will
spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him" (Mal
For us, the lesson is very clear. We live in the midst of a
wicked generation of men who have corrupted God's way upon the earth, just as
men did in the time of Noah. We must encourage one another to stand against the
currents of change around us and to continue toward our goal. We must come
together and speak often to one another. As Paul expresses it:
"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works; not
forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but
exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Heb
If we truly fear the Lord, then our names will be written in
the book of remembrance, or the book of life. And we will become His jewels, or
His "peculiar treasure" -- as the margin of that verse indicates. In this way,
we will fulfill God's promise to Israel in the time of Moses:
"Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye
shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me from among all peoples... and ye shall be
unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Exo
In Mal 4:2, the prophet offers a promise of the Messiah, "But
unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in
There is no doubt that Jesus, the Sun of righteousness, will
arise one day soon -- bringing eternal life to the saints and peace to the
battered world. But let us remember that he will "arise" unto us individually
only if we "fear His name" in the proper way, and only if we "speak often one to
The last section of the Bible Companion is the New Testament,
which is practically concluded with these words of blessing, Rev 21:
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first
earth (ie, the former evil order of affairs) were passed away; and there was no
more sea." (That is, there were no more unregenerate persons, described in
Isaiah as the troubled sea, which casts up mire and dirt -- Isa
And in the 22nd chapter, in words which require no
explanation: "And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal,
proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street
of it... was there the tree of life."
But again, as always before, let us remember that these
blessings are conditional: They are not blessings for everyone, but... "Blessed
is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book" (22:7). To have any
hope, we must search the book of Revelation and all the rest of Scripture, and
endeavor to keep all the sayings of God's word.
The New Year
We have paused at the end of a year's reading, to take stock
of a few of the tremendous number of promises recorded in the Bible for our
sakes. Let us keep these promises before our minds always, and never regard the
daily readings as a chore to be performed, but instead as a God-given
opportunity to approach to the mind of God, to receive strength and
encouragement, and to learn of His ways and walk in the steps of His
Now we begin a new year with the Bible before us. We read in
Genesis of the awesome majesty and power of God in the Creation, and we see His
constant concern that provision may be made for man, with the help of God, to
overcome his own evil tendencies. In the sacrifice for Adam, the protection of
Noah, and the calling of Abram -- we continually see God's love for us, and His
purpose "to bring many sons to glory".
In Psalms, we learn words of acceptable praise to our Heavenly
Father. And we learn fresh admiration for His everlasting word of
"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord
is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing
the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Psa
And finally in Matthew, we again begin to read of the life of
the only-begotten Son of God -- the focal point in God's plan of redemption for
those that fear His name:
"God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their
trespasses unto them" (2Co 5:19).
"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God
sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin
in the flesh" (Rom 8:3).
We have come to the end of one year and we have begun the
next. We must never, however, come to the end of our reading and study of God's
word. And we must always continue to put off the old man and put on the new man,
by the "renewing of our minds". But now for a moment we can stand at the summit,
the crossroads of the word of God. We can see how every part is related, how it
all combines in one glorious purpose. We can look both backward into history,
and forward into the future as God unfolds it; and we may gain a glimpse of just
a fraction of the greatness of our Father in Heaven.
"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How
unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out. For of Him, and
through Him, and to Him, are all things. To whom be glory for ever.