|Volume 19 Number 1 January 2017||
Mark T. Tonkery
In Job 38:22, God asked Job, “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow…?” This winter it seems that God has emptied some of His snow from His storehouses on us. We have endured another long, cold, snowy winter. Many congregations have had to cancel services, the children have had several days off from school, and the snowplow truck drivers have been very busy because of the weather. The winter weather has been very discouraging to many.
Yet, Solomon reminded in Song of Solomon 2:11-12, “For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” Solomon reminded that winter will always give way to spring. Soon the flowers will be budding, the bees will be buzzing, and we will be enjoying the sun and warmer weather.
God reminds that this is the process of creation in Genesis 8:22. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” We still may have a snow shower or two, maybe some frost, but don’t get discouraged because winter always gives way to spring. The same is true of life; there will be moments of winter, days of coldness that are dark and dreary, and times of deadness. These times always give way to spring and new life, new beginnings, and new hope.
Such is the case when one is converted to Christ. Romans 6:1-6 reminds us that we are dead in our sins, but when we are baptized, immersed into Christ and buried with Christ, we are raised to a new life! Have you experienced the new life of Christ? Think about it!
Ernest S. Underwood
For several long centuries the children of Israel had endured the hard and cruel affliction of the Egyptians. It had not always been so. During the governorship of Joseph they had enjoyed freedom. However in Exodus 1:8-14 it is written, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, ‘Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel. So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage; in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.” As a result of this hard affliction, the people cried out to God and He heard their cry (Exodus 3:7). At this point, God chose Moses to be His leader who would lead the people out of bondage to taste freedom for the first time in their lives. Chapters 3-12 of the Book of Exodus give the reader a view of how God, working through Moses, brought disastrous plagues upon the Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The last plague was the death of the firstborn in all of their families.
When this last plague struck the Egyptians, Pharaoh himself encouraged the Israelites to leave Egypt, even giving them much goods as they left. As the Israelites traveled to the south, they eventually came to the shore of the Red Sea. By this time Pharaoh had changed his mind, and he sent his soldiers to pursue and bring back to slavery the Israelites. With Pharaoh’s army in pursuit behind them, the Red Sea in front of them, and all ways of escape blocked, the Israelites turned upon Moses, accusing him of bringing them into the wilderness to die. Moses answered, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever” (Exodus 14:13). The end of the story is, as one can read in the remainder of Chapter 14, that Moses stretched his hand and rod over the sea, the waters were parted, and the children of Israel walked across on dry land, and into freedom.
There are several good lessons one can learn from this account, lessons that must be learned if one today is to enjoy freedom from the bondage of sin and have the hope of heaven. Let us notice a few.
First of all, we learn in this entire episode that God is, always has been and always will be the Author of man’s salvation. The Scriptures are clear on this subject. Salvation is a gift of God. It is not something that any man can earn. Second, we learn that God stipulates the means and direction of man’s salvation. He told these people to travel south. They were not to go north into the land of the Philistines, although this way would have been shorter and possibly less strenuous. Third, when God brought them to the shores of the Red Sea and parted the waters for them, He allowed them to make the choice of whether to walk through or not. Never does God violate the free moral agency of man in the matter of his salvation. Fourth, the people had to accept God’s salvation by walking through the sea. Prior to this they had to obey God’s instruction concerning the death of the firstborn. They killed the lamb, roasted and ate it, refrained from leavened bread, put the blood of the slain lamb on the door posts of their houses, and then went inside and stayed there as God came through the land, taking the life of every firstborn wherein the blood was not on the doorpost of that house.
Notice again the title text of this article. “By faith…” These people were saved by faith, but what kind of faith was it? Was it a faith alone without any responsibility on their part? Surely none will so affirm. Is man’s salvation today by faith alone without any responsibility on his part? Some so affirm, but without scriptural sanction. As God directed the Israelites in obtaining the free salvation He was offering them, so He also directs man today. He tells us in His Word that such things as faith, repentance, confession of faith in His Son Jesus Christ and immersion (baptism) in water for the remission of sins are essential for man to be saved. Yet, man must recognize that in performing these acts required by God, he does not earn his salvation, but rather he, like the Israelites who walked across the sea on dry land, is simply doing what God has commanded, in the way He commanded it to be done, so that he might appropriate the wonderful grace of God and receive the blessing that grace offers.