The Use of Old Testament Scripture (III)
Billy W. Moore
Exemplifies Principles of Righteousness
There are certain principles of righteousness that ought to characterize the lives of Christian people. We are to be a peculiar people zealous of good works. With regard to many of the principles that others should see in our lives, and that God demands of us, He has showed us through some character in the Old Testament days.
Walking By Faith
All of Gods people are to walk by faith. (2 Cor. 5: 7) But just what does it mean to walk by faith? Hundreds of years before the New Testament command to walk by faith was given, God had showed man what it means. If we were to ask, "What old testament character is held forth as an example of faith?", perhaps the answer most frequently given would be, Abraham. And rightly so. He is known as the father of the faithful, and his life exemplifies faith.
When God called Abraham to go out into a place, which he would after receive for an inheritance, the Bible says "By faith Abraham ...obeyed." (Heb. 11:8) He was born in Ur Of the Chaldees and had lived there for seventy-five years. Why should he suddenly want to leave? He journeyed hundreds of miles and every mile was a walk of faith. By faith he left his home and his kinsmen.
After twenty-five years he received the promised son, Isaac. But when Isaac was a stripling God commanded Abraham, "Take thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." (Gen. 22:2) Then one of the most heart touching stories of all time transpired. Abraham took his son and two young men with him. On the third day they came to the mountain, and he said to the young men: "Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you." Then Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it upon Isaac, and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. Isaac spake unto Abraham, "My father" and he said, "Here am 1, my son." And Isaac said, "Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering."
They came to the place and Abraham built an altar, and laid the wood in order, then he bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham . . . lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. (Gen. 22:3-13) The writer of Hebrews said, "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac ... accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead." (Heb. 11: 17-19) What would compel a man to offer his son as a burnt offering? He had waited twenty-five years for that son. My friend, Abraham offered up his son because God told him to do it. He believed that God would raise him up from the dead. What faith! No wonder God has held him up as an example of faith. Faith often demands that which is contrary to reason and to sentiment, as it did of Abraham. But God was showing us what it is to walk by faith.
Do you realize that as Christians we are to walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham"? (Rom. 4:12) Today we learn what God commands of us, and by faith we must obey. Paul says "we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5: 7), and to be sure that we understand what this means God has told us of Abraham and his walk by faith. It may be necessary for us to leave our home or kinsmen to follow Christ and serve him faithfully. If it is, let us by faith follow Christ. We must make many sacrifices in a life of service, but by faith let sacrifices be made for the cause of Christ and the saving of souls, yea, the salvation of our own souls.
There is one example of faith that is even greater than that of Abraham: Christ, the Son of God. His was a life of faith. He died by faith. And he was raised from the dead. Never a weakness, never a doubt, always trusting in his heavenly Father and complying to his will.
Another of the fine qualities of a Christian is meekness. We are to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called, "with all lowliness and meekness." (Eph. 4:1-2) As the elect of God we are to "put on ... meekness" (Col. 3: 12). Paul said the servant of the Lord must . . . "in meekness" instruct those that oppose themselves. (2 Tim. 2:25). He charged Titus to teach them to show "all meekness unto all men" (Titus 3:2). "In the spirit of meekness" we seek to restore those who are overtaken in a fault (Gal. 6: 1), and we are to be ready to answer those who ask of the reason of our hope "with meekness and fear." 0 Peter 3:15) Meekness is a fruit of the Spirit, along with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith and temperance. (Gal. 5:22) There is no doubt about it; God demands that his people display a spirit of meekness.
But what does this mean? Some think that meekness is a sort of weak, cowardly, sissy disposition, destitute of strength and firmness of mind. But this is not true. W. E. Vine says, meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest; it is equanimity of spirit that is neither elated nor cast down, simply because it is not occupied with self at all." (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. III, page 56) Meekness is evenness of mind, calmness of temper. It is composure. God says, be meek. I wonder, what does he mean? In his word God has showed us what it is to be meek. Of Moses it is said, "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men who were upon the face of the earth." (Num. 12:3) Now, if I study the life of the meekest man upon the face of the earth I will surely have a better understanding of what it means to be meek.
In the life of Moses we see an evenness of mind, a calmness of temper, composure. He certainly was not a man who was lacking in courage. He was not a coward. He was not a sissy. But he was meek. He possessed a calmness of temper, an evenness of mind, a deep composure that was extraordinary and God holds him forth as a picture of meekness that we might better understand what meekness is. Moses was the leader of the children of Israel for forty years. Those years were spent wandering in the wilderness. Can you imagine a man who could lead that nation of murmuring complaining Jews for forty years without losing control? They had not even gotten out of Egypt before they began complaining. At the Red Sea they said, "Hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? ... It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness." (Ex. 14:11-12) But Moses led them to safety. Soon they were complaining because there was no water, and God gave them water from the rock. Later the water was bitter and they complained. Then it was the light bread God sent from heaven; they wanted meat. They longed for the leeks, melons, and garlic back in Egypt. One thing after the other through the years. Only God knows how many times they came to Moses with their murmuring and complaining. But through it all he displayed meekness-that calmness of temper without losing control. This is what God expects of us. The ability to face the situation without losing control. When I study the life of Moses I better understand what meekness is.
But one time Moses did lose control. After many years of wandering, the Israelites complained because they had no water. God told Moses to "speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water." But Moses spoke to the people, "Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?" And he lifted up his hand and with his rod he smote the rock twice. The people had water to drink. But Moses had rebelled against the Lord. That one time he lost composure. Still his life shines forth as the great example of meekness. How much better he did than we would have done under those circumstances. But if you would see meekness personified look to Christ. Of himself he said, "For I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matt. 11:29).
Through all of his encounters with the Pharisees, and Sadducees he never lost control. He did no sin. He maintained the disposition of mind and temper that pleased the God of heaven. So his example stands out as the greatest.
Courage is another much needed attribute for a Christian. The Lord said, "Fear not them which kill the body" (Matt. 10: 28). We are to serve God with boldness and courage, not being afraid of what others may say. Through an Old Testament character, God has showed us what it is to serve with courage. While many heroes of old may be cited for their courage: Daniel, the three Hebrew men who were cast into the furnace of fire, etc., yet none would excel Elijah in this field. As a prophet of God he displayed tremendous courage when he stood before sinful king Ahab, who had led Israel into idolatry, and told him "there shall not be dew nor rain these years" (1 Kings 17: 1) Then after three years and six months he displayed courage again when he stood before him again and said, Thou and thy fathers house are the troublers of Israel, for ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord. (I Kings 18:18). Then Elijahs proposal to meet the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal. What courage he manifested. When these false prophets could not get Baal to send forth fire to consume their offering, Elijah mocked them. He knew no fear. (1 Kings 18:17-40) Later when Ahab had taken Naboths vineyard, after Jezebel had Naboth killed, Elijah confronted the king as he stood in that vineyard. Unto the king he said, "Thus saith the Lord, in the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine." Then he continued by saying, "The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel." (1 Kings 21:19, 23)
Speak of a man of courage, Elijah was such a man. At one time he thought that all of the prophets had been slain, or had turned unto Baal, and he alone was left to do the will of God. Yet, he would not turn against the Lord. What courage! To stand for truth and right when you think there is not another man alive who is so standing. But God let him know that there were seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed their knees unto Baal. 0 Kings 19)
But there was a time when even the courage of Elijah failed him. It was after Elijahs victory over the 450 prophets of Baal. Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and she sent a messenger unto him, saying, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." And when Elijah saw that, he arose, and went for his life. (1 Kings 19:1-3) I do not mean to lay any blame at the feet of Elijah, but merely to show that his courage did falter one time. But God blessed and cared for Elijah, even when his courage had faltered and he had fled into the wilderness. God provided food for his body and encouragement for his heart, and in the end God took him "into heaven by a whirlwind" (2 Kings 2), the like of which he has never done for a man. Indeed God loved that man Elijah! He was pleasing unto God, and we should learn from his life that if we have the faith and courage to do the will of God, even though others may turn from him, all will be well with us in the end.
However, if you would see courage unwavering, then look at the life of Christ. Even when on trial for his life his courage failed him not. Unto the Father in heaven he had prayed, not my will but thine be done. Even at the hour of death he displayed courage. What a Savior we have!
Note: Be watching for the next lesson in this series, when we shall note still other principles of righteousness which are exemplified by Old Testament characters.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 3, pp. 9-11