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The Lord’s Prayer

 

Matthew and Luke both record the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4. As Matthew’s rendering is a little fuller, and the one ordinarily used in worship, we shall use this as the basis of our study. It reads as follows:

 

            “Our Father which art in heaven,

             Hallowed be Thy name.

 Thy kingdom comes.

 Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

 Give us this day our daily bread.

 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

 And lead us not into temptation,

 But deliver us from evil:

 For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”

 

An examination will show that the prayer consists of seven petitions, with an introduction, “Our Father,” and the closing doxology, “For Thine is the kingdom.” It falls into two main sections. The first section –the first three petitions—is concerned chiefly with the glory of God; the second section—the four latter petitions—is concerned with man’s need.

 

At the time when Christ taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, He was discussing the manner in which the Pharisees gave alms. They did this in a manner to attract attention to themselves, “that they may have glory of men.” Matthew 6:2. They would even sound a trumpet before them to make sure that all would know what they were doing and would give them glory. But this acclaim of men would be all the reward they would get. Said Christ, “They have their reward.” Verse 2. He then gave men this advice, “Let not they left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee openly.” Verses 3,4.

By a natural transition, He then discussed prayer. This also should be done in secret.

 

“When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Verse 6.

                                   

Alone in Prayer

 

During the first thirty years of Christ’s life in the crowded house conditions then prevailing, it is unlikely that in the home of His parents He had a room of His own where He could retire for prayer. However, we are certain that He who taught others to pray in secret found both time and place to be alone with God. When He entered His public work, it was also not easy to be alone. Multitudes followed Him everywhere, and at times, there were so many that “they had no leisure so much as to ear.” Mark 6:31.

One time when the disciples were tired out with their heavy work of waiting on the multitude, Jesus suggested that they go “into a desert place, and rest awhile.” so “they departed into a desert place by ship privately.”

 

In going by boat, they hoped the crowd would not follow them. But in this they were disappointed, for when they arrived at the designated place, the people were there already, having gone around the lake by land. Christ, who was also tired, nevertheless “began to teach them many things” (verse 34), miraculously fed the huge multitude, and sent then home. He then “constrained His disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side,” while He remained behind. Verse 45. He Himself “departed into a mountain to pray.” Verse 46.

 

Alone In a Crowd

 

At times, it was not possible for Christ to get away from the multitude, nor were there always mountains to which He could escape. Under such circumstances He prayed where He was, unconscious of the people around Him and undisturbed by their presence. Note this remarkable statement: “It came to pass, as He was alone praying, His disciples were with Him.” Luke 9:18. His disciples were with Him; yet, He was alone.

 

Thus, whatever the conditions were, Christ found a was to be alone with God. In this, we do well to follow Him. It may be some quiet place at home; it may be in the workshop or in some dedicated place in the woods or in the garden; it may be even in the barn or the hayloft—any place where the soul can commune along with God. If no place can be found, we may have to learn how to be alone with God when others are present. It may be while traveling on plane or on train or ship; it may be while talking on the crowded street or in the field. If we are really intent on having a few words with God, we will find opportunity to shut out all other thoughts and commune with Him. There is always time for quiet meditation before we close our eyes in sleep.

 

God is pleased to have us pray publicly; He is pleased when we are faithful in attending meetings for prayer; He is pleased when we read and study about prayer. But none of these good things must or can take the place of secret prayer. Christ said, “Pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Matthew 6:6. This counsel should be heeded. Public prayer, public worship, are commendable and vital. But there is no substitute for the quiet hour with God.

                                   

Vain Repetition

 

“When you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not you therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things you have need of, before you ask Him.” Verses 7,8.

 

Your Father knoweth.” He knows what we ask and He knows what we need. The two are not always the same. He has promised to supply our needs, but not necessarily our wants. There are times when we ask for things which we would like to have, when a little planning would show that we do not need them as much as we sometimes think we so. God knows this; and hence God may think it best not to give us what we want.

Prayer is not primarily designed to get us things; it is rather to teach us to be content with such things as we have. Paul said, “Be content with such things as you have.” Hebrews 13:5. “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” 1 Timothy 6:8. “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Verse 6. Paul lived up to his preaching. He said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11.

 

This does not mean that we are not to strive for something better, to improve our lot. Nor does it mean that we are to be content with ourselves and our progress mentally or spiritually. We are ever to strive for a higher goal as far as we are concerned. We are to be content with what we have, but not with what we are. Too often the reverse is the case: We are content with what we are, discontented with what we have. The following advice is to the point:

 

 

Could you in vision see yourself the person God meant, you would never more could be the person you are, content Could we but vision of what God meant us to be we would never be content with what we are. “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children.”

                                   

A Besetting Sin

 

Discontent is one of the besetting sins of the age, and it is not one to which worldlings only are subject. There are too many discontented Christians, too many disgruntled church members, too many covetous, dissatisfied saints. In our books and attitudes, we do not always give men a correct picture of the joys of Christianity. With our lips, we praise God, but our looks are telling the world that God is not a good Master. If in a home the mother is always downcast and discouraged, the children dissatisfied and sullen, we might rightly draw the conclusion that things are not right in that home, and that probably both father and mother are lacking in certain vital aspects. This is also the conclusion one has a right to draw when God’s children murmur and complain. We are giving God a bad reputation when we fail to show in our lives the joyfulness of serving the Lord.

 

“After this manner therefore pray you.” Matthew 6:9. “Therefore” has reference to the advice Christ has just given, that we are not to display our prayers by standing praying in the synagogues or in the street corners to be seen of men, but that we are to pray in secret, avoiding vain repetitions. To help us form our petitions, to teach us to pray, He now gives us a sample prayer. We do not understand that this is the only prayer we are to use. We may still pour out our souls to God; we may still pray from the heart as God gives us utterance. But the Lord’s Prayer teaches us what is to be included in our prayers, and it does this without the use of vain repetitions, It does not use many words, but is comprehensive, all-inclusive. It is a Christ-ordained prayer, and should have a place in our worship. It fits the individual soul; it fits the family; it fits the church. Even little children can early learn to join the other members of the household in its simple wording.

 

Our Father”

 

“Our Father.” Christians are taught to say “Our Father,” not “My Father.” This opening statement makes the prayer a true universal Christian prayer in that it recognizes the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. “Mine house, “said the prophet, “shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” Isaiah 56:7. Christ endorsed this when He said, “It is not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer.” Mark 11:17.

 

If men of every nation may address God as Father, then all men are brethren, whether they are white, black, brown, red, or yellow. “All ye are brethren.” Matthew 23:8. Among non-Christians, it may be expected that some people should consider themselves better than others, and one nation superior to its neighbor. “But it shall not be so among you,” said Christ, “but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” Matthew 20:26,27.

No Christian, can honestly repeat this first phrase of the Lord’s Prayer and consider himself superior to others. God is not the Father of the Europeans only, or of Americans, or Australians. He is the Father of all. There is no respecter of persons with God; neither should there be among Christians.

 

“Father,” which in the original Greek and in many translations is the first word in the word in the prayer, is the endearing term which Jesus used in addressing the First Person of the Godhead, and which He permits us to use. The idea of the universal Fatherhood of God has been of slow acceptance because of the necessary corollary of the universal brotherhood of men. Says the prophet, “Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us? ” Malachi 2:10. In God’s sight, there is no master race nor any slave race. One man was not created to ride, another to be ridden. Let those who use and revere the Lord’s Prayer have this in mind. The prayer begins with a declaration of the Fatherhood of God, and hence of the unity, dignity, and high origin of all men. “All ye are brethren.”

In permitting us to call God our Father, Christ considers all men as belonging to the family of God, with all the honors, responsibilities, and privileges devolving upon children of such high rank. All should walk worthy of the calling wherewith they are called.

 

To an Indian, God is an Indian to a Chinese, He is a Chinese; to an American, He is an American. Each nation thinks of God as having its own peculiar national characteristics and physiognomy. But God is not a national God; He is not partial to any race, white, black, or brown. He is the God of all; He is the Father of all. This may be disappointing to some who would like to have God in their own image. “Of course God is an American,” said a young lady to me. “What else could He be?” It would be better if artists ceased to make images or pictures of God. “No man hath seen God at any time.”

John  2:18. How, then, can anyone make a picture of Him? It is as unreasonable as attempting to make a picture of the Holy Spirit. Such would be blasphemy. And so is a making image of God.

 

“Father” stands for love, protection, companionship, understanding, guidance, correction, and watch care, compassion. God possesses all these attributes, and doubtless many others, and being our Father and the cause of our existence, has the strongest reasons for exercising His powers in our behalf. We are not to come to Him as to a stranger, or even primarily as to a God, but as to a Father who is bound to us with bands of love, cords that will ever hold. To Him we can open our hearts. In Him, we can safely trust.

 

“Which Art in Heaven”

 

We are wont to think of heaven as being above us, and rightly so. To look up to heaven is to look up to God’s dwelling place. But when those who live on the other side of the earth look up, they look in the exact opposite direction from what we do; and, lo, there is

God also. From whatever point on earth we look to heaven, there is God, surrounding and enclosing us and the whole earth. “If I ascend up to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed i9n hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139:8-10. No place on earth is nearer to heaven than is any other place. God is everywhere, and wherever I go, God is there to guide and uphold me.

 

In some respects, the Father is the forgotten person of the Godhead. In innumerable sermons, Christ is exalted and His name constantly mentioned, as it should be. In word and song, the Spirit is magnified, as is right and proper. But seldom do we hear a sermon of which the Father is the subject. We are in danger of forgetting the Father of all, or relegating Him to a secondary place.

 

There is no jealously in the heavenly Trio. The Father is pleased to hear praise given to the Son and the Holy Spirit. But we think it well not to ignore the Father in our devotions, sermons, and hymns of praise. Christ devoted much time to inform His disciples of the Father. We will do well to study Christ’s teaching on this subject.

 

One of the reasons Christ came to this earth was to reveal the Father to men. The world knew but little of God, and practically all had a wrong conception of Him. To set men right, to give them a true view of the character of God, Christ became man. He was God manifest in the flesh. 1 Timothy 3:16. Men looked upon Him, and as they did, they saw the Father. John 14:9.

 

Not only did the world not know God; His own people, the Jews, did not know Him. They thought of Him as creator, judge, and lawgiver, but not as a kind and understanding Father. This was largely the fault of their leaders. In the time of Christ, it was especially the fault of the Pharisees. They gave the impression that God had not made the Sabbath for man, but man for the Sabbath. No true Jew would minister to the sick on the Sabbath; that would be sacrilege. To carry to a sick person a glass of water would be carrying a burden on the Sabbath and that was forbidden. The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” was interpreted to include insects, and hence some holy persons would carry with them a small broom with which to sweep before them, lest they step on a worm or insect and thus be guilty of murder. Some would hold a cloth before their eyes lest they look on evil and be guilty, and others would do equally irrational things. From such conduct the people a wrong idea of the Father. They saw Him not as a loving and compassionate Father, but as an unreasonable and harsh God, an unjust judge, who delighted in making rules impossible to keep and who would punish those who disobeyed.

 

Christ’s teaching about God was directly opposed to that of the Pharisees. In healing the sick, comforting the mourners, raising the dead, and forgiving sins He was giving men a picture of what God is like. Said He, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” John 14:9. “I and My Father are one.” John 10:30. Men were charmed by His gracious words, as well as mightily moved by them. As He went about spreading good cheer, attending a wedding feast when He thought best, accepting invitations to eat with people, always kind and considerate to all men could not fail to see the vivid contrast between His practice and the teaching of the Pharisees. Christ was revealing God to men.

 

A true doctrine of God is of vital concern to all. If a wrong doctrine can produce the Inquisition, we must not think lightly of studying carefully “the doctrine of God our Savior.” Titus 2:10. For “he that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 9. John considered this so important that he declared, “

 

If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed.” Verse 10.  When we pray, “Our Father,” we invoke the help of One who is truly our Father, who loves and cares for us, and will do anything to help us. He will guide us, counsel us, correct us if need be; but He will do it in love. May we ever keep sacred His name, the name of Father.

 

                                 

Hallowed Be Thy Name”

 

“Hallowed be Thy name” is the first of the seven petitions in the Lord’s Prayer. It concerns the reverence due His holy name. As God Himself is holy, so is His name. We pray that we may hallow that holy name, hold it in reverence.

 

In Old Testament times, a name generally mirrored some outstanding characteristic in the person named. Thus, Jacob earned his name because of the unreliability of his character. Genesis 27:36. He had difficulty telling the truth. After his experience with the angel (Genesis 32:28), God changed his name from Jacob, a deceiver, to Israel, an overcomer.

 

Mary, the mother of Jesus, before the birth of her son was commanded, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21. Jesus, Savior, was to be His name, for He should save His people.

 

If God’s name is to signify all that He is, it must be a special name. And it is. God Himself chose it as the summation of all His attributes, an expression of His total being and eternal existence, the Almighty, the One “which is, and which was, and which is to come.” Revelation 1:4.

Moses had been chosen by God as leader of Israel. As such, it would be his work to go to Egypt, where Israel was in bondage, and persuade the king to let them go. He was also to gather Israel together and persuade them to go. Both of these missions were hard ones, and Moses hesitated to accept this work. He was unknown to the Israelites, having left Egypt forty years before, and he knew if would be a Herculean task to persuade a whole nation to leave all their property and start on a journey that would bring them into a barren desert. He felt that he must have divine credentials, or he could never succeed. So he said to God, “When I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is His name? What shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I SM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” Exodus 3:13,14. In the next verse, God explains further. Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is My name forever, and this is My memorial unto all generations.” Verse 15.

 

This is indeed a strange name; but it is the name God Himself chose. It is His name forever, and His memorial unto all generations. It denotes the Ever-living One, the Self-existing One, the One who always has been and always will be. The original Hebrew word is JHVH, -- Hebrew was originally written without vowel sounds, -- and this name was probably pronounced YAHWEH, from which we get the word Jehovah. The word YAHWEH occurs thousands of times in the Old Testament, and in the American Revised Version is always translated Jehovah, while the King James Version translates it Lord God, written in small capitals. When the reader finds Lord God in his Authorized Version, he may know that the original is Jehovah, God’s self-chosen name, the I AM.

           

This name was counted so sacred by the Jews that it was never pronounced by them. Not only did they not pronounce it, they were even forbidden to think it. When they came to it in their reading, publicly or privately, they substituted in its stead ADONAI.

 

The name Jehovah becomes of interest to us as we learn that commentators in general hold that Jehovah in the King James Version is the name of the Second Person of the Godhead, Christ. The I AM who told Moses that this was His name forever, is the same who calmly told the Jews that He was the I AM. John 8:58. “It was Christ who from the bush on Mount Horeb spoke to Moses saying, ‘I AM THAT I AM.” When Christ with solemn dignity told the Jews, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM,” silence fell upon the vast assembly. The name of God given to Moses to express the idea of the eternal presence had been claimed as His own by this Galilean Rabbi. He  announced Himself to be the Self-existent One. He who had been promised to Israel, ‘whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity.’ “Then took they up stones to cast at Him.” John 8:59.

 

This was not the only time that Christ claimed to be the I AM. One time when the disciples saw Christ walking on the water, they cried out in fear, thinking they saw a spirit. Mark 6:47-50.Christ calmed them by saying, “Be of good cheer: is I; be not afraid.” Verse 50. The Greek reads, “Be of good cheer. I AM.” “And the wind ceased.” Verse 51.

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The name I AM stands for the revealed character of God. This is made clear in God’s answer to Moses’ request that he be shown His glory. Exodus 33:18. Said God, “I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee.” Verse 19.

 

Accordingly, “the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:5-7.

 

The Lord did not proclaim to Moses a name as such. He let His “goodness” pass before him, and that was His name. He told Moses what He was, naming His attributes, His character, His inmost self, His complete personality. That is His name. In effect, God said, “What I AM, that is My name. In addition, this He summed up in the Hebrew word YAHWEH, or Jehovah, I AM THAT I AM, or as some translate, I AM WHAT I AM. What God is, that is His name

 

Christ is the great I AM, that “ever liveth,” “the Prince of life,” “Spirit of life.” Hebrews 7:25; Acts 3”15; Romans 8:2. With Him there “is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1:17. He is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 That is why His name is I AM. When we think of the past, of the days of Abraham, there is the I AM; or if we thing of the future, the “forever,” there is the I AM also. He ever liveth

 

For another reason than that mentioned above, the name of God becomes of special interest to the church of God today; for as John looked, “lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with Him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had His name and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1, R.S.V. this means that they had the character of God impressed upon them.

 

This name is that which was revealed to Moses when God came down on Mount Sinai and let His goodness pass before him and proclaimed the name of the Lord. Exodus 34:4-7. In view of this, it may be profitable to look a little more closely at the attributes listed, for, as far as these attributes are applicable to mankind, the 144,000 will possess them. This is a high honor and a high responsibility.

 

In this first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we express our desire to keep holy and sacred the name of God. Strange that this name should be the one which the world most misuses and take in vain! God’s name is dragged in the filth and slime of obscene curses and oaths and is coupled with Satan’s name in blasphemy. We cannot at all times shut ourselves of hearing this, but we can be warned not to get so accustomed to hearing foul language that it ceases to shock us.

 

As we are commanded to keep holy the Sabbath day, so we are admonished to hallow God’s name, for “holy and reverend is His name.” Psalm 111:9. When we become Christians, we are adopted as members of the family of God and take His name upon us. This name we are not to take in vain; we are not to profane it or bring it in ill repute. Most families are jealous of their reputation and their good name, and guard it carefully from becoming identified with anything that is questionable. God also is jealous of His name and His family.

 

We must not lower the standard which God has set for His people and which He has made possible of attainment by the abundant provision He has made for man to live above sin. But we wish to encourage those who find themselves coming short of their intentions, or who have been taught that the goal is unattainable. Let such be of good cheer. “A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.” Proverbs 24:16. The steps of a good man are ordered by he Lord: and he delighteth in His way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23,24.

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“Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” Micah 7:8. God recons as perfect those who may yet be far from the end of the race, but whose heart is perfect toward Him, who are on the right road and facing in the right direction. They are struggling on, but appear to make little progress. God looks in pity upon them, and though they fall seven times, He will lift them up and cheer them on. It is not necessarily, how far a man has come that counts. It is the direction in which he is going that matters. Hear these heartening words: “When it is in the heart to obey God, when efforts are put forth to this end, Jesus accepts this disposition and effort as man’s best service, and He makes up for the deficiency with his own divine merits.”

 

God admonishes His people to be holy. Leviticus 19:2. He told Abraham to be perfect. Genesis 17:1. He calls Noah perfect. Genesis 6:9. It is evident that the perfection or holiness, which these men had or strove for, was not the final perfection of God or of the saints in glory.

 

It is possible for a thing or a person to be perfect and yet not perfected. “The bud is perfect,” says Isaiah. Isaiah 18:5. So are the seed, the newborn lamb, and the acorn. These things are perfect in every state of development, but full perfection awaits the time of ripening. An apple from the time of the first bloom may be perfect though it is yet green and unfit for food. When at last it is ripe, it is perfected.

           

Paul informed us that he had not “already attained, either were already perfect.” Philippians 3:12. He had not reached the goal he had set for himself. But “I press toward the mark,” he said. Verse 14. Then, having in mind those who with him were pressing forward, he said, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” Verse 15. In verse 15, by the use of the word “us,” he included himself in those who claim perfection.

 

In these verses, Paul exemplified the Biblical use of the word perfect. God counts those perfect who press on and are “thus minded.” “If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” 2 Corinthians 8:12. According to this principle, we are admonished to go on “perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1. The man who is on the right road will at last be counted as having attained, even though he was yet far from perfection.

 

The prayer “Hallowed be Thy name” is a prayer of consecration, a prayer for purity and holiness. It is the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer and thus gives holiness its rightful place. It calls upon men to dedicate themselves to God, to be jealous of His holy name, as they become members of the family of God.

 

Thy Kingdom Come”

           

The kingdom of God for which we are to pray includes three distinct ideas:

 

1.      The kingdom of God on earth, His visible church, consisting of those who have willingly enlisted under His banner. Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9.

2.      The kingdom of God “within you,” the invisible kingdom, consisting of all honest believers anywhere, without regard to church affiliation. Luke 17:21.

3.      The kingdom of heaven, when “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ.” Matthew 8:11; 2 Timothy 4:18; Revelation 11:15.

 

Christ’s preaching concerned itself almost entirely with the “gospel of the kingdom,” which might mean any one of the three named, or all three, as the context indicates.

 

In the beginning of His ministry, Christ “came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:14,15. “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom.” Matthew 9:35; 4:23.the people in a certain place asked Him to stay with them, He declined to do so, saying, “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also.” Luke 4:42,43.

 

The disciples followed the lead of their Master. When He sent out the Twelve He commanded them “to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.” Luke 9:2. When He sent out the seventy, they received this commission: “Say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” Luke 10:9. It is of note but when Christ said that the gospel is to be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, He designated it as “this gospel of the kingdom.” Matthew 24:14. Christ considered the gospel of the kingdom so important that He put it fist on the list of that for which men shall seek. Said He, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things hall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:31-33.

When Pilate asked Christ, “Art Thou the King of the Jews?” He answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:33,36. When Pilate pressed Him further,

 

”Art Thou a king then? Jesus answered, “Thou sayest that I am a king,” an affirmative reply. Christ was a king, but His kingdom was not of this world.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. “The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s,” says David, but the earth hath He given to the children of men.” Psalms 115:16. When the earth was given to Adam, he became, under God, its ruler. When man sinned and came under the dominion of sin, Satan promptly claimed the earth as his and felt emboldened to offer it to Christ on condition of submission and worship. Showing Christ “All the kingdoms of the world, and the glory pf them,” Satan said, “All these things will I give Thee if Thou wilt fall down and worship   me.” Matthew 4:8,9. Satan had assumed charge of this earth, had become its prince, and taken men captive. Christ had come to wrest this dominion from Satan, liberate the prisoners, and establish His own kingdom. Satan understood this, and his first plan was to win over Christ and, if this failed, to tempt and torture Him in an effort to discourage Him from finishing His work. Unless in some way he could overcome Christ, he knew that his own doom was sealed.

 

Christ also knew what was at stake. If He failed, all would be lost. Satan would then have undisputed control, and this world would be his kingdom. Once before, Satan had claimed control over the earth when, as a self-appointed representative from this world, he met with the sons of God as recorded in the book of Job. When God pointed to Job as the true representative, Satan sneeringly answered, “Doth Job fear God for nought? Put forth Thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse Thee to Thy face.” Job 1:9-11. In the test that ensued, Job on, and Satan retired defeated.

 

Once more Satan tried it, and again he was defeated. After this he appears no more in the book. Job stood the test. Satan was not God’s representative. Job was. From any human viewpoint, Christ’s task was impossible. Having taken on the nature of man, how could He ever expect to cope with the powers of darkness? His plan was to win men from the army of Satan, deliver them from the power of darkness, and translate them into the kingdom of heaven. See Colossians 1:13. This would necessitate that Christ attack the stronghold of Satan, who as a “strong man fully armed guardeth his won court.” Luke 11:21.

 

If Christ was  “to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house” (Isaiah 42:7), He would have to enter the prison house Himself and become subject to death; but having in His possession the keys of hell and of death (Revelation 1:18), He would open the prison door, walk out, and take with Him those who wished to be liberated.

 

This is the very thing He did. At the time of His death “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the Holy City, and appeared unto many.” Matthew 27:52,53. Thus, it was possible for Christ through death to “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2:14,15.

           

As stated above, it was Satan’s plan to get Christ to sin, if that were possible, for He would thus come under Satan’s control. Satan did his best in the temptation in the wilderness, but did not succeed. He did his best all through the time of the ministry of Christ, but again he failed. He tried it again in Gethsemane, but found no foothold whatsoever. Said Christ, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.” John 14:30. Christ repelled every dart thrown at Him, resisted every temptation. Successfully He challenged the Jews, “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” and there was no answer. John 8:46.

 

As the climax in the life of Christ approached, the time which Jesus called “your hour, and the power of darkness,” (Luke 22:53), when He single-handed and alone, should enter the domain of death and wrest from Satan “the captives of the mighty” (Isaiah 49:25), His humanity shrank from the magnitude and apparent impossibility of the task. John gives us a glimpse of the inner struggle of Jesus when he quoted Him as saying, “Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour.” John 12:27.

 

These are pathetic words as coming from the Savior. The hour had come, and His human nature quailed before the horror of terror of torture and death. A call to His Father for help would bring Him more than twelve legions of angels. Matthew 26:53. However, was it not for this very purpose that He had come to the world? No, He could not ask to be saved from the agonizing test. But the very fact that He thought of it, reveals His humanity.

 

Only for a moment did Christ hesitate. Resolutely His faith asserted itself. He would go forward. He would glorify God. In addition, souls would be saved. He looked to heaven and said, “Father, glorify Thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” John 12; 28. God had glorified Him in His work on earth, which was to culminate in His death, and would glorify Him again in raising Him from the dead.

 

Christ’s decision was made. He would willingly fulfill His part of the covenant made in heaven. God would not fail Him, but stand by Him. He had just received confirmation that God had glorified and would glorify Him. The prophet of old had asked the question, “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, , or the lawful captive delivered?” Isaiah 49:24. In addition, the answer had come: “The captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered.” Verse 25. God’s promise was sure: “

The Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.” Isaiah 50:7. With these promises in mind, Christ confidently announced, “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” John 12:31.

 

When Christ said this, He knew what the cost would be. He would have to enter the prison house of death. However, He was ready. He had the keys that would free him and the captives. Some think that it was no struggle for Christ to engage Satan in battle, even to the death. Did not Christ know that He would come out victorious? Had He not in heaven measured the cost? Why was not all, then, clear?

 

We have mentioned before that in heaven He and the Father had counted every step and knew the cost. However, it was necessary for Christ to go over the ground again and as man decide what He would do. Even if He were willing to go on with the plan, was He assured of success? Could human nature endure the trial? Should He ask the Father to spare Him from the approaching hour? The fact that He mentioned it at all reveals His inner struggle. He need not have revealed to man that there was any struggle at all. When He does reveal it, He does it for, giving us an insight into the deepest recesses of His mind, that we might understand that the cost made Him tremble, that He knew the tremendous battle He must wage, and that in full knowledge of the cost He made His decision. Let no one think that Christ was not tempted.

 

The prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” has been called a glorious prayer of infinite scope. The Jews were much interested in the coming of the kingdom and incorporated petitions for its coming into their common prayers. Some of the rabbis held that any prayer that did not mention the kingdom was no prayer at all.

 

For the Christian this prayer for the kingdom is of the deepest significance, particularly for those living at this time in the history of this world. The prayer for the establishment of the kingdom of God embraces the incarnation of Christ and His life in humanity, the temptation un the wilderness, Gethsemane and Golgotha, the resurrection and judgment, the destruction of Satan and his kingdom, and the new creation. It is a prayer that God’s plan of salvation may come to fruition that there might be an end of sin, and that righteousness might reign.

 

The prayer also contemplates the preparation of the saints for participation in the kingdom to come. In coming to this world, Christ did His part of the work in destroying the power of the devil. He is now preparing a place for His redeemed in the world to come. However, He left a wok for us to do in preparing men for citizenship in the new kingdom. He will help us in this, but we have a definite responsibility and important decisions to make. No one can do this for us.

 

On one occasion, the Pharisees asked Christ when the kingdom of God should come. Luke 17:20. The question was probably prompted by the fact that while Jesus preached much about the kingdom, He made no practical provision for its organization. The first requirements would be a reasonably large following and the selection of a few capable men of experience to compose the nucleus of the governing body. Christ had none of these. The few that followed Him were of the common people, and the disciples were unlearned, inexperienced men. No kingdom could ever be established on such a foundation. In contempt the Pharisees had asked, “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him?” John 7:48. They were certain that Christ could not establish a kingdom without them, but thus far, He had not made any approach to them or asked them for help. Evidently, they were to be left out. Therefore, to confuse Him they asked when the kingdom should come. Christ answered them and said, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20,21.        


Christ here emphasized the truth that numbers alone are not a safe criterion of success. Mohammed quickly recruited millions of followers. So did Buddha, and so have apostate churches. The time will come when the entire world will wonder after the beast. See Revelation 13:3. Numbers are no evidence of success. In contrast with this, Christ spoke of His church as the little flock. “Fear not, little flock,” He said, “for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32.

 

It is not safe to count outward prosperity as a sign of God’s approval or blessing. We rightly rejoice when we see God’s cause prosper and read of the many accessions to the church. However, God is not impressed by statistics. We should be careful lest we number Israel and prove by means of arithmetic that God is with us. “There is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.” 1 Samuel 14:6. If Christ were on earth now and His work were evaluated by the converts He had at the time of His death, some question might be raised about His success.

 

Figures measure outward growth, but God looks to the heart. The visible church can be numbered, but the figures do not correspond with the books of heaven. There are many on the church roll that God does not include in His church, and there are many that God includes whose names are not on our books. However, it will not always be thus. Jesus said, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: unto them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John 10:16. At that time, the books in heaven and the books on earth will agree. Happy day! We shall see eternal values as God sees them.

 

“The kingdom of God is within you.” “The Lord seeth not as a man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7. It is not numbers, riches, fame, learning, or worldly attainments that interest God. “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool,” He said. Isaiah 66:1. Material things do not count with God, “for all those things Mine hand made.” Verse 2.

He then raised the question, “Where is the place of My rest?” and answered it: “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word.” Verses 1,2. God inhabits eternity; He dwells “in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.” Isaiah 57:15.

 

Christ’s Longings

 

From these statements, we gather that material things do not impress God, “for all those things hath Mine hand made.” He made the heavens with all their glory and beauty, and He inhabits eternity. Yet He longs for something which man can only supply – the love of a pure redeemed soul.

 

Christ felt this longing on earth. “The loneliness of Christ, separated from the heavenly courts, living the life of humanity, was never understood or appreciated by the disciples as it should have been. He was often grieved because His disciples did not give Him that which He should have received from them.” A vivid illustration of Christ’s hunger for the love of man is revealed in the question He asked Peter, repeated three times: “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?” John 21:17. This was after the resurrection. Christ could have gone to heaven and there received the worship and adoration of the heavenly host. This would have been wonderful, but not enough. “He longed for human tenderness, courtesy, and affection.” This the angels could not give, for they had not been permitted to follow Him in His humiliation. Hear these wonderful words: “If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.” John 14:23. And to the last church Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20. Let us open the door.

 

The prayer that the kingdom come will not be fully answered until we reach the earth made new. This prayer brings to us the responsibility to do all in our power to help bring about its fulfillment. We have a definite work to do, for the gospel of the kingdom must be preached in the entire world before the end can come. These two things, therefore, we must do: preach the gospel, and prepare ourselves for that great event. It is of little use that we pray for the kingdom to come, if we do nothing to further its coming. As we begin to comprehend more fully the meaning of this prayer, we agree with the statement that no prayer is real prayer that does not include the kingdom.

 

It is a serious question how far a Christian can honestly pray for the kingdom to come, while making every preparation to stay in this world. We know that Jesus said in the parable, “Occupy till I come.” Luke 19:13. This has been made to mean that we may build and carry on as usual, when the word has no such meaning. In the parable of the nobleman “he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.” The Revised Version says, “Trade ye herewith till I come.” That is, “Use the talents I have given you.” The Greek means, “to be busy with, to trade.” The servants had been given ten talents. Now the nobleman said, Trade with them; get busy. That this is the meaning is evident from the parable itself, for when the master returned, he called the servants together ‘that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.” To apply this parable to anything else than trading with the talents each man had received is to wrest Scripture.

 

This, then, is our work while we are waiting for the Lord to come. Busily engaged in the work of God, we may justify our existence. Let us trade with the one talent we have, and God may give us another.

 

“Thy Will Be Done”

 

“Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” This petition is built on the fact that God’s will is not now being done on earth. If God’s will were done, there would be no war or hatred among nations. There would be no injustice or cruelty, no sickness, sorrow, suffering, or tears. Peace and prosperity would prevail, joy and happiness reign supreme.

 

How have present conditions come about? They are the results of the selfishness, ambition, and greed of men who have forgotten that they arte their brother’s keeper.

 

As a consequence, some nations have an abundance of that for which others are starving. There is enough food in the world for all, but men have not learned the blessing of sharing with those who are less fortunate. Men have forgotten the golden rule; they have forgotten God.

 

God’s will is well expressed by the prophet who said, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Jeremiah 29:11. The Revised Standard Version more correctly reads, “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” When this was written, Israel had sinned grievously, and it appeared that there was no future for them. However, God had plans for them and encouraged them to try once more. He promised that if they would search for Him with all their heart, He would hear them and would turn their captivity. Jeremiah 39: 12-14.

 

God is not an angry God who lies in wait to catch men off their guard so He can punish them. Hear these heartening promises: God “doth not afflict willingly not grieve the children of men.” Lamentations 3:33. If God at times must punish, He does it reluctantly. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. His desire is to “have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4. From the very beginning, God has “chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and the belief of the truth.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13. This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

 

These texts reveal God’s plans for men. He wants every man saved, and is not willing that even one should be lost. His plan includes both a hope and a future, on the condition that we seek Him with all our heart.

 

When we therefore pray that God’s will be done in earth as it is in heaven, we align ourselves with divine power to bring this about. Just what, specifically, does God want us to do so that He can work out His plan in us? What is my duty?

 

A government expresses it will through its law. Each nation ordinarily has a fundamental law, written or unwritten, generally called “a constitution,” which is binding upon all the people. This constitution prescribes and defines the duties of the citizens and is the standard to which all other laws must conform. In a country ruled by a dictator, there is no constitution. The will of the dictator is the supreme law, from which there is no appeal.

 

When God formed Israel into a nation, He publicly entered into a covenant with the people, upon adherence to which they were to become His people and receive His blessings. Moses thus records the event: “And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness. And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. And He declared unto you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, even the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them upon two tables of stone.” Deuteronomy 4:11-13.

 

The covenant law that God proclaimed from Sinai reads as follows: “God spake all these words saying,…

 

1.      Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

2.      Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep my commandments.

3.      Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.

4.      Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blesses the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.

5.      Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

6.      Thou shalt not kill.

7.      Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8.      Thou shalt not steal.

9.      Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

10.  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.”

 

“These words the Lord spake unto all the assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and He added no more. And He wrote them in two tablets of stone, and delivered them unto me.” Deuteronomy 5:22.

 

“And I turned myself and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they be, as the Lord commanded me.” Deuteronomy 10:5.

 

Christ in His Sermon on the Mount endorsed this law, and compliance with it was made a condition of salvation. Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, Luke 10:25-28, 18: 18-23.

 

From early Christian experience I had been taught that in religion there is no place for independent judgment, that I was not to use my mind, but trust in God and have faith. The advice was well meant and largely true. We are to have faith, and we are saved by faith and not by works. However, the suggestion that we are not to use our minds is entirely untrue. We are to serve God with our mind as well as with other faculties. Hear these words of Christ: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: This is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30,31. See also Matthew 22: 37; Luke 10:27. As a fresh breath from heaven come the words, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 1:18. Is it possible that God invites me to reason with Him? Paul supported the idea when he said, “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.” 2 Timothy 2:7. “Consider” is defined: “To look closely, to examine, to think about, to ponder in order to understand and decide, to observe, comprehend.”  Did Paul mean that I have a right to consider what he said? To think it over? And what did he mean when he said, “I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.” 1 Corinthians 10:15. Perhaps we had expected to hear Paul say, “Swallow what I say.” Instead of this, he appealed to men’s good sense, and told them to consider what he said. He was so sure of his grounds that he was will to leave the decision with the hearers.

 

God is pleased when we use the mind He has given us and seriously consider a matter before taking action. Such is not an act of disbelief, but of intelligent faith. There must indeed be no doubtful hesitation in obeying God; but ordinarily He gives us time for reflection, that we may see the light in His light and follow on to know the Lord.

 

Little children should be taught to obey without questioning. However, as the child grows older, the wise parents will use a different method. They will spend time in explaining the reasons for certain requirements. As the child gets the parent’s viewpoint, there will be intelligent co-operation, unless the child is willfully stubborn.

 

It is thus God deals with us. He wants to reason with us; He wants us to consider, to judge. God treats us as grownups, which appeals to a child. As we think matters through, we see wisdom in what might otherwise seem an arbitrary and unreasonable demand.

 

God could sit on His throne and issue His sovereign decrees without giving any reason for them. However, He chooses the better way. He reveals His secrets to His servants, the prophets. Amos 3:7. He talked things over with Abraham before destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 18:20-33. He would never dare give us the right to think, did He not know that when we have time to consider the matter, we would agree with Him. How can any fail to appreciate such a God! He makes us feel that we count. We are not mere automations. Let no one misunderstand. God demands obedience. However, He talks things over with us and leaves to us the final decision.

 

While, generally speaking, every request that God makes of us is a reasonable request, there are times when He tests us to see what we will do under certain circumstances. He tests us to see if we have learned to trust Him absolutely and if we will obey even without understanding them. Of such was the order to Simon Peter, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draft.” Luke 5:4. Jesus was no fisherman, and Peter was. In addition, Peter had been fishing all night and caught nothing, and in daylight, it was no use to try again. Peter made a weak protest (verse 5), then let down the net, and the result was a greater catch than Peter had ever had before. This was Peter’s first lesson in obedience. Years later when Christ told him to cast the net on the right side, there was no arguing. John 21:6. Peter could have argued that there was no more fish on the right side than on the left. However, he had learned his lesson.

 

When Abraham was told to take his son Isaac and offer him on the mountain God should show him, he did not hesitate. Genesis 22:2,3. He could not understand, but in previous years, he had learned to trust God. Abraham stood the test for obedience.

 

These are interesting events, and there are others in the Bible. God likes to talk over with His men, to prepare them for the time when there must be prompt and instant obedience.

 

God’s Will in Me

 

It is well to pray that God’s will be done in earth as it is in heaven, for that calls our minds to fields far and near where God’s will is not being done or even known, and where we might be of some help. If we Christians pray this prayer, we cannot be inactive; for we have it in our power to help answer the prayer. When Jesus said, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14), He was depending on us to do our part. He knew that such preaching was necessary if God’s will was to be done. By our work with our neighbors, by our interest in fields’ afar, we may in a very definite way speed the day when God’s will shall be done in the earth.

 

There is, however, a very personal application of this prayer that is of more importance than anything we can do for others. That is accepting God’s will for ourselves. If we do this and our life becomes a God-directed life, He will be enabled to use us in ways we do not now understand or think possible. In the abstract, it is easy to pray, “Thy will be done.” Are we willing to make it personal?

 

It must have been a momentous disappointment for Moses when he was put aside and not permitted to enter the Promised Land and Joshua was given his place. He pleaded for permission to go in and see the land, but his prayer was denied. Deuteronomy 3: 23-27.  As for Joshua, God said to Moses, “encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before the people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land.” Verse 28.

 

Moses bowed to the will of God, and on His behalf “he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, be strong and of good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee.” Deuteronomy 31:23. Moses did not enter the earthy Canaan; he died and God raised him from the grave in immortal glory.

 

Elijah must have been much discouraged when after the great day on Mount Carmel, where he did mighty exploits for God and won a signal victory, God rebuked him for his cowardly flight from Jezebel, and told him to put his mantle on Elisha. However, he did not murmur. When he found Elisha, he “cast his mantle upon him.” 1 Kings 19:19.

 

However, God had not forsaken Elijah. He and Elisha worked together, until Elisha was fully able to take over the work. Then one day, as they walked along together talking together, “behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” 2 Kings 2:11. Elijah’s work on earth was done; so God took him to heaven.

 

It must have been hard for Paul, the active and energetic one, to sit still in prison day after day and year after year. In the midst of a busy and useful life he was placed on the sidelines, his work apparently done, though he was still in the strength of manhood and planning a worldwide work. Alternatively, was his work done? No, God was merely changing his work. He had been so busy traveling and preaching that he had not had time to do the writing God wanted done. There was yet a great deal of the New Testament to be written, and Paul was the man to do it. However, he was too busy. He needed quietness and freedom from the care of the churches. Therefore, God arranged for him a time of quietness, and Paul immediately went to work. By writing fourteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, he doubtless did more good that he did during his active ministry.

Paul was willing to be set aside, and in his retirement he did a mighty work for God. He had learned in whatever state he was, therewith to be content.

 

What shall we say of John the Baptist? He had done a valiant work for God in preparing the way for Christ, and now that this work was done, he was consigned to prison and apparently forgotten. Did envy and jealousy fill his heart with discontent as a greater One had taken his place? No, a thousand times No. John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30. Had Jesus forgotten him? “Among them that are born of woman there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” Matthew 11:11.

 

It is not easy to say, “Thy will be done,” when one is set aside. However, the men we have mentioned had learned the lesson. Therefore, Moses and Joshua appeared together, and Moses strengthened and encouraged Joshua. Elijah and Elisha walked and talked together, and the younger man was instructed by the older. Paul willingly changed his work and accomplished more than ever. Moreover, John cheerfully stepped aside when the greater than he appeared. All these accepted God’s way, though it must have cost some of them great sorrow. All of them learned one of life’s greatest lessons, to bow to disappointment, to say, “Thy will be done,” and cheerfully do what God had for them to do. It is not easy to be set aside. However, this is the part of the program of life. He that can bow to the will of God, who can say from the heart, “Thy will be done,” may be set at another task where he can still serve.

 

There may be those among the readers who have been set aside and resent it. Let us repeat: This is part of life, a lesson that all must learn. There may be wives who have been put aside and are passing through the experience of loneliness and of not being wanted. There may be grandparents who once had a happy home where all were welcome. Now they are given a rocking chair in a corner and are given to understand that they are not to make themselves too prominent when “company” comes.

 

There are those who have held high office in state or church or institutions. Their counsel, which once was sought eagerly, is not in demand any more; they are outdated. The shock is almost unbearable for some persons.

 

It is easy enough to say that God’s will be done, when all goes well. However, it is not easy to say this when a loved one is on the deathbed and hope is gone. It is not easy to say it when we are personally involved, when we are incapacitated and feel we are in the way and our usefulness is at an end. It was not easy for Christ to say it in Gethsemane. However, He did say it, and a world was saved.

 

Frustrations and disappointments are a part of life and an important part. For in the darkness God may be hid. If we relate ourselves rightly to reverses and “dis-appointments,” they may become “His-appointments.” If we accept the disappointments as ordered or permitted by God we may see God’s will being done in our reaction. Therefore let all pray, “Thy will be done in me.”

 

“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”

 

This petition does not ask for luxuries, but for bread, the barest necessities of life. The historian Gibbon, in recording one of the many famines in olden times, makes the observation that some of the delicate ladies in Rome learned for the first time how little it took to sustain life.

 

They had feasted on nightingale’s tongues and other delicacies, and now they were happy to get a crust of bread. This is a good lesson to learn. Paul says, “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” 1 Timothy 6:8.

 

God’s promise does not include palatial homes, rich appointments, and all the latest conveniences. While we would not exclude these under appropriate circumstances, they are not included in Christ’s prayer. In it, we ask for bread.

 

God does not frown on riches. If we have honestly acquired some of the good things of life, and if we use them rightly, we thank God for them. Job was the richest man in all the East, and God blessed him. Abraham was a rich man, and so were David and Solomon.

 

God is not against riches, but against their misuse. Men who have riches and look down on others who have not, men who forget that it is God who gives power to obtain wealth and that they are not owners but stewards of their possessions, men forget that a part of what they have God requires of them, men who forget their brother’s need and close their eyes to the cry of the world – such will find it hard to enter heaven. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for them to gain eternal life. Matthew 19:24.

 

In daily bread we are justified in including not only bread to sustain life, but such things as shelter, clothing, health, and also for the mind and, of course, spiritual needs. Many people of the world need bread, many are undernourished, and children suffer for want of that which we waste. A terrible responsibility rests upon those who have, who store up, who waste while others starve. This holds for nations and individuals. However, great as the need is for temporal food, we must admit that there is a great need for intellectual and spiritual nourishment. In some respects, this need is even greater.

 

The prayer for bread furnishes an excellent illustration of how God answers prayer. We ask for bread, and then we work in the sweat of our face to provide it ourselves. Even though Christians believe in prayer, no one would think of asking God to furnish food without any effort on the part of the one who prays. Even when God sent manna from heaven, the Israelites had to go out and gather it. God did indeed send ravens with food for Elijah, and God can do the same today; but this is not God’s ordinary way of working.

 

It is just as consistent to ask God for bread and expect Him to bring it to our door, as to ask God for any other blessing a hand to help ourselves. The fact that we in most instances are to answer our own prayers needs to be impressed upon all. We may ask God to convert the heathen; but if so, we are not to look the other way when the collection plate is passed. God helps those who help themselves – and others. 

To those who are religious but unconcerned about their brother’s temporal needs, God sends a warning. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, they say, and Thou seest not. Wherefore we have afflicted our soul, and Thou takest no knowledge?” Isaiah 58: 1-3.

 

The people who make the complaint that God takes no notice of them are religious people. They fast and afflict their souls, but God does not hear. They seek God daily and ‘delight in approaching to God.” And still God does not hear their prayers. They think He ought to. They pray daily.

 

What is wrong with them? In His answer, God tells them wherein they fail. They pray and afflict their souls, they fast and keep the ordinances of God, but God ignores them. They do not keep the right kind of fast. Then God tells them what to do. They fast to be seen of men. They go with bowed heads and spread sackcloth and ashes under them. “Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?” asks God. Verse 5. Is not this the true fast, God said, “to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house [not to the poorhouse or some public institution]? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thy own flesh?” Verse 7. God’s further demands are “to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke.” Verse 6.

 

This calls for personal work for the needy and oppressed, not merely for a donation, even though it be liberal. It calls for social justice and the breaking of every yoke. Most of all, God wants His people to get in personal contact with the needs of the world. It is not enough to abstain from foods when the larders are full. It is rather to empty the larders and give to the needy so that nothing is left for the giver himself. God delights in that fast. There is no virtue in going without food when there is an abundance in the house. However, to give “thy bread to the hungry” – that is real fasting.

 

If we do this, God promises many blessings. God will hear our prayers. “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer…. If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” Isaiah 58: 9-11.

 

In these verses, God reveals some reasons why prayers are not answered. We have not considered the needs of others, as we should. We have prided ourselves on what we have done, and cannot understand why God does not hear our prayers. Why does God not give more signal answers to our prayers? Why does He not hear our prayers for healing? Why does He not hear our prayers for conversations? Why are so many of our young people slipping away? Why are there so many divorces? Why is there such small attendance at the prayer meetings? 

Why, why, why, why? We have given, we have worked, we have prayed. Why does God not hear? It would be well to study carefully and playfully the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. In that chapter, there is light for God’s people at this time. There is more religion in a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk than in the most profound lecture on predestination or in a discussion of the identity of the king of the north.

 

Christ mixed religion and practical Christianity. He preached to the people, and He fed the multitude. He did not prepare a banquet for them; He just gave them what was on hand, loaves and fishes. However, they had enough and to spare. Matthew 15:32-39; 15:21. It may be supposed that many of those He fed were unworthy. They were more interested in the loaves and the fishes than the preaching. John 6:26. However, this did not deter Christ from feeding them; He ministered to the body as well as the soul.

 

Some will wonder why we should ask God for bread, when others do not ask and yet have as much as those who ask. In fact, some of those who do not ask have more than those who pray. Why, then, ask?

 

In asking for bread, we recognize our dependence upon God, not only for bread, but also for our very existence. It is customary in accepting an invitation of hospitality to express our thanks to the host. Can we do less to God, the Giver of all good things? All may not thank God; but whether they do or not, God will send sunshine and rain, and through His divine alchemy transform the life of the seed into the life of a soul, capable of thinking, of willing, of doing, a candidate for immortality. Shall such bountiful liberality go unrecognized? If it is crude and boorish to neglect to thank a host, can it be any less to fail to thank God? However we treat Him, He will still provide for us. However, He would appreciate being recognized as the Giver.

 

As it is necessary to have food for the body, so also is it necessary to have food for the mind. Without physical food the body would shrivel up and death, ensue. So with the mind. It needs proper food to prosper.

 

The human mind is a wonderful instrument. We need to consider the inventions of the last few decades to have this demonstrated. Time and again men have wondered if the human race would not arrive at the ultimate, where there would be no new fields to explore, no more knowledge to be gained, no more things to be invented. That outlook has entirely changed. Men have come to the point where they see unlimited work before them, vast fields that are calling for exploration. Their work is only well begun. With the conquering of Mount Everest, men began to look still higher and are seriously considering communications with other worlds, and even visits to them. As in the days of the Flood, when men decided to build a tower that would reach to heaven, so men are having great celestial projects in mind. Why not create a few satellites and set them encircling the earth, constituting bases from which expeditions might be launched to reach some other planets? 

 

Will God permit men to go just so far, as He did in the days of the Tower of Babel, and then bring about confusion at the time when men are ready to climb to heaven? Genesis 11:1-9.

 

As science marches on and reveals the capacity of the human mind, the evil one is at work, turning much of the knowledge gained into destructive channels. Some scientist have been perverted so as to destroy faith in a Creator, have substituted evolution for creation, and have made both the Creator and the Savior seem unnecessary.

 

Some men are making weapons to destroy mankind; others are propounding theories that destroy belief in God. It would seem that mankind is nearing the end of the road and that soon God will step in and take charge. It is high time for God to work.

 

Through the three great agencies of the press, radio and television, the information and knowledge are now being disseminated at an unprecedented pace. Their possibilities for good are almost unlimited, and the future may see even greater progress.

 

There are serious doubts, however, that present developments warrant an optimistic appraisal of their eventual value to society. A drastic change must take place. Can the coming generations, the children of today and the leaders of tomorrow, remain unaffected by the persistent portrayal of crime, lust, and murder? Can their intellectual diet of pulp magazines; cheap pornographic literature, corrupting novels, Sunday “funnies,” and sex exposures develop the kinds of fathers and mothers or leaders that the world needs? Is the screen justifying its existence as a builder of manhood and a trainer of citizens? The “legitimate” stage had this redeeming feature: The admission price was too high for children. However, the screen has no such impediment. Therefore, we may see queues of children of tender age, waiting to be admitted to shows that should never see the light of day. Garbage is not good food for growing children, nor for adults.

 

It seems quite inconsistent for a government to enforce strict supervision over the food supply of a nation, by means of pure food and drug departments and then permit men to fill the minds of the children with filth, swill from unclean reservoirs.

 

Has God given the church the means to counteract this evil, at least as far as its own children are concerned, or are we helpless against these corrupting practices? Unless the church becomes fully awake to the danger of these modern inventions and takes adequate measures to save our children, the loss will be great. A world conflagration demands heroic countermeasures. To a prophet of old, sensing a crisis came the message, “Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not Thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” Joel 2:17. 

 

The enemy has entered our homes; he is enthroned in the living rooms; he gathers the whole family together and shows them alluring pictures. He adapts his pictures to the mental capacities of the little ones, nor does he forget the older members. Mealtime is changed; bedtime is changed; the worship hour is adjusted; children refuse to go to bed until they have seen their favorite production. All are entranced. A telephone call is an unwanted interruption; a visitor is a disturbance; all are immoveable until the hour is past. And by the time, all are unfitted for worship. Never before has such corruption been permitted in the homes, and never before has the danger to the young been so great. The time has come to weep between the porch and the altar, and do something. Who will show the way? 

 

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4. Man needs daily bread to sustain life; he needs food for his mind; but most of all he needs spiritual food for his soul. He needs “the true bread from heaven.” John 6:32.

 

The Jews to whom Christ was speaking did not comprehend what He was saying; so, He explained further: “The Bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” “I am the Bread of Life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.” John 6: 33,35. It is that bread on which Job says, “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” Job 23:12. 

 

The Jews still did not understand, so Christ explained further, “I am the living Bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 6:51. “Many therefore of His disciples, when they had heard this, said, this is a hard saying; who can hear it?” “From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.” Verses 60,66. 

 

It seems strange that many of His disciples had so little spiritual conception of Christ’s word that they should become offended and walk no more with Him. Yet, many today seem equally dull of perception. They are so engrossed in the things of this world that spiritual things are a closed book to them. Whether they know it or not, they need food for the soul even more than they need food for the body. 

 

The Bible is our chief source of spiritual food. There are green pastures and the still waters. There our soul may be restored. There the table is spread in the presence of enemies. There we may safely rest, and we will have no want.

 

We may find spiritual food at the Communion table, in the hour of divine worship, in quiet meditation and prayer. We may find it in the family circle as in morning and evening worship the incense of Christ’s righteousness ascends with the prayer to the throne of God; we find it in the devotional books indited by God; we find it in reverent contemplation of God’s handiwork in nature, in the heavens above and in the earth beneath. We find it in the communion of the saints, in the ministry of the needy, at the bedside of a loved one. We find it as we face life’s dark moments, as we give spiritual consolation to one entering the valley of the shadow of death.

 

For the devout soul, there are spiritual values everywhere. And we may have them if we ask for them in the name of Him who taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

 

The Bible is the most wonderful textbook in the world, adapted to all classes of people everywhere. The untutored aborigines and the learned scholar can there find spiritual food and consolation. In it can be found the A B C of godliness and the deepest and most profound problems of existence. It is a textbook that can never be exhausted. In school, we may graduate from one class to another and find a little harder textbook as we advance.

 

In the Bible we also advance, but the textbook is the same, miraculously adapted to every man, whatever his standing or attainment. While the practice of some to read the Bible through as often as possible is commendable and much good may be gained, this should not be the ordinary or only procedure. It is like going through the country in an automobile at sixty miles an hour and viewing the landscape. This is good, and a general bird’s-eye view may be had and much of beauty seen. However, it is well to stop once in a while, get out, and look at the flowers, a waterfall, a Grand Canyon, a cliff dwelling, a dam, a secluded valley or the “Great White Throne.” It is well to rest awhile in the cool shade of the majestic trees from of old, or delight in the bloom of the desert. 

 

We are not depreciating the practice of reading the Bible through even many times. However, neither must we miss the joy of finding a rose in the desert, or the beauty of heaven in a little lake, or the sweet companionship of saints as we journey along.

 

In Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, he took the believers to task for not studying, as they ought. “When for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” Hebrews 5:12.

 

This was a serious rebuke to the church. “Ye ought to be teachers.” This may be true of many today. They have not improved their talent; have not advanced in the truth, as they ought. They have need of milk, when they should be ready for more solid food. 

 

“Everyone that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness.” Verse 13. There is indeed a “sincere milk of the word;” but it is for babes, “that ye may grow thereby.” 1 Peter 2:2. A little babe is wonderful, but a sixty-two-year-old babe is not. Such a one needs to be weaned and learn to feed himself and masticate his food, not depending on others to do it for him. If he is ever to grow up, he must learn to tackle hard problems in his study. Note these instructions:

 

The study of the Bible demands our most diligent effort and persevering thought. As the miner digs for the golden treasure in the earth, so earnestly, persistently, must we seek for the treasure of God’s word.

 

 

In daily study the verse-by-verse method is often most helpful. Let the student take one verse, concentrate the mind on ascertaining the thought that God has put into the verse for him, and then dwell upon the thought until it becomes his own. One passage thus studied until its significance is clear is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained.

 

Everyone should seek to understand the great truths of the plan of salvation, that he may be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks the reason for his hope. You should know what caused the fall of Adam, so that you may not commit the same error, and lose heaven as he lost Paradise. You should study the lives of the patriarchs and prophets, and the history of God’s dealing with men in the past; for these things were ‘written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.’ We should study the divine precepts, and seek to comprehend their depth. We should meditate upon them until we discern their importance and immutability. We should study the life of the Redeemer, for He is the only perfect example for men. We should contemplate the infinite sacrifice of Calvary, and behold the exceedingly sinfulness of sin and the righteousness of the law. You will come from a concentrated study of the theme of redemption strengthened and ennobled. Your comprehension of the character of God will be deepened; and the whole plan of salvation clearly defined in your mind, you will be better able to fulfill your divine commission.        

 

“Forgive Us Our Debts”

 

When Christ took our sins upon Himself, died, and thus paid our debt, we became indebted to Him. The price He paid for our redemption was so great that we can never repay it. In addition, He does not expect us to. However, He does expect us to recognize it and express our willingness to do all we can to show our appreciation. Moreover, on some of the gifts He has given us He requires that we pay interest.

 

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul enunciated a principle according to which God works, and which is most comforting. He said, “If there be a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” 2 Corinthians 8:12.

 

Paul had been collecting money for the poor in Jerusalem. A year had passed, and some of the pledges were not yet paid. He encouraged them to finish the task, saying, “Now therefore perform the doing of it;” that is, pay up, “that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which we have.”  Verse 11.

 

They had been slow in paying, and even now some were unable to pay all they had promised; but, he said, pay “out of that which ye have;” that is: If you cannot pay the whole sum now, pay what you can, and it will be “accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.”  This was most liberal and gracious.

 

In harmony with this statement is the following quotation, given also elsewhere: “when it is in the heart to obey God, when efforts are put forth to this end, Jesus accepts this disposition and effort as man’s best service, and He makes up for the deficiency with His own divine merit.” E.G. White, Signs of the Times, June 16, 1890.

 

While we can never pay the debt we owe, we can recognize it and make known to the world that the debt is paid for us and for them, “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:19-21.

 

“As We Forgive Our Debtors”

 

The great debt we owe to God was incurred in the forgiveness of sin that necessitated the death of Christ on the cross. “All have sinned.” Romans 3:23. This means that we have sinned, that I have sinned. In His fathomless love, God forgave us all, and we are free from condemnation and have passed from death unto life. Should not this fill our hearts with thanksgiving and joy?

 

However, there is one important condition on which this forgiveness depends: We are forgiven our sins only as we forgive others fully and freely. God has forgiven us; now we are to forgive others. “If we forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if we forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14,15.

 

This forgiveness is to be extended to those who have offended us, whether they ask for forgiveness or not. If they do not come to us to ask forgiveness, we are to go to them. “If thou bring thy gift to the alter, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee [not that you have aught against him]; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Matthew 5:23,24. If you have committed one wrong and they twenty, confess that one as though you were the chief offender.

 

Once Peter asked Christ how often he should forgive his brother. To this Jesus answered, “Until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21,22. Jesus then spoke a parable about forgiveness, emphasizing that forgiveness of our own sins depends on our forgiving those who have sinned against us.”

 

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshiped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, pay me that thou owest. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desirest me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses.” Matthew 18:23-35.

 

No one can misunderstand the lesson of this parable. The servant had been forgiven much showed an unforgiving and cruel attitude toward the one who owed him a small sum; and though he had already been forgiven and his great debt marked paid, the judgment was reversed and he was condemned to pay all that he owed.

 

This parable teaches clearly that we are forgiven only as we forgive, and that it is useless to ask to have our sins forgiven unless we “from the heart” forgive those who have sinned against us.

 

God has entrusted to all men one or more talents for which we are held responsible. They constitute a debt on which He expects us to pay interest. This is clearly taught in this parable:

 

“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one, he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded them with the same, and made them another five talents. And like wise he that had received the two, he also gained another two. However, he that had the one talent went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received the five talents came and brought another five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also, that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knowest that I reap where I sowed not, and gathered where I have not strawed: thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and ye shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Matthew 25:14-30.

 

In the parable, he that received five talents gained another five, and he was told, “Well done.” Each had been given the number of talents he could use, “according to his servants ability.” The Lord did not expect a return of five talents from the one who had been given two. On the other hand, He would not have been satisfied with a return of two talents from the one who had been given five.

 

The man who had received one talent did not attempt to improve it, but buried it in the earth. We are not told the reason for his failure to trade with it. He might have thought that it was small and did not matter. He may have been discontented wit receiving only one talent when the others received more. From the fact that he called the master a hard man, we may presume that he felt unjustly treated. Had he improved his one talent, he doubtless would have received another one, with the commendation of the master, “Well done.”

 

The excuse he gave was, “I knew thee that thou art an hard man…. And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.” This was a lame excuse. Had he really thought that the Lord was a hard master, should he not have been the more anxious to get his good will by paying him back with interest? He was not acting wisely.

 

What are these talents? They are skills with which God has endowed men, the inclinations, the capacities, the aptitudes which make one man a poet, another an author, another a preacher, another a carpenter, another a counselor, another a watchmaker. As related to the church, one has the gift of song, another of playing instrumental music, another of storytelling for the children, another for teaching a class, another of doing Dorcus work, another visiting, another of arranging flowers, another of giving “chalk talks.” One who may not be able to sing a solo can join the choir and do his part. Everyone can do something. Everyone has at least one talent. And note: It was the one who had only one talent who did not use it and hence lost it. So, let the one-talent man beware! Let him not bury his talent. If he had done so, let him dig it up and use it. It is not enough to be a church member. Everyone can do something, however lowly the task, and be blessed in doing it. As he does the best, he can, as a reward God may give him another talent, which will increase his work and his blessings.

 

In 1 Corinthians 12: 8-11, Paul gives this list of talents: “To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.”

 

Later in the same chapter he says this: “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then the gift of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.” Verses 28-31.

 

Among the great gifts here mentioned, note the little word “helps.” There are those who are not gifted to lead out in various enterprises, but are excellent help. They may not think they are doing anything vital, just ‘helping along.” However, that may be very important at times. We are constantly hearing the call for leaders, and these are needed. But it is just as true that we need followers, men who are willing to fill in, playing ‘second fiddle,” doing small menial tasks that need to be done. For a while Elisha, who later became a great prophet, did little else than pour ‘water on the hands of Elijah.” 2 Kings 3:11.

 

 Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor.” 1 Corinthians 3:8.This means that every man can determine his own reward, and that this will be according to his work. He can determine to do a great work in his line, and receive a great reward; or to do but little, and receive a small reward. Let no one, therefore bury his talent. Do not evade responsibility. If you are asked to take a position, consider the matter, someone has confidence in you that you can do the work or soon grow into it. Pray over it, but be sure your prayers are not biased. Moreover, be sure not to bury your talent in the ground, however small the talent may seem.

 

Christians are in debt to the world in a sense different from that which we have discussed. Of this Paul said, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” Romans 1:14,15.

 

Every Christian ought to do his share of the world’s work. He ought to be a good citizen, obey the law, honor the government, pay his taxes, and take part in endeavors he can honestly support. There are too many of these for him to be active in all, but he can choose one or more and do his honest share.

 

The Bible direction is: “To do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11. In his next letter he added, “this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” That is, Christians should not “live on” others, as some evidently tried to do in Thessalonica. Paul was not in the habit of commanding his hearers. However, in this instance, he commanded that if any will not work, neither should he eat. Christians must justify the protection they get from the government. They must do their part in every good word and work.

 

However, aside from this civil responsibility, they owe a debt to the world, of which Paul spoke when he said he was a debtor to all men. The Christian has something the world does not have, the gospel and this he should share with them.

Paul felt keenly the burden of that debt. He knew what awaited him in Rome: opposition, imprisonment, death; but this did not deter him. He owed Rome a debt, and he must pay it, whatever it might mean to him personally. Therefore, Paul went to Rome.

 

We owe a debt as surely as Paul did. This accounts for foreign missions. Paul did not confine his work to his own circle. He had a world vision. He took Isaiah’s statement literally, that it was too light a thing for him to minister to Israel only, “to restore the preserved of Israel,” to minister to those who already were in the church. God said, “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6. Paul accepted this responsibility.

 

Applying this principle to the situation today, we find ourselves confronted with a world task. Under these conditions, it is too light a thing that we should confine our work to our own neighborhood. It is well that we have revivals “to restore the preserved of Israel.” However, we must not devote an undue portion of our time to work of that nature. We must lift up our eyes and view the field. The gospel must be sent to the entire world, and precious talent must not be confined to hover over the churches. We cannot all go to field’s afar, but we can all sacrifice; we can all pray. To such as cannot go but gladly would if circumstances permitted, this precious promise is given, that “as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike.” 1 Samuel 30:24. Blessed be God.

 

There are many who would gladly go into public work if they were free to do so. However, home duties hold them. There are faithful mothers and wives who must stay at home and are deprived of the joy of assisting their husbands in soul-saving work. Let them be of good courage. The Lord understands. He promises that those who tarry by the stuff shall share with them that go down to the battle. Wonderful promise! If we get forgiveness for our sins only upon condition that we forgive them that trespass against us, the first thing we must do before we ask forgiveness is to examine our own hearts to ascertain if there are those we have not forgiven. As is noted above, we are not to wait until they come to us. We are to go to them. Matthew 5:23,24. Christ considered this so important that He said we are to leave our gift at the altar and go first to see the brother, and then bring the gift.

 

God commends prayer, and He would have all men pray. However, there are times when prayer must wait. Go first, He said, and be reconciled with thy brother. If all followed this advice, there would be love and harmony in the church, and Christ’s promise would be fulfilled, that “If ye have love one to another,” then “shall all men know ye are My disciples.” John 13:35.

 

Let the mind dwell for a moment on this promise. We all desire to convince the world of the truths we hold. We like to have them be convinced that there are a people who have God’s approval that have the truth for this time. Can we ever do this? Yes. “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” This is the test.

 

This makes our duty and our privilege clear. I must go to every brother with whom I am at variance and be reconciled to him. I must do this to have my own sins forgiven, and I must do this to convince the world that I belong with the people of God.

 

It is a sad commentary on our Christianity that God finds it necessary to remind us daily that we ate to put out of our hearts all malice and hatred if we expect to receive God’s pardon. No Christian has any right to pray the Lord’s Prayer if he harbors resentment against any. If he nevertheless prays, he stands self-convicted by his own prayer, for he asks only that God will forgive him as he forgives. Let us therefore ask God to help us pray rightly, “For give us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

 

“Lead Us Not Into Temptation”

 

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.” James 1:13. If God does not tempt, who does?

 

Satan does. “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” Matthew 4:1. “He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan.” Mark 1:13.

 

Man tempts himself. “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” James 1:14. Satan, however, is the originator of man’s temptations. He presents some alluring temptation to man, and man falls into the trap.

 

It should be noted that the Bible also states that God tempts. “It came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham.” Genesis 22:1. Is this statement a contradiction of what James says above, that God does not tempt? That “God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man”?

 

We think not. James speaks of being tempted with evil. Note also, that the statement that God tempted Abraham, in the margin has the reading, “God did prove Abraham.” Paul, recording the event, said, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac.” Hebrews 11:17.

 

The Hebrew word for “tempt” in genesis 22:1 is defined, “test, put to the test, tempt, try, and prove.” An example of the word is found in the record of Hezekiah’s sickness, when he made the mistake of showing all his riches to the ambassadors from Babylon. The record reads that God “left him, to try him.” 2 Chronicles 32:31. The word “try” is the same Hebrew word translated “tempt” in Genesis 22:1.

 

Tests and trials are necessary for God’s people. Adam and Eve were tested in the Garden of Eden. They failed. Job was also tested. He stood the test. Job said, “He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10.  Abraham also stood the test; so did Christ.

 

God tests His people to make them stronger, to develop in them powers of resistance. Daniel observed, “Some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and made them white.” Daniel 11:35. “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried.” Daniel 12:10.  This kind of test and trial is entirely different from Satan’s temptation that he brings on for the purpose of enticing men to sin. Job knew that he would come forth from the trial as gold. Daniel said that those who stand the test would be purified and made white. On the contrary, when Satan tempts, he hopes to cause men to sin. God tries men to make them strong, to resist Satan’s temptations.

 

When God tests a man and brings him into temptation, or gives the evil one permission to do so, He closely watches Satan that he does not go beyond the line God has set. Satan may go just so far and no farther. Paul puts it well when he says that God “will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  1 Corinthians 10:13. God knows how much we can bear, and He will not permit Satan to go above the limit. He will see us through, if we will but trust Him. As Satan brings on one trial after another, God watches carefully. And at the precise moment He will say, “Stop.” And Satan obeys.

 

As stated above, trails are necessary for God’s people if they are to acquire the necessary strength for complete victory over sin.  At this time in the world’s history trials are necessary to prepare us for the coming events that will try men to the utmost. God’s promise is, “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Revelation 3:10.  “The devil shall cast some of you in prison, that ye may be tried.” Revelation 2:10. But the glorious promise is made, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.” James 1:12. It was with this in mind that James could say, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Verses 2-4.

 

What, then, is the meaning of the prayer when we are to ask God not to bring us into temptation? We accept Paul’s explanation when he says that while God will permit us to be tempted, He will not permit Satan to tempt us above what we are able to bear. 1 Corinthian 10:13. The prayer means that we are to ask God for strength to bear what He has for us, that we not sink beneath the load. In the midst of the trial, when it seems that we can bear no more, we are to remember that God keeps watch over us, that He also watches Satan, and that He will permit just so much and no more. We may be sure that God is on our side and will not forsake us. In the dark hours we may look to God in faith and assure ourselves that “when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10.

 

When we are passing through trials we know that we are in the hands of God, that He is observing us ands is carefully measuring each stroke. We know that His purpose is to try us, to purge us, and to make us white. Daniel 11:35. We are to pray for the necessary strength to bear what God permits and to have faith that He will find the way of escape, as He has promised.

When Christ came to the hour of His great trial, He “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared.” Hebrews 5:7

 

The prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” may therefore be interpreted to mean, “Lead us not into any temptation harder that we can bear.” This prayer is according to God’s promise, and will therefore be heard. When we are in the midst of some great trial, we are to remember this promise and this prayer and are to say, “Lord, Thou hast promised not to make the trial harder that I can bear. I seem to be at the breaking point, but I have faith, Lord, that Thou knowest best. If Thou seest that I can bear a little more, I believe Thy word and trust in Thy strength. Lord, “Thy will be done.”

 

“Lead us not into temptation,” is a prayer of trust and faith in God. It is not “Save me from this hour,” but “Keep me in this hour.”

 

“Deliver Us From Evil”

 

Instead of “Deliver us from evil,” some translate, “Deliver us from the evil one.” Since both readings are permissible, and since the difference in this case does not seem vital, we accept both readings. We wish deliverance from evil, and also from the evil one.

 

This is not a petition for forgiveness. That is covered in the prayer, “Forgive us our debts.” Nor is it merely a prayer for deliverance from accidents and other evil that lurks in the heart-evil thoughts, evil words, and evil deeds. It is a prayer for complete sanctification, deliverance from all evil, power to overcome and live a holy life. It is a prayer of one who wishes to heed the command, “Go, and sin no more.”

 

We are convinced that Christians do not make the distinction between forgiveness of sin and deliverance from sin that should be made. Forgiveness of sin operates after sin has been committed; deliverance operates before or rather it so operates that the sin will not be committed. It will kept a man from sinning rather than wait until the sin has been done and then forgive it. It is the power of which Jude speaks when he says that God is “able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” Jude 24.

 

An illustration may here be to the point. Years ago I heard a dialogue between two children. They were discussing what should be done with the money collected in the Sabbath school. Should they use it for erecting a fence, or should they buy an ambulance? To me it seemed nonsense, for they had not enough money for either. After awhile I began to understand what they were after. They were telling of their playground that was on a high hill with one side that was very steep. Some of the children had gone too near the edge, and one had fallen down and broken a leg. Now the question was: To prevent injury they should get an ambulance, or should they erect a fence? They decided they needed both, but that they might dispense with the ambulance after they got the fence.

 

This childish story conveys a deep lesson for Christians. It is a wonderful to be forgiven. It is still more wonderful to be kept from sinning. It is wonderful to have an ambulance to take the injured to the place where help can be found. It is more wonderful to have a fence that will keep them from falling. Spiritually, forgiveness is wonderful; the greater power of God to keep from falling is still more wonderful. 

 

Let no one suppose that we are thinking lightly of forgiveness. It is surpassingly glorious that God can and will forgive, even though we sin time and again. King David said,” “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit is no guile.” Psalm 32:1,2. It is a blessed experience to have our sins forgiven and covered, and to be clothed “with the garments of salvation.” Romans 4:7; Isaiah 61:10.

 

God illustrates this wonderful experience in the parable of the prodigal son whose father, on the homecoming of the son, commanded, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.” Luke 15:22. In a moment’s time, the rags were all covered, and the evidence of his former condition hid. The father’s robe covered all.

 

This is symbolic of what happens at conversion. The sinner comes to God, “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:17. However, God covers him with the garment of salvation, clothes him with the robe of righteousness. His sins are forgiven and covered. He has done nothing to deserve this; it is all of grace. God counts him righteous though he is still not righteous. His sins are forgiven, but they are still there, though covered. He has started on the right road, and God imputes to him “righteousness without works.” Romans 4:6. His sins are forgiven, but the work is not finished. The sins must be eradicated, not merely covered.

 

This work of eradication of sin is the work of sanctification, and eventuates in holiness. This is not the work of a moment, or of a year, but of a lifetime. It begins, or should begin, at conversion. The man has been a drunkard. Now he stops drinking. He has been immoral. Now he begins to live a moral life. He has not always told the truth. Now he becomes truthful. Each separate step is an advance toward sanctification. He does not commit adultery and then ask God for forgiveness. He does not steal and then beg pardon. These former things have passed away. He is a new creature in Christ Jesus. He has not yet attained; he is not already perfect. However, with Paul he follows after. Philippians 3:12. He is “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1. He is on the right road, and though he may not have attained, God counts him righteous, and he will have the crown of life though he may yet be far from the perfect standard.

 

This experience is what some call “the victorious life,” which does not mean perfection or even a life above sin. For sin may overtake such a one, but though he fall he will rise again. “A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.” Proverbs 24:16. Here some well-meaning persons may make a mistake.  They have been taught that a Christian does not sin, and that is a good doctrine. However, they have also been taught that if they do sin, they are no longer Christians. This is not true. John the beloved said, “My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2: 1,2. John warns us not to sin. However, he did not say that if we sin we are lost and are no more Christians. He said that we still have an advocate.

 

The road to sanctification is a long road, but one of continual progress. Little by little, the sinner gains the victory over sin. As far as he has come, so far he is sanctified. He does not sin and carouse. He walks softly before God. He has come a long way, but he has not as yet perfected holiness. With Paul he confesses: “not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect…. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” Philippians 3:12-15.

 

We have come to the time when God is ready to make a demonstration of what He can do in human flesh. He proposes to present to t he world a people without spot or blemish or any such thing, a people that can stand in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor. Such a demonstration is long overdue. Long enough has Satan challenged God to produce such a people, and has sneeringly asked, “Where are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus?” God will then produce them and say, “Here they are.”

 

In the 144,000, God will show that by His grace men can meet the standard He has set. Satan will claim the demonstration is possible only because God shields them and that if he were given permission to test them they would fall. During the Great Tribulation, God will give permission to Satan, to test His first fruits of the kingdom. The saints will be tried to the utmost. It will seem at times that they can endure no longer; but they will not fail. With Job they will say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Job 13:15. God will stand justified in His saints. In them, He demonstrates that men can keep the commandments of God under the most trying circumstances, that the weakest of the weak can do it, even with death staring them in the face. They demonstrate that if this can be done with Satan bringing all his power to bear on them to yield, there is no excuse for any to have failed. They justify God in His sayings.

 

To be delivered from evil means deliverance from sin, full and complete deliverance; it means sanctification perfected. For this demonstration “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” Romans 8:22. “The earnest expectation of the creature [margin, creation”] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God,” waits for the coming of that group that will reflect the image of Jesus fully. Verse 19.  They will stand at last upon the sea of glass, “having His Father’s name written in their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1. “I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sang the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and Marvelous are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.” Revelation 15:2,3.

 

These have prayed the Lord’s Prayer. They have asked to be delivered from evil and the evil one. Moreover, deliverance has come. They stand victorious on the sea of glass.

 

On this high note of holiness and sanctification ends the last petition in the Lord’s Prayer. Deliverance from evil, victory over every besetment-perfected holiness is the goal of God for man. And now it is reached. God has made His demonstration; Satan has been given his last chance to destroy God’s people. He retires defeated from this last conflict. God has conquered.

 

“Thine Is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory”

 

Luke omitted this entire doxology, and the American Revised Version omits it also in Matthew. As it is not found in the older manuscripts, it may be a later addition. However, as there is an introduction to the prayer, it seems fitting that there should also be a close. Without such a close, the prayer ends abruptly. As it is a beautiful and dignified ascription to God, and as Christendom in general has adopted it, we do the same.

 

In the Scriptures God gives to Christ all the glory; and likewise Christ gives to the Father all honor. There appears to be a most beautiful courtesy in the Godhead. In the closing sentences of the Lord’s Prayer, Christ gives all power and glory to the Father, while in the first chapter of Hebrews God gives all glory to the Son. As we have noted in our remarks of the prayer, Christ informs us that He does nothing of Himself. The Father tells Him what to do and say, and the Son does it. In the first chapter of Hebrews, God, the Father, calls His Son both Lord and God and commands the angels to worship Him. And so throughout the Bible.

 

In this closing section of the Lord’s Prayer, Christ gives the Father all the glory and power, and says that to Him belongs the kingdom. We join Him in giving God the glory. Amen.

 

 

Memory Verse:         

 

Hebrews 8: 8,9. “But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.  You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

 

Questions:

 

  1. Can you see from the Lord’s Prayer the seven different petitions that Jesus directed to His Father and how important it is to forgive others fully and completely? Explain.   

  


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