The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: B

Previous Index Next

Beginning a new year

We have recently passed a significant turning point in our daily activities. We have completed another year of our lives. Can we say that we have completed another year of service to our Lord? Or have we merely passed the time with our minds and energies intent only upon this life that will soon pass away? Let us remember the words of wisdom to be found in Isa 40:6-8:

"All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it. Surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand for ever."
According to the prophet Isaiah, the grass here represents all man-kind. We cannot console ourselves with the belief that this is speaking only of those who know not the Truth. Isaiah says... "all flesh". He is speaking of each one of us -- even though we understand the Truth and have accepted it in baptism. Just as the plants around us, we are each in the process of withering and fading away. "In Adam all die." "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." This sad decree set by God upon the head of Adam has never been lifted, and it applies with equal intensity to all of his descendants.

We know that (physically, at least) we are "in Adam", that we must die. What is the use of God repeating the fact to us so many times throughout the Bible? Let us read again the last phrase in that quotation from Isaiah:

"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand for ever."
Here is the lesson God would have us to learn -- that only in His eternal word is there any hope of life. Only in the Bible can we learn the secret of a satisfying and rewarding life in this present time. And only in the Bible can we learn how to obtain everlasting life in the future.


As mentioned just before, we have passed a significant point in our everyday life. We have completed another calendar year, but more importantly we have completed another reading of our Bibles with Robert Roberts' "Bible Companion". In the past year we have gone through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice. Since we have accomplished this over the last 12 months, why not just put our Bibles away in a comer and find something else to read? We have given it a lot of attention in the past; we have read every bit of it carefully. Doesn't it seem silly to start right over and read the same book again?

The only explanation we can give for such odd behavior is that we know the Bible to be unlike any other book that has ever been written. Jesus tells us, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." "Study the scriptures, for they are they that testify of me." As Isaiah said, "The word of our God shall stand for ever.' This is why we must be concerned with our Bible reading, and why we should be thankful for the works of John Thomas and Robert Roberts and many other brethren. The only other worthwhile books besides the Bible are the books that can faithfully help us to understand God's Word better.

It is well worth noting that each of our three reading sections for the year closed with words of blessing. In Job and Malachi and Revelation, we must remember and ponder these blessings. And we must strive to see that they apply to us. If we knowingly turn our back upon the promises of our Father, all we can expect is shame and rejection when we stand before the Son of God.

Let us remember that such blessings as these do not come to us if we merely sit complacently and tell ourselves that "we have the Truth". Unless we work eagerly to fulfill His requirements, we will be like the servant who hid the talent which his master left with him. What was said by his lord upon his return?

"Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Mat 25:30).

The first of the three instances of blessing occurs in the last chapter of Job. Job had been a righteous man all the days of his life. He had led his family in worship of God. He had taken up as his own the cause of the poor and the orphans. He had "feared God, and eschewed evil" (Job 1:8).

God caused many trials and sufferings to come upon His servant Job. Through this Job came to a more perfect realization of the power and majesty of his God. And he repented of his few presumptuous words and thoughts, and humbled himself before his Creator:

"Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (42:6).
In many ways Job typified our Saviour Jesus Christ. He endured many sufferings of a physical nature. And, possibly even more difficult, he endured the ignorance and false accusations of both his family and his friends. And in the end he proved to be a faithful servant, and he offered up sacrifice and prayed on behalf of his antagonistic friends.

In all these ways Job represented Christ. And since we are commanded over and over to be followers of Christ, these incidents in Job's life may apply to us as well. We are tried and chastened, that our faith may be made more perfect. We may suffer embarrassment and ridicule from our friends and families if we try to live according to the Truth.

But if we, by "a patient continuance in well-doing", are found to be worthy as Job was, then his blessings may apply to us:

"The Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before... So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning... After this Job lived an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations" (Job 42:10,12,16).
Each of these things given to Job were wonderful gifts, but only very small in comparison to the crown of life which waits for us, and which these blessings represent.


The second of the three blessings occurs in the last two chapters of Malachi. Malachi was the last of all the Old Testament prophets. He prophesied only about 400 years before the coming of Christ. The major portions of his message, like many of the prophets before him, concerned the children of Israel and their wickedness and neglect of God. Malachi accused both the common people and the priests: The commoners had offered polluted and feeble and worthless sacrifices to God, and had kept the best for themselves. Therefore they were lying and stealing from God. And the priests, by both word and deed, encouraged the people to do this:

"Ye (the priests) are departed out of the way: ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi" (Mal 2:8).
"Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse; for ye have robbed Me, even the whole nation" (Mal 3:8,9).
But even in the midst of such widespread hypocrisy and false worship, there remained a remnant of faithful ones who sought to obtain the blessings of their Lord:

"Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him" (Mal 3:16,17).
For us, the lesson is very clear. We live in the midst of a wicked generation of men who have corrupted God's way upon the earth, just as men did in the time of Noah. We must encourage one another to stand against the currents of change around us and to continue toward our goal. We must come together and speak often to one another. As Paul expresses it:

"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Heb 10:24,25).
If we truly fear the Lord, then our names will be written in the book of remembrance, or the book of life. And we will become His jewels, or His "peculiar treasure" -- as the margin of that verse indicates. In this way, we will fulfill God's promise to Israel in the time of Moses:

"Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me from among all peoples... and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Exo 19:5).
In Mal 4:2, the prophet offers a promise of the Messiah, "But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings."

There is no doubt that Jesus, the Sun of righteousness, will arise one day soon -- bringing eternal life to the saints and peace to the battered world. But let us remember that he will "arise" unto us individually only if we "fear His name" in the proper way, and only if we "speak often one to another".


The last section of the Bible Companion is the New Testament, which is practically concluded with these words of blessing, Rev 21:

"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth (ie, the former evil order of affairs) were passed away; and there was no more sea." (That is, there were no more unregenerate persons, described in Isaiah as the troubled sea, which casts up mire and dirt -- Isa 57:20.)
And in the 22nd chapter, in words which require no explanation: "And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it... was there the tree of life."

But again, as always before, let us remember that these blessings are conditional: They are not blessings for everyone, but... "Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book" (22:7). To have any hope, we must search the book of Revelation and all the rest of Scripture, and endeavor to keep all the sayings of God's word.

The New Year

We have paused at the end of a year's reading, to take stock of a few of the tremendous number of promises recorded in the Bible for our sakes. Let us keep these promises before our minds always, and never regard the daily readings as a chore to be performed, but instead as a God-given opportunity to approach to the mind of God, to receive strength and encouragement, and to learn of His ways and walk in the steps of His Son.

Now we begin a new year with the Bible before us. We read in Genesis of the awesome majesty and power of God in the Creation, and we see His constant concern that provision may be made for man, with the help of God, to overcome his own evil tendencies. In the sacrifice for Adam, the protection of Noah, and the calling of Abram -- we continually see God's love for us, and His purpose "to bring many sons to glory".

In Psalms, we learn words of acceptable praise to our Heavenly Father. And we learn fresh admiration for His everlasting word of life:

"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Psa 19:7,8).
And finally in Matthew, we again begin to read of the life of the only-begotten Son of God -- the focal point in God's plan of redemption for those that fear His name:

"God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (2Co 5:19).
"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom 8:3).
We have come to the end of one year and we have begun the next. We must never, however, come to the end of our reading and study of God's word. And we must always continue to put off the old man and put on the new man, by the "renewing of our minds". But now for a moment we can stand at the summit, the crossroads of the word of God. We can see how every part is related, how it all combines in one glorious purpose. We can look both backward into history, and forward into the future as God unfolds it; and we may gain a glimpse of just a fraction of the greatness of our Father in Heaven.

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out. For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things. To whom be glory for ever. Amen."

Previous Index Next