My Study       
Benno Zuiddam

 

 The Master Spy...

A quest abroad :

Why Rafaravavy changed her name

 

  The people on the Island of Madagascar worshipped idols of wood and stone for centuries, but in 1818 two missionaries sailed from England to preach the gospel to these people. For a time, the people and the King, were eager to hear the message of Christ. 

A man and his wife, who did not believe the gospel, wished to have an idol in their home, so they asked a man to make one for them.  When they went to collect the idol, the man was in the forest looking for a suitable tree from which to carve the idol, so they had to wait until evening for it to be completed.  By now they were cold and hungry, so the idol maker collected the chips from the tree and made a fire to boil some rice for them.  They paid for the idol and returned home. 

Soon after they were visited by a young Christian who read Isaiah 44:14-17 to them, which describes how the idol maker cuts down a tree, makes a fire with some of the wood to warm himself and to cook some food. Then makes a wooden god and falls down and worships it.   

The woman was astonished at the exact description of what they had done.  She was convinced of the truth of God's word and forsook her idols and became a true disciple of Christ.  At her baptism she changed her name from 'Rafaravavy' to 'Mary'. She bought a large house which was used for prayer and the preaching of God's word. 

 However, when the king died and a Queen became ruler, she declared that all missionaries must leave the Island and that the old way of worshipping idols was to be restored and those who did not would be put to death. Before the missionaries left, they hid seventy full copies of the Bible in caves where Christians could secretly worship God and read His word. Persecution raged throughout the island and many were put in prison, others were sold into slavery and others were cruelly put to death. 

Soon Mary was accused to the authorities by three of her servants of worshipping God.  When Mary's father, who was in a high position, heard what they had done, he ordered that they be put in prison, but Mary had them released and forgave them and told them of God's mercy.  Two of these servants  later became Christians.  The Queen ordered that Mary be put to death; however her father was able to pay the fine for her and have her released. 

Mary was now watched by the authorities and soon she was arrested for praying and meeting with Christians.  When she was asked who met with her, she replied, “Yes, we have  met and prayed in many places, but I will not tell who they are.” 

Mary was looked upon as a leader, so her death was determined.  She was placed in irons to be slain the next day.  However, during the night a great fire broke out in the city, and with a strong wind it spread through many of the thatched roofs. Mary was delivered from death, but was held as a prisoner in chains for a time, then sold as a slave to a military officer. Eventually she was able to escape from the city and flee to the country, where she was able to hide for a time from those who searched for her. 

Eventually she was able to escape from Madagascar and sail to England where she lived for two years, then she returned to a nearby island where she lived for the rest of her life.   In due course, the cruel Queen died and the next King was a Christian and persecution of the Christians ceased.  Mary was a faithful Christian and served the Lord till the end of her life.   

 

 Peter drinks...

 

 Saved through sickness 

Peter's life was ruined by drink and evil company.  He sunk so low that he would move from hotel to hotel seeking to get money to buy drink and food.  He would do some acting, crack some jokes, and sing a few songs then take his hat around to collect some coins.  Sometimes people took pity on him, but others mocked him. 

He would do this until the hotel closed then he would make his way home, usually in a drunken state. Often his family were fearful of his coming home because he was someimes very moody and the least thing could cause him to curse and rage. 

On this occasion he entered his house and sat down without saying a word to anyone.  At last his poor wife quietly said, “There's a sad message about Nellie, Peter; She must have caught a fever when she came here last week. I went to see her today, and someone brought a message this evening to say she is very ill and wants you to go and see her.” Peter did not say anything, but immediately put on a coat and set out to see his favourite daughter Nellie. 

As he walked, Peter thought about Nellie.  She had always been so loving, kind and thoughtful to her father even though he had been so unworthy of it.  He said to himself, “I wish I knew there was a God! I would pray to Him and ask Him to spare Nellie for me, but I haven't believed in God for many years.” 

When he entered the room where Nellie was staying, he found her asleep and very sick; she had no colour in her face and was breathing very heavily. Peter was overcome with grief and covered his face with his hands and fell on his knees by the bedside. 

His actions roused the dying girl. Soon she recognized her father and said gently, “Father, darling father, I am dying.”  Peter flung his arms around Nellie with a groan that came from the depths of his heart. She quietly spoke of the love they had for each other, then she said, “I ask you to pray for me and yourself.” 

“I cannot ... I dare not, Nellie” he said, “I would if I could because you ask me, but I cannot, and it would be useless.  I have sinned beyond forgiveness; He would not hear me.”  “No, no father” Nellie replied, “Jesus is able to save to the uttermost, and he can and will save you. If you have been a great sinner, it is greater honour to Him for saving you. Pray, father pray for yourself and for me.  I shall soon be in heaven but I want you to come too.” Nellie embraced her father as much as she could. 

Eventually, with an outburst of sobs and tears for the first time in his life, Peter uttered words of an earnest prayer to God, he gasped, “God in heaven, have mercy on my darling daughter and me!”  His prayer was filled with tears,  he did acknowledge his sin and pleaded for mercy.   

“Amen!” responded Nellie to his prayer, then continued. “I am going to be with Jesus, and I want you to promise to love and serve Him.”  “I will, Nellie, indeed I will! If He will have a poor broken-down wretch like me.” “Let me now pray, father,” and with her last strength she asked God to bless her father and mother and the other children.      

While still clinging to her father, she said, “Father, one more promise; don't ever drink any more.”  “I won't, Nellie!” he gasped, “I never will, God helping me. I will never touch strong drink again.”   Nellie lay back and quietly whispered , “I am going father” and died. 

Peter fought hard to resist the power of drink and prayed for God's help. His life became a witness to others of the power of Christ and the gospel, and a testimony of the great love and willingness of Christ to save the worst of sinners.      

 

 

Foolish Farmer

I am a foolish farmer!On one occasion, Rev John Cooke visited a very wealthy farmer.  In their conversation, Mr Cooke mentioned the Bible and the things of God.  The farmer was very offended; with a sneer he said, “I don't like religion and I have told you so.”  “You are not the only farmer that felt that way,” replied Mr Cooke, “I have read of one who greatly resembles you.  The farmer I am speaking of had very wonderful crops and his barns were too small, so he decided to build larger barns and filled them with his harvest.  Then he said to himself, “Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat drink and be merry.”  But God said to him, “Thou fool! This night thy soul shall be required of thee, then whose shall those things be which you have provided?”  Luke 12:19-20 

“Now Sir, you must see yourself in this picture.  This farmer was very rich, living to himself in good health, ease and pleasure, but 'without God in the world.'  No doubt his neighbours praised him and envied him and wished to be like him, but God said he was a 'fool'.  “Why, sir, do you think that the all wise God called this man a fool?”  The farmer was silent. “But, do you think he was a fool?” “I don't think so” replied the farmer.   

“Well, sir, let me explain why he was a fool.  Because he cared more for his body than his soul.  Because he was more thoughtful about the world than about God.  Because he thought about time and not eternity.  Because he lived as though he would never die, and while so doing his life was about to end and he would die without repentance, forgiveness and mercy and worst of all he would be lost in hell forever.” 

We are not told how the farmer reacted to these words, but the preacher had faithfully warned him of his sad spiritual state without God's mercy. 

 

 

   Understandable preaching

 

Don't preach to show off!Thomas Manton (1620-1677) was a very learned and famous  preacher in London for many years.  People flocked to hear his sermons.  Often he was asked to preach before the members of Parliament and other important people.  He wrote the “Letter to the Reader” in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

On one occasion he was asked to preach before the Lord Mayor and other people in high positions. Mr. Manton chose a subject in which he could display his wisdom and learning. People listened with admiration and praise – especially those who were well educated among them. 

Later, when he was returning home, he was stopped by a poor man who asked if he were the gentleman who preached before the Lord Mayor?  Mr. Manton said that he was. The man replied, “Sir, I came with hopes of getting some good for my soul, but I was greatly disappointed, because I could not understand much of what you said, you were far above me.”   

Mr. Manton humbly replied with tears in his eyes, “Friend, if I did not give you a sermon, you have given me one; and, by the grace of God, I will never again be so foolish to preach before the Lord Mayor in such a manner again.”   

Thomas Manton was taught an important lesson which every preacher needs to learn – to preach God's word in a simple manner so that everyone can understand it.  Also he showed true grace and humility by accepting reproof  from a poor man who was a stranger to him. 

 

 

The White Rose

 

Flower power...As a  preacher was walking to where he was to preach,  he saw a young woman who seemed to be deeply troubled, she was looking into the river Thames.  He stopped and invited her to the service, saying that she would be free to leave at any time and that refreshments would be available after the meeting.  The lady seemed to resent being spoken to and said she did not want to attend. 

The preacher had been given a lovely white rose by a friend, so he asked her if she would accept  the rose.  She looked at it, then at the preacher and quietly took the rose.  The preacher again told her the address of the meeting and said good-bye.   

When the preacher had finished speaking at the service,  he saw the lady sitting where she would not be noticed.  After the meeting had completely ended, the lady arose as though she was unsure what to do but  would like to speak, but was afraid. At last she told her story. “ I was standing,” she said, “on the banks of the river,  deciding whether I should go back to places of evil or throw myself into the river and drown myself.  Then this man came up and invited me to this meeting and gave me this beautiful white rose – the same white flower my mother gave me five years ago when I left home.  She cut a white rose and said to me, “Ellen, my dear girl, you are leaving your poor lonely mother much against her wish, to roam, I very much fear, into sin. When you are far away from me, and see a white rose, always remember your mother's gift to you.  I will pray for you day and night that God will bring you home a saved child.” 

“I have often thought of my mother and of her words even while contemplating that awful step tonight. This pure rose brought me to my senses.  The message I have heard tonight made me realize my need of salvation. 

Those who were  present explained to her the way of salvation through faith in Christ alone and the mercy promised to all who come to Him.  With a broken heart she called on the Lord and knew that her sins were forgiven 

 She stayed that night with one of the Christians and the next day contacted her mother who was filled with joy and praise to God for His great mercy. 

Her life was now changed.  Soon she obtained a job and showed  evidence of true saving faith by a consistent godly walk. 

 

Captain saves a Stowaway

Captain spots stowaway...

 

On the 13th of October 1881 the steamship, Cyprian, left Liverpool bound for the Mediterranean.  A fierce wind was beginning to blow, and in a few hours the wind had increased to a hurricane and the decks were swept with huge waves.  Disaster after disaster followed: The steering gear broke, one of the boilers burst, and the wheelhouse was smashed.  The ship managed to continue until the morning. 

Great waves pounded the ship until it could not be managed. It swiftly drifted towards the Welsh coast.  At last the Captain of the ship called everyone on board and told them that there was no hope of saving the ship and it was now a case of every man for himself.  People seized life-belts, oars, barrels, and pieces of timber in the hope that these things might keep them afloat until they reached the shore. 

Just then a stowaway, a young lad, appeared.  He had secretly stowed away on board before the ship left Liverpool.  No one had seen him nor suspected that he was on board. He now stood with a white face, on the deck, terrified because of the gale and what might happen to him. 

The Captain had just put on his life-belt and was about to jump into the sea as all the rest had done.  Usually, such people as stowaways were not treated with kindness by members of the crew.  The Captain was faced with the decision what to do!. He was the only one who had a right to the life-belt while the lad deserved to perish. 

Without pausing to consider the matter, the Captain unbuckled his belt and strapped it on the lad.  He said, “I can swim; you take this belt, my boy!   Overboard went the lad, and even though the sea raged, he was kept up until he rolled over on the rocks, sadly bruised, but able to tell the story of the Captain's bravery and kindness.  He was 'saved , only just saved!   

But what about the Captain?  Did he reach the coast?   He struck out boldly, but then the cruel surf was too much for him.  He lost his life through saving another.  Every heart on shore was deeply moved when they heard the stowaway's account:  “He gave himself for me.” 

This lad was a complete stranger to the Captain, and did not in any way deserve his kindness.  This reminds us of the love of Christ for sinners!  We are no better than stowaways, guilty, sinners against the God of heaven, and yet “Christ died for the ungodly.” 

The Captain need not have died: he owed nothing to the young stranger for whom he gave his life; the friendless boy had no claim upon him – none at all. “Why did he give his life for one not a tenth the value!”  Similarly Christ gave His life to rescue sinners .  They had no claim upon Him and but for His actions they would necessarily have perished. There was only one to save the stowaway as there is only One to saved us, “He suffered for our sins, the just for the unjust.”  So we must believe on Him alone and God will have mercy upon us and deliver us from  eternal judgment. 

 

Prof. Dr. Benno A. Zuiddam