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

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A Plea for Acceptance with God in Prayer

In Psalm 84:8-9 the psalmist writes, ‘O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.’

It was not a matter of indifference with the psalmist as to whether the LORD would hear his prayer or not. He was in earnest that the LORD should hear his prayer. He addressed himself to the God of Jacob, and thus could have the hope that God would hear his prayer, as He did that of Jacob of old. For example, when Jacob sought the LORD in anticipation of a meeting with Esau, whom he feared, the Most High heard his prayer. The wrath of Esau was restrained and Jacob and his household were not harmed. We should take encouragement from the revelation we have in the Bible of the God who hears the prayers of His people.

In order to further encourage God’s people to call upon Him, they can take up the petition of the psalmist in verse 9, ‘Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.’ The Hebrew word here translated ‘thine anointed’ can also be translated ‘Messiah’. Here is a strong plea for the believer in all of his or her approaches to God. When we plead for the sake of Jesus Christ, we are coming to God through the Messiah He has appointed. Matthew Henry notes, ‘In all our addresses to God we must desire that he would look upon the face of Christ, accept us for His sake, and be well-pleased with us in Him.’ (Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible).

G B Macdonald



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A Prayer for Revival

In Habakkuk 3:2 we have a prayer for revival breathed out by the LORD’s prophet. The prophets of God under the Old Testament were praying men. We see this in the case of a man like Elijah, who prayed earnestly that in might rain in time of famine, and persisted in so doing until he had the assurance that it would. We find that the LORD answered him by a great rain falling to break the drought (1 Kings 18:41-46).

Evidently, Habakkuk was also a man of prayer. In chapter 3:2 of the book that bears his name we have these words of his prayer recorded:

“O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.”

There are two parts to this prayer. Firstly, his prayerful concern and secondly, his prayerful petition.

The prophet acknowledged before God his concern at the sins of the people and the judgments threatened against them as a result. In chapter 1 of Habakkuk the LORD speaks of sending against the covenant people the Chaldeans, a ‘bitter and hasty nation.’ The prophet is burdened by this. He knows the LORD is righteous. He knows the people have sinned and that they merit the wrath of God. So too, we should be burdened by the sins of our day and generation. We should remember how God has judged others for the same sins. This is told us in Scripture. We too should appreciate that if the LORD should mark iniquity in our day, who should stand?

Following on from a due consideration of the message which God had revealed to him, the prophet makes a prayerful petition. He requests that the LORD might be pleased to revive His work. Some have translated the word revive, ‘preserve alive.’ In our own day of spiritual darkness and declension we too should follow the example of the prophet Habakkuk. His earnest plea should be ours too, “in wrath remember mercy.” We should remember that the LORD’s cause is His work. The spread of sound doctrine is His work. The blessing of the gospel is His work. He has revived it in the past and he can revive it in the present.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. That event was a great reviving of the LORD’s work and resulted in a fruitful time of much gospel blessing. In this year then, when the precious gospel truths rediscovered at the Reformation are again in many places lost sight off, let us pray:

O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.”

G B Macdonald






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Sydney Communion – March 2017

It was a real privilege to have the help of Rev Caleb Hembd at our recent communion season. I am grateful to him for taking the time to come all the way from Gisborne, New Zealand to be with us.

On the Thursday morning we were directed, through the preaching of the word, to consider the case of Jonah. In particular, we noted the conflict between sense and faith in his soul, as he wondered at his own sinful rebellion and God’s preserving mercies. The language of sense was, “I am cast out of thy sight,” whilst the language of faith was, “yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.” It is interesting to observe that, though he believed in the God of creation and providence, yet it was to God (as revealing Himself as a just God and a Saviour) that Jonah looked, when convinced of his sinful unworthiness. He looked by faith to God’s holy temple – the place of sacrifice and offering, which of course, typified the Christ to come.

In the evening, we were directed to 2 Samuel 14:14. Here the wise woman directed her appeal to David by way of a parable. The context to this parable was noted, together with its teaching and application. The minister observed the solemn thought, that every sin that has ever been committed must be punished, for God is just. Sin must be punished – either in the sinner – or the sacrifice. We cannot hope to atone for our own sin, but ‘Christ died for the ungodly’, and it is to that Saviour we must look for pardon and acceptance with God, through Him.

On Friday morning, the duty of self-examination was before us. The portion preached upon was found in John 6:66-68. There we find many disciples going back from Jesus. This was very strange as the Saviour was speaking to such about very precious and spiritual things. Sadly of course, this may be so in our day when some may well, and do, take offense at the gospel.The three points which the minister wanted us to note were i. Those who went back ii. The character of one who held fast to Christ and iii. The confession of this one. What a remarkable confession that was, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” One very clear mark of grace in God’s people is the grace of perseverance. Whilst Judas was one who for a time continued with Christ, even when others at this time went back, ultimately, he too fell away. What need we have of the prayer, “Lord keep me, for I trust in Thee.”

On Friday evening at the fellowship meeting, the brethren were directed to consider marks of grace from the same portion of divine truth preached upon in the morning. Helpful marks of grace were brought forth by the men who spoke. Like Peter, the true believer is brought back again and again to this very point, “Lord, to whom shall I go? thou hast the words of eternal life…”

On Saturday, in view of preparation for the Communion Sabbath, the minister wished us to be reminded of the value of the means of grace. To this end, the case of Lydia in Acts 16 was meditated upon. Her attendance at the means of grace was considered, together with the benefit she received and the lessons for ourselves on the Saturday of the Communion. Five lessons were suggested –  That we use the means of grace – seriously, diligently, prayerfully, charitably (desiring the good of others in communion) and hopefully.

In the action sermon on Sabbath morning, we looked at Psalm 69:9 ‘For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.’ The minister preached on: i. The Father’s house ii. The Zeal of Christ for the Father’s house and iii. The reproach that He endured for it. The Saviour was reproached in His offices of a prophet, of a priest and of a king. All of this was in the course of His doing the will of the Father and saving a number that no man can number of the lost race of Adam. Following the Fencing of the Table, once again, the Lord’s Table was served in our congregation and witness given to the Saviour, who loved His people even unto death.

On Sabbath evening we were asked the question “Whose disciples are we?” This was in connection with John 9:27-28. In that passage, the man born blind whose sight was given him by Jesus asked the Pharisees, “will you also be his disciples.” the application was made to the gospel hearer. How often we have heard the good news of the gospel, but must not some of us not face up to that sinful unwillingness to become the disciples of Jesus? No matter how many times the once blind man told the Pharisees how he was blessed by the Lord Jesus, yet he feared, they would remain unwilling to become His disciples.

On Monday evening, we concluded a most pleasant communion season with a service of thanksgiving. The truth we considered was found in Luke 17:15-16. Only one leper returned to give God thanks and he was a Samaritan. The question was asked, “what is true thankfulness in the eyes of God?” It was suggested that this was when our thankfulness, like that of the Samaritan, takes us back to Christ who has blessed us. It is when we, like him, make an unashamed profession of Christ. Finally, it is when our thankfulness, like his, is accompanied by humility. His reward for a thankful spirit – “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” Surely this must have given him an assurance of His interest in Christ.

So, it now becomes us, to pray that the Holy Spirit would be pleased to follow the Word preached and Sacrament administered with his own divine blessing.

Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare. (Psalm 75:1)

G B Macdonald






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David – the light of Israel

In 2 Samuel 21:17 David is described by his mighty men as ‘the light of Israel.’ They were troubled at the thought that such a light should be snuffed out. David had been almost killed by one of the giants of the Philistines, but in the providence of God his life was spared.

How right these men were in so describing their king. He was after all, the Lord’s anointed. He was the chosen one of God. He was selected, by the Holy One of Israel, not only from all the sons of Jesse, but from all the men of Israel, to be king in the room of Saul. Following his anointing by Samuel, he was filled with the Spirit of the LORD. His slaying of Goliath was a clear evidence that God was with him.  Even now, in his older years, David was a bright and shining light, so far as his men were concerned. They had viewed him as such and were much devoted to him, as Amasai declared, ‘Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse: peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thine helpers; for thy God helpeth thee.’ (1 Chronicles 12:18)

When we read of David, spoken about as ‘the light of Israel’, we cannot but think of Christ Jesus, ‘the light of the world’. The Saviour said of Himself in John 8:12 ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’ In Christ, we have One who is alone to be looked to for salvation and peace with God. He is the ‘true Light’ mentioned in John’s gospel , chapter 1.

In David, we see that in spite of His being a bright and a shining light, yet there were some dark spots in his life. He had sinful faults and failings, which provoked the LORD to anger. But in Jesus Christ, we find no such iniquity. We have a very beautiful description of the Saviour from the Spirit taught lips of Simeon. He came by the Spirit into the Temple and, lifting the child Jesus in his arms, he blessed God and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel’ (Luke 2:29-32).

If David’s men were so devoted to David as the light of Israel, ought we not to be devoted to Christ, the David of the New Testament, and the Light of the world? Ought we not to view the Saviour of sinners as that Light that shineth in the darkness of this sinful world? And ought we not to follow Him, as Matthew Henry observes in his commentary on John 8:12 ‘Follow Christ, and we shall undoubtedly be happy in both worlds. Follow Christ, and we shall follow him to heaven.’ (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible)

G B Macdonald



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A Quote for a New Year

A simple quote to begin the year.

‘The more we are growing in the sense of our infirmities, the more shall we see our need of clinging more closely to Christ—drawing more largely upon His grace, and entering more fully into the cleansing virtue and value of His atoning blood.’ (A W Pink on Genesis 20 in Gleanings in Genesis – Abraham at Gerar)

G B Macdonald

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Dangerous Counsel Defeated

At our weekly prayer meeting, we have been examining the life of David, who is one of the most prominent figures in Old Testament history. David’s life yields interesting information on God’s care for His people. On more than one occasion, we detect the hand of God for good in David’s life.

One such occasion, is when the Most High defeated the ‘good’ counsel of Ahithophel. Naturally, we must make the point that Ahithophel’s counsel was not morally good, but it was politically astute. If they were to overthrow David, then, he argued, let them not lose momentum but defeat him while he is weak – as he then was.

However, Absalom and all the men of Israel agreed that the counsel of Hushai the Archite, of caution, delay and a general call to arms, was preferable. In 2 Samuel 17:14 we read the reason why Absalom did not take the advice of Ahithophel as his preferred course of action, ‘For the Lord had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom.’ Thus it was that God defeated the dangerous counsel of Ahithophel.

In commenting on this matter, the writer A W Pink observes that, ‘In working out His own eternal designs, in ministering to the spiritual and temporal needs of His people, and in delivering them from their enemies, God acts as sovereign, employing subordinate agents or dispensing with them as He pleases.’

It may be a comfort to God’s people in our day, that while their enemies are mighty, and their designs against the church and people of God exceeding subtle, yet God is able to defeat them as he did in David’s case.

Here in Australia, for example, we see that while some prominent political figures are very much in favour of so-called ‘same sex marriage’, their goal of introducing legislation to achieve their aim has been utterly frustrated in 2016. We hope and pray it will be so in 2017 also.

G B Macdonald


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