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If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (I John 1:6-7).

 

Introduction

The purpose of this speech is to teach and admonish us concerning our witnessing the word of life unto others whom we meet in our daily life.  My speech this morning emphasizes not the boldness of our faithful witness of God’s word, nor the need to understand who the receivers of our witness are, but it emphasizes you: the giver, the communicator, the witness, the one who must hold forth, or shine out with, the Word of Life in your confession and walk of life.

Successful witnessing is not how many souls you were used by the Lord to bring unto repentance and conversion and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The repentance and conversion of some might be the fruit of your faithful witnessing, but that itself is not the success of witnessing.  Successful witnessing is the faithful witness of the Word of Life to those whom God places upon your pathway so that he may be glorified, regardless of what kind of fruit that he is pleased to give your witness. Who of himself is sufficient for that faithfulness?

We rejoice to know that our heavenly Father is also faithful to provide his blessing and grace to his saints, even saints in their youth, through the instruction of his word so that we may walk in his light unto faithful witnessing.

 

The Consistent Activity

Walking in the light is the activity of someone embracing the light and of rejecting the darkness.  Now, what are these opposites of light and darkness?

Darkness is the lie and wickedness of enmity against God.  Remember, darkness is something that we have in common with the world because of our old nature.  We were born with it.  It is natural.  It is our total depravity.  Of the darkness within we must be keenly aware.

The darkness has developed in the world into many sorts of idolatry:  Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, and many other religions that serve idol gods of man’s invention and serve his carnal lusts.

In the sphere of the church institute, darkness has developed in the form of the false church, false prophets, false Christs, and false Gospels, such as theistic evolution, universal atonement, well-meant offer of the Gospel, conditional salvation, good works and obedience as a condition unto covenant life with God, post-millenialism, and antinomianism.

In society in general, darkness has developed in the forms of materialism, sports worship, selfishness, abortion, euthanasia, the wicked belief that men can decide what constitutes a lawful marriage, and the wicked belief that individuals can decide what their gender will be.

The antithetical opposite of darkness, of course, is light.  The light is the Word of Life.  God is light.  Jesus Christ is the light.  The light is full of righteousness, holiness, and truth.  The light is the true knowledge of sound doctrine and the truth of the word of God over against idol worship, wickedness, heresy, and false teachings.  It is the word that sets out for us the path of a true confession of faith and a walk of life in the light of God’s word.

Now, who determines what is darkness and what is light for us today?  Who determines what is truth and what is the lie?  Does each of us individually decide what is the light and what is the darkness, what is the truth and what is the lie?   Who sets the standard of light and darkness, truth and lie, right and wrong?

The darkness would like you to decide what is right and wrong, light and darkness, for yourselves.  The individual decides because, the darkness declares, there are no absolutes.  Right and wrong depend on the individual and the circumstances in which he may find himself.

However, the Lord teaches in 1 John 1:6–7 that he is the absolute standard of truth and lie, light and darkness.   He teaches this in the words:  “… as he is in the light.”  God is not only light (vs 5), but we must walk “as” God is in the light.  We must walk according to the standard that God is light.

What determines the path for you to walk?  What determines what you must confess and how you will live daily?  God who is light!  You find that standard for all of your life in the Triune God.  And, God is pleased to give us himself as the standard in his infallibly inspired, Holy Word.  Further, you and I are blessed by the Lord to have that standard of the holy scriptures taught and expounded to us in our Reformed confessions.  Thus, with the word of God and the Three Forms of Unity, you are equipped to do what your baptism requires of you and admonishes you to do:  walk in the light as he is in the light.

By doing so you will hold forth, or communicate, the Word of Life to those around you.  Believing and living according to the word of God, you begin a life of faithful witnessing in your daily life: shining as children of the Light in the darkness of this present world.  Not only will you be witnessing personally, but you will become more and more interested in and supportive of the work of the church in her mission work wherever the Lord sends his harvest laborers to shine as lights in the darkness of this present world in mission fields.

According to the standard of God himself in scripture, you must not merely say that you are walking in the light of the word of God, but also be walking in the light of the word of God by true faith.  In other words, we must seek a consistency in our witnessing.

We communicate much and, surprisingly sometimes, over long distances by several things, and communicate in some ways without having to say a word to anyone.  We say a lot by our church membership and our activeness in our church membership.  We witness by our schools that we attend.   Much is witnessed to others around us by our behavior at work or in the neighborhood.  Much is said by our clothing or lack thereof.  Much is communicated by our entertainment preferences and choices.  Much is said by our interaction and communication with our parents.  Much is made known by our regularity in worship and our sabbath observance.  Much is communicated through our likes, photos, and comments on social media, such as Facebook, which can be read by friends and many others worldwide. Much is communicated to others, for example, by what we do before we eat our meal at a restaraunt or in cramped seat on a very long overseas flight.  We communicate to others in the seats near and behind us by what we do and watch on the seatback video display or various electronic devices on an airline flight.

When we communicate either verbally or by our actions, the Lord warns us against spiritual inconsistency and hypocrisy.  If you say by your actions or words that you are a Reformed, Protestant, Christian believer, but then by your actions say that you believe in theistic evolution, in universal atonement, and see no need to be a member of a local, true Reformed church, you are a liar.  If as a confessing Christian you live for yourself, dabble in worldly entertainment, watch fornication and adultery in movies and prime-time evening t.v shows, sing the world’s wicked songs, then you are a liar.

This is the judgment of the word of God concerning you and me, if we are walking in such sin and unbelief:   “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.”  The implied admonition is that from that hypocrisy and inconsistency we must repent, change our ways, and flee the darkness of our own wickedness and unbelief!  Walk in the light!  Walk in the word of life!

Indeed, before the Lord, we may not merely say that we are a baptized, Protestant, Reformed, Christian believers, but we must seek a spiritual consistency of true faith in which we both say and show that we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in true faith and that our life is governed by his word.

That consistent witnessing in the light is an active walk of genuine faith.   Walking in the light is not first doing something for someone else, although our Christianity requires that we show mercy unto the poor and needy neighbor.  Walking in the light is first knowing the light, who is our Father.   Knowing the light is the activity of true faith, which in union to Christ, knows certainly and is heartily assured of the truth in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as revealed in his holy word.  The witness of true faith is trusting in the Lord for everything: our salvation, our forgiveness, our sanctification, our fellowship with him, our preservation, all things that we need for body and soul to live a godly, faithful life.  The witness of a true faith is a living faith, which hates the darkness and what is false, fights against it, but also loves and delights in the light of God’s truth, and defends it from the darkness.

Consistent, faithful witnessing, or shining with the light, arises out of Jesus Christ, the Light, by a true faith.   We pray earnestly that the Lord will by his grace and Spirit grant us such faith so that, as we shine in the light of Christ, others will see it in our daily conduct, behavior, and speech.

 

The Divine Possibility

In order for us to walk in the light, we must be cleansed from our debilitating darkness.   The kind of cleansing that we need is a two-fold cleansing.  First, we need a cleansing that will wash away the guilt and stain of our darkness so that we are not condemned, but rather justified before and by God!

Second, we need the darkness to be purged and overcome within us.  We need a cleansing that steadily removes the darkness of pride, unbelief, immorality, and the evil lusts of our flesh, and then works in us the light of truth, righteousness, holiness, wisdom, and all of the virtues of Christ.  We need a cleansing that works in us more and more the light of faith in Jesus Christ unto a life of godliness.

But, can we ourselves provide such cleansing so that we may have peace and life with God which are necessary for shining with the light?

Some world religions think that it is possible to cleanse ourselves from sin by good works and rituals.  Some false gospels even tell you that can cleanse yourselves by your free choice, your good works, your obedience, or even because of your act of believing.  As a result you can witness people dutifully and sincerely doing their good works, walking great distances on challenging pilgrimages, and fulfilling all of the requirements in order to obtain blessing, health, peace, comfort, happiness, and hope. They are sincerely wrong because man cannot cleanse himself from his darkness by his obedience in order to have fellowship with the Father.  Impossible.

However, the glad tidings of the gospel is that only Jesus Christ can and does cleanse his own from the darkness by his blood and Spirit.  First, his shed blood washes away our guilt and establishes our righteousness before our Father.  He has redeemed us from sin, removed fully God’s eternal wrath against our sin by suffering God’s eternal wrath in body and soul on the cross, and earned for us all obedience to the law of God for us.  He established for us by his death and resurrection deliverance out of the darkness of the curse unto the light of God’s blessing.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ and because of his atonement, we appear before God as white and pure as the light.   That is ours by faith alone.  Do you believe that?

Then, Christ also cleanses us by his Spirit.  He raises us out of our darkness and establishes in us his light through regeneration.  He calls us into the life of his light by the means of grace, chiefly the preaching of the Gospel. He works in us the light, i.e., the knowledge and life of his salvation.  Thereby his Spirit removes the darkness of corruption, selfishness, wickedness, immorality, and all the lusts of the flesh and works thereof.  He works in us more and more as children of the light, the light of faith, godliness, and truth.

The Light works that faith through the means of grace, chiefly the preaching of the word.

Just as the Lord works in the plant world with the sun, so he works in our salvation.  The sun shines and it gives energy to the plants to do that wonder of photosynthesis, and to grow and bring forth fruit.  So, also the Sun of Righteousness shines upon you, whom the Holy Spirit has made living plants in Christ, to drink in the light of the Sun of Righteousness. That light energizes you to hate the darkness, flee from it, and to delight in the light and in your new life of fruit-bearing.

When the Lord shines by means of the preaching of the word, the Light does his work.  The light of Christ does not make everyone to grow in his light, because his light also causes many to reject him, turn away from him, and to persecute anyone in whom his light shines.  This happened to Jesus in his own earthly ministry, and continues to occur even today wherever the faithful preaching of the word goes forth.

But, in the righteous, the Lord works his light:  true knowledge of him and his word.  By the power of the light through the Holy Spirit, we learn our only comfort in life and death: our three-fold knowledge of Christ in the Scriptures.  We also learn consistency between the truth and life, between doctrine and godliness. We learn the beginning of that new life of daily repentance from our darkness and true believing in Christ alone.  Believing in true faith the word of God and living in daily conversion, we do shine forth with the light, the truth, of Jesus Christ to others around us at church, at home, at school, at work, in our neighborhoods, on vacation, and wherever we are led in life.

Walk in the light, and there will be very definite and clear results in your personal witnessing.

 

The Desired Results

In response to your witness, there may be those who refuse to walk in the light at all, or those who continue to walk as hypocrites, saying that they walk with the Father, but actually walk in darkness.  Such will reap to themselves miserable results.  Their walk in unbelief is a path of misery that leads to bitter destruction.  In that path, Lot walked and gained only misery to his soul, and lost all.  If we would persist impenitently in that path of hypocrisy, then we may not expect to inherit the kingdom of God.   Those who walk in the dark path of hypocrisy may not expect God’s blessing and approval upon such wickedness.  Such may go to church falsely thinking that they can walk with the Father and the world and then conclude all will be well with their souls.  However, God is not deceived.  He who is not only merciful, but also righteous, will not let such unbelief go on, but he will judge such spiritual inconsistency.

God makes his displeasure against a hypocritical witness known by bitter fruit.   For example, those who do not walk in the light consistently, rejecting the admonition of scripture to do so, set forth a religion and faith which is false, selfish, dishonoring to Christ, and unbiblical.  An inconsistent witness will bring shame upon the church.  Such a witness is easily an offense to new converts to the Reformed faith who have come out of the darkness and with a zeal embrace the light of God’s truth and set before them a grievous stumbling block.  It can only deserve the judgment mentioned by Christ, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6). That must be our righteous attitude toward an unbelieving, hypocritical witness that has the potential to offend the little ones, whether the youth or new converts, that are led by the Spirit to believe in Christ.

But, to those who daily seek the Lord for his sustaining mercy and so walk in the light, they will see blessed results.  They will enjoy fellowship with other saints for encouragement, for correction when necessary, for instruction, for guidance, and for mutual help in pursuit of the worthy things of the kingdom of heaven.  Their Reformed confession and godliness will be spiritually magnetic and attractive, for the building of healthy friendships like Jonathan and David’s, or Mary and Elizabeth’s.  In this age of deepening and threatening darkness, you and I need such encouragement for perseverance in the path of the light.  Such fruits of fellowship in the light of Christ are truly priceless.

Moreover, the light will shine out to others who are yet in the darkness of unbelief and wickedness.  On the one hand, we may expect that faithful witnessing will result usually in persecution from the darkness.  “Yea, and all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). There are many such clear examples of persecution in the New Testament church recorded in scripture and in church history books.  We may expect and must prepare for it ourselves.

On the other hand, we may also expect that faithful witnessing results in others, who are known to Christ from eternity as his sheep, being delivered out of the darkness of their unbelief into his marvelous light.  We may be privileged to be a tool in his hand for their conversion, for their faith, and for their baptism into the church and fellowship of Christ.  Sometimes we may be used by the Lord, but may not meet in this life the people that the Lord has brought to the faith and his church by our witness in speech, conduct, or writing.  Nevertheless, we believe and rejoice that the Lord in his mercy and grace is pleased to use our feeble witness however he wisely determines to bring his other sheep into his light through repentance and faith in him.

Finally, faithful witnessing is personally encouraging in our battle against our own darkness.  As we walk in the light by faith with the Father in worship, in prayer, in singing, in the reading of his word, and in meditation thereon to his glory, we are encouraged unto faithfulness over against the reality of our own ever-present darkness and unbelief until our death.  Although our walk with the Father now is ruined with much of our own darkness and unbelief, yet we have by faith alone in Christ Jesus the beginning of his life of walking with the Father, and the sure hope of sinless perfection.  In that sinless perfection, we with all of God’s saints will walk in the truth of the fullness of Christ’s holiness and know God face to face everlastingly.

In that blessed hope, walk in the light and hold forth the Word of Life for the glory of God foremost and for all those whom we meet in life, both believing and unbelieving.

The world declares to you, young brothers and sisters, that you never have enough and that you always need more: “More! More! More! Of what God has not given you, of what God has not promised, and of what God has not willed for you to have, you need that and need more of that.”  The world declares, “Set your hearts upon the earthly good gifts of this life.  Covet after those things because you can never get enough. Get more!”

That is the spiritual message of the big Friday sale ads that you may read in the newspaper later this week.

In this world of covetousness and in the coming weeks of much materialism, what a refreshing and peaceful confession it is to hear, “I have enough!”

Nevertheless, be sure that you confess a contentment that is true to Christ. Do not confess as Esau and as many in the world and church world do: “I have enough.” Instead, confess as the repentant, humble Jacob did: “I have enough.”

 

Enough of What?

Both Esau and Jacob say, according to Genesis 33:9-11, “I have enough,” and it seemed true outwardly.

Esau was a very great man when he met Jacob.  Esau was very wealthy, as Isaac had prophesied.  He owned the whole region around Mt. Seir, southeast of Canaan.  From Esau came the mighty nations of Edom and Amalek. (Gen. 36) Esau had many servants, soldiers, much cattle, and many children.  From an earthly viewpoint, it seemed true that Esau had enough.

Though rich and powerful, this Esau was ungodly.  Although he seems like a nice, honourable man, who reconciles outwardly with Jacob and who even professes to be content, he was ungodly.  He lived away from Isaac and from the land of Canaan to serve his own gods.  He married two daughters of pagan Heth and an ungodly wife from the line of Ishmael.  He did not care about God’s covenant or the promise.  His heart was set upon earthly wealth and power.  This is the Esau whom God hated and had rejected (Mal. 1:3) and who confessed, “I have enough.”

Jacob also had many earthly gifts and earthly wealth.  Like Esau, he had much cattle, many servants, and a large family.

However, Jacob actually had many things Esau did not have. Jacob had the birthright blessing. A few days before meeting Esau, Jacob was greeted by a host of the angels of God when he stepped into Canaan at Mahanaim.  Jacob had seen God face to face the night before.  Jacob had a new name: Israel. Jacob had the blessing of Jehovah .This is godly Jacob whom God loved according to election and who confessed, “I have enough!”

What did they mean when they each said, “I have enough”? They meant two entirely different things.

When Esau said, “I have enough,” a literal translation would read, “I have so very much.”  In that he meant something like this: “I am strong, successful, wise, and powerful.  I have so much that I do not have any needs. If I did have a need, then I could fulfil it myself.  I have secured my wealth, kingdom, and glory. Enough I have, indeed.”

From that perspective, Esau refused Jacob’s presents.  He had enough earthly things to satisfy his soul. Having all of that wealth and power, he could forgive Jacob, especially because Jacob’s past sin no longer stood in the way of his desire and ability to get the wealth and power that he coveted. He had enough, and in that enough he had a carnal contentment.

Listen carefully to the world in this week of Thanksgiving.  You might hear on Thursday the wicked, with bellies full, confess, “I have enough,” but then the next day at the infamous Friday sales covet and pursue the things that the stores have to offer so that then they can exclaim with full shopping carts on the way out of the stores, “Now I have enough.”

Many in the world, who do not have Esau’s kind of wealth today, certainly covet the day when they can say, “I have enough.” There are sincere and faithful Buddhists, Hindu disciples, Muslims, or Roman Catholics who say on the basis of what they believe, what they have, and what they have done, “I have enough.”  The Esaus of the church world claim the same confession. The Pope and his hierarchy in their heresy and man-centered religion say, “We have enough!” Such is the false, vain, foundation-less contentment of the ungodly.

In contrast, Jacob’s “I have enough” is a confession of substance. Jacob literally said, “I have all things.” He meant that because he did have all things, he needed no more.  That is true.  What more does one need, if he has all things?

Now, was this the old Jacob making a boastful, competing confession before Esau?  His older brother had just said, “I have much.” Does Jacob, as competing brothers might do on occasion, now say in response, “I have all things?” Is Jacob trying to outdo his brother?

We understand that this is a true confession of the Jacob of faith. Jacob did have all things.  When he fought with God the night before, he received the blessing of Jehovah. He had the host of God’s angels protecting him for the sake of the coming of the seed of Christ. He had the covenant promises of Jehovah. He had God as his God and friend-sovereign. He had everything because Jehovah had him from eternity. Indeed, he did have all things.

That is the kind of full and true thanksgiving and contentment that we must desire. You as children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must confess the same thing, not as Esau, but as Jacob.   Do not merely say this week, “I have enough,” according to how much turkey and pumpkin pie with whipped cream you might eat. Let us not give thanks according to how much money and how many possessions we have been given. Rather, profess a true and satisfied confession of contentment. Say, “I have enough because Jehovah is my God and he has given me all these things as a blessing!”

 

Why?

Esau’s confession in his thanksgiving had a sinful reason. Esau based his confession on himself. Esau was proud. He thought that he had made himself powerful and wealthy. He concluded that he had enough because he was Esau. On that vain basis, Esau declared that he had many things.

What foolishness. He thought that he could satisfy his soul with his earthly wealth. Yet there was one obvious thing that he did not have: true wealth towards God. What would all of his money and possessions do for him in the day of judgment? It would amount to nothing before God, except to serve as many witnesses to his inexcusable unbelief and pride against Jehovah. Esau’s confession was a proud, self-centered boast in which he rejected the God of Jacob for his life and future. He believed that he had his “enough” without Jacob and the God of Jacob.

Very similar is the basis for what seems to be impressive thanksgiving among the unbelieving in the world and church world today. Man declares that he has enough because of himself or his gods. For many, the reason for their “enough” is their skill, power, or money.   For the religious in the world, the reason for their “enough” might be Buddha, Vishnu, Shiva, Allah, an idol god, a spirit god, or the benevolent spirits of dead relatives. We can expect that in the day of antichrist, the man of sin himself will declare that the reason for his “enough” is himself. The antichrist will thank himself. In full pride, he will confess, “I have enough now, I have all things, and I have my kingdom on earth because I am god. Thanks and worship be to me.”  That will be the climax of man’s boast of vain contentment throughout history.

Although wicked men may boast that they have all things, man lacks everything because he will never have God. The very same God that he refuses to thank will judge and destroy him. The thankful Esaus of the church world have nothing: they do not have God.

That is important for us to realize when we observe the thanksgiving of the world and the false church.  The ungodly, both rich and poor, may with their allotment of goods appear outwardly content. In all their prosperity or lack thereof, they having nothing. They do not have God according to his sovereign good pleasure.

However, we learn to give thanks unto Jehovah in life for a beautiful reason. Jacob said, “because God hath dealt graciously with me.” (v. 10) Implied is his confession is a godly statement such as this: “I have dealt sinfully towards God. I have mistrusted him countless times.  I have filled my days with sin against God for which I deserve to be punished by him. In spite of all I have done, God has dealt with me in his eternal grace. He has redeemed me from my sin, from idolatry, from false doctrine, and from a trust in myself. God is my God, and therefore I have become his son. God has blessed me and given me a new name, Israel.  Because God has graciously dealt with me, I do have enough.”

That was a confession of the forgiveness of his sin and the eternal life with Jehovah that was his through the atonement of the substitutionary death of the coming Messiah.  Jacob confessed that all of his possessions were not the evidence of his power or skill. Rather, the benefits of his earthly wealth and his children that he had received from Jehovah were solely evidence of the grace of God to him. He had left Canaan empty because of his sin. However, Jehovah brought Jacob home full because of his grace. For that reason alone, Jacob could say, “I have enough. I have all things.”

Indeed, Jacob did have all things. He had Jehovah. He had the Christ in the promise and in his generations through Judah. In Christ, Jacob did have all things: life with Jehovah, an inheritance in the new heavens and earth, the final resurrection, and everlasting riches, far surpassing the total earthly wealth of Jacob, Esau, and all the kingdoms of the earth to this day.

What is the basis of your confession of faith and true thanksgiving: “I have all things?”  Is it a proud boast? Is it something in us? No, it must never be that.

Our thanksgiving must be based carefully upon the eternal grace of God in Christ Jesus, which motivates God to give us our stuff as a real and lasting benefit. Let us confess, “I have enough, not because of me. I am just like Jacob, sinner. I have enough today only because God has dealt graciously with me. In fact, because of his grace alone in Christ alone, I have all things.”

 

When?

For Esau and man in general, the correct answer is that they never have enough. Unbelievers may boast that they have enough and forever. But the fact is that Esau, the world, and those like Esau throughout history always have nothing: nothing from eternity, nothing from birth, nothing in this life, and nothing in their death. In all his earthly prosperity, Esau had nothing, except for God’s curse, death, and destruction. In fact, the wicked in this life are judged by God in their false contentment by soon thereafter falling quickly back into the sin of covetousness.  The thanksgiving and contentment of the unbeliever is fleeting, moveable, empty, and cursed.

But not so with the believing Jacobs. They have enough always.

Now let us be honest before the word of God. We do not always confess that we have enough always. As believers, we struggle with our old nature regarding God’s distribution of earthly things to us in our different circumstances in life. Often we fall into the sin of discontent and unthankfulness.

“God gives me only $100 today: I want $100 more. God gives me only one bowl of rice: I demand two more. God gives some long, straight hair; I want short, curly hair. God gave me a height of 5′ 10″: I want 5″ more.  God gave me a clunker of a car for transportation or no car at all, so that I must take public transit: I demand a new car. God gave me sickness: I want the health he did not will. God took away my dear friend through death to glory afterward: I want my friend back here with me.” So we speak according to our old nature in selfishness and unbelief.

In our murmuring against God, our confession of unbelief is, “I never have enough. I never have all things. I never get what I really want and what I think that I need. Thus I don’t have any reason to be thankful and happy.”

From that you and I must repent. Every day.

Christ by his Spirit calls us to faith and trust in him, and unto the confession that we do have in him alone all things always. We always have the blessing of Jehovah for the sake of Christ. (Ps. 3:8). We have that blessing only because God graciously deals with us always for Christ’s sake alone (2 Tim. 1:9).  We have at God’s right hand our advocate, our Lord, who was crucified and raised again, in whom God sees us as righteous. (1 John 2:1–2). In Christ we are always worthy of his blessing, which is what motivates God to give us all the earthly gifts that we need for our heavenly profit (Phil. 4:19). In Christ, we have his blessing and our new name (Rev. 3:12). There are so many benefits Jehovah gives unto us daily (Ps. 116:12). What more do we truly need?

Whether your wage is $8 an hour as a grocery store clerk in Grand Rapids or $8 a day as a grocery clerk in Manila, for Christ’s sake, you, young believers, have enough!  Whether you have little or much, you do have enough of what really matters in this life in Christ alone.  You have all things that you need in body and soul!

Truly, you and I do lack nothing.  We do have enough.

May the Lord give us the eyes of faith to see that truth.

 

*Rev. Smit is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI. This article is the text of his speech for Western Michigan PRYP societies combined Thanksgiving meeting on November 22, 2015.

About the time that you readers in North America come home from the morning worship service, we are in the midst of the morning worship service, or perhaps still travelling to the morning worship service. Depending in which time-zone you live, your fellow saints of like precious faith here in the Philippines are at the end of their Lord’s day.  The word of the gospel has run its westward course on the Lord’s day through most of the world by the time that you hear it.  In fact, you are some of the last of God’s people on earth to hear the fading gallop of Christ’s white horse and rider for another Lord’s day.

That reminds us that the work of the Lord in the gathering of his sheep is his global work.  His sovereign guidance of the running of the white horse and rider each Lord’s day from time zone to time zone, through the many islands of the sea, through the continents of the earth, and through every nation, is his wondrous work for the ingathering of his elect sheep.

The Lord in his good pleasure and mercy has given our churches a small place of labor in his harvest work, particularly in missions in the Philippines, a group of islands located in a time zone 12 to 16 hours ahead of many of you.  Here are some of the highlights of our labors in the islands of the Philippines.

First, Rev. Daniel Kleyn and myself currently are assisting the Berean Protestant Reformed Church in Cubao, Metro Manila, and the First Reformed Church in Muzon, Bulacan, in the formation of a denomination of churches.  This work began almost three years ago, in December 2010, and is nearing completion soon when the churches plan to federate officially on Reformation Day.  That’s right.  On October 31, 2013, Reformation Day, the federation of the Protestant Reformed Churches in the Philippine Islands will become a reality, the Lord willing and by his grace. What a joyful occasion that will be for the churches here!

 

Second, we both are working with other congregations with the goal that they might join the federation, the Lord willing.  Rev. Kleyn is working with the Provident Christian Church in Marikina, Metro Manila, and I am currently working with the Maranatha Protestant Reformed Church in Valenzuela, Metro Manila.  These congregations have left their former denominations, and they have begun for some time the process of reformation from Arminianism, Pentecostalism, Anabaptism, and independentism.  They receive instruction in Reformed doctrine and in Reformed church government with the hope that with the Lord’s blessing they may become sister congregations of the PRCP.

Third, we lead a class in the metro Manila area called 7M, which is for pastors with whom we have contact in metro Manila. This class meets twice a month, and the class meets from 9:30 a.m. to noon.  We are currently studying Eschatology and New Testament Greek reading and exegesis.  Of course, you may wonder why 7M is the name of this class?  Well, 7M is an acronym that comes from the first letters of the following phrase:  “Metro Manila Monthly Ministers Monday Morning Meetings.”  Our first 7M meeting began three years ago on August 23, 2010, and we have been meeting regularly ever since for study and Christian fellowship.

Fourth, we lead a similar class for pastors in southern Negros Occidental.  (By the way, “Occidental” means “Western.”)   In Sipalay (pronounced see-pah-lie), at the southern end of Negros Occidental, we conduct our pastors training class once a month.  We call this class the PRPTSNO (“Protestant Reformed Pastor Training in Southern Negros Occidental”), or we more commonly call it SNO, for short.  The class is held on the third (or fourth) Tuesday of each month; it begins at 9:00 a.m. and continues until 3:00 p.m., with time for two coffee or tea breaks and a lunch meal.  The SNO class began to meet regularly in January 2013.  Currently, Rev. Kleyn is teaching a course on Reformed church government by a thorough study of our Church Order, and I am leading a study of the introduction to Reformed Dogmatics and then very soon a study of Theology.

Fifth, we have been asked recently to assist the consistory of the Berean PRC in the preparation and training of Pastor Oseas Andres, a confessing member of the Berean PRC and a pastor without a fixed charge. His preparation and training has the goal of his eventual examination by a future classis of the PRCP according to article 9 of the Church Order.  This preparation will begin in October and continue for half a year or so until an examination is scheduled at a future PRCP classis meeting.  We are thankful to the Lord for the possibility of another Reformed pastor, the Lord willing, for the work of the churches here.

Sixth, concerning our Sunday preaching, we preach regularly in our respective congregations of focus (Provident Christian Church (Rev. Kleyn) or the Maranatha Protestant Reformed Church (myself)), and in the Berean Protestant Reformed Church, the First Reformed Church, and the All of Grace Protestant Reformed Fellowship in Gabaldon, Neuva Ecija. The AGPRF is a mission work of the Berean PRC, and we have been helping the BPRC in that work with monthly preaching (in Tagalog) and catechism instruction since January 2010.  Our preaching schedule for September to December 2013 has us listed for preaching every Lord’s Day, except for a one Sunday break for each of us, the Lord willing.

 

Finally, we make available our sermons in English and Tagalog, Reformed Witness Hour sermons in Tagalog, Bible study outlines, catechism outlines, and other materials through the Internet at our website, “prcaphilippinesaudio.wordpress.com.”  The Kleyns manage the “Reformed Bookshelf” through which we can provide at an affordable level many RFPA books, Psalters, and Bibles (in Tagalog and Hilagaynon) available to our contacts in the islands of Luzon, Negros, and elsewhere in the islands.

As far as we can tell, the work seems to develop and grow under the Lord’s blessing.  We continue to keep busy, for which we are thankful to the Lord.  We are thankful to the Lord that we may be used by him in the service of the coming of his kingdom in his people here in the Philippine Islands.

If you really want to stay up to date with the latest about what is happening here, then I suggest that you not only read our quarterly newsletters, the latest of which is the September 2013 newsletter, but take the time to read through all of our past newsletters, which go all the way back to early 2009.  These newsletters can be easily found at our mission website or in the Foreign Mission section of the prca.org website.

In addition to the newsletters, I suggest that you subscribe to the Kleyns’ blog at “kleynsphilippines.blogspot.com”.  There is a little button on their homepage that you can hit, and through that you can sign up.  By your subscription you will be notified right away whenever the Kleyns add news and information to their blog .  This is an easy way to remain current with the latest news and information in our life and labors here.

In addition to the newsletters and the blog, you might also consider reading the weekly church bulletins from the churches here that are sometimes posted on the church bulletin page at “prca.org/current/bulletins” from the prca.org website.  This will give you a better understanding of the worship and the congregational life of the local churches and mission stations here.

We trust that you will continue to develop a good awareness of our small mission work in the Philippine Islands, in a time zone that is 12 to 16 hours ahead of yours.  Yes, when you are finishing up your chores and preparing for the Lord’s day on Saturday night, we, our families, and our Filipino fellow saints of like precious faith in Southeast Asia are already busy in the worship of our covenant God in spirit and truth as he has commanded us in his word, just as you will have the privilege to do half a day later.

As we remember you in our prayers, please remember your Reformed friends in Southeast Asia in prayer to our Lord of the harvest.

Like many other second generation Dutch Canadians, my story would not be complete if I did not begin it with the immigration of my parents from “the old country.”

In 1951, a young fellow of 17 years and his mother, left the island of Terschelling in Friesland, the Netherlands, to immigrate to Canada. These were the years when there was a large post-World War II immigration from the Netherlands to various cities across Canada. Willem Smit and his mother settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba, among relatives and other Dutch immigrants in that eastern prairie town. In 1952, Nienke Pals with her parents and her brother immigrated from Schiedam to Canada and settled in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Some years later, the Lord in His own mysterious way led Willem and his mother to move to Vancouver, British Columbia, so that by July 21, 1961, Willem and Nienke eventually met and were joined together in the unbreakable and blessed bond of holy marriage. They were active and faithful members in the Christian Reformed Churches in the Vancouver area and also for a few years in Prince George, in northern B.C. He served as a deacon and then as an elder in the First Christian Reformed Church of Richmond, B.C.

When the family lived in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, my parents were blessed with the birth of Richard John on May 17, 1969. I was baptized in the Christian Reformed Church in Richmond, and the family lived there until I was four. In the summer of 1973, the family moved to the beautiful city of Victoria, B.C.

However, as beautiful as Victoria and Vancouver Island were, the spiritual and doctrinal condition of the First Christian Reformed Church of Victoria, in which we were members, was not good. I can still remember to this day sad examples of doctrinal and liturgical departure from the traditions of the Reformed Faith, both in the church services and in the local, parental, Christian Reformed school. This sad state of affairs in that particular congregation and in the denomination as a whole greatly troubled my parents, who were forced to seek a church whose marks were faithful to the Reformed Faith and Scripture as required in the Belgic Confession, Articles 28 and 29.

The Lord in His mysterious way finally brought us into contact with the Protestant Reformed Churches. After a couple of visits by ministers who gave stirring lectures, the synod of our churches approved the sending of a missionary to Victoria to work the field there. Hope Protestant Reformed Church (Walker, Michigan) was appointed the calling church, and she promptly in the Lord’s providence sent us Rev. Robert C. Harbach. For two years, he with his wife faithfully served us. I have many fond memories and stories of those days meeting and worshiping in a small rented hall, near downtown Victoria. Indeed, those were spiritually rich years. Even as a young boy, I can still remember that Rev. Harbach preached in the afternoon services a series on I and II Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. I remember his vivid and clear catechism lessons on the deliverance of Israel from Egypt and their wanderings through the wilderness to the land of Canaan. I can still remember that Rev. R. Van Overloop, who visited the field with Mr. Jon Huisken, preached on that short verse in I Thessalonians 5, “Rejoice evermore.” Of course, these vivid memories and this enthusiasm even as a boy was in large part due to the spiritual joy in the family for God’s goodness, having led us to the riches of faithful preaching and exposition of the Word. The Lord was indeed good! We had and still have many reasons to rejoice evermore!

However, we learned that to be a disciple of Christ, one must count the cost. There are sacrifices required and self-denial demanded by Christ for faithfulness. This is what was required of my family when it was clear that the mission field in Victoria would soon have to be closed. My family faced the difficult decision and sacrifice to leave the beauty and the convenience of Victoria and to move to a town closer to one of our churches. For the sake of the truth, we had to move lock, stock, and barrel to a place closer to our churches.

Although in the Lord’s providence immigration to the United States or moving to our church in Edmonton, Alberta, were not possible, yet the Lord opened the way for my father to take a transfer within his company so that he could work in Vancouver. This meant we could live as close as possible to our Lynden congregation, and he could still commute about 40 miles (one way) to his office. We moved to Aldergrove, British Columbia, which was just north of the Lynden church and our PR grade school. The time to drive from our house to church and school across the Canadian and USA border was usually twenty minutes, if there were no annoying border crossing line-ups, of course.

We joined our Protestant Reformed Church in Lynden, Washington, in 1979. I along with two of my siblings were enrolled in our Covenant Christian School. I continued in CCS until grade 10, and I finished my high school education at Credo Christian High School, a Canadian Reformed secondary school in Langley, B.C.

The years growing up in Aldergrove and Lynden made for an interesting boyhood. Not only is it difficult for parents to uproot and move their family, but it is also not easy for the children to leave familiar surroundings and friends and then to adjust and blend in as quickly as possible in the new setting. Besides that, living on the opposite side of the border from church and grade school added to our life its own nuances and difficulties. Nevertheless, it seems that my boyhood years were typical. I enjoyed camping and numerous fishing trips. I enjoyed hiking into the surrounding mountains and fly-fishing with my younger brother in the alpine lakes. It seems that we were never at a loss to find something to keep us busy. I kept busy with chores around the house, including tending to our small flock of chickens and raising my rabbits. And, as you would expect, like most Canadians, I usually found time for ice skating and hockey.

I had in these years the privilege to sit under the preaching, teaching, and catechetical instruction of Rev. Dale Kuiper and Rev. Carl Haak, as well as Rev. Cornelius Hanko and Rev. Herman Veldman for months at a time when Lynden was vacant for a couple of years in the mid 1980’s. Their pastoral examples and faithful preaching were used by the Lord to prepare me for my work today in the ministry.

After graduation from high school, I had planned to study in college towards the goal of becoming a teacher. Hence, I enrolled in Trinity Western University for that purpose. However, it was by the end of my first semester in college that I decided to work towards preparing for entrance into our seminary.

The thought of preparing for the ministry of the Word had been on my mind and heart earlier throughout the summer of 1987. In fact, Professor R. Decker was in Lynden for three consecutive weeks in that summer. The last sermon which he preached during his stay in Lynden was on I Samuel 1 about praying Hannah. In the course of the sermon, he pointedly applied the passage to the acute need we had then for students in the seminary and the need for ministers in our churches. After the service, I asked Prof. Decker a few questions about seminary, but left it at that. I had made up my mind I was going to be a teacher.

However, by December 1987, it was clear to me that I had no rest until I had decided to prepare for seminary. Thereafter, a day hardly passed when I did not think about that goal. After five years of course work at Trinity Western University and Simon Fraser University, I was ready to enroll into our seminary at the young age of 23. Through those years in college, I was fully supported by my family and the fellow saints in my home congregation of Lynden.

With the congregation’s and family’s encouragement, I made another big move in my life to Grand Rapids in the Fall of 1992 to begin my seminary training. Through the years in seminary, the student body was fairly large in comparison to earlier and current years. In my days, the seminary enjoyed a very international flavor with men from Australia, Canada, Singapore, and the United States. There was hardly a dull moment, especially with the Aussies around.

The training in the seminary was demanding, and thoroughly sound, particularly in the course work which molded and honed us to be faithful pastors. Four years of training may seem like a long time, but looking back it really was not. The professors often wrestled with the clock trying to fit in so much material that could be taught into seemingly so little time. And, for me personally, the time in seminary did pass quickly because we were kept busy in preparation for the workload of a pastor. Having been given, as much as possible, the foundation and the tools in my training, I was prepared to continue their development in the ministry of the Word and Sacraments.

As I mentioned, there were always the lighter moments in seminary, too. I recall such memorable stories as the day of “The Great Pulpit Exchange” or the day when one of the profs was lumbering about with camera in hand, outside in the freezing cold, in six inches of snow, and without a coat, searching for a rare bird of some sort in the bushes behind seminary. Laughter about another coffee break story was common. However, when class time came, it was back to the serious work of the church and the ministry of the Word.

With the demanding workload, I did find time to get out and to find a wife. I dated Tricia Dykstra, member at the time of our Faith congregation and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David Dykstra; and, about mid-way through my seminary years, Tricia and I were joined by the Lord together in the bond of marriage on December 23, 1994.

After a memorable three week visit to the saints in the small congregation of Trinity Protestant Reformed Church in Houston, Texas, in June 1995 for pulpit supply, I served in the last half of 1995 a delightful and profitable six month internship at our Southeast congregation with Rev. Dale Kuiper as my mentor. I believe that the internship program was an extremely valuable part of my training, and it has served me well in the ministry.

After enduring the synodical examination in June, 1996, I was declared eligible for a call to the churches. After a short vacation back home to Lynden and Canada, my wife and I traveled to Doon for their summer pulpit supply because Doon was vacant at the time. On the first Sunday there, following the afternoon service, the congregation voted on a trio for a new pastor. Since I did not attend the meeting, I was surprised to find out that I had received the call to be their pastor. Later, I accepted the call, was examined by Classis in our Randolph congregation, and on Monday, September 9, 1996, I was ordained and installed into the ministry of the Word and Sacraments in our congregation of Doon, where I continue to serve the saints here.

The Lord blessed my wife and I richly in our marriage. He blessed us with some adversity in our early years, and He has blessed us in Doon with five children: John, Rebekah, Jay, Irene, and Rosalyn. We have certainly tasted and seen the unmerited and undeserved goodness and faithfulness of our Jehovah to believers and their seed.

You might wonder what kind of hobbies that I might have time to do with a busy family and a busy congregation. Because of my busy schedule and many nights out of the house, I try to have hobbies in which I can include my children. We all enjoy camping and fishing. Of course, being a Canadian, I am faithfully teaching my children to roller blade and to play hockey. I even have found time during the winter months to dabble with building some radios from electronic kits. If you visit the parsonage on a Monday morning, you might even find me under the hood of my vehicle changing the oil, wrestling under the vehicle with my grease gun, or doing some other light maintenance.

I continue to enjoy the work of the Ministry and the fellowship of the saints here at home in Doon. Perhaps you have heard that the work of the minister can be summarized as follows: preaching and teaching, baptizing and catechizing, marrying and burying. Indeed, the Lord has given me the privilege of doing all of that here in Doon. I have been called to wait on the Lord each week and work with the Scriptures faithfully in order to produce two sermons to bring to the congregation. I have been called patiently to teach the youth the essentials of the Scriptures and doctrine. I have been called to walk with some of the people of God down into the valley of the shadow of death, only to be left behind while they have gone on to glory. I have been called to weep with the saints at the graves of their elderly loved ones or their little infants. I have been called to rejoice with the young saints in their marriages, in the birth of their covenant children, and in the baptism of their covenant children. I have been called to bring the Word of mercy and comfort to the saints in their adversity. In addition to the work in the congregation, there is also the important work of being involved in the foreign mission work of our churches. Yes, it is all demanding work. But, it is the most rewarding and spiritually blessed.

One of the most rewarding experiences in the ministry are those times when the Word preached addresses a need which I had not been thinking about or about which I did not know at the time. Elders have asked if I had preached a sermon with this or that reason in mind. Often, I have had to answer that I honestly did not know, nor thought about that during all the preparation and delivery of the sermon. That has always emphatically reminded me over and over that Christ is the great Shepherd of these His sheep, and we preachers are only tools in His hand by which He is pleased to call His sheep unto Himself and to build His church.

There may be those young men reading this article and considering the question whether they ought to train for the seminary and eventually for the ministry of the Word. To you, I would like to give some advice. Admittedly, I have not much to say because I am only a freshman minister, but I would like to mention a couple of things to consider in addition to what the seasoned ministers have advised previously in the Beacon Lights.

First, you must remember that it is imperative that you be humble in the ministry. (John 13:1-17I Peter 2:22-23) The ministry is not the place to make a name for yourself. Your goal must not be the praise of men for wonderful sermons, but that they praise our Father and Christ for His faithfulness in using weak men as a tool to preach Christ crucified and His glorious Gospel. You must be like John the Baptist who declared that he was content to let himself to decrease, and for Christ to increase steadily before the hearts and minds of God’s people.

Second, you must remember that your strength to prepare for the ministry of the Word and to labor in the ministry faithfully will never be found in you. You must learn to live and breathe this text, “My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2) That is important to remember in light of the reality that the work of the ministry is humanly impossible. No man of himself is sufficient for faithfulness to Christ in this work. Only the strength and humility of Christ is sufficient to be a faithful pastor among His blood-bought sheep.

For those of you young men who know that in the Lord’s providence that you will not be ministers of the Word, do not forget that there are two other offices in the congregations that need faithful and godly men. I urge you not to neglect proper preparation for serving the Lord in the other offices of the church. Do not wait to prepare for the work of deacon or elder until the time you are informed that you have been nominated. Now is the time to learn and to ask questions about the principles and the work of the offices of elder and deacon.

And, you young women, must remember also that the officebearers of Christ’s church need faithful and godly wives. That means that you also must prepare yourselves and cultivate the virtues of godliness, modesty, honesty, and faithfulness to your Lord in doctrine and daily life. The church of Christ is also served by the faithfulness and godliness of those wives who sacrifice and support their husbands who must bear the weighty responsibilities of the special offices of the church.

Such a provision of faithful officebearers and faithful officebearers’ wives continues to exist in our churches only by the grace of God. The Lord continues to bless us with spiritually minded young adults who seek to marry in the Lord, to bring forth the seed of the covenant, and to rear them in the fear of Jehovah and in the Reformed doctrines as maintained in our churches. There is generally continued interest among our young people in Reformed doctrine, spiritual things, and antithetical living. They also enjoy and show their appreciation for a sermon which gripped them and for the Word which fed them.

Nevertheless, we may not become self-complacent. We must continue to nurture and maintain that spiritual interest in Reformed doctrine and in an antithetical life. Our young people need to continue attending our church services faithfully, and to continue bombarding our ministers in catechism, in young people’s meetings, at conventions, or at young adult retreats with the questions of the “whys” and the “wherefores” of doctrinal distinctives and our ways of doing things. Because of your covenant instruction and catechetical training, you young people have been blessed with a broad knowledge of the Scriptures and the Reformed Faith. However, to whom much is given, much is also required by the Lord. Hold fast to that which ye have been taught!

It is my prayer that the Lord will continue to keep us faithful to His truth through both times of prosperity and also times of sharp adversity. May he keep us faithful in the midst of increasing ungodliness in the world and increasing apostasy even in the Reformed and Presbyterian church world.

May he grant to His pastors, myself included, the grace to be faithful in serving God’s Church throughout the earth for His glory and for the coming of His glorious kingdom in the swiftly approaching day of Christ.

I am a child of the I6lh century Reformation.

I make known that fact with the least hesitation.

My spiritual fathers had an inheritance so grand

Now given to me wherein by grace alone I stand.

 

Blessed is that heritage, a great wealth untold,

Incomparable even to all of the creation’s gold.

The Scriptures have taught me ever so clearly

“This treasure never sell; but buy and cherish dearly!”

 

“What is that inheritance which is wealth without measure

Which alone affords you every holy and spiritual pleasure?“

That heritage comes from those days of old

When Apostles proclaimed the Truth in faith so bold.

 

On that foundation so immoveable, unshakeably sure,

They preached Christ crucified, that Gospel pure.

Preaching salvation by His purpose and grace alone

In Christ, before God had created even one little stone.

 

That principally is the truth which our fathers have taught,

And also by the Holy Spirit to us this day is brought

By faithful pastors and teachers of God’s infallible Word

So that every week, this too is the Truth we have heard.

 

To us is returned that glorious Truth of salvation by grace alone,

Which grace is revealed in our lord Jesus Christ alone;

To us is returned that glorious Truth of justification by faith alone,

And, that this Truth is found in the inspired Scriptures alone;

 

That’s what the Lord did to His Church as He said

When He surely promised, “Into the truth, ye shall be led.”

So, since a little monk by providence to Wittenburg came

The history of God’s church since has never been the same.

 

On that memorable day, the sound of the Hammer was heard,

And soon around that church door a little crowd murmured,

As they read the long paper with that honest monk’s request

To put his ninety-five theses to the Holy Scriptures’ test.

 

That German monk to the Pope was a great big bother,

But, to me he is my dear spiritual forefather;

Who with blood, sweat, and tears, diligently fought

Against what the Church in apostasy had taught.

 

He fought Pope, priests, Tetzel, and Eck,

Would not even consider sparing his own neck,

For the Truth to God’s saints to be returned

Which Truth the Pope and Church evilly spurned.

 

At the Diet of Worms, the worth of the Truth he reckoned

While before the Diet by the Emperor he was beckoned

To recant all that he had ever written and taught

Which in the church great reformation had brought.

 

Being charged, like Hus, with being a heretic no less,

And demanded his many alleged errors to confess,

Luther before the great Emperor made his firm reply

That the Truth of the Scripture he would never deny.

 

Luther, although the prelates him did threaten,

Uttered, “Here I stand! God help me!  Amen!”

The Hammer again was heard that day in 1521

As Rome’s stronghold crumbled: the saints’ bondage done.

 

Since then, the Reformation did spread

And, by other men, such as John Calvin, was led

To greater depths of God’s infallibly inspired Truth

Making it known as fathers to their spiritual youth.

 

That development of the Truth under the Spirit’s guiding Hand

Has continued even in recent history in our own land.

Our Heavenly Father has led His saints ever nearer

To a fuller knowledge of the truth, which is now clearer.

 

This fuller knowledge of the Scriptures we do possess

In the Reformed Faith, which I undauntedly confess.

The Three Forms of Unity sum those truths best

In which I with many saints have found comfort and rest.

 

From these have taught my spiritual forefathers now and past

Many truths like: God’s Covenant of Grace always to last,

Double Predestination and Divine Providence, too;

Particular Grace; these are only just a very few.

 

With these truths through Luther, Calvin, and many fathers more,

I stand in a true confession with the Church of the ages before.

Thus, I a child of the Reformation learn from history’s light:

God by sovereign grace alone saves us from our terrible plight.

 

Then how greatly thankful I must be

That God by His Holy Spirit has begotten me,

And for leading me in a life of sanctification

So that today I may be a child of the Reformation.

 

Dear young reader, is it your own humble plea,

That God the Reformed Faith will make you see?

A child of the Reformation do you desire to be?

May God grant such blessedness, just like me. ♦♦♦

This article was inadvertently missed for the September issue and belongs before the article which appeared in September. We apologize for the confusion.

That was the problem with Gideon’s army. Gideon did not see the numbers he had as a problem. Obviously, the men did not see the problem either. Though Gideon and his men did not think it a problem, the LORD did. In Judges 7:2a we read that “the LORD said unto Gideon, “The people that are with thee are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands….”

Gideon’s army was too large. Not according to man’s standards, but according the LORD’S standard this was a big problem. There were simply too many!

What?! Too many?! We would have objected to the LORD’S evaluation. We would size up the situation much differently. On the one hand, Gideon’s army numbered 32.000 men. On the other hand, the Midianites had a huge host which “lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude” (Judges 7:12). Even if the army of the Midianites numbered as little as 200,000 men, still that was huge in comparison to Gideon’s army. The Midianites would have greatly outnumbered the Israelites. In other words, 6 well fed and confident Midianites would have easily defeated 1 oppressed and miserable Israelite. We would cry out, “Much too few! Not enough!”

Having too many is not regarded often as a problem today in the church world at large. Often the church has too many because churches aim at regular numerical growth like investments in a stock fund. They aim for at least a 10% increase in numerical growth every year.

However, in order to buy that kind of numerical success, too many sell the truth. Differences are softened. Doctrine is compromised. Doctrinal differences are dismissed simply as only mere misunderstandings of stubborn theologians of the past. Unions are made on the basis of the idea that the more numbers we have, the greater power we will have against the real enemies out there on the battlefield. But, too often off to the side has fallen bloodied, battered, and trampled, the sorry victim of the truth. Too many times that has happened.

This evaluation is often hard sometimes for the believer to understand. Too many is bad? Few is best? Why are the laborers in the harvest always few? Why is not the enrollment to overflowing at our Seminary? Why do our Covenant schools lack teachers so that our school boards sometimes must resort to unsavory emergency plans “B” and sometimes “C” to get instruction for the children?

Too many? Who would ever think of that? We would cry out, “Never enough!” The LORD teaches us that the laborers are always few, the church in the world always is a remnant, and the faithful church militant a small, feeble band.

Why was Gideon’s band too large even though it was already puny? Some may have joined for the wrong reasons. Some may have joined because of “peer pressure.” They did not want to look bad sitting at home while the rest of the men in the town went to war. So, to save face, they went along with their neighbor men, but their heart was really not consumed with zeal for fighting under the LORD’S banner.

Others failed at first to count the cost of what this battle would require for them personally and spiritually. They were filled with tremendous enthusiasm at first, but at the sight of the vast multitude of Midianites, their flame of enthusiasm sputtered and was soon extinguished in a puff of smoke.

Some may not have had the proper skills and stamina for the approaching battle. As the later history shows, stamina was exactly what was needed. The men would need great physical and spiritual stamina in this battle against the innumerable horde.

Though there were such problems among the army, yet the LORD declares the reason. If Gideon would have gone with even the army he had, Israel would yet have been tempted to boast in themselves. The LORD points that out to Gideon when He said,

“The people are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against Me, saying, “Mine own hand hath saved Me. ’’(Judges 7:2)

The LORD will show by a wonder that His Hand alone saves.

The LORD reminds Gideon that Israel by nature were boasters. They were proud and stiff-necked. Not only they, but we, too! We are prone to boast about ourselves. We are prone to overemphasize the abilities of men whom God gave to the church. We are prone to boast in ourselves as if we saved ourselves by our genius or skill. We are not immune to such sinful thoughts. As young people, we must be very careful how we remember 75 years of the LORD’S goodness to our churches. If we boast in men, the LORD declares to us: “There are too many men in your thoughts!”

Such is also true personally. We are prone to boast in ourselves as though we have attained to our measure of godliness and holiness through our efforts. The LORD thunders unto us: “There is too much man in your thoughts!”

You understand, that even when we give ourselves just a little speck of credit, then there is too much man in our thoughts. When there is too much man in our thoughts, there is no room for the LORD!

Only the LORD must be in all our thoughts because only His hand saves! Only the LORD brings us peace and prosperity by the wonder of grace in Jesus Christ.

To reveal that glorious truth through Gideon and his army, the size of Gideon’s army must be the right size. This history must show that our redemption is only by the Hand of the LORD. He alone saves His people. Only He saves us who are lost and dead in sin by nature. Only He saves us unto the life of faith and repentance. Even that life, The LORD alone works. He works our faith and obedience to fight the good fight of faith.

That truth which the LORD will show in type and shadow in this history, was revealed perfectly in our Lord Jesus Christ. He perfectly reveals the sovereign and almighty Hand of the LORD. He went to the cross of Calvary and destroyed the evil horde of our enemies. He conquered the dominion of darkness. He as the Captain of our salvation also conquers our pride and boasting so that by faith we learn that the battle is the LORD’S, the victory is His, and we fight in that war only as chosen and sanctified instruments unto His glory, not ours.

That salvation by grace alone which God has wrought in Christ leaves absolutely no room for man to boast in himself. Before the cross of Christ, God makes crystal clear the truth that it is absolutely impossible for man to save himself. However, what is absolutely impossible for man God did. He has delivered us by the wonder of grace.

With a zeal to prevent spiritual Israel and us from missing that truth, the LORD took special measures to teach Israel that truth clearly in this history. By sifting Gideon’s band down to the right size, Gideon and his band would go to the battlefield perfectly displaying the banner of truth that the LORD alone saves us from our sin by the wonder of grace in Christ alone unto everlasting peace.

We learn in Judges 7:3-6 that the LORD reduced the size of Gideon’s army in two steps. In the first step, Gideon was reminded to announce what Moses commanded in Deuteronomy 20:8.

And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, “What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart.

Gideon may have assumed that since there were so few, it was not possible that any would be fearful or fainthearted. On that assumption, he may have judged Deuteronomy 20:8 as unnecessary.

However, great must have been Gideon’s surprise as he watched 22,000 men step out of the ranks and go home. Over half his army was gone! Only 12,000 remaining.

Surely, Gideon thought that this was quite enough sifting! We also would heartily agree that the LORD had sufficiently made His point, and very clearly we would now know that deliverance is by the LORD’ s hand alone.

But, the Righteous LORD knows our sinful nature much better than we. No occasion will the LORD give to sinful nature to boast. The LORD is jealous for His Name and glory. Therefore, Gideon’s band still had much too many! (Judges 7:4)

Under the LORD’S direction, Gideon brought the remaining men to a brook near the battlefield and signaled to them to refresh themselves at the brook. Gideon watched the men as they one by one refreshed themselves. Gideon was commanded to watch for those men who only scooped some water with one hand out of the brook and lapped the water out of that hand as a dog laps up water. These were set aside in one group. All the others who bent down on both knees or laid on their stomachs to drink the water, or even perhaps dunked their heads under water, these were set aside in another group.

After this test was finished, the army was divided into two groups: a large group of 11,700 men and a very small group of only 300. The 300 had lapped water out of their hand as a dog laps up water. Gideon had to answer: “Do I fight with 11,700 or 300?” Which group would you have picked?

For the glory of His Name, the LORD had chosen the 300.

The 300 showed they were by the grace of the LORD ready for battle. With an eye on the battlefield, their right hand on their sword, and their left hand only to scoop up a little water, these men had passed the test. They had their eye of faith on the Banner, their hand of faith on the sword of the LORD, and their heart consumed with zeal for the glory of the Name of the LORD of hosts. They were ready for battle of faith.

The LORD sent Gideon and 300 men to fight the Midianites. Indeed, the LORD would fulfill His earlier word to Gideon that he would “smite the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:16). That was virtually the situation. The LORD had not exaggerated at all.

By this history, the LORD reminds us very clearly that His Hand alone saves us by the wonder of His sovereign and particular grace in Christ alone.

Then unto Him alone, let us give praise, honor, and glory.

Never will they be “too many!” ♦♦♦

Gideon returned from the camp of the Midianites in a strong faith that the LORD was with him and that the Word of the LORD would surely come to pass. Swiftly Gideon moves into action as the leader of Jehovah’s little army of 300 men. However, leading the small band against the host of the Midianites, Gideon wielded the mighty sword which always conquers the foe.

It was dark in the valley where the Midianites camped as well as in the surrounding hills where Gideon’s little band of faithful soldiers were waiting for their leader’s signal. The word of Gideon echoed still in their hearts: “Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian!” (Judges 7:14). Like their leader, they too were confident in the Word of the LORD. In that confidence, they waited for Gideon’s signal to begin the battle.

Around the valley in the surrounding hills Gideon’s men were stationed in three groups of 100 men each. Swiftly and quietly they had dispersed with their orders from Gideon. Then they stood patiently in their three different positions overlooking the large camp of well-armed Midianites sprawled over the valley below.

The men of Gideon’s army were also well-equipped with the right weapons. It might seem odd to us, but Gideon gave his men trumpets and torches which were covered by large clay pitchers. The torches were lit, but quickly covered by the pitchers so that the light would not be seen until Gideon gave the signal. With their weapons in hand, the soldiers dispersed confidently to their three separate positions in the hills surrounding the Midianite infested valley.

Where were the swords? Where were the spears, shields, breastplates, helmets, coats of armour, coats of mail, chariots, and all the other weapons of warfare with which wars were commonly fought? Confidently, the men stood ready with their torches covered by the pitchers in one hand, and their trumpets in the other hand. We understand then that their hands were full. There was no more room for all those other weapons of warfare. The swords had to remain in their sheaths.

In addition, they would not need those earthly weapons for two reasons. First, what they brought to the battlefield must reflect the truth that Midian was given into their hand. Their unique arsenal of torches and trumpets was a reflection of their confession of the truth that the victory was theirs according to the Word of the LORD.

Secondly, they did not need the earthly sword on the battlefield because there was a sword present on the battlefield whose power was sufficient to destroy the host of the Midianites. That sword Gideon and his men carried by the hand of faith to the battlefield. One could not see that great sword outwardly. In fact it seemed outwardly like Gideon’s men were using no sword at all. From that viewpoint, they looked like they would be complete failures. Yet by faith we analyze the situation differently. Though the Midianites had an innumerable number of earthly swords, yet Gideon and his men wielded that one invincible sword.

With that sword in the hand of faith, Gideon waited for the watch in the Midianite camp to change

(Judges 7:19). When Gideon’s men had reached their positions in the surrounding hills, the beginning of the middle watch had just been set in the Midianite camp. Those newly set Midianite watchmen were filled with terror from the rumours of that Israelite warrior lurking in the darkness of the surrounding hills. At that moment, Gideon gave the signal! “And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, “The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon!” (Judges 7:20).

As the valley echoed with the shrill blasts of 301 trumpets and the confident shout, the terrified Midianites bolted from their tents into a swarming mass of chaos and confusion. As Gideon and his men stood confidently on the hills, the Midianites “ran, and cried, and fled.” (Judges 7:21). In the darkness, the LORD caused the Midianites by their confusion and terror to slay one another with the sword. Mistakenly thinking that Gideon’s army was in their camp, the Midianites dueled themselves to death. Those of the host, who managed to escape the LORD’S slaughter, tried to flee across the Jordan river. However, many were captured and killed by the help of the men from Napthali, Manasseh, Asher, and Ephraim (Judges 7:23-25). Eventually, the kings of the Midianites were also captured by Gideon and destroyed (Judges 8:11-12). The Midianites were destroyed. Israel was delivered. They were delivered by the sword of the LORD and of Gideon.

What was that sword?

That question brings to mind what Valiant-For-Truth said to Great-Heart in the allegorical story, Pilgrim’s Progress. After the two had discussed Valiant’s recent battle against Wild-head, Inconsiderate, and Pragmatic, Great-Heart asked Valiant-For-Truth: “… Let me see thy sword.”

After Great-Heart had examined the sword, he exclaimed, “Ha! It is a right Jerusalem blade!” (Isaiah 2:3)

Valiant-For-Truth agreed. “…Its edges will never blunt. It will cut flesh and bones, and soul and spirit, and all.” With that sword, Valiant-For-Truth went on to explain, he did fight until that sword cleaved to his hand and, as it were, grew out of his arm.1

Likewise, we also ask: what was that sword of the LORD and of Gideon? First, that sword is the mighty Word of Jehovah. That Word is first THE WORD, Who is the Son of God. Christ is the eternal Word of Jehovah Whom Jehovah sends forth to accomplish His eternal counsel. That Word goes forth in sovereign and almighty power to bring to destruction those whom God has rejected from eternity, and to raise unto glorious salvation and peace those whom God has eternally chosen in Christ. That Christ as the angel of Jehovah in the Old Testament, went before Gideon’s band and fought for Gideon. He went forth conquering the enemy that the Word of God might accomplish that which Jehovah had said, and might prosper in the thing whereto Jehovah sent it (Isaiah 55:11).

Secondly, the sword is also the Scriptures. The Scriptures are the infallibly inspired Word of God. Therein is Christ, the eternal Word of God, revealed unto us. That was true already in the Old Testament. In Genesis 3:15, Adam and Eve heard the Word of God concerning the promise of the Seed of the Woman. That promised seed was Christ. That Word of God in the promises and types that surrounded Gideon was the sword by which he conquered the enemy. That remains true even for the believing young person today. The Scriptures are a mighty sword to defend ourselves from temptation.

Thirdly, the sword is the doctrine of God’s Word. The doctrinal teachings of the Scriptures set forth Christ crucified as the only ground and foundation of all our salvation. In that truth, the glory of Jehovah is made known. Particularly, the doctrinal teachings of the Reformed Faith make this truth known clearly and sharply. For example, they are the doctrines of the TULIP, the everlasting covenant of sovereign grace, and the doctrines as taught in our Three Forms of Unity. This is “the right Jerusalem blade” for the believer’s warfare.

If we were to carry anything less than those doctrines of the Reformed Faith onto the spiritual battlefields, then we would wield a blunt, brittle, and flimsy sword by which we would be left defenseless. Rather than meet the enemy defenseless, is it your spiritual desire to meet the enemy well-equipped and prepared with that sword of the LORD, the truth of His Word?

To that end, you must faithfully attend catechism, particularly for training and instruction in the Heidelberg Catechism and the Essentials of Reformed Doctrine. By the Spirit and grace of God, this will train and prepare you to defend yourselves against the present day evil teachings of Satan by which He desires to destroy you and the Word of God in you. In catechism and on the Lord’s Day, Christ, the Captain of our salvation, trains us to use that Sword of the LORD for our defense and protection. By the grace of God and His Spirit, through His training and instruction, we will then wield the “right Jerusalem blade” in the spiritual battles of life.

Finally, that sword also involves a true and living faith. True faith is the hand that grips the Sword of the LORD. Without a hand, a soldier could not hold his sword. Without a true faith, one cannot hold the Scriptures as the sword against the enemy. Those who merely hold to the Reformed Faith intellectually, ace catechism tests with a cold intellectualism, and merely discuss and debate its various aspects for entertainment, are like a weaponless, defenseless soldier on the battlefield. In the heat of spiritual battles, such will be severely wounded or destroyed in their cold intellectualism and dead orthodoxy.

Rather than meet that end, we need that God-given, sovereignly bestowed and worked, undeserved faith. That true faith is, first, that “certain knowledge whereby [we] hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word.” (Heidelberg Catechism LD VII, Q&A 21) That is a knowledge of the heart which arises out of the regenerated heart. A knowledge whereby we know and love God as our God. A knowledge whereby we love that Sword of the LORD and trust in it as our sure defense. Secondly, that faith is also “an assured confidence” whereby we are convinced that what God says to us about our salvation is undoubtedly true for the sake of Christ’s merits. By that assured confidence, we are persuaded that His Word concerning our salvation shall surely be brought to pass for Jesus’ sake.

That’s the spiritual hand which grips the Sword of the Scriptures so that sword and hand become one. Clinging to Christ, His Word, and His promises, the believer goes forth into the spiritual battlefields to conquer as the fruit of God’s sovereign grace alone. As we use that sword we need not fear its power and ability because “…the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” (II Cor. 10:4) It will break down the strongholds of Satan.

Remember, whether we fight the battles against our own sinful natures, against sinful lusts for pleasure, possessions, and things that are downright sinful, against the world, against false teachers and heretics, against false doctrines, or against worldliness, we have been given by the grace of God the Sword of the LORD by which we stand in the victory of Christ crucified and risen.

Blessed is that spiritual soldier who wields that “Jerusalem blade” in the hand of true faith. Such lives in the blessed truth of Psalm 27, “the LORD is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?… Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise up against me, in this will I be confident.”

We may be confident that the victory is the LORD’s. Because the victory is His and since we are His for Jesus’ sake, the victory is ours, too. Our enemies shall be fully destroyed, and we shall be redeemed unto complete glory in order “that men may know that Thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, are the most high over all the earth” (Psalm 83:18).♦

‘John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress (Old Tappan, NJ: Spire Books, 1974), p. 257.

If you were at the bottom of a big hill, would you be afraid of a little loaf of barley bread tumbling down the hillside towards you? Perhaps you would not be. However, in the passage we look at this time there was a tumbling loaf of barley bread which struck fear in the hearts of two men. We might in amazement ask, “who would ever be afraid of a loaf of bread?” To us it might seem almost ridiculous. Nevertheless, it was an important part of the next step in Gideon’s march to the battlefield as the valiant servant of Jehovah (Judges 7:9-14).

Remember that Gideon’s army had just been sifted from a small army to virtually no army. Only 300 men stood around him on the eve of the battle. That was a difficult situation.

How would we have stood there spiritually while facing an innumerable multitude of enemies with only 300 men? Before the impossible situation, our knees would knock. We would break out in a cold sweat. Our hearts would faint. We would have gone home.

Though Gideon may have had thoughts of turning back, the LORD from heaven commanded Gideon, “Arise, get thee down unto the host!” (Judges 7:9a). Gideon must march to the battlefield and fight. The battle must be fought through faith worked by God’s sovereign grace.

There was no turning back.

Gideon not only may not turn back, but he also could not turn back. The LORD added to His command the reason why Gideon could only go to the battlefield. The LORD stated the reason when He said, “for I have delivered it into thine hand” (Judges 7:9b). The deliverance of Gideon and Israel was certain.

However, the faith of the child of God is not always so persuaded of those certain promises of God. Often we stand before mighty spiritual enemies in weakness. In the face of the enemies, the LORD speaks to us His promises: for example, that “they that put their trust in the LORD shall be as Mount Zion which cannot be removed, but abideth forever” (Psalm 125:1). Yet, is it not true that our faith is weak and not persuaded of the certain and unchanging truth of those promises? We doubt and fear. We waver and hesitate. We become fainthearted and despair. If left to ourselves, we would certainly be drowned by an engulfing tide of disquietness in our souls.

This was Gideon’s condition on the eve of the big battle. He was spiritually very nervous. He faced a battle whose outcome seemingly would be won by the Midianites. Yet, the LORD said that He would deliver the Midianites into Gideon’s hand. Would Gideon walk by faith in that sure promise or would he live by what he saw with his eyes on the battlefield. Would he believe the promises or trust his eyes which counted an innumerable multitude of Midianites against just 301 Israelites?

Gideon’s faith was put to a severe test.

Only by the grace of God did Gideon not stumble and fall in unbelief. We see in this trial of Gideon’s faith that the LORD is mindful of His people’s weakness and frailty. That was true with Gideon. This is true of us, is it not? We sing of that in Psalter 281: “Mindful of our human frailty, is the God in whom we trust….”

The LORD in mercy knew the weakness of Gideon’s faith, and He in mercy led Gideon to a sure faith. The LORD did that because not in a wavering faith, but in a sure faith must Gideon go to the battlefield. To that end, the LORD commanded Gideon to go down to the host. In fact, when the LORD commanded Gideon, the LORD was already preparing what Gideon would need to bolster his faith.

Surely, Gideon needed the strengthening of his faith. He needed assurance. He needed to be persuaded with a sure conviction of the outcome of the battle. Do we not often need such strengthening? We need that encouragement daily. For Gideon, the LORD in mercy provided exactly that which by His Spirit would work in Gideon’s heart a sure spiritual confidence and trust in the LORD.

We read in the passage that the LORD said to Gideon, “But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host: and thou shaft hear what they say: and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host.” (Judges 7:10-1la)

Then we read that Gideon did go down to the host that night. By doing so, Gideon had humbled himself to confess his own need for strengthening. He desired that the LORD would help his unbelief, and he earnestly sought the assurance that the LORD had provided.

We learn in this passage that the LORD provided this assurance in a very unique way. Out of the mouth of His own enemies, the LORD would strengthen the heart of His servant, Gideon.

In the dark night, Gideon and his servant, Phurah, move quietly and carefully from bush to bush, behind this tree and the next tree, down the hillside together toward the outer part of the camp of the Midianites. Very cautiously, they crawled closer and closer until they were right next to a tent with two Midianite soldiers inside.

There at the first tent which they found, Gideon heard the soldiers inside talking together. Gideon overheard the one soldier tell a dream. Apparently, the soldier had awakened suddenly after a bad dream. Then when Gideon had come near the tent, the solider was rehearsing his dream in the ears of his buddy. The timing of Gideon’s approach to the tent and the telling of the dream was no accident. The LORD sovereignly governed all those things perfectly. The LORD did this in sovereign mercy for Gideon’s sake.

What was the dream that the Midianite soldier had? We are told in Scripture: “Lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of the Midianite, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along.”

A loaf of barley bread squashing a tent? What could that mean?

The buddy of the Midianite soldier knew exactly what it meant. He gave the interpretation right then and there. He said, “this is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.”

That’s what it meant. The loaf of barley bread represented Gideon. Barley bread was the poor man’s bread. That pictured the fact that Israel and Gideon were poor, despised, and oppressed. Gideon himself was not mighty and noble, but weak and despised. In addition to the meaning of the bread, the tent referred to not just any tent, but the central tent in the heart of the host. The tent in the dream was the captain’s tent. The loaf of barley bread had violently destroyed the tent of the Midianites’ captain. This meant undoubtedly that the lowly Gideon, as one man against a thousand, would rout the Midianites by a violent and sudden destruction.

This dream and the interpretation were exactly what Gideon needed. Having heard the dream and the interpretation, Gideon on the spot near the tent worshiped the LORD in humble thanksgiving. Then he got up and in quiet confidence returned to his little band.

How did the dream do that? What was so significant about the dream and its interpretation that made Gideon so sure and confident of victory? First, the dream and the interpretation showed Gideon that the terror of the LORD and his servant, Gideon, had gripped the hearts of all the Midianites. It was common knowledge. The men in the tent talked as though everyone knew about Gideon. It was evident that the Midianites were not ignorant of Gideon’s approach to make war. They had heard the news that the trumpet blast had been sounded in Israel to gather an army against the Midianites. As they awaited the impending attack of Gideon and his army, the thought of Gideon loomed larger and larger in their minds. Of course, that terror was not because of Gideon himself. That growing terror in the hearts of the Midianites was the work of the Spirit of the LORD. He sovereignly worked terror in their hearts unto their destruction.

The news that the Midianites were terrified of Gideon was great encouragement to Gideon. In war strategy, often that is what generals try to do. They try to strike terror in the hearts of the enemy. When the enemy loses the battle in its collective heart against its own fears, they are also sure to lose against the real enemy in the real battle. Likewise, in this battle against the Midianites, the LORD as the Captain of that little band of 300 men struck terror in the hearts of the Midianites. Their terror was a terror of Jehovah, Who stood on Gideon’s and Israel’s side for Christ’s sake. Before Him, the proud wicked know they cannot stand.

As a result, Gideon was also convinced of the truth that Jehovah was with him. It was obvious to him that he himself could not strike terror in the hearts of his enemies. Only Jehovah could take an unknown Gideon, and make him a terror to the enemy. Thus, through the mouth of the Midianites, Gideon was convinced Jehovah was on his side. In that knowledge, Gideon returned to his host with confidence. By faith he saw not 301 Israelites against innumerable Midianites, but by faith he saw Jehovah in His glory against the heathen horde. Indeed, from that viewpoint of faith, Gideon went to battle in victory in peaceful assurance of Who the Victorious One always is.

Secondly, the dream and the interpretation also convinced Gideon in his soul of the promise of God in another way. More positively, what the Midianite said was very important to Gideon. The Midianite repeated exactly what Jehovah had said to Gideon: “Into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.” Notice, that he said, “delivered.” The Midianite as Jehovah spoke as though the battle was over and finished. The Midianites in their own minds were defeated long before even one sword was unsheathed.

By that, Gideon was assured that he would receive the victory in the battle. The victory was not up for grabs to the strongest army. The victory was decided already. Jehovah had decided that already in His counsel, and according to His promises to be fulfilled in the coming Messiah. By faith in the sure promises of Jehovah, Gideon must go to bring the defeat of the Midianites.

Gideon learned also that he would not go to the battlefield to establish the victory. The victory was already established. What a great comfort that was to him! The battle was won. In the comfort of that sure promise, Gideon could make his preparations for battle knowing that God by His grace alone had established the outcome. The salvation of God’s people did not depend upon him at all. Jehovah would use that tumbling loaf of barley bread to squash His enemies to destruction to show that He is God Alone Who saves and defends His people.

In that sure knowledge, Gideon returned and commanded his little band of faithful men go forward to the battlefield. He said, “arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.”

Now Gideon was fully ready to fight the good fight of faith. In the full persuasion of his faith and trust in God, he went forward to fight the foe.

Are we ready to face and to fight the enemies in that same conviction? Do we have the same sure and unswerving trust in the promises of His Word?

The LORD teaches us that the enemy is also delivered into our hands. We might wonder how can that be true when the battles have not been fought yet. However, the LORD reminds us that in the atoning blood poured out on Calvary and in the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have the victory over all our enemies. That means that when God speaks His promises unto us, He does so on the basis of the perfect and complete work and person of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, the promises of God are fulfilled and sure.

Being persuaded of that by the grace of God, we may go forward to fight the battle in a faith that calmly rests in that truth. That truth also teaches us that when we fight, we fight not for, but in the victory of the Captain of our salvation once and certainly accomplished by Him for us. That victory He works in and through us by His Spirit of sovereign grace whereby we are faithfully and irresistibly called unto fighting the good fight of faith. In that victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall tread our enemies under foot, even our very own sin and unbelief.

Are you attacked by temptations of your sinful nature or of the world? Do you struggle against sin and the choking worldliness around us? Do you battle with the mighty enemies of guilt, doubt, despair, or grief?

God commands us not to turn back from the battlefield. Rather, He calls us unto the battle that the glory of His Banner might be displayed.

So, the LORD commands us: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (I Timothy 6:12). ❖

In Judges 6:34a we read that “the spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon.” The LORD clothed Gideon in the Spirit of the LORD in order to qualify and equip him with the spiritual strength needed for the battle. The Spirit of the LORD would be his full suit of armour, his coat of mail, his shield and buckler, and his helmet. What the LORD does here shows His faithfulness and His wisdom. Because the battle is the LORD’S, the LORD would not send His servant, Gideon, into the battle against the Midianites poorly equipped. The LORD equips Gideon with His own Spirit and grace.

When the Spirit of the LORD was bestowed on Gideon for his position of deliverer and judge, we learn that Gideon blew a trumpet and sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali in order to gather together for battle against the Midianites. Many heeded Gideon’s call to battle. In so doing, they submitted to him as the God-appointed deliverer. Following the lead of Gideon, they gathered together to fight against the Midianites.

The number of those who gathered together was not large in comparison to the Midianites who had settled and camped in the valley of Jezreel. In fact we learn that there were also Amalekites and the children of the east with them as well. When Gideon surveyed this situation, there was an obvious difference. His troops numbered only 32,000 men in comparison to the Midianites, who numbered “as grasshoppers for multitude” (Judges 6:5).

In that troubling situation, Gideon sought Jehovah for a sign to strengthen his godly resolve to lead into battle the soldiers which Jehovah had provided. He needed this double sign to stimulate his faith in Jehovah, Who alone delivers His people out of all their troubles.

Gideon besought Jehovah that He would grant a sign to show that indeed He will save His people by the hand of Gideon (Judges 6:14,16). To show the certainty of that promise Gideon asks the LORD to give a sign by a piece of fleece.

“Fleece” is another word for wool from sheep. One of the outstanding characteristics of the fleece, which is important for this passage, is its ability to absorb water. It is a natural water absorber and does it very well.

Gideon would take a cloth of the fleece (like a hand towel) and would lay it on the ground. He asked the LORD that overnight while he slept the dew would appear only upon the fleece, and that the blades of grass and dirt around the fleece would remain completely dry.

The LORD heard the request of Gideon and answered. Behold, in the morning Gideon went and checked the fleece. Sure enough, the fleece was so full of dew that he wrung out a whole bowl full of water. However, after careful inspection, the ground around and all the grass around the fleece was completely dry. Not even one drop of dew was found around the spot where the fleece had lain.

After contemplating the sign, Gideon realized that it is the nature of the fleece to absorb water. Although it was indeed amazing how much water the fleece had absorbed, yet that was according to the nature of the fleece. Gideon realized that this sign by itself was not sufficient to bolster his spiritual trust and resolve. Thus, Gideon requested the second sign.

Gideon besought that the LORD not be angry with him for requesting this second sign. He pleas that the LORD be longsuffering towards him and patiently bear with the weakness of his faith. Gideon asked in verse 39b, “Let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.” This sign would also require a miracle. Such a sign would fully reveal truth about God’s Covenant faithfulness in an amazing work of God’s providence to make the fleece not absorb the dew. Only that, Gideon was convinced, would bolster his trust in Jehovah and confirm the promise.

God did so that night as Gideon requested. Gideon woke up the next morning and inspected the fleece. He picked it up, and it was light and dry while there was dew on his shoes, on the blades of grass nearby, and on the ground around the fleece. The LORD had answered Gideon’s request. With this double sign, he was ready to fight.

How did the signs of the wet fleece and then the dry fleece so confirm his faith that he with only 32,000 Israelites was ready to fight the huge host of the Midianites? What did those signs mean?

Some have interpreted the signs to mean that Gideon must be warm (wool) and overflowing (full of dew) with zeal while the other tribes and people were indifferent to the necessity to fight the Midianites. Then when those around him are full of excitement and impatience, Gideon must demonstrate coolness and dryness of heart so that Israel does not rush wildly into the battlefield. Others, as the Rev. G. Ophoff recorded in his commentary on this same passage, have interpreted this double sign as a type of the birth of Christ from the virgin Mary. However, these are not the correct interpretations of the passage.

The best and proper interpretation is found by interpreting this passage in light of other passages of Scripture. We find elsewhere in the Old Testament that dew was very significant. In the Old Testament, God said that when Israel would serve Him, Israel would receive from His hand “the dew of heaven” (Genesis 27:28). When Israel did not serve the LORD, God withheld that the dew of heaven as judgment upon their wickedness. In their disobedience, God caused the heavens to become as brass (Genesis 27:44). That judgment of God was what happened to Israel when they worshipped Baal. The LORD took away the “dew of heaven” by means of the Midianites who stripped the land of its good gifts and left the Israelites terribly oppressed. The LORD chastised His people and revealed His displeasure against a nation that forsook Jehovah.

In light of those passages, we understand that the fleece was a type of Israel, the ground around the fleece was a type of the surrounding nations, and the dew represented the earthly gifts which God gives to His people.

However, the dew represented more than just earthly gifts of Jehovah to His people. To the believing Israelite, the physical “dew of heaven” and all the earthly gifts of Canaan were a token of God’s Covenant goodness to them. They were signs of the spiritual gifts of the Covenant promise, and those earthly signs pointed them to the heavenly Canaan of perfect peace, prosperity, and fellowship with God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, when the believing Israelite enjoyed with his healthy family the food and abundance of the land, he looked beyond the earthly unto the heavenly reality. As the believing Israelite served the LORD in the fear of His Name, he was consciously aware of God’s Covenant blessings upon him.

When Gideon saw the first sign, he understood that at one time in Israel’s history, they were filled with the dew of heaven. The nation obeyed Jehovah. For example, while Joshua was leader in Israel, Israel served Jehovah faithfully. In that faithfulness, Israel enjoyed the bounty of the land of promise as tokens of God’s Covenant blessings upon them.

However, when Israel swiftly fell into apostasy in virtually one generation, the LORD visited His people in judgment. Then Israel was like the dry fleece. For a time she lacked the tokens of God’s Covenant blessings in the Old Testament type and shadow of prosperity in the land of Canaan. That was true of Manasseh under the oppression of the Midianites. For her idolatry, Israel was like the dry fleece. No doubt, that was difficult for the believing Israelites to endure. Under that oppression of the Midianites, it looked outwardly as though God had forsaken them. Gideon even thought so when the Angel of the LORD visited him.

However, would Jehovah forsake His people? Gideon knew that Jehovah, Who sovereignly withheld the earthly gifts, was in control over the nation as He was over the fleece those two nights. The Midianites did not oppress Israel apart from Jehovah’s control and for His eternal good pleasure. Because they were in God’s sovereign and righteous control, Gideon was assured that God could also remove the Midianites from the land and restore Israel as the wet fleece once again. Gideon learned in this double sign that his and Israel’s hope and help for peace and prosperity was solely in the Name of Jehovah. This Jehovah Who had spoken to Him would not forsake His people.

Of that same truth the child of God today may also be assured. By nature we are like the dry fleece. Because of our sin, we deserve to be void of God’s Covenant blessings. However, according to His eternal good pleasure, God fills us with His Covenant blessings through Jesus Christ our Lord. God did that on the basis of forsaking Christ on the cross for us that we might never be forsaken and without His Covenant fellowship. The result is that since Christ has redeemed us, we are blessed by God with His Covenant blessings. The believer learns through his own life that all our salvation and the enjoyment of that salvation is wholly dependent upon the perfect and finished work of Christ upon the cross. Because of Him, we are like the drenched fleece from a spiritual viewpoint. God causes us to overflow with His abundant goodness. He blesses us with spiritual blessings in our family life, friendships, and worship with the saints on the Lord’s Day. Therefore, though we may be outwardly poor, yet in Christ we are very rich with the blessings of God’s Covenant goodness.

In the principle of that truth Gideon stood by faith. The future deliverance of Israel was solely in Jehovah’s Hand and in His strong Right Arm. Gideon stood convinced of the truth that those who put their trust in Him shall not be confounded. Jehovah shall deliver His people out of all their troubles. Therefore, Gideon was confident that as Jehovah was in control, so Jehovah would use him as one man against a thousand to deliver Israel from the hand of the Midianites.

Was that true? Was Gideon encouraged? We read in Judges 7:1, “Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon… rose up early.” In the encouragement of the double sign, he immediately leads the people into the battle. He was burdened in his heart with the work which the LORD had called him to do. He was willing and ready by faith to fulfill the work of the LORD.

Although Gideon was ready, yet the LORD was not ready for that army to go to the battlefield. What was the problem with Gideon’s army? Do you know?

We will answer that question next time, the Lord willing. ♦

In Judges 7:25-32, we learn of the next important stage of the history of Gideon as the God appointed deliverer of His people. Immediately, one naturally wonders whether Gideon was ready for his work as deliverer. Would Gideon, as so many did in that time, do what was right in his own eyes, or would he serve Jehovah faithfully? To reveal the spiritual readiness of Gideon’s heart, Jehovah commands Gideon to endure a spiritual test in the very night in which he was commissioned. Would Gideon pass this test? Let us see how ready Gideon was as a leader, see the challenges and issues involved in this test, and also consider how this applies to the young Reformed believer today.

Jehovah commanded Gideon to perform a drastic but important task in his own hometown. In Judges 7:25- 26, Jehovah said to Gideon,

Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: and build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.

Jehovah did not specify which time of the day to do this, but left that up to Gideon. We discover that timid Gideon went out at night to fulfill the LORD’S command. He did not do it during broad daylight “because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city.” (Judges 7:27) So, while the town of Ophrah was asleep, Gideon fulfilled the LORD’S command under the cover of darkness.

The next morning the town found what had been done. The altar of Baal was destroyed. The grove (the female counterpart to Baal called Asherah) that was beside it was cut down, and its wood was used to sacrifice a bullock upon the altar that was built. At the sight of this destruction to the altar of Baal and the nearby grove, the men of the city were burning with fury. Immediately they hunted for the man who did it.

They found the man who did it. It was Gideon the son of Joash. Having found him, the men were ready to kill Gideon for what they thought was a high crime worthy of immediate death. They wanted to stone him for destroying the altar to Baal.

We learn that immediately Joash defends his son by exposing the foolishness of these Baal worshipers who were furious at Gideon. Joash silenced them when he said in Judges 7:31,

Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? He that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst it is yet morning: if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar.

Joash’s point was clear and simple. If Baal is a god, let Baal have his vengeance upon Gideon. But, the very fact that Baal was helpless against Gideon exposed that Baal is no god at all. There is no god beside Jehovah, and He alone must be worshiped.

The test for Gideon was in harmony with that truth that Jehovah is God alone of His people. Would Gideon destroy the altar of Baal? Would he take a stand against the idol worship of his fellow countrymen? Would he lead Israel in the true worship of Jehovah which is antithetically opposed to the idol worship of the heathens? Would Gideon take the lead in the spiritual reformation of the people of God away from idol worship back to the true worship of Jehovah?

By the grace of God, the answer was “yes.” Gideon endured the test by faith. Through his weakness of his timidness and lack of confidence, by the grace of God alone he was made strong to take a stand against Baal worship in Manasseh. He took a stand for the true worship of Jehovah, the Covenant God of Israel.

If Gideon had not passed this test, Gideon would have failed as a leader and shown himself unqualified as a deliverer. Let us examine some reasons why that is true.

First, if Gideon had failed to break down the altar of Baal in his hometown, then Gideon would have been a spiritual ally of the heathen Midianites. He would have had no reason to fight the idol worshiping Midianites if he did not oppose Baal worship in his own country.

Secondly, if Gideon failed to oppose Baal worship and yet tried to fight the Midianites, he would have been trying to do the impossible. You will recall that Gideon was commissioned by Jehovah to serve under His banner in His army. How could Gideon then try to fight in two armies at the same time in the same battle? It is impossible to do. He could not serve two masters at the same time. He could not fight under two banners. Jehovah by His grace would not raise up a deliver appointed over His people with his feet on both sides of the battle line. Jehovah raised up a man with both feet on Jehovah’s side ready to fight under His spiritual flag.

Thirdly, if Gideon had failed the test, he would have opposed the principle set down by Joshua many years before. Before Joshua died, he made very clear to Israel the relationship between fighting the battles of Jehovah against the heathen and the worship of Jehovah. The relationship is very close. Faithfulness in worshiping Jehovah was the way of victory and triumph over the enemy. Joshua said,

One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, He it is that fighteth for you, as He hath promised you. Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God. (Joshua 23:10-11)

Indeed Gideon must be a man that feared Jehovah. Only in that way could he go into battle as one man against a hundred thousand Midianites in confidence that Jehovah would fight for him. Only in the way of faith and obedience to Jehovah would Jehovah reveal and grant to Gideon a gracious triumph over the enemy. That inner faithfulness to Jehovah by grace through faith was that necessary qualification which Gideon had to fight the ungodly and heathen Midianites.

Finally, to oppose Baal worship was to take the lead in turning the people to full repentance unto Jehovah. The reason the Midianites were oppressing the land was to chastise Israel for the very sin of Baal worship which was being committed in his own hometown. If Gideon had not torn down the altar and the grove next to the altar, he would have denied that Israel had sinned and needed to repent. By his failure to destroy the altar of Baal, Gideon by his action would have made Jehovah a liar as if really Israel had not committed a sin of which they had to repent and a sin for which they deserved chastisement. Therefore, this was also a test of humility for Gideon and the people. Would they acknowledge their sin before Jehovah and turn from it, and confess that Jehovah is the God alone? Gideon and the faithful did. The contrite and repentant heart which possesses by faith the peace of forgiveness is the heart ready to do battle with the enemy.

In this passage, we learn then that Gideon’s first successful battle is with his own townsfolk. That was probably the toughest test he had to face. Those of one’s own household can sometimes become the bitterest of spiritual enemies. Jesus experienced that fact in his hometown of Nazareth. They tried to kill Him when He plainly showed that He was the Messiah. By the grace of God, Gideon endured the test of taking a stand against the idolatry of his own countrymen. By that action, he was proven for the work of the position of judge among the people. Being proven, he was later anointed with the Spirit of the LORD to qualify and appoint him to the work. We read of this in verse 32 which says that “the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon.” That does not mean that he did not have the Spirit of the LORD before. It means that now he is officially qualified and appointed for the task so that in the minds of the people of God there is no question that Gideon is the LORD’S choice to lead them under the banner of Jehovah-shalom into battle against the Midianites.

The fact that Gideon must fight a battle under the banner of peace, and that he must first fight a battle among his own countrymen, raises a question. How can there be peace and warfare together in this passage? How can those two ideas fit together? Gideon created quite a stir in Ophrah by destroying the altar of Baal. Gideon by his example strongly called the people back to the true worship of Jehovah. However, that work created a riot in Ophrah by which he was almost lynched. Is that peace? How can Gideon fight under the banner that has to do with peace?

That same question applies to the Church of the New Testament age. God raised up men in church history to fight the battle of faith under the same banner under which Gideon fought. The battle in the Reformation was against the heresy of the Roman Catholic Church and the spiritual enemies in the Roman Catholic Church. Today, there is still on-going battle to reform the church, and turn her back unto the Scriptures and the truth of the Reformed Faith. Through all the battles we might wonder where is the peace?

To answer our questions we must look to what the Prince of Peace Himself said. Jesus said in Matthew 10:34-36 the following.

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I am come not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

Jesus teaches that the battle of faith will cause turmoil in our earthly relationships. Through that battle of faith and self-denial in which the believer remains faithful to God, there is not only earthly struggles, but also the sure reward of spiritual peace with God.

Further, Jesus Himself, the Prince of Peace, established our peace through the great battle on the cross of Calvary. There Christ destroyed the seed of the Serpent and his whole dominion decisively. Through the destruction of the enemy and by the shedding of His own blood, Christ reconciled us unto God in peace. Therefore, through the warfare of Christ upon the cross and His battle against and victory over death, we have everlasting peace and eternal life with God. You see, then, that “peace” and “warfare” fit perfectly together in Scripture.

According to Scripture and the passage, the believer also must fight spiritual battles in that peace. When the believer is faced with spiritual battles, they are battles to maintain his confession and enjoyment of that peace established by Christ and given to us by faith in Him.

That is the battle a young Reformed believers fights, too. You are called to fight false doctrine and heresy to maintain a pure confession of the truth so that the conscious enjoyment of the peace of salvation in Jesus Christ is not lost, smudged, or compromised in any way. We are called to break down the altars to Baal and return to the true worship of Jehovah. Make no mistake, such warfare will not bring us earthly peace. It will not make you very popular in this world and in this life. Church history up to the very present day has shown that spiritual Gideons, who seek to reform their denominations or congregations from error, will often meet the same reaction Gideon did the morning after.

Therefore, we object to all that would call itself “peace” when really there is no peace. The basis of true peace and unity is not compromise of cardinal doctrines, but in a faithful confession of the Reformed Faith. True peace is not merely the absence of no battles in the church. Peace is not to avoid the necessary conflicts for the peace and prosperity of Zion. Preservation of peace is not by means of the path of least conflict and disturbance. According to the passage and all of Scripture, God preserves peace and prosperity of Zion by means of diligent and vigilant battle and defense of the truth against spiritual enemies of sin, worldliness, false doctrine, heresy, discontent, and strife. God preserves His people by raising up among them spiritual Gideons who are prepared for battle.

We must also use some space here to notice carefully that what Gideon does in the passage comes before the real battle against the Midianites. What Gideon does here is part of the preparations. He prepares the heart of the people unto proper battle against the Midianites.

That applies specifically to the manner in which we must fight. We also need to prepare ourselves first. We must first take care of business at home in our own hearts. There in our own hearts we must repent and reform. If we have not thrown down the altars to Baal there, you and I really live as allies to the enemies on the battlefield. If that is true, then we have no reason to fight. If Gideon had sacrificed to Baal instead and not thrown down the altar, and then went to fight in the LORD’S battles, we would label him a hypocrite. Would not we be hypocritical for doing the same thing?

There is no peace in refusing to repent in our hearts and then to live before men as a member of the church militant, and pretending to fight the LORD’S battles. In other words, it is hypocritical for us to make confession of faith before God, His Church, and the spiritual enemies, but then in our hearts and lives behind the backs of others still sacrifice to the Baals of our sinful hearts. In that way of life, we become useless soldiers. We live as spiritual traitors to the cause of God’s Kingdom and Covenant. In that walk of life, there is no enjoyment of the peace and prosperity of Zion in that lifestyle, but only spiritual misery.

Step number one in the battle of faith is to throw down the altar to Baal and cut down the idols in our own hearts. In that way of returning to Jehovah in repentance, there is the humble and contrite heart prepared to do battle against the mighty enemies. Thus, we learn from the history of Gideon here a principle that applies to the church history. Step number one in the reformation of the church institute is repentance from sin in the hearts of the individual spiritual Gideons.

Let us never forget that this first step requires the almighty and sovereign grace of God. We cannot repent of ourselves. Gideon could not throw down the altar by himself. Only God can and does work in us by His Spirit of sovereign grace to destroy our spiritual idol worship, and to live and confess the One True and Eternal Jehovah. Let us pray for that grace!

Going forward in the battle by faith and repentance, our trust is in Jehovah alone of our salvation. He has set over us the Prince of Peace, the Captain of our salvation. In Him we have forgiveness for our past failures to repent and break down the idols in our hearts. In Him we have the strength and life to repent and then to fight. He fights in and through us by His Spirit. Because Christ has fought for us and won the war on the cross and fights in and through us by His Spirit, one of us shall indeed chase a thousand as God promises. Therefore, we shall do valiantly by grace through faith for the sake of His Zion and His own glory. ❖

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