A Prayer for the Persecuted Church

As we come to the close of another year in time, it is well for us to remember that in various parts of the earth, Christians are suffering. Naturally, there are degrees of persecution which are experienced. In some counties Christians are harassed, their places of worship are shut down and their Bible confiscated. Some are imprisoned for their faith and doubtless in 2017 some have even been enrolled in the noble company of martyrs. In other places, people may lose out on a position of employment due to a conscious keeping of the Sabbath, or may suffer the snide remarks of the world in relation to their faithful stance. Persecution may take various forms.

In the Lord’s goodness, the church in Australia still has freedom of assembly and worship. We have many blessings of an outward sort. As the year comes to its end we should be thankful for these mercies, but also mindful that the current climate seems to indicate that religious freedom may be under assault.

In such times, the Lord, in His goodness, has not left us without the comfort and instruction of the Scriptures. In Psalm 74:4 we read of the roaring of God’s enemies. ‘Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.’ Such shouts of triumph and battle were alarming to believers in the past, as they are in the present. On Psalm 74, C H Spurgeon writes, “The history of the suffering church is always edifying; when we see how the faithful trusted and wrestled with their God in times of dire distress, we are taught how to behave ourselves under similar circumstances…” So we see that in this Psalm, the inspired penman, comments in closing it:

“O let not the oppressed return ashamed: let the poor and needy praise thy name. Arise, O God, plead thine own cause: remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily.  Forget not the voice of thine enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth continually.” (Psalm 74:21-23)

So it becomes us to bring before the Lord in prayer, the plight of His persecuted people, the conduct of His enemies and then ask in faith for divine aid. As prayed the Psalmist:

“Arise, O God, plead thine own cause…”

G B Macdonald

sydneyfpchurch.org.au

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David’s Refuge from the Wicked

Psalm 86 is titled, ‘A Prayer of David’. Many of the psalms of David are prayers, and David was clearly a man of prayer, as well as one who was divinely lead to write psalms of praise. Thus we have, in the Psalms, as in so many other places of Scripture, a reminder of how important prayer is in the life of the Christian.

In verses 14-16 of Psalm 86, David writes, “O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them. But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.”

Here we have, in the first place, the complaint that David made to God. He does not complain of God’s dealings with him, but of men’s dealings with him. He prayerfully spreads these before God. Such wicked persons are described as proud, and in the same breath, they are termed as having risen against him. Thus, Matthew Henry, makes the point, ‘Many are made persecutors by their pride…’ David goes on to speak of violent men who have sought after his soul, and Matthew Henry writes, ‘the design is not only to depose but to destroy.’ Why are they doing these things against David? What could be one reason why they are so disposed? David himself makes it clear when he writes, “…and have not set thee before them.” They were not walking in the fear of God.

From such sad complaint and from such painful experience of the malice of the wicked, David turns by faith to God. He pens a very beautiful reflection upon the character of the God who cares for him. “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” As C H Spurgeon writes, What a contrast! We get away from the hectorings and blusterings of proud but puny men to the glory and goodness of the Lord.’ Perhaps David has considered that which we read in Exodus 34:6, where God reveals Himself to Moses, ‘And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth…’ If so, ought not we, in our day, to reflect on such a wonderful revelation of the character of God?

This consideration of the care of so great a God for him, led David to cry in prayer to the Almighty. “O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.” As the commentator W S Plumer observes, ‘The strength sought would effect deliverance and impart courage.’

If David, is to go on, in spite of his enemies, then He pleads for the help of God. So we see, how very suitable this prayer of David is for the Lord’s dear people in this day too.

G B Macdonald

sydneyfpchurch.org.au

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Sydney Communion – Aug/Sept. 2017

At our recent Communion Season, I was privileged to have the help of Rev Jett Smith, the minister of our Auckland congregation. My thanks are due to him for his help and ministry among us.

As usual, the communion season began with a service on Thursday morning. The text was from Exodus 5:2 ‘And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.’ Here we have another king of Egypt, who knew not Joseph, nor regarded the God of Joseph. His ignorance of God was great, yet he was not ashamed to own that. Sadly, many in our day are not ashamed of their ignorance of the God of the Bible. Coupled with his ignorance, was disobedience to the will of God. The Lord’s servants expressed that will to him, yet he would not yield. Lastly, we noted his stubbornness in continuing in sinful rebellion. We could see lessons here for ourselves in this spiritually dark day.

On Thursday evening, the minister preached from Genesis 6:5 on the wickedness that God saw in the days of Noah. His three points were, The Demonstration of Sin, The Depth of Sin and the Dreadfulness of Sin. The question for ourselves being – do we view sin as a dreadful evil? In due time the judgment of God came, and only those in the Ark survived the fearful overthrow, so must we be in Christ, the Saviour of sinners, and such as by faith are found in Him shall be saved.

On Friday evening the subject was that of self-examination. This is of course, a most needful duty for all who prepare to sit at the Lord’s Table. We were led to consider Romans 7 especially verse 16 ‘If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.’ The Apostle Paul found a struggle with sin. The Old Man would not give way with ease. But in all his struggles against sin, Paul was acknowledging that God’s just demands were right and proper – the law was good.

On Saturday morning we considered a ‘Loyal Profession of Love to King David.’ A gentile believer, Ittai the Gittite, made this profession. The text was found in 2 Samuel 15:21. Here we find David fleeing from his rebellious son Absalom. What a dark day! At such a time as this Ittai, a Philistine by birth and nation, was challenged. He had begun to follow David, but would he continue, even when David and his cause seemed low? By the grace of God, this man made confession of David as his king even at this time! He raised a God-honouring witness on the side of the King. So too, the Christian is called to follow his Master. And Jesus would have His people to partake of His Supper.

On the Communion Sabbath morning, Rev Smith encouraged us to consider the suitability of the Great High Priest – the Lord Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 5:5-10 we see, The Appointment of Christ, The Obedience of Christ and the Perfection of Christ. The One appointed, did the work. He cried from the Cross –“It is finished.” One word in the Greek – Finished! Following the Fencing of the Lord’s Table, where more particular guidance was given as to the marks of those who should come to the Lord’s Table, as well as those who ought not, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was again held in our congregation. A witness was again raised on the side of Christ in Riverstone, NSW.

In the evening we looked at the very wonderful case of the healing of the noblemen’s son – John 4:46-54. Here was a particular and pressing request made by the nobleman to Jesus. His son was at the point of death – would Jesus come down and heal him? The Saviour responded with a general caution, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” How many are indeed looking for some remarkable religious experience of this sort or that, but neglecting the simple words of Christ? This man did believe the word of Jesus, and as he returned so believing, he was met with the wonderful news – “Thy son liveth.” His son was whole again. Best of all – ‘Himself believed, and his whole house.’ As an old missionary on Skye is reported as having said – “Faith is the emptiness of the soul coming to the fullness of Christ.” As with the nobleman – it shall not be disappointed!

On Monday a service of thanksgiving was held. We had much to be thankful for, given the Lord’s kindness in giving us His Word and Sacrament. Rev Smith preached from the encouraging words in Isaiah 60:22 ‘A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time.’ This is one of the texts of Scripture that point to days of gospel blessing yet to be seen on the earth. The cause of God may go very low, as it did in Noah’s day, but He is able to revive His own work and grant great increase. May we never limit the Lord.

So, we had an encouraging and spiritually profitable communion. Such a time upon the earth is a precious foretaste of heaven to the Lord’s people. ‘And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.’ (Isaiah 35:10)

G B Macdonald

www.sydneyfpchurch.org.au

 

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The Departing Saint’s Confession

I read recently read this piece from C H Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening and found it a comforting truth from Psalm 31:5 and meditation thereon by the writer.

G B Macdonald

www.sydneyfpchurch.org.au

Evening, August 27

“Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.”

—Psalm 31:5

These words have been frequently used by holy men in their hour of departure. We may profitably consider them this evening. The object of the faithful man’s solicitude in life and death is not his body or his estate, but his spirit; this is his choice treasure—if this be safe, all is well. What is this mortal state compared with the soul? The believer commits his soul to the hand of his God; it came from him, it is his own, he has aforetime sustained it, he is able to keep it, and it is most fit that he should receive it. All things are safe in Jehovah’s hands; what we entrust to the Lord will be secure, both now and in that day of days towards which we are hastening. It is peaceful living, and glorious dying, to repose in the care of heaven. At all times we should commit our all to Jesus’ faithful hand; then, though life may hang on a thread, and adversities may multiply as the sands of the sea, our soul shall dwell at ease, and delight itself in quiet resting places.

Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” Redemption is a solid basis for confidence. David had not known Calvary as we have done, but temporal redemption cheered him; and shall not eternal redemption yet more sweetly console us? Past deliverances are strong pleas for present assistance. What the Lord has done he will do again, for he changes not. He is faithful to his promises, and gracious to his saints; he will not turn away from his people.

“Though thou slay me I will trust,

Praise thee even from the dust,

Prove, and tell it as I prove,

Thine unutterable love.

Thou mayst chasten and correct,

But thou never canst neglect;

Since the ransom price is paid,

On thy love my hope is stay’d.”

Spurgeon, C. H. (1896). Morning and evening: Daily readings. London: Passmore & Alabaster.

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Joseph and the Chief Butler

In Genesis 40:23 we read the words, ‘Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.’

The context informs us that Joseph and the butler had a remarkable relationship. They had met in a prison in Egypt, where Joseph was, as one falsely accused, and where the chief butler was, as one who had displeased Pharaoh. Joseph had shown tenderness and compassion to the butler in his sad state. In the providence of God, the butler had dreamed a dream which Joseph, as guided by God, truthfully interpreted. The butler was duly restored, whilst his fellow, the baker, was executed.

How very surprising then to read that this man forgot the person who had so accurately foretold what did indeed take place! ‘Yet’ – our attention is drawn to the wonder that such a one should forget Joseph – yet he did. Perhaps he was filled with the busyness of his restored position, or had some fear of Pharaoh, who can tell? What is sure is Joseph continued to languish in prison, whilst the butler walked at liberty.

In his commentary, Matthew Henry writes, ‘See here an instance of base ingratitude; Joseph had deserved well at his hands, had ministered to him, sympathized with him, helped him to a favourable interpretation of his dream, had recommended himself to him as an extraordinary person upon all accounts; and yet he forgot him.’ He goes on to write,’We must not think it strange if in this world we have hatred shown us for our love, and slights for our respects.’

In the providence of God, Joseph was be released at the time when he would be exalted to great usefulness and to high honour. When that time came, the butler said, ‘I do remember my faults this day…’

But whatever we might think of the ingratitude of the chief butler, how is it with us who have the hope that we have been saved by Jesus Christ? Matthew Henry comments, ‘Joseph had but foretold the chief butler’s enlargement, but Christ wrought out ours…yet we forget him, though often reminded of him…’

If we have been forgetful of the Lord Jesus Christ today, let us remember Him, and give thanks for all that He has done. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

G B Macdonald

sydneyfpchurch.org.au

 

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The Gospel to the Poor and Needy

One of the many well known sayings of the Lord Jesus Christ is found in Matthew 11:28-30.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In these words, we have an example of the gospel to the poor and needy which was proclaimed by Christ. Earlier in chapter 11 of Matthew, we are told that Jesus listed His preaching of the gospel to the poor as an evidence of His being the Messiah. John the Baptist was to be told, among other wonderful signs that Jesus was the Christ, this was true, “to the poor the gospel is preached.” (Matt. 11:5)

The words of Jesus noted above, have been a source of encouragement and blessing to many poor sin-burdened ones down through the years. Little wonder, when they are the words of the Saviour of sinners.

Are we such as are toiling under the burden of the guilt of sin? Are we labouring after spiritual rest, but as yet have found none? Then, let us heed the words of Jesus, ” Come unto me…” What are we assured we shall find if we do come by faith to Christ? “ye shall find rest unto your souls…”

In commenting on this passage of God’s word, Matthew Henry writes, ‘…this is the sum and substance of the gospel call and offer…’

We are not to go elsewhere, we are to come to Christ. In Him we shall find rest for our weary souls, a rest, that is rest indeed, for as He says elsewhere, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

G B Macdonald

www.sydneyfpchurch.org.au

 

 

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John Flavel on the Seaman’s Preservative

In a sermon entitled, ‘The Seaman’s Preservative in Foreign Countries’, John Flavel notes that Psalm 139 touches on the omnipresence and omniscience of God. God is everywhere present, and He has complete knowledge of all things. He shows in this sermon that sin can never be secret, as no sinner can hide from the eye of God. Such a consideration should have a restraining influence upon us day by day.

Flavel writes:

‘The scripture speaks full home to this truth. Prov. v. 21. “The ways of a man are before the LORD, and he pondereth all his paths.” To ponder or weigh our paths is more than simply to observe and see them. He not only sees the action, but puts it into the balances, with every circumstance belonging to it, and tries how much every ingredient in the action weighs, and what it comes to. So that God hath not only an universal inspection upon every action, but he hath a critical inspection into it also, “The LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed,” 1 Sam. ii. 3.’ (Flavel, vol. 5 p. 374 Banner of Truth Trust 1968 – italics in quotation).

Doubtless, Flavel had the seamen of his own day especially in mind in this sermon. They would sail far from home at times, but were never beyond the sight of God. So we should all reflect on this and pray:

Look on me, Lord, and merciful / do thou unto me prove, / As thou art wont to do to those / thy name who truly love. (Psalm 119:132 metrical)

G B Macdonald

www.sydneyfpchurch.org.au

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