Deuteronomy 7: 7 - 9
Hebrews 2: 17, 18; 3: 1 - 6
Exodus 3: 1 - 6
Psalm 37: 3, 4
2 Timothy 2: 1, 2
I think it will be apparent to the beloved brethren in the passages that we have read that I have in mind to say a word as to faithfulness. First of all, faithfulness is seen in God Himself. Faithfulness finds expression in the Lord Jesus, both in relation to ourselves, His brethren, and in His relation to His God. And then I hope to speak about faithfulness as related to the saints. I find a great number of passages in both the Old and New Testament relating to faithfulness. It is interesting that in the Epistle to the Colossians Paul speaks of three persons, Epaphras, Tychicus and Onesimus; and if you search out what Paul has to say about them you will find that he refers to each of them in relation to this feature of faithfulness.
I thought it well to commence with a thought of faithfulness as finding expression in God Himself. This is a beautiful passage in Deuteronomy. In the reading this afternoon it was pointed out that being born anew is the sovereign work of God; just as you and I have nothing to do with our natural birth, so we have nothing to do with new birth. It is a sovereign work of God in your heart, dear young brother and dear young sister, and you can always fall back on that. As was helpfully mentioned, “He who has begun in you a good work ...”, Phil 1: 6. You can always go back to that. God is faithful and this is what He says in this passage we have read in Deuteronomy. It is not on account of what the children of Israel were. How attractive this is: He says to them “it is not because ye were more in number than all the peoples” but, He says, “because Jehovah loved you.” What a fine start that is. Jehovah has set his eye upon you for blessing. Dear young person, I trust that we this afternoon will be able to kindle your interest in relation to this matter of faithfulness, faithfulness in God. He will never let you down. He says, “and thou shalt know that Jehovah thy God, he is God”. There is none other, He stands alone unique in His glory, in His supremacy, and in this feature of faithfulness. It says that “He is God, the faithful God, who keepeth covenant and mercy”. You can always fall back on God’s faithfulness. We get a reminder of that, do we not, in 1 Corinthians 1: 9, that “God is faithful, by whom ye have been called”. He says there, “ye have been called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I came across a reference by Mr James Taylor, (vol 27 p455, 456) in which he speaks about the epistle to the Romans and the epistles to the Corinthians. Romans is addressed to young believers, and there are many of them here this afternoon. It is addressed to young believers from the point of view of you as an individual and God’s own personal links with you. When we come to Corinthians, it is addressed to young believers again, but as to how you stand related to other believers, other young believers. Mr Taylor said that, as young believers, we need to have assurance. What we read in Deuteronomy speaks about God’s oath, and that God is true to His word. You can always rest and depend upon that. Paul says, in Romans 10: 11, 12, that “no one believing on him shall be ashamed”; He will never let you down. I have let Him down many a time but He has never let me down. He is faithful. No one calling on Him shall be ashamed. “For the same Lord of all is rich towards all that call upon him”, v 12. He has the resources, dear young brother, dear young sister, to see you through.
Well, as young, we need this assurance. God would confirm your heart. As we get a little older we come to the epistles of the Colossians and the Ephesians and there the thought of faithfulness is not so evident, because we are treated as already grounded. Paul says, “I know whom I have believed”, 2 Tim 1: 2. As we advance in the knowledge of God we have learnt to count on His faithfulness, and rest more in His love. We carry the assurance of God’s faithfulness with us, but God would lead you on to that tenderly. He wants to get your confidence, the sense that you can depend upon Him.
When we come to Hebrews 2 where we read, our attention is called to the Lord Jesus Himself and to His faithful service. “Wherefore it behoved him in all things to be made like to his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God”. That is what we have been engaged with already today, a sphere apart from the current of things in this world. What our brother has been speaking of as what is new is over against the current of things in this world and the Lord Jesus is a merciful and faithful high Priest in things relating to God. The Lord Jesus has a special interest in your soul and in serving you to help you in this area of things, apart from the current of this world altogether. It is in relation to a sphere of God’s interest, a sphere of favour and blessing, to which God has called you.
A little later on in this epistle it speaks of the Lord Jesus who is able to save you. “Whence also he is able to save completely those who approach by him to God”, Heb 7: 25. He is an all-the-way Saviour. This is presented to you in the gospel and you can rest your soul on that. He is able to save you completely, “those who approach by him to God; always living to intercede for them”. That is presented almost as if the Lord Jesus has nothing else to do, that is what He is living for. It is a wonderful thing to think of the Lord Jesus available to us, beloved brethren, in this connection, to think of His faithfulness; how you can rest your soul on that, dear young people! No matter what comes into your life, when you lay your head on the pillow at night, you can rest your soul on the sense of the Lord Jesus and His personal faithfulness in things relating to God.
This is not all. In the next chapter we read it speaks about the Lord Jesus as being faithful to Him that has constituted Him. Think of the Lord Jesus in His pathway here where it says, ”The Father loves the Son, and has given all things to be in His hand”, John 3: 35. The Father has complete confidence in the Lord Jesus, everything is safe there. He is faithful in things relating to Him who has constituted Him, “Jesus, who is faithful to Him that has constituted Him”. We have sung of Him in our opening hymn -
To man Thy wondrous love and grace,
Thy faithfulness to God:-
Faithful amidst unfaithfulness ...
You think of the life of Jesus here in this scene, all around Him unfaithfulness to God, and there He shone in all His excellence, the One who was the faithful One. ‘Thy faithfulness to God:- faithful amidst unfaithfulness ...’. What an object He is for our contemplation and admiration. But then he says “as Moses also in all his house”, it is evident that God has in mind that you and I should be marked by these same features He is drawing attention to in Moses. In Numbers 12: 7, in a very outstanding way, it says “not so my servant Moses”. He says of him “Mouth to mouth do I speak to him”, Num 12: 8. But it goes on here to speak about Moses - “for every house is built by someone; but he who has built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all his house”. The comparison is interesting in that section. Moses is referred to as being faithful in his house but then in the next verse it speaks of Christ, as Son over His house. I remember three day meetings in Calgary around this chapter - “Son over His house”. Think of the glory and the excellency of the Lord Jesus in this way as Son over God’s house. But I just want to go on from that in relation to “Moses indeed was faithful in all his house”. You might say, 'How did Moses become that way?' This feature of faithfulness does not mark us as after the first order of man. The first order of man has failed utterly. Unfaithfulness marks him. But here we have a man referred to who is faithful. How did he get that way? We might raise that question. I think that passage we read in Exodus helps us as we contemplate what took place there in the burning bush. It says that “he led the flock behind the wilderness, and came to the mountain of God - to Horeb.” Horeb represents divine grace. It stands, in a certain sense, over against Sinai which was another famous mountain in the Old Testament. Both mountains are, I understand, in the same range of mountains but this is Horeb, divine grace. And it says “the Angel of Jehovah appeared to him”. It is obvious God had Moses in mind. He “appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a thorn-bush: and he looked, and behold, the thorn-bush burned with fire, and the thorn-bush was not being consumed.” A most extraordinary sight this was for Moses. It says “God called to him out of the midst of the thorn-bush and said, Moses, Moses! And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither; loose thy sandals from off thy feet, for the place where thou standest is holy ground.” God saw, it says, that he turned aside to see. God is interested as He looks in on this gathering this afternoon. God is interested to see persons who are showing an interest.
I have referred to this before, something Mr Jim Renton repeated time and again, that God is interested in interested persons. God took account of Moses and his interest. I trust we are all here this afternoon on the basis of being interested persons. God has something that He wants to demonstrate, that He wants to show you. So God calls him by name. It is obvious that God is taking account of him. “Moses, Moses!” He says, “loose thy sandals from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” What is He showing Moses as Moses takes account of this sight? It says “Let me now turn aside and see this great sight”. What Moses is taking account of is “also our God is a consuming fire”, Heb 13: 29. God was demonstrating to Moses here that He had the means of dealing with the flesh in His people, and yet they were not consumed. God has the means - the resources - to deal with the flesh in His people. He would bring them through - they are not being consumed. It is not unlike what was referred to earlier in Acts 2 in relation to the incoming of the Holy Spirit. It says “there appeared to them parted tongues of fire, and it sat upon each one of them”, v 3. Because of what they were as in the condition of flesh, there was a need for the fire and yet it says of the Spirit, “it sat upon each one of them”, suggesting divine complacency. How wonderful that is. This is linked with God’s faithfulness. God is faithful. He has the resources, He has the means of dealing with the flesh as it comes into expression, because God being God and true to Himself He cannot countenance the manifestation of the expression of flesh; but He has means of dealing with this and yet retaining His people.
This is not unlike what Luke records in relation to Peter in his gospel. Peter says “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord”, Luke 5: 8. He was conscious that there was that in him that was not suitable to be in the Lord’s presence - he says “Depart from me”. Mr Coates thought it was a delightful inconsistency (vol 17 p73), that while he is asking the Lord to leave him, he is getting as close to Him as he can. That is, while feeling his own unsuitability, he found the expression of grace in Jesus irresistible, he was not repelled, the power of divine grace attracted him to Jesus. The Lord Jesus had in mind to affect something in Peter and that is what He did there.
Now I just want to turn aside - we have been reading at home in the book of 2 Kings and, of course, as we have gone through this book many a time we have turned to 2 Chronicles because in a certain sense it is a parallel book. And it has been interesting to see what comes into expression in 2 Chronicles. There were three kings of Judah in 2 Chronicles that were used of God to bring in recovery amongst His people and in each of them there was a reference to faithfulness. You get another reference to it in the recovery after the captivity of God’s people to Babylon. After they return back to Jerusalem in Nehemiah, you get references to faithfulness there. Indeed I came across an interesting series of readings given in Indianapolis in 1924 (JT vol 19 p217). There he speaks about Ezra and Nehemiah as complementing one another. Of course they were contemporary; Nehemiah is referred to in the book of Ezra and Nehemiah refers to Ezra twelve times in his book showing how the two men worked together and appreciated one another. Mr Taylor draws attention to something that I found very interesting. He says in Ezra you have the sovereignty of God’s work. We have been speaking of divine sovereignty in new birth today, God operating on His own behalf. But he says in Nehemiah you have faithfulness in man. Nehemiah personally, right through his book, refers to his faithfulness in caring for God’s interests among his people.
In pursuing this, I would like you just to turn with me to 2 Chronicles for a moment because I find there that faithfulness is spoken of in different contexts, all of which I think are both edifying and encouraging. The first recovery is in chapter 19, involving Jehoshaphat, and listen to what he has to say in verses 5-9. His knowledge of God is very affecting. He says, “And he set judges in the land throughout the fortified cities of Judah, city by city. And he said to the judges, Take heed what ye do; for ye judge not for man, but for Jehovah, who will be with you in the matter of judgment. And now, let the terror of Jehovah be upon you; be careful what ye do, for there is no iniquity with Jehovah, nor respect of persons, nor taking of presents.- And moreover in Jerusalem did Jehoshaphat set some of the Levites and priests, and of the chief fathers of Israel, for the judgement of Jehovah and for causes. - And they returned to Jerusalem. And he charged them saying, Thus shall ye do in the fear of Jehovah faithfully and with a perfect heart.” How fine that is. I do not know that we ever are more tested than in matters of judgement and administration, tested in relation to faithfulness. But this is very fine; you see the way that Jehoshaphat speaks about what marks God and what I wanted to point out especially in this is how the fear of Jehovah is linked with faithfulness. Where you get faithfulness you may be assured that underlying that is the element of a fear of God.
I remember when I went to school, in a little country school on the prairie, on the right side along the top on the wall, there was a text and it read, “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge”, Prov 1: 7. It almost suggests, dear brethren, that unless there is that element of the fear of Jehovah with us we have hardly started on the Christian path, the beginning of knowledge. We talk about spiritual things, a new beginning, a new departure, it is apart from the current things of this world - “the fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge”. So here Jehoshaphat emphasises that, he says “And he charged them saying, Thus shall ye do in the fear of Jehovah faithfully and with a perfect heart.”, 2 Chron 19: 9.
Now I do not want to dwell on these things: I just go on to the next reference in relation to King Hezekiah. He was a king with whom there was a very significant recovery of the people of God to Jehovah, and in 2 Chronicles 31: 11 it says, “And Hezekiah commanded to prepare chambers in the house of Jehovah; and they prepared them, and brought in the heave-offerings and the tithes and the dedicated things faithfully; and over these Cononiah the Levite was ruler, and Shimei his brother was second.” This refers to faithfulness in relation to the bringing in of what is due to God. It involves the service of God, the heave offerings and the tithes and the dedicated things. Well, Lord willing, if we are spared until the Lord’s day, this is what we shall be engaged with. The challenge comes to me, am I faithful in that connection? You see faithfulness involves being faithful in different sets of circumstances. Well this is in regard to what is due to God.
The next recovery we refer to is in the time of King Josiah in 2 Chronicles 34: 9-12, which can be related to the special collection. “And they came to Hilkijah the high priest, and they delivered to them the money that had been brought into the house of God, which the Levites that kept the doors had gathered of the hand of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and of all Judah and Benjamin, and of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And they gave it into the hand of them that did the work, that had the oversight of the house of Jehovah; and they gave it to the workmen who wrought in the house of Jehovah to reinstate and repair the house: they gave it to the carpenters and the builders, to buy hewn stone, and timber for the joists, and to floor the houses that the kings of Judah had destroyed. And the men did the work faithfully.” Note here you have reference to workmen in relation to the house of God. Our special collection has to do with levitical service; three day meetings, service in the support of what is levitical amongst us, and there is the need of faithfulness. It says “they did the work faithfully”.
When we come to Nehemiah, and I have already introduced Nehemiah to you as a man who was faithful, he makes an interesting reference in chapter 7: 1, 2, “And it came to pass when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors, that the doorkeepers and the singers and the Levites were appointed”. You see how everything is done in an orderly way under Nehemiah, everything is done for God’s pleasure and what would be for His glory. And then he says, “And I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the citadel, charge over Jerusalem; for he was a faithful man and feared God above many.” Again we see the link between the element of the fear of God and a man in which faithfulness is expressed.
We need to think about these things, dear friends, beloved young people. You have got your life before you, and that is why I read in Psalm 37 because there we had this reference to feeding on faithfulness. This is a very attractive passage, a very encouraging passage for young people. He says “confide in Jehovah”; you can put your trust in Him as we have been saying, put your confidence in Him, confide in Him and do good, dwell in the land. That is, you find your life there in divine things. This is Canaan, God’s promised land. It is what we enjoy, beloved brethren, in our relations together in the Christian circle. They are not things relating to this scene, but to what is heavenly, the land. And then he says “feed on faithfulness”, feed on it; nourish your soul on it.
Where do we see it expressed more forcefully, more effectively, than in the Lord Jesus Himself? I know of nothing more affecting in these two precious gospels, Matthew and Mark, than the reference to the Lord Jesus on the cross, speaking in the Aramaic language, as one at a distance from God, saying “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (Matt 27: 46 and Mark 15: 34). This is interpreted for us so we can understand what He was saying “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Faithfulness was there as the Lord Jesus hung on Calvary’s cross; He was sparing us the wrath of God upon sin. “Why hast thou forsaken me?” He says, and, prophetically, “thou art holy”, Ps 22: 3. As He took it upon Himself - “Him who knew not sin”, it says, “he has made sin for us”, 2 Cor 5: 21. Think of the Lord Jesus taking up the language of one at a distance from God. The Lord Jesus in every day of His life knew what it was to have uninterrupted communion with the Father. Here He is taking up the language of one at a distance: think of what entered into His holy soul, His feelings at this moment when He was made sin. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Can you think of anything more affecting? Feed on faithfulness. There it was in expression in all its blessedness!
Well, I encourage the young people to look on it and feed on it as finding an expression of it in your own local meetings. I cherish the memory of fathers in my locality in years past. What was demonstrated in their lives was an interest in care for God’s rights in the local assembly, not only in Vancouver but among those that are now with the Lord in other localities. I cherish the memory of others and what found expression in their lives, dear brethren: feed on faithfulness as you see it in expression in a brother. It is not that you support the brother exactly but you support what he is standing for, what he is seeking to maintain in faithfulness to the Lord in protection of His rights in the local assembly. Be with such in the support of these things. Learn to have your part in the support of it because as you take account of these things working in your local meeting, and as you are affected by that and nourished by that, this feature will begin to find expression in you; and that is what we are interested in.
Now in this passage, just to encourage you, how blessed this is, it says “And delight thyself in Jehovah, and he will give thee the desires of thy heart”. I would encourage you, dear young brother, young sister, because the sisters come into this too; we have sisters like Deborah and Hannah and Lydia. Lydia says. “if ye have judged me to be faithful”, Acts 16: 15. Sisters can have a place in this as well as brothers, but I would encourage you all to get into the Lord’s presence and let Him know that you would like something of this feature to come into expression in you in your part in the local meeting. It says “he will give thee the desires of thy heart”. How fine that is. These things are subject to desire and as we come into the Lord’s presence and let Him know this He will help us in relation to it.
Finally, we referred to the reference to Timothy because there is a need, if the testimony is to be continued, for faithful men. These things, Paul says “entrust to faithful men”. That is how things have come down to us, down to you and me, through faithful men. Can I be numbered among such? The Lord raises that question in the gospel; He says “Who then is the faithful and prudent bondman?”, Mat 24: 45. Can I put myself in there? Can you put yourself in there? The Lord is looking for such, He says these things “entrust to faithful men”. Can I be entrusted with these things to hand them on faithfully? If there is anything I covet more that anything else it is that I might be helped, in my own local meeting especially, to hand on what has come down to us, what has come down to me, unimpaired. That is a test. Well may we be helped and encouraged in it, each one of us; for His Name’s sake.
1st June 2007