The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup. Thou maintainest my lot. The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a good heritage. I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel; my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. (Psalm 16:5) This is a Psalm of David and nice he could say he just felt everything which had happened to him in his walk with God, even the very lines or lot which he received. I think that’s typical of God’s people today; we are a happy people.
There was a queen one time who lived in modern Saudi Arabia; she had heard of the fame of Solomon and she came to see if it was true. It tells us in the book of Kings there was no more spirit in her, “And she said to the king, 'It was a true report that I heard in my own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. However, I believed not the words, until I came and my eyes had seen it; and behold the half was not told me; thy wisdom and prosperity exceeds the fame which I heard. Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants which stand continually before thee and that hear thy wisdom.'' We can say of God’s people today there’s no happier people in the world, no happier people in the state of Western Australia as His people who have gathered together this afternoon. That doesn’t mean you don’t have your ups and downs and everything goes smoothly for you but on the balance of things you feel just happy to be found in the will of the Lord this last year and to be here at Convention.
David said, “Thou maintainest my lot.” He was referring to the Old Testament setting of how the children of Israel inherited the Promised Land. I don’t know how this was done; there are several possibilities – maybe a prince from each tribe took a stone and made his mark and the stones were all put together in a bag. No, we don’t know, but we do know God was interested in what happened and if there were stones, God was interested in what came out of the bag and interested in the destiny of each tribe. Each tribe felt – this is my God-given lot. It was divided amongst the tribes, within the families and then to individuals. If you had been present, your lot might not have been so easy to work as somebody else’s. It might have fallen to you in the hill country and you would have to trudge up and down; or your lot could have been in the well watered plains. It was God who had given it to you. So you would feel this is my God-given lot and because of that I want everybody to know I appreciate the place which God has given me, and I want to show by my diligence and effort, the happiness as I go about it. I feel that the lot which God has given me has fallen to me in pleasant places.
There can be many difficult situations in life in the modern sense. I was born during the years of the Second World War when things were quite restricted. Some things I didn’t appreciate and one of them was my mother put up black-out curtains and the officers went around to check - there wasn’t a chink of light to be seen. I remember one man had to put his car up on blocks because the tyres had worn out and petrol was expensive. So he put his car up and got out the old gig and came out to the Sunday morning meeting in the horse and gig. That was quite a thrill for me. When I went to South America, I thought life down there would be more primitive. We didn’t have any modern amenities those days and I think I was nine years of age when we had our first refrigerator and washing machine.
Brian Doecke and I were companions in the year 1986 and we brothers lived in a batch but last year we moved out and tended to stay in some of the homes. When we were in the batch, the sister workers gave us instructions on how to maintain cleanliness. The stove and oven had to be kept clean and the curtains had to be washed once a year. One day we washed all the blankets: only the hot sun made that possible, but it was a more simple form of life. But the society in which we live now is rather affluent and we have as much and more than what we possibly need. But as we approach nearer to Christ, many things could happen that could alter society and the way in which we live: there are things we don’t know. But if it was life in the years in which we lived or the more modern conditions of affluence, we could still say, "I’m glad for the place God has given me."
We all go to Sunday morning meetings; a wonderful opportunity to share fellowship. There could be three or four able men in the meeting but only one has the responsibility and the privilege of being the elder, even though other people don’t have the place and are fully supported by others in the meeting. There could be people amongst us who could be desiring to go out in this gospel work but never had the help and there have been others who have gone out and their health gave up, fully supportive of God’s people and God’s servants and through their prayers as if they had been in the gospel work themselves. Then some have faced tragic circumstances in life. Maybe in your family, you have had more than your measure of sickness; and others nothing unfortunate seems to happen to them. Many events in life are God planned events and others maybe God allowed.
I believe God-planned events are very much more part of the children of God than the people of this world. Job in the Old Testament times who lived three and a half thousand years ago, faced an experience that wasn’t God-planned but it was God-allowed. He didn’t understand his experience and his friends formed wrong judgments. But how common this has been to every one of us? We have seen a situation, talked about it, formed our own opinion and then we have found out our judgement was wrong and we hadn’t understood the situation as it really was. Job’s friends added to his distress in the situation. They didn’t understand and I feel I would like to learn in situations not to add to the distress of other people. In spite of everything that has happened, events that are beyond our control and we don’t understand. But just say, "What God allows is the present thing for me and I am going to find myself happily serving the God of Heaven in every experience that crosses my pathway." I thought of Paul: he faced experiences I have never faced – five times beaten, forty times less one. And that would have been with the whip: the cat-of-nine-tails. It puts a lot of damage on the human body but the reason they give that is because forty stripes can bring a person to the point of death. So the provision has always been forty stripes less one. Paul was beaten with rods, faced ship wreck three times, one and a half days afloat on the seas, perils of robbers and different other things. Well, I have never faced experiences like that but the wonderful thing when he wrote the epistle to the Philippians, he had learned in whatever state he had had, to be content. That’s something I would like to learn. Then a greater measure and also the attitude of David regarding the lot that God had allowed for him.
It has been said in the Old Testament that things are concealed and in the New Testament they are revealed; so there are many things that point towards Christ and can be instruction to us. There’s an opinion out in the world amongst religious people: they say you have only got to believe the words of the Lord Jesus. It doesn’t matter about the apostles and you can discard all the Old Testament. That’s their thinking and we know that’s not so, don’t we? Within the teachings of the Lord Jesus just about every Old Testament event was covered, right from the creation. When Jesus spoke (Mark 13) about the great affliction, “For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.” So there was Jesus giving His backing on all the stories of creation, from the beginning until now. Then Matthew 19:4-5 where Jesus referred to things that took place at the beginning of creation, which refers back to the second chapter of Genesis. Jesus also mentioned Noah and the ark; Jonah and the whale; Elijah and Elisha; when David was hungry he partook of those loaves from beside the holy place. Every important event which we read about in the Old Testament received the full backing of the Lord Jesus and is therefore encompassed within the teachings of the Lord Jesus.
Regarding those experiences which Job faced and we sometimes face, David said, “It was my lot.” We don’t believe the ‘lot’ is by chance. David believed it was a God-appointed thing, and we as God’s people today don’t believe in chance either. Events of time and chance can’t happen to God’s people. Six years ago I had a part in a funeral service; there were 900 people gathered in the town hall. A young couple of our friends, well known in our district, had been thrown suddenly into eternity. A car came over the hill, facing them and both the man and his wife were killed. A couple both in their forties and their two children were injured but survived – they were in the back of the car. A few people that went out to the spot realised if that man had come over the brow of the hill five seconds earlier or later, the accident wouldn’t have happened. But as far as my salvation and your salvation is concerned, there is no time and chance. As far as your salvation and mine is concerned it isn’t by chance, it’s by choice! It is the choice that you make that will find you inside or outside the will of God.
We read about the judgement seat in the Old Testament and it belongs to the Old Testament setting. Psalm 122:5, “For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.” Those thrones of judgment were probably in the gates of the seat in Jerusalem. And the point was if anybody had questions about the law of God when they were in Jerusalem at one of the three feasts; they could go up to the judge and put their question to them. And they would get an answer from God’s Word. They were Old Testament times and they were physical thrones and physical judges. But what about New Testament times, we don’t have a place like that. We do have God’s people and servants where we can go for advice. But we read about the thrones of grace, and we read of it at the end of the fourth chapter of the book of Hebrews that we can come boldly to the throne of grace. But that access, we the children of God enjoy approaching is only through Christ. We can’t approach God and his throne of grace other than through the pleadings and the blood and mercy of Christ.
It says in verse thirteen, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Seeing we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God; let us hold fast our profession. For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” I think you understand the importance of this, don’t you? In Old Testament times, there was a holy place and inside that was the most holy place where the ark of the tabernacle was; and the high priest could enter once a year. Then between the two was a veil. It tells us in Matthew’s gospel when the Lord died on Calvary that the veil was torn in two from the top to the bottom, which is not the way you would have expected. Something God did at that moment indicating to the priests who went into that place, and to all that the way into the holiest of all was now open. Whereas before we could approach God through the priest in the Old Testament times, but now in the New Testament we can approach God directly to God through Christ. So if we have any question or problem we can take it to God and say, “Lord, how would you expect me to handle this situation, and what’s the kind of spirit I should show under these circumstances?” We can go to God and with the right spirit and motive, seeking to purify ourselves first, God will listen and God will hearken.
I like what David said in Psalm 13 – he learnt to behave himself before God as a weaned child. A child that isn’t weaned is fed on demand and the mother just feeds her child. But the time comes when the child is weaned and he has to go to the table at meal times and they’re no longer fed on demand. David said before God he had learnt to behave himself wisely as a weaned child. He realised the place of prayer was not the place where a person can demand what they want. We go to God because we realise only He can help us in certain things and situations. And we are prepared to accept His answer to our petition in the time and place that He thinks best.
Fasting was practised in the Old Testament and was commanded by law. On the Day of Atonement the children of Israel were commanded to afflict their soul, Leviticus 23:27. It’s still an understanding amongst the Jewish people up until modern time. Maybe because of personal tragedy or consciousness of sin, they decided they would not eat what they would customarily eat, and in some cases it was accompanied with sackcloth and ashes. There’s a great similarity with spiritual fasting and self denial. Self denial is something we are obliged to practice; we don’t have any options. We as God’s people have to deny self; that part of our human nature that’s in conflict with God, we have to deny self in all its forms.
Spiritual fasting is a voluntary thing. These 4 days of Convention are 4 days of fasting. When a person fasts, they might eat meat, vegetables and bread then on one particular day they might abstain from those things: it’s for a legitimate reason. But it’s when we abstain from things that aren’t necessarily wrong. But you have come apart from the world: you have left all the other legitimate things you could have been doing because this is the way you want to spend these 4 days, in the company of God’s people. And that’s a wonderful thing when God’s people have the desire to want to be here getting Convention. Then I thought about Sunday morning meetings. For God’s people it’s a different day from other days and there are legitimate things we could be doing. Because it’s the Lord’s Day – not the Old Testament day of the Sabbath, you feel it’s the day which is to be spent in the presence of the God of Heaven. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to do so but in some countries of the world they don’t have that opportunity. There could be times during the year and you feel you want to leave everything you have been doing and you want to go away and get close to God: get His help, guidance on situations – that too is a form of spiritual fasting. Jesus spoke about the man where the disciples weren’t successful in healing. That man had a difficult spirit but He indicated it was because of their lack of faith, by prayer and fasting. I think this word ‘prayer’ is feeding the divine; and ‘fasting’ is denying ourselves - starving the human.
Psalm 144, we read they had an instrument of music called the psaltery; an instrument of 10 strings. This wasn’t an instruction which gave the leading note it was always an instrument of accompaniment. There were other instruments such as the harp and others that make up an orchestra. But there’s only 1 instrument which gives the leading note. There was a man attending meetings and in the earlier part of life he played for the New Zealand National Orchestra and he played the oboe. He told us it was the instrument which gives the note from which all other instruments are tuned. It would have been like that in the Old Testament setting in the book of Psalms which was the hymn book of the Old Testament in the original Hebrew language. Psalms were written so they could be sung but no record was left of the tunes. But we are fortunate to have the words which were sung to those hymns. I wondered about the New Testament situation today: what would the parallel be? We all have the opportunity of making melody and harmony as we seek to be within the will of God. Not many of us have chosen to take the leading part but there’s always an opportunity for every one of us to be an accompaniment where we can accompany other people and can add to the beauty of the melody and the harmony with a wonderful appearance of a united people serving him happily. All those 10 strings had to be tuned in the right balance with each other. I have heard some children playing and they seem to always play on 1 or 2 notes and it doesn’t give the balance to their music. Those 10 strings could be the virtues of our lives: love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance - they can add a good balance to the Spirit of God and it’s something we ought to strive for.
How could my instrument be perfectly tuned, yet when I go along to play and it’s combined with others, it doesn’t seem in harmony. How can that happen? If my life is in tune and your life too is fully in harmony with Him then there will be a beautiful sounding and harmonious situation. So for myself I would like to learn better how to be more in harmony with the Lord Jesus Christ that His thinking would be mine; that His thoughts would be mine and as a result I could be in better unity and harmony with my brothers and sisters. Unity is a wonderful thing; unity in the home between the husband and wife, unity in the family, unity in the Sunday morning meeting and in every land. I would like to learn better how to be in unity with Christ so I could make a better contribution.