Ronald Thomke - Williams, Western Australia Convention - 2018

Hymn 355

Isaiah 61:8, "For I, the Lord, love judgment. I hate robbery for burnt offering and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them." First, a little background to this chapter in Isaiah, as it is the scripture that Jesus spoke in the synagogue in His home town after He came back after being away for a while.  Jesus was given the book of Isaiah, and it says He found the place, and these words were so appropriate to that situation, for that time, don’t you love someone who can come up with the right verse for just the situation, some are very good for that, whether it is for a funeral or for a problem, and this is what Jesus did here. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek.  That statement I see is the background to this whole chapter, for these are the things that happen when the good tidings of the gospel, the word of God is voiced by an anointed messenger for Jesus was anointed by the spirit to preach good tidings to the meek, or to the poor. 

Then there is a list of different needy people and how that message by the anointing of the spirit is just what people need to hear, and there is just one on this list that grips my heart, that He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted.  Is it not a sad thing when you know someone who is broken-hearted, the gospel is what can bring help to those persons.  Think about a child and their world is so small and their favourite toy is broken, they bring it to their parents, we can’t fix it, it is ruined, maybe it is a child’s pet animal that dies.  Then you get into your teens and what would be the most painful experience, the boy, girl relationship that is broken, one or the other says it is over, no more and the other one is broken-hearted. Then in adulthood maybe some of you have experienced things that have left you broken-hearted. 

I was thinking especially about three farmers for in America there has been such fluctuations in the agricultural economy, and I know three farmers who lost their farm, and when you have worked as hard a farmer does, to put an operation together, with hope for the future and you lose it.  In one case, it was very sad, a young man had developed a good operation and was called to go into the work, so sold it to another man and he felt the responsibility, I am trusted with this and so I want to do the best I can because he is giving his best to the Lord, and I want him to have the feeling that his farm, his operation is going well, he lost the farm.  So sad, he has had a stroke now. 

The preaching of the word anointed by the spirit can bring healing to the broken-hearted.  You think about the child that had the broken toy, you would think, just get him another one, to heal the broken hearted is to replace the toy, but many times we find in adulthood, the thing that causes the broken heart can’t be fixed, can’t be replaced.  That is the wonderful thing about the word of God anointed by the spirit is able to bring healing and the broken heart is healed, we cannot replace what is lost, we can’t correct the situation but there can be healing, wonderful what the good tidings with the spirit can do. 

Verse 8, "I, the Lord, love judgment," that is quite a statement, often so much is said in a few words, in the scripture what judgement is, we call good judgment, we have either good or bad judgment but usually in the scripture judgment is referring to good judgment or justice. I, the Lord, love justice, I, the Lord, love good judgment and why does the Lord love good judgment?  It is because judgment is about making decisions and Jesus is our perfect example in good judgement because He never made the wrong decision, He never said the wrong thing and in one way, He showed us how to make good decisions, is not to make them too quick, do not rush into making a decision. 

We have a very good example of this when they brought to Jesus a woman taken in adultery and they said that she should be stoned, and He could have told them straight on the spur of the moment that they were wrong, but He stooped and wrote on the ground and He did that twice.  He was just teaching us that when there is an important decision, when you have to deal with something, just don’t jump into it, don’t be too hasty, allow time for the spirit to guide you.  A big part of good judgment is common sense, common sense will help you in making good decisions, you do not need to be highly educated, you do not need to have superior intelligence or even a lot of experience.  It is amazing where common sense comes from, for some people who are highly educated do not have common sense and make good judgments, or even people who have a lot of experience do not have common sense.  At times when people’s lives are in a mess, it is so easy to say it is the result of circumstances, things happened that I could not control, it is someone else’s fault and maybe sometimes those things could be true but often it is just the consequence of poor decision making, poor judgment brings the result of our lives being so complicated and in such a mess.  Good decision making does not require a great cleverness or good education. 

To give you an example, we were staying in a home where they make their living growing vegetables, and some fruits, a hard-working family and it is like this sometimes, they work so hard, but they are always behind, always in debt, always burdened and life seems to be such a strain.  The youngest son in the family is big, he eats well and goes to school but is not very bright and I doubt whether he will ever be able to graduate and yet he is hard working, he loves work and he is so good natured that it is a pleasure to be around him.  His father told me one day that this son has more common sense than all the rest of us put together and to give you an example of this.  Mum came home one day, and she said, "Today I saw a boat for a very good price," and in that area where they lived there are a lot of lakes, so every family has to have a boat, so she said, "We work so hard and we do not have any recreation and we need something and this boat is ideal as it is at a good price.

The family discussed it, but when Ike was alone with his dad, this is the slow son who can’t learn, said to his dad, "We really need a better tractor and we don’t need a boat," and that was so true.  Their tractor was always breaking down, so we could use that money for the boat and buy a better tractor and things will go better, and this is what they did, good common sense.  In making good decisions, we cannot just rely on our common sense entirely either, we hear often to pray about it, and that is good advice but having good common sense and praying about it, we can still make the wrong decision.  If you parents see your child entering into a relationship with an ungodly person, it would grieve you to see that and so you could say to your son or daughter, pray about it, but you think about it, when the hormones are going and the passion is high and the whole thing is exciting, when you pray you know what you are going to hear, you are going to hear your own voice say, "Let me do it, Lord, give your approval."

Sometimes we are like that compromised teenager, when we are praying about a decision that is important, we are really asking God to do it our way and to protect us, and that is not good judgment.  When making important decisions, we really need to be open with God, and not driven by your flesh and human nature to control, be open to God who sees the big picture for He loves good judgment.  He would like to guide us for the meek, He will guide in judgment.  For the meek, He will teach His way, for that is the secret, be meek and be humble enough to allow the Lord Himself to guide us.  The next part of the verse says, "I hate robbery for burnt offerings," and can you imagine someone going up to Jerusalem to make an offering to show how right they are with God, to leave a good impression and he steals a lamb on the way to offer at the altar. 

There must have been some practices like this happen, as we read in Mark 7:11, "But ye say, if a man shall say to his father or mother, 'It is Corban,' that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother."  Have you ever wondered about this verse?  It seems that it is like this, the Jews had a practice that a person would make a gift and really what they were giving is something that they should have been giving to their parents for their support.  We all owe something to our parents, we owe something to our children, we owe something to our siblings and so here there was no social system of benefits for elderly care, so the children would be responsible to support their parents.  So here if what they owed to their parents and offer it to the Lord and expect that it would impress the Lord, and this is something that must have been happening.  What Jesus is saying, "Would we really give to the Lord something that we owe to someone else?" 

By way of example, there was a friend who was working for a farmer and their custom was that they would get up early and then milk the cows.  First, then come in and have breakfast before going out to work in the field.  He spoke in his testimony that his boss always wanted to go out to the field right after breakfast, but he said, "I needed time with the Lord, I needed some time to pray, I needed some time to read the Bible," and he was very sincere when he said it, and on the surface, it looked like a good thing, but nearly the whole convention reacted to this with this thought, "He was giving time to the Lord that he should have been giving to his employer for he was being paid for this time."  If he was going to be giving time to the Lord, it has to be in his own time, need to get up earlier or find some other time in the day to do it.  We cannot make a sacrifice to the Lord that is not costing you anything that may be costing others a lot.  The Lord hates that and hate is a strong word. 

The next part of the verse is, "I will direct their work in truth."  The thought of the Lord directing our lives in truth.  One of the big changes in my life was going from one staff in one state to another staff of workers in another state.  I had only been six and a half years in this state, and I found a number of reasons why I would love to stay there longer.  Word had come, and the elder workers planned a change for me, taking me to a place way out of my sphere of experience but I felt at peace with it, it was like the Lord directing my life, my way, my work in truth.  As workers, a lot of the big decisions in life we don’t make but at the same time that I was having that change of state a young couple right in our field had a job offer right in the area where I was going and so I was feeling so secure.  This is the Lord’s plan for me, but that young couple were not secure that this was the best plan for them.  I was so settled and they were so unsettled and so we both arrived at the new place and they only lasted one year and I was there for thirty one years and very content, so we as workers have some advantage over you in that, if we can just be content with the plans that others make for us directed by the Lord. 

If you can just discipline yourselves to let that happen in your lives also, don’t just plow headlong into career decisions, retirement decisions without first getting some direction.  We in the work have plans made for us, but then we have to decide where to have gospel meetings, in whose house to stay, and how long to stay, so there are a lot of direction we need from the Lord also, so we understand what it means to make decisions.  Your life will go so much better if you can just wait on the Lord before making decisions.  For when you are a child, you have to have this and have that, and I will not be happy unless I get it, and if we are like this as adults, we are not really happy.  If we can somehow subdue our inner drive and allow the Lord to direct our lives, our lives will go a lot better.  The last part of the verse says, "I will make an everlasting covenant with them."  This is the message to those who have responded to the good tidings by the inspired anointed messenger, will make an everlasting covenant with them.  We read a lot about covenants in the Bible and as far as I can see, a covenant is like an agreement between unequals.  Contracts and promises are often made between equals, one company with another company, one individual with another individual, a tenant with a landlord but just think of the difference there is between us and the Lord. Isn’t it amazing that He would even make an agreement with us, that He would make promises and commitments with us?  In the scripture, there is the covenant that God made with Abraham, with Noah, with the descendants of Jacob.  We don’t use that word much now do we, but it is happening, it is a very real thing.  Wouldn’t you say that salvation is a covenant?  The Lord has promised that if we will believe in Jesus and believe not only in profession but also in action. 

Believing in Him as our Saviour and Redeemer but also believe in Him as an example, if we will believe in Jesus then He will give us eternal life, He will pardon us for everything that would separate us from eternal life. He will make us partakers of eternal life because we have believed in Jesus.  That is quite a covenant, we had the feeling it is a big decision.  As one young man said, "It is so hard to hand over the control of your life."  That is why people find it hard for it is not just joining something or committing yourself to a certain amount of support to a religious group.  This is a matter of believing in profession and in action, living for salvation is a way of life and that is a beautiful covenant, it is an everlasting covenant and the Lord will not depart from His part of the covenant.  We find that what looked to us as something that was going to cost so much and really would be so disruptive in our lives but really we have been given a lot for salvation gives us a lot, it does not ruin our life, it gives us a life, it is everlasting, not a disappointment, it is a very good experience and so glad to have a part in that covenant.

Going on from verse eight, "And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people.  All that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed."  Parents who have responded to the good tidings, and then the children who have been brought up in this in the homes of God’s people, in the meetings, they are a sign, they speak a message, a message that you or the workers can voice, the children, they are known among the gentiles. 

A family we know, the father and mother have four sons.  They went to a school function where parents and teachers get together to discuss the children’s progress, and the teacher asked the parents, that they would come to his office.  The parents said to themselves, "Whatever have our boys done? Why does he want to see us in his office?"  When they got there, he said to them, "Tell me how you raised your boys.  I have three sons and I would like to raise them just like you raise yours."  The workers or the parents would never have been able to speak a message to that man, but the lives of the children could.  That man was seeing something that he could not find in any church or in any child psychology classes.  The world can see something different in our children, we may feel sometimes that they are misbehaving but they are different, it is really the work of the spirit through the family, through the gospel for that is what makes our children different from all the other children.  This is what this verse is speaking about, and their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people.

The next verse says, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation."  This is what we have been talking about, so what about this joy for you look like the most sober group of people that could be gathered together on the planet, just looking at you.  Did you ever invite a person to a gospel meeting?  Without explaining to them that it is going to be quiet before the meeting starts, for you need to tell them because some cannot handle the quietness before the meeting, this is tense, this is serious and the outward appearance to the unbeliever, would see that there is no joy in it, it is so restrictive, so sober, but you know what we have learned that reverence and soberness are not incompatible with joy.  You can be sober, you can be reverent, you can be serious and still have deep joy.  Joy is the fruit of the spirit, so if the joy that we have is the fruit of the spirit and not just some human emotion, it is going to be deep and it is going to be calm and it is going to be compatible with soberness and responsibility. 

I have the wonderful privilege of being a part of a staff of workers that are happy.  We don’t compete as to who has the happiest workers, but I love to see the spirit of joy and soberness among the staff of workers we have.  To give you an example, one Sunday evening before the convention was to begin, preparations were basically ended, and I was working on some correspondence in my room.  There were some happy sounds coming from the brother’s quarters.  It was magnetic, it drew me, and when I got nearer there was this happy sound, all just enjoying each other’s company.  I did not intrude and went back to my room with this thought, "These brothers really like each other."  Joy does radiate, joy does speak, we can’t help it if our spiritual intensity and our devoted reverence is misinterpreted, there is no way that we want to change it.  We do want to manifest that joy which is a fruit of the spirit, and you do not get it by trying to lift up yourself in an emotional happy way.  In religious ways, they know that there should be some enthusiasm and a sense of life, so they do everything they can to build up their emotions.  Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  The way that we achieve that joy is what this chapter talks about, just give the spirit more liberty, be still, let the spirit work, let God know that you love Him by letting His Spirit have free course in our lives and it will bear fruit and joy will be part of the fruit.