Tag Archives: Atonement

Vanity Fair!

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“Then I saw in my dream…Almost five thousand years ago, there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City, and Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, with their companions, perceiving by the path that the pilgrims made, that their way to the city lay through this town of Vanity, they contrived here to set up a fair, a fair wherein  should be sold all sort of vanity, and that it should last all the year long; therefore, at this fair are all such merchandises sold, as houses, lands, trades, places, honour, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures; and delights of all sorts, as whores, bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not. And, moreover, at this fair, there at all times to be seen, juggling, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind. Here, too, are to be seen, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false-swearers, and that of a blood-red colour” (J Bunyan, “Pilgrims Progress”).

“A just description of this wicked world. How many, though they profess to be pilgrims, have never set one foot out of this fair; but live in it all the year round! They walk according to the course of this world, for the god of this world hath blinded their minds. But all those for whose sins Jesus hath died, “he delivers from this present evil world” (Galatians 1:4). You cannot be a pilgrim if you are not delivered from this world and its vanities; for if you love the world, if at least, it has your supreme affections, the love of God is not in you (1John 2:15), you have not one grain of precious faith in a precious Jesus” (W Mason).

James R Hamilton – Written 24 March 2018
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Account of the Persecutions in the Valleys of Piedmont!

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The Persecutions in the Valleys of Piedmont:

Many of the Waldenses, to avoid the persecutions to which they were continually subjected in France, went and settled in the valleys of Piedmont, where they increased exceedingly, and flourished very much for a considerable time.
Though they were harmless in their behavior, inoffensive in their conversation, and paid tithes to the Roman clergy, yet the latter could not be contented, but wished to give them some disturbance: they, accordingly, complained to the archbishop of Turin that the Waldenses of the valleys of Piedmont were heretics, for these reasons:# That they did not believe in the doctrines of the Church of Rome.
# That they made no offerings or prayers for the dead.
# That they did not go to Mass.
# That they did not confess, and receive absolution.
# That they did not believe in purgatory, or pay money to get the souls of their friends out of it.

Upon these charges, the archbishop ordered a persecution to be commenced, and many fell martyrs to the superstitious rage of the priests and monks.
At Turin, one of the reformed had his bowels torn out, and put in a basin before his face, where they remained in his view until he expired. At Revel, Catelin Girard being at the stake, desired the executioner to give him a stone; which he refused, thinking that he meant to throw it at somebody; but Girard assuring him that he had no such design, the executioner complied, when Girard, looking earnestly at the stone, said, “When it is in the power of a man to eat and digest this solid stone, the religion for which I am about to suffer shall have an end, and not before.” He then threw the stone on the ground and submitted cheerfully to the flames. A great many more of the reformed were oppressed, or put to death, by various means, until the patience of the Waldenses being tired out, they flew to arms in their own defence, and formed themselves into regular bodies.
Exasperated at this, the bishop of Turin procured a number of troops, and sent against them; but in most of the skirmishes and engagements the Waldenses were successful, which partly arose from their being better acquainted with the passes of the valleys of Piedmont than their adversaries, and partly from the desperation with which they fought; for they well knew, if they were taken, they should not be considered as prisoners of war, but tortured to death as heretics.
At length, Philip VII, Duke of Savoy, and supreme lord of Piedmont determined to interpose his authority, and stop these bloody wars, which so greatly disturbed his dominions. He was not willing to disoblige the pope, or affront the archbishop of Turin; nevertheless, he sent them both messages, importing that he could not any longer tamely see his dominions overrun with troops, who were directed by priests instead of officers, and commanded by prelates instead of generals; nor would he suffer his country to be depopulated, while he himself had not been even consulted upon the occasion.
The priests, finding the resolution of the duke, did all they could to prejudice his mind against the Waldenses; but the duke told them, that though he was unacquainted with the religious tenets of these people, yet he had always found them quiet, faithful, and obedient, and therefore he determined they should be no longer persecuted.
The priests now had recourse to the most palpable and absurd falsehoods: they assured the duke that he was mistaken in the Waldenses for they were a wicked set of people, and highly addicted to intemperance, uncleanness, blasphemy, adultery, incest, and many other abominable crimes; and that they were even monsters in nature, for their children were born with black throats, with four rows of teeth, and bodies all over hairy.
The duke was not so devoid of common sense as to give credit to what the priests said, though they affirmed in the most solemn manner the truth of their assertions. He, however, sent twelve very learned and sensible gentlemen into the Piedmontese valleys, to examine into the real character of the inhabitants.
These gentlemen, after travelling through all their towns and villages, and conversing with people of every rank among the Waldenses returned to the duke, and gave him the most favorable account of these people; affirming, before the faces of the priests who vilified them, that they were harmless, inoffensive, loyal, friendly, industrious, and pious: that they abhorred the crimes of which they were accused; and that, should an individual, through his depravity, fall into any of those crimes, he would, by their laws, be punished in the most exemplary manner. “With respect to the children,” the gentlemen said, “the priests had told the grossest and ridiculous falsities, for they were neither born with black throats, teeth in their mouths, nor hair on their bodies, but were as fine children as could be seen. And to convince your highness of what we have said, (continued one of the gentlemen) we have brought twelve of the principal male inhabitants, who are come to ask pardon in the name of the rest, for having taken up arms without your leave, though even in their own defence, and to preserve their lives from their merciless enemies. And we have likewise brought several women, with children of various ages, that your highness may have an opportunity of personally examining them as much as you please.”
The duke, after accepting the apology of the twelve delegates, conversing with the women, and examining the children, graciously dismissed them. He then commanded the priests, who had attempted to mislead him, immediately to leave the court; and gave strict orders, that the persecution should cease throughout his dominions.
The Waldenses had enjoyed peace many years, when Philip, the seventh Duke of Savoy, died, and his successor happened to be a very bigoted papist. About the same time, some of the principal Waldenses proposed that their clergy should preach in public, that every one might know the purity of their doctrines: for hitherto they had preached only in private, and to such congregations, as they well knew to consist of none but persons of the reformed religion.
On hearing these proceedings, the new duke was greatly exasperated, and sent a considerable body of troops into the valleys, swearing that if the people would not change their religion, he would have them flayed alive. The commander of the troops soon found the impracticability of conquering them with the number of men he had with him, he, therefore, sent word to the duke that the idea of subjugating the Waldenses, with so small a force, was ridiculous; that those people were better acquainted with the country than any that were with him; that they had secured all the passes, were well armed, and resolutely determined to defend themselves; and, with respect to flaying them alive, he said, that every skin belonging to those people would cost him the lives of a dozen of his subjects.
Terrified at this information, the duke withdrew the troops, determining to act not by force, but by stratagem. He, therefore, ordered rewards for the taking of any of the Waldenses, who might be found straying from their places of security; and these, when taken, were either flayed alive or burnt.
The Waldenses had hitherto only had the New Testament and a few books of the Old, in the Waldensian tongue; but they determined now to have the sacred writings complete in their own language. They, therefore, employed a Swiss printer to furnish them with a complete edition of the Old and New Testaments in the Waldensian tongue, which he did for the consideration of fifteen hundred crowns of gold, paid him by those pious people.
Pope Paul the third, a bigoted papist, ascending the pontifical chair, immediately solicited the parliament of Turin to persecute the Waldenses, as the most pernicious of all heretics.
The parliament readily agreed, when several were suddenly apprehended and burnt by their order. Among these was Bartholomew Hector, a bookseller and stationer of Turin, who was brought up a Roman Catholic, but having read some treatises written by the reformed clergy, was fully convinced of the errors of the Church of Rome; yet his mind was, for some time, wavering, and he hardly knew what persuasion to embrace.
At length, however, he fully embraced the reformed religion and was apprehended, as we have already mentioned, and burnt by order of the parliament of Turin.
A consultation was now held by the parliament of Turin, in which it was agreed to send deputies to the valleys of Piedmont, with the following propositions:

\# That if the Waldenses would come to the bosom of the Church of Rome, and embrace the Roman Catholic religion, they should enjoy their houses, properties, and lands, and live with their families, without the least molestation.
\# That to prove their obedience, they should send twelve of their principal persons, with all their ministers and schoolmasters, to Turin, to be dealt with at discretion.
\# That the pope, the king of France, and the Duke of Savoy approved of, and authorized the proceedings of the parliament of Turin, upon this occasion.
\# That if the Waldenses of the valleys of Piedmont refused to comply with these propositions, persecution should ensue, and certain death is their portion.

To each of these propositions the Waldenses nobly replied in the following manner, answering them respectively:

\# That no considerations whatever should make them renounce their religion.
\# That they would never consent to commit their best and most respectable friends, to the custody and discretion of their worst and most inveterate enemies.
\# That they valued the approbation of the King of kings, who reigns in heaven, more than any temporal authority.
\# That their souls were more precious than their bodies.

These pointed and spirited replies greatly exasperated the parliament of Turin; they continued, with more avidity than ever, to kidnap such Waldenses as did not act with proper precaution, who were sure to suffer the cruellest deaths. Among these, it, unfortunately, happened, that they got hold of Jeffery Varnagle, minister of Angrogne, whom they committed to the flames as a heretic.
They then solicited a considerable body of troops of the king of France, in order to exterminate the reformed entirely from the valleys of Piedmont; but just as the troops were going to march, the Protestant princes of Germany interposed, and threatened to send troops to assist the Waldenses if they should be attacked. The king of France, not caring to enter into a war, remanded the troops and sent word to the parliament of Turin that he could not spare any troops at present to act in Piedmont. The members of the parliament were greatly vexed at this disappointment, and the persecution gradually ceased, for as they could only put to death such of the reformed as they caught by chance, and as the Waldenses daily grew more cautious, their cruelty was obliged to subside, for want of objects on whom to exercise it.
After the Waldenses had enjoyed a few years tranquillity, they were again disturbed by the following means: the pope’s nuncio coming to Turin to the Duke of Savoy upon business, told that prince he was astonished he had not yet either rooted out the Waldenses from the valleys of Piedmont entirely, or compelled them to enter into the bosom of the Church of Rome. That he could not help looking upon such conduct with a suspicious eye, and that he really thought him a favorer of those heretics, and should report the affair accordingly to his holiness the pope.
Stung by this reflection, and unwilling to be misrepresented to the pope, the duke determined to act with the greatest severity, in order to show his zeal and to make amends for former neglect by future cruelty. He, accordingly, issued express orders for all the Waldenses to attend Mass regularly on pain of death. This they absolutely refused to do, on which he entered the Piedmontese valleys, with a formidable body of troops, and began a most furious persecution, in which great numbers were hanged, drowned, ripped open, tied to trees, and pierced with prongs, thrown from precipices, burnt, stabbed, racked to death, crucified with their heads downwards, worried by dogs, etc.
Those who fled had their goods plundered, and their houses burnt to the ground: they were particularly cruel when they caught a minister or a schoolmaster, whom they put to such exquisite tortures, as are almost incredible to conceive. If any whom they took seemed wavering in their faith, they did not put them to death, but sent them to the galleys, to be made converts by dint of hardships.
The cruellest persecutors, upon this occasion, that attended the duke, were three in number, viz. 1. Thomas Incomel, an apostate, for he was brought up in the reformed religion, but renounced his faith, embraced the errors of popery and turned monk. He was a great libertine, given to unnatural crimes, and sordidly solicitous for plunder of the Waldenses. 2. Corbis, a man of a very ferocious and cruel nature, whose business was to examine the prisoners. 3. The provost of justice, who was very anxious for the execution of the Waldenses, as every execution put money in his pocket.
These three persons were unmerciful to the last degree; and wherever they came, the blood of the innocent was sure to flow. Exclusive of the cruelties exercised by the duke, by these three persons, and the army, in their different marches, many local barbarities were committed. At Pignerol, a town in the valleys, was a monastery, the monks of which, finding they might injure the reformed with impunity, began to plunder the houses and pull down the churches of the Waldenses. Not meeting with any opposition, they seized upon the persons of those unhappy people, murdering the men, confining the women, and putting the children to Roman Catholic nurses.
The Roman Catholic inhabitants of the valley of St. Martin, likewise, did all they could to torment the neighboring Waldenses: they destroyed their churches, burnt their houses, seized their properties, stole their cattle, converted their lands to their own use, committed their ministers to the flames, and drove the Waldenses to the woods, where they had nothing to subsist on but wild fruits, roots, the bark of trees, etc.
Some Roman Catholic ruffians having seized a minister as he was going to preach, determined to take him to a convenient place, and burn him. His parishioners having the intelligence of this affair, the men armed themselves, pursued the ruffians, and seemed determined to rescue their minister; which the ruffians no sooner perceived than they stabbed the poor gentleman, and leaving him weltering in his blood, made a precipitate retreat. The astonished parishioners did all they could to recover him, but in vain: for the weapon had touched the vital parts, and he expired as they were carrying him home.
The monks of Pignerol having a great inclination to get the minister of a town in the valleys, called St. Germain, into their power, hired a band of ruffians for the purpose of apprehending him. These fellows were conducted by a treacherous person, who had formerly been a servant to the clergyman, and who perfectly well knew a secret way to the house, by which he could lead them without alarming the neighbourhood. The guide knocked at the door and being asked who was there, answered in his own name. The clergyman, not expecting any injury from a person on whom he had heaped favours, immediately opened the door; but perceiving the ruffians, he started back, and fled to a back door; but they rushed in, followed, and seized him. Having murdered all his family, they made him proceed towards Pignerol, goading him all the way with pikes, lances, swords, etc. He was kept a considerable time in prison, and then fastened to the stake to be burnt; when two women of the Waldenses, who had renounced their religion to save their lives, were ordered to carry fagots to the stake to burn him; and as they laid them down, to say, “Take these, thou wicked heretic, in recompense for the pernicious doctrines thou hast taught us.” These words they both repeated to him; to which he calmly replied, “I formerly taught you well, but you have since learned ill.” The fire was then put to the fagots, and he was speedily consumed, calling upon the name of the Lord as long as his voice permitted.
As the troops of ruffians, belonging to the monks, did great mischief about the town of St. Germain, murdering and plundering many of the inhabitants, the reformed of Lucerne and Angrogne, sent some bands of armed men to the assistance of their brethren of St. Germain. These bodies of armed men frequently attacked the ruffians, and often put them to the rout, which so terrified the monks, that they left the monastery of Pignerol for some time until they could procure a body of regular troops to guard them.
The duke not thinking himself so successful as he at first imagined he should be, greatly augmented his forces; he ordered the bands of ruffians, belonging to the monks, to join him, and commanded that a general jail-delivery should take place, provided the persons released would bear arms, and form themselves into light companies, to assist in the extermination of the Waldenses.
The Waldenses, being informed of the proceedings, secured as much of their properties as they could, and quitted the valleys, retired to the rocks and caves among the Alps; for it is to be understood that the valleys of Piedmont are situated at the foot of those prodigious mountains called the Alps or the Alpine hills.
The army now began to plunder and burn the towns and villages wherever they came; but the troops could not force the passes to the Alps, which were gallantly defended by the Waldenses, who always repulsed their enemies: but if any fell into the hands of the troops, they were sure to be treated with the most barbarous severity.
A soldier having caught one of the Waldenses, bit his right ear off, saying, “I will carry this member of that wicked heretic with me into my own country, and preserve it as a rarity.” He then stabbed the man and threw him into a ditch.
A party of the troops found a venerable man, upwards of a hundred years of age, together with his granddaughter, a maiden, of about eighteen, in a cave. They butchered the poor old man in the most inhuman manner, and then attempted to ravish the girl when she started away and fled from them; but they pursuing her, she threw herself from a precipice and perished.
The Waldenses, in order the more effectually to be able to repel force by force, entered into a league with the Protestant powers of Germany, and with the reformed of Dauphiny and Pragela. These were respectively to furnish bodies of troops; and the Waldenses determined, when thus reinforced, to quit the mountains of the Alps, (where they must soon have perished, as the winter was coming on,) and to force the duke’s army to evacuate their native valleys.
The Duke of Savoy was now tired of the war; it had cost him great fatigue and anxiety of mind, a vast number of men, and very considerable sums of money. It had been much more tedious and bloody than he expected, as well as more expensive than he could at first have imagined, for he thought the plunder would have discharged the expenses of the expedition; but in this he was mistaken, for the pope’s nuncio, the bishops, monks, and other ecclesiastics, who attended the army and encouraged the war, sunk the greatest part of the wealth that was taken under various pretences. For these reasons, and the death of his duchess, of which he had just received intelligence, and fearing that the Waldenses, by the treaties they had entered into, would become more powerful than ever, he determined to return to Turin with his army and to make peace with the Waldenses.
This resolution he executed, though greatly against the will of the ecclesiastics, who were the chief gainers, and the best pleased with revenge. Before the articles of peace could be ratified, the duke himself died, soon after his return to Turin; but on his deathbed, he strictly enjoined his son to perform what he intended, and to be as favourable as possible to the Waldenses.
The duke’s son, Charles Emmanuel, succeeded to the dominions of Savoy, and gave a full ratification of peace to the Waldenses, according to the last injunctions of his father, though the ecclesiastics did all they could to persuade him to the contrary.

(Fox’s Book of Martyrs By John Fox)

(James R Hamilton, February 2017)
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Notes on the Exodus (123)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The Confirmed Redemption  (Chapter 13 Verses 1-22)

The regulations and rituals may seem strange to us but for Israel, they confirmed the start of salvation’s journey, they were important. They were constant reminders of God’s grace, power, and deliverance from Egypt’s bondage. The costly dedication of the firstborn would remind them that they were God’s by sovereign right. They, like we ourselves today, needed constant reminders of God’s grace. We are so wont to forget. The ass was to be destroyed if not redeemed (v13). Israel would have faced the same fate if they had not been redeemed by the slain lamb’s blood. The ass was an unclean animal, stupid, intractable. So you have two pictures there. The latter the donkey’s a picture of mankind in sin, unclean, stupid, intractable, full of his own pride and conceit (Job 11:12). And fit only for destruction, eternal destruction. If it were not for the Lamb’s blood, the real one, the one to whom the Passover lamb pointed, Jesus, God’s lamb (John 1:29). If it were not for God’s sovereign, free grace in Jesus we’d be fit only for our necks to be broken (v13). The regulations and rituals pointed to and confirmed that the redemption price had been paid. They were no longer in slavery, they had been bought back, delivered by a strong, a mighty hand (v14). The rituals would serve as a reminder of the praise and thanks that they owed to God for their deliverance. To praise him for his matchless grace and redemption, that their deliverance was all due to God and nothing of themselves. We too are reminded of the same in the Lord’s ordinances today. It is needful lest we slip into a self-righteous and Pharisaical mindset. This is ever a danger. Remember Jesus’s illustration? Two men, two attitudes. The Pharisee, he wasn’t like other men, he didn’t do the dirty, he wasn’t in the place of a sinner in need of a Saviour. The other, undone, guilty, corrupt before God. Beloved, however far on the redemptions road we are, whether we have just left Egypt or it was long ago, we are still undone, guilty, corrupt sinners before God. In need constantly of his grace. All thought and Pharisaical pretence of merit must be abandoned. Our only merit before God are the merits of the Son of God. His blood and his righteousness. And that’s how it will be through all eternity.

They would serve as a confirmation of their freedom also, in spite of Pharaoh’s efforts to keep them in bondage (v15-16). Their redemption had become a reality, they had entered into a new found freedom from the fears of the past. Theirs to enjoy in the assurance of faith, in Christ (1John 4:18). But there was and is still a danger in the regulations and the rituals, the frontlets too (v16). The latter became a badge of spiritual pride and superiority amongst the Pharisees later on. Throughout the Old Testament history, Israel falsely comforted themselves with these externals. If they had them all was well with them and God, or so they thought. As long as they had the temple, the prophets, the law, the sacrifices, the rituals, the frontlets we’re okay. But they were not. God was sick and tired of their religious practices (Isaiah 1). We can get into the same mindset today. I read my Bible (and of course the superior version), I go to church, I attend the prayer meeting. All good and proper things in themselves. But they are all external. The question is how is it with your heart. Is it still hot with love for God and for your neighbour? Do the means of grace still have and effect upon your heart? And do our hearts move us to serve God in whatever way he has called to us, out of heart love for God? Do we have a concern for the lost? Are we engaged either physically or prayerfully as we are able to reach out to lost souls for Christ? If our hearts are not right all the externals mean nothing at all. God still wants your heart.

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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Notes on Christian Warfare (23)

“Fighting the Good Fight”

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The Devil’s Designs  (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)

With the shield of faith, you are equipped to deal with, to quench each and every flaming dart the devil throws at you. Not just some, all of them. You do well to remember also that in the noise and heat of the battle, no matter how fierce it becomes you are never out of the sight of the commander in Chief. And he is not just watching you but praying for you unceasingly (Luke 22:31-32). He is dynamically present with you at all times. To utilise the shield of faith is to believe that with all your heart. One of the attacks of the enemy is to get you to not believe that. To believe because he is attacking you that God has left you, doesn’t care. But this is not true, even if you do not feel it. It is the objective truth of God’s written word, he had it written in case you would forget. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). And, If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:31-34). The devilish insinuation that God is not with you is a fierce lie from the very pit of hell. And, especially so when you are in trouble of your own making when you have sinned, blundered, failed in some way. He will more than suggest that God has now cast you off. No, this is where your shield comes in, must be employed. In faith you affirm, shout it out from the rooftops if needs be, God is good! God is loving! God is caring! God is compassionate! And his call is always that you turn to him in faith and find refuge in him from the storm whatever the cause of it may be.

The thing we so often forget that God is ever seeking us. Back in the garden of Eden, it was God who went seeking our parents. They were frightened, terrified, in hiding, but he still wanted them and went in search of them in love. So tell me who is it that makes you feel rejected, useless, finished, or casts us into depression? Yes, the devil, the enemy of your soul. The one who hates your Saviour and hates you because you love him. Some of his flaming darts are slow-burners they’re not all fierce blazers. The devil’s design is to cause long-term dis-ease. But however long, in faith, we pray, we wait on the Lord, he will come, he will deliver. This dis-ease, is designed to cause dis-peace. You’ve lost the sense of peace, but remember losing the sense of something and losing the thing itself is two different things. But you flay yourself in rebuke, in shame, in agony. But this is not from God, this is not how he deals with his children. If something is wrong he may tell us firmly, but he show us, to correct us, “and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Philippians 3:15). He will by his grace enable you to put it right. Be at peace child of God, for his thoughts towards you are thoughts of peace, “for I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11). But Satan doesn’t like peace, he is the disturber of such and that’s why you and I need the shield of faith. This is why we need to go on as we started, in faith, believing. The enemy would have you to believe he is strong, he is not. But God is, and he is our strength and our lives are hidden in him, they are untouchable (Colossians 3:3). When we begin to grasp what God has provided for us this provision of his complete armour we begin to understand what king David meant when he spoke of God providing a table of refreshment in the presence of his enemies. He has so provided for us also.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on the Exodus (122)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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Release and Redemption  (Chapter 13 Verses 1-22)

For now, the narrative is suspended and consequences and responsibilities that come as a result of their redemption. God acts in grace and then establishes his rightful claims up our beings. This is the doctrine of redemption. The exodus clearly teaches us the theology of salvation. And brings to us today the appreciation we ought to both feel and express as a result of our own salvation. The consecrating of the firstborn was already a practice amongst the patriarchs. But it is redemption that gives it a historical motivation, a rationale for it. The firstborn is to set apart, for the Lord. We are in total a consecrated people, simply because we have been liberated by the Lord (12:51). And now Israel begin their momentous journey towards the promised land. Why the consecration of the firstborn? For the firstborn whether man or beast is alive but only as a result of the Passover lamb slain in their places. They are debtors (v1-3), as we today are to grace. God has ordained our freedom, he has appointed and provided us with a substitute, the One the Passover pointed to, Jesus. Therefore we are reminded that we are not our own (1Corinthians 6:19). The firstborn is a symbol of all Isreal, the spiritual, the Israel of God. We all of us owe our existence to God, our identity to God. And so we are indebted to live for God, to please him in all of our lives. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1Peter 2:9-10). When we survey the cross as the hymn writer suggests we are reminded that once we were enslaved to sin. We were captives, under oppression and bondage but just like as with Israel of old, God acted, he delivered us, set us free. So we are his, all we are and have is his.

Now a liberated Israel is bound for glory (v4-5), the land of promise. The journey has begun. But they are not left to their devices or to find their own way there. They are to be accompanied each step of the way. But it is a beginning, it is not the end. And we too constantly need to be reminded of this. We have begun and God has promised to finish the job (Philippians 1:6). Alas, it so easy to settle down where we are, in the wilderness, the world. To get anchored to it, fall in love with it, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1John 2:15-17). We are pilgrims just passing through, this is not our home (Hebrews 12:1-2). Our focus ought to be on eternal things, not the things of this world, to stand upon the promise of God (v5), to bring us to the journey’s end. We make plain where we are at by the way we live, the things we value most, the spiritual exercises we engage in, or don’t. There is always the danger of hypocrisy (v6-10). Our children can smell hypocrisy ten miles away, they know what motivates us, our lives (v8). What is the driving force in your life today, not just the word of God in your mouth (v9), but burning in your heart and motivating you in appreciation for redeeming grace, to live for God first. The wearing of the word of God on the Pharisees became more and more enlarged in order to draw attention to their spirituality. Instead of God’s grace and goodness adorning and beautifying their hearts and lives for all to see.

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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Notes on Christian Warfare (22)

“Fighting the Good Fight”

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The Devil’s Doubts  (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)

The Roman shields for size would have been very much like those our modern day police use, but made of leather and very heavy. They would be used in grim situations to fend off hostile forces. The would catch and quench fiery arrows before they could ignite a fierce blaze. But the best way to have used them would have been in company, shoulder to shoulder with other soldiers. Whether is defence or attack. One of the devil’s choice schemes (v11), is of course to divide. He is likened to a roaring lion, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). A ravening wolf, who likes to pick off individual stragglers, the weak or wounded, or those who have strayed. This was a strategy of Moab in the Old Testament, picking off the stragglers, the slow, the weary. This is why we need Christian fellowship, why need to stay close to one another, because a united shield gives more protection, security for the weak and wounded as well as the strong. This piece of our armour is of the utmost importance and a duty, even more than a duty for all of us. Each one of us in our God-given place. That in itself is of much importance. If king David had been in front of his troops, fighting alongside them he would perhaps never have laid eyes on Bathsheba. Are you in your God-appointed place, are you in the Lord’s battle and fighting, not your own little war, but fighting God’s cause. If you’re out on you own you are in danger of being picked off by the enemy. Also, it takes some effort to use the shield of faith. It must in faith be set before you, holding up the promises of God. But to do so they  must be read and learned, the more saturated with the word of GCod you are the better equipped you will be to deflect Satan’s attacks. Study the temptations of your Master. See how he dealt with the enemy, answering each onslaught with the word of God. Destroying his lies with truth and refuting his suggestions with divine wisdom.

The apostle Paul believed God, “but after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me” (Acts 27:221-25). He trusted God in a most perilous situation, and God delivered him. There was nothing the devil could do to stop Paul from getting to Rome, how does he know this? Because God had already told him, “and the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:11). God does not change his mind. The issues are only confused when we fail to trust or mistrust God, his word is always good. Use the shield of faith. The devil often nearly always oversteps himself. You must remember he fires all sorts of flaming darts at us. Some making us doubt or even fear. But be encouraged, if his flaming darts are being fired at you, it’s because you are going on with the Lord. The devil would not be troubled with you otherwise (1Peter 4:12). Of the ten virgins in Matthew twenty-five there were five who were ready, they were the Lord’s that’s why, and five who were not. But read it again, “they all slumbered and slept” (Matthew 25:5). Are you awake Christian? “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11). When the flaming darts start to come at you the tendency is to run or to change direction. The need is to stand! And “to stand firm” (v13).

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on the Exodus (121)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The Lord’s Possession  (Chapter 12 Verses 37-51)

In these remaining verses of chapter twelve, it is clear that Israel, this mighty host leaving Egypt are under God’s law. The divine justice system provides them with the governing principles they need (v49-51). Now this is important. Their new-found freedom is not just a free-for-all, this would lead to chaos. With hindsight, we know how rebellious they were, how hard pressed Moses was to keep them in order. There were times when God himself had to intervene judiciously in order to keep them in check. We have seen this in countries more recently where freedom has been gained from hardline communist or Islamic rulers. At first, the people don’t know what to do with their new found freedom, it tends to mayhem until some new form of government is formed. So God’s law is of the  utmost importance for God’s people as they enter their new freedom from Egypt’s tyranny and head towards the promised land. But this is a mixed multitude, there are Egyptians who have joined them, so are they bound by God’s law also? Yes, God’s law as with his covenant is not national, it is international, it is applicable to all creation. “Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered” (Isaiah 56:3-8). So it is not only Israel even at this stage who are the Lord’s own possession, his people. The gospel was and is always to be proclaimed indiscriminately, not exclusively. It is to those who hear his call, who believe, who follow him. It is to those who yield, submit to him as their Lord and Master. Those willing to learn to be his servants, witnesses (1Peter 2:9-10). They are his people, separate from the world, from those who are not called, who do not hear, who do not follow, who will not submit. So what is meant by separation?

It is a preserving of gospel, heart purity and a clarity of witness amongst the Lord’s people. It should be evident all around them that they are different, righteously so. But this is in order to be shining lights to those without, “do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15). It is in order to lead others to faith in the God who has delivered them. There is both command and commission involved. Not to receive the foreigner is a denial of the Lord we profess to love and serve. You too were once a foreigner alienated from the commonwealth of God’s people and God himself. But it is on God’s terms, not theirs. It is made clear they do not become the Lord’s people on their own terms. To allow such into the life of the church, with patterns of life and activity that dilute and contradicts the message of faith and morals, is disastrous. And this has been done in recent days in the West and equally with disastrous effects. The church has been swamped by unbelief. In submitting to the ordinances of the Lord the foreigner must renounce their old way of life, identity and inclinations even. They must be willing to become students (disciples) like the rest of us. We learn together. We do well to remember this each time we come to church. Do we come with a desire to learn, a hunger for truth, a humility and willingness to learn?

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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