|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #266, 267 and 268|
22 December, 1996
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our present series of ongoing Bible Studies began several years ago with God's Call to Abram in Genesis 12. It was that he should leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees, and follow the leading of The Almighty God to seek for "a better country", as Hebrews 11:14-16 shows us, and the motto of The Order Of Canada, which was recently added to our national coat-of-arms, reflects this statement of purpose. Eventually God's Call was to found a family, a tribal nation, and a constellation of nations from Abram's loins that would ultimately serve God's Great Plan for all peoples.
Our course of study has taken us down the centuries since that time and through the Bible Story of his descendants, Isaac, Jacob who was re-named Israel, and the tribal family of Jacob which was descended of his twelve sons, and which was constituted a national wife to Yahweh, (Jehovah) Himself at Mount Sinai after their emergence from the harsh school of Egyptian bondage through the miracles of The Exodus.
Aside from occasional interruptions for special topics our studies have progressed consecutively through Genesis, Exodus, and now Leviticus, to our latest studies regarding cleansing from leprosy, found in Leviticus 14. However, as we have once again arrived at an occasion of significance in the Church calendar, it will be in order for me to make yet another digression from our normal pattern of studies. However, this time, because we were discussing the symbolic substitution of a bird which was killed for another which was then dipped in its life-blood mingled with running water and then released during the ceremony of the cleansing of the leper, today's digression towards a First Advent theme will be only a partial digression because we have here one of the Old Testament prophetic rituals which looks down the centuries to the provision of the person Who would, in Himself, provide the true substitute for the sinner and take that sinner's death-punishment upon Himself. We are, as I say, at the time in our calendar when we review the provision of the person Who was provided to pay the price of sin by substitution. Jesus Christ came, at His First Advent, in order to die for the Redemption of His kinsfolk once and, in addition, as in the parable of the one who bought the field to gain the hidden treasure within it, the Salvation of all who are willing to take advantage of His gracious offer through that same act of substitution. Thus we read the prophetic words of Mary recorded In Luke 1, verses 46-47 and 54-55 in answer to her cousin Elizabeth, saying "My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour..." and concluding with the words "He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever." We might, incidentally, note that Mary, herself, in these words admitted that she required a "Saviour", and hence that she was, along with the rest of humanity, a sinner in need of such a substitute to take the punishment for her sins. We might also note that Mary and Elizabeth were of those who descended of the "very good figs" of Jeremiah 24,1-7 which looked for the promised "Anointed One", (which is what the Greek word "Christ" means).
As we find ourselves again within the season of the year when we of the followers of Jesus Christ generally review the Scriptures relating these promises, we also find ourselves, along with the masses of the public, inundated by the secular child of Saturnalia which pays but scant lip-service to the true Reason for the Season. The Oxford Classical Dictionary states, of "Saturnalia", that this festival was "possibly linked to the ritual following on the completion of the autumn sowing", that it was observed on 17th December, and that, "in historical times, it was the merriest festival of the year." That reference adds that on it, "presents were exchanged, particularly wax candles and little pottery images or dolls." By about the fourth century A.D. much of this (festivity) "was transferred to New-year's Day, and so became one of the elements of the traditional celebrations of Christmas." Thus, we can see that resemblances between Saturnalia and our present pagan traditional Christmas observances are not to be laid to chance similarities!
We read in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, that the general acceptance of the current choice of date, 25th December, was not without arguments, for quite a number of dates in the year have been ascribed the honour by one or another of the various groups and factions, past and present, of the followers of Our Lord. There were those who opted for the 6th of January, or the 25th of March,, and also the 20th of May, the 19th or 20th of April, the 17th of November, or the 28th of March. The Encyclopaedia states that "Certain Latins as early as 354 may have transferred the human birthday from the 6th of January to the 25th of December, which was then a Mithraic feast..." and "The Syrians and Armenians, who clung to the 6th of January, accused the Romans of sun-worship and idolatry, contending with great probability that the feast of the 25th of December had been invented by disciples of Cerinthus... to commemorate the natural birth of Jesus." There is also mention of the fact that, in Britain the 25th of December was a festival long before the conversion to Christianity, for Bede... relates that "the ancient peoples of the Angli began the year on the 25th of December..." which "they called in their tongue modranecht (modra niht), that is, the mothers' night..." In 1644 the English puritans forbad any merriment or religious services by act of Parliament, on the ground that it was a heathen festival, and ordered it to be kept as a fast. Charles II revived the feast, but the Scots adhered to the Puritan view."
Aside altogether from the fact that the birth date of Our Lord Jesus Christ is far more likely to have occurred at the Fall Season, about the time of the Feast of Trumpets perhaps, than in December, we may deplore the use of a Christian excuse for a very loose and casual connection to the story told and re-told on that date by the churches. The mercenary interests cram the mass-media with glossy ads which plead for Trade but not for The True reason for His Coming, for Santa, but not for His Salvation, for Toys, but not for The Theocracy of Our Lord which is as certain of fulfilment as was the First Advent, for Glittering Gift-wrappings, but not for The Greatest of Gifts. We find displays of Cartoon Cards in abundance, but scarce one which even hints at the Christ Who makes it all possible. We find beautifully decorated Christmas Trees with garlands of festive lights in many homes, but scarce mention of The Tree of Life. We hear "Jingle Bells" on the networks, but were it not for the annual singing of "The Messiah", little of the verities of Judgment and Joy connected with His First Advent. Our children know more of a fantasy reindeer than of the lowly beast which bore Him towards Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
The mass media have, in the past, sought to transmit, through the general commercial blandishments of advertising, a strident misuse of the word Christ in the label "Christmas", and used the Spiritual verities as an excuse to thrust Christmas trees and lights, Santas and toys, and all the sparkle and tinsel of a fantasy before a host of buyers who were thus driven to the shop counter and the excesses of alcohol. Even the name used as an excuse in salutations through the mail has now drifted from "Christmas" to "Season's Greetings."
How can we rectify the situation when the merchants make an occasion which is nominally held in honour of The Birth of the Saviour to be the day for opening their stores to customers against His Laws on His holy day? We may at this time find some common ground with our Christian friends and neighbours in deploring these signs of the times, and yet we who seek to truly honour Our Lord may, even at this time, digress once more from our common round to involve our thoughts and those of the people among whom we mingle and traffic, with matters spiritual. Thus, even using these associations with the general view of the season, however seasonally transient these may seem, we may bear loyal and true witness to the glory that is Christ, and the promise of His Return.
Thus, we may even take advantage of the crass commercialism of the hour, drawing it to our advantage in reminding each whom we meet of the reason for the season of festivity. Thus we may work to generate a more worthy understanding of the Greatest of Gifts, The Love of Jesus Christ Who came to die for us. We may ever link therewith the promise of His Return now surely almost upon us, though the world may live in ignorance of it as surely as did the multitudes in the days of Noah, of Lot, and of Jesus' First Advent. There is a world to win, and time is precious. Let us show in our lives and attitudes the true cheerfulness shown to us in Luke 2:10-11, at whatever time of year the event occurred, which tells of that "great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
29 December, 1996
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our present series of ongoing Bible Studies, beginning several years ago with God's Call to Abram in Genesis 12, moved through the Scriptures successively down through Exodus and more recently the first part of Leviticus to observe the lives of Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes of Israel develop under the hand of The Almighty God.
We have been looking at these matters for more than one reason, of course. First, it is right that those who descend out of this racial stock of the tribes descended of Jacob (Israel) should take an interest in their ancestry, and as we of the British-Israel-World Federation consistently maintain, these are now the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples and nations in the world today for manifestly no other peoples can meet the full Biblical prophetic description of the constellation of nations promised to our ancestral Patriarchs.
Second, it is incumbent upon all Christian peoples to study the roots of their Christian faith in the Holy Scriptures for in these there is the offer of Life from the source of all Life, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.
Thirdly, we must now begin to see that The Almighty God, Creator of the Universe, has been working out a magnificent, grand and sweeping purpose in the whole concourse of world history to this time, and in observation of that fact, we ought, as rational, thinking people, to realise that the story so meticulously and completely unfolded to this hour by such a steady and honourable hand does not end here. We have, according to the promises contained in Scripture, an ultimate destiny, a goal to which the whole of Creation moves, for it would otherwise be pointless to bring about all that has thus far transpired without moving on to a great, indeed a climactic experience. The outline has been repeatedly and carefully mapped out by the word of that same Almighty God Who has completely met His prophetic promises with astoundingly detailed historic development until this hour.
Thus we have the assurance described by the Apostle Peter. He states in II Peter 1:19-21: "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scriptures is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
Where are we heading? What is our destiny? Certainly the world at this present hour is not in a fit condition to permit us to make a statement to the effect that the full glory of the Kingdom of Heaven, for which Christ told His disciples to pray in The Lord's Prayer, presently shines forth from the centres of world power. The Almighty God is, of course, and has always been, the designer and the ever-present controller of all events. However, His loving ultimate purposes which involve the maturing of many sons and daughters into the family responsibilities of love, require that a process of trial and tribulation be permitted, so that the human choices of fallen mankind shall be trained to recognise the guiding benefits of His Law, and that we be re-constituted in spirit, mind and body, to a state fitted to make those necessary selections of choice which will form our part in creating heavenly conditions in our earthly household. How could The Almighty God be ultimately satisfied with anything less?
The course of history over the last six thousand years has, we know, been littered with the failures of mankind to found or to implement that Kingdom of Heaven based on its own resources. Humanism is not new. It has flowed, in one form or another, throughout history, as people in one or another of many diverse lands, and in one civilization or another as each rose and fell, sought in their own power and by the strength of their own hands and brains to substitute a form of Godliness in government and among its members for the true plan of The Almighty. Disaster eventually followed disaster as the generations succeeded one another down the corridor of time. It is true that some great lives of individuals have yielded their beneficial influences to countless members of society, and it is true that wonderful inventions and advances in knowledge have materially, from time to time and in one place or another, made it possible for the members of society to benefit.
However, if such advances have occurred without that loving context which looked to the guidance of The Almighty for direction, then, without the infusion of that Holy Spirit of Divine Love, these also became the means to war, suppression and tyranny. However, when we examine those instances which did work for good, we find that whatever influence for good was present in man's efforts was the product, either directly, or indirectly, of the infusion into this world of the mighty power and love of the Spirit of The Almighty God, which was always near however erroneously the wayward steps of mankind had wandered.
Today, we are approaching the new year of 1997, and always, with the turning of the year towards another counter along the road of time, we begin to review those things which have happened since we last stepped back to view the whole. There are Biblical passages which speak of such times of review and meditation, and perhaps we ought to listen to some words from Scripture which draw us together, to one another, and towards Our Great Heavenly Father. Let us read some references which give substance to the concept although we must remember that, in detail, the actual feast days mentioned in God's word are designated to occur at other times on our present calendar than our present-day observance called "New Year's Day." In Exodus 23:14, Moses recorded the instruction of The LORD, saying "Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year."
Those times of feasts were, of course, "The Feast of Unleavened Bread", which would fall, as Exodus 23:15 states, "...in the time appointed of the month Abib: for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty." That feast would equate to our time of Passover (Hebrew pesah), or in other words, near the time when Easter is celebrated. The second feast mentioned is the "Feast of Harvest", also called "The Feast of Weeks" and "The Day of Firstfruits." Later it was known as "Pentecost" because it was celebrated on the fiftieth day from the sabbath beginning the Passover. It was marked by a holy convocation and the offering of sacrifices. The third feast is "The Feast of Ingathering" which is also called "The Feast of Tabernacles" or "The Feast of Booths." It lasted seven days, as explained in the New Bible Dictionary, item "Feasts." This was to last seven days, the first and the last days being holy convocations. Fruit was gathered in and people dwelt in booths made of branches and boughs of trees. As Exodus 23:16 notes, it was to be celebrated "...in the end of the year when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field." That placement, considering the Hebrew manner of designating the start and end of the civil and of the sacred year, would mark it as falling on a date usually in or near the month of September of our calendar. Nevertheless, we know that other feasts, like the weekly Sabbath were also observed, so it would not be inappropriate for us to at least consider how we ought to observe any notable time of the year, for we ought at all times, but especially in times of review and reflection, to draw near to Our God in prayerful thankfulness for that year which we have past, and in prayerful submission of the days and months yet to fall to us during the next twelve months.
It is always appropriate to submit ourselves, our days and years before Our Almighty God, for He is ever faithful to hear the prayers of those who are submissive to His will and call. On the other hand, it is definitely not appropriate to yield to the temptations which pagan celebrations require, and which frequently result in boisterous activities. Sadly, with spirits of a liquid variety rather than the Spirit which is imparted of God, these in all too many cases eventuate in horrifying accidents. May these words appeal to the better sense of those who care. We are told by Our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 23:37-39 that all His Old Testament Laws hang, or depend upon, the primary purpose expressed in those Laws, which is summed up in the words "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." As Christ concluded, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
It is the beneficial wisdom of the Almighty which is imparted in those Laws. If we would show love for our neighbour, we will not run him down in the street, and we will not press the accelerator with careless abandon to make it home in treacherous conditions a few seconds earlier than might otherwise be the case. Please also yield a cautious space on the road to others and be at ease after the New Year has begun. May you have the blessings of God as you serve Him this New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
5 January, 1997
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our present series of ongoing Bible Studies began several years ago with God's Call to Abram in Genesis 12. We have moved through the Scriptures successively, and thus through the Bible Story of his descendants, Isaac, Jacob who was re-named Israel, and the tribal family of Jacob which, after their emergence from the harsh school of Egyptian bondage through the miracles of The Exodus, was constituted a national wife to Yahweh, (Jehovah) Himself at Mount Sinai.
Today, we are looking at a New Year which has already begun. If you are like myself you will probably continue, in a state of sporadic absent-mindedness, to date cheques or newspaper clippings with the wrong year for a while and it may take a week or so until you are "tuned in" to the current designation. Those who are younger, and hence sharp of mind, of course, will have easily begun on the right footing at midnight of January 1st of the New Year, and have no trouble at all! That leads me to consider how we age, and the fallible nature of mind and body as our years are spent. Many who are older will testify that they are not getting older in mind. They are still the person that they were when they were a 'teen-ager, but now their body just keeps slowing them up a bit so that they find it a little bit harder, perhaps even a bit of a challenge, to make the grade which they always remember to have been the easiest of accomplishments. They are the same youth in their mind and their attitudes as they always were, but another thing will intrude almost immediately into their thoughts. They were always restrained, mature of judgment, settled upon the correct patterns of life. The younger generation in chronological age, whom they observe around them, don't seem to appreciate all the finer things of heritage and culture which interested them when they were younger. Why, they may ask themselves, does this happen?
One older teacher remarked "I see no hope for the future if it is dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words.... When I was a boy, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of others, but the present youth are exceedingly unwise and impatient of restraint."
Another teacher has stated "The children love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, show disrespect for elders, and love to chatter in place of exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs and tyrannize their teachers."
Still another teacher wrote "Our youth have an insatiable desire for wealth; they have bad manners and atrocious customs regarding dressing and their hair and what garments or shoes they wear."
Yet another commentator has stated "The world is passing through troublesome times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint; they talk as if they alone know everything...."
Do these impressions of the younger generation reflect the views of the more mature folk among our own listening audience? Do those statements seem to "ring a bell" with yourself? If so, then you may find food for thought in what follows.
Of course, the same thing has happened before, indeed centuries ago! I have just proved it, for the first teacher I quoted above was Hesiod, in the 8th Century, B.C.. The second was Socrates, in the 5th Century B.C., the third was Plato, in the 4th Century B.C., and the last was Matthew Paris, writing in the 13th Century A.D.! One of the benefits of my own lifetime occupation as a teacher and Geography Department Head in a High School is that I was able to cull those quotations from "Ontario Educational Dimensions" of January/February, 1977 to which periodical I acknowledge my indebtedness!
Now those comments were spoken, in some cases, millennia ago. Either they are accurate statements of the descending hierarchy of merit as each generation has stepped down the ladder by degrees, which is possible, but which conclusion would leave the elders of our own time very near the bottom of the staircase and but one rank above the basest of mankind, namely the present younger generation, or alternatively, the frivolous youth of every generation has eventually matured, and by God's Grace, made the grade in spite of the disapproving stares of their elders. Holding hope that the latter is the case, I would venture to suggest that there is, then, yet hope for our own younger generation to follow their prepared course towards the values and attainments which will place their merits in the history books alongside those of each preceding generation.
The Almighty God has given His word that He will not forsake His people, but will, at the appointed time, bring forth a result both reassuring to the elders and satisfying to their youth, inasmuch as He had indicated that He will draw them to Himself, even as He has done in former times without number, through the preaching of the Gospel of The Kingdom.
The final three verses of the Old Testament are those of the Prophet Malachi, who states:
4. Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
5. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
6. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
We, of the British-Israel-World Federation, believe that the prophesied modern-day descendants of the ancient deported Tribes of Israel are, in the main, presently to be found within the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples. These, moving out from the lands of their captivity towards the North and West by a variety of braided routes and chronologically disjointed displacements, gradually, over the course of up to twenty-five hundred years, merged into the predominant populations of the nations of North-West Europe and their subsequent overseas colonies. No other vast populace comes anywhere near to fulfilling all the numerous prophetic clues and marks which were to attach to, and to define, the Israel nations of the latter times.
In order to verify this, we need only look to the varied and magnificent promises made by The Almighty God to the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and to King David, among others, and to compare the list with the qualifications of all the various possible competitors for the honour. If you would question these words, check, as just one example, the prophetic words found in the 49th chapter of Genesis to see the distinct tribal characteristics of the then future descendants of the tribes which would develop from each of Jacob's twelve sons in "the last days." This National Message is clearly enfolded within the pages of Holy Writ, and those holding our viewpoint have sought to expound the matter over the course of the last one hundred and twenty years. We see the proofs all about us, even to the seeming departure of glory and present deprivation of power attendant upon those peoples today. We believe that it is now high time for renewal of the spirit of discernment and the time when we must seek to implement those words of the Prophet Malachi. It is this which motivates us, though admittedly it sometimes appears to be a case of "up-hill sledding", to speak the truth as we see it, and to "let the chips fall where they may", as the old expression puts it.
According to the words of the Prophet Malachi, someone will be raised up to "turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers." We believe that it is indeed the allotted task of those of God's servants who have clearly perceived these matters to serve Our God, and our fellow man by placing them before the public in this, our own generation. How is the matter to be approached? The answer is to be found in verse 4: "Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments." That means that we shall have to explain the whole matter of the Old Testament Law and the Grace which is contained therein.
One cannot have Grace without Law, for, If we hold that "the law", having been "nailed to the Cross", we henceforth have no obligation to obey the Law, then we are in a state of lawlessness, and consequently whatever we do cannot logically be called "Sin." It must follow from that position that we do not, therefore incur any penalty of death for ignoring and breaking that Law. This being the case, we don't need any Saviour to show us His Grace by taking our punishment upon Himself for we have no such punishment impending! If this seems too hard, then take the steps in reverse order. What is the "Saviour" saving us from if we have incurred no penalty because we have no obligation to obey the Law and hence no sin? The true situation is that the "Law" which was "nailed to the Cross" was simply the Law contained in Ordinances regarding the form which the substitutionary sacrifice was to take.
As Matthew 5:17-19 shows us, Christ made no commandment whatsoever which would remove our obligation to obey the "Law of Moses", for that Law was, in fact, His own set of Commandments which He, in pre-incarnate form, had delivered to Moses. Many have dreadfully misconstrued the matter to the ultimate endangerment of multitudes.
It is the clarification and clear understanding of this matter which must be transmitted, in the spirit and power of Elijah, in order to "turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers", and it must be done "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD", lest He (The Almighty God) "come and smite the earth with a curse." Now note this and study it well! If there is to be no longer any obligation to obey the Law, then no law would have been broken. In that case, why would such a "curse" be imposed? We are to obey God's Law. Let this be the subject of our continuing study as we progress through the Scriptures in the days and weeks ahead.
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