The death of Dr Gordon Wilson, former leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, who took a public stand for Christian moral values in society, was mentioned in the BCN (7 July).
A memorial service for him was held in St Peter’s Free Church, Dundee, on 5 July. It was conducted by the minister, the Rev David Robertson. Prominent figures in the Scottish Parliament were present, including the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the Deputy First Minister, Mr John Swinney, who gave the eulogy. The service followed the modern fashion of fulsome praise of man, informality and a degree of humour and laughter. Hymns, readings and prayers were intermingled with the tributes from the family and others but there was no sense of solemnity.
The most disturbing aspect of the proceedings was the participation in the service of a Roman Catholic clergyman, Bishop Vincent Logan. He began his read prayer by praying for the soul of the departed. Towards the end of the service, Mr Robertson spoke briefly on Christ as the only way to the Father but later, on his blog, he had to give a kind of an apology for the contribution of the Bishop as follows:
‘The Roman Catholic view of salvation is not as full as the Protestant (Biblical). Bishop Vincent Logan is a lovely man who has served Christ for many years but in his prayer, he reflected something that was really quite sad. He prayed that Gordon being called from this world would be brought safely home to God’s kingdom and that he would be cleansed and given a place at the heavenly banquet. In this he was reflecting the Catholic doctrine of purgatory and that believers don’t go directly to heaven. But the biblical view is “today you will be with me in paradise.” He was praying for something that Gordon already has. When he came to believe in Jesus he was given eternal life.’
This sad incident calls for several observations: (1) How was a Roman Catholic clergyman permitted in the first place to take part in the service? In this year of the commemoration of the birth of the Reformation in 1517 are we saying it was all a mistake? (2) How can the Bishop be described ‘as a lovely man who has served Christ for many years’ when by his teaching he has been dishonouring Christ by withholding the glory due to Him as the only Saviour of Sinners? (3) This is not the first time that Mr Robertson has revealed his ignorance of the nature of the papacy. On the 16 September 2010, on BBC radio Scotland, he welcomed Pope Benedict to Scotland as ‘a fellow Christian’ (see What Would John Knox have to Say to Us Today? (2014 p4). When will Mr Robertson’s associate ministers and colleagues in the Free Church of Scotland recover from their apparent laxity in dealing with those who deviate from the Westminster Confession? (5) The entire proceedings lacked a vertical dimension and therefore virtually no impression of the things of spiritual and eternal could have been left on the minds of the state dignitaries and others. Oh for a John Knox-like voice in Scotland again!
(By permission of the author: Rev John Murray, Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)
The constant theme of this beautiful song of triumph is God himself. Who he is, his uniqueness (Deuteronomy 6:4). His majesty and his activity on behalf of his people whom he has redeemed. It is a call to us to consider much the God with who we have to do with, “the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20). It is not just the past, the present but the future also that is his. There is prophetic vision here (v13-18). This is the reason we ought must trust him because all is in his good and strong hand. What God has done in the past is a guarantee of the promised land to the people of Israel. And is a guarantee of the real promised land, heaven itself, of which Canaan is a type, for us today. Already the nations are a tremble because Israel is on the march (v16). Remember when the spies got to Jericho and were hidden by Rahab and what she told them? “Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt” (Joshua 2:8-10). Just as declared here (v16). All that is required of us to trust him, “he delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him, we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Corinthians 1:10). Because it is impossible for his enemies and ours to separate us from him (Romans 8:35-39). We can all as God’s people join in heartily and sing this song, with a resounding finale, “The LORD will reign forever and ever” (Exodus 15:18). The song has a very definite purpose, as should all that we sing in praise to God. This is not just to give the congregation an emotional fix until they gather again to praise God. Nor it’s purpose so Miriam and the other musicians can get their gear out and use their “gifts.” It is theologically sound, it is sober, it is thrilling, it fits the occasion, their foes have just been overthrown, once and for all. When they were faced with what they thought was an impasse, and there was no hope, and why? Because they did not exercise faith. To live with a God-consciousness takes the effort of faith. It is only when we do so we can live in peace. The sovereignty of God is not just a theological concept, it is a practical reality. If we truly believe God is sovereign that will affect how we react to all the stuff life has to throw at us.
So this is a proper response (v20-22). Worship! It was Miriam and the other women-folk with their tambourines that led this particular offering of praise. It is worth noting that the Old Testament worship of Israel is cultic, this is not New Testament worship, neither can you project this into the New Testament church. But you certainly can project the heart response into the New Testament church. Surely if the Lord has redeemed us at the cost of his Son’s precious blood, then our call as his gathered folk, is to stand up and bless the Lord. For we are the people of his choice, and so with heart and soul and voice to praise and thank the Lord. Not just simply going through the motions of a worship service, but as the New Testament has it, in Spirit and truth (John 4:24). This is our reasonable service, our spiritual worship, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). Because the Lord has delivered us from our worst enemy, our sinful selves. Alas God’s temporal blessings, as we walk through this vale of tears, doesn’t remove all our trials, there is always more to come. In fact, they may well increase, they often do. He saves us now in the midst this earthly scene, but then he begins to teach us, to discipline us. As we come to the concluding verses of this chapter we see Israel faced with yet another test of their faith. Three days into the desert and no water is a serious situation. What will they do, what should they do, what would you do? It seems as they violently assail Moses they demand of him what only God can provide.
As the young Daniel makes this courageous stance we might as the question, what’s wrong with the food and drink of Babylon? Do we all need to be vegetarians, vegans and teetotallers? Doubtless amongst the Jewish community some would have deemed Daniel to be somewhat Pharisaical, over scrupulous. You’ll recall from the New Testament how tight the Pharisees were, yet still they were defiled. They were so religiously particular while at the same time plotting murder. No, it’s not that with Daniel. Remember what the agenda is here with the Babylonians. The plan is get rid of the tradition of the fathers out of the minds of Daniel and his colleagues. They want to eradicate the biblical worldview, mindset. The is the reason for the change of names, cultural norms, even their diet. Babylon wouldn’t be acquainted with the modern mindset today, that religion is a private matter, to be kept to oneself. The life of Daniel is permeated with religion, he walks, talks and breathes it. God has his hand on this young man. The Babylonian culinary delights offered to Daniel is food that was first offered to idols. Each meal would have been a ‘holy’ meal, offered to the gods of Babylon. Of which of course, there were many. An idolatrous sacrament. So to both eat and drink this food offered to them would have been to eat and drink to the glory of Babylon’s gods. It is for this reason that Daniel refuses, he is consecrated to God, devoted to the true and living God. This is a biblical attitude after all is not? And not just within the four walls of a church building. Whether we buy or sell, whether we build or plant, whether we eat or drink, whatever and wherever we do it, we do it all to the glory God (1Corinthians 10:31). It is the devotion of our entire lives to God, this is our reasonable, or spiritual service. “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).
The attitude is wrong that says we recognise the church is God’s domain, but what goes on, or what we do outside is our own business. Business is business, it’s our own lives, keep off. There can be no compartmentalising of the life of faith, Jesus Christ is Lord, and Lord of all, or Lord of nothing at all. Wonderfully and amazingly Daniel, though just a youth, about fourteen at this time, recognises the danger of compromise. You mustn’t compare today’s fourteen-year-olds in the West with a fourteen-year-old Hebrew lad back then. At the age of twelve, a Hebrew lad would be expected to be mature enough to be about his father’s business. The immaturity we see in Western youth is the result of the madness of sin. Daniel will know no compromise, he does not want to be estranged from his God by offending and breaking his commandments. Thus his faith is put into action at the dining room table, both sensibly and compassionately too, I might add. For Daniel would be aware that this man, appointed to be his tutor, his life could well be at stake (v9-10). The compassion note was God-given. So Daniel empathises with the man, he lets him know that he appreciates his dilemma and suggests an alternative. “Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see” (Daniel 1:11-13). The young Daniel acts according to his faith, but not rashly, foolishly, but with wisdom and maturity beyond his years. O for God to raise up young men and women such as this in our churches in the West today.
A glorious song of praise is offered up to God for this mighty deliverance. And for God’s judgment upon Israel’s and God’s enemies. “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth” (Psalm 58:10-11). They express themselves in a way that is very natural to their Hebrew culture. It is praise as praise should be, there is nothing man-centredness, no glorification of man. All the praise is to God alone. It is in recognition of the personality, the supremacy and holiness of Almighty God. It is in praise of his vindictive, retributive justice. It is a Divinely inspired song, for it is not in squeamish man to write such concerning the justice of God. The glorified saints in heaven, they know better (Revelation 20:1-6). It is for us the people of God confirmation and remembrance also. It is prophetic in that it reminds the church of its final victory of Satan and the defeat of the AntiChrist (Revelation 15:1f). It is a reminder for the church too as she also struggles and battles with her enemies through the wilderness of this barren world. The victory over Satan is ours and Golgotha assured us of that, “having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15). This song of praise unto the Lord is for this victory over Egypt, the then world-power, Pharaoh who is a type of the Antichrist, and Satan who is the architect of all evil (v1). The first thing they do when delivered, they sang a song of praise to God. This is fitting. All inanimate creation sings (Job 38:7). The king of Israel does (Psalm 40:3). The ransomed of the Lord do, their sighing and sorrowing us turned to singing (Isaiah 51:11). How has Israel’s victory been wrought? By the blood of the Lamb and the power of Almighty God. The latter most conspicuously displayed in both the land of Egypt by signs and wonders and lately by means of the Red Sea.
They sing of the trustworthiness of their God (v2). He proves able to deliver, again and again, “giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:12-13). He alone is our salvation and does not the experience of such salvation lead us to glad, grateful confession of God as our deliverer and our salvation. This God is our God, he is the God of all history, he is our faithful covenant Lord, never changing, always the same. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). He acts for his own, takes issue with our foes, deals with the powers arrayed against us, both persons and powers of evil. Our God is a warrior God (v3). To his enemies, he is a terrible, fearsome warrior (v3). This is an aspect of God’s character ignored by and large, seldom made mention of. The often sickly sentimentality expressed as love is of the flesh, not faith. Israel is looking and singing from a divine perspective here, this is Spirit inspired praise! God is the faithful performer of what he promises, “the Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14). And did he not? Here is the practical proof, Israel has, as he promised, been delivered. As Joshua would tell Israel much later on, “and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof” (Joshua 24:14). Nor ever shall. Trust him!
So why the name change (v7)? Because there is something of God in their names. Daniel’s name means ‘God is judge.’ Well that’s not going to be tolerated in Babylon, he is not the judge here, man is. Daniel is now in the realm where man is sovereign, or so he thinks. His new name praises the gods of Babylon not the God of Israel, the true and living God. In Babylon, there must be no mention of his name. They are being programmed to forget their past, its culture, its religion, everything now reflects the culture of Babylon. You see the same strategy operating in the West today. In schools, colleges and universities, the secularisation of youth is being systematically programmed into them. They must be taught to breathe the spirit of the world. It is Babylonian indoctrination, nothing new. Whose name to we bear, whose name does our children bear? As Christians, we are no longer under a cloud of holy displeasure, “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3). We are God’s children, we are children of a King and we are subject to and bear his name, Christian. We confess his name, Christ. But if we want our kids to confess his name too, and we do, how can that happen if we teach them the principles of Babylon? Or allow them to be taught those principles by others, i.e., school, college etc. If they are instructed in the letters of Babylon’s paganism and read and learn everything but the Holy Scriptures. So the question is who is going to instruct our kids? The work amongst our children and youth, in particular, is fraught with difficulty these days, it’s hard but it’s vital. Because if we don’t get the word of God into them they will find a modern Nebuchadnezzar who will entice them away from God, his word and his house.
The Babylonian doctrine may come to them by the television or internet screen, or their own peers even, not to mention the education system. To called a Christian is more than just to be taught, to read the Bible, but to love God in a priestly way. To love God sacrificially, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). The need of our day is to raise up Daniel’s, children who are disciples, devoted to the Lord. To be young men and women who will stand against the flood-tide of paganism that once again swamps our land, wholly devoted to the Lord. The Bible is more than just a textbook to be read in church on Sunday or to get sermons out of as and when. But to read daily on our knees as our love letter from God, hearing the voice of the Lord in every line. To devoured in an attitude of humility and with a desire to know and to do God’s will. It is only then that Jerusalem will not be overcome by Babylon. It is only then that Babylon will cease to entice our fourteen-year-olds like Daniel. The battle is for our minds, the process of brainwashing can only be overcome by the word of God, the sword of the Spirit. Babylon is not neutral, it is hostile, it always has been and always will be, to the end. If we forget who we are, what we are and where we came from; that we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb’ that we are God’s people, his heritage. Then we will very soon lose all God-consciousness. And that will be to revisit Israel’s exilic tragedy.