Alan Richardson - Second Convention, Williams, Western Australia - November, 2005

Hymn 355

Luke 22: 39-46, this is the time of the week when we like to remember the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus but before we go on to that I’d like to mention something I had in mind the other day but there wasn’t sufficient time. In the Old Testament, they had cities of refuge and we read of them in Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 19 where the Lord made provision for these 6 cities: 3 on one side of Jordan and 3 on the other side – that if a person had unintentionally been responsible for the death of another; it wasn’t a case of murder. If a person killed somebody with malice or hatred, he didn’t come under these cities of refuge. Before the avenger of blood came down they could flee to these cities and remain there untouched until the death of the high priest.

We don’t have a high priest who’s just a man subject to life and death, but we do have a high priest in heaven; because one time He did live upon this earth and took upon Himself a human body and knows what human nature is like and how we suffer. God could have chosen for Him to be born in the wealthiest palace: He came from heaven and deserved the best of luxuries. But He would never have understood the life of the common people like you and me. But God in His wisdom, thought it best for Him to be born into the home of Joseph and Mary, ordinary people.

This was evidenced by the type of offering that they took up to the temple when Jesus was born. It does appear before Jesus was 30 years of age and began His ministry that His father Joseph had passed from this earthly scene. He was a godly man and we don’t read one thing that he said: only what he did. But when God spoke to him by the angel he immediately arose and went for the child’s safety into the land of Egypt. He was a man that wasn’t recorded for his words but for his instant response to the word of commandment of God.

With Jesus, it says, He was the carpenter’s son. He understands far better than we understand of the power that’s available to help us to be victors over the power of sin. I am not talking about my own human strength: we are talking about what was made possible through the help and power of God’s spirit – beginning, continuing to what really is a miracle – to finish. So when we talk about walking in this way of God, we talk about the impossible becoming possible. So, this high priest has gone before and is the greatest place of refuge and rest we can find in the company of our Lord Jesus through the spirit. I like to think of God’s people being like cities of refuge. When a person has done something that’s had a disastrous result, and they need somebody to go to with complete confidence of knowing that person won’t repeat it. I am glad there are people amongst us like that, like cities of refuge to which God’s people in their need can go to.

God made a wonderful provision in the Old Testament. I was thinking of God’s provision for cleansing. In both the Old Testament and New Testament, there were 3 provisions made for cleansing: by blood, water, and by separation. When we hear the gospel and begin to realise the possibility of living this human life; which through the gospel is simple, we do need to repent and turn to the way of God. We become glad for the provision that has been made as we turn from sin and turn to God. That’s possible only through the blood of the Lord Jesus. In the Old Testament times, many times an animal was slain: whether a ram, a goat, or a bullock. Animals were slain for sin and sometimes for thanksgiving and these were generally voluntary. But sin offerings were compulsory.

Then there was the cleansing of water too. You will find in the Old Testament in certain situations that they were to go and wash themselves in a certain way for cleansing. Jesus said in John’s gospel 13:11, “Ye are not all clean.” That’s what He had to say and the reason for that was Judas Iscariot was still in the gathering, and Jesus knew what was soon going to take place. He knew what was in his heart. But in John 15:3, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” That’s the New Testament setting for us too once we have yielded and given our heart to God and received forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Christ; we can maintain ourselves clean by applying the word to our lives. We go out conscious of the commandments of the Lord Jesus and how He wants us to live and we apply it to our lives during the day. This is like water and helps to give us cleansing. If a child has been outside playing in the mud, he is put in the bath tub or the shower; and there has to be water and soap so he may be cleansed.

Then there’s a separation that’s needed between that child and the mud outside. The mother has to make sure that child doesn’t go outside and get into the mud again, and the mother has to force him nicely to keep him out of the mud. In Old Testament times there was a separation so the children of Israel would be kept clean from defilement. In the New Testament, we see words like perfecting and holiness in the fear of God. I have seen big changes in the world in the last 50 years. We have had a lot of struggles: peer pressure when I was young. Once we are of age and do certain things, we know that the power of God is just as strong and able to help in every circumstance. But we do have to maintain ourselves clean and undefiled with so many circumstances around us that can defile our souls.

Jesus said one time that the love of many could grow cold. That’s a danger I can see for myself and every one of us. If I don’t keep the love of God in my heart it could go cold. In the Old Testament when there hadn’t been any fire on the altar, when they placed the animals on the altar God sent down a fire which consumed those sacrifices. After that it was the responsibility of the priests to keep that fire burning so it would never go out. It’s like our situation: when the first flame was put in our hearts by the God of Heaven now it’s our responsibility to keep faith and love aflame in these hearts of ours. I would like to learn how to do this better.

There was wonderful provision for God’s people in the Old Testament and New Testament times. I would like to avail myself of every provision: cleansing of the blood, cleansing by water and separation. I used to puzzle on these verses in John’s epistle, “He that is born of God doth not commit sin.” Well, I wasn’t going in for bad things, but there was enough of my own will and taking of my own way that when I came to the end of the day, I hadn’t done things in the way I should have done. One day Walter Frank spoke of this verse and said, “The born again nature doesn’t sin. When we sin it’s the human nature that has risen up to control.” So at the end of the day in spite of our best efforts when we kneel down at the end of the bed, we are conscious that the day hasn’t gone as it should have done and we have to face our short comings to the God of Heaven. The intention is that we should not sin but be under the control of God’s Spirit.

We read in the Old Testament of the tabernacle which was a glorified tent in the beginning which had several coverings. This wasn’t an ordinary tent but a special tent and inside was the holy place. Then inside that was the most holy place where the Ark of the Covenant was. Then on top was the mercy seat. The time came when they assembled the tabernacle and put the ark in the most holy place, beyond the veil. And inside that they put the two tables of stone which had the 10 commandments written on them. There were two other things placed inside: one was Aaron’s bud that budded and the other was the pot of manna which had been given by God to the children of Israel for the 40 year period in the wilderness – and that was put inside the Ark of the Covenant. On top of that was the mercy seat. In Exodus 25:21, “And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.” Then 37:6-9, they made the mercy seat of pure gold; the length and breadth was given and they made two cherubims of gold, on the two ends of the mercy seat The cherubims spread out their wings over the mercy seat with their faces one to another. I think they are a type of angel and with the thought that God’s mercy is towards his people in every age, there is the fact we do have these angels guarding us. God’s mercy is a wonderful thing, its part of God’s provision and grace.

It says in 1st Peter 4:10, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” The word ‘grace’ is not a modern English word and you don’t hear it very much. It’s nice when you meet a gracious person, it’s not commonly heard; but it means God’s favour towards us and expresses the side of our covenant with God – our part, in what we have to do in co-operation with God, the fruits of the spirit that’s very essential and an important part of our salvation. But the part God has done speaks of things which we could never do ourselves. God sending His servants, putting His hand on a young man or woman and saying, “I would like you to go out and bring my gospel message to other people.”

And He puts the earnest care towards the welfare of His people. It’s not the words that are spoken by them, but God blessing those words and producing the first things of faith. That’s what we have to act on. Wonderful things and all a part of salvation which we are recipients: which we could never do for ourselves. I was in a meeting one time with Walter Frank and there was a man who had attended some of our meetings. Then he wanted us to go to one of their meetings; so we went along. Well there was this man who spoke so strong about sin that a poor woman rose to her feet and rushed out of the meeting. Afterwards my companion said to the preacher, “You gave that woman a lot of condemnation but no hope.” We are glad this gospel is one of hope: gives us wonderful opportunities of being different from what we are.

There’s a verse in Proverbs 28:13, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” That’s really what repentance is all about. John the Baptist spoke so much about repentance and when Jesus came to Galilee it was one of the most essential parts of His ministry. Repentance means to turn away or turn from. I know the mercy of God is a conditional thing and is held out to everyone of us but we have to turn from our own ways to the God of Heaven. I liked what was spoken of the Passover. As far as God was concerned the Passover Jesus had with His disciples was the last Passover with any significance. It’s true, the Jewish people, after 40 years, celebrated the Passover, but as far as God was concerned everything that was connected was gone. He was the lamb from the foundation of the world and that Passover had now passed.

I read one time of a Roman governor of Judea in the period after the crucifixion of Christ, commanded a tally be done of the lambs that were slain at the Passover feast and it was over 200,000. And when you think there had to be no less than 12 persons partaking and not more than 20: if the numbers weren’t sufficient. There must have been many people in Jerusalem at the time when the Romans surrounded the city and all those people were trapped. So after months of siege, the Jews fighting against the Roman soldiers who clamoured over the wall and one carrying a fiery brand threw it over the wall and everything caught alight. And the fire was so fierce that all the gold melted and went down over the buildings and the Roman soldiers ripped stone away from stone to get the gold.

A verse in Ephesians 1:7, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” We hear the word ‘redemption’ and the word ‘redeemed:’ it means that a price was paid so somebody could be set free. That’s the price that was paid for us so we could be freed from our sins, and Jesus paid that on Calvary that no other could pay. He was divine because He never sinned, but because He was human too He was tempted. But only He could pay the complete offering to reconcile man with God. It doesn’t speak so much about that side of His sacrifice, but that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem to be put to death.

There’s another verse in Matthew 20:28, “The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus said He came to be a servant of all and be a ransom so we could go free. I like what it says in Revelation 5:9 about the song of the redeemed people. We won’t be talking about what we have done, but all glory to God, like that hymn which Raine chose 385 “Thou art worthy,” speaking of the one who was and is worthy. So we could be His redeemed people; united with Him for all eternity.

In Romans it speaks of being justified by faith. Justification means that we are given a right standing with God where formerly we didn’t have it. That’s something that was made possible through the provision of Christ. “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”   Reconciled to God by the death of One. I like what follows which is very, very important: “much more being reconciled – we shall be saved by His life."

I liked what was said that they were to take the lamb on the 10th day and partake of it on the 14th day; so they’d be looking on the lamb for 4 days. How much time do we spend looking on His life and His testimony? Then verse 11 mentions, “By whom we have now received the atonement.” In the old English language it was ‘at one ment,’ but it now becomes atonement. Many times in the Old Testament sacrifices were made so God’s people could be at one with Him; and wonderful we can be made one with God. The word ‘propitiation’ means one person took another’s place. Christ who was the innocent one was not worthy of death But because of love and compassion for humanity, He was willing to step in and pay the penalty for people like ourselves. I would like to love more and more the One who first loved me.