When you pass through water or fire.

When you Pass Through the Waters

This meditation was written by Rev. James Slopsema in the February 15, 2000 issue of the Standard Bearer.

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  1. But now saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
  2. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (Isaiah 43:1–2)

Isaiah was the prophet of God to Judah in her apostasy.

We read of this apostasy in chapter 42. Judah had trusted in graven images and said to molten images, Ye are our gods (v. 17). Not surprisingly, we find harsh words of judgment for Judah. Because of her unfaithfulness the Lord would give Judah over as spoils to robbers (vv. 22–24). This was a prophecy of the Babylonian captivity that would soon uproot Judah from the land.

Now follow words of comfort and hope. “But now saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not….”

How important these words were to Judah as she faced the harsh realities of captivity under God’s judgment.

And how important these words are today for the church and her members as she faces the harsh realities of life.

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Passing through water and fire!

Water and fire speak of God’s judgment upon the wicked. Thus, for example, the world in Noah’s day was destroyed by the waters of a universal flood. This was God’s judgment upon a wicked world that had filled the cup of iniquity. In turn, the destruction of the world by the waters of the flood serve as a type or picture of the final judgment of God upon the wicked by fire (2 Pet. 3:5–7).

To pass through the waters and to walk through fire, therefore, is to live through the time of God’s judgment.

But water and fire are also connected to persecution of the church. Thus, for example, in the time of Israel’s persecution in the bondage of Egypt, Israel was required to walk through the waters of the Red Sea as Pharaoh pursued them out of the land. For their refusal to bow before Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image, the three friends of Daniel were thrown into the burning, fiery furnace.

To pass through the waters and to walk through fire, therefore, is also to live under the persecution of the world.

When thou passest through the waters. When thou walkest through the fire. It’s not a matter of “if,” but of “when.” Certainly we will pass through the waters and fire of God’s judgment. For the judgment of God is upon the world in which we live. This dreadful judgment comes in the form of natural catastrophes (earthquakes, tornadoes, famine, etc.), plagues (AIDS), wars and rumors of wars, lawlessness and the breakdown of society…. The very fact that we live in the midst of an evil world under these judgments of God means that we too pass through the waters of God’s judgment upon sinful society.

But sometimes the judgment of God falls directly upon the church. For repeatedly the church and her members stray into sin. The judgment of God is also upon the unfaithfulness of his own people. This was the case with Judah in the time of Isaiah. For her departure from his word the Lord took Judah into captivity. No less is this true for the church and her members today. In judgment God has taken his word from many churches that have refused to honor it. The judgment of God also falls upon individuals and families in the church for their personal sins, judgment such as marital and family problems, poverty, sickness, etc. Through these waters of God’s judgment every one of us passes sooner or later.

But the saints must also pass through the waters and fires of persecution.

The wicked world always hates and opposes the church. For the church is Christ’s church; and the world hates this church for Christ’s sake.

Consequently, the church will always walk through the fires of persecution. The Old Testament church of Israel did. She was repeatedly attacked by the surrounding nations. And although this was often the judgment of God upon Israel for her unfaithfulness, it was also the attempt of the wicked world to destroy the church of God. Even today there are places where the church is severely persecuted for Christ’s sake. Also in this country the world attacks the church of God and her members through slander, mockery, limiting our business and career opportunities….

When thou passest through the waters….

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Fear not!

When Old Testament Israel passed through the waters, they were often afraid. Certainly the true Israel that believed the prophecy of Isaiah concerning captivity in Babylon was afraid. What would become of the nation? What would become of God’s covenant and his promises?

We also tend to be afraid when we pass through the waters. We often fear when war looms; when we are opposed for Christ’s sake; when we see the moral decline of the nation and the consequences for the church of the future; when there is lingering, debilitating sickness; when there is death.

Fear not!

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee.

What a dreadful thing, to pass through the waters alone. Imagine having to deal with war, poverty, sickness, death, and all the harsh realities of life alone! This is what the world does. They pass through the waters of God’s judgment upon their sin alone. Consequently, the waters overflow them. The fires of God’s wrath set them ablaze and burn them. In other words, they perish under the judgment and wrath of God.

But the Lord promises to go with us, his people.

When we pass through the water of God’s judgment, whether that is God’s judgment upon the world’s sin or our own, the Lord will go with us. And when we walk through the fire of affliction and persecution, we walk with the Lord at our side.

For that reason the waters will not overflow us, nor will the fire set us ablaze so that we are burned. This does not mean that we will never suffer earthly or physical loss. We may lose many things, even our physical life, as we pass through the waters. But because of the Lord’s presence we will never be overcome spiritually. As we will walk through the fires of persecution, we will never lose our faith or our salvation. As we pass through the waters of God’s judgment upon sin, we will not suffer the eternal ruin of the world.

We are safe and secure.

For the Lord our God is with us.

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Wonderful assurances.

The Lord is he that created Jacob and formed Israel.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, calling them into being out of nothing. Part of this creative work was to form man carefully out of dust of the ground. What an astounding work! It is a work that magnifies the greatness, power, and glory of God.

In a similar manner the Lord also created and formed Israel.

He created Israel as a nation by leading them out of the bondage of Egypt and organizing them into a nation by the laws of Sinai. More importantly, by these same laws the Lord formed Israel into a spiritual nation, a covenant people. This is to be compared to the original work of creation, making something glorious out of nothing.

This great work of creating Israel as his covenant people became a reality as the Lord redeemed Israel and called her by her name.

I have redeemed thee. To redeem is to deliver from the power of another through the payment of a price. Years before, the Lord had through Moses redeemed Israel from 400 years of bondage in Israel. That redemption from Egypt’s bondage was of greatest importance in that it pointed Israel ahead to her deeper, spiritual redemption through one who would be greater than Moses, namely, Jesus Christ. Even as the Lord redeemed Israel from earthly, physical bondage through Moses, so the Lord would one day redeem the same Israel from her spiritual bondage to sin through the Christ that was to come. I have redeemed thee. Although this great redemption lay in the future, it is described as already having taken place, in order to indicate its certainty.

I have called thee by thy name.

The nation of Judah was known by the name of its first father. The father of the nation was called Jacob, meaning “heel holder,” to indicate that he was the one who sought by faith to lay hold of the birthright blessing. Later Jacob’s name was changed by God to “Israel” to indicate that Jacob had prevailed in his quest for the blessing of God.

I have called thee by thy name. Through the call of the gospel that came through the prophets the Lord made the nation that which he had called her, namely, a nation who seeks the Lord’s blessings in faith and prevails.

Indeed, the Lord had created the nation.

And so she belonged to the Lord.

Could the people ever pass through the waters alone, or walk through the fires alone? The Lord their Creator, their Redeemer, would certainly go with them.

The church today is not an entity different from Old Testament Israel but a continuation of Israel in the New Testament era.

She too has been created by the Lord and formed by his hand to be his own. This has been accomplished through the work of redemption in the blood of Jesus Christ and the great call of the gospel which forms the church into those who seek the Lord’s blessings and prevail.

The church and her members belong to the Lord. Certainly he will also go with us as we pass through the waters and walk through the fire. Nor will the waters overflow us; the fires shall not consume us.

We are safe and secure in the Creator and Redeemer who accompanies us.

Forgiveness

“Father forgive them for they know not what they do” Luke 23:34. Jesus prayed for the elect among his persecutors and killers and as a result they were forgiven and saved (many on Pentecost). Acts 5:31 “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

Who are we to forgive? Are there conditions to forgiveness? Often we hear testimonies of people whose loved ones have been butchered, murdered by Islamists who testify they have forgiven those evil men. But are they commanded to do so? There is no doubt that every believer is to forgive a brother or sister who sins against them and repents. Luke 17:4 “And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” Clear examples are the incestuous Corinthian who repented: 2 Corinthians 2:7 “So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.” Paul’s teaching is clear: Ephesians 4:32 “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” But remember God’s forgiveness of us is,  and was conditional: 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

What about enemies and unbelievers? Unconditional forgiveness? I say no! Scripture says no! Peter preached to Christ’s killers at Pentecost: Acts 2:38 “ Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Here is another clear example, the hypocrite Simon Magus: Acts 8:22 “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” Repentance and confession of sin is mandatory for God’s forgiveness and for human forgiveness, whether it be for a fellow believer or rank enemy and unbeliever. Correct me if I am wrong!

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The Lord of Hosts with Us

Our God a Mighty Refuge 

Psalm 46

The Lord of Hosts with Us

Quotes to Consider

Charles Spurgeon: “With no other instrumentality than a word the Lord ruled the storm. He gave forth a voice and stout hearts were dissolved, proud armies were annihilated, conquering powers were enfeebled. At first the confusion appeared to be worse confounded, when the element of divine power came into view; the very earth seemed turned to wax, the most solid and substantial of human things melted like the fat of rams upon the altar; but anon peace followed, the rage of man subsided, hearts capable of repentance relented, and the implacable were silenced. How mighty is a word from God! How mighty the Incarnate Word. O that such a word would come from the excellent glory even now to melt all hearts in love to Jesus, and to end for ever all the persecutions, wars, and rebellions of men! … The Lord of hosts is with us. This is the reason for all Zion’s security, and for the overthrow of her foes. The Lord rules the angels, the stars, the elements, and all the hosts of heaven; and the heaven of heavens are under his sway. The armies of men though they know it not are made to subserve his will. This Generalissimo of the forces of the land, and the Lord High Admiral of the seas, is on our side—our august ally; woe unto those who fight against him, for they shall fly like smoke before the wind when he gives the word to scatter them. The God of Jacob is our refuge, Immanuel is Jehovah of Hosts, and Jacob’s God is our high place of defence. When this glad verse is sung to music worthy of such a jubilate, well may the singers pause and the players wait awhile to tune their instruments again; here, therefore, fitly stands that solemn, stately, peaceful note of rest, SELAH” (Treasury of David, vol. 1, pp. 341-342).

William Secker: “The enemies of the church may toss her as waves, but they shall not split her as rocks. She may be dipped in water as a feather, but shall not sink therein as lead. He that is a well of water within her to keep her from fainting will also prove a wall of fire about her to preserve her from falling. Tried she may be, but destroyed she cannot be. Her foundation is the Rock of Ages, and her defence the everlasting Arms. It is only such fabrics as are bottomed upon the sand, that are overthrown by the wind. The adversaries of God’s people will push at them as far as their horns will go, but when they have scoured them by persecution, as tarnished vessels, then God will throw such wisps into the fire” (ibid, vol. 1, p. 346).

John Calvin: “Since the Church of God is never without enemies, and these very powerful, and such as consequently fight against her with cruel and unbridled fury, the prophet now confirms from experience the doctrine which he had advanced concerning the impregnable character of the divine protection. He then deduces from it this general ground of consolation that it belongs continually to God to restrain and quell all commotions, and that his arm is strong enough to break all the efforts of the enemy. This passage, I admit, might be understood in a more general sense, as meaning that the city of God is liable to be assailed by many storms and tempests; but that by the favour of God she is, nevertheless, always preserved in safety. It is, however, more probable, as I have already said at the beginning, that the Psalmist is here speaking of some notable deliverance, in which God had given a striking proof of the power and favour which he exercises in the constant preservation of the Church. Accordingly, he relates what had taken place, namely, that the enemies of the Church came with a dreadful host to waste and destroy it; but that immediately, by the voice of God, they, as it were, melted and vanished away. From this we derive an invaluable ground of consolation, when it is said, that although the whole world rise up against us, and confound all things by their increased madness, they can be brought to nought in a moment, as soon as God shows himself favourable towards us” (Commentary on Psalms, p. 201).

Calvin: “In this verse we are taught how we shall be able to apply to our own use the things which the Scriptures everywhere record concerning the infinite power of God. We shall be able to do this when we believe ourselves to be of the number of those whom God has embraced with his fatherly love, and whom he will cherish. The Psalmist again alludes, in terms of commendation, to the adoption by which Israel was separated from the common condition of all the other nations of the earth. And, indeed, apart from this, the description of the power of God would only inspire us with dread. Confident boasting, then, arises from this, that God has chosen us for his peculiar people, to show forth his power in preserving and defending us... That our faith may rest truly and firmly in God, we must take into consideration at the same time these two parts of his character—his immeasurable power, by which he is able to subdue the whole world under him; and his fatherly love which he has manifested in his word. When these two things are joined together, there is nothing which can hinder our faith from defying all the enemies which may rise up against us, nor must we doubt that God will succour us, since he has promised to do it; and as to power, he is sufficiently able also to fulfil his promise, for he is the God of armies. From this we learn, that those persons err egregiously in the interpretation of Scripture, who leave in entire suspense the application of all that is said concerning the power of God, and do not rest assured that he will be a Father to them, inasmuch as they are of his flock, and partakers of the adoption” (ibid, p. 202).

The river of the water of life.

C.H. Spurgeon: ” Divine grace like a smoothly flowing, fertilising, full, and never failing river, yields refreshment and consolation to believers. This is the river of the water of life, of which the church above as well as the church below partakes evermore. It is no boisterous ocean, but a placid stream, it is not stayed in its course by earthquakes or crumbling mountains, it follows its serene course without disturbance. Happy are they who know from their own experience that there is such a river of God… As soon as the first ray of light proclaims the coming day, at the turning of the morning God’s right arm shall be outstretched for his people. The Lord is up betimes. We are slow to meet him, but he is never tardy in helping us. Impatience complains of divine delays, but in very deed the Lord is not slack concerning his promise. Man’s haste is often folly, but God’s apparent delays are ever wise; and when rightly viewed, are no delays at all. Today the bands of evil may environ the church of God, and threaten her with destruction; but ere long they shall pass away like the foam on the waters, and the noise of their tumult shall be silent in the grave. The darkest hour of the night is just before the turning of the morning; and then, even then, shall the Lord appear as the great ally of his church” (Treasury of David, vol. 1, pp. 340-341).

Grace, as in the attribute of Gods beauty which he puts upon us, (Ezekiel 16:14) we grow in grace, in his beauty. Thus, it is enlarged upon us through sanctification. Brian Crossett.

 

The Protestant Refomed teaching on Scripture

 The Bible


1. The doctrine of Scripture is critical to the health of the believer and the church, for this determines everything that we believe. a. Faith depends upon the Word of God, the Bible. b. We confess that God is the Author of Scripture by the Holy Spirit, who inspired men for the writing of His Word (II Peter 1:19-21;  II Tim. 3:15-17).


2. We believe also that inspiration was a wonder work of grace, the Holy Spirit moving certain men whom God had chosen and prepared for this work to write God’s Word and governing them as they wrote, so that they wrote God’s Word and His Word only. a. Because it is inspired, Scripture is reliable, authoritative and infallible. (1) We believe this inspiration was plenary (full or complete) and verbal (word for word). (2) This belief in Scripture’s inspiration and authority does not rest only upon a couple proof texts. b. Scripture gives evidence throughout by its own testimony, also by that of Jesus and the apostles. (1) Scripture claims to be the Word of God, and witnesses to the truth of this claim — this testimony the Holy Spirit binds upon the heart of the believer. (2) If then the Scripture gives this testimony of itself and that too through the word of Him who is the holy and true One, the faithful witness, Who cannot lie, then there is certainly no choice for the believer but to receive that Scripture as the Word of God.

3. The Dignity and Authority of Scripture a. A fundamental truth of the Reformed faith is that Scripture alone has authority over the Church’s faith and life. (1) There is one authority in the Church and over the Church, Jesus Christ. (2) Jesus Christ exercises His authority by His Word, the Scriptures, which are applied to the church by the Holy Spirit. b. By Scripture, all teachings, writings, decisions and demands of men, as well as all our actions, must be judged (cf.  II Tim. 3:16,17). (1) Nothing need be believed which Scripture does not teach and nothing may be believed which Scripture contradicts. (2) The sole authority of Scripture is a truth of supreme significance for the Church.  To abandon this truth is, principally, to abandon Christ Himself and to choose instead the authority of the words of men, “of themselves liars, and more vain than vanity itself.”


4. The Sufficiency of Scripture a. The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contains all that is necessary for the Church and believer to know, both as regards faith and life, doctrine and morals. b. If Scripture is in any way deficient or if it needs to be complemented by something else, Scripture is not the sole authority.
5. The truth of the perspicuity or clearness of Scripture is vital in connection with Scripture’s sufficiency. a. This truth contains two elements: (1) Scripture in itself is clear and can be understood by the individual believer.

(2) The individual believer can interpret Scripture by the Holy Spirit’s guidance. b. I John 4:1 and II John 10 put the Bible in the hand of all believers and calls all believers to study Scripture. (1) Bible study must always be a spiritual exercise. (2) True knowledge is possible only through the work of the Holy Spirit causing the objective truth of Scripture to be reflected in the consciousness of a believing child of God. 


6. The Infallibility of Scripture a. If the Bible is not infallible, it cannot be authoritative. b. The Bible has authority since it is the truth of God, which truth of God, in contrast with the lying and vain nature of man and his words, is infallible. c. Denial of the infallibility of Scripture, as widely made in Protestantism today, is a great step away from the doctrine of Scripture’s sole authority and a great step back to the bondage of Rome.


Recommended Reading: The Doctrine of Scripture, Homer C. Hoeksema

Taken from THE FAITH AND PRACTICE OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMED CHURCHES
A SUMMARY by
PASTOR STEVEN R. KEY

You can read full pamphlet Here:

Some thoughts on Pride

Some thoughts on pride.

Nebuchadnezzar and his grandson Belshazzar were both proud men that were brought low by God, the first being made insane to behave like an ox eating grass and the second killed on the day he committed sacrilege in his royal court.

Pride we believe was how sin and evil entered creation when Lucifer ambitiously wanted to take God’s place in heaven and was thrown down (Isaiah 14:12-15). On earth he tempted our forefathers also to be proud in gaining the knowledge of good and evil so as to be like gods, and the fall occurred (Genesis 3).

Ever since then, proud man has resisted God, hated him and lived selfishly. Much, if not all, the evil in the world is the result.

But God resists the proud (1 Peter 5:5) and brings them low-he does this when they die unrepentant and are sent to hell, he does this when they repent and believe the gospel confessing their sins, and he does this among his people who get proud like Hezekiah (2 Chron.32:25ff) and Peter (Matthew 26:33). Why? Because the essence of sin is missing the mark and the mark is the glory of God (Rom.3:23). Pride takes glory to self and denies God what is rightfully his (1 Cor.4:7). All boasting is pride. The only thing a believer ought to boast about is knowing God (Jer.9:24). Hence we are to humble ourselves and be like Christ, the ultimate example of humility who as God the Son became a servant washing his disciples’ feet and dying an ignominious death in their place and ours.

Pride opposes God and his word, humility submits to God and believes. That is why faith is a shield to ward off Satan’s temptations to indulge self and seek our own glory.

Perhaps the commonest example of pride is our thinking that in some way we are better than others like the Pharisee with the publican (Luke 18:10-14) when in fact we are all weak, sinful beings, each as bad as the neighbour.

I recommend “Humility” by Andrew Murray which can be read on line here: https://www.seekersofchrist.org/MURRAY/Humility.pdf

COMFORT

 

Comfort comes from Latin com- ( → COM-) together+ fortis strong”. So to make strong. This comfort may come from people or God.

Dictionary definition: comfort… verb [transitive]    to make someone feel less worried, unhappy, or upset, for example by saying kind things to them or touching them.

Heidelberg Catechism speaks thus:

  • Q. 1.  What is thy only comfort in life and death?
    A.  That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.
  • Q. 2.  How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?
    A.  Three: the first, how great my sins and miseries are;the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries;the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.

“Comfort is something we need. Take, for instance, if someone is in the hospital suffering from the pain of cancer. If you were to ask such a person, “What is your comfort?” then he might answer that his friends have overwhelmed him with gifts and visits or that he has the best doctors money can buy. What would you say to comfort this person: “Things could always be worse”? “Cheer up, there will be better days ahead”?

Take another example: a funeral home. What words of comfort would you speak there? Some say that comfort is looking at all the good the person did in his life. Others might say that death is natural, and what matters is only that we enjoy life and use it while we have it. And still others, weighed down with sorrow, would frankly admit to you that there is no comfort to be found in this life, no place where men do not weep. What consolation would you give to someone who said that?

In opposition to all worldly ideas of comfort and man’s attempts of consoling a person in grief, the Christian, no matter what his life may be, has the only comfort in both life and death. His comfort rests upon the Bible, the Word of God. One could even say that the Bible is God’s word of comfort to His people. Isaiah the prophet is commanded to proclaim God’s word in Isaiah 40:1-2: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” There the comforting word is that Jerusalem’s iniquity is pardoned, her warfare is over, for she has received from God the forgiveness of her sins. Isaiah voices that same soothing word in chapter 52:9, “Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.” There, again, the Scripture identifies comfort with redemption, that is, with the forgiveness of sins by the grace of God. The apostle Paul in II Corinthians 1:3-4 gives us the same message of comfort: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” There God is identified as “the God of all comfort,” that is, all comfort proceeds from Him and is to be found only in fellowship with Him. He is the one able to comfort us in all our tribulation. And the purpose for which God comforts us is that we might be able to comfort those who are in any trouble.”

For more on “Our Only Comfort” by Rev. Carl Haak, see https://cprc.co.uk/articles/ouronlycomfort/