Where? In order to give a clear answer we must read the context, and in doing so carefully mark each sentence. This will add immensely to our appreciation of the wonderful statement, and will, through grace, enhance the glory of Him who could say, “I was there.”
1st. When He prepared the heavens.
2nd. When He set a compass on the face of the depth.
3rd. When He established the clouds above.
4th. When He strengthened the fountains of the deep.
5th. When He gave to the sea His decree.
6th. When He appointed the foundations of the earth.
“Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.”
It was then “I was there”; then “I was by him”; then when He prepared the heavens; and then when He appointed the foundations of the earth; then in the design and planning of creation; then in the execution of the same; then “I was there.”
And with this agree the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3).
Then “I was there,” then in the beginning, then in the work of creation; when “without Him was not anything made that was made”; when He prepared the heavens, and appointed the foundations of the earth; in things great or small, in the wide circumference, or in the minute detail of creation, “I was there.”
Beyond creation, and that which has a limit, our finite minds cannot go. They start in their reckonings with a beginning, and that beginning is found in the material creation. But where we start He of whom we write could say, “I was there.” Far back as our minds can travel, back to the most distant point of computation, He can say, “I was there.”
He who created must have pre-existed creation. He who made all things must have lived before that which He made. When the beginning was He was; for He had no beginning. “I was by Him, as one brought up with Him, and was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him!”
And who speaks thus? Who is He that can say, “I was there”? It is the voice of Wisdom in Proverbs 8 which speaks. It is concerning Jesus that the Spirit of God writes in John 1. What is true of Wisdom in Proverbs is true of Jesus in John. Whilst we find in 1 Corinthians 1:24 that Jesus is specifically called the “Wisdom of God.” Yes, that blessed Jesus, the Wisdom of God, wrought in concert with Him in the work of creation; that lowly Nazarene, the “despised and rejected of men,” seen here in circumstances of hunger and thirst and weariness, as having come “not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many,” on whose face they spat, and whose brow they crowned with thorns. He acted in full unison with God in stretching out the heavens and laying the earth’s foundations ere yet He had become Man, or assumed its self-denying conditions.
It is remarkable that, whilst the Old Testament goes to show the unity of the Godhead, “the Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4); yet we have in its very first chapter an intimation of those three blessed Persons of the Godhead whose Trinity is unfolded in the New.
In Genesis 1 we have God and the Spirit of God separately mentioned; whilst in verse 24 we read, “Let us make man.” Here we have consultation and a pause, as it were, in the wonderful work, in order that man, the chief part of it all, should not come upon the scene by a mere fiat of power, but that in a special way he should be made who was to carry the likeness and the image of God, who should resemble morally and represent authoritatively that God by whom he he was created. In this divine consultation wisdom could say, “I was there.”
Wisdom, Jesus, was there, of whom we saw that “without Him was not anything made that was made.” The Jesus we know, and the record of whose ways here we ponder in the four gospels, He was there! The Man of Sychar, of Nain, of Bethany, of Gethsemane, and of Calvary—the Man whose lowly footprints we have in reverie so often adoringly traced, as in spirit we have visited those scenes of sorrow, privation, compassion, abasement, conflict, death, and victory here; all so deeply imprinted on the tablet of our memory, and giving rise to thanksgiving and praise—the blessed man Christ Jesus, known in time, but presented to us in His own eternity—He could say, “I was there.”
Such a presentation—and it is true—magnifies Him before our hearts, and gives Him His proper place there, not only as our Saviour, but as “God’s fellow,” and He who “thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” not only as He who has made Himself sweetly familiar with us, but who at the same time is “God over all,” and who claims therefore our fullest homage; not only He whom we may justly proclaim as the only door of escape for a guilty world, but as He to whom each knee must yet bow, and whom every tongue shall yet confess as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In His person we find a perfect combination of these two extremes—the lowliest in grace and the highest in glory—and yet the two extremes combine in the same Christ, so that in viewing the varied conditions into which He may have been pleased to enter we must always remember that He was never less than God. Truly man, and at times weary or hungered as man, He was none the loss God. And it is just this that makes His Person, ever inscrutable, so infinitely precious to us. His one hand touches without usurpation the throne of God, and the other meets the need of the sinful soul of man.
And couldst Thou be delighted
With creatures such as we,
Who, when we saw Thee, slighted
And nailed Thee to a tree?
And mystery divine,
The voice that speaks in thunder
Says, ‘Sinner, I am thine.’
It is just this wonderful combination of God and man in one person that wins the heart, and explains to it all the deep mysteries both of creation and redemption.