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Isolation From A Church Of God

Isolation from an assembly for a child of God in the Fellowship is a matter which should be seriously considered. Its consequences are far reaching, and from examples recorded in the Word of God should cause much searching of heart.

God revealed His mind and will to Israel through Moses, and, among other things gave commandment that, three times in the year, the males were to present themselves before the LORD (Exodus 23.14-17). It was their privilege as well as their security to dwell in the land of their inheritance, there to fulfil the purpose of God in them, in worship and service, in the place wherein He caused His name to dwell. To leave the land of their inheritance and dwell amongst the nations was not contemplated; they were to be a people separated unto God and were not to be joined either in business or marriage with any of the nations around them. God was dwelling amongst them and Him ouly were they to worship and serve. If they were obedient to His command His blessing would rest upon them (Deuteronomy 28. 1-14); but disobedience would bring judgement (Deuteronomy 28.15-68). God is a jealous God; they could not worship or serve Him acceptably apart from implicit obedience to His commands.

How sad is the case of Elimelech! (Ruth i.). Because of circumStances (a famine) which, in his eyes, appeared insurmountable, he left voluntarily the place of his inheritance, and took his wife and his two sons, and went into the land of Moab and sojourned there. It would appear that, in turning his back upon the land, he also turned his back upon God. The things of this life overshadowed his spiritual life. Where would be his instruction to his two sons concerning the claims of God? How could thry ask," What mean ye by this service?" when perhaps they had never witnessed the keeping of the feast of the passover? They would no doubt company with the youth of Moab and follow their ways and become like unto them. In course of time they took to themselves wives of the daughters of Moab, violating the law of God. What was the outcome of this unholy alliance? Sad to record, Elimelech died, not in the land of his inheritance, but in the land of the stranger; moreover his two sons also died in the same land. What a sad end to a sojourn of 10 years! Naomi was now bereft of her husband and two sons! She learned how that God had visited His people, giving them bread. Her eyes turned toward the land of Israel. With a heart of misery she returned, exclaiming, "I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty:

Call me not Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me." Soon her bitterness is past; back in the land she rejoices, and once more she takes her place and is submissive to the claims of God.

Some have been in isolation through no fault of their own. Because of the sins of Judah, God delivered them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar who carried away many of the people into Babylon. Am~ng~t the captives were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. These youths had a knowledge of the will of God; they knew the commandments, but were unable to keep them as God desired; they could not go up to Jerusalem in person and present themselves, nor their offerings, and, alas, because of Judah's sin God's judgement had fallen upon Jerusalem. Yet they desired the Place of the Name above all else. Their determination to keep themselves pure is higHy commendable.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who always did that which was wellpleasing in the Father's sight, bowed to His claims as Son of Man while here on earth. The testimony of the Father was, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." He has left us an example that we should follow His steps. Prior to the dreadful hour of being betrayed into the hands of lawless men, He had, as recorded in John 17., expressed tlie desire that the disciples should all be together in one thing. On the night of His betrayal, when together with His loved ones, He instituted His remembrance in such a way that when observed according to His word the disciple's heart is touched as he hear~ afresh the words of the blessed Master, " This do in remembrance of Me"(Luke 22.19). ~~at a blessed privilege, that each Lord's Day the obedient disciple may wend his way to be gathered with others to keep the Lord's command! Where can he do this? He must be where a church of God is, and only when the church is together for this purpose can he obey the command,. "This do in remembrance of Me." As in the past, isolation from an assembly of God has no place in God's plan. Effect cannot be given to His command, "This do in remembrance of Me," if one cannot meet in person with the assembled church. How can collective testimony be maintained in a far-off place? There is grave danger to the disciple who voluntarily goes to sojourn in a place where there is no church of God. There is danger of losing much of his love for and ~oy in the Lord. He comes constantly into temptation with no counterbalance of assembly fellowship and may gradually lose his grip of the truth. Satan is ever ready to spoil the lives of those for whom Christ died. Living contact with fellow-believers in the things of God is a source of strength, and obedience to the will of God is a joy to the soul. It may be that the disciple has a wife (a sister) and also a family. His responsibility is to bring his children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and, by example and instruction, seek to lead them to the Saviour. They will, without doubt, mix with others and learn their ways. Mistakenly he may allow them to attend a Sunday School of one of the sects, and what a grave responsibility is his if they come to know the Saviour, and become identified with that company! The house becomes divided, the parents do not attend anv place, the children go their way believing that if the place was g'ood enough for them to go to and be saved it should be good enough for them still. Had the father been stedfast and faithful in the truth this condition would not have arisen. A divided house cannot stand. What will the end be?

May it be the desire of the disciple to cleave unto the Lord and be found in his place, obeymo' his Lord's commands! Let us remember that it is recorded, "Thom~~s was not there," and again, "And Thomas was there" (John 20.24,26). Are not our attendances being recorded in heaven? God is able to supply all our need under every circumstance. He can make ways and means whereby, if we are set on doing His will, it will be possible for us to give effect to the Lord's command, "This do in remembrance of Me."

When the disciples were scattered abroad after the stoning of Stephen, God over-ruled this to the spread of the Gospel, and we read in Acts 11. that whilst at first they spake ouly to Jews, yet when they came to Antioch some spake to the Greeks also. God's hand was with them. Many believed and turned unto the Lord and in fellowship with Jerusalem the church of God in Antioch came into being (see verses 19-26). The Lord's command, as the One to whom God has given all authority in heaven and on earth, still abides;

Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28. 19, 20). When Paul was in Corinth the Lord said to him, "Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to harm thee: for I have much people in this city." The Lord had opened a door for the word and "many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized." Paul dwelt there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them,

and later he wrote addressing them as "The church of God which is in Corinth." (See Acts 18.1-11 and 1 Corinthians 1.1, 2).

What a joy it is to the heart of God when His saints are dwelling together in harmony, every man in his place, giving Him His portion in worship, and serving Him in an acceptable way! May our hearts be drawn out in devotion to our blessed Lord, that gladly we may respond to His desire and keel) His command, "This do in remembrance of Me." May we remember that God has said, "Them that honour Me, I will honour," nor let us forget His equally true and solemn word,-" They that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed."

<Author:GEO. WEIR, CHRISTCHURCH>