HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD
"In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD"
Zechariah, chapter 14, verse 20.
LAST year we were perhaps inclined to retrospect and the motto then chosen was expressed in the words: "Great is Thy faithfulness." It was, I think, an insistent thought in our minds and it moved us to praise and thanksgiving to God for all His mercies. The year in which we thought of Godís faithfulness was a year of great political and economic disturbance and the effects of all that happened will not be adequately assessed for some time to come. This year the choice has taken a somewhat different direction, for we are to think about holiness unto the Lord. The new motto, both in its essential meaning and in the context of Scripture, can prove itself to be of vital and vitalising importance; for in 1957, and indeed in every year, everything depends on how we stand with God.
The text is the conclusion of a rich, subtle and profound word of prophecy. The opening words: "In that day" are really momentous. The prophet refers to this day in chapter 12, and it occupies his mind right through to the end of our text. It will be in that day that the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem (12, 8), and it will be in that day, that He will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem (12, 9). It will be in that day that: " I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplications: and they shall look upon Me Whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him." (12:10). In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness (13:1). In the closing chapter we are told that this day is the day of the Lord, " And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives.....And in that day the Lord shall be king over all the earth."
The world does not yet now that it is facing such a day. The chancellories of Washington, Moscow and London have not the least idea in the world that it is our Blessed Lordís determination, resolve and unshakable purpose to come to Mount Olivet and usher in Godís total revolution of the whole human set up, and all related to it. Since such a day is confronting the human race we do well to bear it in mind and to adjust our thinking, mould our purposes and order our steps in relation to it. At the moment in which I speak the world is in dire confusion, it is discovering a little of the mighty power of the universe, but it lacks the wisdom of God to guide it. For the year immediately before us I have little confidence, but the Christian may and should see it in the light of the ample purpose of God and therefore soberly address himself to the ways of God throughout the coming months. Now it is quite easy for any ordinary reader of the Scriptures to see that "HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD" is immediately related to the horses, and that in conjunction with that there is a reference to pots and pans and, finally to the Canaanite in the house of the Lord. That is to say, what is on the bells of the horses symbolises everything in the closing verses of this prophecy. It is, in fact, a call to recognise the revolution that will be experienced by the world in the Coming of the Lord. Having seen that the Christian, whether that day be far distant or near, is to order his life in accordance with the vision of the future which is not the concoction of man, but the revelation of God in His Word. Hence we are called to holiness in
(1) THE COMMON WAYS OF LIFE
Horses in Scripture are often the symbols of war and it may be that this is the meaning here. In that case we are to understand that when the Lord returns all that is now being spent by man upon the instruments of war will be devoted to the glory of God. For my part, if that is the meaning, I would gladly vote for the coming, of the Lord tonight. It seems to me, however, that these horses are in the streets of the city and represent the common traffic of life. In that case the Motto will be a call to our members and all other believers with them to make their business life, holy unto the Lord.
It is not easy. At the present moment within these islands there is a civil war more deadly in its effects than when Cromwell was fighting Charles. All classes of the community are firmly resolved, at whatever the price, to strangle everybody else. I understand that many people are opposed to socialism because they feel that we must have free enterprise with fair competition, but while they talk like this they really desire a free field for themselves in which they can exploit the community as they please. I read in the newspaper this week of a manufacturing company who insist that the article they manufacture shall be sold at 5/-. The retailer is prepared to sell the article at 3/9d., and even at that figure he can make a profit of 33 per cent. He is satisfied with that margin of profit, but the manufacturers deny him the right and apparently if he persists, he will find himself in the law courts. It may be I am overlooking some essential consideration, but as I see it the threats of that manufacturing company are iniquitous. I am quite sure when this Church Motto is on the bells of the horses, the Directors will know all about such anti-social practices! On the other hand I hear that men endeavouring to discharge their duty, doing a job in a reasonable time, are being reproved for doing their work so quickly so casting a reflection on their mates. When a company in this country is estimating for a valuable job overseas it has to take account not only of the hours necessary for the work but what will probably be taken, and this means that not infrequently other countries beat our estimates. We live on a block of coal and yet we are making life much harder by buying coal from abroad. I listen in vain for a word of moral and spiritual leadership from any politician or religious leader, and so England is slowly or perhaps quickly dying. People are anxious to get away from Britain and the applications of emigrants for Canada, Australia and New Zealand are phenomenal.
Of course, there is no real escape that way; the coming day of the Lord has significance far beyond the local ; it is as comprehensive as the thought and will of God. These however, are the pointers that should make us think and act. Holiness to the Lord in all our business affairs, actions and words determined not by our business relationships but by our discipleship to our Lord. God wants a life in business from every Christian that prepares him or her for the day that is coming. Fair value for money, honest service for our wages, punctuality, reliability, honesty-these the Lord requires of all true believers. Holiness unto the Lord in business!
(2) THE DOMESTIC LIFE
I am not dogmatising that Zechariah is using pots and pans as a symbol of domestic life, but I do feel they so present themselves to me. There is a lot of drudgery in the kitchen. It is being alleviated, and I understand that in the next generation there will be an avalanche of new ideas concerning kitchen arrangements that will make the bride of 25 years time to wonder how we ever submitted to the drudgery of today. In that connection I can only add that it will be far more wonderful in the day when the Lord rules over the whole earth.
But for the moment these pots and pans are declared to be holy. The home is a very important place, but even a Christian home is not always easy, for there are many difficulties. Parents have to discover a happy mean between directing and guiding the lives of their sons or daughters. You have to learn how to give them up to the demands of manhood and womanhood, and it is not easy. Children owe a duty to their parents, to respect and obey them, but often in the minds of young people parents seem to be masters of restraint and frustration. In non-Christian homes the Christian partner is in difficulties about the company to be invited to the house and the days on which they shall come. We have parents deeply concerned about their children, and we have children troubled about their parents. Unless we have been in similar circumstances we cannot possibly understand, and certainly not fully appreciate, the difficulties of domestic life.
Yet God calls us to holiness of life in the home. Some young people, including newly-weds, fail to realise that what parents need is understanding affection, a giving back of all the love their parents lavished upon them in their infancy. We know concerning our Lord that He went back to Nazareth and was subject unto His parents. Even so there are suggestions that sometimes His mother did not understand. How was it that she and Joseph searched in Jerusalem three days for Jesus without first going to the temple, the most likely place of all? Remember that we are not responsible for the choice of parents, but we are responsible for our choice in marriage!
Idealistically we may say that it is good for the family to gather together in the morning for the reading of the Scriptures and family prayer, but this for many reasons cannot always be done. But may I express the hope that this year shall be a year in which every one of us will seek to make holiness unto the Lord a factor in our domestic circle wherever we are, and that each of us will earnestly seek to live in our home as Jesus lived!
(3) OUR CHURCH LIFE
"In that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts." If I understand this reference correctly the Canaanite was the inhabitant of the land with whom the Hebrews came to agreement. In the result there was more of the religion of Canaan mixed up in the religion of Israel than the religion of Israel in the religion of the Canaanite. It is not easy for any church to keep a pure membership. No matter what precautions are taken we find in almost every church the presence of the Canaanite.
The thought however, is clear. It is to be the desire and prayer of every member of our Church that we shall be a holy people. We are not in the world to order our affairs, as the world thinks desirable. We are not to provide such attractions as will appeal to the world, but our first and last concern must be that we shall be a people separated unto the will of God. It is our desire that in all our church government and administration we shall be holy, and that as a company of the Lordís people all our transactions shall be the embodiment of Godís will. We acknowledge that our supreme obligation is holiness unto the Lord. In all our relationships in thought, attitude, conduct and business, it is imperative that every member shall be pre-eminently concerned that we be holy. No matter what campaigns we inaugurate and what attractions we offer, no matter what the externals of success may be, no church can survive once it loses the supreme desire of holiness unto the Lord.
That longing for holiness brings forth a genuine love. Only as God is holy can God be love. Only a Christian concerned with holiness can express the love of God. Lack of love is always a symptom of lack of holiness. When we cease to have patience one with another, when we will not forgive, it is not merely that our relationship with our fellow believer is wrong, but our relationship to the Lord in holiness is defective. The Canaanite, however, will endeavour to find fault; it is part of our human nature, and we are all guilty of it. He creates suspicions, he doubts the sincerity of others, and whatever may be his or her profession he does not, and cannot, take any active step to lead others in love, to Christ.
For holiness that produces love, also produces light. The world is at this moment in darkness and confusion. People do not know what to do. They do not know where to look for a solution of problems that breaks in upon them from every direction. Surely, privileged as we are to have a unique position in Rye Lane with a wonderful opportunity of bearing a witness, we should regard our new motto as a stirring call to make this year of grace a year of outstanding achievement in the mercy of God. This year we shall have to make progress with our Re-building, and may we not hope that month by month the spirit of love will increase in our midst. Those desiring an answer to their deep needs may find the Lord, and that with an increasing number of boys and girls in our care, with a unity of aim and purpose, we may be privileged to be taken up by God for a Pentecostal blessing in holiness in our midst. Let the love of God flow in, and let us keep the Canaanite out!
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