Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants. (Psalm 116:15, NIV)
Last week Rachel and I attended the funeral of an older friend of ours, whom we’d had the privilege of knowing for nearly twenty years. He prayed for us, helped me in various ways and wrote wonderful letters. He died just before his 92nd birthday. The verse above was printed on the cover of the order of service for the funeral.
His name was Alec Motyer, and he was my predecessor-but-one when I was minister of Christ Church Westbourne in Bournemouth. I had first got to know him when I was an assistant minister down in Exeter. He lived in a village out of town. He delighted to introduce himself as “from over the hill - and over the hill!”
Now you may wonder why I am using this blog to mention Alec. It is because his life exhibited characteristics we can learn from - I want to pick out two.
First, Alec was a man of prayer. When he was minister of a church, he would pray regularly through the lists of members. He had photos stuck up in his house, and I don’t doubt that these included many on a much larger list of friends he prayed for (I don’t claim a friendship closer with him than many other grateful people had). He told a friend of mine, with his characteristic wit, “I pray for you every Monday; after that, you’re on your own!” To pray with Alec was an especial delight, giving insight into a life fuelled by devotion to our Saviour. May God make us more and more people of prayer, with the same delight in the Lord, the same confidence in approaching the throne of grace because of what Christ has done for us!
Second, Alec was a man who loved God’s Word and had every confidence that through it, God does his work. When he came to be the minister of Christ Church, the church was on the edge of going bust. Jumble sales to raise funds were the order of the day. He cancelled those, organised a prayer meeting and started to preach the Bible. The church grew in size and depth. “Just preach the word” was what an elderly gentleman who’d been his churchwarden used to tell me, when I was there - he had learned that from Alec. Alec devoted himself to studying the Bible, and brought out treasure for many. His life is a reminder to me that this is the very heart of Christian ministry.
There will be many readers of this blog for whom Alec needs no introduction, because along the way he was principal of a theological college and also the writer of many books. Included amongst his work are three commentaries on Isaiah. He talks about his writing in this short video interview - you can see in it how many times he read Isaiah in order to write the commentary!
As an introduction to his writing, I strongly recommend A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament. It is a tiny book, packed with gems.
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