Walk in God's light and be purified through Jesus's blood

Text 1 John 1:6, 7 Time 17/08/14 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
In 1 John 1:5 we read these words. The Apostle John says This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. We do not often have the phrase God is … in the New Testament but it does come up from time to time. Several times Paul says God is faithful and once that God is just (2 Thessalonians 1:6). We are reminded that God is one and in John 4:24 Jesus himself says God is Spirit. In Hebrews we are reminded that God is the builder of everything and that God is a consuming fire (3:4, 12:29). Twice in 1 John we are told famously that God is love (4:8, 16).
So fundamentally God is Spirit (not body), he is one (a unity), he is love and so he is faithful; he is just too. All things are built by him and he is a consuming fire. He is also light. In him there is no darkness at all. Clearly John is using a picture here. If God is light he is pure, he is true, he is unchangingly pure and true. There are no shadows. All life depends on him and he reveals all things. There is no ignorance in him.
John wrote this first letter to Christians to remind them about the Lord Jesus Christ. He speaks of him at the beginning of the letter as That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared he says we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard – with this purpose so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. Further, We write this to make our joy complete.
It is after that introduction that he reminds them of the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. That is where he wants to focus. From this declaration he moves on to speak about how to live as a Christian, as someone who really does know God.
I thought that would be a good thing for us to think about this evening. If we are Christians, which perhaps most of us are, then it is always good to come back to the fundamental things.
If you are not a Christian then we are glad you are here and we want you to understand what a Christian is and how to live as a Christian.
The final verses of the chapter are often quoted to unbelievers, although strictly speaking they are written to believers. It says
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Simply pretending that nothing is wrong and that we are not guilty before God is not a realistic option. On the other hand, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and ore than that purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
Go to God and confess your sins. Do not pretend there is nothing wrong.
This evening, however, I want us to focus on verses 6 and 7 and I want to say three main things.
1. Understand how to live as a Christian today
Now, of course, there are many things we could say under this heading but what I want to do is to focus on these verses and to draw out one over arching principle that sums up how the Christian is to live. It is this picture of walking not in the darkness but in light.
1. Negatively – Do not walk in the dark
(6) If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. To claim to be in fellowship with God (who remember is light – he is pure, holy and knowing) and yet to walk in the darkness cannot be right. The claim is patently false.
It is like saying “I love being out in the sun with Bob” but spending all your time indoors or claiming to know what it is like to live somewhere but knowing nothing about that place in fact.
There was a case last year of a man in America called Jeffrey Kepler being sent to prison for lying. He falsely claimed to have served in the Army for nearly 3 years in the late seventies. He said he was an Airborne Ranger, who qualified for Officer Candidate School. He also claimed to have won numerous medals, including the Silver Star, the Bronze Star twice and a Purple Heart. In fact, although he served for nearly a month in 1986, he was honourably discharged for not meeting medical fitness standards. There were no promotions, awards, or commendations, and he was never in combat.
He did this to gain veterans benefits. People lie for many reasons but a lie is a lie and if a man claims to be in fellowship with God but walks in darkness he clearly is not Christian. He is a hypocrite, a mere nominal Christian at best.
What is it to walk in darkness? It means to sin and not to own up to that sin. It means refusing to repent. It means avoiding the light – the light that opposes sin. It may mean not coming to church or a man may come to church but shut out the light in other ways – by sleeping or thinking of something else or just not doing anything about what he hears. It is closing your Bible shut, not praying, not examining your heart and seeing the sin there. Darkness is connected with many sins such as drunkenness and debauchery and burglary, etc. People who do not want to be seen, who do not want to be found out often do things in the dark.
This is like Ephesians 5:8 where Paul says you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.
Is that you? A child of the light. Stop walking in the darkness. Run from it. Reject it.
In the Star Wars movies they talk about the Force, which is a mystical energy that permeates the Star Wars galaxy. The force has what they call a dark side that represents an aspect of it that is not practiced by the goodies in the films, the Jedi, who view it as evil. The baddies, the Sith, interestingly, view the dark side as good. Now, despite what some think we do not live in a Star Wars-like universe where there is a force that is both good and evil but a world made by God but that has evil in it at the moment, until it is expelled forever by God. Nevertheless, there is what we might call a dark side, a way of living that is evil adn contrary to God' wishes. We must not walk in it.
2. Positively. Walk in the light.
John says (7) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, …. then certain things follow, things that we would expect of a Christian.
A Christian then is someone who shuns the dark and walks in the light. That is, and this is the thing that is so fearful and yet so exciting, he lives in the presence of God, in the full glare of his holy presence.
What does this mean practically?
It means that he is careful to read his Bible regularly. He knows that God's Word is a lamp to his feet and a light on the path of life. He listens to the Word preached. He pays attention to the preacher. He examines himself – he lets the light into his heart. He seeks to live a life of holiness. He wants to be pure and upright and honest. The Holy Spirit shines in him and shapes his life.
There used to be a children's programme when I was a kid called How? It was mostly a science programme but it answered all sorts of questions sent in by children. I remember one time they had a little machine on wheels which was a sort of moth – that is, like a moth it was automatically drawn to a light source. I remember one of the presenters then switching the engine around which made it do the opposite – it went away from any light source. Now it's a mole he said.
Spiritually, are you a mole or a moth? Are you drawn to the light or repelled by it? Do you walk in the darkness, merely claiming to have fellowship with God and not living by the truth or do you we walk in the light, as he is in the light? Which of these descriptions best describes you? In the dark or in the light? It is vital that if you say you are a Christian, that you know God and belong to him, that you truly walk in the light not in the darkness.
2. Realise there is a blessing that comes to those who live like that
We see then what it is to walk in the light. If we do this then one of the immediate benefits is that we have fellowship with one another that is with our fellow professing Christians and ultimately with God himself. To walk in the light is clearly to have fellowship with God who is light.
There is an expression isn't there, “to see things in the same light”. We might say of two people “they see this thing in the same light”.
Now if we walk in the same light as God then we will see things in the light that he does. We will have fellowship with him. We will also agree with our fellow Christians.
The world stumbles around in the dark and one person is always stumbling into another and so there is a lot of fear and pain and trouble. If we walk in God's light we can be confident. We will see what to do and we will avoid hurting each other a great deal.
Churches sometimes discuss how to improve the fellowship they have and they usually come up with things like trips out or holidays or other social gatherings. In fact, far more important is walking in the light and not in the darkness. It is walking in darkness that breaks fellowship among believers. If we walked in the light more then we would find ourselves more eager to share with one another and to be a help to one another more than we so often are.
Let's never forget then that fellowship is always greater where two people walk in God's light. We are all walking – that is we are all living our lives. But how are we living – in the shadows, in the darkness? Come out from the shadows and from the dark and live in the light of God. What glory and joy is found in those paths. What fellowship with God's people.
3. Notice the comfort for every Christian who seeks to live in this way
The Christian life then is a matter of walking – not sitting down but walking and walking in the light of God not in the darkness. But when you walk in the light you become very conscious of your sins.
I remember as a child being allowed to play outside in the dark in the winter months. You'd play happily outside for an hour or so until your parents called you in. It was only once you came into the house where the lights were on that you would realise how dirty you had become.
Similarly, when we walk in the light there is fellowship with others but there is also a realisation of how sinful we really are. It is most humbling. That is where this last phrase comes in - and says John the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. Yes, we see our sins but let's never forget this – it is also a central part of being a Christian that you know that whereas the light of the Father can only expose sin, the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
The reference to his blood, of course, is a reference chiefly to his death on the cross. It is by his holy life and his atoning death that he has provided a way for us to be purified and washed clean from sin.
The old illustration used to be carbolic soap – red soap that was nevertheless able to make you not red but clean. Shower gel comes n all sorts of colours theses days including red – you take a little of it in your hand (green or red or whatever), you rub it in and soon all the dirt and grime is gone. The blood of Jesus is like that. Once his blood is applied, all your sins are gone. Nothing can wash away sin like Jesus blood. How does that old hymn go?
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
It is because Jesus died in the place of sinners that is there is cleansing for them. All their sins are washed away because he has died in our place. It is not baptism that washes clean or some other ritual. It does not say that coming to church or communion will do it – only the blood of Christ.
Hebrews 9:14 is similar How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
The picture is in Revelation too 7:13, 14 too. John says, Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes - who are they, and where did they come from?" I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; (the great tribulation is life on this wicked earth) they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
This is the fountain Zechariah spoke of (13:1) On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. It led William Cowper to write
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
One writer puts it this way “There is no stain made by sin so deep that the blood of Christ cannot take it entirely away from the soul.” This is the true Christian life – not simply seeking to walk in the light but also knowing that daily cleansing that Christ has freed us from our sins by his blood.
My final question to you then is, are you remembering the blood of Christ? Are you daily being cleansed in it, as it were? As you turn from the darkness and seek to walk in the light day by day, are you also being washed in the blood of the Lamb of God, the one who died on Calvary?
Let me close by exhorting you.
1. Are you turning from the darkness and walking in the light as God is in the light? That is the only way to live.
2. Don't forget the blessing that belongs to those who walk in that light. They know not only fellowship with God but with one another too.
3. Walking in the light is demanding. It is like living wearing only white. The stains soon show. But the blood of Jesus, God's Son, purifies us from all sin. Those who walk in the light confess their sins and so come to God to be cleansed from all unrighteousness. All their sins are forgiven – not just some but all. Are you going to Jesus? Never stop.

Is your heart a heart of flesh?

Text Ezekiel 11:19, 20 Time 17/08/14 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
One thing we always need to remember about ourselves is – how do we best put it? - that there is more to us than meets the eye. Besides our bodies, which we can see, we all have an invisible side we can't see. Call it your soul, spirit, whatever; you must remember that that is part of who you are.
When we want to talk about our invisible part we often speak of our hearts. You say “my heart wasn't in it” or “my heart's desire is to do this or that”. The heart is literally, of course, the muscle that pumps blood round your body. We use it as a picture of the inner invisible me. We sometimes use other words. Think of - going with my gut feeling; being gutted at bad news, gut wrenching bad news. To speak with bile or spleen is to speak with deep hatred. In the Bible, kidneys and bowels are spoken of like that but we don't use the words like that any more so you won't find those words in modern translations. We speak rather of being “low in spirit”, having something on our minds, even feeling something in our souls.
Now this is what I want to speak to you about this morning – the invisible part of you; your heart, your soul, the inner you. This is the best day for thinking about your soul – it's big shop day for the soul! It's part of what we do in meetings like this where we worship God from our hearts. This message is intended to speak to you about your souls, your hearts.
Well, what do I want to say? I want to focus on some verses we read earlier from Ezekiel 11. In verses 19 and 20 God speaks of his people and he says
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
Almost the same thing is repeated in Ezekiel 36:26-28 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh, etc.
Ezekiel, some of you will remember, prophesied in the days of exile in Babylon, when the Jews were thrown out of the Promised Land. Even though they were in exile God came and met with Ezekiel in a wonderful way. A first vision comes at the beginning of the book and a second similar one begins in Chapter 8. At the end of Chapter 11 Ezekiel describes how after the vision the cherubim (these magnificent creatures from heaven who accompanied the visions with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.) Then The glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it. Ezekiel says The Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the exiles in Babylonia in the vision given by the Spirit of God. Then the vision I had seen went up from me, and I told the exiles everything the LORD had shown me.
Among the things Ezekiel is to speak to them about is what is found in verses 16ff. It begins with the Sovereign LORD saying of the people Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet two things
1. Already For a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone. The time of exile was not one of unmitigated suffering. God looked after his people in exile.
2. Further, Ezekiel is to say in the name of the Sovereign LORD - I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.
This is the promise then (18) They will return to the Promised Land and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. What wonderful promises these must have been for the people to hear. It goes on with God saying, as we have seen, I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
Verse 21 adds a warning But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.
This really goes back to the promise right back in Deuteronomy 30:5, 6 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.
Well, was this prophecy fulfilled? Certainly, God's people were brought back from exile and resettled in the Promised Land. And indeed it was the formal end of idolatry - all its vile images and detestable idols were removed. But what about this idea of God's people being given an undivided heart and having a new spirit put in them; having their heart of stone removed and their being given a heart of flesh so that they ... follow God's decrees and are careful to keep his laws and really become God's people? Is there something more?
In Ezekiel 18:30a, 31 God says to the people Repent! Turn away from all your offences; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offences you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? It is clear from what we read there that this idea of having a new heart and a new spirit is something with a more general application. What God commands his people to get in Chapter 18, he promises to give them either side first in Chapter 11 then in Chapter 36. Again, when we come to the New Testament it speaks about the need of renewal – the need to be born again, to become a new creation in Christ, to live a resurrection life - something God does in the lives of Christians. And so we say this morning three things:
1. You must have an undivided, heart of flesh, a new spirit that God alone can give you
The promise from God to his people is that he will give them a new perhaps or an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; he'll remove … their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
This is what needs to happen then
Negatively 1. Your heart of stone needs to be removed
As many of you know I had a major heart operation back in April. They discovered that my heart was diseased and I couldn't go on as I was. Some major repairs were necessary. Various things can go wrong with the heart. This wasn't my problem but there is a heart condition called cardiac calcification or stone heart (caused by a build up of calcium). That is the picture here - a person with a heart of stone has a heart that is no good. It needs to be repaired or renewed. With the muscle in the body sometimes it can be repaired but, of course, in very severe cases there has to be a heart transplant.
When it comes to your heart, your soul, that is what needs to happen, your heart of stone (your diseased and malfunctioning heart of stone) needs to be removed. It needs to be changed. A stone heart will not take the impression of God's Word. The material is resistant to it. Zechariah describes (Zechariah 7:12) They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. This made God angry. The fact is that by nature the invisible part of us, like the visible part is sinful and wicked by nature, hardened against God and unyielding to him. That old heart has to go. There is no future, no life without that.
2. It needs to be replaced by a heart that is an undivided heart of flesh and a new spirit
What is needed is a new heart or a new Spirit, one that is characterised here as being not only new but (in many manuscripts) undivided and a heart of flesh. Undivided suggests a nation with no more divisions. Acts 4:32 speaks of the believers being of one mind and heart. More to the point - the people no longer turn to their own ways. The people have an undivided and single heart that has only one aim – to please God. It is described as a heart of flesh because it is yielding and flexible, ready to take an retain the impression of God's Word, a heart beating with a passion to be shaped by God in service to him. The hymn writer calls it “A heart resigned, submissive, meek, My dear Redeemer's throne; Where only Christ is heard to speak, Where Jesus reigns alone.”
Do you keep butter in the fridge? There are some advantages I suppose to that but one thing ordinary butter won't do is spread straight from the fridge. It needs to be softened. Our hearts, if you like, are hard like butter from the fridge or freezer. It is only as we are exposed to God and his Word that our hearts soften and melt and become the hearts they should be.
Has your heart of stone been removed? Has that hardness against God gone? Have you been born again? Has your heart been softened or melted and renewed or regenerated so that it is set on serving God? If it has, praise God! If it hasn't - pray that it will be. Rid yourselves of all the offences you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die …?
2. Grasp that this is the only way you can follow God's decrees and keep his laws as you ought
Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You see that little then here. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Without this change, it is not possible for a person to follow God's decrees or be careful to keep his laws. God has made his law clear.
1. He has revealed it in our consciences
In his book Shepherding a child's heart Tedd Tripp has a story about an incident where a young boy was found stealing money from the offering plate after the church service. The father was informed and shortly after he and his son appeared in the pastor's study where the boy produced $2 and confessed to having taken it. He was in tears, asking for forgiveness. The pastor told him he was glad that in God's mercy the boy had been caught. God had spared him the hardness of heart that comes when a person sins and gets away with it. He went on to remind him why Jesus came - because people like him and his father and the pastor have hard hearts that want to steal but God's love for wicked boys and men is so great that he sent his Son to change them from the inside out and make them givers not takers. It was only at this point that the boy broke down in sobs and took a further $20 from his pocket! Up until then he had merely been going through the motions. “What happened?” asks Tripp. Clearly the boy's conscience “was smitten by the gospel! … The gospel hit its mark in his conscience”. Conscience had done something a beating would never have done.
We all have some idea of right and wrong. We know we cannot live just as we please. There are things we must not do and things we ought to do. To live regardless of God is wrong. We must worship him and put him first. Stealing is wrong. To kill or to hurt another human being is wrong. Rather, we should help each other and show each other kindness.
2. He has revealed it in his Word
Most obviously there are the Ten Commandments that call on us to worship God and him alone and to do it as he says it should be done. His name is not to be misused or dishonoured. His day must be kept. We must also love our neighbour as ourselves – showing respect, not stealing from them or being unfaithful or harming them or lying to them or coveting what is theirs.
The trouble is we cannot live like that. We fail to do so again and again. Despite our resolves, despite our resolutions, despite our consciences, we do not follow God's decrees, we are not careful to keep his laws. Why? Because of these divided, stony, calloused, unfeeling hearts of ours. There is a deep seated resistance to God and to his law. We will not obey.
It is only when we receive that new spirit, that new heart of flesh that we really want to obey God and serve him. This is God's promise then that if our hearts are renewed by him we will have a new desire to serve the Lord and obey him.
I went to some lectures in July and the lecturer, an American from Texas, was saying how when he became a Christian at 19 he remembers his friend 'phoning and him telling him what had happened. The friend wanted to go out on the town that night but the new convert was just not interested. They were not going to do anything particularly bad but he knew there would be temptations and he just didn't want to sin any more. That's how it is when a person is converted – not that the feeling is constant but it is the underlying thing.
Again, is this you? Do you have a desire to please God, to obey him? Has that seed of holiness been planted in you so that you genuinely desire to serve the Lord? One of the characteristics of the converted person is that he no longer sins as he used to. There is a reluctance about it. His deepest desire is to obey the Lord. If you don't have that desire you need to be changed. It is a change that God alone can bring about. Call out to him to change you.
3 Enter into covenant with God so that he is your God and you belong to him
The final phrase I want us to look at is this one, They will be my people, and I will be their God. Again it is a promise and again it follows on. These people and these people alone – those whose hearts of stone have been removed and who have a new spirit, a heart of flesh that follows God's decrees and is careful to keep his laws, they alone are really God's people. It's no good thinking that just because you are a Jew that you are one of God's people or just because you come to church or call yourself a Christian that is enough. No, the they in They will be my people are those with renewed hearts, hearts that obey. And those of whom it can truly be said God will be their God are those whose heart of stone is gone and has been replaced by a heart of flesh that is careful to keep God's law.
Some Christians think that the key to understanding the Bible is understanding the different dispensations. You start, they say, with the dispensation of innocence, then comes conscience, government, patriarchal rule, law, grace and the millennial kingdom. There is something in that, perhaps, but it is much more important to see that all the way through God is a covenant God and he works in the same covenantal way all the way through. This phrase They will be my people, and I will be their God comes up at least another three times in Ezekiel and is in Hosea and Zechariah and especially in Jeremiah, where the new covenant is spoken of in these very terms – 31:33 "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
This is why we are keen for the children to learn what a covenant is – an agreement between two or more persons. That is why Chapter 7 of the Baptist Confession of 1689 begins
The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to Him as their creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which He has been pleased to express by way of covenant.”
Do you belong to God? And does God belong to you? Are you in covenant with him? If he has taken away your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh, then that is the case.
1. Are you neglecting your immortal soul? $ Imagine a parent loving one child but completely neglecting the other. Such things do happen. Don't be like that – looking after your body but neglecting your soul. Remember Jesus' words Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. and What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matthew 10:38, 16:26) Or what about Paul's words (1 Timothy 4:8) physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
2. Has your soul been made new? Are you born again? Cry out to God to do it.
3. This is absolutely vital. There is no entering the kingdom of God without it. There is no way of pleasing God without this.
4. Are you in covenant with God. Can you sing “in a love that cannot cease I am his and he is mine”?
5. Don't miss that warning in verse 21 But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.
The ultimate fulfilment of this prophecy is found in Revelation 21 where we read of the new heavens and the new earth and the New Jerusalem. John sees Jesus seated on the throne and saying I am making everything new! What a glorious prospect awaits God's people.

Life, death, prayer and God's encouragements

Text 2 Kings 20:1-11 Time 29/06/14 Place Alfred Place Baptist Church Prayer Meeting
Many years ago when I was still quite young in the ministry I remember asking a very serious question at a ministers fraternal about preaching. Several helpful things were said but I remember one older minister (Paul Cook) saying that it is important not to take ourselves too seriously. I think that is true for all of us not just ministers.
Some of us can too easily get a sense of our own importance. One of the things I've noticed since my heart operation back in April is the way the church in Childs Hill has more or less carried on as it did before I fell ill, perhaps a bit better in some ways. God sometimes does things like that to teach us all to look to him.
We have all heard of Robert Murray M'Cheyne and how godly he was and a godly preacher and yet it was when he was away in the Middle East far from Dundee that revival came to his church under the preaching of a student – the much lesser known William C Burns.
We mustn't take ourselves too seriously, then, but on the other hand we must take ourselves seriously, nevertheless. Life is a serious business – eternity hangs on it and so much else. I'm not sure exactly what Socrates meant when he said that "the unexamined life is not worth living" but I'm sure he was right. Paul tells us doesn't he that we ought to examine ourselves each time we come to communion. Examine yourselves he says elsewhere to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.
Now I've had a lot to think about this year. I was listening to a lecture about Whitefield recently. It is the three hundredth anniversary of his birth this year. Whitefield died when he was 55. That's my age now. He probably died from angina pectoris, which was more or less my problem, except that today a heart by-pass operation has become routine and so I have been given a new lease of life. Now why God would end the life of a Whitefield at 55 and extend my life to preach however many more years is an imponderable providence but we know that God knows best. I don't know how much longer I will live, how many more sermons I might preach but clearly there must be an acknowledgement of God's goodness in this and a determination not to waste the opportunity that has been given.
Because of what has happened I've been thinking quite a lot this year about King Hezekiah. As you know, he received a death sentence from God but then in answer to his prayer he was granted another 15 years of life. I don't find it difficult at all to identify – although God hasn't given me, or anyone else here, a guarantee of another 15 years – or even five years or one year or one hour.
Nevertheless, I think it would be good to look briefly at 2 Kings 20:1-11 for a moment and make some points from it. Although the circumstances are unique the principles are universal.
1. Recognise that God decides when you die and you need to be ready
We read how In those days the days when Assyria had been attacking Judah (Chapters 19 and 20 are not chronological it seems – Chapter 20 shows us Hezekiah at his best and worst) Hezekiah became ill some sort of skin disease it seems and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, "This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover." The same story is in Isaiah 38 but with a song of celebration that Hezekiah wrote at the time. I guess Hezekiah was about 39 – not 40 then. His wicked father Ahaz was 36 when he died so Hezekiah ought not to have been surprised, I guess. Life expectancy is greater today but people still die at every age. There is no age at which you can guarantee you will live on. All we know is that the longer we live the closer we must be to the day we die. We will not have a prophet to announce it to us but a time will come when we will need to put our house in order and be ready to die. There may be more than one time like that. Richard Baxter, you may know was one of those men who was always likely to die but lived a long life into his seventies and preached as a dying man to dying men. Some time it really will be it, if not the first time then the next and if not the next some time after that. We must always be ready.
2. See the power of prayer to avert the day of death
We read in verses 2 and 3 that in response to this Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, "Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. We then read (4, 5) that Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: "Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, 'This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. Hezekiah doesn't sound very noble here – turning his face to the wall, weeping and seemingly boasting about how good he is. However, the turning to the wall was simply for privacy or perhaps a turn in the direction of the temple and the weeping and the apparent boasting is really a concern that in the midst of Israel's troubles they should not be deprived of their king.
The prayer certainly received an immediate response, Isaiah having to return even before he had left the palace with a fresh message, this time not of death but of recovery and life. Very shortly he would be well again. God sometimes does that – he seems to speak categorically but then there is room for change. It happens in Jonah when despite Jonah's message the repentance of the Ninevites changes everything.
God does as he pleases in response to our prayers, of course, but when we pray he often responds positively. That has certainly been my experience. I have prayed to be spared a little longer and so have many others and God appears to have responded positively. Let's be in no doubt about God's power to avert death even when it looks as though that is impossible.
3. Thank God that he is able to add to a person's life in order to get glory for himself
In verse 6 God says to Hezekiah through Isaiah I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria the announcement of Hezekiah's death had come right in the midst of that crisis I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David. God rarely makes a promise on its own. Here we see at least two commitments beyond the initial one to spare Hezekiah's life. The most obvious is the extra 15 years – that would still only bring Hezekiah to 55 but it was 15 years more than had seemed likely. Another 15 would bring me to 70. I would be very thankful for that. Then there is the promise of deliverance from the Assyrians. What a great promise that is for Hezekiah and his people.
All this God says he will do for my sake and for the sake of my servant David. It is important that we always keep in mind God's ultimate purpose – to glorify himself and his Son Jesus Christ. Why was Hezekiah spared? That there might be more glory to God? Why have I been spared? That there might be more glory to God. Why have you been spared? That you may glorify God.
4. Be prepared to make use of all legitimate means to prolong life
Then in verse 7 we have a verse that some rather pious people would be tempted to leave out. How did Hezekiah get healed? By prayer you say. I have already acknowledged the importance of prayer in my recovery and all of us have to say that we are alive today partly because of prayer. But look at verse 7 Then Isaiah said, "Prepare a poultice of figs." They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered. God uses means and prayer is not the only means he uses. Without the poultice of figs Hezekiah would not have recovered. Without a by-pass op I might not be here tonight. All of us – with food and drink and medicine how different our situation might be. Let's not forget that very practical point. I fear that some Christians have a latent suspicion of medicine, as if it is a lesser providence to be healed by medicine than to be healed purely by prayer. That is a misunderstanding of how God intends the world to work.
5. Sometimes God will give a sign to encourage us that all is well
In verse 8 we are told that Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, "What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?" He did not lack faith but he knew Isaiah was a prophet and he looked for some sort of sign to encourage him in his faith. Isaiah answered straightaway (God had obviously communicated this to him) This is the LORD's sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps? Isaiah refers to the stairway of Ahaz which Hezekiah could presumably see from his sick bed. Some think it was some sort of sun dial but it may have just been a staircase. Hezekiah says (10, 11) It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps, … that is simpler Rather, have it go back ten steps. Then the prophet Isaiah called upon the LORD, and the LORD made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz. How quickly the miracle happened, how it happened and how equilibrium was restored we have no way of knowing but a great miracle it certainly was and it confirmed Hezekiah in his faith. We do not expect God to do such miracles today. He has already sent his Son to die and raised him from the dead. What more miracles could we want? However, God does give us encouragements to trust him, especially when we have been through tough times. I suppose little Gwilym my newborn grandson is such an encouragement to me. God has spared me to see him and may be I'll see more grandchildren. He knows. The same with you. You only have to look and you will see tokens of God's kindness in your life even though you may have been tested – almost lost your life even. What reason we have then to give thanks to him.
One final thing to add here is that it is salutary to think that it was in these final 15 years that not only did God deliver Hezekiah and Jerusalem from the hand of the king of Assyria but, as we see here, he foolishly invites the Babylonians in to spy on his land. It is the Babylonians who would eventually take Judah into exile. In 2 Chronicles 32 it also says that Hezekiah's heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; therefore the LORD's wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem. It is in this period that wicked Manasseh is born (three years after this event). Although Manasseh did repent in the end we are told more than once that the LORD did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to arouse his anger. The affect of Hezekiah's bad example on his son cannot be overlooked. Even here there is a silver lining, however, as not only did Manasseh repent but it is through Manasseh that the line of Messiah comes. Both Hezekiah and Manasseh were direct ancestors of the Lord Jesus Christ. When God announced Hezekiah's death it was nevertheless his intention that he should live to father this child, an ancestor of Christ.

A future and an inheritance

Text Numbers 36 Time 09/06/13 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
So we come at last to the final chapter of Numbers. We began looking at Numbers back in January 2012 and with a few gaps have continued to look at it over the last 18 months or so. I trust that those of you who have heard all or at least many of these sermons will have come to the conclusion that although Numbers is clearly not an easy book to read it does contain many valuable lessons for us and like the other books of the Bible is to be valued.
Now when we come to the final chapter, it is, perhaps a little bit of a surprise. The very last verse, perhaps, seems appropriate These are the commands and regulations the LORD gave through Moses to the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. But why this story of Zelophehad's daughters, which had already been broached back in Chapter 27?
The first answer to that is to remember that Numbers is part of a larger context – the first five or really the first six books of the Bible. Deuteronomy is a bit different to what goes before but over all Numbers fits very well as the matching parallel to much of Exodus, first describing the scene at Sinai that begins in Exodus 19 and then the wanderings in the desert that are much like Exodus 15:22-18:27.
There is also the overall structure of Numbers itself that has teaching about the Tabernacle at its centre and is surrounded by alternating sections of narrative and law. Having had law in 33:50-35:54 we end, as we began, with narrative. There is also the fact that Chapter 27 and this final chapter deal with similar material and so bind in all the material between which focuses very much on the future and the inheritance that lies ahead for Israel.
They were looking forward to a real and tangible inheritance in the Promised Land. The inheritance that can be ours in Christ is just as real but less tangible in some ways in that it is a spiritual inheritance not a physical one. There are lessons for us here, therefore.
1. Be aware of the danger of losing your inheritance
The problem is raised in verses 1-4. We read there how
The family heads of the clan of Gilead son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, who were from the clans of the descendants of Joseph, came and spoke before Moses and the leaders, the heads of the Israelite families. They said, When the LORD commanded my lord to give the land as an inheritance to the Israelites by lot, he ordered you to give the inheritance of our brother Zelophehad to his daughters.
This is a reference back to Chapter 27, which had already established their right to inherit. Now they say
Now suppose they marry men from other Israelite tribes; then their inheritance will be taken from our ancestral inheritance and added to that of the tribe they marry into. And so part of the inheritance allotted to us will be taken away. When the Year of Jubilee for the Israelites comes, their inheritance will be added to that of the tribe into which they marry, and their property will be taken from the tribal inheritance of our forefathers.
This was the danger then – that if Zelophehad's daughters married men from other tribes, the inheritance would pass to those tribes. It is not entirely clear what their reference to the Jubilee or fiftieth year might mean.
Now we too as Christians need to be aware of the danger of losing our inheritance. In Hebrews 12:16, 17 the writer says to believers
See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
If we fall into sexual immorality or godlessness we are in danger of selling our birthright and losing our inheritance. We should be as concerned not to lose our inheritance as The family heads of the clan of Gilead were.
Another example would be on the lines of what is said in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Peter 4:11, 12.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
2. Understand how God will enable you not to lose your inheritance
Then in verses 5-9 we read how at the LORD's command Moses gave this order to the Israelites: What the tribe of the descendants of Joseph is saying is right. This case was a just one. This is what the LORD commands for Zelophehad's daughters: They may marry anyone they please marriage is to be a free choice, not by coercion as long as they marry within the tribal clan of their father. It is said that 10% of marriages are between first and second cousins. Such people share at least one grandparent. In certain Middle Eastern countries half the marriages are of this sort. In the west such marriages were common (in the Royal family especially) until the mid-twentieth century when they became less popular. One of the concerns is genetic disorders which are more common where the relationship is close. Biblically, cousin marriage is not encouraged but is permissible as here because
No inheritance in Israel is to pass from tribe to tribe, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal land inherited from his forefathers.
The law is then universalised
Every daughter who inherits land in any Israelite tribe must marry someone in her father's tribal clan, so that every Israelite will possess the inheritance of his fathers. No inheritance may pass from tribe to tribe, for each Israelite tribe is to keep the land it inherits.
And so God makes provision so that his people do not lose their inheritance. In a similar way he helps us as Christians not to lose our inheritance. An obvious way in which he does that is by forbidding Christians to marry, as it were, outside the tribe. Every believer must marry a fellow believer. 1 Corinthians 7:39 says clearly that A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. More generally, Paul says very clearly in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
This is one obvious way in which we can avoid the danger of losing the inheritance that is ours in Christ.
3. Consider what you need to do to make sure you don't lose your inheritance
Finally in verses 10-12 we read
So Zelophehad's daughters did as the LORD commanded Moses. Zelophehad's daughters - Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah and Noah - married their cousins on their father's side. They married within the clans of the descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in their father's clan and tribe.
The daughters actually did what was required of them. There is another example of such a thing in 1 Chronicles 23:22, which says that
Eleazar died without having sons: he had only daughters. Their cousins, the sons of Kish, married them.
Again, for us who are believers we have to do what is in accord with what we have been saying. We have to get out there and do what needs to be done.
In 1 Timothy 4:14, 15 Paul says to Timothy
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
2 Timothy 1:4-6 is similar where Paul says
Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Don't neglect the gift, fan it into flame.
The final verse of the book is verse 13
These are the commands and regulations the LORD gave through Moses to the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho.
This could be a reference to what is in this chapter or back to 22 or the whole book, which seems most likely. The ending us similar to the end of Leviticus (27:34) These are the commands the LORD gave Moses at Mount Sinai for the Israelites. The very last word in the book is Jericho and the next thing really is the conquest of Jericho in Joshua. Here is a final call then to live the Christian life. It involves many battles. It is not easy but this is the way forward under the leadership of Christ.

Jesus Christ and the cities of refuge

Text Numbers 35 Time 02/06/13 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church

We come this week to the last but one chapter of Numbers, Numbers 35. Last week we were looking at the borders of the land as set out there and the appointment of people to distribute the land among the nine and a half tribes, excluding the two and a half who had already received land the other side of the Jordan in Gilead. That's 12 tribes altogether then, all dealt with but there is also the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe and they are dealt with rather differently.
That is set out in this chapter along with the fact that six of their cities were to be cities of refuge and re-iterating God's attitude to murder. So, there On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho, we read how the Lord told Moses to command Israel to give the Levites towns to live in from the inheritance the Israelites will possess. They were also to give them pasturelands around the towns so that they will have towns to live in and pasturelands for their cattle, flocks and all their other livestock. Verse 4 says that The pasturelands around the towns should extend out fifteen hundred feet from the town wall. They are told to measure three thousand feet on the east side, three thousand on the south side, three thousand on the west and three thousand on the north, with the town in the centre. There is no contradiction here. The pasture lands were to be set out in a square. Altogether there were to be 48 of these towns and six of them were to be cities of refuge.
The towns you give the Levites from the land the Israelites possess we are told in verse 8 are to be given in proportion to the inheritance of each tribe: Take many towns from a tribe that has many, but few from one that has few.
The idea of the cities of refuge was to have a place a person could flee to if he had killed someone accidentally. In ancient times, when a person was killed it was the duty of someone in the family of the dead person (the kinsman-redeemer or the avenger of blood) to pursue the killer and take vengeance. By selecting places of refuge from the avenger, a breathing space was given before the trial before the assembly.
It was arranged that there would be six cities of refuge, (14) three on this side of the Jordan and three in Canaan. The cities were places (15) of refuge for Israelites, aliens and any other people living among them, so that anyone who has killed another accidentally can flee there.
So (16-21) in the case of murder the murderer should die. Six examples are given.
First, If a man strikes someone with an iron object so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. Or if anyone has a stone in his hand that could kill, and he strikes someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. Or if anyone has a wooden object in his hand that could kill, and he hits someone so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death.
Second, If anyone with malice aforethought shoves another or throws something at him intentionally so that he dies or if in hostility he hits him with his fist so that he dies, that person shall be put to death; he is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.
However (22-25) if without hostility someone suddenly shoves another or throws something at him unintentionally or, without seeing him, drops a stone on him that could kill him, and he dies, then since he was not his enemy and he did not intend to harm him, the assembly must judge between him and the avenger of blood according to these regulations. The assembly must protect the one accused of murder from the avenger of blood and send him back to the city of refuge to which he fled. He must stay there until the death of the high priest, who was anointed with the holy oil. The example given in Deuteronomy is of two men going to cut wood in a forest and an axe head flying off and killing one of them.
Protection continued only as long as the person stayed within the city of refuge. If he stepped outside he was vulnerable. 28 The accused must stay in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest; only after the death of the high priest may he return to his own property.
So where there as more than one witness to a murderer the murderer was to be put to death and there was no ransom allowed. In the case of manslaughter there was no death penalty as long as the person stayed in the city of refuge for the prescribed time. The closing verses of the chapter say (33, 34) Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the LORD, dwell among the Israelites. Sin especially murder pollutes the land.
There is a reminder here then of the need to provide for those who minister.
Otherwise, we no longer have avengers of blood. Things are dealt with in quite a different way although it is clear here that a fair trial is important and that is generally accepted in our society. I think it is clear that murderers should die and that those guilty of manslaughter should not. Certainly a distinction continues to be made between the two crimes in this country and we should be thankful for that. Murder carries a mandatory life sentence while the sentence for manslaughter is at the judge's discretion. Of course, what is in mind here is involuntary manslaughter. It can get rather complex, of course. When is death caused by a car driver manslaughter and what about a drug dealer supplying someone with heroin?
We ought to pray for our law makers and for the judiciary as they make sometimes difficult decisions.
Perhaps the best way for us to think about this passage tonight, however, is to remember these words from the New Testament.
In Hebrews 6:18 the writer refers to Christians as we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us. In 2:13 he also asks how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?
In Romans 8:1 Paul speaks of those who are in Christ Jesus as being under no condemnation, as was the case with a person who fled to a City of Refuge.
There is good reason, therefore, to see these references to cities of refuge as pointing to forward to Christ and the salvation that is found in him. I want to say four things that arise out of these verses this evening then.
1. Realise that by nature you are in a state of danger
A person who killed another person under the Old Testament law was a person who was in danger. From the moment he killed a person he was in danger of being hunted down and killed by the avenger of blood. The law said that if you killed a person then the avenger of blood was free to kill you without offence.
Now we also, all of us, have broken the law. We have not killed anyone but there is hatred and if not hatred other sins in our lives. James warns (2:10) whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. If we say we have no sin we are liars. We have all sinned and fallen short of God's glory. We have gone astray like lost sheep. Further, the Bible is clear that the wages of sin is death. When sin is full grown it brings for the death. If we die in our sins then we will be cast into hell. We are in great danger. The avenger of blood is already on the road to get us as it were. God's wrath is like an avenger of blood hunting down his prey. In Galatians 3:10, quoting Deuteronomy, Paul says clearly Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law. We need to see our danger then.
2. Understand that you will only be saved from danger if you flee
Now a second lesson can be learned from the fact that the only way a man could be saved from danger was by fleeing. If he stayed where he was it was all but certain that the avenger of blood would find him. As soon as the other person died his killer was in danger and he needed to flee as fast as he could. Death can come at any moment to anyone of us. Therefore we need to act quickly and to be ready to flee. There is no place for ease or complacency. The difficulty is waking people up to their danger.
In one of his books John Blanchard writes
On 12 December 1984 dense fog shrouded the M25 near Godstone, in Surrey, a few miles south of London. The hazard warning lights were on, but were ignored by most drivers. At 6:15 am a lorry carrying huge rolls of paper was involved in an accident, and within minutes the carriageway was engulfed in carnage. Dozens of cars were wrecked. Ten people were killed. A police patrol car was soon on the scene, and two policemen ran back up the motorway to stop oncoming traffic. They waved their arms and shouted as loud as they could, but most drivers took no notice and raced on towards the disaster that awaited them. The policemen then picked up traffic cones and flung them at the cars’ windscreens in a desperate attempt to warn drivers of their danger; one told how tears streamed down his face as car after car went by and he waited for the sickening sound of impact as they hit the growing mass of wreckage farther down the road.” (John Blanchard, “Whatever Happened to Hell?”, page 297)
It is like those policemen – trying to warn people but people not realising they have to flee.
3. Accept that the place of safety to which you can flee is Christ
This is the third thing. There are several things about the cities of refuge that are also true of Christ and that point to him. Let me mention five.
1. Appointed by God
The cities of refuge were not a man-made idea, it was something that God himself instituted. It is God who said there should be cities and how many there should be and God who said that they were places of refuge. It was God also who appointed his Son to be the Christ and to be the Saviour of the world. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
2. Free and open to all
You remember how in verse 15 it say that the Cities of Refuge were for Israelites, aliens and any other people living among them, so that anyone who has killed another accidentally can flee there. So it is with Christ. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. He is the King if the Jews but he is also the Saviour of the world. Romans 10:11-13 As Scripture says, "Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile - the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
3. Close at hand
The cities of refuge were so placed that no-one was never very much more than a day's journey from one or another of them. This is true of the means of drawing near to Christ too, which is by faith. Remember how Paul says in Romans 10:6-10
But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) "or 'Who will descend into the deep?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
4. Easily accessible
The cities of refuge were made accessible by good roads and were in high up places where they could easily be seen. So it is again with the gospel of Jesus Christ. His name is known everywhere. The only real hindrances are made by ourselves.
5. With an ample supply
The cities of refuge were kept well stocked with the necessities of life for those seeking refuge in those places could not go outside of them. This reminds us of how all goodness and wisdom are found in Christ. Once you find him you lack nothing.
4. If you have found the place of safety in Christ you must remain there
Once you entered a city of refuge and were found not to be guilty of murder the only thing needed was to stay inside the city. It must have been something of a trial not ever to leave the city but given the safety it afforded what could be better? Once you become a Christian all that is required is that you remain in Christ. Some days that can seem such a chore but when we remember what being in Christ guarantees who would not wish to be in him? Remain in him then. Christ is the vine and we are the branches. We will bear much fruit if we only remain in him.