2 Kings 18: 6; Ruth 1: 14; Acts 17: 33-34;
2 Samuel 20:2; Genesis 2: 24
Revised Notes of an Address at Bournemouth, September 8, 1962
This article is from a pamphlet published by Philip Haddad.
It must be manifest, brethren, to any exercised believers at the present time, that we are not in the Pentecostal days of Church history. Our lot has been cast in the last days, not the first; consequently we are in days of extraordinary difficulty, because the Church as committed to man’s responsibility has completely failed. Anyone who suggests otherwise must be extremely foolish because we see around us that which speaks of confusion, of ruin, and of disorder. In case anyone should be surprised by these statements I would remind you that whatever has been committed to man has always broken down. That is an axiom that stands true from Genesis to Revelation. Whenever man is put in any position of responsibility he breaks down and breaks down very quickly. On the other hand, whatever God puts His hand to, He will carry through.
In view of the discord and ruin of Christendom, I wish to speak tonight, beloved brethren, of things that I want to cling to through thick and thin, and I want to encourage all the brethren here to cling to them likewise. I begin with the reference to King Hezekiah – a very godly king – and he is introduced to us when he is comparatively young – at 25 years old. That is not too old, yet he is brought forward in a most becoming way, and we would say to the young people here that you could not begin too young in this path. You will have noticed that it is persons, and what is set forth in these persons, I want you to cleave to; but the first thing it tells us about Hezekiah is that he did what was right in the sight of the Lord. I could not commend anything better to you; let it be your aim and ambition through life, to do what is right. You know, a hundred and one questions that arise in your daily lives could be settled very simply if we just followed the rule, ‘Is it right?’ It is not difficult to know. If you are going on simply, desiring to please the Lord, reading the Scriptures, and going with God’s people, then it will not be a difficult matter as temptations are presented to know what is right and what is wrong. Almost the last thing Paul says to the Corinthians is to tell them that he was praying that they would do what is right.
Following upon that, we read, that “he trusted in Jehovah, the God of Israel”, (verse 5). That is, Hezekiah had a personal history with God, and he knew Him as the God of Israel. He recognized Him as his own God, but he claims God in relation to all His people. It is an important thing to remember that in all the ruin around, God has His thoughts of how His people should be regulated. If man has ruined things, God has not changed. So that we want to fall back on that, on the God of Israel, that is, God in relation to His own thoughts and in relation to all His people. In the last book in the Old Testament Malachi urges the people of Israel at that time to, “Remember the law of Moses which he commanded for all Israel”. He did not command a certain law for law for one section of His people, and law for another section, His law stood in relation to all Israel. Hezekiah is moving on this line, then it tells us in the verse we read, “and he clave to Jehovah”. Now in your career as a believer many things will come in to divert you from the Lord, but whatever happens, dear young people, let nothing divert you from acting as did Hezekiah in a difficult and dark day, “he clave to the Lord”.
In the New Testament we read of Barnabas going down to a gathering of young Christians and he exhorted them, “to cleave to the Lord [or abide with the Lord] with purpose of heart”. Now these are very, very important features if we are to be preserved amidst the ruin, because there is still a path in which the servant of the Lord can tread in faithfulness to his Master. So there is this encouraging word as to Hezekiah that he clave to the Lord, and did not turn aside from following Him but he kept His commandments which Jehovah commanded Moses. You see, he is not doing just what he thought right in his own eyes, though that seems a very expedient way of acting in the difficulties, but he fell back on the commandments that God had given through Moses. Paul say, in writing to Titus, that the elder must cling to the faithful word, so that Hezekiah is cleaving to the Lord and is also regulated by Scripture, as we would say. Now, beloved young people, it will be a safe rule in your pathway if you cleave to the Lord and are regulated by His Word – the law hidden in your heart, that you might not sin against the Lord.
So, we should each have it in mind, that if there is no collective position in our towns, we each want to be regulated by the truth, and we desire, as far as we individually are concerned, to be cleaving to the Lord with purpose of heart.
The next passage I read presents a rather different situation. I read from the book of Ruth, and the circumstances are well known, I judge, to all the brethren; it might be well to say that Naomi in this chapter represents the remnant of Israel in a coming day, that is the primary interpretation of the passage. However, I believe we would also be right in saying that Naomi represents the testimony. She does not represent Christ personally because no woman in Scripture, so far as I am aware, is ever used as a type of the Lord, but Naomi represents what is here for Christ in testimony, and as we see in this chapter there is not very much outwardly to attract people to Naomi. She is a widow, she has nothing to offer her followers, so there comes a challenge, Now perhaps that challenge has reached you in your locality; it has reached me in mine, it has reached others. A challenge comes as to whether we are willing to go with this outwardly weak situation; Naomi has to admit the government of God had come in, and that is what we have to admit, beloved brethren; the government of God has come in and for young people who want to identify themselves with the testimony to day, it does not seem a very bright prospect. We do not want you to be under any delusion as to that, for the test is sure to arise.
Now, one of her daughters-in-law expressed a good deal of affection for her; she kissed her, they lifted up their voice and wept. Outwardly there seemed to be a fair amount of affection for the mother-in law; but alas, Orpah went back to her people and her gods. On the other hand, however, it says that Ruth “clave to her” – she clave to her mother-in law. Now, the test will come, maybe it has come; the challenge is constantly arising – are we going to go on with the testimony? It would be better to go on with a situation of outward weakness than to go back to Moab, let me assure you of that, How could you go back to the world that hates the Saviour? How could you go back to systems in which the Spirit is set aside?
Well, Ruth is not on that line, she is cleaving to her mother-in law, and we want to have such a link with the testimony of the Lord that although things are small and the pathway does not seem very attractive, we may be cleaving to that testimony, wherever we are. There is a reward ahead, as Ruth found; there is a mighty man of wealth. We can also say the Spirit is watching; He observes what is happening in the little gatherings of the saints. He knows the newcomers, and their preparedness, their steadfastness; all this is noted by Him. Let our firm decision then be that we are going on with the testimony, however small it may be; throw your lot whole-heartedly with the people of God who are accepting the reproach of Christ.
There is no possibility of the whole Church being again gathered here on earth, despite talks today about church unity. Let us go on after Christ and the testimony of the Lord, however small it may be. If you stand by the testimony in your locality you will be richly rewarded for the Lord will stand with you and will bring you into a sphere of great wealth. Ruth very quickly found that, for she came into a sphere where there were young men and maidens, and they were reaping. In the harvest fields of the true Boaz, a good opportunity exists for young people to engage in the service of their Lord and Master, a very blessed Master He is. So as committing yourself wholly to the testimony you will find life and joy in the Master’s service. We urge upon you then, cleave to the testimony of our Lord for He has need of you in relation to His testimony.
In the 17th chapter of Acts it says that some men joining themselves to him, that is Paul, believed. In the Authorised Version, it say, “some men clave unto him”; and the word used here is translated by J.N.D. elsewhere in this sense – for example in Romans 12 he says ”Abhorring evil, cleaving to good”. It is the same word here in the original, so that I am using this Scripture to suggest that we cleave to Paul. Paul represents something; and it says of those men that
they joined themselves to him, or clave unto him, and believed. Notice the way it is put. I would have said ‘they believed, and then joined themselves to Paul’. But the Spirit of God is showing the importance of standing by Paul; that is why He puts the thought of cleaving first. “Some men, joining themselves [or, cleaving], to him, believed”, among whom was this noted man Dionysius and a woman named Damaris.
Now what is it to abide with Paul, to join with Paul? That is the next point. When I think of Paul I think of him as the great architect of the assembly. The twelve apostles had their place under the Lord, but Paul was a special vessel. He is called an elect vessel, and he was selected by the Spirit to be the architect of the assembly. And when Paul wrote to his child Timothy in a day similar to our own he urged him to abide in all that Paul had taught. He says, in 2nd Timothy. “Abide in those things which thou hast learned and of which thou hast been fully persuaded, knowing of whom thou hast learned them”. Timothy was fully acquainted with Paul’s teaching, and if you are meeting with a company of believers that is not patterned after Paul’s teaching, then I would say you should consider what is being said now. Paul would ever keep us in mind of the importance of the Assembly. The Assembly was the great light committed to him, that is the light that is to govern us today – true recovery is to the light of the Assembly.
Then, there are all the other Epistles of Paul, Corinthians for instance; and if I cling to Paul I cleave to Corinthians. I do not give up the teaching as to the communion of the Body of Christ. I do not need to go into all the error that is abroad in Christendom; I need to know what Paul says, and Paul teaches that all believers who have the Spirit are members of the Body of Christ, all baptised into one Body. Now that light is to govern me, in my outlook. I may only link on with half a dozen in my town; but I can look over the whole world, and I can see that Scripture does make me a member of the Body of Christ, and I am not going to give up that thought.
Paul tells us also about the House of God, and that keeps me balanced. Some might say, ‘If we are members of the Body of Christ that means that we can break bread with all Christians’. Oh no; I have also to be regulated by the truth of the Hose of God and that brings in the matter of conduct – that is the first Epistle to Timothy. If a man is going on in sin, I cannot walk with him if I want to maintain the holiness that becomes God’s House. That brings in the question of conduct, and Paul writes to Timothy in his first Epistle in order that he might know how one ought to conduct oneself in God’s House, which is the pillar and base of the Truth. We want to be governed in our localities by the truth of the Body and also by the truth of God’s House, and, as working out those thoughts today, it implies the truth of 2nd Timothy 2, that we pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace.
Now Paul would have us cleave to all these things. Cleaving to Paul, means that I am not surrendering any of the truth as taught by him, and Paul, as I have emphasised, was specially gifted to outline the light to regulate us in this dispensation. About 15 years ago, I remember Mr. James Taylor made the remark that, ‘in times of difficulty, we should go to Paul’.
The next Scripture I read was in relation to David in 2 Samuel 20. In case the younger people here are not acquainted with the circumstances of this chapter, I would say that a little while before this, David, the rightful king, had been set aside by a usurper – Absalom. He managed to get himself into the place of kingship, but at this point that matter had been more or less resolved, when suddenly when suddenly another difficulty presents itself. We need not be surprised at that in our day. As long as the Assembly is down here, the enemy will be busy and ready to attack wherever there is any person or persons standing in the light of what I have been speaking of already. Persons who are cleaving to the Lord, persons who are cleaving to the testimony, and persons who are cleaving to Paul will ever be the object of attack. Let us not be deceived by thinking that we will have a peaceful time from now till the Lord comes; we shall not unless we give up the Truth, We may be quite sure of this, that if the enemy is defeated at one point he will soon make another attack. That has always been the enemy’s way. An attack was made in 1845 relating to the Person of Christ, and just as it seemed to be getting more or less resolved another far greater crisis arose at a place called Bethesda Chapel in Bristol.
The same thing has happened in our time, beloved; so that this chapter has a present bearing upon us at the present moment; the enemy having been defeated in one point, is making another attack. It tells us in the beginning of the chapter that there happened to be there, a man of Belial. You will find that when there is friction amongst brethren, there always happens to be there a man of Belial.
The enemy will very quickly take advantage of any such situation; and so he says, “We have no portion in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse …” and then the men of Israel went up from after David, following Sheba the son of Bichri. Another rival to the king comes on the scene just when you would not have expected it: and going on down the chapter, it says in verse 14 “Sheba the son of Bichri, who went through all the tribes of Israel” – another thing that indicates the enemy is at work.
The enemy is never content to keep things in a locality, he wants to spread things in all the tribes of Israel. Is that not what the enemy is doing now? Let us not be deceived. It says of the people of God that they are not ignorant of the enemy’s thoughts. What an advantage that gives the saints; ministry that the Lord gives amongst His people should draw attention not only to where the Lord is and what the Lord is doing, but where the enemy is and what the enemy is doing. And at this present juncture, beloved brethren, the enemy is trying to get into all the tribes of Israel. He is trying to spread matters throughout many localities all over the world. But it says, in the verse read, “But the men of Judah clave to their king, from the Jordan even to Jerusalem”.
What are we going to do in the present emergency? Let us cleave to our King! As we go down the chapter, Joab comes to our notice, and Joab is rather ruthless. Nevertheless, he speaks what is right at one point and you have to listen to a man who speaks what is right. Now let us get matters right about Sheba. Joab says, “a man of mount Ephraim”, verse 21. You see, Ephraim had been set aside, but “a man of mount Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, has lifted up his hand against the king”. You see, there is an issue involved in this matter. This is not just some local squabble. Somebody has lifted up his hand against the king. That is a serious matter, beloved brethren, if somebody has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. You see, how that should appeal to every lover of David. Think of what Israel owed David, the beloved. I do not think there is any man spoke of so much as being loved – and, of course his name means beloved. So that Joab says that one has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. It means in our day, that someone is raising his hand against the One who has loved me and gave Himself for me; somebody is challenging His rights.
That is what is involved, and if that is how matters stand in any locality, let us cleave to our King. Matters arise in localities from time to time, and behind them there is an issue. ‘I do not want conflict, I am tired of it’. Nevertheless, if someone is going to raise their hand against the King, I trust I will not fail Him. Where would I be tonight had not the Lord Jesus died for my soul? Do you think it would be right in a matter that affects His rights that I should stand neutral? The Lord’s rights will always be challenged; until the end there will be conflict, but we want to urge upon you tonight to stand loyal to the King who has done so much for all His people. We do not want localities blotted out, but we should not allow the enemy to get through the tribes. Once the matter is taken up in a locality, the Lord comes in, that is important. In God’s land, about which we were speaking today, things are not left undermined – some locality is responsible, some locality can take matters up, and as sure as they do the Lord will be with them.
So this mother in Israel appears, and she shows how matters stand and it says that she “went to all the people in her wisdom”. The thing is brought to an issue. “They cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and cast it to Joab”. And then it says after that, “he blew a trumpet and they dispersed from the city … And Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king”. Now that is the finish to this difficult situation. Joab returns to Jerusalem. Jerusalem for us represents the idea of the Assembly, and Joab returns to that and to the king; his rights have been maintained notwithstanding the difficulty and so matters can proceed. Now these things are happening around us. The rights of the Lord are being challenged in different localities and, I would say to the brethren that we cannot allow things to drift indefinitely. Let us cleave to our King, and let us ever have in mind that the true issue of every crisis is what is set out here, to return to or uphold the Assembly position and be ever loyal to our King.
Now just a closing word on this passage in Genesis. The Scripture says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife”. That was written a long time ago, many years ago. Does it apply today? It does; let us have no delusions about the Scripture. Did the Lord teach differently about marriage? Well, He goes into the matter in the Gospels. In Matthew 19, for instance, He does not suggest any such change; He never suggests a wife would leave her husband, and He does not suggest a husband should leave his wife. He goes back to the beginning. He goes back to this very Scripture. They referred to Moses, what Moses allowed in the way of divorce, but the Lord says, “in view of your hard-heartedness”. Who wants to be on that line? The Lord says, “in the beginning it was not so”. He refers to this point about a man leaving his father and mother and cleaving to his wife. ‘Perhaps Paul brings in something different’, you say. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul takes up the question of the marriage bond, and this is what he says in relation to it, “To the married, I enjoin, not I but the Lord, Let not the wife be separated from her husband, and let not husband leave wife”. Do we want anything more, brethren?
The truth as to marriage is gone to pieces in the world, alas; these very Scriptures are being manipulated and misinterpreted, even by some Christians. In Romans 7, it says that a wife is bound by the law to her husband, as long as he lives, and we want to hold to that. A man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife. The thing is to keep by the Scripture; cleave to your wife, dear brother, and to the wife I say, cleave to your husband. Let not the husband leave wife, and let not the wife leave the husband. Paul says it, and he adds, “Not I, but the Lord”. He gives his own judgment. 1 Corinthians 7 is a most precious chapter from many points of view, and one of them at least is, that Paul distinguishes between what he says as his own judgment as a spiritual man, and what he says by inspiration under the commandment of the Lord. Now, in relation to his judgment, even though spiritual, he does not bind any; but as to what the Lord says, that is the commandment of the Lord; that is how it stands. He says, “Not I, but the Lord, Let not wife be separated from husband, and let not husband leave wife”.
Let us cling to these thoughts; let us hold faithfully to the marriage bond, not getting involved in the sin of fornication, we speak very practically. Paul says, “flee fornication”. So then may we be found cleaving faithfully in relation to all these matters of which I have spoken?
May the Lord bless the word, for His Name’s sake.