“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today and forever.”
Again we stand at the threshold of a new year. A thousand doubts and a thousand fears beset us ax every side. It was thus in former occasions, it is so now, only worse than ever before. Things are getting more unstable, loose, insecure as we continue our pathway to eternity.
And so we have need of guidance, security, establishing: we have need of the rock of ages, and that is Jesus Christ.
Some of us have a difficulty every morning of the New Year. It is the custom to proceed to the ordination of the newly chosen officebearers at the occasion when the church gathers to celebrate the incoming of a New Year. And so there are two main themes before the preacher’s consideration: the theme of the office and the officebearer; and the theme of the New Year. I do not think that there are many texts in holy writ that combine both themes. At least, I have not found many. But the above is one of them. They are beautifully combined in that text. I have written above this meditation: REMEMBER THE ROCK.
And under that theme we see both themes adequately covered.
In the connection the writer to the Hebrews guides the church unto bold speech, the speech, namely, that says: The Lord is my Helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me! That is indeed a bold speech. And it is so more today than in the day this writer penned the lines.
There is a great danger what man may do unto me, and no mistake.
Horrible things are being threatened by man unto man. Man’s inhumanity unto man is proverbial in our days. And, remember, it is only the beginning of sorrows. Things will become such that man will seek death, rather than live the instinctive urge of self-preservation. And I can well believe it. We need the Rock.
And what is the God-employed means unto such exalted resolution where you defy all that man may possibly do unto you? It is this: Remember them which have the rule over you! And follow their faith. You will not fail to note the end of their conversation. It will inspire you to follow their example.
And what is behind both them that have the rule over you, as well as behind the conversation of such? This: the rock, Jesus Christ.
It teaches us that officebearers ought to display something of the rock.
So that haply the church may take courage and follow. And that they may be able to say with the officebearers: The Lord is my Helper, and I will not fear what man may do unto me!
Oh yes, they should have something of the rock. And the only available material of this rock which lies within their and our reach is the Word which they speak unto us. The living Word of God, such as it is spoken in our hearts by the Spirit of the exalted Lord, is able to make me walk with confidence from the Old into the New Year.
Yes, we will do so smiling.
We have met the rock.
And shall remember Him!
Remember the rock!
He continually reveals Himself to us. And you will be reminded of this Rock this very morning. You will see the emphasizing of those that have the rule over you: the ministers, the elders and the deacons.
At other times you have taken them so much for granted. That is not good, brethren. Perhaps you have done worse. Perhaps you have not only taken them for granted, but you may even have maltreated them. It has become proverbial: a minister (and also the elder and the deacon) is the rubbing post. Many they are, sometimes, who seem to vent their spleen against the officebearer. They better look out. We will kick them out of office, if they will not behave! Who did never hear such and worse sentiments?
That is very bad. This ought not to be done. I do not say that all have done it. There are always some who appreciate the consistory. And you never have any trouble with them. They heard the admonition; they see the unspeakable gift of the consistory (I mean, of course God’s gift to His people, and that gift is the consistory); and they live their appreciation. Although their number grows smaller as we proceed to eternity. It, too, is a sign of the times.
Remember the rock!
And the rock visibly reveals Himself in the officebearers.
Attend to this: every New Year the Lord reminds you that He is your rock, and therefore He gives you new officebearers.
They speak to you of the rock!
Who are they?
Not just anybody. Oh no, they are a very special sort of people. That sort is so special that every man who appears on the nomination, and who knows the import of the officebearer, is also very much afraid. And they are always inclined to say with Moses: Send Thou, O God, whom Thou shouldest send, but do not send me!
Yes, they are a very special kind of people. God has set them apart. God has called them. First, by giving them special talents and gifts. And these gifts and talents are such that the congregation, filled with the Holy Ghost, recognizes them. Then they meet at the annual meeting and say: O triune God! wilt Thou be so good and kind as to continue Thy wondrous gift of the rock! Give us the continuous line of officebearers. And then they vote. And there are your officebearers. Remember them. God gave them to you. You asked for them: and there they are.
They are the men that have the rule over you. In the Dutch they are called “voorgangeren”, that is, scouts, guides. Yes, you find the word “guides” in some of your references. And it is correct. And yet they not only guide, scout, but they have indeed the rule over you also. They guide, and their guidance is with the purpose that you should follow after. They scout the way, and call out unto you: There are the pathways to heaven! Walk in the old, tested pathways to heaven, and it shall be well with you.
They are a very important class of men.
How so? Well, they lead you to heaven. That is their charge from God. God says to every minister, elder and deacon: See that thou bring all these souls to heaven! If they stray; admonish them. If they fall behind: return unto them and bring them back! If they run ahead: recall them to obedience and lowly conduct! If they weep, comfort them! In short: take care of them; take good care of them: they are Mine own peculiar possession!
So if they shall come at your door, do not cast the door in their face. Do not growl at them. Do not contradict them. Instead, welcome them with open arms. Make them feel that you are so glad they came. Treat them as you would Jesus Christ when He came knocking at your door. In a sense, that is exactly what happens when they come a-knocking at your door: Jesus visits you at such times. He made them; He gave them; He charged them; and He will demand your soul at their hands.
Remember them that have the rule over you!
Remember the rock!
And therefore remember the men that have the rule over you!
But I have heard of false teachers, of bad ministers, of crooked and weak elders; of harsh and cruel, unsympathetic deacons. Yes, there are such. But you may safely know which are which. Listen to the text: “Who have spoken unto you the Word of God!”
There you have the unfailing testing stone. The true minister speaks unto you the Word of God! And so do the elders and deacons. And if they do, follow them. Give yourselves to them.
Follow their faith.
Their faith is their life such as it is lived by the grace of God.
Yes, yes, I say it with a groan in my inmost heart: those poor men are also sinners. And there is no one in the congregation who knows this better than the true minister, the true elder, and the true deacon. Shall I tell you something at this juncture, something that comes from my inmost heart? Yes, and I am persuaded that when other ministers, elders and deacons read this, it will evoke an answering echo in their hearts. It is this: I cannot understand that there is one, solitary minister, elder or deacon left. Why did they not run away from the office long ago? If they all did, I could easily understand it. We are so very sinful ourselves too.
Remember them. They partake somewhat of the rock. Therefore they stay and do not run away. They cannot, even if they would.
And they will tell you all this. Oh yes, they will tell you this, and much more. A true minister, elder, and deacon will cover every step he takes with Holy Scripture. He knows his strength. His strength as officebearer is exactly in that Word of his God.
Remember them. Pray for them. They have so much need of your love and prayer. Respect them; tell your children to respect them. Do not berate them in the presence of your children. Breed respect for their officebearers for God’s sake.
Remember the rock!
Remember your guides, and give yourselves to their rule.
Follow their faith.
What is faith? It is the Word of God transposed into living. You shall know them by their fruits. Follow them. Their faith is worthy of it. Its origin is God Triune. You shall fare well by it. The walk of faith carries its own reward. You shall be blessed by it.
What am I saying? Must we blindly follow our leaders? Oh no, for I continue to read my text: “considering the end of their conversation.”
A man’s conversation is his walk such as he lives it from the heart. For out of it are the issues of life. Watch your office fearers. Consider their walk. And consider the outcome, the destiny of their walk. The text uses the word “end”, and that is the purpose of all their walk of faith. What are they always and forever pointing at? It is this: The rock from which they themselves are hewn. A true minister sees to it that no one makes an idol of him: he points always to Christ as the end of our conversation. The true officebearer sees to it that the church that is placed in his charge walk toward God, seek God, live to His honor and praises.
Such remembering creates a ray of light in their difficult task. Oh, how they will appreciate such conduct.
And what is the ground for this admonition? It is this: Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever!
The ground is the Rock of our salvation.
In other words: it is the eternal, unchangeable love of God for you. That is the ground of this admonition to remember those that have the rule over you.
And do not stray from that pathway of loving remembrance when you note that they are as sinful as you are. Remember so much the more. They need your prayer. Pray for them. Do so often. Bear with their weaknesses.
For, behind it all—what do I say?—under it all is the rock, and the rock was Christ.
It is Jesus Christ in the text. The ground is in a name.
The ground is in Jesus. He is the Savior of His own. He gave Himself to prove the love of God.
The ground is also Christ. But though I hear two Names, it is the one love of God. Christ is Jesus in His office. He is the only prophet, priest, and king. He did all the work that was required from you. He is the only real officebearer. And if you want to go still deeper, you may say without fear of contradiction that God triune is the only officebearer. Christ Jesus is of God.
At this juncture I must ask this foolish question: Can you trust yourselves to Him and His rule which comes to you through His Word in the true officebearers? And the answer is: Yes, for He never changed.
He is the same yesterday. And that refers to the cross. There He showed exactly what He is and who He is. Look strongly on the cross, and you will know the Jesus Christ of yesterday.
He is the same today. Look at your officebearers. They are His spokesman. They speak His word of unspeakable love to you. They bring the cross of yesterday in your homes, your schools, your churches. They impregnate your whole atmosphere with the Christ of yesterday. Oh yes, He is the same today.
He is the same forever.
What shall I say, what shall I say?
I would have to speak of immutability. And that is His unchanging love. I know so little, so very little of it. It lies beyond the scope of my senses. And still, I can spiritually sense a little of it.
He loves me today. I know it, for He loved me on the Cross. And tells me today by His officebearers. And He shall love me forever. He promised it, and His promise is good. His name is true and faithful.
And so I stare into this terrible New Year. I can hear the thunder of the nations. I hear the grumbling, the roaring of thunder in the offing.
And still I can stare into the New Year. I need not be afraid.
For our Christ Jesus is the same. He will be the same when the elements will melt with fervent heat; when the oceans will roar in their waves and the swellings thereof.
Immutable covenant Jehovah is His name!
Oh, remember the rock!