Notes on the Exodus (98)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The Deliberate Defiance   (Chapter 9 Verses 8-12)

What about us, where do we fit into all this? The rottenness that is eating into the very foundations of our society today, even the liberals are worried. That in itself tells you something. The brutality and the ferocity we are faced with in the nation, there is no safety anywhere. All that’s worrying enough, but what’s even more worrying is that they are absolutely clear there is no place for God. No place for godliness, all God-consciousness has been eradicated from our nation. This is what we have been given over to (Romans 1:18ff). To bring God into the equation they would say would be a contradiction of their perceived freedom, they don’t want that. And that is the hardening that you see here in Egypt that led to the judgment of God. Not even a disease that affects their health and wealth shifts them one iota. God is speaking loudly and clearly but they are stone deaf to his voice. May God have mercy upon our own land in this generation. Now coming back to verses six and seven as I intended. See the continuing and deliberate defiance of Pharaoh (v6-7). The Jewish Rabbis of a later generation wrote about this Pharaoh, they described him as the greatest fool that ever lived. That’s quite an epitaph. It would suit our generation also. In an age when agnosticism has turned to ignosticism. The former is not sure, the latter is, he just simply ignores God. That’s what Pharaoh does in spite of the evidence of the reality of God’s acts of justice. This and other recorded acts of divine judgments are an assurance to us all of the coming day of judgment. The Day of the Lord, a terrible and awful day that will be for unbelievers. Added to all this Pharaoh is given a front-row seat before all the mighty signs and wonders that God performs. He even sends an investigative team to examine the matter of the cattle (v7). And it is just as Moses told him it would be, they return to their king amazed at what they had found (v7). And still he remains defiant. It’s not unusual for a skeptic to investigate God.

However, there is a definite alternative to Pharaoh’s attitude here. The attitude that belongs to God’s people, humble submission to God’s dealings with us. Think of the example of Job in the midst of all his sufferings? Or king David’s suffering as a result of his own sin in the affair with Bathsheba? He didn’t complain, he repented, but he also submitted to God’s pronouncement of nothing but family trouble the rest of his days. Whatever God brings upon us in this life beloved, it is always much, much less than we deserve. Sometimes it’s for reasons we don’t know, only God knows. But each and every occasion is a renewed occasion to repent and to know a renewed time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. There are times when we make the wrong choices but it’s how we deal with the fallout that matters. In humble submission to God. We are most surely forgiven but we have sometimes to live with the consequences of our sin. If we are truly dead to sin and self and alive to and in Christ then we have the victory. That’s the alternative to Pharaoh’s way. That’s the key to the victory over suffering however or why ever it comes to us. But for the believer the day is coming when the curse will be gone forever. Heaven is not a second best, why O why do we cling to this world, unwilling to part with it? Heaven is the best! “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:21, 23). Better, better! He says. But it is Christ alone who can take us there. “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:37-39).

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)

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Notes on the Seven Churches (43)

“Searching the Seven Churches”

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The Cure  – (Revelation Chapter 3 Verses 14-22)

We are not given the impression that there is a great deal of hope for the Laodicean church. There have been times of course through history when denominations, churches have returned from apostasy. When the medicine has been applied (v22-22). And through the grace and power of the Lord Jesus such have been revived. But equally, there have been times when repentance has not been applied and the sword of justice has fallen (v16). When we look at the region of what was Paul’s field of ministry, Asia Minor, and the churches there then. Now, Islamic hotbeds. But we can look closer to home, our own country, Great Britain. There are buildings strewn all over the land that used to house thriving, saving churches. Now, business premises of one kind or another. The marks of apostasy all over the land. But this is the plaintive cry of the Lord Jesus himself here (v20a). This is a plea to the remnant (v19). There is always a remnant. The problem for the remnant is that they are infected by the state of the church, pulled down. Maybe even to the point of being backslidden. Please note that Jesus is standing at the door of the church, not someone’s heart (v20a). If Jesus wants into a person’s heart he sovereignly opens it (Acts 16:14). He neither knocks nor asks permission. This church had rejected him, cast him out and from outside of the church he calls, and rebukes, and chastens his own, the remnant within. The way back to communion with Christ remains a possibility for them (v20b). The invitation to supper symbolises this communion, a return to intimacy with Christ, with the Triune God. The message to the remnant is, you don’t have to go down with the ship. As a young boy, I used to marvel at the old movies that portrayed a stricken ship’s captain going down with his ship. He would stand there on the bridge, saluting, and heroically go down with his ship. I used to think, what courage! It was a waste of human life in reality. Well, the Laodicean church is a sinking ship, but the remnant doesn’t have to go down with her. That too would be a sheer waste.

The possibility remains, they can yet reign with Christ (v21). They may yet conquer, by pure, royal, and free grace. And they will ultimately be where he, Christ is, reigning (Revelation 20:4). My throne and my Father’s throne, the carrot that is held out to the remnant, to rule with the Father and the Son of God (v21). This is an exaltation that is inexpressible in human speech, who can even begin to imagine being lifted up to such heights? And the required cure? Simple gospel repentance. But remember this is not just a legal requirement, repentance is always unto faith (Mark 1:15). A believing repentance. Think of Jesus’ exaltation when he returned to glory (Philippians 2:10-11). Well, the promise to the conquerors is that they will share in that glorious exaltation. So what does the Spirit say (v22)? Watch! Fight! Conquer! Fight the good fight of faith! This church in Laodicea was self-sufficient, self-satisfied. They had no need of anything. Surely a church that doesn’t pray is a church without Jesus, he is on the outside. If our dependency is truly upon Jesus will that not be expressed in both private and corporate prayer? The fulness of grace is in Jesus, he has an inexhaustible supply of grace in himself. You cannot exhaust that supply. And we are always in need of his grace. We needed it for salvation, we need it to continue, and we need it to finish the course as a conqueror. We always need his grace. And whatever you have of this world’s goods and chattels no one nor nothing else can ever truly satisfy you. Maybe you and I are going to be out of this world sooner than we think, are we ready? Perhaps there was a time when you wanted Jesus more than anything else. Do you still want him? And if not, why not? What harm has he done to you? The message to the Laodicean Christians was a simple gospel message, it’s always simple, it’s we who complicate it. Get right with God!

THE END

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)

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Notes on the Exodus (97)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The Definite Distinction   (Chapter 9 Verses 8-12)

We will return in due course to verses six and seven. This is strike number six. There is no announcement, this is woeful and very threatening indeed. The obstinacy of Pharaoh has grown to the point of madness, his reason has gone. He is confirmed by God in his choices time after time. His people are facing decades of privation as a result of his stubbornness. This is what is called in the Bible the whirlwind effect (Hosea 8:7), he is reaping what he has sown (Galatians 6:7). Notice, “take handfuls of soot from ‘the’ kiln” (v8). A specific kiln? Now some commentators suggest that is was simply one of the brick kilns the Hebrews produced bricks in. May I suggest that Pharaoh wasn’t likely to near any such kilns. And also that there is a definite article here “the kiln” (v8). Why do I labour this? Because I think it was a particular furnace, one in which human sacrifices were offered in propitiation to their gods to avert disasters such as they are now faced with. The priests would take handfuls of the ashes and sprinkle them around the place. Now Moses is instructed to do exactly the same, sprinkling the ashes up towards to heaven. Because this where the curse, the judgment was coming from. From the true and living God who Pharaoh knows exists just as you and I do. The clear message to him is, his wicked, evil, idolatrous religion is not preventing a plague, but causing one. The produce of this furnace Pharaoh is the reason God’s wrath is burning hot against you. This is the fruit of what you say you believe. You see the link between belief and behaviour just cannot be repudiated. Show what a man believes and I’ll tell you how he will behave. If it is wrong, not only will he become immoral, but human life to him will become cheap, very cheap. This is how we have arrived at abortion and euthanasia in the West today. Hence, the whirlwind, sin has a way of catching up with us, the chickens coming home to roost. The immoral religious dogma of evolution is immoral, life is cheap. The idolatrous religion of Islam is immoral, life is cheap. The Egyptian priests are not to be seen, they cannot stand before the holy prophet of God, Moses (v11). Because they were covered in boils, they were unclean. If that be the case how can a sinner stand before a holy God? This is prophetic, of the end time judgments, where you find each one of these plagues again poured out (Revelation 16:2).

It is truly solemn yet one cannot help but be thrilled and encouraged with the obedience of Moses. Whatever is said to him he does. Simple obedience is his part. Why do we find it so difficult? The planning and the working of power belong to the Lord. The definite distinction here between the Egyptians and Israel (v6-7) is an evidence of the presence of God in all this. The Lord’s people usually suffer along with the wicked. For instance,it is the case that Christians are not immune to the common sufferings of humanity. If say there is some major disaster where many lives are lost, Christian lives are lost also. They, of course, are taken straight to heaven, there is no doubt about that. The believers sufferings are sanctified, their sufferings work for their good (Romans 8:28). Whereas with the wicked, there is no benefit at all in their sufferings. They are more hardened, embittered, and finally destroyed by them. But here there is a clear distinction the disease does not come near the Israelite livestock. Another exemption that we will see concerning the Lord’s people will be at the end of the age, the world-fire will not touch them either (2Peter 3:7). Again, this is pictured here. How utterly vain the gods of the ages. But what comfort these significations of the presence of God with his people are. The testimony of the ashes cast heavenwards? They cry for vengeance, for justice. Their cries are heard and will be answered. Notice is here served God does and will vindicate his persecuted people.

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)

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Notes on the Seven Churches (42)

“Searching the Seven Churches”

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The Counsel Given  – (Revelation Chapter 3 Verses 14-22)

The richness spoken of here doesn’t necessarily mean that all in the church are well heeled. It’s a spiritual condition, many are simply self-satisfied, their sense of spiritual need has evaporated. You wouldn’t call them outrightly wicked. All very clean, polite, the epitomy of respectability. John Wesley was asked at the end of his life what he thought about his Methodism now, he replied, “just respectable religion.” That’s Laodocea and much of the church in our land today. But the seriousness in the circumstances are that they think that everything is okay. They are deluded, self-deceived, “those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). A religious morality, pleasurably worldly. The counsel (v18-19) is from the “Amen, the faithful and true witness” (v14). God that is, what he thinks, regarding this church’s status. He counsels, directs them towards spiritual values. If you have a misled enthusiasm you can chanel that, you can correct it. Even bring something good out of it. Even if you’ve got cold opposition, enmity towards Jesus Christ that can be converted. But this lukewarmness? You can do nothing with it. That’s why he is ready to spit them out of his mouth (v16). You see they come to church but it makes no difference because they come without Jesus and they go back home without Jesus. They sat they sang they listened they went away and that’s it. They neither saw nor heard Jesus because he wasn’t there. And worse, they didn’t want him. It was said, somewhat prophetically, “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell” (William Booth 1829-1916). That is exactly what has come to pass. That’s Laodicea. The counsel here is for the church to return to a spiritual reality. Take hold of and look into the mirror of God’s word and do a spiritual health check on themselves. Is this us, where we are at? These are the words of Jesus himself. If the angel (v14), the pastor of the church were to preach in this fashion perhaps he would be looking for a new position.

When did you last hear a preacher describe the gathered congregation in this way, “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17)? Laodicea doesn’t do offend. Laodocea doesn’t do negative. But this is what they needed to hear, Jesus says so (v20). You see the thing is when the ministry of God’s word comes to us, it is not the private or personal opinion of a mere man, but the authoritative voice of the Son Man. If the church won’t hear there is no hope for it. They must rid themselves of the notion that they are rich and they must return and confess Jesus Christ as their only and greatest and deepest need and hope. The inexhaustible riches of the grace that is to be found in him alone. The purchasing that Jesus speak of here (v18), is not the buying with money. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live” (Isaiah 55:1-3). They are counselled to submit to the Lord’s correction. It’s discomforting to be ministered to in such a way, but is so often needed. For people often prefer a lifeless idol, a Jesus that they can put away in a drawer on Sunday night, till  next Sunday. Just like many do with their Bibles. Instead of the living, active, intervening Christ who demands and wants to change our hearts and lives. He counsels them to raise the temperature in the Church, to boiling point. A worship of Jesus that is white hot. A deep and urgent repentance, reformation. This is the love of Christ that knocks on the door of this church and seeks shatter the illusion that they live under (Jeremiah 17:9). The call and the counsel comes to the Laodicean church and to the individuals who make up that church. You cannot blame a church for your own personal spiritual condition. You can raise your own spiritual temperature if you really want. You don’t have to live a tepid Christian life because others do. Christian, open your heart again to the living Christ and let him warm your heart once more.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)

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Notes on the Exodus (96)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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Twenty Four Hours   (Chapter 9 Verses 1-7)

There is in these strikes against Egypt a demolition of the gods so-called that they worshipped. They were fanatical in their worship of cattle, oxen, and cows. I read somewhere that they even had animal cemeteries. This is where Israel’s infection came from that expressed itself in the golden calf incident and why they were warned (Deuteronomy 4:15-18; Exodus 20:4-6). One wonders how they could witness these supernatural acts of judgment against such idolatry and then turn back to the same in the wilderness. But we don’t have to look too far, only to our own hearts. For there we see the remaining corruption that still lurks in every Christian heart. As one theologian put it the human heart is an idol factory. Alas the Lord’s hand (v3) is a hand of power, yet patient, but it is the hand that saves also. Exodus prepares for the coming Lord Jesus, the real exodus. The departure from sin and from Satan’s slavery and oppression. Moses is but a type of Jesus. Who leads his people out of bondage and into the real promised land, the glory of heaven. It is his hand that saves us, and claims us for his own to serve and to worship him. It is wonderfu to hear people testify as to how the Lord has set them free from sin. It may be drugs or alchohol or idolatrous religion, but that’s not the whole issue, only a part. God is not simply about getting Israel out of Egypt, across the border and then saying to them your free off you go and do your own thing. He is setting them free to worship him, and that according to his revealed will. That is, living “lives of holiness and godliness” (2Peter 3:11). And not just in the wilderness, but in the promised land. That is the divine agenda. If you want to useful amongst your fellow man both in and out of the church? One way only, “train yourself for godliness” (1Timothy 4:7); “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1Timothy 6:11). That is not selfishness, that is the best, the only way we can be of service to our fellow creatures in this world.

So this is the hand that saves, by judgment. In judging Egypt he gods so-called, he is liberating Israel. In the pagan idolatry of Egypt, their worship of the animals, Apis was the bull-god. Their idols had heads of animals. Apis had the head of a bull. He was the god of sexual prowess. Then there was Hathor the cow-god, or goddess. She was the god of glamour. So it would be to Hathor you would go if you wished to be a glamorous woman. Laughable you say? But wait a minute, aren’t these the very gods of the Western world today? Sexual prowess and glamour? Think of the millions that are spent by both men and women seeking to make themselves glamourous. The hand of the Lord yet saves his people from the gods of Egypt, sexual prowess and glamour. His hand saves us from lives of self-gratification. The idols of sex and beauty that don’t save but bind us, can bring us back into slavery. The gods of Egypt and the gods of this world in any day are the gods that fail, they leave people empty, lonely and disappointed. Pharaoh is told he has twenty four hours (v5), and God is going to hit you with this mad cow disease. It will slay all Egyption cattle (v4). Your gods will fail you. If God was to give you twenty four hours before his judgment fell upon you, how much would you have to change in that time to be ready. Some people are not even given that much notice. “I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you” (Luke 12:19-20).

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)

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Notes on the Seven Churches (41)

“Searching the Seven Churches”

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The way, the truth and the life!

The Lukewarm Church  – (Revelation Chapter 3 Verses 14-22)

This is a post-Reformation church with the advent of the renaissance, the awakening of the mind. The Reformation brought with it a wonderful freedom of thought. The whole of Europe was in chains, in darkness prior to this under the tyranny of the old Roman medieval ecclesiastical authority. The people just were not permitted to think for themselves. But along came the Reformation and this glorious freedom. The liberty for men and women to come to and study the word God for themselves. But freedom always brings with it responsibility. Then came the renaissance of mind, a freedom to rebel against authority both human and divine. Free from the shackles of God’s law, “let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us” (Psalm 2:3). Of course, such freedom is no freedom at all, but leads back into bondage, to Satan. When biblical theology goes out one door false religion comes in through the other door along with psychological and occult experience. It is only the ignorance that abounds in the modern church that permits the free-for-all in terms of so-called Christian worship today. The dramatic and musical extravaganzas, the casting aside of God’s word. But if they only knew it, they are on a pathway back to the tyranny of the old medieval ecclesiastical authority. The call to repent here in Laodicea is a call to a renewed reformation of worship and doctrine, back to the reformed doctrine of the gospel. In Laodicea, they see no need for this, or anything else (v17). They are rich, or they think they are. Is it an issue of prosperity? That surely is an enemy of spirituality, it eats at the very vitals of the church’s soul. But look at Christ’s description of this so, so, self-satisfied people, “you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (v17). This surely is the spirit of the age. The distinction, the antithesis has been erased from between them and the world. They still believe the right things but it has no effect on their lives.

They still believe that people should be converted but there is no serious missionary endeavour. They don’t confront people with the claims of the gospel. They don’t implore sinners to be reconciled to God. You don’t speak like that in the church in Laodicea. In fact, you don’t speak about sin at all, it’s forbidden to do so. You think this is a stretch? The church I was in when I was first converted thirty-six years ago is in that very place, sin is not to be talked about. It’s gone. It’s all friendship evangelism but the kind of friendship that never gets around to actually telling people that they are lost, damned to a lost eternity without Christ. You don’t talk about heaven or hell. They just talk about people becoming one of them. You know how it goes, folk come for a few weeks and then they are told you’re one of us of now. But their hearts have never been changed, they’ve never been reborn of God’s Spirit. Beloved, the church has been talking about friendship evangelism for the last thirty years or more, but I do not see that is has produced anything but that, friends. Where tell me does Christ tell us to go into all the world and make friends? Disciples! Where are the disciples? All we have seen is a further, gradual diminishing of the church, in this land anyway. Prayer meetings are a thing of the distant past, they are way too proud and too busy for such. It’s not that they have suddenly turned around and said to Jesus we don’t want you here. Just bit by bit, more and more they have edged him out. Because they find him boring. We don’t want to sit here meeting after meeting just talking about Jesus, we’ve got more exciting things to think and talk about and do. O they still use his name but they’ve stolen his church. They are ashamed of him. “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). Tell me what would your preference be? It’s a freezing cold day, your feet and your fingers are just about dropping off with the cold as you come through the door. Your beloved tells you he or she will get you a nice hot drink, warm the cockles of your heart. Or it’s an extremely hot summer’s day and you come in sweating. Your beloved says here’s a nice cold drink to cool you off. Beautiful. But someone on either of these imaginary scenarios gives you a lukewarm drink? It disgusts you! You want to spit it out your mouth. That’s how Jesus feels about the church in Laodicea.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2011)

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