Ray Hoffman - Pretoria, Gauteng Province, South Africa Convention - Sunday, March 8, 2020

I have been reading in Luke 22:7-13, “Then came the day of unleavened bread when the Passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, 'Go and prepare us the Passover, that we may eat.' And they said unto him, 'Where wilt Thou that we prepare?' And he said unto them, 'Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water. Follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, "The Master saith unto thee, 'Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the Passover with My disciples?'" And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished. There make ready.' And they went, and found as he had said unto them and they made ready the Passover.”  


First off, it's in order to thank all that made it possible for us to be here. I appreciated the invitation and it is a great privilege to be with the Lord’s people. Sometimes people ask, "So what did you see when you went to South Africa?" I would tell them that when I got off the plane and I already saw the best that South Africa had to offer; I saw God’s servants and His people. That is the best of any land on this earth. We are very thankful to be amongst you, and each one is a miracle of God’s work. So these verses that we read; there are four of them that either said, "Prepare," or "Make ready" - speaking of the same thing. The Passover, as you know, is one of three feasts that are celebrated in Israel. Three times a year the males went, I think oftentimes the families went with them, to attend these feasts. We liken our convention to these feasts; this is a feast for our souls. The Passover was like the beginning of days for the children of Israel, celebrating the time when they left Egypt and started like a new life, leaving Egypt behind. Kind of like when we professed and the focus on that was the Lamb that was sacrificed, that was Jesus. 


So this feast and this last supper would be the last time they would celebrate the feast that represented Jesus because He was about to fulfill that feast when He would die on the cross. Fulfill all that it symbolized and represented. It would have meant more to Jesus than any of those disciples that night, because He knew the fullest extent that He was going to fulfill it. There is a lot to do to prepare for that feast. You can just look around here. Sometimes, people that don’t go to convention preps, they don’t realise how much work goes in. How much planning, how much thinking, even in as far as getting the food, setting up the chairs, lots of cleaning that goes on, a lot of sacrifice, and we appreciate every bit of it. Last year, I was going to another country to what I call a big event, convention to me is the biggest event of the year. For you people and for us, and I was thinking, "It’s a big event, but it is not the main event." The main event is in Eternity, that’s the main event, it’s Eternity. Most people in life, they treat life as the main event. Their planning, their aspirations, their hope, the strength that they put in, what they talk about. They treat life as the main event. Life is not the main event. We found that out when we made our choice to serve God. All of our life is really preparation for the main event, Eternity. 

If you want to just get Heaven’s view of life, look at Matthew 25 - that parable about the 10 virgins, five wise and five foolish. That’s how God looks at our lives here. We don’t really know much more about the virgins. It didn’t say anything more. They all had lives to live, they all had families - parents, brothers, sisters. Probably, they had other work to do, but the way the Lord was looking at it; it was just the preparation. That was the only thing He was looking at, when looking at these 10 virgins - it was the preparation time. When it comes down to when we go on to the main event, it really won’t matter what we did in life, as far as phisical work, or who we were connected to family wise. It will just be: were you and I prepared for the main event? This convention coming up is just another help, the big event to help us prepare for the main event, Eternity. 

So He had five wise and five foolish. One of our fellow workers once said, “It’s a good thing it didn’t say, 'Nine foolish and one wise,' because then we would say, 'Well we’re probably one of the foolish.' (I would say that anyhow.) It’s maybe a good thing he didn’t say, 'One foolish and nine wise,' because we would think, ‘Well, I am probably one of the wise.’ But it was five foolish and five wise, so it could go either way.” You know the last verses, there in Malachi is talking about preparing and it says, Malachi 4:6, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Now we know that that was fulfilled, when John the Baptist came preaching the message, the baptism of repentance, and his words were, “….Prepare you the way of the Lord, make His paths straight….” His disciples, when they were coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration, they asked Jesus, “..Why does Elijah have to come first? What does that mean that Elijah must come first…” and Jesus said to them, “…Elijah has already come, and they did to him whatever they wished….” Somehow it connected to His disciples, that He was speaking about John the Baptist and that John the Baptist came in the Spirit of Elijah. 


You know in the Jewish feast of the Passover, there is always an empty plate at the table, and that plate is for Elijah, because there in their mind, Elijah has to come before Jesus. They don’t realise that Elijah has already come, and Jesus has already come. He first came as a Lamb, and you might say when He comes again, He will be coming more like a Lion with vengeance against this earth. So here is this wonderful event of Jesus coming to the earth and He sent a man to prepare them so that His entrance into this earth would not be in vain. He didn’t come to curse the earth, He says, “…I came to save you, I didn’t come to curse you and condemn you, I came to save you." But He said that we are condemned already, if we choose darkness over light, if we love darkness.  But if we want to serve the Lord, He didn’t come to curse us, He didn’t come to condemn us, He came to bless us, if we’re prepared. So that’s why I think about this life, I think about this event coming up in a few days; we can gain a lot from it. 


We think about all the preparation that went in here, but there is a whole lot more preparation that went on up in Heaven. Could you imagine this that the Lord has been preparing a message for each one of you, me included, and we could miss it if we are not prepared? You know those five wise and five foolish virgins, they had the oil, that’s what made the difference, wasn’t it? The five foolish said, “….Our lamps are going out.” They knew what produced it, and said to the wise, “….Give us of your oil…” I have heard a lot of things and I am not going to say what the oil is. I used to think of it as the Holy Spirit, but some have felt maybe it’s more like willingness, because when they came to the door, apparently the foolish went and got the oil, and when they came there, they weren’t let in, they had the willingness, but it was too late. Some feel that the oil is submission, you can think of it as submission, or faith; you can think of it as a lot of things. But one thing we can say this much - that if there is light in our vessels, if we are the light of the world, just mark it down, we have the Holy Spirit, because that is what produces the light. If we don’t have the Holy Spirit, we are not the light. 


I had an old companion, we just buried him, I was with him five different times in the work. He used to say to us, “….Everyday, pray for the Holy Spirit…” He must have said it 100 times to us. It’s not like the Lord is going to take the Holy Spirit from you if you don’t pray for it that day, but I think the Lord would like for us to be praying for the Holy Spirit, like a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit to be conscious of the Holy Spirit, because that’s our life line, that is what makes us a child of God. That’s what will make us ready for His return, if we have the Holy Spirit. That makes it easy for the Lord; He knows exactly who to raise from the dead, He knows exactly who to translate to a new body, it’s those that have His Holy Spirit. He is the giver of that Holy Spirit. When we do exactly what we have been hearing, believe the Gospel and truly repent, having that Holy Spirit, it does seem that there was a way of thinking in the foolish. One of the things they were probably thinking, "Say we are serving the Lord and the oil is running out of our lamps, it’s not being replenished," there is likely two things going on in our minds. One is this feeling that we have enough. When we think that, "I have enough," well, then we are not going to be feeling our need of getting more. As long as we think, "I have enough, I go to the Sunday Morning Meeting, and try to read a bit in my Bible every day, I have enough." But you know, I don’t think the wise were thinking that way at all, because when the foolish said, “Give us of your oil,” they said, “We don’t have enough to share with you.” That’s how God’s people generally think, "I don’t have enough, and that’s why I am here at convention, because I don’t have enough."


That’s like the description of a person that’s poverty of spirit, poor in spirit. A poor person thinks, "I don’t have enough, I want more of God’s Spirit." When we come here and see a picture of Jesus, I want more of His love, I want a closer walk with the Lord, I don’t have enough, I don’t have enough wisdom. The list just goes on and on of what we see; I don’t have enough. So it just makes us feel our need to draw near to the Lord, that’s like preparing for the convention, really. I don’t have enough. We come poor and needy. The other thought; I think that prevails in a person, that would end up as a foolish virgin is, "I can get it tomorrow. If I don’t have enough, I’ll get it tomorrow." The old saying is, "Tomorrow never comes." We want to live in the present, and we want to get it now. If the Lord lays something on our hearts, we want to deal with that now. Live in the present before the Lord.


I was thinking of Luke 22 now, preparing for the feast. What did they have to do to get ready for the feast? There was one very obvious thing they had to do to get ready for the feast and that is they had to get a lamb. They couldn’t have the Passover feast without the lamb and we can't either. If the Lamb is missing in our midst when we have convention, it will mostly just be a social event. Will be nice to see everyone, but if we are missing the Lamb, we are not going to be fed, our needs won’t be met. We need the Lamb. In a sense, it’s everyone’s responsibility to bring the Lamb to convention. I am sure they have enough to eat, but we are talking about the Spirit of the Lamb. That’s how the Lamb is going to be brought into our midst, if each one does their part. Each family in Israel had to get a lamb, they had to bring a lamb, each one had to do their part. It’s the same with us; it is everyone’s part to bring the Lamb, the Spirit of the Lamb into the convention. That’s the best thing you could do for any meeting, like in the Sunday morning meeting. If you feel you can't speak or you think, "…I sure wish, I could speak like so and so…." Just bring the Spirit of the Lamb. If you bring the Spirit of the Lamb, you will have a good meeting. You want to focus on the Lamb. 


You know that lamb was to be brought in, I think it was the 10th day of the First Month, and it was to be kept till the 14th day before it was killed. The Lamb I think had to be of the first year, without blemish, and without spot, a perfect little Lamb. You can imagine the shepherd, he is going out to his flock, and he gets a lamb that he thinks is going to fill those requirements, and he brings it to the house. I think those four days in the house, he would be watching that little lamb to make sure that this is the lamb without blemish. I don’t know if they can prove it or not, but it would seem like it was the last days of Jesus' life when those scribes, pharisees, and lawyers came to Jesus. They were examining Him. Remember those questions about whether it’s lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not, and the question about the resurrection, the man that had a wife, and he died and then seven of his brothers had her, who’s would she be in the resurrection? They were just astonished at his answers. I think it was at that time that a lawyer asked him about what are the greatest commandment. It was like he was being examined by some very critical men.


I was thinking about this yesterday. It came to mind, an old friend of ours in one of the States where we labored years ago, this man turned blind when he was 58 years old. He had three wives, each died.. The second wife, I think he had met her when he could see, but the third wife he had never laid eyes on her. So he told us he had asked this one worker that he thought would be the most critical in their judgment about this lady. When he gave her his approval, he knew it was safe to marry her. The most critical people on earth were examining the Lamb, and they could find no fault in Him. Jesus was crucified by His own words, admitted that He was the Son of God, which were true words. But they could not find any fault with the Lamb. As far as His own disciples upon examination, they just loved Him more. Remember John, he said, “…that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, we have seen, and looked upon…” More close examination that they watched Him, and then they reached forth and handled the word of life. They loved Him, they fell in love with the Lamb, because of examining Him with an honest heart. Those with a dishonest heart, when they examined the Lamb, they really couldn’t find any fault with Him. They could find fault with His followers. A lot of people found fault with His disciples, like we heard, we are a work in progress, an unfinished work, but they couldn’t find fault with Jesus. They tried, but they couldn’t. So now we can focus on the Lamb, without any fear, any worry, any doubt that we are going to find fault with the Lamb. We know that, but we want to focus on Him. 


Hebrews 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God, should taste death for every man. For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” But we see Jesus, we see Him suffering. You know sometimes, we come to convention and we have a focus, but it’s not on the Lamb. Sometimes it’s focused on our past, and sometimes when we look on our past, it’s not a very pretty picture. It affects our countenance, and it affects our spirit, and we are discouraged. Because we are focusing on our past, but you know if we look on our past, we can get discouraged. Focusing on the Lamb will not discourage us, because we are going to see the Lamb who died for us. Those sins that the devil keeps bringing up - the devil means "malicious accuser" - and if we can say anything good about the devil, he is very good at what he does. He accuses us in our spirit, about our past, he just keeps bringing it up. We could come to convention just focusing on our faults and on our past. But if we are focusing on the Lamb, even though we would look at our past, it won’t be with gloom and with darkness. 


Who would have a worse past than Paul? He was a righteous man by many standards, as far as the law was concerned, the outward part of the law; he was blameless. But like we heard in Romans 7 - inwardly, he was fighting a terrible battle, and he was losing the battle and he knew it because he was an honest man and he was condemned for it. You know he said, “..I have lived in all good conscience before God and Man…” and when he said that in Acts 23:1, and Ananias the High Priest was standing there, he [Ananias] commanded one of his men to smite him on the mouth. He probably figured in his mind that that was a false statement, because Paul was a follower of Jesus. We might think that Paul did not have a good conscience, because he persecuted the Lord’s people, but I believe Paul was speaking the truth when he said, “..I have lived in all good conscience.” Because in Romans 7, it was his conscience that came up with the answer, “…Oh wretched man that I am…” A good conscience, as my older companion used to often say, is a conscience that can feel condemnation. That’s a good conscience. He had that in him, he had an honest conscience, he just didn’t know what to do about it. Then he found the answer in Jesus. He said, “…I have lived in all good conscience..,” and he said, “…I have a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man.” That’s where we want our conscience exercised, to be void of offence towards God and towards man. We know what it is like before God, even maybe sitting here, our conscience could be smiting us. That’s like before God. No one sees that, and it might be just something there between us and God, something in the quietness of our heart that He reveals, and a good conscience will respond, “Yes, Lord, I am guilty.” Or it could be a conscience that gives us peace. Void of offence towards man, that is a wonderful thing, to have a conscience void of offence towards man.

I will just give you an example how Paul’s conscience was working. He said at one time, “….I will not eat meat as long as the world stands, if it is going to offend my brother.” That’s a conscience void of offence towards man. Another person can say that there is nothing wrong with eating meat, that means offered to idols. He knows there is nothing wrong with that, because there are no idols, they are not real, and the person with that knowledge could eat the meat without any thought towards their brethren. Sometimes maybe at convention, our heart could be pricked, because we might do things, and we might just say, "Well you know, there is nothing wrong with that, but how does it affect our brethren?" We want to have a conscience void of offence towards our fellow man.


We could think about our future, we could be focused on our future. There are things that loom up in the future, that we are unsettled about, we are afraid about, we are not sure about. Decisions. I think about the youth amongst us. You know some of the most important decisions that are going to affect the rest of your life are made in your youth. You say, "Well, I don’t have the wisdom, I don’t have the experience." No, but you can have the Lamb with you. Like someone said one time, “When Jesus spoke about the strait gate and the narrow way, and the wide gate and the broad way, just let the Lord stand with you at the gates, and He can help you see down the future, and see the results of your choice.” Like one lady said one time after she professed, “You know when I made my choice, the Lord showed me the end from the beginning, but He didn’t show me all the steps in between.” But He did show her the end from the beginning, the end of that choice. That’s what should concern us. Let the Lamb help us, focus on the Lamb, and if we’re looking toward the future, let the Lamb help us make the right choice. 


Then sometimes, it’s just our present condition. Just who we are. Like John, no one was worthy to open up the seven seals, not even to look upon them, and he wept much. The elder said to John, “…Weep not, for the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, hath prevailed to open up the seven seals…,” to look upon them and to open them up. Then the rest of Revelation is Him opening up each seal, and I am convinced that those seals, mostly are in the future, and soon to come upon us. But when he looked up, do you remember what he saw? It wasn’t the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, he saw the Lamb that was slain, from the foundation of the world. That would have encouraged John, and that should encourage us to see the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world. We don’t want to have a vision of others in the meeting that look upon their faults. You know what that does for us, it brings into us a spirit of criticism, a spirit of condemnation, it just does not have a good effect. You meet with people every week, and you become acquainted with their weaknesses and faults, but if we look at them with our focus on the Lamb, and we see them through the eyes of the Lamb, we will look at them differently. We will still see the faults, but it won’t be with a critical spirit. As we have heard often, "We will be looking at them as needs, more as needs." So focus on the Lamb. We want to bring the Lamb to the feast.


Another thing they had to do for preparation. That feast had to be eaten with unleavened bread. The first time that they celebrated the Passover, they had to do it with a staff in hand, and with their sandals on, because they had to eat it in haste. But in the future feasts of the Passover, I don’t think that that was mandatory, but one thing that I have read of  throughout the scriptures - every time it mentions about the Passover, is that it must be eaten with unleavened bread. The soul that eats the Passover with leavened bread, it is a very serious offence. It says that that soul will be cut off from the congregation of Israel. That’s how serious it was. So what does that mean for us? In I Corinthians 5:7, it says, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” The old leaven is something that is working in us, in darkness, and it can produce a hypocrisy in us. It says about Nathaniel, when he came to Jesus, Jesus said, “….Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile…” I was at a convention one time, and the older brother worker said, “To be without guile, that means without hypocrisy, is to be most coveted amongst us.” When he said that, I was very surprised, because I was just thinking, "Well we often hear, that love is most important, and faith is most important, but he said to be without guile is to be most coveted amongst us." When I got to thinking about it, I believe he was right, because if we have guile in our hearts, we don’t even get started in the right way. Our love will not be pure, our faith will not be an unfeigned faith, it just taints all the virtues of Jesus in our hearts, if we have guile. 


To me, the most basic illustration that Jesus used about Himself was, “I am the true light.” There is nothing more encompassing our life than light and darkness. He used bread, He used water, He used seed, that those people all were familiar with. But nothing affects our life more, or touches us, and we experience more, than light and darkness. Even from before birth, and He spoke about it a lot. When you see things like mold growing, it grows in darkness. I don’t know if you have termites here? They do their work in darkness, and the devil does his work in darkness. There is a wonderful value in just being open and honest. You’re getting ready for the Passover and you’re getting rid of the leaven, you have to turn the light on to see if there is any little bit of leaven left in the cupboards. They had this leaven, and did they get it all? No leaven was to be found in the house. So you could just let the Holy Spirit help us to examine all the crevices and corners of our hearts to see if there is any leaven there, any hypocrisy, any grudges that we are holding. Let the light expose it and deal with it. Because if we come to this feast that is coming up at convention and we have this leaven, we’re holding onto some unforgiveness, some grudge, and our motive isn’t pure. We have just come to convention like that. You know a person could excel, but down the road, they are looking at something that is not right, and it will affect the way you hear the Word of God. 


That hymn says, “My heart has one desire today, to do the Heavenly Father’s Will.”  We have heard that helpfully today, that is how we want to come to convention, “My heart has one desire today, to do the Heavenly Father’s Will.” So these men came together, did a lot of preparation work, a lot of details, some very important details they did not take care of. You know what it was? It was the details of their spirit. Those men, they were dutiful, they were obedient men, and they came there, but their spirit really wasn’t right. Their spirit had competition, pride, and that’s what kept them from washing one another’s feet. It wasn’t that they didn’t love each other. Like if He said to John, "John, do you love Andrew?" John would say, "I love Andrew." (I think he would tell the truth.) But not enough to wash his feet. We might love one another, but maybe not as much as we should. This love is being perfected in our hearts. We know that a lot of work gets done at convention, but the sooner He can get our spirits right and our hearts softened, we are going to listen so much better. We pray that this may be our portion.