Proverbs 23: 23 to “not”
Romans 9: 22-26
Philippians 3: 8
1 Kings 21: 1-3
Joshua 2: 18-21
Psalm 23: 1-6
Revelation 21: 9-10
I would like to speak to you, dear friends and brethren, about valuations. I am sure that there are certain things in life that we really value. I will tell you a little personal incident I had last year. I was on a business conference and the person who was taking the session on business values asked us to write down five things that we really valued. I do not know if you have ever done that, but it is not exactly an easy thing to do, to determine five things that you really value. So this was done, and then the person said, ’Have a look at them and take one away’. Now you have come down to four things that you really value in life. Then we had to take another one away, so now down to three. Then, down to two. It did not go below this but we all had then to say what these two things were; I was thankful that I was not the only one in the room who said that one of the two things I value most is belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ with my future secured in glory. I would assert that what you really value you will buy, and you will never sell. The Lord may just appeal to every one of us; what have we really bought in the truth of Christianity, because the enemy, Satan, will always appeal to us to sell these truths and to give them up? I have referred to portions of scripture, and I will touch on them to deepen in our true valuation of certain of the truths of God. I wish to make an appeal to every one of us not to sell them. The injunction in Proverbs 23 is clear; it is in two halves: “Buy the truth, and sell it not”.
The first truth I want to speak to you about, from Romans 9, is mercy. This is a beautiful portion in chapter 9. Paul has brought out much in the first five chapters and in chapters 6, 7 and 8 of the truth of the gospel, and that being worked out intelligently in the believer. Then we come to chapters 9, 10 and 11 and he is going over the history of the Jew, the place of the Jew, and the failure of the Jew, yet never forgetting that they were God’s chosen people. He begins in chapter 9 to open out God’s ways, “that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared for glory”. Think of God doing that. Think how God had a plan and a place according to His purposes and according to His counsels before we were ever here, and the time of our life came, for those who were to be touched by the gospel and reached by His mercy. God had souls in mind for blessing before they were created. Have you ever thought about that? Have we ever pondered the fact that before we were ever here God looked down time and saw us as persons that would be vessels of mercy. God had before prepared such vessels for glory. What mercy of God for hell-deserving sinners like us who, because of the character of our practices in the sight of a holy God, would righteously be condemned to an eternity without Christ. Now because of His mercy and His great love wherewith He loved us, He has reached us and we have become vessels of mercy. Not a vessel of ambition, or a vessel of business success or anything of that; I trust we all appreciate what it is to be a vessel of mercy. Grasp that thought! Buy it! Embrace it as a personal possession that you are a vessel of mercy. As we look around the rows, up and down the hall, what we see is a company of vessels of mercy. Not one in this room deserves anything other than judgement, but God in His glorious grace, who is rich in mercy, has reached us, and we are vessels of mercy. As you go through life never sell this truth. We could not sell it! What price would we put on it? We could never sell it, because God has secured and made us a vessel of mercy, and He was prepared to pay the price in the blood of His beloved Son. What a matter to think of! It would touch our hearts and our affections so that we value mercy. Here is one of the greatest writers in the whole Book of the Bible, Paul, bringing out great truths and he never forgot that “mercy was shewn me”, 1 Tim 1: 13. He was the chief of sinners. He had been an “insolent overbearing man”, but he never forgot that God had reached him in mercy. Let us deepen in our understanding of it, and let us claim it. Even if you say, ’I have known the Lord for many years’; let us all enjoy mercy. What does the hymn say,
See mercy, mercy from on high,
Descend to rebels doomed to die;
We need these foundational blessings established in all our souls so that they strengthen us day by day. In verse 23 Paul writes, “and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared for glory,” comma, “us”, comma: the Christian “us”, with every believer covered in that “us”. What wonderful skill he has in writing his epistles. He could have gone right on, ’the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared for glory, whom he has also called’, but he makes it absolutely clear who he is referring to. Everyone here is between these two commas. Between these two commas lies a gem of truth. Never, never give it up! I was affected recently by a comment of Mr Raven’s recalled in Mr Pellatt’s closing ministry, vol 2 p 142. He says that one of Mr Raven’s last messages sent to America was, ‘tell the brethren in America never to give up!’ - it is printed in italics. I thought it was wonderful to see the heart and soul and sincerity in this appeal. Let us look at older brethren and see that as brothers and sisters get older one of the truths they appreciate more and more is the mercy of God. When we deserved nothing but judgement, we were given mercy, and through mercy God has set us up for His glory.
Then when you come to Philippians chapter 3 you get another personal truth that Paul valued immensely. You can read of what characterised Paul earlier, what he was by repute, what he was by education, what he was as Pharisee of the Pharisees but he had reckoned and considered and counted “all things to be loss”, on account of what? “The excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord”. What a truth to buy! Have we all bought that truth? The excellency of the knowledge of a glorified Christ! What a privilege to add that truth into your treasuries. You have found this truth for yourself, you have followed it through, you have considered it carefully, the Holy Spirit perhaps coming into that, but you begin to realise that you have the excellency of the knowledge of a blessed, glorified Man in heaven. This is a truth that will influence your life. It gives you a different outlook because if you really have the excellency of the knowledge of a glorified Christ, you cannot commit yourself to the world in which He has been crucified. Every one of us finds these things all very testing day by day, but I want to present the positive side and that is, “Buy the truth”. Teenagers and boys and girls here, this is a truth for you. And so you see the greatness and glory of all of this. Have you got a real sense that there is a Man in heaven, a glorified Man in heaven whom you know? And do you value that link jealously, with a jealousy which is of God, with the Holy Spirit sustaining you and giving you the power to know for a surety that there is a Man in heaven? Would you sell that truth? What would you sell it for? A place in this world, all of the things that perhaps the enemy would throw at you saying, ’Well, that is just for another day’. The vital truth of a glorified Christ in the souls of believers has sustained and influenced life for generations and will continue to do so, and let us be amongst them! The fact is that there is a glorious Man in heaven, “Christ Jesus my Lord”. Paul’s Lord is our Lord and the blessing and glory of that is that we want to buy the truth. Buy it! It will cost you something to get it by way of exercise and by way of sacrifice, but buy the truth so that it becomes yours. What price would you put on that truth? Who could value it? Isaac Watts in his famous hymn says,
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an off’ring far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all!
That is like Paul here. Now is the time to develop our links with, and our knowledge of, the blessed, glorious Man who lives in heaven.
Now I am going to touch on 1 Kings 21. Ahab had an eye on what Naboth had. Naboth had a vineyard. Ahab wanted it, he wanted to buy it. He wanted to take it over for himself. It is the ’creep-creep’ approach, and that is happening all around in the world, the ’creep-creep’ approach, infiltrating more and more to distract your life from being for Christ and for the things of Christ. And so Naboth says beautifully, “Jehovah forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to thee!”. This comes back now to our valuation of the testimony and of the great matters which are in the testimony, and Naboth says, ’I value this far more and I am not going to give it to you! You are not going to get the inheritance of my fathers!’ It cost him his life. To apply it he had bought that truth. He had looked on the testimony. He had looked on the life of his fathers. He had looked upon the way that matters were being worked out, as we should in relation to Christ and the assembly in the testimony. He had cultivated the vineyard, he had looked after it, he had cared for it, and now the time comes when someone says, ’I want that. How much will you give it to me for?’. And he says, ’I am not prepared to sell it. The inheritance of my fathers is of far more value than what Ahab can put on it.’ Do you value it? Do you have any sense of the inheritance of our fathers? There is an inheritance. There is an inheritance which has come down the generations in the Spirit through our fathers’ faithfulness and through dedication in their lives to Christ and the things of Christ. This was so even in times like those when Paul was writing to the Philippians, “For all seek their own things, not the things of Jesus Christ”, and he had “no one like-minded who will care with genuine feeling” how the saints get on, Phil 2: 20-21. What genuine feeling marked Naboth as he says, “Jehovah forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to thee!” There is an inheritance down here anticipating an inheritance which is up there. There is a sphere of God’s testimony that is to be entered into. Committal in view of being for Christ’s day is the call, but you have to personally value it. I think there is a current call for us all to buy this truth relating to God’s inheritance here in the saints and in the testimony. Let us claim it for our own, to have it as a possession that will characterise and influence our life appropriately, and then let us not be prepared to sell it. The enemy would come along, commerce will come along, religious matters publicly will come along, all of that will come along as if to say, ’This person is a devoted person and the light has been held and so on. I want that. I want to take that over and reapply it for another purpose’. Oh for the courage to be like a Naboth who says, ’I am not going to give up. I am not going to sell the inheritance of our fathers’. It is well worth valuing! Paul says to Timothy, “these entrust to faithful men, such as shall be competent to instruct others also”, 2 Tim 2: 2.
And now in Joshua 2, just to speak for a moment or two about Rahab. She is an interesting person. Mr Coates says of Joshua 2 that before you get the military victory in the book of Joshua you get a moral victory, in Rahab, vol 30 p208. She was a harlot with a sinful history but mercy had met that history. God had his eye upon her, and there she is, she has a house in Jericho and it is a condemned city. Every one of us that has a house, has a house in a condemned world. There are two features about Rahab’s house, a window and a door. Faith links with the window, as has often been pointed out, and the scarlet line is in the window. May I ask you, is there a scarlet line in the window? Have you got an outlook towards the promised land, God’s inheritance, or is my window towards the inner parts of Jericho? These things become very testing and very exercising, but you can see Rahab valued the opportunity and the instruction to put the scarlet line in the window, a touch of royalty, a touch of dignity, a separating sign to be shown there. So Rahab’s window would be obvious, and it would be in contrast to other windows. The scarlet line was in her window. What a fine feature that is! Rahab had bought the truth that God was going to bring His people into their inheritance, bring them into the land, and she was determined not to sell it. She wanted the assurance and for us the assurance comes by the help of the Holy Spirit that God will preserve us for His inheritance in the day to come. Therefore let our homes be sanctified places, let our conversation, let our outlook, our prayer, everything, reflect the fact that I have a scarlet line in the window. James indicates that Rahab brings out faith and works. Faith links with the window, and I suggest that the works link with the door. The door takes her into the city, so as she comes out of the city she shuts the door on the city. She goes to the window and she is looking towards the land. How fine! What matters these are! When we come out of the commercial sphere into our houses, shut the door. Conversation changes, your eyes and outlook are towards the window, and what they are looking onto is God’s inheritance and the great matters which He has in His purpose for us. What spheres of blessing such households are! How sad it is that there are broken homes, broken marriages. All these things are heartbreaking. Oh to see in all our homes a scarlet line in the window that clearly shows where our outlook lies, secured in God’s inheritance and the day to come, so that we are preserved from having our sphere of influence wholly taken over by the Jericho system which is doomed to destruction and failure.
Now I refer to Psalm 23. All I want to say about this is that we might value the shepherdly service of Jesus. I remember reading a little story. There was a gathering in a little village and Psalm 23 was going to be recited by two people. One man was asked along to recite it because he was a good orator. The company assembled and he stood up and he recited Psalm 23 perfectly. Then a dear old believer stood up and recited Psalm 23 and there was not a dry eye in the hall! One knew the Psalm, the other knew the Shepherd. I do not know if I can say anything more on Psalm 23. One of the aspects that David appreciated in Psalm 23 was, “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me”. Oh the personal assurance that the rod and staff are. If God brings discipline in, as He did with David, what can always be relied on by us all is the rod and the staff of the Shepherd. Probably this is one of the best known Psalms. Often we learn it early in our days as believers and are able to repeat Psalm 23. My appeal is, know the Shepherd! Buy this truth, and strengthen our links with the Shepherd, “thy rod and thy staff” will bring in the comfort that is needed. There is no way you ever could have taken the Shepherd away from David. He was a shepherd lad, he brought that through in his experience, but he came to know Jehovah as his Shepherd. May we have come to know through our experience that deep link with the Lord Jesus. It is His priestly service. He is the One you can turn to and know when others are not around, when all the experiences of life come upon you and you come through in the preciousness of knowing “my shepherd”. There is nothing that will ever take away from a Christian his or her personal links with the Lord Jesus Christ. The enemy would love to take it away from you but the enemy can never take away from you the truth we have by faith and enjoyed by the Holy Spirit because he does not understand it and is not given access to it. You may cover it up, you may lose it for this or that, but what you have in personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ enjoyed by the power of the Holy Spirit is not to be given up. It is to be treasured as a truth which is yours and yours alone.
So the culmination of all of this is in Revelation 21, and now we have the converse aspect to what I have been saying. God will now show you His valuation of everything worked out in the lives of believers, that is through difficult times, days of brokenness, and public church breakdown. All of that will be gathered up when the holy city comes out. Think here of the delight the angel has. “Come here”, he says to John, ’I will show you a sight par excellence’ and what he is shown is, “I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife”. God has invested it with His glory. These things now are beyond the sphere of time and beyond death altogether. This is the culmination of the dispensation of the Spirit, when God will bring out those indeed who have been secured and formed in time and under the service of the Holy Spirit. The holy city is the aggregate of the individuals who have been redeemed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, formed together into a magnificent glorious spiritual structure that will be alongside of Christ eternally. I appeal to every one of us, buy these truths. Do not sell them. Buy them, appreciate them, deepen in the enjoyment of them. They are all for our salvation but also they are for God’s glory.
May we be encouraged for His Name’s sake!
3rd May 2008