Issue 68 Summer 2003
|Greetings in the name of the God of
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ. We continue to see turbulence in this country and in the
world over a number of issues. A disquieting feature is the
emergence of the hidden agendas of the war against Iraq, with much
discussion of who said what and when. Frank presents some
thoughts on the present consequences of the conflict, and his youngest
son Philip also contributes an article. May/June saw celebrations
of the 300th anniversary of the birth of John Wesley, a towering figure
in century of profound change. This issue includes a survey of
his life and ministry, together with two of Charles Wesley’s
hymns on the return of the Jews.
The Last Trumpet
John Wesley born 1703
The return of the Jews
More from Europe
Food for thought
Mixed motives (FW)
The Power Brokers in the world today are President Bush, Tony Blair, Europe, Russia and the United Nations. They have combined to produce the Road Map for bringing an end to the continuing conflict in the Land of Israel. These are the forces making decisions about the political problems that face the immediate future, but what are the motives that influence their decisions?
President Bush holds such power that he is able to defy the United Nations and go to war on Iraq in a just cause still awaiting evidence. I believe that he has a real experience of faith in the Lord Jesus, but he has a background of indoctrination in globalism (New World Order). His wealth is derived from oil. When considering the decisions he makes, because of his mixed beliefs, we have to discover his motivation.
Tony Blair is a professing Christian and moved by Christian principles. At a Bilderberg conference that he attended two years ago, he returned a convinced globalist, strongly in support of their plan for Britain to join Europe even though it may mean the destruction of our nation and its Bible heritage. The problem there is that he is sincere.
Ariel Sharon sees the dangers of the Road Map plan and has registered objections which should ensure its failure if adhered to. It seems that he will be strong enough to protect Israel’s interests, though they will lead eventually to war.
Until Saddam Hussein is brought to justice, he remains a power for evil in the Middle East. He may even fulfil the prophecy of Revelation 13:3. Arafat is determined to hold on to power and continues to undermine the work of the appointed Prime Minister of the Palestinians. He rejects the Road Map because he plans the destruction of the nation of Israel. He could accept the plan as a way to that objective.
We find a link in all these attitudes – the need for OIL. Russia, USA, France, UK, and Europe all have this underlying factor which influences their policies. The Islamic Middle East adds an additional consideration that rallies and unites those nations, it is their religion. They aim to establish Islam as the only religion in the world. They are also united by being the largest source of oil in the world. In addition, they see this as a religious war which breeds great hatred for Israel and Christianity.
The world sinks daily beneath the weight of confusion and degeneration, being only offered futile remedies devised by man’s devices. This leads ultimately to a world dictatorship as man’s final destiny before the Return of Jesus. Our Lord Jesus, Paul and Bible prophets proclaimed the same destiny for a world that "lies under the sway of the wicked one". What glory we see when we read the Word of God. Our God does not leave us without hope. He foretells a restoration of this world to a thousand years of peace, prosperity and justice. Jesus "is coming again" in power to restore man to his heritage of a world of blessing when He reigns. "Even so, come Lord Jesus".
The Last Trumpet (PW)
In the autumn of each year, on the 1St Tishrei, the Jews celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the day for the blowing of Trumpets. In Lev 23 and Num 29 the day is listed as one of the seven principal feasts of the Israelite year.
The tradition developed that on this day the Shofar (ram’s horn trumpet ) was sounded from the Temple in a set series of blasts. For the preceding 30 days trumpets had been sounded from the Temple as a call to the nation to repent. This feast marked the beginning of a final 10 days when the need to repent becomes more urgent as Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, approached. Yom Kippur, the day when those who will not humble themselves before God are cut off from the people, Lev 23:29, represented to the Jews the Day of Judgement.
The Bible does not state why the festival is to be celebrated. It merely says that it is to be a reminder. To the Jews it gained several meanings. Rosh Hashanah literally means ‘Head of the Year’. It is the civil New Year. On this day Adam was created and on Rosh Hashanah the present age will end. It was also described as a day of darkness as it is the only feast to be celebrated at a new moon.
The celebration at the new moon led to a problem in knowing which day the feast should start. Therefore the Rabbis adopted what they called a long day by incorporating the 2nd of Tishrei into the 1st in order to be sure that the new moon could be seen and the start of the feast: hence the saying "only the Father in heaven knows the day and hour. "
In scripture there are two times when it is said that God has sounded or will sound a trumpet blast. The first occasion was at Sinai when God made the covenant with Israel, Exod 19:16,19 and Heb 12:9. The second time is when God will rescue Israel and gather them to Jerusalem. Isaiah 27:13 and Zech 9:14. The Jews referred to these as the first and last trumpets. The first trumpet is remembered at Pentecost when the law was given to Moses. The last is to be blown at Rosh Hashanah.
The feast was given a number of other names. Two names are; Ha Melech, the coronation of the Messiah and Yom Teruah, the day of the awakening blast / feast of trumpets. Trumpets are sounded at the coronation of a king, therefore when God sounds His trumpet it is to proclaim that His Christ is now king, Rev 11:15. The day of the awakening blast refers to the belief that it is on this day that the dead will be raised.
Paul is referring to this day when he speaks of the resurrection and transformation of the dead, 1 Cor 15:52 and 1 Thess 4:16. Jesus speaks of the trumpet blast, in terms reminiscent of Isaiah, when He comes to gather His elect from the four corners of the earth, Matt 24:31 In so doing He confirms the understanding of the meaning of this day.
The Crown of Thorns
In his life and ministry, Jesus fulfilled both prophecy, and often the traditions of the Jews. The crown of thorns is an instance of a tradition fulfilled in Christ as a sign to the Jews.
Gen 22, the testing of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice of Isaac, was read every year at Rosh Hashanah. This story was understood to have Messianic significance. The two horns of the ram caught in the thicket represented the first and last Shofar
(ram’s horn trumpets). The full meaning of this story in which Abraham is brought close to the heart of God by being willing to sacrifice his only son and in which it is God who provides a substitute was not appreciated. The Jews rejoiced in the covenant and looked forward to the kingdom. They did not understand that for either to take lasting effect there must be a greater sacrifice than bulls or rams.
On the cross Jesus was forced to wear a crown of thorns. The Roman soldiers who fashioned that cruel crown of thorns did it as an act of contempt and mockery. The Father permitted this act, which increased the agony of His Son, out of love for the Jews. As Jesus hung on the cross, His head caught in the thorns, God gave a final sign. Here is the lamb, who is taking your place.
John Wesley born 1703 (KK)
Isaiah 51:1 "Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.”
For the Israelites it was “Abraham your father”, as of course it is to all who are of faith (Gal 3:9). Coming from the Methodist tradition, it has been instructive for me to look into the life of John Wesley in this 300th anniversary year. Wesley lived from 1703 to 1791, and saw profound changes in the life of the nation.
At the beginning Christopher Wren was finishing St Paul’s cathedral: by the end the first mechanisation in industry had been signalled in 1769 by the invention of the steam engine and the spinning jenny. Politically it was a century of upheaval, here and elsewhere: England’s first prime-minister was appointed in 1721, America declared independence in 1776 and the French revolution followed in 1789.
In music the century began with Bach and Handel, continued with Mozart and Haydn, and ended with Beethoven: it saw the publication of Dr Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, Gulliver’s Travels and Robinson Crusoe. While the population in England grew by 50% in the second half, life changed radically from being largely agricultural to the industrial, city-based regime we have today.
In England there were profound contrasts of wealth and poverty. Life for the working poor (the majority of the country) was very hard and often squalid and degrading. It was to them mainly that Wesley took the gospel. Morally and spiritually the country began the century at a low ebb. After the bitter religious struggles of the previous century there was a desire for reasonableness and toleration.
Under such circumstances the country was ready for either a religious revival or a major civil disturbance. It is thanks to John Wesley and others like him that the former alternative prevailed.
Born into the large, loving and disciplined family of Samuel and Susannah Wesley, he experienced the preserving power of God in the early providential rescue from the burning rectory. From that point he never doubted God’s sovereign control of his life.
At Oxford he joined with a number of like-minded friends whose appetite for holiness was a source of mockery (Methodist was initially a term of abuse). Disciplined Christian living based on the scriptures, fellowship and prayer led to social good works. But all his efforts did not bring about the assurance of salvation of which his father had spoken: "The inward witness, son, the inward witness - this is the proof, the strongest proof, of Christianity."
An abortive visit to the America to minister to the native Americans began with a long and dangerous sea voyage. During the frequent violent storms he was greatly impressed by the composure of the Moravians in the face of mortal danger, in contrast to his own very real fear. He returned to England a disillusioned and broken man, whose intense efforts were only to establish his own righteousness (Rom 10:3). He wrote in his journal "I went to America to convert the Indians; but O! who shall convert me? Who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of mischief? I have a fair summer of religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near; but let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, 'To die is gain!...in a storm I think, 'What if the Gospel be not true?'…"
The Lord provided a counsellor in Peter Boehler, a lecturer in Latin at Oxford. "My brother, my brother, that philosophy (= thinking) of yours must be purged away. " When John Wesley complained, “Ah, how can I preach the faith which I have not got?” Peter answered, “Preach faith till you have it, and then, because you have it, you will preach it.” Boehler spoke of a living faith in Christ that gives "pardon from past, and freedom from all present sins." Wesley was now thoroughly convinced, and by God’s grace, he resolved "to seek it unto the end."
The account of his conversion is recorded in his journal for Wednesday, May 24, 1738. "In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. "
Thereafter Wesley began to preach the gospel of justification by faith to all who would listen. When church after church became closed to him he began to follow Whitefield and preach in the open air. He had to overcome his lifelong practice of decency and order in spiritual matters: "I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if it had not been done in a church".
The rest of his long life was spent in the proclamation of the gospel. Wesley’s achievements are phenomenal. He travelled some 250 000 miles all over the British Isles and preached over 40 000 sermons. He faced much opposition, some of it violent, with equanimity and absolute fearlessness: his principal was "always look a mob in the face". During his travels, mostly on horseback, he worked ceaselessly, editing or writing 400 publications.
He was in every sense a "pattern of good works", seeing these as the outworking of God’s abundant grace in the soul. He lived what he preached. During his lifetime he earned £30 000 from his writings (at the time when a prosperous farmer might earn £170 a year!). Living himself on £30 a year, the vast majority of his fortune he gave away: when he died he left "£10 and an old coat". He set up a "people’s bank" (a forerunner of credit unions), was socially involved with prisoners’ welfare and the fight against the slave trade, and at the age of 80 he begged for the poor in London for four days.
During his travels Wesley wrote a journal "which flows on with such copiousness, variety, and interest to the end of his life" and is, says Birrell, "the most amazing record of human exertion ever penned by man." Social historians have learned to go to it for observation and comment of the rarest value.
Such is the legacy of example John Wesley left. But what has an 18th century cleric to say to 21st century Christians? There are three themes in his life which commend themselves to us.
The first is his singlemindedness, including his serious attitude to time. Albert Outler writes "Wesley's strong-mindedness was something of a family trait; ...caution and faintheartedness had been bred out of him; ...he was constitutionally incapable of doing anything by half". Whatever he did, he did with all his might. (Eccles 9:10). He regarded time as a gift from God and we shall be called to give an account of what we have done with it. He was somewhat obsessive about this: in old age, as he stood waiting for his coach at Haslingden, he complained "I have lost ten minutes, and they are lost forever." His use of time is set out in his journal: "Though I am always in haste I am never in a hurry, because I never undertake more work than I can go through with perfect calmness of spirit." In an increasingly frenetic and stressful world these words have a helpful resonance.
Second, Wesley’s teaching on money that he lived out to the letter – “gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can”. His words will repay prayerful study.
"Will I be acting, not as an owner, but as a steward of the Lord's goods? Am I acting in obedience to the word of God? Is this expense a sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ? Do I believe that this expense will bring reward at the day of resurrection?
These, then, are the simple rules for the Christian use of money. Gain all you can, without bringing harm to yourself or neighbour. Save all you can by avoiding waste and unnecessary luxuries. Finally, give all you can. Do not limit yourself to a proportion. Do not give God a tenth or even half of what he already owns, but give all that is his by using your wealth to preserve yourself and family, the Church of God and the rest of humanity. In this way you will be able to give a good account of your stewardship when the Lord comes with all his saints.
I plead with you in the name of the Lord Jesus, no more delay! Whatever task is before you, do it with all your strength. No more waste or luxury or envy. Use whatever God has loaned to you to do good to your fellow Christians and to all people. Give all that you have, as well as all that you are, to him who did not even withhold his own Son for your sake."
Many shopping trips would be more profitable if they were conducted in the light of this teaching.
Third, and most important, is the gospel Wesley preached, summed up in the so-called "four alls of Methodism" –
1. all need salvation, because all have sinned (Rom 3:23)
2. all may be saved, because it is not God’s will that any should perish (2 Pet 3:9)
3. all may know themselves saved, by the inward witness (1 John 5 :10)
4. all may be saved to the uttermost (Heb 7:35), in view of Jesus’ "full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice" for sin.
Salvation is by grace through faith (Eph 2:8) in the Lord’s atoning death. The cross was paramount. Wesley used the bible as the sword of the spirit. What a difference it would make if all churches experienced preaching like this!
The return of the Jews (KK)
What do Cromwell, the Wesleys and Spurgeon have in common? Principally we find a healthy respect for the word of God, and particularly for its prophetic emphasis. They all realised that before the Lord could return, it was essential for the Jews to return to their ancient homeland. Zech 12:10 says clearly that when Jesus returns, Jerusalem will be a Jewish city with Jews living in it. Cromwell reversed a centuries old ban by allowing Jews into England, as a "staging post" to Israel.
Two hymns about the return of the Jews appeared in the Wesleys’ 1877 hymn book. They are reproduced below. As usual with the Wesley hymns there are many references to familiar scriptures, in this case to Isaiah and Ezekiel.
452 Isaiah lxvi. 19,20.
1 ALMIGHTY God of love,
Set up the attracting sign,
And summon whom thou dost approve
For messengers divine;
From favoured Abraham's seed
The new apostles choose,
In isles and continents to spread
The dead-reviving news.
2 Them, snatched out of the flame,
Through every nation send,
The true Messiah to proclaim,
The universal friend;
That all the God unknown
May learn of Jews to adore,
And see thy glory in thy Son,
Till time shall be no more.
3 O that the chosen band
Might now their brethren bring,
And, gathered out of every land,
Present to Zion's King!
Of all the ancient race
Not one be left behind,
But each, impelled by secret grace,
His way to Canaan find.
4 We know it must be done,
For God hath spoke the word:
All Israel shall the Saviour own,
To their first state restored;
Rebuilt by his command,
Jerusalem shall rise;
Her temple on Moriah stand
Again, and touch the skies.
5 Send then thy servants forth,
To call the Hebrews home;
From East, and West, and South,
Let all the wanderers come;
Where'er in lands unknown
The fugitives remain,
Bid every creature help them on,
Thy holy mount to gain.
6 An offering to their God,
There let them all be seen,
Sprinkled with water and with blood,
In soul and body clean;
With Israel's myriads sealed,
Let all the nations meet,
And show the mystery fulfilled,
Thy family complete!
450 For the Jews
1 MESSIAH, full of grace,
Redeemed by thee, we plead
The promise made to Abraham's race,
To souls for ages dead.
2 Their bones, as quite dried up,
Throughout the vale appear:
Cut off and lost their last faint hope
To see thy kingdom here.
3 Open their graves, and bring
The outcasts forth, to own
Thou art their Lord, their God and King,
Their true Anointed One.
4 To save the race forlorn,
Thy glorious arm display!
And show the world a nation born,
A nation in a day!
More from Europe (KK)
An MP friend has sent me a copy of the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food Supplements (3 July 2003), in which he points out that EU directives are drawn up on the basis of Napoleonic law, "under which everything is forbidden unless expressly permitted, in contrast to British law, under which everything is permitted unless expressly forbidden". That is why a positive list of permitted nutrients is appended to the directive instead of a much more useful negative list of banned ingredients. Now firms need to make a (very expensive) case for the continued use of products which have been harmless food supplements for decades. What about our human right to choose which supplements we take and in what quantities?
Food for thought (KK)
Jacob Prasch of Moriel Ministries observes that it is hard to build a church on what you are against, the so-called "reactive theology". More and more saints are finding it difficult to remain in their churches and fellowships and are choosing to meet separately in homes. This is scriptural in the sense that the early disciples broke bread from house to house (Acts 2:46), and Philemon is written to "Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house". However, the first disciples were also "continuing daily with one accord in the temple", the corporate expression of their individual faith.
|Trumpet Sounds is sent free to all who request it: we leave it to the Lord to supply our needs.|