It is strange, but I suppose it is because we are so largely under the influence of the fleshly mind, that we so persistently keep ourselves in sight, and this well nigh to the exclusion of God. Ourselves, our own blessing, and our own glorification, are often in our minds. The objects to which all the ways of God lead up, and the glory of God, though religiously admitted, is very dimly before our minds. And as we are to such a large extent our own object, we are liable to think we must be God’s object also. In this way we in measure deify ourselves. What Adam grasped at in the beginning (equality with God), seems ingrained in the flesh, and refuses to be expelled. But from this, a merciful and gracious God would deliver us, and give us to see that His own glory and satisfaction must be the end which He has in view in everything that He does. The eternal blessing of the creature who submits with all his heart to the decrees of God is certain, and the everlasting confusion of the rebellious is just as sure. God must be His own Object in everything He does, and this anyone can understand, for when He began His works, (and whatever men may say to the contrary there was a beginning), there was nothing to influence His mind; He wrought from Himself and for His own glory, and “of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36), and “Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11). Until we see this we are not upon our proper basis; our minds vacillate and our movements are eccentric; man has undue importance in our eyes, and in our attempts to serve his we are in danger of turning to human methods, and forget for the moment what is due to God. But the blessed God has placed Himself before us in Christ that we may be attracted to Him, and find in Him an Object that completely fills our vision and captivates our heart, so that there may be no room for an idol in whatever guise it may approach us. And it is to this end He has declared Himself in Christ.
From the foundation of the world until the advent of the Son of God it could be said, “No man has seen God at any time.” In all His dealings with men in the past dispensation, He remained unrevealed. Bright rays of light proceeded occasionally from the midst of the darkness which concealed Him, and those bright rays illuminated and gladdened the hearts of all in whom His grace had wrought, but at the same time set them longing to be more in the light of that wondrous Being with whom they felt they had to do. The Psalmist thirsts for God, and longs for the time when he shall come and appear before Him (Ps. 42); and he cries, “O send out Thy light and Thy truth; let them lead me; let them bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy” (Ps. 43), and again, “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Ps. 84). Those beams of pure light which shone through the cloud of thick darkness in which God had enveloped Himself, caused the heart into which they penetrated to cry out for the full light of that face from which they radiated.
This world has its powerful attractions, and the cunning enemy of mankind has designed it for the ruin of his victim, but the attraction God has for man is Himself, revealed in love, and in the apprehension of this lies the endless blessing of His poor fallen creature. And that men might be attracted to Him He left not Himself at any time without witness, even in the darkest places of the earth: doing good, and giving rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14); desiring that they might feel after Him and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us (Acts 17). Man in his wanderings had got a long way from God, but God in His marvellous grace pursued him closely, even into the darkest corners of the earth, and in unwearying patience kept continually before his eyes the evidences of His goodness and tender consideration for His creature, that he might be induced to return to Him.
Moses was a man greatly favoured of God, and he had the light of God in his heart in a greater measure than any other in his day, and consequently the treasures of Egypt were of very small value in his sight; but his soul craved greater nearness to God, and closer acquaintance with Him in whose sight he had found grace; and he says, “I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory.” He is told this is impossible, but he will be permitted to see His back parts. Moses was asking to see His face, which meant the complete revelation of God. If I were anxious to see some great personage who had been very gracious to me, I would not be satisfied to see him with his back to me, I would be longing for him to turn to me that I might behold his face, and in seeing his face my heart is satisfied. But God tells Moses that no man can see His face and live. How could God have fully declared Himself to Moses? Moses, like every other man, was under judgment on account of sin, and if God declare Himself, He must execute that judgment, and what is to become of Moses? He must perish. Therefore God tells him it was impossible to accede to his request, but hides him in the cleft of a rock, and makes His goodness pass before Him, and with this he has to be content. So until the Son of God came into the world it remained a fact that no man had seen God at any time.
But this, thank God, cannot be said now, for “the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” He is no longer enfolded in a garment of impenetrable mystery, or hidden behind a veil. We are no longer confronted with devouring fire, blackness and obscurity; the true light now shineth. It has shone forth in all its life-giving power in Christ. The fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Him. His body was the temple. The house Herod had built the Jews was desolate, but the true temple was there in Christ. Of the Godhead nothing remained behind in heaven unrevealed when Christ was upon earth. He was the Son, and in Him dwelt the Father, and the Godhead glory shone through the human veil. Upon Golgotha’s hill, where man in his insane wickedness crucified Jesus, the veil was rent, and God was declared in holiness, righteousness and love to men; in holiness and righteousness, by His abhorrence and judgment of sin, and in His love, by sending His Son to bear the judgment on man’s behalf. In this way God has brought Himself before us, to attract us away from this world and from our miserable selves, that He might completely satisfy our poor vacant hearts, and that we might walk continually in that holy light, and never, never again know the ceaseless gnawing of unsatisfied desire. And that our souls might be in all the enjoyment of this blessed revelation He has given to us His Holy Spirit.
“And WE KNOW that the Son of God is come.” He has come if we never knew it; but how good it is to be able to say we know He is come. And how do we know it? We know it because the light which shone out in Him has gladdened our vision. The beggar spoken of in John 9 had been blind from his birth. The light of the glorious sun had never shone for him; he walked in darkness, in perpetual night. But there came a day in his benighted history when the One who made the sun and placed it in the heavens to shed light upon the earth, crossed his path, and looked upon him in infinite compassion, and those sightless eyes open to take in the light of heaven. And thus has the One who brought the light of God into the universe, opened our blind eyes to receive that holy light, given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true. Blessed forever be His holy name! The light of an eternal day has risen upon us.
And we know that we are of God. The revelation of God has not been fruitless. It has had a marvellous effect upon those into whose hearts it has penetrated. They are the sons of the light. For us the darkness is a thing of the past, and upon us the light has left its mark. New desires, aspirations, affections, hopes and relationships have been brought into existence, and we participate in them. We are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. We see His face, and live. It has not been death to us, but the very opposite; we have found it the light of life.
The Son of God is come. O to be more under the power and influence of that which has come in His Person. Angels might come and go in the past dispensation, running God’s errands to a world that had broken away from Him, and prophets might speak in the name of the Lord to a rebellious people, but what could either bring but feeble rays of light from Him whom neither angel nor prophet had ever seen; but the Son of God comes, and what has He not brought with Him? What has He left behind for some other to bring to light in a future day? He is the image of the invisible God, and he who has seen Him has seen the Father.
But I could understand some one saying, “Yea, it is all true, He came and spoke the word, as angel and prophet did before Him, but as they came and went, so also has He come and gone away again.” Not at all; it is all a blunder. He has not gone, neither shall He ever go again. He is come, and come to stay. He shall abide forever. The sun rises and brings in the light, and sets again, and the darkness once more enfolds the earth. This Sun shall never set. The Daystar has risen, and if its light is in the reader’s heart, he knows that his night is over forever. Our Sun has come to abide to eternity. The darkness shall disappear; but the light, never. Its life-giving influence shall spread until the whole universe shall be bathed in its glory.
“And we know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”