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February 24: Exo 37 | Psa 96-97 | 1 Corinthians 7

Reading 1 - Exo 37:1

"Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood" (Exo 37:1...).

"[The] first and most characteristic feature [of the ark] is its capacity as a container. It was constructed to receive the tables of the law, inscribed by the finger of God: and afterwards were placed in it Aaron's rod that budded, and a golden pot containing a sample of the manna with which God fed Israel in the wilderness for forty years. On the basis of which things concealed in the ark, rested the blood-sprinkled cover lid or mercy-seat, overshadowed by the cherubic figures bearing the glory of God.

"Taking these items separately, we shall see the most perfect correspondence between shadow and substance. The Christ-body [meaning 'all of those believers joined together in Christ'] in the largest sense is a container and not a mere utensil of beauty. It is not a mere society of beautiful men and women ignorant of God and interested only in themselves. It is a society with internal contents to make it precious to God and advantageous to man.

"First of all, the law of God, as represented by the tables of stone, is enshrined in every heart. It is this that distinguishes them from the ordinary run of human beings. The ordinary run of human beings is fitly described in the words of Paul: 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. They are foolishness unto him' (1Co 2:14). Also, 'The carnal mind is enmity against God. It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be' (Rom 8:7). What a dreadful picture. It is ugly and true. A man that is not subject to the law of God is an abortion even now: how much more if such a one were immortal. Such a one cannot become immortal. The ark with its tables of stone inside is a prophecy that excludes it. It is obedience to divine law that makes a man beautiful to man and well-pleasing to God, and fit for divine use in the age to come. The purpose is to give the earth into the hands of an order of men who have learnt obedience as the first law. Paul testifies that even Christ 'learnt obedience by the things which he suffered' (Heb 5:8), and Peter describes the accepted members of his body as 'obedient children, not fashioning themselves according to the former lusts in their ignorance' (1Pe 1:14). The Psalms are full of the enunciation of this principle: indeed we may say it shines everywhere in the Scriptures: 'The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment. The law of his God is in his heart: none of his steps shall slide' (Psa 37:30). Christ affirmed of himself that it was his meat and his drink to do the will of Him that sent him" (LM 110,111).

Reading 2 - Psa 96:8

"Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts" (Psa 96:8).

"To divest ourselves of all pride of achievement and to humble ourselves before the Father is a prerequisite to worshipping Him; for this ought to be our first reason for praying to Him. The scientists who unravel some of the secrets of the molecule and the genes; the astronomer who peers out into frighteningly vast space; and the astronauts who photograph the beauties of nature's colours on earth, all proclaim the wondrous and mighty works of God. They unfold for us a multitude of reasons for our humble worship of the Father, and the Psalms must often put into words for us what we feel about His Majesty" (John Marshall, "The New Life" 94).

Reading 3 - 1Co 7:12,13

"If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him" (1Co 7:12,13).

In this section, Paul is answering questions from the ecclesia (1Co 7:1). The believers had probably asked something like: "What is the position of a man or woman already 'married' under Gentile law at the time of his or her baptism? Is he or she to be considered by the ecclesia as a married person? Or should the 'marriage' entered into before learning the Truth be considered no marriage at all? If this is the case, can such a new brother or sister take steps to end the legal union and leave the unbelieving partner?"

In a situation like that described in Acts, where "many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized" (Act 18:8), there would inevitably be a number of cases where one mate accepted the Truth but the other did not. How were they to react in this difficult situation? In answer, the apostle Paul describes the unbelieving partner as "a wife" or "a husband" who believes not. That is to say, he regards the brother or sister concerned as being truly and properly married to his/her partner, no matter under what situation or what law the ceremony had been performed. This ought therefore to be the attitude of the ecclesia in the matter. If two people are regarded as married by generally accepted law, then the ecclesia should also recognize them as married -- with all the Scriptural implications that such recognition carries with it. Thus the apostle lays upon the one believing partner in such a case exactly the same obligations to maintain the union (vv 12,13) as he has previously laid upon two believing partners (vv 10,11). The baptism of one partner in an existing marriage does not give that one any authority or right to seek to terminate the marriage -- in fact, the apostle Paul teaches the very opposite: the believing partner should use the marriage relationship (and the practical application of the spiritual lessons of marriage), even in trying circumstances, in such a way as to seek to bring the other to salvation (v 16)!


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