Christian Friend, vol. 13, 1886, p. 25 etc.
Note 1 — 1 Thess. 2:3-12|
Note 2 — Matt. 27:50-54
Note 3 — 2 Kings 4:1-7
Note 4 — Leviticus 23:9-20
Note 5 — Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thess. 5:18
Note 6 — Judges 5:12
Note 7 — Romans 12:2
Note 8 — 1 Cor. 15:29
Note 9 — 2 Samuel 23:20, 21
Note 10 — Heb. 4:3
Note 11 — Rom. 14:5, 6; Gal. 4:10, 11; Col. 2:16, 17
Note 12 — 2 Timothy 2:20, 21
Note 13 — Matthew 28:19
Note 14 — 2 Kings 2:12
Note 15 — 1 Kings 21
Note 16 — Isaiah 29:13, 14
Note 17 — 1 John 5:18
Note 18 — Psalms 45-48
Note 19 — 2 Tim 2:7, 5
Note 20 — 1 Cor. 9:27
Note 21 — Psalm 67
Note 22 — Isaiah 60, 50
Note 23 — 1 Thess. 3:12; 1 Thess. 4:1, 10
Note 24 — 1 Peter 1:19
Note 25 — Heb. 12:23
Note 26 — Numbers 27, 36
1 Thess. 2:3-12.
The apostle lays bare in this scripture his inmost heart in regard to his work in preaching the gospel, and exposes all his motives both before God and man. Living and labouring in the light he had nothing to conceal, and, led of the Holy Spirit, he speaks thus of himself in order that all who serve in the ministry of the Word may profit by his example. He goes at once to the root of the matter in pointing out that he had been "allowed [approved] of God to be put in trust with the gospel." (v. 4.) Recognizing this, he adds — would that all who claim to be sent of God could use the language — "Even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth [or proves] our hearts." The faces of men are before the preacher, and every servant has known the temptation of seeking to please his audience: the antidote to the snare lies then in the remembrance of the source of the service, and of the consequent responsibility of pleasing Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. (2 Tim. 2) Then he will be enabled to speak as from God, in the sight of God, in Christ (2 Cor. 2:17); for man will disappear, and God alone will be before his soul. It was so with Paul, and he could therefore affirm that he had not at any time used (1) flattering words (and he appeals to those to whom he was writing in confirmation of the fact), nor (2) "a cloke of [or with a pretext for] covetousness" (and of this God was witness), nor (3), though an apostle, and be might have pressed his official claims, had he sought glory of men, neither of them nor of others. He had no desires whatever for himself in his work. On the other hand, he was (1) gentle among them "as a nurse cherisheth her children" (v. 7); then (2), so large was his heart for them that he was willing to have imparted to them, not the gospel of God only, but also his own life, because they were beloved of him. Moreover, he reminds them that he laboured night and day that he might not be chargeable to them in his work, and he appeals both to them and God, as witnesses of his manner of life, "how holily and justly and unblameably" he had behaved himself amongst those that believe. Lastly, he had "exhorted, and comforted, and charged" every one of them, "as a father doth his children," that they might walk worthy of God, who had called them unto His kingdom and glory. (vv. 11, 12.)
What a picture of a faithful, unselfish, devoted, and loving servant! And how it rebukes many of us as we gaze upon it!
Without attempting, at this time, to enter into the meaning and character of this wondrous scene, we desire simply to call attention to the threefold testimony which is here given to Christ and His Work. The moment He had cried with a loud voice, and yielded up the ghost, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. This was a divine action, God's own interposition, the significance of which may be gathered from Hebrews 9 and 10. It proclaimed that God was now free in righteousness as well as in grace, on the ground of what had been accomplished on the cross, to go out after the sinner, and that the sinner was also free, on receiving the testimony concerning that finished work, to go into the holiest of all, into the immediate presence of God. The rending of the veil was God's own testimony to the efficacy of the blood of Christ. We also read that "the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection." There was therefore a three days' interval between the rending of the veil and the resurrection of the saints, but the Holy Spirit has connected the two because both alike are the fruits of the death of Christ. If the rending of the veil speaks of the efficacy of His precious blood, the raising of these saints tells no less clearly of Him who is the resurrection and the life, and it was thus a testimony to the power of life in Him as risen from the dead. (John 11:25; 2 Cor. 5) In the last place the centurion, and those who were with him, convinced by what they had seen, "feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God." This was a testimony, whether rendered intelligently or otherwise, to the truth as to His person. If therefore Christ stood alone, no one raising his voice on His behalf before His persecutors, if He were forsaken by God in His death, as He must have been as made sin, no sooner has His mighty work been accomplished than God steps in and raises a powerful and glorious threefold testimony to the efficacy of the atonement, to the power of His resurrection, and to the fact that He who had died on that shameful tree was no less than the Son of God. E. D.
2 Kings 4:1-7.
The mantle of the ascending Elijah fell upon Elisha, and he received a double portion of his predecessor's spirit. This explains the typical character of his ministry — that it was in resurrection power. It is needful to bear this in mind in interpreting the beautiful incident brought before us in this scripture. But first of all it is necessary to understand the circumstances of the widow. Her husband — one who feared the Lord — was dead, and he had left his widow so hopelessly in debt that the creditor claimed her two sons as bondmen. Who then was the creditor? It was, we judge, the law, which, as it contained no mercy, ever rigorously exacted its penalties and claims. It had therefore brought death in upon the husband (compare Rom. 7), and was now seeking to reduce his two sons to bondage. What wonder was it that this poor widow groaned under her intolerable burden, and that she should be constrained to seek for deliverance? To whom then does she have recourse for help and succour? It is to Elisha, type of the risen Christ. He responds immediately, and says, "What shall I do for thee? tell me: what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil." Mark the difference between man's thought and God's. The pot of oil was as nothing to the poor widow. She had not anything, "save a pot of oil." This was everything in the eyes of God, and the question of Elisha was intended to elicit the fact that there was this pot of oil in the house. Now oil is ever in Scripture emblematical of the Holy Spirit; and, as we shall now see, the possession of the Holy Spirit (we say nothing here of the necessary experiences before the goal is reached) is the only way of practical deliverance from the yoke of the law. The widow, up to this point, was ignorant of the value of the only possession to be found in the house; and indeed she was not yet in the condition of soul to use what she really possessed. Elisha therefore said, "Go, borrow the vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and thy sons, and shall pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full." Faith at once was called out into lively exercise. She obeyed the prophet, and she discovered that the supply of oil was illimitable, or rather only limited by the capacity of her empty vessels; for when the vessels were full, she said to her son, "Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed." She still was unable to avail herself of her treasure, and hence she went once more to "the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest." She thus discovered that it was the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that could make her free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), and also that she must continue to live in the power of the same Spirit. (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 5:25.)
There is another teaching lying more on the surface, and yet of the highest consequence. The widow in her sore distress found, as taught of the Lord, that she was not straitened in God, that there was an abundant outflow from His resources more than equal to all her need, and that faith brought her into living connection with the fountain of all relief and succour. We too thus learn that God is never weary of meeting our need, that our demands (as represented by the empty vessels) can never be too many. Come as often as we may, and with as many vessels as our faith can bring, we also shall find that His fountain of grace and blessing can fill them all. Surely then we may open our mouth wide, that He may fill it.
This is the only place where the term "church of the firstborn" is found. While it undoubtedly springs from the association of the church with Him who is the Firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5), it is yet interesting to notice that God in His grace has always had the firstborn before His mind. Thus no sooner had He sheltered His people from judgment in the land of Egypt by the blood of the passover lamb than He claimed all their firstborn as well as the firstborn of their cattle. (Exodus 13) "All the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself." (Num. 8:17; also Num. 3:12, 13.) The Levites were afterwards taken instead of the firstborn, and given to Aaron and to his sons to do the service of the children of Israel in the tabernacle of the congregation. Representing thus the firstborn of Israel, they were associated with Aaron, who himself was a firstborn, and they thereby became a shadow, if not a type, of the church of the firstborn. This will be more apparent if it is remembered that even Aaron's sons as well as the Levites derived all their privileges from being adjoined to Aaron. For example, Aaron, as a type of Christ, was clothed and anointed (without the sprinkling of blood, because a type of Christ) in the first place alone, and afterwards with his sons, when it is through association with Aaron they become a figure of the church as the priestly family. Now inasmuch as through all these types and figures God always had Christ in view, it is in Christ all these things find their fulfilment. When Christ therefore, the Firstborn from the dead, took His place at the right hand of God, the Holy Spirit was sent down to gather out those who should be heirs of God, and Christ's co-heirs; all of whom in virtue of their association with Him are firstborn, inasmuch as He deigns in His grace and love to share with them all that He Himself inherits by virtue of redemption. We, according to the purpose of God, are the brethren of Christ, and He will ever have the pre-eminence as the Firstborn amongst the redeemed; but at the same time they, together in their association with Him before God, will form the church of the firstborn. What can we say in the presence of such unfoldings of the heart of our God but, Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end? Amen. E. D.
Numbers 27, 36.
A beautiful illustration of the ways of God with His people — of His readiness to meet their every need — is found in the combination of these two chapters. In the first, the daughters of Zelophehad came to Moses with a complaint. Their father had died leaving no son, and they asked, "Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us, therefore, a possession among the brethren of our father." (Num. 27:4.) Up to this time there had been no provision for such a case. The son or sons were to inherit the patrimony, but nothing had been said concerning daughters where there were no sons. Moses did not act upon his own view of the case, nor upon what others might deem fair and equitable principles, but, owning that he had of himself no wisdom, he laid the matter before the Lord. Would that we all might follow his example when we fail to discover the mind of God in any special perplexity. The Lord vouchsafed an answer immediately, saying, "The daughters of Zelophehad speak right;" and He directed Moses to "give them a possession of an inheritance among their father's brethren," taking occasion at the same time to announce a statute of judgment for the children of Israel upon every such case that might arise.
Passing now to Numbers 36 we find that another perplexity sprang out of the settlement of this question. The chief of the families of the children of Gilead come in this instance to Moses. Their concern was for the inheritance of the tribe; for if these daughters of Zelophehad "be married," they say, "to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then shall their inheritance be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and shall be put to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall it be taken from the lot of our inheritance;" and furthermore, they proceed to say, when the jubilee arrives, the inheritance, so taken away, will be finally added to that of the tribe into which these women had married. Once again, Moses receives directions from Jehovah, who commands that the daughters of Zelophehad shall marry "to whom they think best," only it must be to those of their own tribe; and in this way was the difficulty, both on the present occasion and for all future time, completely removed.
There are some important principles connected with these histories worthy of indication. The first is obvious; viz., that nothing in relation to the people of God can be settled by human wisdom. Every difficulty or perplexity must be laid before the Lord. The second is, that if we lack wisdom the Lord is ever ready to give, and to give liberally. Nothing that affects the welfare of His people is too trivial to bring before Him; and for us to attempt to act, unless we have His mind, is to usurp His place. Then, thirdly, observe that the Lord did not anticipate the difficulty. He knew it would arise, but He waited until His servant brought it to Him before He gave His mind in the matter; He foresaw the second question equally with the first, but He would have His people in constant dependence, and thus only gave the word for the moment — the wisdom as it was needed. In like manner, if we would be imitators of Him, we shall never seek to forestall a difficulty. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Lastly, it is beautiful to remark the ready obedience of all concerned to the word of the Lord. His word was all they craved, and obtaining it they yielded to it a willing subjection. The chief of the fathers of Gilead, the daughters of Zelophehad, and indeed the whole of Israel, obeyed the word of the Lord they had received through Moses. Truly the path of obedience is the only way of blessing!
The distinction between the "sheaf of the firstfruits" and the two wave loaves, which are also called firstfruits, is exceedingly beautiful. The former is Christ, for the priest was directed to "wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath" (the first day of the week) "the priest shall wave it." (vv. 10, 11.) Thus it is that Paul writes: "Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20) — the first sheaf to be waved before the Lord before the ingathering of the harvest. And of what a harvest is He, as the firstfruits, the pledge! Concerning Him in this character, another has written, "It" (His resurrection) "was the beginning of the true harvest — harvest gathered by power outside and beyond the natural life of the world. According to the Jewish law, nothing of the harvest could be touched before. Christ was the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. With this first of the firstfruits were offered sacrifices for a sweet savour, but not for sin. It is clear there was no need for it. It is Christ who has been offered to God, quite pure, and waved before God — placed fully before His eyes for us, as raised from the dead, the beginning of a new crop before God; man in a condition which not even innocent Adam was in, the man of God's counsels, the second man, the last Adam. Not all hanging on obedience, which might fail, and did; but, after God had been perfectly glorified in the place of sin, past death, past sin (for He died unto sin), past Satan's power, past judgment, and consequently by this, wholly out of the scene where responsible man had stood, on a totally new footing with God after His finished work, and God perfectly glorified. Such a work too as gave Him title to say, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again," and made it God's righteousness to set Him at His own right hand in glory.
Following upon this, they were to number fifty days unto the morrow after the sabbath, and offer a new meat-offering unto the Lord, composed of two wave loaves, of two tenth deals of fine flour, baleen with leaven, "the firstfruits unto the Lord." "It is no longer Christ here, but those who are His, the firstfruits of His creatures. (See James 1:18.) They are considered as being on earth, and leaven is found in them. Therefore, though offered to God, they were not burned as a sweet savour (Lev. 2:12), but with the loaves was offered a sin-offering, which answered by its efficacy to the leaven found in them. They are the saints of which Pentecost commenced the gathering."
Once more we find the expression firstfruits in the Scriptures. Of the hundred and forty-four thousand who will stand on Mount Sion with the Lamb (Rev. 14), it is said, "These were redeemed from among men, the firstfruits unto God and the Lamb." (v. 4.) These are the firstfruits of the earth, after the Church has been caught away to be with the Lord, and will be gathered from among the two tribes who will be in the land during the sway and power of antichrist. They will pass through the unequalled sorrow of those days (See Matt. 24:21, 22), and the Lord will give them a special place with Himself in the kingdom — they will follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. As the ingathering at Pentecost was the firstfruits of the church, these will be the firstfruits of the kingdom.
Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thess. 5:18.
These two scriptures, often classed together, are yet very different in their significance. The latter is plainly an exhortation: "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." It is not, as the reader will observe, for every thing, but in every thing, give thanks. And there are few Christians who would not acknowledge, we will not say their obligation, but rather their privilege, to render thanksgiving to God in all their circumstances and trials. They may be passing through deep sorrows or severe sufferings, and yet, viewing these in the presence of God, they will find abundant cause for praise. Not only so, but, as the apostle here says, "it is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us." This puts the matter on another ground, revealing what is acceptable to God, and, if it may be so expressed, how grateful to Him are the thanksgivings of His people. Turning now to the former scripture, it will be as plainly seen that it is not an exhortation. Let the reader note well the context. We are bidden not to be "drunk with wine, wherein is excess," but to "be filled with the Spirit;" and then three things are indicated as the consequence. First, our hearts will be overflowing with praise, "speaking," as it is said, "to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;" then we shall, besides this, be "giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;" and, lastly, we shall be "submitting ourselves one to another in the fear of God."
We are not then expected — and this is the point to be noticed — to give thanks always for all things, as a matter of subjection to the will of God, as in the case of giving thanks in everything; but the former of these two things will only flow out as fruit of being filled with the Spirit. If therefore we desire — and what believer would not desire to be in such a state? — to be giving thanks always for all things, we must first seek to be filled with the Spirit. Now it is precisely here that the difficulty meets us; for is it not true that few of us are willing to be so filled? For indeed it involves much, even the constant refusing of self, and the daily bearing of the cross — incessant watchfulness that we may not be drunk with wine, i.e., seeking to be exhilarated with any of the joys of earth; and ever bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. But He giveth more grace, and sufficient grace even for this; and surely none of us should have any lower object than this which the Word sets before us of being filled with the Spirit. What a change would be then wrought in our daily lives! and what power, too, would characterize our walk and service! Even, therefore, if we can already give thanks in everything, we should also seek grace to be in that state in which "giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" would be its expression in the power of the Holy Ghost. E. D.
The history of the expression "lead thy captivity captive," first found in this scripture, strikingly illustrates the remark of a well-known writer, that "he that does not see Christ everywhere in the Old Testament, sees Him nowhere." It is here addressed to Barak. "Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam." After the victory over Sisera, the Holy Spirit put a song of celebration into the lips of Deborah and Barak, in which they are made to recall the former state of Israel, the gathering of the people, and the circumstances of the conflict. The words occupying our attention take the form of an exhortation in the prospect of the struggle, urging Barak to grapple with, and to bring into captivity, the power which had been holding Israel captive. Passing onward to Psalm 68, we read, "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men [or rather, as in the margin, in the man]; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." (v. 18.) Here the conflict is over (see vv. 1, 2, 12); but the words are not, as in Judges, an exhortation, but a description — a description of the victorious issue of the conflict in the ascension and exaltation of Christ as Man. But there is more, as another has remarked, for "He has led captive the power of the enemy who ruined all — conferred blessing, and as Man, and in His human nature, He has received gifts even for rebellious Israel, that Jehovah Elohim might dwell among them." We learn, therefore, that the divine energy of the Spirit, that wrought in and through Deborah and Barak for the overthrow of the enemies of Israel, was but a foreshadowing of that divine power which was displayed in and through Christ in His conflict with the power of Satan in His death on the cross (compare Col. 2:15), and which will be exhibited through Him when He returns for the deliverance of His people Israel in a later day. The psalm, though all is based upon and flows out from the virtue of His death, refers to the latter; but if we now turn to Ephesians — the last place where the expression is found — the reference is to the former — His overcoming the whole power of Satan. "When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men," etc. (Eph. 4:8.) That is, He has brought to nought the power that held us captive; and Satan, as the enemy who has been worsted and overcome, now only waits for the execution of his sentence. (See Rev. 20:1, 2, 10.) Not only so; but we, freed from our captivity (compare Heb. 2:14, 15), are brought into the enjoyment of the present fruits of the victory in the gifts bestowed by the victorious and ascended Christ. (Ephesians 4:7-14.) The effect for Israel will be that their Lord God will once more dwell among them in power and blessing; while believers now have already entered upon the blessings won for them in the provision made "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ," and can joyfully anticipate the full result in the future glory of the victory. E. D.
The word here translated "transformed" is only found four times in the New Testament. It is used both in Matthew and Mark to describe the change in the appearance of our blessed Lord on the mountain when "His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light" In these places it is rendered "transfigured." It is met with finally in 2 Cor. 3:18, where it is given as "changed." Who can doubt that there is an intended connection between these scriptures? When the Lord was "transfigured" on the mount, God showed out, in anticipation, the glorified state on which His beloved Son would enter after His death and resurrection. (See John 17:5.) But we believers — shall, by His grace, be glorified together with Him. (John 17:22; Rom. 8:17, etc.); and we learn from the above scriptures how this will be accomplished. Romans 12:2 teaches that it is, first of all, a moral work within — a spiritual change effected by the renewing of our mind. From 2 Cor. 3:18 we gather that while Christ in glory is the model to which we are to be conformed (compare John 17:19; Rom. 8:29), it is by beholding His glory that we are gradually "transfigured" — from glory to glory — into the same image. God thus uses by the Holy Spirit the glory of the Lord to change us morally into the likeness of His beloved Son. But, as 1 John 3:2 tells us, we shall not be like Him until we see Him as He is. We wait, therefore, until His coming for the full accomplishment of the counsels of God, when our bodies as well as our souls will be conformed to the image of His Son. (See Phil. 3:21.) In the meantime our moral growth in His likeness will be in proportion to our present occupation with Him in the place where He is.
"And is it so? I shall be like Thy Son;
Is this the grace which He for me hath won?
Father of glory, thought beyond all thought,
In glory, to His own blest likeness brought."
1 Cor. 15:29.
It should be carefully noted that this verse is connected with verse 19, the verses between — from verse 20 to verse 28 — being a parenthesis. "If in this life only," says the apostle, "we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable," i.e., if there be no resurrection of the dead; and further, he goes on to say, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?" etc. It were folly to take the place of danger and liability to death through persecution (see vv. 30-32) if there be no prospect of resurrection. It is this which gives the key to the difficult expression "baptized for the dead." Through the perils incident to the confession of Christ in these early days martyrdom was of frequent occurrence. The ranks of the Christians were thus continually thinned; but through the grace of God converts were constantly added, and, in this scripture, they are regarded as filling up the vacant places of those who had departed to be with Christ; and thus, when they were baptized unto Christ, as being baptized for, or over (see note to New Translation) the dead. Such a step, the apostle argues, as led of the Spirit, would be without reason "if the dead rise not at all;" for why should they be baptized for the dead — come into a place where death was a daily possibility — if they had not an assured hope beyond the grave? But, blessed be God, they had this hope; for Christ was risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. E. D.
2 Samuel 23:20, 21.
While it needs great caution in the interpretation of the meaning of scripture names, there may yet be often found in them some very instructive lessons. In this passage the combination of the different names is very remarkable. Benaiah signifies, "Whom God has built;" Jehoiada, "Jehovah knoweth;" and Kabzeel, "God has gathered." Putting these meanings together, we learn that Benaiah was the son of one whom the Lord knew ("I know my sheep"), and had been built up in the truth by God Himself, and knew his place in God's assembly (Kabzeel). In the next place his acts are described. He had slain two lion-like men of Moab. Moab means "progeny;" that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and inasmuch as the men were lion-like, it was the flesh under full Satanic energy. He also slew a lion in the midst of a pit in the time of snow. Satan is compared by Peter with a roaring lion, and thus Benaiah was enabled to overcome Satan himself in his own haunts. He slew, moreover, an Egyptian, a goodly man, the expression of the fairer aspects of the world; and just as David beheaded Goliath with his own sword, so Benaiah, having "plucked the spear out of the Egyptian's hand, slew him with his own spear." The spear, like the sword, is a symbol of the power of death, and, as another has remarked, "Death is the best weapon in the arsenal of God when it is wielded by the power of life," and this was Benaiah's experience in his conflict with the world (the Egyptian). Taking then the whole history, we learn that this child of grace, built up on his most holy faith, and gathered out upon the ground of God's assembly, successfully meets and overcomes the flesh, Satan, and the world. This too was of grace; but, while of grace, it reveals the path and possibility for every believer. E. D.
A whole system of erroneous doctrine has been built upon the words, "For we which have believed do enter into rest" — a system which is often named by its advocates "the rest of faith." That is, as it is contended, upon the exercise of faith in Christ in all that He is for the believer in his daily life, as a Saviour from the power as well as from the guilt of sin, the soul passes instantly into a region of perfect rest, where conflict is no more known. In its essence this teaching is the same as what is known as "holiness by faith." Now, that there are boundless resources in Christ for the believer in his daily path is unquestioned, and it is our failure that we know so little how to avail ourself of them — of the grace, the wisdom, the power, etc., which are treasured up in Him; but the present question is whether this is the meaning of our passage. In answer to this, it should be first remarked that the rest spoken of is the rest of God. In the previous chapter we learn that God had sworn, concerning Israel, they should not enter into His rest; and the reason they could not enter in was unbelief. (v. 19.) The promise therefore of entering in was left over, "for unto us was the gospel preached [the gospel concerning God's rest, as well as unto them; but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it." This leads to the statement before us, that "we which have believed do enter into rest." The rest spoken of belongs therefore to those, and only to those, who believe the gospel preached.
The further question now arises, Is this rest present or future? In verses 3 and 4 we have the character of the rest; in verses 5 and 6 the truth is recalled that Israel had been excluded through their unbelief, and hence that some must enter into the rest. Then it is said that He limiteth a certain day, saying in David, "Today, after so long a time . . . for if Joshua had given them rest, then would He not afterward have spoken of another day." The conclusion is now drawn, "There remaineth therefore a rest [a keeping the sabbath] to the people of God;" i.e., it is yet future, being in fact the sabbatical rest of eternity, God's own rest, into which He in His grace proposes, as He ever has proposed, to bring His people.
That there is a present rest, both of conscience and heart, for the believer, needs ever to be insisted upon; but the rest here spoken of goes further, and points to the end and result of all God's purposes for, and ways with, His redeemed, just as the Jewish sabbath was the type and figure of the end of His counsels for Israel. We, as they in the wilderness, are journeying onward to the rest which He has promised; and "we which have believed" shall infallibly enter it, and then for eternity we shall, through infinite mercy, share in the sabbath of our God. E. D.
Rom. 14:5, 6; Gal. 4:10, 11; Col. 2:16, 17.
Is there any contradiction in the teaching of these several passages? That is impossible; but it is exceedingly interesting to trace out their connection. In Col. 2 we have the consequence for the believer, in one aspect, of death with Christ. In Romans 6 we are delivered from sin — in Romans 7, from the law — through having died with Him. But in Col. 2 we are delivered from man, whether it be on the side of philosophy or of religion. As dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, we are not "as alive in the world" to be subject to ordinances. No human precepts or religious rites or observances have thus any claim upon the believer, because, through death with Christ, he has passed altogether out from under the yoke of the first man. He acknowledges, on the new ground of death and resurrection with Christ, the authority of Christ alone. Everything else, however sacred from long usage, all "the traditions of the elders," he entirely refuses, even the meats, drinks, holy days, new moons, and sabbaths of Judaism; for they have now become to him but "rudiments of the world," and were never, at any time, more than a shadow of things to come, while the body is of Christ. (v. 11.)
In Galatians the apostle had to encounter a strenuous effort to reimpose the yoke of Judaism on the saints, and this he would not bear with for a moment. It was a total denial of grace, and hence he does not hesitate to withstand even Peter to the face, "because he was to be blamed" for countenancing the Judaistic spirit, which led to a distinction between Jewish and Gentile believers. (See Gal. 2) When therefore these teachers of the circumcision made Jewish observances obligatory, the apostle declares that they were turning again to the beggarly elements, unto which they sought again to be in bondage; and he says, "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain." (Gal. 4:10, 11.) No quarter would he give to the imposition of such a yoke.
Passing now to the Romans, the case is very different. It is here a question of one who was "weak in the faith" (v. 1); and such was to be received, but not "to doubtful disputations." He might as yet be undelivered from many things, as was often, the case with Jewish converts; he might still be entangled with many a Jewish habit as to meats, and as to the observance of holy days. Still, such an one was to be received, borne with, even while seeking to lead him on to the full truth of the Christian position; and the apostle reminds us that we are not to judge another man's servant, or set at nought our brother, or put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his way. In a word, weak consciences are to be respected (vv. 20, 21), and the strong must bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please themselves, incited to this course by the blessed. example of Christ, who pleased not Himself, but, as it is written, "the reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me." (Rom. 15:1-3.)
2 Timothy 2:20, 21.
The difficulty which is often felt by many as to this scripture would be at once removed by giving attention to the exact language employed by the apostle. He does not say, "In the house of God," but "In a great house there are not only vessels," etc. In fact, he uses an illustration to set forth what professing Christianity — the house of God, indeed, as built by man (1 Cor. 3) — has become; i.e., it has become a mixed thing, like a great house with vessels of honour and vessels of dishonour in it. The question therefore whether the vessels are teachers or saints proceeds upon a misconception, inasmuch as they only illustrate the fact pointed out, that the professing church has become so mixed and corrupt that separation is now necessary within its own borders. Whether converted or unconverted is not the point, for all are on that ground as professors; and all, whether converted or otherwise, must be separated from it if, like the vessels to dishonour, they are polluted by unholy associations or employments.
If a man therefore purge himself from these — the vessels to dishonour — he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work. The next verse (2 Tim. 2:22) points out that there must also be moral separation, and fellowship with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. E. D.
"The formula which I have used in baptizing is, 'In the name of the Lord Jesus I baptize thee unto the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.' My reason is, that two things are thus owned — the Lordship of Christ, and the full and Christian revelation of the name of God, which is thus called upon the baptized person. Surely baptism is connected with these two important truths. "To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him." (1 Cor. 8:6.)
I quite admit that Scripture gives us no historical account of any carrying out of the commission in Matt. 28 to the nations; but that does not alter the significance of the form, as to baptism, there given by our Lord especially for Gentiles. They had previously no connection with the name of God — i.e., the Jehovah of Israel (Isaiah 63:19) — though Amos (Amos 9:12) prophesied of Gentiles who would be called by His name. Acts 15:14, 17, shows how that part of the prophecy had received a kind of accomplishment by Peter baptizing Cornelius and his household. This use of the full name of God is important to my mind or there would be no administrative bringing of the Gentiles into connection with it; and I confess I do not feel happy in any one using a formula which omits it. Surely it is of moment that there should be a people upon earth thus formally connected with the name of God, as fully revealed in Christianity. We see the principle of this as early as Gen. 4:26, in the family of Seth.
In the development of the ways of God, which is given us in the Acts, a great point is the establishing of the Lordship of Christ, quite as important as, and intimately connected with, owning the name of the one true God. (Compare Isaiah 45:22, 23, with Phil. 2:10, 11.) 'Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.' The whole administration of the ways of God is in His hands, all ministry and power is there; all authority and rule are made subject to Him. It was therefore necessary for Jews, who were already in connection with the name of Jehovah by circumcision, to own Him whom God had made Lord and Christ. It is stating too much to say that the apostles never used the formula of Matt. 28. We know that negatives are dangerous statements to make; in fact, I judge there is no record given of the formula they used; for we cannot gather it from the various expressions which the Spirit records. 'In [εν] the name of Jesus Christ,' or 'the Lord Jesus,' connects baptism, I think, with the power and authority of that name; while 'Unto the name' would be to the confession of His name as Lord, and this has to be confessed and owned to the glory of God the Father.
It would be a mistake to take the words, 'In the name of Jesus Christ,' or, 'Unto the name of the Lord Jesus,' as a formula. There is much implied in baptism which is not expressed in the formula used, such as moral cleansing, salvation, and being planted in the likeness of Christ's death; but to me the real formula is in the words of our Lord, in Matt. 28. But then His Lordship is distinctly connected with it there; for He states that all power is given to Him in heaven and earth, though baptism only refers to His authority as administered upon earth. The form of this administration on earth, so far as Scripture tells us, has not been carried out yet according to Matt. 28, but according to Luke, and in the way described in the Acts. Still our Lord's words remain, that baptism was to be in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." T. H. R.
2 Kings 2:12.
"My impression as to the 'chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof' is, that faith in Elisha connects the chariots of God with Israel. (Compare Psalm 68:17, 18.) Hence he calls it the chariot of Israel. He sees prophetically in the angelic power which was taking up the ascending Elijah the deliverance of Israel by the same power. For us it is the power which wrought in the Christ when God raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places. Connect, for this power which will finally deliver Israel, Deut. 33:2; 2 Sam. 22:9-11; then Psalm 68:17 (it is remarkable, 'Adonai is among them'); Hab. 3:3-8; Rev. 8:5; Psalm 18:12, 13; Psalm 104:3, 4, etc.
I suppose Elisha knew the secret of this power when he picked up the mantle of Elijah — a power not yet displayed fully for Israel, but — Elisha was in its secret. (See 2 Kings 6:16, 17.) Elijah had passed through the waters by a power that rolled them back; the full deliverance will come because that power has been exercised in the depths through which Jesus has passed. (Psalm 18:14, 15.) I think there is something analogous to Elisha being in the secret of a power not yet fully exercised in Rev. 5. We are surely in the secret of that chapter. The Lamb in the midst of the throne having overcome to take and open the book. The throne is not yet openly acting, and the rider on the white horse not yet come forth; but I believe we are in this secret, that even now, in all the political actings, and amid the schemes of men, there is the secret acting of the throne, because the Lamb is in the midst of it. The suffering one has overcome, and is there, and the actings of God, even now providentially, are all in connection with Him. As to crisis, it is all future; but if our eyes are open, we know now the secret of the power which will accomplish all.
In 2 Kings 13:14 the vessel of this power is just departing, and the words of Joash recognize that Elisha was the vessel of the power of deliverance for Israel. It was a wonderful scene as the window was opened, and the arrow of the Lord's deliverance sped on its way; but everything breaks down in man's hand, and there is no faith in the king to use the power."
T. H. R.
1 Kings 21.
Nothing could more strikingly reveal the frightful moral corruption of Israel — of king and people — at this time than the details of this chapter. Naboth had a vineyard "hard by the palace of Ahab, king of Samaria." The king saw and coveted it for himself. It was near to his house, and he desired it for a garden of herbs. Accordingly he sought to obtain it from Naboth, either by exchange or by purchase. Outwardly this was fair and honest; but Ahab knew, or should have known, that he could not have it except by inducing Naboth to transgress the law of God. Naboth preferred obedience to the Word above the favour of the king and his own advantage, and thus he replied, "The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee." (See Num. 36:7.) Baulked in his project, "Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased . . . laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread." (v. 4.) In the previous chapter he likewise came to his house "heavy and displeased" (v. 43) because a prophet had pronounced judgment upon him for making an alliance with one whom God had appointed to destruction. Weakness and wickedness are often united, and in both cases the king was angry because the will of God was against his own, and interfered with his designs. But mark the lesson: whenever the heart is resolved upon evil, Satan is ever at hand to open the way for its commission. Covetousness had mastered the soul of Ahab, but he was lacking in courage; he feared to take what he longed to have. Jezebel was of another spirit; she had neither conscience nor fear. Daughter of a heathen king (1 Kings 16:31), she owned no law but that of her own wicked will. Like the unjust judge, she feared not God nor regarded man; and, determining that her husband should gratify the desire of his heart, she said, "I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite." Her measures were soon taken. "She wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal," commanding Naboth to be falsely accused and to be stoned. Surely there would be conscience, we might think, in some of Jezreel's elders! Alas! the men of Naboth's city, "the elders and the nobles," fellow-citizens of this faithful man, hastened to obey the queen's command, brought in false witnesses, as in the case of our blessed Lord (also of Stephen), procured his condemnation, "stoned him with stones, that he died;" and they sent immediately to Jezebel to say, "Naboth is stoned, and is dead." (vv. 11-14.) Let the reader pause, and mark the consequences of covetousness in Ahab's heart. A simple desire, at first, for a convenient garden — such was the root of this deadly tree, bearing such a crop of poisonful fruit; such the trickling stream that swelled into this blackening river of corruption. Ahab wanted a garden; Jezebel determined he should have it at all costs; and the elders of Jezreel, wishing to commend themselves to the queen, carried out her commands even at the cost of shedding innocent blood. What an unfolding of the heart of man!
So far all concerned, except Naboth, had left God out of their calculations, and it seemed as if sin had triumphed. Naboth had been stoned, and Ahab was now free to take possession. He went down, and his feet at last stood in the vineyard of Naboth; but, at the very moment he was about to lay his hand upon the coveted possession, be is confronted by Elijah the Tishbite, and has to learn from the awful words with which the prophet terrified his soul, that verily there is a God that judgeth the earth. "Hast thou [not Jezebel, but thou, hast thou] killed, and also taken possession? . . . Thus saith the Lord, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine." Miserable king! He could only utter — his vision is still bounded by the earth — "Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?" It was Jehovah who had found him, and who sent His servant to denounce judgment upon Ahab, his house, and upon the wicked Jezebel.
Verses 25 and 26, parenthetically added, reveal the full extent of the abominable wickedness of this guilty king "stirred up" by his wife Jezebel. But the words of the prophet rang in his soul as a death-knell, reached (at least) his natural conscience, and produced a transient repentance. (v. 27.) Who shall fathom the depths of the long-suffering and the mercy of the Lord! "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? with the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?" His word thus came to Elijah, "Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me?" And on this account, though it were but a passing humiliation (for we are here in the sphere of God's government on earth), the judgment on Ahab's house (though the personal judgment on himself and Jezebel was literally executed) was postponed until his son's days. There was thus a day of grace even for Ahab.
Leaving the reader to study the details of this chapter for himself, we may indicate some general lessons: first, that there are no limits to the evil of man's heart; secondly, that sin can neither escape the eye nor the judgment of God; and lastly, that the mercy and goodness of God are unfathomable.
Isaiah 29:13, 14.
Three times this scripture, or part of it, is cited in the New Testament — twice by our blessed Lord, and once by the apostle Paul; and it is exceedingly instructive to note the connection in which the different quotations are found. In Matthew 11, after upbraiding the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done because they repented not, the Lord turned at this moment of rejection to His Father, and found rest in the sovereign counsels of Him who was Lord of heaven and earth, saying, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes," etc. (v. 25.) Turning back to our scripture, we learn that hiding these things from the wise and prudent was not the action of arbitrary power, but the judicial consequence of formality and hypocrisy in holy things, and of accepting the precepts of men in the place of the word of God. In Matthew 15 the Lord brings forward the first part of the scripture in condemnation of the ritualistic observances of the Jews, making, as they did, the commandment of God of none effect by their tradition. "Ye hypocrites," He says, "well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (vv. 7-9.) Let the reader observe that the chief sin of the Pharisees, in addition to their hypocrisy, was teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, and that worship so regulated was in vain. The apostle Paul quotes the latter part of the passage to show that the wisdom of this world is brought to nought by God. "The preaching of the cross," he says, "is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." (1 Cor. 1:18, 19.) The reader, if he pursue the study, will soon discover, if led of the Holy Spirit, how various the applications and lessons of the smallest portion of the sacred Word. But "the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God;" and this Spirit we, if believers, have received "that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." (1 Cor. 2:11, 12.)
1 John 5:18.
It is essential for the understanding of John's epistles to remember that, in such statements as this, he confines himself to the positive character (excluding from his view all other considerations) of the new nature. "Whosoever is born of God, sinneth not." He does not for one moment forget that the believer has two natures (1 John 1:8), or that he may fall into sin (1 John 1:16); but he is stating in an abstract, and therefore absolute, way, because he is thinking alone of what is born of God, that such an one does not sin. (See 1 John 3:9.) This will explain what follows. First he says, "He that is begotten of God keepeth himself;" that is, he will act according to his nature, the new nature — not that he may not fail sometimes to be watchful, but that, having been born of God, it is a necessary consequence, considering alone what this new nature is, how it is necessarily antagonistic to sin, and that it will shun temptation as being averse from it, that he will "keep himself." Then he adds, "And that wicked one toucheth him not." Satan indeed is powerless in the presence of a child of God when he keepeth himself. He may come, as he did to our blessed Lord and Saviour, and seek, by his allurements, to find an entrance into the soul by every possible avenue; but he cannot succeed if he that is born of God is on the watch. He cannot penetrate inside the circle where the child of God is abiding in dependence and obedience. He may seek to entice the believer to come outside the circle; but he cannot touch the one who is "keeping himself" inside. And the reader is again reminded that, in the view of the apostle, he that is born of God does so keep himself; for in the nature received from God in the new birth there could be no response either to sin or to Satan, only the most positive detestation of both. (Compare John 14:30.) E. D.
Few readers of the Scriptures can have failed to apprehend the connection in this interesting series of Psalms. In Psalm 44 the faith of the remnant rests upon the memorial of God's past deliverance of His people; "We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old." (v. 1.) Their present condition was in complete contrast: "But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies." Still, amid all the exercises of soul thus occasioned, faith cries, "Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake." (v. 26.) Psalm 45 gives the answer to this cry in the introduction of Messiah, who brings deliverance from enemies, and whose kingdom is for ever and ever. (vv. 5, 6.) This is followed by the celebration of His marriage with His earthly bride — Jerusalem — now robed "in gold of Ophir" (v. 9), and the consequent acknowledgment of the place of supremacy and blessing into which the bride has thus been introduced. Nothing could surpass the beauty of the details of this bridal psalm. Proceeding to Psalm 46, we find, as the result of Messiah's coming, that God is the refuge and strength of His people, a very present help in trouble. He has proved Himself to be so in power, as may be gathered from Zechariah 14. The sixth verse may possibly point back to this, if it does not refer to a subsequent attack on Jerusalem after Messiah has come. In either case God shows Himself to be His people's refuge and strength; and thereby so encourages their hearts, that they cry, "Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed," etc. (vv. 2, 3.)
There is also positive blessing in connection with Jehovah's presence in Jerusalem. "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God," etc. (v. 4. Compare Ezekiel 47, Rev. 22, etc.) Well, then, might the cry be raised, "God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her [as in the margin] when the morning appeareth;" for the advent of Messiah will be indeed the dawn of the morning without clouds. (2 Samuel 23:4.) Verses 6, 7 recall the deliverance, and celebrate the results; verses 8, 9 give the desolating effects of Jehovah's interposition in judgment, and the universal peace that follows. God Himself speaks in verse 10, calling upon all to know, by the works He has wrought, that He is God, and declaring that He will be exalted everywhere among the Gentiles on the earth. In verse 11 the remnant again lift up their voices in their chorus of praise: "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge."
Psalm 47 points out the consequences in government for the whole earth. Not only is Jehovah once more in the midst of His people, but He is also "a great King over all the earth." (vv. 2-7.) He "reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of His holiness," etc. (v. 8.) In Psalm 48 we find that now Messiah's authority has been established over the whole earth, "beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King." (v. 2.) God is still known in her palaces (a word that marks the splendour of the city) for a refuge; for notwithstanding the display of His glory and power, the kings of the earth (such is man as the tool of Satan) were assembled, but only to be driven away by the fear that seized upon them when they beheld the signs of His presence and glory. The ships of Tarshish too were destroyed by that same east wind which once drove back the proud waters of the Red Sea.
Thus delivered and blessed, the remnant now say (the allusion is to Ps. 44:1), "As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever." (v. 8.) Their own eyes have now witnessed Jehovah's intervention in power on behalf of His people, and thus their fathers' report was abundantly confirmed. Their hearts were therefore filled with thanksgiving, and overflow in praise and testimony (vv. 9-13); while their faith, strengthened by what they have witnessed, enables them to say, "This God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death." Nothing will ever more separate them from His presence and care. This is the truth of Romans 8: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" E. D.
2 Tim 2:7, 5.
"Remember Jesus Christ raised from among the dead, of the seed of David."
The sevenfold forms of service in this chapter have often been noticed. The first three characters of the Lord's labour seem to be especially emphasized in these verses, and the Lord Himself presented as the great Exemplar of His servant. He pre-eminently was faithful as soldier, athlete, or husbandman. The apostle tells Timothy how to consider what he says in bidding him to "call to mind Jesus Christ" — David's seed — whose holy separation, obedience, and labour as Man on earth, an obedience unto death, is attested by His resurrection. Avoiding or resisting every entangling alliance "with the affairs of this life," refusing every unlawful aid in His strife against sin, and He was ever about His Father's business. He "rendered to Caesar" his things, rejected the praise of men and their desire to make Him a King. He refused the testimony of demons to His divinity, or the temptations of their prince. He Himself, the Firstfruits to God, of His own labour, now, after first labouring, "is a partaker of the fruits." C. H. H.
1 Cor. 9:27.
Two things have to be insisted upon in this much-debated scripture. First, that the meaning of the word castaway must retain its proper force. It is ἀδοκίμος — signifying something that will not stand the test and is rejected; as, for example, in 2 Tim. 3:8: "Reprobate concerning the faith;" i.e., men who, tried by the truth, are to be refused. Secondly, it is of equal importance to maintain that the apostle had no thought of the possibility of his being a castaway. What he says, in other words, is, that if he were only a preacher — a preacher whose life did not express in some measure the truth he proclaimed, one who was governed only by his own will and inclinations — he might then be a "reprobate." Or, to borrow the language of another, "I am not merely a preacher, but a liver; lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." And again, "If Paul himself had been preaching only, not living, he would have been a castaway. But he was not that; and he states how he was living, that he might not be." What we have then in this passage is, that even a preacher of the gospel may be lost; that the evidence of his being a true Christian does not lie in his being a preacher, but in his walking as such; even as the same apostle writes to the Romans, "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." (Romans 8:13.) E. D.
There are several most important principles in this brief and beautiful psalm. The first is, that the blessing of the nations is dependent upon the restoration of Israel to divine favour. The remnant cry, "God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause His face to shine upon us; that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations." (vv. 1, 2.) That this is God's order for the blessing of the world is clear from many scriptures. (See Rom. 11:11-15; Isa. 27:6, etc.) In this day of grace the gospel goes out to Jew and Gentile alike, and "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Rom. 10.) But there will be no such thing in the present dispensation, during the time of Israel's unbelief, as the conversion of nations. When, however, at the Lord's appearing, the Deliverer comes out of Zion and turns away ungodliness from Jacob, and all Israel shall be saved, blessing will flow out, according to our psalm, to the ends of the earth: Israel will blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. Another thing may be observed in connection with this prayer. "God be merciful unto us," they say, "and bless us . . . that thy way may be known upon earth," etc. They desire blessing that their God may be glorified among all nations. This is a very high order of prayer, and cannot but remind the reader of that of the blessed Lord Himself, when He said, "Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee." We might well be instructed by these perfect models — both bearing the stamp of the same workmanship of the Holy Spirit, whether in the hearts of the remnant, or in the lips of our Lord. The second thing to be pointed out in the psalm is, that the happiness, both of Israel and the Gentiles, in the millennium, will depend upon Messiah's righteous government. "Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. O let the nations be glad, and sing for joy; for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth." (vv. 3, 4.) This is in complete contrast with the present time. Now grace reigns through righteousness (Rom. 5:21), and grace is the source of our joy and blessedness (Eph. 2); but then, during the kingdom, while all proceeds from grace, inasmuch as all is based upon the death and resurrection of Christ, it is His righteous reign which will secure and maintain the blessing of the earthly saints, as well as be the theme of their thanksgiving and praise. (See Psalm 72.) Lastly, we learn that the fertility of the earth is bound up with the blessing of Israel and the nations. "Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase," etc. (See Isa. 55:12, 13; Ezekiel 34:23, 27.) Thus the curse of the ground on account of Adam's sin (Gen. 3) will be abrogated when Christ, as the Son of man, has all things put under His feet. (Compare Haggai 2:15-19; Amos 9:11-15.) There is even more; for they add, "God, even our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him." It will be a time of universal earthly blessing.
Isaiah 60, 50.
At the end of the previous chapter the Redeemer, it is said, shall come to Zion; and it is as based upon that the exhortation is given, "Arise, shine; for thy light" (the Redeemer) "is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." The light now possessed in the person of the Redeemer, dwelling in Zion, is to be displayed. Note, moreover, that this is in contrast to the state of the whole earth. "For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee." Jerusalem, irradiated with the light of the glory of the Lord, shines in the midst of the dense moral darkness around. It was so with the Lord Himself at His first coming. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." (John 1:4, 5.) So also with the believer, as the apostle writes: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, for the shining forth" (as it should be) "of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 4:6.)
Another thing may be observed. When the light shines, whether through Jerusalem or through the believer (as indeed it was also through our blessed Lord and Saviour), it is for a testimony — a powerful testimony — to Him who has enkindled it, yea, to Him whose glory is the light. We thus read in our chapter: "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." (v. 3; compare Rev. 21:23, 24.) The Gentiles behold, and are attracted to the glory that has dawned upon the earth; and "the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel," becomes thus the centre of universal blessing, the source of all being indicated in the words, "The Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory." (v. 19.) In dwelling upon this blessed scene, it is well to remind ourselves that God, in His grace, has set believers, in anticipation of that day, as lights in the midst of the darkness; and if this treasure — the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ — is possessed in earthen vessels, it is that the excellency of the power which causes it to shine forth may be of God, and not of us. Christ in glory is ever the light in the New Testament; and when our light shines it is simply the exhibition of Christ in the life. E. D.
1 Thess. 3:12; 1 Thess. 4:1, 10.
It is very interesting to observe the apostle's use of the word "abound" or "increase" in this epistle.* It is also important, as showing that there is no limit of attainment here for the believer. Many speak of perfection or holiness as something to be reached in this world; but the slightest glance at the teaching of the apostle on "abounding" reveals that these doctrines have no countenance from the word of God. He thus says, "The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another," etc. There can be, it is evident, no standard for "abounding." Again, "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and please God ["even as ye do walk," the Revised Version and others add], so ye would abound more and more." (1 Thess. 4:1.) These believers had been instructed how to walk and please God, and, accepting the added clause, they were walking so as to please God; and yet they were not to be satisfied — they were to "abound" more and more. So also, in the last scripture named (1 Thess. 4:10), they had been taught of God to love one another; and they were showing their love "toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia." But the apostle adds, "We beseech you, brethren, that ye increase [or "abound"] more and more." Whether, therefore, in loving one another, or loving all the brethren, all saints, or in pleasing God in their walk and ways, they were to abound more and more; and hence there was not one of these dear saints who could take the ground of saying, "I have reached the standard; I have now attained; and I am in the enjoyment of perfection." The answer at once to such vain imaginings would be, "Whatever your attainments, you have to 'abound more and more.'" And how could it be otherwise, when Christ, in His infinite love to us, is our example? (1 John 3:16.) and when, moreover, it is written, "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked"? (1 John 2:6.) To claim to have reached the standard of Christ can only spring from a want of appreciation of what He is, and from ignorance of what we ourselves are.
We may add, as a point of interest, that the apostle's prayer in 1 Thess. 3:12 is seen to be answered in 2 Thess. 1:3; for he says, "Your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth." But even so there might be, bearing in mind the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, a larger measure of "abounding."
(*Both words are found in the first scripture; but the word translated "abound" is afterwards — in 4:10 — givers as "increase.")
1 Peter 1:19.
The word here rendered "without blemish" is found seven or eight times in the New Testament. Twice it is used of our blessed Lord and Saviour — in the scripture given above, and in Heb. 9:14, where it is translated "without spot." As the Lamb of God He was without blemish, the Lamb by whose precious blood we have been redeemed; and "through the eternal Spirit" He "offered Himself without spot to God." In every other place of its occurrence it is applied to believers. Thus we read, in Ephesians 1:4, that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, "that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love;" in Phil. 2:15, of "the children of God, without rebuke,* in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation," etc.; in Col. 1:22, that God hath reconciled His people, to present them "holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight;" in Jude 24, that we shall be presented "faultless** before the presence of His glory," etc.; and lastly, in Rev. 14:5, it is said of the 144,000 who will stand on Mount Zion with the Lamb, that "they are without fault before the throne of God." Leaving the reader to follow out the teaching of the several scriptures, we may call attention to two or three things: First, that our present standing before God is "without spot" — that God sees us, in a word, on the ground of the work of Christ, as spotless as He who accomplished it; secondly, that it is our present responsibility to be "without spot" ("without rebuke," Phil. 2:15) in our walk through this world; and lastly, that we shall be finally presented before God actually "without spot," entirely and perfectly conformed to Christ. What unspeakable and infinite grace! E. D.
*Some MSS. have a different form of the word in this passage.
**Another form of the word is also read here by some.