Thought for Thursday

March 21st, 2019

And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord. Seven days must ye eat unleavened bread. Leviticus 23:6

Unleavened bread – or matzo – is flat, because it contains no leavening agent to cause it to rise when it is cooking. The matzo used for the Jewish Passover is also frequently marked by small holes from a fork or other kitchen tool, so the bread will lie flat when cooking. I have sometimes wished that when the Lord’s Supper is held in our Assemblies, that we would use unleavened bread. No, I am not advocating that we adopt the practice because it might very well become a point of legalism, as it has in some of the denominations. But unleavened bread provides some visual and practical lessons that we can benefit from. For example, as a picture of the life of Christ, we appreciate that He was without the leaven of sin. We also appreciate that he was pierced for – and by – us. Unleavened bread also speaks of the life of the Christian.

As Christians, we hang our heads in shame at the knowledge that our lives are not without the leaven of sin. We are painfully aware that we are only sinners who are saved by grace. And yet, God does not view us as sinners. I John 1:9 tells us that we have been cleansed from all unrighteousness. All of our stumblings and strayings speak about our condition while still in the flesh, but the reality is that before God, we are holy and pure in our eternal standing. God does not view us in the leaven of sin, but washed in the blood of the Lamb. Furthermore, each Christian has the presence of the Holy Spirit within. This enables us to desire, as the unsaved can never desire, to live according to the holy pattern set for us by our Lord. We will never attain the sinlessness that we seek, but our seeking will bring us closer.

When we compare unleavened and leavened bread, the most obvious difference is that the unleavened bread does not rise, but remains flat and as thin as when it was rolled out. The leavened bread rises, lifting itself up to sometimes several times its original volume. What a picture of pride this is! Pride was the original sin of Satan, and the sin with which he stumbled our first parents in Eden. In most cases, pride is the sin that prevents people from taking an interest in the Gospel. Pride is the sin of religion and good works. There is no place in the life of an obedient Christian for pride and self.

While we live in wait for our Lord’s return, we eat the unleavened bread of humility and service to our Lord. – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

March 20th, 2019

In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s passover. Leviticus 23:5

Perhaps no feast or holy day of the Jews is better known to Christians than the Passover, or Pesach, as the Jews refer to it. Most of us know where the term comes from, and the story behind the Passover. In perhaps the greatest miracle of national delivery of all time, God inflicted the plague of the death of the firstborn on Egypt, setting the Israelites free to go to their promised land. Unlike the nine earlier plagues that had no impact on the Children of Israel, the tenth plague required an act on their part to protect themselves from it. This act of applying the blood of a properly prepared and slain lamb to the doorpost and lintel is to be commemorated forever by the Israelites in a feast called Passover. There is no requirement for the Christian to participate in this feast. But we don’t become a Christian unless we participate in what this feast speaks of.

The passover is a picture of redemption. The slain paschal lamb pictures for us the Lord Jesus in His offering of Himself to redeem us from the slavery of sin and self. The application of His blood is not only our protection from the wrath of God but is also our ticket for the homeward journey to Heaven. Just as the Passover was a one-time, one-evening event for the Israelite, so our salvation is a one-time event that needs never be repeated. But it ought to always be remembered every day, even every hour, since it occurred. And on each Lord’s Day morning, the united hearts of the Lord’s people express our appreciation for the Lamb of God. The Lord’s Supper is a remembrance not only of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of our Saviour, but is also the remembrance of our own salvation, when we first entered into the blessing of our Passover Lamb.

Note that the Passover was the very first of the seven feasts of Jehovah. Another feast, lasting an entire week, began the following day, but nothing preceded the passover. Without the Passover, none of the other feasts mattered. There would be nothing to celebrate unless the Passover occurred. And so it is with us. The first and most important date on our calendar is the date of our salvation. Other great events followed, but they have meaning only in the context of our salvation.

Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul. Thank You, Lord, for making me whole. Thank You, Lord, for giving to me Thy great salvation so rich and free. – Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

March 19th, 2019

These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. Leviticus 23:4

Several of the provinces have already accepted the proposition to have an official holiday proclaimed in February, and there is a push in most of the other provinces to do likewise. The idea is that there are no breaks between New Year’s and Easter, during a long, cold, and slow time of the year. Official holidays are important in many ways, and there are official reasons for them all. Some have elaborate celebrations, parades, fireworks, and other activities. But the growing trend for most people is to ignore the reason for the holiday and simply to use the time for personal activities. That would never have worked in the days of the holy feasts of Israel!

Each of the feasts of the Lord had a very special significance to the Israelite. Although these feasts often involved great rejoicing and plenty of family visiting, the primary attention in most of the feasts was on the religious significance of the event. Most were one-day events but two of them, the feasts of unleavened bread and tabernacles, were seven days. Some months had several feasts, and there were a couple of stretches where no months had any feasts. When the people gathered together for these convocations, the emphasis on the things of God was paramount, and all of the Old Testament society revolved around them. Some of these days involved special offerings, all of them involved special ceremonies, and the patterns giving to Moses were to be followed very carefully. Much time was to be spent in singing and in listening to the Word of God being read. To the Israelite who was devoted to His God, these were wonderful times of refreshment and blessing. To the backsliders, these were probably boring times that would seem wasteful and unnecessary. Translated into today’s Assembly environment, things haven’t changed much.

We don’t celebrate the feasts of the Lord today, not the way they are defined in Leviticus 23. But the Lord’s people do assemble in holy convocations. Primary among these are the Assembly’s weekly meetings, for which we have New Testament authority and patterns. These also include special Gospel meetings, ministry meetings, and conferences. And, although there is a good social aspect to these meetings, the primary emphasis is on the spiritual, just as it was for the Israelite of old. The enjoyment of these times depends on our closeness to the Lord and our appreciation of Him. As in the ancient economy, it is critical that we follow the pattern and direction of Scripture.

God’s holy convocations are important to Him, and should be important to His people. – Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

March 18th, 2019

For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord, as long as he liveth, he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there. Samuel 1:27,28

Is it any wonder that many parents these days are naming their little girls Hannah? This wonderful, godly woman from the days of the judges is an excellent example for mothers today. The world can well do with many more Hannahs, and may they all be like Elkanah’s wife!

This godly lady did two essential things for Samuel: she prayed for him and she lent him to the Lord. No mother can do more for her children than that! For a woman who did not have any children before, she was very wise. Take heed to her example, young mothers!

A mother’s prayers are very precious. Before Samuel was born, before he was conceived, even, he was the object of the fervent prayers of a woman who wanted a man to serve the Lord. Is this your prayer for your children? There is no higher request you could make of God than that He would direct your children into His service. A child who grows up to be faithful to his/her Saviour, a helper to the Lord’s people, a prayer warrior, a winner of souls. These are goals that far exceed ambitions of worldly influence, power, money, and popularity. Are we praying for the right things for our children? May God direct us to see what is truly important for them.

Hannah went even further… she lent her little boy to the Lord. She took him herself to the temple to present him to Eli. She did not wait, either. As soon as he was weaned, he was off to Shiloh. Of course, she would have loved to have had her darling little boy home with her. But she was committed to seeing him serve the Lord. She was like so many good mothers today who pour the Word of God into their children’s ears at a very young age, make sure they memorize their Sunday School verses, teach them Bible stories, make sure they get to the meetings of the Assembly.

What was Samuel’s response? He worshipped the Lord. That must surely have caused Hannah’s heart to overflow. Her prayers were all answered, her loan to the Lord was accepted.

Hannah did not lose out because of her loan. God gave her five more children. Let us give our children to the Lord. Our reward is sure. – Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

March 17th, 2019

A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. Ecclesiastes 7:1

We read of ointment that was precious because of its ingredients, because of the wonderful fragrance that it gave. It brought delight to the nostrils and it brought comfort to that part of the body to which it was applied. This ointment brought both healing and pleasure. So too does the good name that we have assembled under today to worship.

A good name is important because it brings before our minds the good person to whom the name belongs. Some names are considered bad, not because of anything wrong with the name, but because the name is associated with a bad person. For example, few mothers name their little boys Judas or Adolph these days. Names are often given to children to carry on a good name of a favourite relative or friend. For example, my granddaughter Annie was given her name to commemorate the memory of dear Annie Haines of Fredericton, who was like a grandmother to my daughter. There is one name today that is so good and precious that It can assemble hundreds of thousands of Christians on the Lord’s Day in little companies in deepest reverence and humble obedience. The Name of Jesus is better than precious ointment to us as we remember Him today.

The meaning of the name Jesus is Saviour. What a lovely meaning! We were all lost and in desperate need of a saviour, and He was willing to become identified with us and become our Saviour. The meaning of His Name is sweet to our souls as we consider that we are saved. We have been given everlasting life and have been assured that the punishment for our sins has been totally taken over by our Saviour.

But there is also the vast store of significance to the Name, based on the One who bore that Name. Just as the name Henry reminds me of how my dear old Uncle Henry Cole handled the road grader when I was a boy, so too the name of Jesus reminds me of how my Saviour came to die for me, shed His blood for me, suffer for my sins.

The Name of Jesus is sweeter and more precious today to us than any ointment. – Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

March 16th, 2019

And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the Lord, offer it at your own will. Leviticus 22:29

Do you know the main difference between a slave and a robot, other than the fact that a slave is a person and a robot is a machine? A slave must do as he is told, whether he wants to or not, while a robot must do as it is told, and has no ability to want to or not. In other words, a slave has desires, but no means of fulfilling them, but a robot lacks the ability to have desires. You and I could watch robots carry out their duties, and feel no remorse if those duties happened to be unpleasant or dangerous. But if we were to watch a slave being forced to complete unpleasant or dangerous duties, we would feel sorry for that slave. In days when slaves were legal to own, enough right-thinking people developed enough compassion and sympathy to correct that terrible wrong. But the slavery of sin is still holding many people captive, as it once held us. We were never robots, but we were slaves. Now we are free, and can freely give thanks.

Our text speaks of a sacrifice of thanksgiving. This sacrifice flows from the heart of every true believer every day. And it flows from the midst of a true Assembly of God every week. A robot has no awareness of gratitude nor a reason to be grateful. A slave would be capable of gratitude, but would have no reason to be grateful. But when the Lord’s people worship, their thankfulness flows from the hearts of a people who were never robots but who were once slaves. We who were once held in the power of darkness have been translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. And so we worship, offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving. And, like the Israelite of old, our offering is not one of compulsion but of our free will. Although God’s salvation is the most thankworthy possession we could ever have, God does not demand thankfulness; He desires that we freely express it.

Angels praise God, and worship him, acknowledging Him with deepest reverence. But theirs is not a worship of thankfulness; they have not been redeemed. No member of the animal kingdom knows anything about God, and their brute instincts cannot feel gratitude to Him for anything. Demons fear God and tremble, but they do not worship Him, and have no desire for His presence. Unsaved sinners are incapable of worshipping and thanking God, and prefer to curse Him. Only those who are saved by His grace have the capacity to be truly thankful and have reason to do so.

Of our own free will we bow in humble thanksgiving. So much to thank God for, it will take eternity to express it. – Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

March 15th, 2019

…how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. Galatians 4:9-10

In his play Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare introduces a soothsayer character who warns Caesar to ‘beware the ides of March’, but Caesar mocks him. When the ides of March arrived, a conspiracy unfolded in which Caesar was stabbed to death on the steps of the senate. Ever since Shakespeare wrote that play, the ides – or 15th – of March has been regarded as unlucky. Many people dread the day, and anticipate all sorts of calamities occurring to them on the ides of March. And, of course, it usually does. Human nature is such that, when we expect bad things to happen, we notice every bad thing that does happen, even those things that would never bother us at other times. Like all other superstitions, the ides of March is just another example of the weak and beggarly elements of the world that used to enslave us.

I know some Christians who read their horoscopes more regularly than they read their Bibles! This is shameful; no Christian should read those things, which are satanic in origin. The devil enjoys your reading them, though, and he will encourage you all he can. There are many superstitions that exist around us, and we should be careful that we give them no place in our lives. After all, it is your Heavenly Father Who will protect you from accidents, not your remembering to knock on wood. Think of the nonsense behind the belief that our lives are under the control of the phases of the moon, or that the positions of certain stars in the sky actually make a difference in whether we succeed or fail. Oh, I hear someone say, I don’t really mean anything by it. So why are you still enslaved into doing it?

The apostle is reminding the Galatians of the things from which they have been rescued. And he wonders why they have returned to those things. That’s a good question. Why would we ever want to go back to a time when our hope was in how successfully we managed to avoid black cats, broken mirrors, and overhead ladders. Even if those things had worked – which they never did – how could they ever hope to compete with the hope we have now? Throughout the night, our God remains awake to preserve us, and all day long, He guides our footsteps in the best possible paths. Our lives are secure in His keeping, and when our lives here end, our eternity is even more secure than our lives have been.

God has granted us a great freedom, in which He directs and guides. Let us not allow the trash of the past to clutter our pathway, even on this ides of March. – Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

March 14th, 2019

There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing, a sojourner of the priest, or an hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing. Leviticus 22:10

A young man who was admitted to the fellowship of an Assembly I once knew had a difficult time understanding that the Assembly has a within and a without. He could never seem to understand what was wrong with his participating in some of the activities of the denominations, nor in allowing those in the denominations to be allowed to participate in Assembly activities. One day, he brought a friend with him on the Lord’s Day morning, and insisted that his friend be permitted to partake of the Lord’s Supper. The elders refused, and the friend left in a huff. We found out later that the man was not even a Christian, and that he had made a bet with his friends that he could gain access to the Assembly fellowship. Such people are just one of the reasons for the principle contained in today’s text.

Although an Old Testament application, this verse has a valuable lesson for us today. One of the great advantages of a priest was his access to the offerings unto the Lord. Generous portions of the heave shoulder, the wave breast, and the meal offering were intended for the priest and his immediate family. This reminds us today that the worship that is part of the gatherings of God’s Assembly is not only for God but also of great blessing to the believer-priests who make their offerings. Like the priests of old, we participate in the offerings by receiving a generous blessing for ourselves. The Jewish priests were not permitted to share the offering portions with those outside their families – only wives, children, and slaves were permitted to partake. Visitors had no portion at all. And so it is today; the seat of the unlearned is for those who have not entered into their role of believer-priests.

Why were the guest and the outsider excluded from partaking of the offerings? Because they were not part of the family. They lacked the qualifications to participate. And so do those who would visit our Assemblies. Some are not saved, and are therefore outside the family of those who appreciate the sacrifice of Christ. Some are disobedient and have forfeited their right to participate. Some have not yet learned what they must know in order to participate, just like Levites of old who had not yet been trained in the service of the offerings.

There is nothing casual about the worship of God, whether in Old Testament days or today. This holy privilege is not something that God allows outside of His direction and control. – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

March 13th, 2019

But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:34

During the early pioneer years, there was fighting between the white settlers and some of the Indian tribes. During one of the skirmishes, a young man, the eldest son of a prominent man in the community, was captured by the Indians and taken to their encampment. He lay bound in a tent, fearing the worst. On the second day of his imprisonment, the tent flap opened, and a large, dignified chief, carrying a knife entered. The chief cut the young man’s bonds, and bade him stand, leading him outside, where the members of the tribe stood and watched. The chief led him to a large circle, and the two men sat on a bearskin. The chief beckoned, and a young woman came forward, setting a large bouquet of lovely flowers before the young man. Pointing to the flowers, the chief asked the young man if he saw beauty in them. Yes, the young man did. ‘During a battle with your people, my son was killed,’ the chief told him. ‘Now, these flowers have no beauty to me. If we were to kill you, your father would feel like I do. That is why I am setting you free.’

When we think of today’s text, we might wonder why the Israelites were to love the strangers among them. After all, they had been persecuted and enslaved when they were strangers in Egypt. But God calls them to allow the memory of that persecution to produce compassion, like the Indian chief did. Remembering their suffering as strangers, they should desire that strangers among them would not suffer. There are strangers among the Lord’s people today, and God still calls for us to deal with them in compassion and love.

Like the Israelites in the promised land, we have a history of slavery and repression to remember. We once served a cruel taskmaster but were delivered by the mighty hand of God. Around us we see others who remain in that slavery and under that bondage. Do we love them and care for their welfare and desire their delivery? What about the unsaved members of our family? Or the friends and neighbours we see every day? Or the children in our Sunday School? Yes, we can love these folks, because we don’t consider them strangers. And we pray for them and witness to them. But what about the people we don’t know or who we see on a very casual or infrequent basis? Can we love them and show compassion to them. That is God’s desire.

Oh, how wonderful the freedom into which our salvation has brought us! Oh how wonderful if we could see others enter into this freedom! – Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

March 12th, 2019

And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. Leviticus 19:9

One day, when we were children, I came across one of my younger sisters. She had just received a big cookie and was sitting in one of the corners of the room to enjoy her treat. Seeing me approach, she gave me a big smile, broke off a generous portion of her cookie, and passed it to me. As we shared the cookie, I remember wondering if I would have done the same. For many of us, sharing does not come automatically, whether children or adults, and our built-in selfishness deprives us of much of the joy of sharing. Perhaps that is why God provided laws for His earthly people that included mandatory generosity. We in the day of grace should be no less generous.

The law that provided for the gleaner apparently worked fairly well in Israel, as we can see from the book of Ruth. Naomi sent Ruth out to glean in full expectation that she would find the corner portions and the ‘handfuls on purpose’. And Ruth encountered not merely provision but outright kindness in the fields of Boaz. How Ruth’s heart must have stirred at the difference between the God of Israel and the selfish demanding gods of Moab! And how people’s hearts today should be stirred at the difference between the generosity of God’s people and the grasping miserly attitudes of the world around us. Perhaps you read of the baseball player, one of the most highly paid athletes in the world, who set up a charity to supposedly help the underprivileged. It turns out his charity gave only one percent of the funds it raised to actually help people; no idea where the rest of it went. When confronted with this sham, instead of being ashamed, A-Rod just shrugged. There is a great deal of generosity out there, and we appreciate it, but the natural tendency of the human heart is to grasp, not give. That should not be our attitude.

Are Christians really more generous than the unsaved folks around us? In reality, it should be impossible to find out. The Word of God directs us to give in secret, and most Christians do. There are some of us who don’t give much. But behind the scenes, God’s people are generous. Letters that contain fellowship flow silently though the post offices. Meals, money, and clothing are distributed to the needy’s back doors. And so on. Do we give enough? Probably not. Most of us could do better. But generosity ought to mark us, and God grant that it does.

The God Who loves a cheerful giver appreciates our leaving the corners of our fields for the stranger and the poor. What can we give today? – Jim MacIntosh