Editor's foreword


Attached to the back of a framed item hanging on a wall can be found the following writing:-


Remember the advice of those faithful servants of God who lived their lives and governed their actions in accord with His word; seeking to obey at all times His commands.


1. “Obedience to the Word of God is the crucial matter, God is a living God, not a dead, inactive or silent Being. He cannot be ignored with impunity or even by His children. He has living energy; power to succour, power to punish. His Word likewise is a living Word; it is never obsolete, inoperative, ineffective, a dead letter.  It is active, two-edged, pointed; it cuts, it pierces, it dissects.  Blessed are they who welcome its surgery, for it promotes health.”


2. "Remember the startling fact that the Lord names "overcomers" in every one of His seven letters to the churches."


3. "Be careful to obey the responsibility truths, to disregard which will wreck all your highest achievements."


4. "Do not be side-tracked by those who consider reward beneath the notice of a Christian: you will find as you consciously strive after God's standard, for His approval in the great day, that your life will enrich and expand in blessing towards all.  Seek first, then bring others."


5. Finally, remember at all times that it is forbearance when opposed that commends the truth professed, and, more importantly the fact: "It is required [by God] that those who are stewards" - those who have been given a trust –“must prove faithful.” (1 Cor. 4: 2)



Our Saviour has shown, in the servant entrusted with only one talent (Matthew 25: 15), how a child of God can wreck his discipleship by despising the apparent insignificance of his trust: the balancing truth - namely, how a servant endowed with the whole five talents can make an equally deadly shipwreck - is pictured in one of the most dramatic episodes of all history, stamped all over with miracle.  In the morning, a Man of God calling down miracles from Heaven - a convulsed Altar, and a King’s hand withered as he stretched it out to arrest God's ambassador: in the evening, a carcass on a lonely road with a lion standing motionless beside it.  The King’s hand is withered and healed; the Man of God’s body is withered - and buried.  The Westminster Larger Catechism states the principle: “Some sins receive their aggravation from the persons offending; if they be of riper age, greater experience in grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, and as such are guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others."


The Man of God here fills a tremendous drama.  Unknown and unnamed, with no recorded birth, or education or family, living in the far background of Judah - as suddenly as lightning he appears at Bethel, then the centre of the apostasy of Israel; backed by nothing but the commission of Jehovah, and possessing nothing but the bare Word of God.  But this he had in full.  He came from Judahby the word of Jehovah”; he cried against the Altar “in the word of Jehovah”.  Moreover, the drama which followed could not have been more wonderful.   Confronted by the King of Israel, the King’s armed guard, the whole priesthood, and the vast crowds, alone, and denouncing judgment at the risk of his life, by a miracle from God he withers Jeroboam’s hand outstretched for his arrest; and then, when the King, moved not by repentance but by fear, begs his intercession with God, he crowns his mission by a miracle of healing from the heart of God’s love.  It would be difficult to imagine any servant of God more dramatically entrusted with all five talents, and using them to the full.


But now we come to one of the searching details of life.  One minor command had been given him by God, a command vital in an age of apostasy.  "Eat no bread, not drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest."  All fellowship with idolatrous People of God, so long as the idolatry continues, has always been forbidden; and exactly identical is our command, in words as simple and as obvious.  “If any man that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater” - all God's people in Bethel were idolaters – “or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, with such an one no not to eat” (1Corinthians 5: 11).  And at first the Man of God- proving that he completely understands the command - gives it full obedience.  When invited to a banquet by the grateful King, he repeats the command he had received from God, and adds, - “Not if thou gavest me half of thy kingdom!”  Observe Jehovah’s command to the Man of God, so characteristic of Scripture.  It is very simple in language; it is so clear that a child could not possibly mistake its meaning; and it is a command for which God gives no reasons: all He asks is simple, immediate, unquestioning obedience.


Now we reach a peril peculiarly dangerous to the most highly gifted servant of God, a peril that will beset us in the last days with ever-growing menace.  Bethel was the seat and stronghold of the apostasy; yet, living there was an old prophet: a prophet so silent that God had to send a messenger from far-off Judah to speak for Heaven; one who is named a prophet by the Scriptures, and who himself imparts a prophecy from Jehovah: who, nevertheless, consciously or unconsciously, invites the Man of God to disobey his Lord; and when the Man of God refuses, says, - “I also am a prophet as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, - Bring him back with thee into thine house that he may eat bread and drink water.  But he lied unto him."  The command had come from the mouth of the Lord; the seduction comes from the mouth of the Old Prophet; and a man claiming the supernatural can be the most plausible and dangerous of all tempters.


Now therefore we reach the crisis.  We see the Man of God's face weakening: "so he went back" - a backslider - "with him, and did eat bread and drink water."  The physical desire at last outweighs his fidelity to his Master.  This is borne out all down the ages.  Constant experience proves that in pressing Scripture, as plain and simple as the Man of God’s, tragically often we are not arguing with the intellect at all, but with desires, prejudices, dislikes against which arguments are powerless; and any believer, who wishes to do so, can always find abundant reasons for disobedience.  As the two men sit at meat, the Old Prophet, under a sudden seizure from God, sees through the disobedience, and addresses the man before him as a corpse.  “Forasmuch as thou hast been disobedient unto the mouth of the Lord, thy carcass shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers."  If it had been an angel that spoke to the Old Prophet, Paul’s word abides for ever: "Though we [even the apostles], or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any other gospel, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Galatians 1: 8).¹  It is a priceless truth.  We must suffer neither our own reasoning or doubts, nor the subtleties or authority or ridicule or denial of others, no, nor the claim of supernatural authority from God, to challenge for a moment our belief in, and obedience to, ALL REVEALED TRUTH.  Judgment can fall even in the act of disobedience.  While he was eating, the sentence fell.


Now we reach the dread climax. “A lion met him by the way” - found him, after search, as the word means and is used elsewhere (1 Kings 13: 14, 28) – “and slew him” - crushed him: the word is very expressive, for the lion kills with one blow (Themies).  The sanctity of his profession, the dignity of his office, the splendour of his past service - none of these saved him from the just anger of God: the lions guarded faithful Daniel in his prison; this lion carries out the sentence of judgment.  And the whole scene is so set that the crowds that had seen the Man of God’s magnificent miracles see this one also: “his carcase cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcass; the lion had not eaten the carcass, nor torn the ass”.  It was a studied drama, set by the hand of God.  The ass did not fly from the face of the lion, nor did the lion molest the ass: both stood, as God's sentinels, proved so by their completely non-natural attitude.  The Man of God was given over to the lion for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.


So now the overwhelming lesson of the narrative seeks to write itself on all our hearts.  The higher the man stands, the deeper is his fall, and to whom much is given, of him much will be required.  It is a far deeper problem than that the Man of God simply failed in obedience.  A man called to the highest possible mission - to represent Jehovah to an apostate People of God; having nothing and knowing nothing except the direct words of Deity with which he was entrusted; endowed with miracles before all Israel: - what is the consequence of such a man's fall?  He had been sent to denounce disobedience before a whole nation, and before a whole nation he disobeys the word he himself brought.


Marvellous is the over-ruling power of God.  For the validity and integrity of his mission; for the honour and holiness of the God whose delegate he was; for the impartiality of a just Deity with whom is no respect of persons; and, most convincingly of all, for the very fulfilment of his mission: the lion struck.  All Israel saw instantly, not the Prophet, but his God, and that his mission to denounce idolatry had been from heavenAs one has said: "So many wondrous events all concurring in one result caused the prophecy against the Altar at Bethel to be preserved in the mouths and memories of all, and the mission of this Prophet to become far more illustrious."  It was the last of the warnings sent to Jeroboam before he and his house were abandoned to destruction.


So therefore we see the golden summary.  As the spirit of disobedience is the root of all practical iniquity, so instant, utter, minute, and constant obedience to the Word of God is our sole holiness, and our sole safety.  There are greater commands, and there are lesser; but there is but one thing to do with them all - and that is to obey.  The terrible mistake that countless millions are making, with large sections of the Church of Christ amongst them, is that God has changed, and that we are dealing with a new and different God in the New Testament, and to-day: whereas the truth is – “I the Lord change not"; He is "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever”.  The Lord is a jealous God and avengeth; the Lord avengeth and is full of wrath; the Lord taketh vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies” (Nahum 1: 2).  No warnings in the whole Bible, warnings both to the believer and to the unbeliever, are so black as our Lord’s.


Nevertheless, there remains the call of infinite love.  A Roman girl, of high birth and finished culture, once said: “No one shall win my hand unless he gives me proof that he would die for me.”  Years passed away, and one day passing through the streets of Rome, she heard an outcast Christian speaking.  Listening with amazement, she exclaimed: “Why, here is One who has died for me; to Him alone shall my heart's love be devoted for ever.”






1. If any should imagine the warning (found in Galatians 1: 8) negatives "the message about the kingdom" (Galatians 5: 21;Matthew 13: 19); he should read carefully the same Apostle's recorded words found later in the same letter and addressed to the same people (Galatians 5: 13- 6: 26), and take to heart the following warning : "The acts of the sinful nature" - [which are still very much alive in every Christian and need to be 'crucified' (5: 24)]- "are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you" -[a warning addressed initially for "all the brethren  - no exceptions made - which are with me, unto the Churches of Galatia" (1: 2); and therefore, a warning applicable to every regenerate believer alive today] - "as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."  


2. And, on another occasion the same apostle, when addressing Ephesian elders, said:- 


"I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race" - [so as to win the prize] - "and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." - [That is, the good news of eternal salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.] - "Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom" - [That is, the message about the millennial kingdom of Christ.] - "will ever see me again.  Therefore I declare to you that I am innocent of the blood of all men.  For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will (Greek, 'counsel') of God.” … “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number" - [from amongst the regenerate within the church] - "men will arise and distort the truth" - [corrupt and destroy it, by adding works to the gospel of the grace of God] - "in order to draw away disciples after them." ... "Now I commit you to God and to the word of His grace, which can build you up and give YOU an inheritance" -[an inheritance in the millennial kingdom] - "from the Lord as a reward" [for] "working for the Lord", (Col. 3: 23,24.)] - "among all those who are sanctified." (Acts 20: 23-32.)