Addressing the Lord Jesus
In certain circles it has become a rare practice, and even forbidden by some, to direct worship and prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ. It has been stated that an individual in the home may address the Lord Jesus but not in the assembly; it being added that there is no one to stop someone in their home from doing so. Thus, it seems necessary to study the Scriptures as to this most important issue.
That there were those who worshipped the Lord Jesus when He was here on earth there can be no doubt. In Matthew 2 the wise men did so: they “fell down, and worshipped Him” (verse 11), and there were many other similar incidents (See Matt. 8:2; Matt. 9:18; Matt. 14:33; Matt. 15:25; John 9:38). It might be argued, however, that this was before the cross. Then we see in Matthew 28:9, 17 and Luke 24:52 instances when there were those who worshipped the Lord Jesus after His resurrection. Indeed, in John 20 we have one of the clearest addresses to the Lord Jesus: “Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God” (verse 28).
Yet some may still not be convinced that it is right and proper to worship the Lord Jesus. What about now that He is ascended into heaven? Let the book of Revelation answer. In Revelation 5 we read, “The... four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb,... And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (verses 8-10). Further, for those who insist that priesthood is for God alone, in Revelation 20:6 we read: “They shall be priests of God and of Christ...” If this be the proper order of service in heaven, why should it be considered inappropriate in the assembly now on earth? Are there any accounts of address to the Lord Jesus by His saints on earth after He ascended into heaven? Indeed there are.
In Acts 7 we read of Stephen, a man full of the Holy Spirit (verse 55), “calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (verses 59-60). It is hard to see how a man full of the Holy Spirit would be doing something that should now be forbidden. In Acts 9 there is a discourse between Ananias on earth and the Lord Jesus in heaven, the Lord making known His mind and a saint praying concerning it. In 2 Corinthians 12:8 the apostle Paul asked the Lord three times regarding the thorn in the flesh that was given him. Again, in 1 Timothy 1:12, he thanked Christ Jesus our Lord.
“But,” someone will say, “These are all the prayers of individuals.” In reply, it should be observed that there are instances of companies addressing the Lord Jesus. In Acts 1 the company assembled in the upper room prayed, “Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two Thou hast chosen” (verse 24). In Acts 13, in the church at Antioch, there were those we read of who were ministering to the Lord (verse 2). It is companies that the apostle exhorts to: speak “to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19. See also Col. 3:16).
It must be emphasised that in all these references to the Lord, it is the Lord Jesus who is directly addressed and not the Father. Indeed, it is doubtful if we are correct in addressing the Father as Lord, since, “to us there is but one God, the Father,... and one Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 8:6). Such a mode of address seems to be based on the usage of LORD in the Old Testament (in the King James Translation), before the Father was revealed in the Person of the Son.
We are all learners in the matter of prayer (Luke 11:1) and I do not desire to be critical. But is it not the case that one of the characteristics of Christianity is being assailed in the attempt to forbid prayer and worship to the Lord Jesus? It would seem from the book of Acts that calling on the Lord's Name was the hallmark of a Christian. In Acts 9 Ananias, in his prayer to the Lord, speaks of Saul of Tarsus as having “authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on Thy Name” (verse 14). And again, in verse 21, some were asking, “Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this Name in Jerusalem...?” Indeed, is one saved who has not called on the Name of the Lord? (See Acts 2:21 and Rom. 10:13). How are we to be saved if we are not to call on the Lord's Name? From 1 Corinthians 1:2 it would appear to be the normal thing for Christians to address the Lord Jesus: “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth,... with all that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” Or, now that things are abnormal: “with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). Whereas to be saved the call need only be once made, the references to calling on the Lord's Name by the Christian company are in the continuous tense and would suggest that saints would normally be calling on the Lord. As to calling on the Name of the Lord, it would seem abundantly clear from Scripture that it conveys, among other things, the idea of:
A recognition of His deity and power (See 1 Kings 18:24; 2 Kings 5:11).
A submission to His authority and acknowledgement of His rights (Jer. 10:25).
A call to Him for help in the expectation of an answer (1 Kings 18; 2 Kings 5; Ps. 99:6; Zech 13:9).
An approach to Him in worship and thanksgiving (Ps. 116:17).
It would be associated with the place where He dwells (See Jer. 3:17). Once this was at Jerusalem, as it will be again in the future, but today we know the system of grace which comes from “Jerusalem... above” (Gal. 4:26). Thus we gather to the Lord's Name, to act for the Lord in His absence, to invite His presence, to offer Him our praise and worship as we break bread in remembrance of Him, and to seek His mind and blessing.
It must be stressed that this does not rule out prayer and worship to God the Father. The matter for prayer should decide the Person to be addressed. For example, the Lord Jesus gave the commission to preach the gospel and thus, as the Lord's servant, I would seek direction from Him about this. It is God who desires that all men should be saved and hence our pleadings for the lost may be addressed to God (1 Tim. 2:3-4). And as children of God, we can address the Father.
With regard to the Lord's supper, it is only fitting to address the Lord Jesus, for we break bread in remembrance of Him. It is the church's affectionate response to Christ who has loved and given Himself for her. As the Lord in the midst leads the praise of His own to the Father, God is worshipped according to the way He has made Himself known in the Person of His Son (John 4:23-24).
It is interesting that the whole canon of Scripture concludes with a prayer to the Lord: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). Well may every believer pray such a prayer daily and mean it. But is it not that the Lord Jesus, in a final appeal to His own here in this world, desires bridal affections in the assembly; that His own may be yearning for His actual presence as much as He desires to have them with Him? “The Spirit and the bride say, Come” (Rev. 22:17).
The Sonship of Christ (1)
(This article will also be found in the 'variou~\miscella' directory.)
Pre-Incarnate, Eternal Sonship
There are a number of passages we can turn to that show the Lord Jesus was Son before the incarnation. In Hebrews 1 we read: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1-2). It was by the Son, as such, that the worlds were made. Creation is also attributed to the Son in Colossians chapter 1, though there He is presented as the Son of the Father's love. Paul and Timothy give thanks to the Father, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son (Darby gives here, “the Son of His love”)... Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by Him were all things created” (Col. 1:12-16). We have then, before the incarnation, the One who is the Son, God's Son, the Son of the Father's love.
We might also notice how Hebrews 1 and Colossians 1 distinguish these two aspects of our Lord's pre-incarnate Sonship. As God's Son He has the nature of God. In Hebrews 1 we read that God, “maketh His angels spirits.” That is their nature; they are spirit. “But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” The nature of the Son is deity; He is God. In Colossians 1 where He is presented as the Son of the Father's love the emphasis is more upon relationship with the Father and the love that belongs to this relationship. Both the relationship and the love of the relationship are shown to be present before creation. We see this in John 17 too. In verse 5 the Son praying to the Father speaks about the glory which He had with the Father before the world was, and lower down He speaks of the love belonging to this relationship: “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:5, 24).
The pre-incarnate Sonship of Christ is also seen in this, that as the Son He is sent, and comes, from outside of the world, into it. In John 3:17 we read that, “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” In John 16 the Lord Jesus says to the disciples: “I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father” (John 16:26-28). The sending of the Son does not imply that as the Son He was in any way inferior to the Sender. In Galatians 4 His being sent is put alongside the sending of the Holy Spirit. We read there that, “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” But just a verse lower down we read: “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:4, 6). The Greek word for sending forth is the same in both cases and in both cases the sending was of Divine Persons from heaven into the world.
There is another reference to the sending of the Son in 1 John 4 verse 9: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” The expression “only begotten” is a translation of the Greek word monogenees. This is derived from the Greek words monos, meaning only, or alone, and genos. Genos occurs 21 times in the New Testament and is variously translated1. It is rendered “offspring” (x3), “born” (x2), and “generation” (x1). But the Name “only begotten Son” cannot refer to the incarnation because this verse tells us that it was as the only begotten Son that He was sent from outside of the world into it. He was the only begotten Son before He came. What meaning then is to be attached to the expression “only begotten”? The word genos is also translated kind, kinds or kindred (x8) and the writer believes this is its meaning here. The only begotten Son of God is of the same kind as God. He is of the same kind as God because He has the nature of God. And He is the only Son like this. We know that others are called sons of God. The angels are called sons of God and believers during this present dispensation of grace are called sons of God, but the only begotten Son is alone in having the nature of God in all its fulness. As the Son He has not only the moral nature of God but deity too.
1The references are as follows: KIND — Matt. 13:47; Matt. 17:21; Mark 9:29; NATION — Mark 7:26; Gal. 1:14; KINDRED — Acts 4:6; Acts 7:13; Acts 7:19; COUNTRY — Acts 4:36; STOCK — Acts 13:26; Phil. 3:5; OFFSPRING — Acts 17:28; Acts 17:29; Rev. 22:16; BORN — Acts 18:2; Acts 18:24; KINDS — 1 Cor. 12:10; 1 Cor. 14:10; DIVERSITIES — 1 Cor. 12:28; countrymen — 2 Cor. 11:26; GENERATION — 1 Peter 2:9.
It is well known that the word monogenees2 occurs nine times in the New Testament. John uses the expression five times, only of the Lord Jesus. In Luke's Gospel it is used three times of only children. In Hebrews 11 verse 17 it is used of Isaac. While Isaac was not the only child of Abraham, he was the only child of his kind — he was the only child of promise.
2The nine references are: ONLY — Luke 7:12; Luke 8:42; ONLY CHILD — Luke 9:38; ONLY BEGOTTEN — John 1:14; John 1:18; John 3:16; John 3:18; Heb. 11:17; 1 John 4:9.
The Sonship of Christ and His Incarnation
It is important to distinguish between the expression “only begotten” and the words in Psalm 2, “this day have I begotten Thee.” “This day have I begotten Thee” refers to the incarnation, as the New Testament quotations show (Psalm 2:7; Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; Heb. 5:5). But even in Psalm 2 the order of the words guards against the thought that the Son became such by incarnation. It is not said, “This day have I begotten Thee; Thou art My Son,” but “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee.” This is consistent with what has been noticed already. In Luke 1, answering Mary's question how she could conceive in the womb and bear a son seeing she knew not a man, the angel says: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). In considering this verse the writer has found it helpful to keep Psalm 40 in mind: “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure: Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God” (Ps. 40:6-8; Heb. 10:5-7). The words in Psalm 2: “this day have I begotten Thee,” refer to the humanity of Christ. They refer to His human spirit and soul and body. But Psalm 40 shows us the Son, the One that was sent from heaven by God and by the Father, coming to take the body prepared for Him. The Eternal Son, having become incarnate, would “be called the Son of God.”
Before proceeding further it may be well to notice a passage in Revelation chapter 2 where there is the greatest possible contrast between Christ as the seed of the woman, the Son of Mary, and Christ as the Son of God. In writing to the assembly at Thyatira John says: “These things saith the Son of God, who hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass.” Thyatira represents the Roman Catholic system in its worst excesses. To this assembly, that gave (and gives) such a large and unscriptural place to Mary and thinks of the Sonship of Christ so habitually in relation to her, Christ presents Himself as the Son of God. As Mary's Son He is the Son of man, but as Son of God He is “the Ancient of days” (Dan. 7:9, 13-14, 21-22; Rev. 1:12-16).
It is true to say, and important to maintain, that the incarnation did not change the Person of Christ. He did not for a moment cease to be what He had always been. What did change was the position in which He, the Son, was found. Psalm 40 has shown us that He came to do the will of God. He came not to command but to obey. In Philippians 2 we see the One who is in the form of God taking the form of a servant, and becoming obedient unto death. What is of particular interest in relation to the present subject is the way that Scripture contrasts the Sonship of Christ with these two things; with servanthood and obedience. In John's Gospel chapter 8, where the word for servant or bondman is the same as in Philippians 2, the Lord says: “the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (Phil. 2:7; John 8:35-36). In Hebrews 3 we have a similar contrast. Moses “was faithful in all His (God's) house, as a servant” (Heb. 3:5). According to Mr. W. E. Vine the word for servant here (therapon) “is a term of dignity and freedom.” Yet the very next verse contrasts the Sonship of Christ with this. “But Christ as a Son over His own house; whose house are we...” (Heb. 3:6). The beginning of Hebrews 3 shows us why this contrast is made. “For He has been counted worthy of greater glory than Moses, by how much He that has built it has more honour than the house. For every house is built by some one; but He who has built all things is God” (Heb. 3:3-4 — J.N.D. Trans.). In Hebrews 5 we read that “Though He were Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8 — J.N.D. Trans.). Obedience was outside the experience of the Son. He had been the One who was to be obeyed. But now having come into the world He learned in His own experience the cost in suffering that obedience entailed. This verse shows us His perfect obedience, even unto the death of the cross.
A similar contrast between His Sonship and the position of obedience which He took at the incarnation is seen in His temptation by the devil. In Matthew chapter 4 the devil twice addresses Him as the Son of God. He knew very well who He was, but he says: “If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” The devil sought to induce the Lord to exercise His own power and will as God and had He done so He would have proven that he was the Son of God. The Lord answers in a way that shows He would not be moved from the position of obedience which He had taken: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:3-4). In the second temptation it was a question of showing that as the Son of God He was the object of the love and care of the Father. “If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11-12; Matt. 4:6-7). It is striking that in the third of the temptations the devil doesn't address the Lord as the Son of God. There is a simple explanation for this. In the third temptation the devil calls on the Lord to worship him. But the Divine Sonship of Christ is connected with His Eternal Personality and deity. As the Son of God He is the One who is to be worshipped and the devil knew that very well. The Lord answers with words from Deuteronomy 6:13: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.”
Later in this Gospel, in chapter 14, we find that there were those who did worship the Lord Jesus, and they worshipped Him as the Son of God. After the feeding of the five thousand (five thousand men, beside women and children) the Lord had sent the disciples across the sea of Galilee. A storm arose but Jesus came to them walking on the sea. When He came into the ship, the wind ceased, and “they that were in the ship came and worshipped Him, saying, Of a truth Thou art the Son of God” (Matt. 14:22-33).
R. F. W.
(To be continued, if the Lord will)
Those who desire to pursue this study may find the following listing from the New Testament helpful:
There are 47 references to the “Son of God” in the AV, and 42 in the JND Translation. The 42 references occurring in both Translations are as follows: Matt. 4:3; Matt. 4:6; Matt. 8:29; Matt. 26:63; Matt. 27:40; Matt. 27:43; Matt. 27:54; Mark 1:1; Mark 3:11; Mark 15:39; Luke 1:35; Luke 4:3; Luke 4:9; Luke 4:41; Luke 22:70; John 1:34; John 1:49; John 3:18; John 5:25; John 9:35; John 10:36; John 11:4; John 11:27; John 19:7; John 20:31; Acts 9:20; Rom. 1:4; 2 Cor. 1:19; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:13; Heb. 4:14; Heb. 6:6; Heb. 7:3; Heb. 10:29; 1 John 3:8; 1 John 4:15; 1 John 5:5; 1 John 5:10; 1 John 5:12; 1 John 5:13; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 2:18. The references occurring only in the AV are: Matt. 14:33 — Darby gives “God's Son;” Luke 3:38 (referring to Adam) — Darby gives “of God;” Luke 8:28 — Darby gives “Son of the Most High God;” Acts 8:37 — Darby omits this verse; 1 John 5:13 — Darby omits the first reference.
There are 35 references to Christ as “The Son” (with no other words added which expand or describe that Name) and of these 33 occur in both the AV and JND Translations: Matt. 11:27(x3); Matt. 21:38; Matt. 28:19; Mark 13:32; Luke 10:22(x3); John 3:35; John 3:36(x2); John 5:19(x2); John 5:20; John 5:21; John 5:22; John 5:23(x2); John 5:26; John 6:40; John 8:35; John 8:36; John 14:13; 1 Cor. 15:28; Heb. 1:8; 1 John 2:22; 1 John 2:23(x2); 1 John 2:24; 1 John 4:14; 1 John 5:12; 2 John 9. The AV has a reference to the Son in Hebrews 7:28, but JND gives “a Son.” Darby has a reference to (the) Son in Hebrews 1:2, where the King James Translation gives “His Son.”
In addition to the above there are 38 other references where Christ is called Son, and these include those occasions when He is called “My Son,” “His Son” etc. References which refer to His being Son of man, Son of David, Son of Mary etc. are not listed. There are 34 references common to both the AV and the JND Translations: Matt. 2:15; Matt. 21:37(x2); Matt. 22:2; Matt. 22:42; Mark 12:6(x2); John 3:17; John 17:1(x2); Acts 13:33; Rom. 1:3; Rom. 1:9; Rom. 5:10; Rom. 8:3; Rom. 8:29; Rom. 8:32; 1 Cor. 1:9; Gal. 1:16; Gal. 4:4; Gal. 4:6; 1 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 1:5(x2); Heb. 3:6; Heb. 5:5; Heb. 5:8; 1 John 1:3; 1 John 1:7; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:10; 1 John 5:9; 1 John 5:11; 1 John 5:20. References included in the AV only are Acts 3:13; 3:26; Heb. 1:2. There is also a reference in the JND Translation in Heb. 7:28.
Some other designations (not included in the references above) are: “My Beloved Son” — Matt. 3:17; Matt. 17:5; Mark 1:11; Mark 9:7; Luke 3:22; Luke 9:35; Luke 20:13; 2 Peter 1:17. “Son of the Living God” — Matt. 16:16; John 6:69 (in John 6:69 Darby gives “holy One of God”). “Son of the Most High God” or “Son of God Most High” — Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28. “The Son of the Blessed” — Mark 14:61. “Son of the Highest” — Luke 1:32. “The Son of His love” — Col. 1:13, JND Translation. “The Son of the Father” — 2 John 3.
Christ's Greatness in the Epistle to Laodicea (1)
The book of Revelation is part of the apostle John's ministry. One of the features which characterises his written ministry is the way he presents Christ's personal greatness1. In a unique way our Lord's surpassing glories are described in John's Gospel, putting even the great men of God in the shade. At the same time John effectively sets aside the enemy's substitutes and man's alternatives. This disciple and apostle is pictured in his Gospel as the disciple whom Jesus loved2. He has an intimate knowledge of the greatness of the Person, who is the Eternal and unique Son of God, the Son of the Father and the Eternal Life. John's special commission is to unveil3 to believers this greatness and glory of Christ. He does so against the background of a world-system in which the Lord Jesus has been and still is rejected. Do we realise that this “outcast” who was despised and rejected by men, will be reintroduced into the same universe and every knee will bow before Him? (John 1:10-12; Isa. 53:1ff; Heb. 1:6; Phil. 2:10f).
1In a sense this is the purpose of all the New Testament writers. Think of Hebrews (I believe written by Paul), which is a presentation of Christ's present greatness in heaven. This letter was written to the Hebrew Christians at a time when the temple services were still going on in Jerusalem. Peter speaks about the magnificence of the glory of God, and in chapter 1 of his Second Epistle he looks back to the transfiguration on the mount, which refers in a special way to Christ's millennial reign. We also find this greatness in Luke 1:32, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David.” This reference is indicative of Luke's burden to present the glory of God displayed in a man, who represents a new order of mankind. Think too of Matthew who presents the great King coming to His people. But John's ministry describes the personal glories of Christ, the unique Son of the Father.
2John was privileged to rest in His bosom while here on earth. He was the disciple who was most intimately acquainted with our Lord, and he was the one who followed Him quietly (John 21:20 — “the disciple whom Jesus loved”). He was also the one of whom the Lord said: “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” Is it not appropriate that this disciple would see the Lord in all His greatness? On the one hand as future Judge and King, and on the other as the One who walks presently among the candlesticks?
The book of Revelation gives a kind of framework of all Biblical prophecies, in order to help us understand the meaning and order of these prophetic writings. Its main purpose, however, is to show how our Lord Jesus will manifest His glory through and in the events described. It is on this account we read of a threefold blessing at the beginning and six more blessings further on in this book of judgments. How blessed it is to be occupied with such a glorious Person! Consider Him in His greatness as Judge, King, Priest, but also as the Executor of God's judgment (Rev. 1). It is the Same who will be seated on the great white throne (Rev. 20), the One who is the Alpha and Omega, the Eternal I Am. He is the great Lover of our souls, our Bridegroom (Rev. 19 and 22). His voice thrills the hearts of those who read this book and who know Him as their Creator-Redeemer (Rev. 4 and 5).
It is the Holy Spirit's ministry to draw our attention to Christ, and to present Him in manifold ways and qualities (John 15:26). No wonder that the book of Revelation starts with a doxology the moment He is mentioned (Rev. l: 5). John responds in the only right way: “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead” (Rev. 1:17f). In other words there is no room left for the flesh, or for the glory of man. Through this “death” experience, John was strengthened and instructed by his beloved Master (Rev. 1:19). He was made fit to communicate to us the glories of our Lord.
The purpose of the seven letters and a survey of the history of the church
In writing about Revelation 3 it is not my intention to dwell primarily on the teaching or different interpretations of this great book; others have done this. From the very beginning of the history of the church there were deviations and remedies have been given by God's grace (Acts 20:32). It is important to see that John's ministry is characterised by what is essential, in order to preserve believers in the knowledge and enjoyment of God's blessings. He presents to his readers things that remain till the end and so gives strength to the overcomer. In a word, his ministry brings back to first love! The church as a professing body has lost this first love (Rev. 2:4). More than that, it has abandoned and forsaken it. What does this mean? It does not refer to the love we may have had for the Lord at the time of our conversion. First love rather means a moral condition where Christ is all, being everything concerning any matter that may occupy the believer. Such a condition, of course, would suggest at the same time a healthy spiritual maturity. As far as the public profession was concerned this condition had been abandoned, as Paul had already warned in his message to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:29ff).
3The Greek word for “Revelation” may be translated “unveiling.” In this book it is the Lord Himself who unveils what is hidden.
Nevertheless, whenever there is failure in the public, collective testimony, we find that the individual believer is addressed in John's writings. It is in order to restore the believer to first love and to keep him in this condition and relationship till the very end, that is, until the rapture. The unfolding of Christ's glory throughout this book, before the coming of the Lord in public display, has a moral result. It prepares the church, the true bride, to be ready for the Bridegroom. Having been instructed by the letters from the Lord sent through John, and by the Holy Spirit throughout this book, she is finally ready for the coming of the Beloved. The Spirit and the bride say, “Come” (Rev. 22:17). This is the only word the bride speaks publicly. It is an expression of desire, of longing, of love, of amazement and of anxious waiting.
The order of events in the history of the church may be summarised as follows:
In Ephesus the church as a whole left her first love, historically at the end of the first century.
Because of this the Lord allowed persecution; Satan acting as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) in the second and third centuries (Smyrna).
Despite and perhaps because of the many faithful martyrs, the church was then attacked by Satan as an angel of light. The result was that the church placed herself under the protection of the world system and the Roman Emperor became the head of the professing church. This development is presented in the letter to Pergamos, which corresponds historically with the events in the fourth century and later.
This link with the world gradually gave rise to the desire in the church to rule over the world. The ambition came to fruition in Thyatira and reached its zenith in the 12th century. There was the absolute authority of the papal system and moral corruption of the very worst kind.
A remnant was led out of this degenerate system in the days of the Reformation in the 16th century. However, the letter to Sardis describes the condition approximately 100 years after the Reformation when a general state of spiritual death characterised the national Protestant churches.
Then, in sovereign grace, the Lord raised up a remnant seen in Philadelphia. This was a glowing revival and a testimony for Himself, although with little strength because of man's failure. There was a witness nevertheless, distinguished by faithfulness to His Name and to the Word of God (19th century).
Soon we come to the last phase in this development. The Lord, who is everything to Philadelphia (being a collective restoration to first love), has to leave Laodicea, and finds Himself outside, knocking at the door.
Please note carefully that in suggesting this outline I am not limiting the teaching of Scripture to this flow of events. Each letter has a message for every believer at any time in the history of the church. Another point to underline is the fact that these local assemblies coexisted at the time John wrote, with the variety of features described. Since then these local assemblies have all disappeared.
It searches but also encourages us to notice the patience of our Lord, who gently knocks at the door. He does not try to force Himself inside. He does not cry out or shout (Matt. 12:19) but shows patience, grace, gentleness, faithfulness and care; in other words, real love. It is striking to find that the Lord is placed outside. How solemn that this happened in Philadelphia where He used to be everything but where our own resources, solutions or inventions have gradually replaced Him!4
The Lord wants to challenge our hearts and consciences and restore us to first love, in order that practically He may be everything to us. As subject to God's ways we will all be brought to acknowledge Christ's greatness (compare Job 42). He is looking for a response from willing hearts to His gentle knocking, even though the answer may be weak.
4Laodicea represents what Philadelphia becomes through the letting slip those Philadelphian features which the Lord commends — Ed.
An illustration from the book of Malachi
It might be helpful for readers who are familiar with the last book of the Old Testament, to trace a parallel between Malachi and the Lord's message to Laodicea. The priests in Jerusalem, at the time of the last prophet, represented a remnant which found itself in the right position. They were in the city of Jerusalem, serving in God's temple, but they were not in the right condition. Malachi's burden is to present the greatness of the Lord to His people (Mal. 1:5, 11, 14; Mal. 4:2). I hope to develop some of these points in the course of our study.
Thus to Laodicea, the New Testament's counterpart to Malachi's people, the Lord's greatness is shown in the many details we hope to consider. As was the case in Malachi's day, the Lord would see among them an unnoticed remnant which feared God. Impressed by His greatness and in true fellowship with Him and with one another, they would speak often one to another, esteeming His Name. Is this not like the teaching of 1 John 1, which can be put into practice whatever the situation in the Christian profession may be?
A. E. Bouter.
Some might like a more systematic approach to this subject. There are so many good books available with outlines and details, that I limit myself to the burden I have, just to try to present something of the greatness of this glorious Person to our hearts.
(To be continued, if the Lord will)
Psalm 119 (11)
(Continued from page 374)
8. cheth — A FENCE
The shape of this letter in the Phoenician monuments and the Hebrew coins resembles a hedge and therefore its name probably signifies “a fence,” from the Arabic root “hat,” meaning “to surround, to gird.” The pronunciation of this letter is a harsh guttural. It is often interchanged with the letter “he.”
The numerical value of this letter is eight, and it therefore reminds us of resurrection.
Verses 57-64: “The Word of God Transforms into His Image”
I am His and He is mine
Verse 57: GHEHLEKI...“My portion...”
We had precious promises in the precious section. Here we have a precious portion. The Hebrew has literally: “My portion is Jahweh...” We are not talking about blessings, or promises, but about a Person! Many Christians are so occupied with the blessings that they forget the Blesser, and likewise many are so enthralled with their spiritual gifts, that they ignore the Giver!
In the previous section the Psalmist counted his blessings but here he revels in the vision of the Blesser. Psalm 73:25 expresses it beautifully: “Whom have I in heaven...?” (“but Thee” is added in the King James Translation, but does not appear in the original), “and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.”
He is gracious
Verse 58: GHAHLAT...“I entreated”
The verse actually says in the Hebrew: “I entreated Thy face...” (not “favour” as in the King James Trans.). He was longing for the very presence of the Lord. Again it is the Person who is the object here as in verse 57. Does not all this have a bearing on the very letter “Cheth” above this section, which stands for intimacy; our being “fenced in with Him”? Does not all this speak of fellowship? The presence of the Lord is indeed the highest form of His favour. We sometimes sing: “There is a light that shines on me, The light of Jesus' face, Oh, what a glory thus to be, The object of His grace.” That expresses what we have in this verse.
His presence brings with it the favour we seek. The verse continues in the Hebrew: “... favour me according to Thy Word.” This is a petition which the Christian need not pray. We do not have to ask God to be favourable to us, for He has abundantly shown His favour. Paul says: “To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand...” (Rom. 5:2). The Psalmist asks nothing beyond what God has revealed: “... according to Thy Word.”
Verse 59: GHAHSHAVT...“I thought (mused) on...”
In this verse we can all think back to how God showed His mercy and grace to us in Christ and accepted us in Him. Let us follow the sequence:
a. “I thought (mused) on my ways...: ” The arrest and conviction of the Holy Spirit.
b. “and turned my feet unto Thy testimonies: ” Conversion: the sinner makes a complete turn — judges his past.
c. I shall consider the third step in the next verse.
We must not stop at self-examination, though that is necessary in its time, but turn to Him, the object of our faith and the bestower of grace and mercy.
“Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be
established” (Prov. 4:26).
Verse 60: GHOOSHT...“I hurried (made haste)...”
To procrastinate means to waste time, to defer or to postpone action. Continuing the sequence I started in verse 59:
c. The Hebrew has: “I hurried and delayed not to keep Thy commandments.” Of course a sinner cannot be saved by keeping His commandments, but in this sentence we find an important principle that forms part of a true conversion — total submission to His Word. There must be obedience to the Word of “repentance.” Now, what is true at the beginning of our spiritual lives is also true for the continuation of them. Never put off till tomorrow what you must do today. Prompt obedience is the secret of true spiritual growth.
Satan seeks to rob me of the sense of the Lord's presence
Verse 61: GHEHVEL...“The cords...”
Here is an attempt made by the enemy to stop the progress of the believer. He uses all sorts of devices to this end. The world may rob me of my joy in the Lord Jesus Christ. Sin may rob me of the sense of His presence and peace. Satan seeks to hem me in, to surround me and cut me off from enjoying fellowship and communion with the Lord Jesus.
The apostle Paul says that we should not be ignorant of Satan's devices. The Lord Jesus says: “... hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” Satan cannot make us lose our salvation, or eternal life, but he can rob us of much that makes up that “crown.” To counteract this strategy of the enemy the believer should occupy himself positively with the Word of God: “... I have not forgotten Thy law.”
Blessed insomnia! (see verse 55)
Verse 62: GHEHTZE...“At midnight (at dividing half)...”
When all is quiet at last, God can speak. Job knew about this when he said: “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed. Then He openeth the ears of men...” (Job 33:14-16). Paul and Silas: “... at midnight... prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them”(Acts 16:25). Of king Ahasuerus we read: “On that night could not the king sleep...” (Esther 6:1). Then things were brought to his notice which he had previously ignored and consequently he set matters right. So insomnia, or sleeplessness, can sometimes be a hidden blessing. In any case it is always a good habit when we suffer from sleeplessness to praise and pray. “... I will rise to give thanks unto Thee...”
Make friends of God's children
Verse 63: GHEHDER...“A companion I am...”
It has sometimes been said: “Show me your friends, and I will tell you who you are.” The Bible gives this warning: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33).
Proverbs 18:24 has this precious encouragement: “A man of many friends will come to ruin, but there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (J.N.D. Trans.). Let us attach ourselves to that “Friend.” What a Friend we have in the Lord Jesus! As we seek His fellowship, remembering that the theme of this section of eight verses is fellowship, we shall also seek the companionship of all those that fear Him. How can two walk together except they be agreed!
The transforming vision
Verse 64: GHEH-SEDK...“...Thy mercy (or favour)...”
This section began with the emphasis on mercy and favour (verse 58), and now it rightly finishes with the same thought. How we need His continuing mercy day be day. Grace is seen in that He gives us what we do not deserve. Mercy is seen in that He does not give us what we deserve. He therefore fills our vision from the beginning to the end of this section of eight verses. It is a transforming vision! He is my portion; He is so gracious; He is my Friend — indeed the earth is full of Thy mercy.
“The Sermon on the Mount” (9)
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matthew 5:11-12)
Sufferings for Christ's sake
The last of the nine beatitudes also forms the transition to the following part of the “Sermon on the Mount.” The Lord no longer speaks generally of the disciples in the third person, but addresses them directly with the personal “ye,” as He does in Luke 6:20-26 throughout. At the same time He applies to them His words of verse 10. He sees His disciples, knows already what they will have to go through and gives them a wonderful promise.
Although this beatitude is similar to the previous one, there is a difference. Here the Lord does not speak of sufferings for righteousness' sake, but of abuses, persecutions and evil words for His sake. This is connected with the Person of our Lord and the confession of His Name. Suffering for righteousness is a consequence of our moral attitude and actions; suffering for Jesus' sake is a consequence of our confession of Him.
confession of Jesus
In democratically ruled countries there is not official persecution of Christians as there still is in some other countries. As an example, according to the German constitution nobody may be placed at a disadvantage because of their faith and religious views; freedom of faith, of conscience and freedom of religious and ideological confession are guarded. This does not mean, however, that everyone is well disposed towards Christians. Many a young believer has experienced mockery and abuse when, upon starting work, they have confessed, “I believe in the Lord Jesus as my Saviour.” It may even be that there is not only abuse and slander, i.e. words, but acts of persecution. By using the word “when” the Lord shows that He is not hinting at something that may possibly happen, but is pointing to a fact that is certainly to be expected. Those who take the side of our Lord and Saviour, openly and courageously confessing Him, will reap contempt, mockery and scorn. Suffering for Jesus' sake and for righteousness' sake often coalesce. Sometimes people react with scorn and contempt when the Name of the Lord Jesus is frankly confessed. Such a confession may even be met with a pitiful smile, but as soon as the believer shows himself to be a Christian by his practical conduct as well, there is rejection and hatred.
Satan always tries to prevent the disciples of the Lord from confessing His Name. He whispers to the soul, “Is it really necessary to speak of the Lord Jesus now? You do not always have to witness to the gospel!” He doesn't only want to prevent the confession of Christ as Lord, but also the spreading of the glad tidings of His grace. For one who really loves the Lord there should not be any silence. Neither can there be any consideration of one's own position or the position of one's family. Is the Lord not worthy of our unreserved confession of Himself, even if supposed disadvantages go along with it?
In Acts 4 and 5 the apostles give an example of this suffering for the sake of the Lord Jesus. After they had healed many and led them to the Lord, they were taken captive by the leaders of the Jews and told not to speak in the Name of Jesus any more (Acts 4:18; Acts 5:28). But they could not and would not be silent. And when, after their second imprisonment and miraculous deliverance, they were again attacked and even beaten, how did they depart from the presence of the council? Rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be dishonoured for the Name (Acts 5:41 — See J.N.D. Trans.).
Thus the Lord Jesus adds to His beatitude: “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.” What a privilege to possess and confess Christ as Saviour and Lord! He is worthy that we should openly confess Him. For a fearful soul and for the flesh the supposedly disadvantageous consequences of a faithful confession of our Saviour carry a lot of weight. Here the Lord says something else. The disciples of the Lord should rejoice not in spite of, but because of the sufferings connected with their confession (see Romans 5:3; James 1:2). Even if the confession of the Name of the Lord does result in disadvantages here on earth — which is not always the case — the reward in the heavens which He has promised is incomparably greater! To know that we walk in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus already gives us joy, and this joy is increased by the promised reward which is not connected with earth but with heaven (Compare Matthew 6:19).
The Lord then refers to the Old Testament prophets as examples. They had once been persecuted because they witnessed for God. Elijah (1 Kings 19:2), the prophet Zechariah at the time of king Joash (2 Chronicles 24:21), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:2) and many more (compare Nehemiah 9:26; Acts 7:27; 1 Thessalonians 2:15) are examples of this. Moses too, who calls himself a prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18) suffered for the sake of his God by the Egyptians as well as by his own people. In the New Testament the remarkable words are written of him that he esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense...” (Hebrews 11:26).
It is not mentioned here in Matthew 5:11-12 that the Lord Jesus Himself was persecuted and going to be killed. Nevertheless every disciple may remind himself constantly that He is the great example of suffering and patience. By comparing His disciples, who would be persecuted for His sake, with the prophets who had been persecuted for God's sake, He silently testifies to His deity and thus gives the highest motive for enduring persecution for His Name's sake.
This last beatitude concludes the first part of the so-called “Sermon on the Mount.” In it the Lord Jesus as the King who would soon be rejected by His own people, announces the principles of the Kingdom of God as guidelines and encouragement for His disciples. When we look at the individual utterances we see in them a clear order. In the first three beatitudes the self-knowledge and humility which are first of all necessary for the disciple of the Lord, are mentioned. In the following four verses we see the striving for righteousness and a life which is pleasing to God. Finally, in the last two we see the trial which in this world is the result of a life with the Lord Jesus, and the suffering for Him which this entails.
Zion's King (1)
The object in view in the present study was primarily to get some help in Matthew's Gospel. It is generally known that it was written for the Jews and this accounts for the many Old Testament references (about 65). As we pursued our study of this book it became increasingly apparent that Zion's King was not only the hope of every godly Israelite, but keeping Him central in our meditations we found the answer to many of the apparent difficulties which confront us in this Gospel. A second reason for taking up this subject has been the recent sad breakdown of our own Royal house. We do well to consider that kingship is a divine thought and not the product of man's inventiveness. It was created by God (Col. 1:16) and it is part of piety to “Fear God” and “Honour the king” (1 Peter 2:17). It is also normal in regular assembly prayer to pray “for all men; for kings...” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). The fact that most nations have given up royalty, and that our own Royal house is being shaken to its foundations, is but another evidence of the increasing apostasy that characterises these closing perilous days. Well may we say, “Thy kingdom come,” and “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
It is not the intention in the present article to attempt to deal exhaustively with the subject. It is, or should I say, He is, so wondrously great, one could not hope to touch on every detail. For the sake of simplicity and order the material is presented under three headings:
1. Zion's King anticipated;
2. The King at His first manifestation and the result;
3. The King when He comes again in power and great glory.
Zion's King Anticipated
We begin then with the expectation so frequently found in the Old Testament. It is necessary to say that this hope was not always precise in expression. Kingship was sometimes connected with God, sometimes with Jehovah, sometimes with Messiah. To list the references goes beyond the scope of this article, but readers will recall such Scriptures as 1 Samuel 8, where the people said, “make us a king to judge us like all the nations... And the LORD said unto Samuel,... they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” And in the Psalms, (e.g. Ps. 145:1) “I will extol Thee, My God, O King,” and “I speak of the things which I have made touching the King” (Ps. 45:1) and many other like passages.
There are many Scriptures which plainly indicate the Divine intention to place all rule under one Man. In the types for example, we find that dominion was given to Adam — “over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26). Adam is the figure of Him that is to come, as we are plainly told in Romans 5:14 (See Mr. Darby's Trans.). Then we have the wonderful double-type of David and Solomon. David was the man of blood and mighty conqueror over every enemy, and Solomon in all his majesty and glory — none like him before or since, sets forth the Lord when He comes to reign. There are others also, for example, Melchisedec, King of righteousness, King of peace, type of the King-Priest who will sit on the throne and reign (Gen. 14, Heb. 7, Zech. 6). He shall bear the glory! Mention should also be made of Moses, king in Jeshurun (Deut. 33:5). Jeshurun means the upright ones, showing His reign will be in the midst of upright ones. Nebuchadnezzar, the head of gold, first Gentile monarch in the times of the Gentiles, was “ruler over... all” (Dan. 2:38). “Whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive” (Dan. 5:19). He was an absolute despot, as indeed our blessed Lord will be, though we also know the character of His reign will be completely different! The list could be greatly lengthened. Moses and the prophets spoke of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow and one extract may be briefly mentioned. “Judah is a lion's whelp;... as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:9-10). It is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda (Heb. 7:14), but in the vision granted to John in Revelation 5, the One who has invincible power as the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David (telling us of His deity) is seen also as a Lamb (reminding us of His humanity) and also “as it had been slain...” The lion and the lamb thought are therefore seen both in the first book of the Bible (Gen. 49:9-10 and Gen. 22:8) and the last (Rev. 5:5 and 5:6). Suffering first and then glory is the history of this King.
The point emphasised at the moment, however, is the “forward look” which is constantly sounded. Even the Mount of Transfiguration glimpse of the King in His glory (His face shining as the Sun, and His garments white as the light — Matt. 17:2) was granted as an encouragement to faithful saints and servants. In the light of that crowning day there is every incentive to sell all and lose all. From Abraham onwards, because of hope, faith has ever been prepared to accept the pilgrim path in this world.
The King at His First Manifestation and the Result
In approaching this section in our study it is helpful to consider Matthew's Gospel in two ways; first, in the way it is presented to us, and second, in the way in which it will be examined by the Jewish nation in a coming day. They are warned in Matthew 24:4-5 not to be deceived, a necessary warning at a time when there is strong delusion (2 Thess. 2:11). This King is the Son of David, and also the Son of Abraham to whom the Nation's promises were made (Matt. 1:1). Inevitably this leads to the question, so important to the Jew: what is His genealogy? Matthew, as is well known, gives us Joseph's line, the royal line, through Solomon. Luke gives Mary's line through Nathan, another son of David by Bathsheba (1 Chron. 3:5). An interesting point is that Matthew brings in Jechonias (1:11), the Jehoiachin of the Old Testament, called Coniah in Jeremiah 22:28-30. As the verses there indicate, no man of Coniah's seed was to prosper, sitting on the throne of David. So Joseph could not be the father of our blessed Lord. The virgin birth was thus necessary if the Scripture was to be fulfilled. And of course it has been fulfilled to the very last detail: how He was to be born — of the virgin (Isa. 7:14); where He was to be born — Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); and when He was to be born — Daniel's prophecy (Dan. 9:25-26).
But there is more. Of necessity this King must have a fore-runner, and Jewish eyes would look for one who would fulfil this Old Testament promise, e.g. Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1. The Lord Himself has confirmed this for us — see Matthew 11:14. He tells us in the same passage how great the fore-runner was: “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” But what does this great one say of the Greater than he? “whose shoes I am not worthy to bear” (Matt 3:11). This statement is repeated in all four Gospels and also in the book of Acts! The greatness of this King is unsearchable.
Next in Matthew we come to the tempter, and again we notice not only the victory of the King but also a detail important for the Jew. In their eyes the temple, the ecclesiastical sphere, is more important than the city, the political sphere. Perhaps this is the proper explanation for the variation in the order in which the temptations are presented? In Luke we get the moral order, as always in that Gospel.
Passing on quickly, we come to the “Sermon on the Mount” (Chapters 5, 6 and 7). This King is mighty in word. He speaks with authority and not as the scribes (Matt. 7:29). The ten miracles in chapters 8 and 9 confirm to us that He is also mighty in deed. In chapter 10 He sends forth His disciples, but in chapter 11 he stands rejected. This causes us to pause. The King with all His credentials, the Porter opening to Him, and plain evidences of the Divine marking His every movement here, and yet He is rejected.
Although rejected at the outset in John's Gospel, we are privileged to trace that rejection from the commencement to the climax in the Synoptic Gospels. Born and laid in a manger, no where to lay His head (Matt. 8:20), He was crucified on a cross of wood. In Matthew 27 we find not only brutal treatment from the soldiers (Messiah delivered into the hands of the Gentiles), but particular notice made of His royal claims — the scarlet robe, the crown of thorns, the reed in His right hand and the knee bowed in mockery, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat upon Him, and took the reed, and smote Him on the head, and mocked Him... and led Him away to crucify Him... They gave Him vinegar to drink, and mingled with gall... This is terrible indeed. But what of those who passed by and reviled Him... and likewise the chief priests and scribes...? “He saved others, Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said, I am the Son of God.” I suppose there are few readers who have not been deeply moved by this awe-inspiring solemn scene, but what of Israel in a coming day? They will look on Him whom they pierced. They will hear His cry, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” and it will have new meaning for them — it is the Nation's trespass offering. They will repent in dust and ashes and a fountain for uncleanness will be opened to them (Zech. 12:12; Zech. 13:1). But let us not miss the message for ourselves. As we think again of John the Baptist in Matthew 11 we hear the words of the Lord Jesus, “blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me” (Matt. 11:6). John had temporarily lost sight of the One of whom he was the fore-runner. The miracles drawn to the attention of his messengers bore testimony to Him — the blind received their sight (only Messiah could do that — Isaiah 35:5. There were no blind eyes opened in the Old Testament), the lepers were cleansed, (and only God could do that — 2 Kings 5:7), and the dead were raised up (and only the Son of God can do that — Romans 1:4). There was no doubt as to who He was, but the depth of His humiliation (temporarily) was too much for John. As we seek to follow such a Saviour, let us be careful also not to be offended with a Saviour who died on a cross of wood! And what of Himself? The closing verses of Matthew 11 can only be described as a moral wonder. “At that time,” says verse 25. What time was that? It was the time of His complete rejection. John Baptist was in prison, doubting. The Nation were like children in the market places, they could not be pleased. And the cities where most of His mighty works were done, woe and judgment were pronounced upon them. Still deeper evidences of His rejection were to follow: “We will not have this Man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). But the spirit that would crucify Him was already manifested. We read that in that hour “Jesus answered and said, 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.” He was rejected, doubtless, but consider His dignity! He was indeed sustained! “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father,” and He tells us the impenetrable secret of His Person... “and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father.” It almost seems like an extract from John's writings introduced into a Gospel telling us of Zion's King! We are reminded of the Son's relationship with the Father, and the inscrutable character of His Person. This King's official glory is under-pinned by the personal glory that belongs to Him as Son — Son of God and King of Israel. Therefore He can say, “Come unto Me.” Although in the glory of His deity He was accustomed to command, He now is seen in the humility of His incarnation, meek and lowly in heart, and having a yoke upon him, the yoke of obedience — even unto death. Little wonder our hearts have been touched and won, and would to God that many more may be similarly affected. I repeat it, Israel's heart will be won in a coming day. A bruised reed He did not break, and the smoking flax He did not quench. Rejected, reviled, refused, certainly He was, but how could He give them up? (Hosea 11:8). But this we must leave for another article.
(To be continued, if the Lord will)
The Life of David (9)
David, Having Died, He Yet Speaks
(Continued from page 380)
My Servant David, Shepherd and King
After the death of David, the son of Jesse, his kingdom deteriorated under his son Solomon, was divided under his grandson Rehoboam, and eventually disintegrated completely. The Scriptural record abundantly testifies to this sad fact. From the end of Malachi and into the church period, and on into the time of Jacob's trouble, this broken condition is evident. But God has better times in purpose for His beloved people. The two portions in Ezekiel 34 and 37 reveal that His purpose for Israel is connected with His honoured servant David. Not that these passages refer to the resurrection of David. The “David My servant” in the passages is none other than David's greater son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The failure of the shepherds of Israel (rulers secular and spiritual) throws into sharp relief the glory and triumph of God's care for His beloved flock, the nation of Israel. 1 Samuel 16:11; 1 Samuel 17:20, and 34-36 portray the shepherd care, faithfulness and service of David, the shepherd, in relation to his father's flock. These features will be seen in perfection when Jesus, the son of David, looks after His Father's sheep. Compare Micah 5:1-5 with Matthew 2:5-6. The One who will shepherd Israel is the Mighty God become Man. There is no possibility of failure with such a Shepherd, but the Shepherd has to be smitten and die in order to secure blessing for the sheep of Israel and also for the sheep which will form the church (Zech. 13:7; John 10:11, 15-16). Such a Shepherd could not be held by death. God raised Him from among the dead, Jesus, the Son of God, the Great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb. 13:20). The reference to Jesus as the Chief Shepherd in 1 Peter 5:4 is in relation to the under-shepherds of the present dispensation. What a Shepherd!
If care and blessing for Israel is expressed in Ezekiel 34, permanent unity and blessing is the theme of Ezekiel 37. The wretched condition of the nation of Israel is an affront to the majesty and glory of God. It is a denial of His purpose for the Nation. No mortal man, political party or decision of nations will ever change its condition, but God can and will. Notice the oft repeated expression in chapters 34 and 37 “I will.” That is the language of omnipotent deity. It was David, the son of Jesse, who unified the nation of Israel (2 Sam. 5:5). It was his son and sons who destroyed the unity. Praise God that it will be his Greater Son who will permanently unify the Nation. God will gather the scattered Nation from among the Gentile nations and bring them into the land of promise. There will be secured a unity in the Nation that will never be broken. They will have one King, not a succession of kings, the King whom they crucified, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David. God will not chastise His people any more. He will establish a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant, and God will be their God and they will be His people. Glorious destiny for Israel under God's servant the King. The strength, power and integrity of David, the son of Jesse, King of Israel, will be seen in perfection in Jesus the Son of God.
Jerusalem and David. Zechariah 12-14
David in his life of danger and strife often experienced the power and enmity of evil opposition. Sometimes in his psalms he expresses how his heart failed him. He was only a mortal man with natural feelings of weakness and fear. Some of his posterity were faced with the same problem but with God's help they all, David and his posterity, were delivered from their enemies and were victorious. The last, but most severe expression of hatred and enmity, is portrayed in Zechariah 12-14. Jerusalem will be surrounded by powerful enemies and submitted to many cruel indignities. When all seems lost God will intervene in unsparing judgment and deliver His beloved but besieged city. See Revelation 19:11-19; Luke 21:24-27. The many references to Judah and the house of David show the intimacy that exists between Jerusalem and the royal tribe from which David came. David and Jerusalem are linked together through history and the will of God.
It was David and his army that captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites (1 Chr. 11:4-9). God claimed it for His centre (Ps. 132:13-18). Zion is described as the city of David (2 Chr. 5:2) and I notice here a few of the references to Zion in the Psalms. Psalm 2:6 — Zion, the hill of God's holiness. On it He rests His anointed King, David/Christ. Psalm 9:11 — Jehovah dwells in Zion. Psalm 48:1-2 — Zion is the city of God — holiness is there — it is beautiful in elevation — joy of the whole earth — it is the city of the great King, David/Christ. Psalm 78:68 — Jehovah chose the tribe of Judah — mount Zion that He loved. He built His sanctuary there. Psalm 87:2 — Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion more than all the habitations of Jacob. Psalm 125:1 — Zion, it cannot be moved. See also Psalm 122 and Joel 3:16-21.
Because of the unfaithfulness of Judah and the failure of the last king in Jerusalem, Zedekiah, the city was destroyed (2 Kings 25:1-7). The glory of God had left the temple in Jerusalem. The idolatry practised there was an affront to God and His patience with a rebellious and wicked people was exhausted. Consequently the glory of God was withdrawn (Eze. 10; 12:22-24). Partial recovery was seen in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah but that soon crumbled away and provided very little for God. Worse was to follow when the Son of David came to Jerusalem. He was rejected by the Jews and crucified. Their house was left unto them desolate. They did not know the day of their visitation.
Was God defeated in His promises to David? No! It is impossible for God to be defeated. His covenant and promise to David, His servant, and His decrees regarding Jerusalem, will all be fulfilled in His glorious Son, Jesus Christ the Nazarene. He was crucified in Jerusalem but will return to it in power and glory and establish His kingdom that will never end. Jerusalem shall receive a lustre from Jesus the Son of David that it could never have received from David himself.
The influence of David pervades the historical, poetical and prophetical books of the Old Testament and much of that influence points unerringly to his greatest Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
News from the Field
In Poland there are about six localities where brethren gather to the Lord's Name on the ground of the one body of Christ in separation from evil. These saints are separate from a Union of Free Evangelical brethren which was imposed on many under communism. Our brethren refuse this worldly interference with their assembling together. They absolutely refuse to have any part with either centralism or autonomy. Last August (1994), they held three days of meetings in Katowice. Those days of conference were truly memorable and an account of our visit should give you some impression of the order and exercises that exist among them.
The smallest meeting is in the capital, Warsaw. About five saints gather there for the breaking of bread. We had the joy of meeting two from this company at the conference. The sister spoke German and this gave us a practical link. In the south of the country there are larger meetings. At Orzesze I am told that over a hundred are found in the assembly and in Katowice there are around a hundred brethren. In these two towns the breaking of bread starts at 8.30 in the morning. The other localities where the Lord's death is announced are Bogatynia, (with the Lord's supper at 9.00 to 10.30), Grabow n/Prosna, Wieruszow, and Stradomia Wierzchnia (these last three have meetings from 10.00 to 1.00 on Lord's day morning).
The 1994 conference was held in a hired sports hall which could accommodate about 500 persons. More than half of these Polish saints had been converted to Christ in the past eight years. Their guide has been, and is, the Word of God. It is evident that it abides in them. The passage that we considered together was 1 John 2:12-29. There we could see the unity of the children of God in the various stages of growth. The passage was most fitting, especially as there was a wide range of ages present. The relevance of the passage was also apparent in regard to the exercises so many are facing just now. The pressure of the world and our need for decisive separation from all that is contrary to the Father's love is clearly seen.
It was a joy to experience harmonious fellowship with many old friends. Brethren had also come from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. It was also a joy to renew acquaintance with those who had kept the faith in Bohemia (Czech Republic). Some brethren had also came from the meetings in Israel (See report in the last issue). There were also visitors from the Ukraine and Belarus. The order and intensity of interest gave us great joy and encouragement.
Our brother Laurie Waller came to the conference with twenty large bundles of used clothing. These had been lovingly collected by the brethren in the Hull assembly. The bundles were chiefly distributed for onward transmission to needy ones in the Czech Republic and Belarus. The standard of living is lower in these former communist lands than in Poland, but though poor in this sense, the saints are rich in faith.
The ministry of the Word and the conversational Bible readings were translated into German and English. It was the first time that I had encountered the Polish language and so it was rather difficult to join in with singing the beautiful hymns that they have. 1 Corinthians 14:15 in Polish, reads “Chce spiewac duchem ale chce spiewac takze rozumem.” From this you will see the difficulty one had to conform to the Scriptural injunction. Happily, many are translated into German or Russian in which it is considerably easier to sing. The multilingual character of the meetings demanded extra concentration. We were all grateful to the Lord for distinct help given even in regard to this need. The brethren from Poland and the Czech Republic took part in all the meetings, and substantial ministry was also given by our brethren from Switzerland and Germany (some of whom had been in the former DDR). Alan Smart of London also served with profit in these meetings. The character of the ministry bore the hallmark of 1 Corinthians 14:3. In all, we were greatly refreshed by the ministry of God's holy Word.
The individual piety and devotion are also very attractive. One example that comes to mind, among many, is of a blind brother, one of 400,000 blind persons in Poland. Only 50 of these can read Braille but there is no Braille Bible in Polish. This obstacle was overcome by the Lord giving our brother great determination to teach himself German Braille which has completely different contractions (abbreviations). This gave him access to the Word of God and in spite of total blindness he is rejoicing in the goodness of God and His truth. His participation in the meetings is as a father in Christ. Another example of earnest devotion that touched me was of a sister who upon conversion to the Lord had visited all the expressions of Christianity in her home town of Poznan. She visited Pentecostals, Baptists, Evangelicals and others, but none answered to what she learnt from Scripture. During a visit to the then East Germany she came across brethren and asked if there were any like gathered saints in Poland. The nearest assembly was 200 km distant but such was her readiness to be obedient to the truth that had such weight in her soul, that she went. The sister is now in practical fellowship and in spite of a costly four hour journey, travels regularly to her nearest meeting. She had great joy in being present at the conference and we rejoiced in the Lord's grace toward her.
Since the revolution of 1989, the brethren have begun with greater liberty to circulate sound Christian literature. From Katowice, gospel tracts and some small booklets for believers have been issued. The brethren have recently circulated some 400 bookshops and societies in Poland with information of these publications. Within a month they had had a 10% response. The need exists for more substantial books to be translated. Literature that we take for granted in most West European assemblies is simply not available, e.g. C. H. Mackintosh's “Notes on the Pentateuch” and Darby's “Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.” German and English books supplement the libraries of the few who can read them. There are a few more books in Czech than Polish. It is early days still, but with the help of brethren from neighbouring Germany various publication projects are in hand. Brother Heijkoop's “Tongues, Healing etc. in the light of Scripture” is being proof read. “What scripture teaches me” by our brother J. N. Darby is also typeset, ready for printing. “I am in their midst” by Christian Briem is being translated from German. Other titles are also being considered for earliest publication. The local brethren expressed interest in obtaining “Pure Gold” in Polish and we trust that this can be arranged, especially as it has been found so helpful in other languages and not least in English
The brethren in Orzesze have taken up responsibility to produce the Good Seed gospel calendar in Polish. Their edition is different from the one issued from Hagen, Germany. In 1989 they printed 5,000. This sold out and so the next year they produced 10,000 of the block calendars. The print run for 1995 was 20,000, and for the time being that is as much as they can handle. By means of this calendar the pure gospel is distributed among friends and family, neighbours and colleagues. Some brethren also set up stalls in market places and sell the calendars for around 20,000 Zwoty (equivalent to about 55p in the UK). By this means many are reached with the gospel of the grace of God and brought into contact with the testimony to our Lord Jesus.
Our hearts were greatly cheered to see what the Lord has done in sustaining and prospering the testimony to His Name and truth in Poland. The remembrance of our friends at the throne of grace gives us great joy and causes much thanksgiving to ascend to God the Father. Do pray that they might be maintained in the freshness of first love to Christ. Also that they may be preserved from worldly influences and alien encroachments.
E. N. C.