Glimpses of Christ: — a brief review
Judges is the second book of this historical series, Joshua being the first. In the proper and spiritual order of things Judges would simply be the book of progress, carrying on to full completion that which Joshua had inaugurated. Joshua was the book of blessing, the nation entering into the blessings which God had given them in their inheritance. Typically it is the book which tells of our being blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Judges, naturally, as a second book, would have been simply the development of that, a book of progress, as its number would suggest. And yet we have found assuredly, as I need not remind you, that instead of progress there has been the other side, retrogression.
When you turn over the leaf of a book, you will either go on to something better, something brighter, or back into something darker; and, alas, as we turn the page from Joshua to Judges we find in fact, as we are prepared toward the end of the former book, that we are in darker days. The days are darker, not because God has changed or because the blessing is diminished. Quite the opposite of that; but there are darker days simply because faith has waned, and wherever faith wanes and God is thus put at a distance, you may be sure that everything else will come nigh, every form of the enemy, everything that will assault and hurt the souls of God's people, will come nigh when He is removed to a distance. So that the whole book, you might say, is the book of distance and separation from God, instead of progress in the ways of God. It is getting away from God. Instead of adding to what they had gained, they lose what they had, and the lesson that God would impress upon us in the whole book, is the danger and folly of declension, and its sure results.
Now, bearing that in mind, the three main divisions of the book are very simple for us, and it is in connection with those that I want to speak tonight. In the first two chapters, down to the fifth verse of the third chapter, you get the first division, which is introductory. Then in the last five chapters you get the third division. In the centre of the book from the third chapter, fifth verse, through the sixteenth chapter, you get the main part of the book, that which gives us its theme, which is declension with its causes.
Then coming in, as I might say, almost in a sort of incidental way, you have that which is inevitable when God's mercy is in activity, God coming in to restore and recover His people from their own folly. But you have in these three main divisions of the book, the people's rebellion from Him first of all, then their bondage as a result of that rebellion, and, in the third division, you have this corrupt inward state fully manifested, worse even than the bondage which you have in the second part.
Now as to the first part, there is one thing that is prominent in it. There is much, as we saw, that is very suggestive, but the one prominent thought is that they did not answer to God's mind for them, they did not go on to possess what He had put into their hands. Here was their inheritance, and there were enemies who occupied the inheritance, who prevented them, literally speaking, from enjoying it. Their work was, in the energy of faith, and implicit obedience to God, to cast out the enemy, and everything was ready to their hand. Houses which they had not built, vineyards which they had not planted, wells which they had not dug, — everything was ready to their hand, to go in to enjoy it.
What have you ever done, or I, brethren, in connection with our inheritance? You enter into it, that is all. That is one of our favorite expressions, we enter into things. It is very real, too, and describes the act exactly — we simply enter into that which was made ready to our hand; not a house to build, not a vineyard to plant, not a well to dig; all is there, and everything that is needed is simply in the obedience of faith to withstand the enemy who would keep us out of it. No matter what form he may take, it is the thing that keeps us out of the practical enjoyment of our inheritance, as given to us in the word of God, as revealed to us there; this enemy is to be cast out by faith and obedience, and everything is ready for us to enjoy.
Now you get in that first part, — beginning with a measure of success, which surely was encouraging, but as a general thing you get — the failure of the people to occupy the land. There is failure to do what God told them to do, and without which they would be absolutely exposed to the fresh assaults of the enemy. For, let me tell you, brethren, as you know by experience, that an enemy half conquered is an enemy unconquered, and unless there is a complete overthrow of the power of evil which would keep you from one corner of your inheritance, you will find that enemy come up again. Though you may bring him into subjection for a time, make him tributary, secondary, as it were, as people sometimes speak of the flesh as a sort of a secondary thing that they have got a certain measure of control over; still, if the enemy is not really a conquered enemy, he will conquer us one day, rest assured of that. That is what is emphasized in this first division.
Judah begins well, goes on with brilliant success, and if he had continued in that, and in absolute obedience to God, he would have gained entire control of the part that was to be his. As a matter of fact, no tribe got so full possession of what was intrusted to them as did the tribe of Judah; it stands first. This tribe speaks of the grasp of truth which produces the spirit of praise amongst the people of God. You might say he represents the apprehension of Christ as His people's portion.
But after Judah you have, in sad uniformity, one instance after another of the various tribes coming short of doing what God had put before them. Benjamin fails to get possession of Jerusalem, and you have Benjamites and Jebusites living together. What a mixture! Benjamin, as we saw the other night, became so tainted by their surroundings that they have to be treated as heathen, treated as the enemies of God, and are well nigh annihilated. May we not trace the final results with Benjamin to this initial failure to take possession of Jerusalem?
The great strong tribes of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh likewise fail to drive out the enemy in their territory, and the enemies live in one city and they in another. And so it goes on, one after another, these various tribes fail to take possession of what God had given them.
It is easy simply to talk about it; it is easy to say that Manasseh, who should have been pressing forward, stands still, and as a result does not drive out those who dwell in his portion; that Ephraim fails in the same way, and Zebulon and Asher, and Naphtali and Dan, — that these all, one after the other, each fails in his place. But how about ourselves? In a practical way how is it with each of us individually? How much of what is ours do we own? How much do we share, as I might say, with the enemy himself? Are you enjoying your boundaries? Are you enjoying all that God has given you? If not, then your name and mine can be added to these; "neither did we drive out the enemy that occupied our portion, and as a result they are living there with us."
We may make them, as I said, tributary, and apparently have them under our power; but a tributary enemy is more dangerous than one in the field, for the simple reason that you have links with them, just as you find Israel had. They intermarried with the people of the land, and then with intermarriage comes, of course, the sadder and more dreadful result of adopting their gods; and, as a natural consequence, you have them brought into bondage to their enemies.
Look at the order, and see the necessary progress of evil: first, there is the failure to drive out the enemy; secondly, they bring them into servitude and make them tributary; thirdly, there is intermarriage, linking themselves with them; fourthly, there is the adoption of their false gods, and the departure from God; and lastly, there can be but one result, God hands them over to an enemy to make them taste what an evil and bitter thing it is to depart from Him.
Now have we really translated that into our everyday life? Have we really made these things practical truths for our consciences today, so that we know what it is to come short and to make things tributary to us, as it were? To have them under our power? Do we know what that means? Do you know what it means to have evil, an evil principle, tributary to you, and yet not to have driven it out, to have expelled it completely?
How can people make use of principles which are evil in themselves? How can they make them tributary and expect to keep clear of them? If I make use of an evil thing I am going to be linked with evil. It is absolutely necessary that if I am linked with evil I am going to be brought into bondage to it, and I will be brought, alas, into that idolatry of which we have been seeing instances from time to time. For idolatry means the setting up of our own thoughts, instead of bowing to what God has put before us as His will.
Now that is the first part of this book, the first division. That, I believe, is the lesson that is pressed home in all the wisdom and in all the goodness of God, as He has put it before us with instance after instance. The lesson that is pressed upon us is, if you do not go forward, you will go backward; if you are not making progress, you are going behind; if you are not entering upon what God has given you in His word, you are losing what you already have; or, as you have it in the New Testament, "To him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have." Surely, thanks be to the grace of God, not absolutely and finally, but, as to our enjoyment of it, we are deprived of our own. Do you not think of illustrations of it? Can you not take portions of your own history for confirmation of this, — when you have not been pressing forward, have you not been going backward? In your own heart's history, each day of your life you re-enact the history of Israel's progress or decline.
Then another thought. I have been speaking of our blessings, and I want to make that not vague in the least, but perfectly distinct and clear. You will remember in Ephesians we are told that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. Every blessing we have is in Him and connected with Him, and it is an utter impossibility for saints to enjoy their bless ings without enjoying Christ. It is an utter impossibility for us to have the truths of God as food for our souls unless they bring us into personal contact and fellowship with the blessed Son of God Himself. So when we look at this failure of Israel to enter upon their portion, we must remember that spiritually it means our failure, the failure of the Church of God at large, not only to grasp certain truths, but to apprehend Christ in anything of His fulness which there is for us to apprehend.
Ah, every blessing that is in the word of God gets its life, its beauty and its preciousness, because it is in Christ. If you could conceive of such a thing as God giving us every promise in His word, everything that is there set before us, — if He could open heaven itself for us with all its ineffable beauty, and you would find no Christ, beloved brethren, there would be no blessing, there would be no inheritance. What would forgiveness be, if it were not a forgiveness through Christ? What would peace with God be? You could not even think of it except through our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything we know, everything that He has put in His word for us of spiritual blessing finds its preciousness in Christ, and in Him alone.
Therefore, how solemn it is to remember if His people have failed to go on and possess their portion, they have failed to apprehend Christ. And so you find Paul in the third chapter of the Philipians, where he was going on to apprehend that for which he was apprehended of Christ Jesus, says, summing it all up in one word, "that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings." The fathers are marked by their knowledge of Him that is from the beginning; and to know Christ, to go on to know Him better, to know Him in the way that He is revealed and set before us in the word of God, that is what is meant by going on to know your inheritance and your blessings that are in Him.
Now we come to the next part, which is the main division of the book. Here you see the results of not going on to apprehend Christ, of not pressing forward and getting more and more of what is our own in Him. You find here bondage after bondage. With painful uniformity you are told that the people did evil, turned away from God, united themselves with the people of the land, and, as a result, God sold them into the hands of one enemy after another. They are thus brought low and to a sense of their utter helplessness and absolute failure, and departure from God. When there was no help for them, He raises up for them a helper who delivers them.
I want tonight to try to see in each of these enemies, in each of these bondages, what form of evil it represents, what that is not of Christ, what it is that the enemy used that is not of Christ, that is contradictory to Christ, to rob us of what is our own in Christ; and next to see in the deliverer, whom God raises up, what element there is of Christ in him, that enables one when he apprehends it to gain the victory over the power that had overthrown and taken possession of him. You see how these two thoughts fit together; for every one surely has felt, we know, the enemy's power, the power of something that is not Christ. As the apostle says, "Ye have not so learned Christ." It is not merely what the evil is, but that it is not Christ. It is a failure in various ways to apprehend what He is.
Let us now look briefly at each of these, with that thought in our minds. You have, first of all, in the third chapter, fifth verse down to the eleventh, the first bondage. It is to the king of Aram, or Mesopotamia. They served him. He was king of Mesopotamia, and his name was Cushan-rishathaim. Aram, you remember, is "Exalted," and the country of Mesopotamia was near to or connected with Babylon. The plain of Shinar was part of it, where finally Israel was carried into captivity. Here in the beginning you get them under the power of the king of exaltation. The very first thing that takes possession of God's people, that which is not Christ, the very opposite of Christ, is this exaltation, whose king is called Cushanrishathaim. Cushan means "blackness," and rishathaim means "double iniquity." "The blackness of double iniquity," is a name that is dark enough surely to tell us how intensely evil this enemy must be.
How exactly the opposite of Christ he must be, if he has a name like that. Our Lord, when He was here, was meek and lowly in heart. He sought not great things for Himself. Trace the Lord from the time He leaves heaven's glory until He returns thither again, and His history is one of self-abnegation and lowliness all the way through. He humbled Himself, He emptied Himself, made Himself of no reputation, and in all the progress from the throne of God to the cross it was one descent after another, the very opposite of Aram or exaltation. In the history of our own souls, and in the history of the Church, what is the secret of all blessing? Is it not this lowly mind, the mind that was in Christ Jesus? As long as His people are in a low place they will flee from the power of the enemy; but, alas, when we lift up ourselves, exalt ourselves, we are simply doing what the first great transgressor did, Satan himself; he exalted himself against God.
Pride is the first enemy, and it is the blackness of double iniquity; it is the intensest kind of wickedness; it is that by which Satan fell; he became dim by reason of his brightness. What a contradiction it is that his very beauty had a spot put upon it, because he sought to exalt himself by reason of his beauty. So when the Church of Christ, or an individual Christian, lifts himself up, and is satisfied with himself and filled with pride, you have there that intensest form of wickedness, because it is independence of God, it is the exaltation of self, and, therefore, the very opposite of Christ. We see much of this in Ephesus and in Laodicea in Revelation — the beginning and ending of the Church's history.
Next we have the deliverer out of that state. The enemy is what is not of Christ. In the deliverer we will see what is in Christ to deliver His people from this bondage, which is unlike Himself. Othniel is the deliverer, and we have seen that he represents that spirit of faith which counts entirely upon God. His name means "the Lion of God," the power of God brought in. Pride will never make use of any power save its own; it will never own its need of power. When Othniel comes in, you have, of course, the acknowledgement of weakness and bondage, and then as a result the power of God is exerted for us. Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God. What is the real remedy for bondage to pride? what is the real remedy for bondage to self, bondage to all this wretchedness that puts self on a pinnacle and degrades God? Is it not Christ the Lord Himself, Christ as the power of God, through whom alone come all things? And when you and I are ready, and when the Church is ready, to acknowledge that she has no strength of her own, that she has nothing of her own, and is willing to let Christ be all, you have Othniel the deliverer who comes in; and in that way he suggests Christ to us.
Of course, I do not mean to say that Othniel is what you would ordinarily call a type of Christ. As we go on, as you will remember, we found the judges are anything but Christlike, until at the close you find that which is the very opposite of Christ. It is the apprehension of Christ by faith in these characters that will give us practically the deliverance that was wrought here typically.
Another period of declension follows, and another deliverer. We saw that in Moab you have the bondage to a kinsman according to the flesh, but who has no spiritual relationship to the people of God. Moab was one of the children of Lot, and represents in that way an outward relationship without an inward reality, which you know is profession. Profession is a great and terrible enemy who settles down upon the people of God. Alas, the Church has many and many a time been under the fearful incubus of a barren, empty, Christless profession. The forms of orthodoxy may have been used, everything of that kind may have been quite according to the letter of Scripture, and yet there has been no power, no spiritual joy, nothing to answer to the living reality. The children of Israel, the true people of God, have been held down in bondage to this inert mass of profession that robs us of every enjoyment that we have. It is not Christ. Christ, beloved, is not profession, He is the very opposite of that. To know Christ is not even to be religious; to know Christ surely is not to make a profession. To have Christ before the soul is the very opposite of all that; it is to have in living reality communion with the Father and with the Son.
How profession sets Christ aside; how you will find that it can make itself a comfortable place in the world, it can rear its religious buildings, have its religious services; have its philanthropic work, and yet everything be icy cold, because it is profession without the living reality of Christ. You may be a Church member, a worker and all that, with an empty heart. Not profession, but Christ must be our portion.
What is the remedy for mere profession? What is the remedy for this incubus of Moab? This that is not Christ, but simply the profession of Christ? Ehud, the deliverer from the power of profession, is the "Confessor," as his name means. With the knife, which speaks of the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, he delivers the people of God from mere profession. To confess Christ! Ah, Christ Himself is the real Ehud in all his fulness. He was the Faithful Witness, One who ever confessed God, and because He confessed God in this world He was put out of it. He is the true Confessor, and, beloved brethren, the power of the enemy that would bring us into mere profession, is overthrown by the confession of what Christ is, the enjoyment of the Lord Jesus in the soul.
God's own people are in danger of profession. If you are dwelling with your past experiences, instead of in present communion, you are under the power of Moab, for Moab dwells in the past in that way. You are having your past experiences, and making yourself a professor on the ground of past experiences. There must be the living enjoyment of Christ which, as it were, forces today's confession out of our lips.
And may there not be a further suggestion in this man's name? He is the confessor, he confesses the real state of things. He acknowledges, as it were, that this profession is nothing, that it is an absolute enemy to God; he confesses that. So in the power of the confession of our failure, the confession of the nothingness and emptiness of profession, you will have the power of Christ coming in to set us free from mere profession. Do you shrink with horror at the thought of being a professor? Then confess the fact; own it before God; open up the whole heart, the whole state of things, and there will be reality at least; and where there is reality Christ will come in.
You will remember that we saw a resemblance between the bondage to Moab and the state of the Church as described in Pergamos.
Then we come to the next enemy, Jabin the king of Hazor, and Deborah and Barak, those through whom God overthrew him. We saw that Jabin was the name of a king whom Joshua had overthrown more than a hundred years before this time, and yet here he is revived again with all his old power, and unless God interpose, the whole land of Israel will be under his sway. His name is "Understanding." It is the intellect exalted against the knowledge of God. It is the opposite of what you have in Christ, who brought all His knowledge and everything else to His Father's feet, and had simply His Father's will as His one thought. He also put that before men, "If any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself." Christ is the very opposite of Jabin. If we want true understanding it must be as we know Christ, for in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. When the Church took to philosophy instead of Christ, it put itself under the sway of Jabin, — of the understanding.
There is only one remedy for that, and that is what we see in Deborah and Barak. Deborah means "the Word," and Barak, "Lightning;" you might say the power of that Word applied. When weakness, which is what the woman speaks of, applies the word of God to all the wisdom and understanding of man, it crumbles into dust. So it is through weakness that the victory is won, — Christ presented to us. As you might say, it is Christ without any of the strength that the world can appreciate. The world despises the word of God. It despises that which presents Christ to us.
It is feebleness and weakness that you get in Deborah, and in Jael, and that you have also in Barak himself, in holding back and hesitating in helplessness until the faith of the weaker vessel, the faith of the woman presses him on to do what God would have him do. Weakness is written all over that part. The entire narrative speaks of weakness, and yet it is the brightest in the whole book.
Victory is there, perhaps, more complete than in any other portion. This victory of Deborah and Barak over Jabin is celebrated in a song of triumph, and yet, as I say, it is the celebration of weakness simply, a weakness that exalts Christ, as the apostle puts it. You have here that beautiful song of praise and triumph that Deborah and Barak sing after the work is over, the only song of praise that you get in the whole book of Judges. There would have been more songs had there been more weakness leaning upon almighty strength. There would have been greater triumphs and more lasting, had there been more like Deborah, whose name hides her from view, and simply presents Christ, as He is revealed to us in the word of God. Ah, beloved, to be covered, as it were, by that which speaks simply of Christ, and God's word, so that people cannot think of us, cannot think of the instrument that God would use, but simply of Christ Himself, and of the truth of God as presented through Christ.
The cold intellectualism of Sardis — the Protestant period of the Church's history would answer to the bondage to Jabin, and the similar one under Ammon while in the Victors we see something at least of the spirit of Philadelphia.
After that you get Gideon, and the lessons of his life are very familiar to us. You have the power of Midian coming in. The Midianites were those who carried Joseph down into Egypt, and they represent in that way that which carries the people of God into the world. They signify the strife, as the name Midi an means, the strife that comes in through your lusts, and members which are in the world, as the apostle James puts it. This Midianite invasion is the invasion of the world into the professing Church. And what an awful invasion that is, dear brethren. We can see it about us today. It is not of Christ surely. You never find that the world represented Christ. The world does not make you think of Christ except in contrast. It is the very opposite of Christ. And wherever the world takes a place in the heart, it displaces that much of Christ.
The reason is a very suggestive one. You remember the apostle John says that whatever is not of the Father is of the world. You notice, in the Gospel of John, the Lord has one word on His lips always, and that is the Father. It was His joy to confess the Father; it is the world's to displace the Father. And so that is the element that is not of Christ, the exact opposite of Christ. It is the world, whether it comes into your heart individually, or whether it oppresses the whole Church of God collectively.
Now Gideon is the deliverer from the power of Midian, and here again, as you will remember, and as we have already seen this lesson in Deborah and in Jael, you have weakness emphasized. Only now it is a weakness that has to be produced, and that has got to be complete. They have to learn, Gideon has to learn his weakness. We, of course, cannot trace out his history. We have done that in some measure already; but the thought throughout is stripping off one thing after another, robbing him of one prop after another, until he is left, and the little band that is associated with him, in the presence of that mighty host that covers the whole face of the earth. He is left with the 300, and not even a sword in their hands, only a sword on their lips. They have the trumpets and the torches, and that cry, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon." It is the sword that is spoken, the spoken sword, rather than a sword in their hands.
They are shorn of all strength, shorn so completely that they are likened to a cake of barley bread, tumbling into the midst of the camp and knocking down a tent. They are almost literally that, objects of the enemy's utter contempt; and yet, with all their weakness and puny helplessness, they have the sword upon their lips; it is the sword of the Lord. If the sword of the Lord is on their side, what do they want with any human sword? And if the trumpet which they blow proclaim His power and His leadership, and if the light which they hold up is "holding forth the word of life in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, amongst whom ye shine as lights in the world," what need have they of other help? Thus Gideon and his little company speak to us of the power of Christ resting upon weakness. As the apostle says, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in mine infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
The power of the world we see, with much else, in Pergamos, Sardis, and Laodicea, while in Gideon we see the overcomer in the churches, and in Philadelphia.
Next you pass to Jephthah. The next enemy is Ammon. You know Ammon was the brother of Moab, and represents profession as we have seen in Moab, only now it is not the sensuous side of profession, the worldly side, but, as you might say, the intellectual side, closely connected with Jabin. He suggests the spirit of rationalism which comes into the Church and settles down, putting its icy hand upon its life. The children of Ammon claim their title to the inheritance which Israel has long occupied. What I have said as to Jabin would apply here. You take the matter of the word of God. If people are going to treat it in a mere intellectual way, as the rationalists do, as that which can be criticised and sifted, full of mistakes, and a little bit left that you can accept perhaps; if that spirit is allowed, you have the very opposite of the spirit of Christ. He magnified the word of God. He always quoted Scripture as settling every question. It was the end of the matter when He quoted Scripture. What a lesson! The Son of God ended every discussion by simply quoting the word of God. Rationalism would rob us of that element in the character of Christ, loyalty to the word of God. The children of Ammon would tell us that we can be Christians in name, we can be professors, and yet deny the word of God, which is our title to Christianity. Oh how much of the Ammonite rule we see about us today, where human intellect traffics in the word of God, and man, instead of being judged by Scripture, sits in judgment upon the Scriptures.
What an awful oppression that is. And the deliverance from it is through Jephthah, which means "He openeth." He is the one who opens, and it is just as Christ has opened for us the precious word of God, as, you remember, He opened His disciples' understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, that we are freed from rationalism. He has opened heaven for us, that we may know our place before God. He is the Opener, the Revealer, the One who makes the word of God luminous to us. And it is as Christ Himself is thus the Opener for us, that we find a blessed and precious deliverance from all the reasonings of the flesh, from all the power of an intellectual supremacy, which, after all, means utter bondage. Who is more miserable than the man who thinks, as you might say, for himself? Who more wretched than the man who glories in his own bondage to his own poor, feeble reasoning?
I do not dwell upon the sequel to the life of Gideon, nor even to that of Jephthah, and there are many other thoughts there which we have not even time to mention. I am trying simply to show how it is Christ all the way through who is the remedy for these evils, and, therefore, I do not dwell upon the details of the failure as you have it in the history of Abimelech, nor of Jephthah's subsequent failure, things that are dark enough surely.
We can sum it all up in a few words. Gideon craved the priesthood, which was robbing Christ of that place; Abimelech grasped after kingly power, which was taking the place which Christ alone can occupy, while in Jephthah's harshness, you see the absence of that "meekness and gentleness of Christ," which rules no less effectually because it is done in love and grace.
Then, lastly, after Jephthah, you have the Philistine invasion, or rather supremacy, and God's deliverance, or rather His designed deliverance, through Samson the Nazarite. The Philistines represent profession in a more intense way, though they are associated originally with Moab. You remember that Shamgar wrought a deliverance from the Philistines just at the close of Ehud's victory over the Moabites. The Philistines represent profession, and more than that. They represent an active profession, which declares that it is everything, that it has the right to give the name, as it were, to the whole inheritance of the people of God, and to assume entire control of everything connected with it.
That you get in Rome in all her claims to be the Church, to be the repository of all the revelation of God. She claims to be the director of the people of God, and to declare what is, and what is not, the will of God. All authority is centered in the pope, and administered through human priests, and celebrated by human ritual. The whole spirit and system of Rome is the Philistine power which controlled at one time the entire professing Church, and which in its spirit even now lays its hands upon the fairest portions of God's heritage. Is it like Christ? Does it not rob us of Christ? How surely it does. It is the woman Jezebel and Thyatira, as we saw in considering Shamgar.
Rome, which is always elevating the crucifix, robs us of the cross. Rome, which exalts the Son of God, as it were, robs us practically of Him by putting her whom she calls the mother of God over Christ. Rome in that way by imputation robs us of the reality; and so, wherever in spirit Rome is allowed — and there is much of Rome that has not the name of it, there is much in Protestantism that savors of it, — wherever you have this system of things, it makes use of the world, of the flesh, yea, of the devil himself, to further her unholy designs to get possession of the people of God. It is not Christ surely.
What is the remedy, what is the deliverance from the awful sway of the scarlet woman? Surely Christ alone. But Christ as He is presented to us in the very opposite of what Rome claims. Rome claims to sit a queen and to be no widow and to see no sorrow, and Christ we have presented as the Nazarite, the separate One, the One who has nothing here, who is separate from sinners, separate from the world, separate from the spirit that is in the world. Christ is the true Nazarite, of whom Samson, so far from being the type, was, alas, a contrast. It is the spirit of true Nazariteship, as we see it in Christ and as linked with Christ, which would deliver us from all the power of Philistinism, from that which deals in saint-worship and profession and superstition, and everything that would degrade the saints of God.
Thus you have Christ all the way through. If you will go over the history at your leisure, and take each of these deliverances and seek to put it in the place of the deliverer the apprehension of Christ, Christ Himself, the blessed power, the only power of true deliverance from all this, you will have surely, not the partial and incomplete deliverances that you have in Judges, but a real, true and lasting victory through Christ. "Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Then we come to the last part of the book, the third part. I have already gone over it, and only speak of it in connection with our main theme here. You know that the idolatry, the introduction of idolatry, as we saw, was the failure of the people to accept Christ as the Image of the Invisible God, and seeking to make some other image out of their own minds, some partial conception, it might be, of God but not God as He is revealed to us in the Person of our Lord. Then when God is corrupted, when idolatry is set up, how quickly man is corrupted too. And we saw in that awful corruption at Gibeah, and the subsequent dealing with it, how when God is forsaken, when man has set Christ aside as the Image and Representative of God, how he sets aside his fellow man, how he despises and treats him with all the wretched abominations with which the people of Sodom treated one another.
What an awful picture you have of the human heart and when Israel comes in righteousness, — might I not add in self-righteousness too? — to deal with this awful wickedness that has been allowed by the tribe of Benjamin, in which it had been committed, how we find the helplessness of human vengeance to effect the righteousness of God. We find discipline now going completely to the extreme, almost, of annihilating a whole tribe. You see how utterly ineffectual is the arm of flesh, and God has to humble them, to break them down, and teach them over again and still again, this lesson, that is emphasized throughout the book, the lesson of human weakness.
All is summed up in that one word that closes the history, "In those days there was no king in Israel." How the yearning that appeals throughout the whole book comes to one point, and shows that the desire of the heart of God's people, the desire that is put there by the Spirit of God, is the only remedy for all evil amongst us, and that is the coming of Christ Himself.
But here at the close of our studies, I would press upon us all the enormous weight of responsibility that rests upon those whose eyes have been opened to the realities upon which we have been dwelling. Where are Gideon, Jephthah, Barak now? Where are the apostles, martyrs, and confessors of the Church? They have gone. No longer can they stand in the breach, or uphold the standard of Christ. They rest from their labors, waiting to be rewarded for their faithful service.
But the enemy is still here, as we have been abundantly seeing; and the Church of Christ is still here with the testimony to the truth of God to be preserved in the face of abounding evil. Yea, alas, the spiritual bondages are a present fact — but who and where are the deliverers?
Do you look about, near or far off? Do you think of some one across the sea, or in distant land, whose name and work you have heard? Ah, beloved, look nearer home. Do you sigh and cry over the desolations? Do you hunger for the word of God? Are you absolutely broken and helpless? Then why not you? Why may not God use you, in complete weakness, as an instrument for help and deliverance for His people?
Oh, the honor, the dignity, the joy of being permitted to stand for Christ, for His Church and His truth in a day of rebuke and ruin! To stand, to confess, yea to die if need be, for Him. Have the mass succumbed? Have principles been abandoned, or has godly care relaxed? Then in Christ's name, if there be but one to stand to the truth, let him stand. One mightier than the mightiest stands with him.
Thus, dear brethren, you will find that you can begin with the beginning, and as you go through the entire book, you find the one great lack is — Christ is absent, Christ is not here, the Blessed Son of God is not paramount; His rule, His control, His power, is lacking, is wanting throughout. Only a glimpse of Him is all that you have — simply a flash, as it were, a glimpse of Christ that passes into blacker night, because Christ Himself is not there.
There is no reformation for the Church of Christ, there is no improvement for the people of God, there is no such thing as getting right, or being right, there is no such thing as obedience to the word of God, that does not have one controlling Person before the soul. Beloved brethren, you can be coldly exact, theologically accurate, you may be ecclesiastically correct, you may point out wrong in this and in that system, the inconsistencies of professing Christians, you may get to be quite Pharisees in your conduct, but you are nothing unless you have this one commanding fact throughout, — Christ in His blessed Person, Christ in His all-sufficiency, the Lord Jesus in the fulness of His love and the attractiveness of His Person, is the only One who can control and lead and deliver His people, the One whom we long to see.
There is a joy in conflict, there is a joy in getting the truth of God; a joy in meeting the enemy even, if we meet him in faith; a joy in getting down and learning our own weakness; but ah, all these joys after all are only but foretastes of that one great joy for which our hearts are waiting, waiting with Him, and that is to behold Him. And when we behold Him, and His Church beholds Him, when we are caught up to be with Him, we will then, and not till then, be conformed to His image. If we are to represent Him here, the measure in which He Himself controls thought, motive, desire, everything in our lives, so that we can say with Paul, "To me, to live is Christ," beloved, in that measure we will have practical likeness to Him, and be a practical testimony for Him.
How blessedly simple, how blessedly satisfying. In the midst of all the confusion in which we live, in the midst of all the desolation which man's pride and selfishness has brought in, in the midst of Satan's malignity and the world's allurements, to be able to say
"I have heard the voice of Jesus,
Tell me not of aught beside,
I have seen the face of Jesus,
All my soul is satisfied."
Are we satisfied with Him, beloved? Does He fill the soul? Does He take possession of us, do we walk in fellowship with Him? If we do, in spite of all the ruin that is about us, and in the face of all the heavy load of our responsibility, we will have a power that will enable us to meet them every one, — Christ and Christ alone. Not one thing but Christ Jesus; not one thing but Himself; Himself, His word, His will, His headship, His authority, His honor; everything centering in Him, radiating from Him, and the link between Him and every one of His blood-bought people recognized, and we ourselves seeking to be simply the reflection of Christ. Christ reflected out of a broken life, a broken self. Do you crave the honor of representing Christ, of being filled with Christ?
"To me, to live is Christ."
"Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus."