As the Old Year 1994 fades away, and a New Year 1995 has arrived, how appropriate it is that we “forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2) which the Lord has poured out. As he had promised centuries ago, the windows of heaven were opened and the blessings and privileges which issued forth were as the prophet described, almost more than we could contain.

Let us now pause to reflect on these special benefits, and to look forward to the New Year with renewed zeal and greater resolve to accomplish the work that the New Year holds.

Opening the Windows of Heaven

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” —Malachi 3:10

THE SERVANTS OF God should be the most blessed of all the people of earth. If they are not it is because they are living below their privileges. God enters into covenant relationship with his people, and never has he failed to fulfill his part of the contract. This was true with the natural house of Israel, and it is true of us who have entered into a covenant with him by sacrifice. Typical Israel could have been rich in the blessings of the Lord; instead, and because of unfaithfulness, the nation was cast off from God’s favor and the people scattered.

In our text the Lord calls attention to the tithing system which he gave to Israel, and by which the religious functions of the nation were maintained. The tithe was one-tenth of an individual’s income, and this was to be put into the treasury of the Lord. But, in paying their tithes, as well as meeting their other obligations to the Lord through the Law, Israel was unfaithful; and because of unfaithfulness the people were poor in all those natural bounties which could have been theirs. It was in answer to their complaint that the Lord called upon the nation to change their way, to bring their tithes into the storehouse and thus prove him and discover that their lack of blessings had been their own fault, not his; that he was ready to open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings so rich and abundant that they would be unable to contain them.

The same is true of spiritual Israel. We are under a different covenant than were the ancient Israelites. Theirs was the Law Covenant—a covenant with the Lord which, on his side, promised material blessings to those who were faithful to it, even everlasting life to anyone who could keep the law perfectly. Under that arrangement it was reasonable that a tenth of their material assets should be devoted to the Lord, and there was no excuse for not adhering to this requirement.

The covenant of this age is one of sacrifice and under its arrangements, no promise is made of material blessings. Ours is a spiritual, or heavenly calling. We are urged to set our affections on things above, not on things of the earth. (Col. 3:2) The sacrificial arrangements of our covenant with the Lord call, not for rendering to him a mere tenth of what we possess, but of all, including ourselves—our time, our strength, and our talents.

To a large extent the nation of Israel walked by sight; that is, to the degree that they were faithful to the Lord their rewards were forthcoming, and were of a tangible sort which could be seen, felt, and appreciated. Ours, on the other hand, is a life of faith, and our appreciation of the spiritual blessings which the Lord is ever ready to shower upon us depends upon our understanding of what he has promised and our ability properly to evaluate spiritual blessings when we compare them with the material sacrifices which we have the privilege of making.

Throughout all the centuries, human nature has not changed. Shortsighted self-interest—if by faith we do not rise above it—will still blind us to the real and eternal issues of life. We may feel a degree of satisfaction—perhaps even relief—that we are not living under the covenant that required a tenth. We know, of course, that under the covenant of sacrifice the Lord expects all, but because it is wholly a freewill offering there may be a tendency not to render unto the Lord even as much as the tenth which was required under the Law.

The Riches of God’s Grace

As we have already seen, the blessings of the Lord during this Gospel Age are not material, but spiritual. Are we receiving from him that abundant and overflowing portion which he has promised? There are, of course, two viewpoints of the Christian life. It is a narrow way in which we are walking, and sometimes it is very difficult. There are many trials to endure—trials of our faith; but even these should be considered a precious asset because they are helping to prepare us for the eternal joys which await us beyond the veil.

We are called upon to suffer—to suffer with Christ. Suffering is never pleasant, but we can look upon our experiences of this kind as blessings from the Lord because it is through the privilege he has given us of filling up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ that we will have the privilege of living and reigning with him.—Col. 1:24; II Tim. 2:11,12

However, we are not to think of the Christian life merely from the standpoint of its difficulties, its hardships. If we do we might become long-faced, sorrowful Christians, and the Lord wants us to rejoice—not to be hilarious, but to have an abiding peace and confidence in him. By faith we are able to rejoice despite the trials of the narrow way. Indeed, a part of our present inheritance is the peace and joy which Jesus bequeathed to us when he said, “My peace I give unto you.”—John 14:27

The Master’s peace and joy were deep-rooted in his confidence in the Heavenly Father, his assurance that not one of all the precious promises of God would go unfulfilled. Not once did the Master doubt the victorious outcome of the divine plan, both for himself and for all mankind.

And this peace of the Christian is ours in a full, rich measure if we can but lay hold of the promises of God as Jesus did. Jesus explained that it is not a peace as the world might give, a peace which at the best is based upon human promises and human ability to make good these promises. Or a peace, perhaps, which is based. upon a bank account, or upon the hope of continuing in good health, or upon the security of a home.

How little the world knows about true peace, that peace which passeth human understanding, the peace that abides in the Christian heart despite the turmoil and chaos with which he may be surrounded, and despite the fading of all earthly securities and joys! The man of the world works and strives a lifetime with the hope of finding security and a consequent peace of mind and heart, but seldom does he attain his goal. And even with those who are measurably successful, their peace is short-lived and frequently disturbed by doubts and fears.

How rich indeed are we who have entered into a covenant of sacrifice with the Lord! But it is essential to fulfill our covenant if we would continue to enjoy the showers of heavenly blessings which make us so rich. Jesus said, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” And then he adds, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”—John 15:10,11

Yes, just as the material blessings which the Lord was willing to give Israel were dependent upon their faithfulness, so the peace and joy which can and should be ours depend upon keeping our covenant, obeying the ‘commandment’ which Jesus gave. And what is that commandment? Jesus stated it clearly, saying, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) There are many details and ramifications in the carrying out of this commandment, but in reality it comprises all that the Lord expects of his people during the present Gospel Age.

Our covenant of sacrifice with the Lord includes the privilege of loving our brethren as Jesus loved us. Jesus loved us so fully that he laid down his life for us, and we are to lay down our lives for the brethren. The work of the Lord during the Gospel Age is the calling and preparation of the brethren to live and reign with Christ. In Revelation 19:7 this is spoken of as the “wife” making herself ready. When Jesus commissioned his disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, the great objective was the selection and making ready of the “bride” class.—Rev. 21:2,9,10; 22:17

This work on behalf of the brethren has called for sacrifice, the sacrifice of all on the part of every true Christian. It is thus that their love for one another has been manifested. True, our love for the brethren does not end with the efforts we put forth to reach them with the Gospel. When they hear the message and accept it, and together with us enter into a covenant with the Lord by sacrifice, they still need our love. It must be a love that will be patient with their weaknesses, and one that will do everything possible to help them along in the narrow way, building them up in our most holy faith; and when we can, guarding them against the fiery darts of the great enemy, Satan. In short, to have a proper love for our brethren, the kind of love which Jesus manifested, means that we will sense our responsibility toward them—both in the spread of the Gospel by which they are reached and made our brethren, and in assisting them thereafter.

In almost any united effort the human tendency is to permit the few to shoulder the responsibility while the majority sit on the sidelines giving their approval, but doing little more than this about it. This is not the Lord’s arrangement for his people. Each one who has entered into a covenant by sacrifice with the Lord is held responsible for faithfulness to that covenant. We cannot be victorious nor enjoy the riches of God’s blessings simply because we are members of an ecclesia. We must be individually faithful!

Cooperation in the Ministry

The Lord is pleased to have us cooperate in manifesting our self-sacrificing love for the brethren. An example of this is in the arrangement he has made for his people to meet together as ecclesias, or local churches. In many Christian circles this arrangement has been distorted considerably so that the clergy are considered the principal ones to serve, while the laity attend the meetings merely to be served. This is a wrong viewpoint.

In the true church, every consecrated follower of the Master is a servant. Each individual Christian is under obligation to lay down his life for his brethren. True, some may be chosen to teach, or to exhort publicly, but this does not relieve the others of the responsibility of being servants. And how rich are the blessings of the Lord for those who maintain and practice this viewpoint! Those who associate with the Lord’s people with the thought of serving as well as of being served are the ones who receive the richest blessings.

A great deal is said in the New Testament about a general cooperation among the brethren. The ecclesias of the Early Church were kept more or less in contact with one another through the ministry of the apostles and others, although the spreading of the Gospel and the building up of the brethren was restricted by the extent to which the servants of the church could travel from place to place, and to the giving of personal testimonies concerning the divine plan as it is centered in Christ Jesus.

Today we are living in a different world. The Gospel can still be spread by the personal testimonies of the saints, in their communities, and in their ecclesias, but its proclamation is not limited to these individual efforts. Through the printed page, and over the radio or TV, the message can be carried far and wide; but this is possible only through the general cooperation of the consecrated. The foretold increase of knowledge which has made this wider proclamation of the truth possible is undoubtedly by divine appointment, and we cannot but think that the Lord wants these facilities used to make known the glad tidings of the kingdom. Do we all feel our responsibilities as we should in connection with this larger work of the church?

And, even though the printed page, the radio and TV make possible a wider dissemination of the truth, the principal objective of our sacrifices in this connection is still the service of the brethren. It is not God’s time to convert the world, but it is his time to call, through the truth, those whom he is inviting to be joint-heirs with Christ. This should be our main purpose in making known the glad tidings. Incidentally, as the truth goes out to reach and serve the brethren and those who will become brethren, a witness is given to the world; and in this, too, we rejoice.

Today there are many of the Lord’s brethren being reached by the general proclamation of the truth in other lands, particularly because of changing world conditions. And oh, what joy has been brought into our lives when once again we are privileged to fellowship on a global basis. It is one of the ways in which the Lord opens the windows of heaven for our blessing.

Every truth-enlightened follower of the Master knows that his life is consecrated to the Lord and to his service. We all know that the Lord is requiring not merely a tenth of what we have, but all that we have and are. Yet at times there is an unintentional indefiniteness about our consecration which tends to defeat its objective. We know that we are to serve the Lord. We are willing to make any sacrifice whatever to do so, but how is it to be done? What are some of the practical ways in which we can pay our tithes unto the Lord, and thus rejoice in the blessings poured out upon us from the windows of heaven?

There is a saying, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way!” Actually, it often turns out that there are many ways! Once having given our all to the Lord, how is our offering to be made of practical benefit to others? First, of course—and this is true in every Christian’s life—is our responsibility toward our families, those who are dependent upon us. The Lord wants that responsibility discharged faithfully, as unto him. Many have testified of the rich blessings which have been theirs as a result of endeavoring to provide for their own with an eye single to the glory of God.

But in the case of most of the brethren, there is something left of time or means after their responsibilities toward their own are properly and faithfully discharged. What can we do with this surplus of time, or energy, or means, which we have covenanted to devote directly to the service of the Lord? The ultimate answer to this question must, of course, be found by each individual saint of God. None of us would presume to tell another brother what he must do in the service of the Lord. All we can do is to point out what others have done, and the possibilities there may be of rendering practical service.

There is, of course, as has been stated, the privilege of giving our personal testimony concerning the truth to those with whom we come in contact. The Lord would not have us make ‘pests’ out of ourselves! but there is always the possibility of speaking that “word in season” which often is so effective, “like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” (Prov. 15:23; 25:11) to do this costs something. It may cost us our reputation, but this is a part of what we have devoted to the Lord; and how our hearts will rejoice as we endeavor, even in this small way, to “shew forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.”—I Pet. 2:9

Brethren may find that keeping a few tracts in our pockets can be used to good advantage as we use public transportation, placing them on our seats as we leave; or handing them to those with whom we have casual conversations on planes or trains; leaving them in rest rooms of restaurants at which we eat, etc. We might find ourselves in a position to send the “Hope” booklet with consolation cards we send to friends or relatives, or by obtaining names from obituary columns of our local newspapers. We might be in a position to entertain one of the traveling speakers, arrange for a meeting in our home or in a small hall to which the public could be invited. In addition to these possibilities we might find that we could help toward the support of the general witness work as it is going forth today.

All of us feel, at times, that there is so little we can do that there is a possibility we will end up doing nothing. This is not the proper course. Even if we could put all our time directly into the Lord’s service; and even if we were especially talented along some line which could be used in the general effort; or if we had millions of dollars to spend for the Lord, we would still be doing very little of what the Lord deserves of us, and would still be unprofitable servants! Let us ever remember that the Lord is not interested in how much we can do for him, but only that we do all we can.

Those who have only a few minutes a day which they can spend in the Lord’s service, or a few pennies which they can devote to him, are just as pleasing in his sight as those who can do and give more. If the widow’s mite is all we have, that is just as valuable in the Lord’s sight as the all of those who have more to give. If we give our all, each day devoting everything we can to his service, we are demonstrating the genuineness of our consecration, and putting ourselves in line for those showers of blessings which continually are flowing from the windows of heaven for those who faithfully bring their tithes into the storehouse.

If we are living where we have the privilege of association with others of like precious faith, then we will want to be on the alert to render whatever direct service we can for their encouragement and blessing. We will want to cooperate zealously in whatever general activities the ecclesia may be sponsoring. We will want to be faithful in our attendance at the meetings, to encourage and uplift one another as helpfully as possible in the study meetings and in the testimony meetings.

These are all privileges of service which, when faithfully used, will increase our own rejoicing in the Lord. There is no truer saying than that which Paul accredits to Jesus; namely, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) It is so easy to overlook this. We may think of our relationship to the Lord and to the truth and to the brethren merely from the standpoint of the advantages accruing to us! But this is the sure way to spiritual poverty. When we take the viewpoint implied in our covenant of sacrifice and begin to search for ways and means of giving and serving—of using our all for the blessing of others—then we will have real joy in the Lord, and we will find our lives as Christians ‘flowing on in endless song’!

God’s promises to us as individuals are conditional. He has made every provision necessary for our blessing, but it is essential for us to accept of his grace by complying with the conditions. It is not a matter of earning divine favor. If it were, then it would not be grace at all. However, all that we can do in obedience to the Lord’s will is merely a matter of showing our appreciation of what he has done for us, and what he will continue to do if we give all diligence in the carrying out of our covenant of sacrifice.

Paul wrote, “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” (Heb. 4:1) How can we come short of a promise? Obviously the thought is that we may come short of the conditions attached to the promises. In the text just quoted, Paul is speaking particularly of the rest of faith which is promised every footstep follower of the Master. Are we enjoying that rest as we should? If not, it would be well to examine ourselves to discover wherein we are failing to live up to our covenant, failing to bring all our tithes into the storehouse.

As we have said, God has made every provision for our blessing, and our lives as New Creatures should be full and rich—yes, overflowing with peace and joy in the Lord!

What more could we ask? All of these loving provisions are for us, to make us rich in the peace and joy of the Lord. Are we, through faithfulness to our covenant, keeping the windows of heaven open that the life-giving waters of divine grace and mercy and strength may daily keep us refreshed and strong?

If we would enjoy God’s grace we must daily go to the throne of grace. If we would know his will we must study his Word and watch his providences. If we would have peace and rest of heart we must believe his promises and comply with the conditions attached to them. At every turn of the Christian way there is something for the follower of the Master to do. Together it means the laying down of our lives in divine service, and, while we are doing it, rejoicing in the merit of the blood which makes our sacrifice acceptable.

Through the grace of God in Christ Jesus we have entered into a spiritual land of plenty. Let us continue therein by rendering to the Lord all we have covenanted to do.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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