Christ's Association of Himself with His People on Earth

Psalm 16.

J. N. Darby.

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I need hardly say that there are many aspects in which we may consider the character of our Lord Jesus Christ; for He is the summing up of all possible beauty and perfection in Himself. But He is more than this. He is the means and measure by which we can judge of everything besides. If I want to know God, I must learn Him in Christ. If I want to know what man is in perfection, I learn it by Christ. In a word, all real truth is learnt, and learnt only, in or by Christ. Whether it be man, or sin, or death, or life, or love, or hatred, all is manifested in Christ, or by Christ. Hence the importance of having the soul occupied with Christ, of feeding on Him, since He is the only transforming power, and the only standard of excellence, and the light by which all things else are made manifest.

It is not the joy of deliverance that is presented in this psalm, nor the work by which deliverance is accomplished; but rather the Deliverer in His humiliation and walk on earth, drawn out as the attractive object of our souls. For Christ is an object in a double way. He is an object in glory to attract our souls upward from the earth, as it is said, "seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God." But He is no less an object in His humiliation as presenting the embodiment of all moral excellence before God, and that in a world through which we are called to pass.

If we contemplate Christ in glory, this gives us the definiteness of that hope to which we are predestinated, for we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of God's Son. "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." This awakens the energy of hope, of joy, and gladness. If we are delivered from death, through the blood of Christ, we are also planted in Him as the objects of God's delight. Christ's position before the Father, and His relation to Him, mark our position and relationship through infinite grace; for He says, "I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." We are like Him in the sight of His Father, and our praises should not jar with His.

"We wait [it is true] for the hope of righteousness by faith"; not for "righteousness by faith," because we have that, or rather in Him are that; but we wait for the hope that belongs to it; and we know what that is, for it is that which has now in glory. And we are to be "changed into the same image from glory to glory." Christ is our righteousness, and we have it, or rather we are it; "we are made the righteousness of God in him." But we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness. The Spirit was sent down to witness that Christ is glorified; and hence He becomes an object to us in the glory.

61 It is not good for the soul only to contemplate Christ as an agent, important as this is in its place. No question, if I am feeding on Christ, dwelling on Him with admiration and delight and joy, as the object of my soul, it pre-supposes a knowledge of Him as an agent accomplishing redemption by His death, and having taken His place on high for us, and so maintaining the integrity of our position before God and our communion with Him. But if I am looking at the priesthood of Christ, precious and necessary as it is, He is still before me, more as an agent than the object of my soul. As priest, He is a servant in grace. To see Him girded thus for service doubtless draws out the affections, and gives power and energy, and brightens our hearts all along the road. But then all manner of exercise of heart comes in here; because Christ deals with us in this according to what we practically are. The priesthood of Christ has to do with weakness and infirmities, with the ever-varying exercises of the soul: and hence it is said, "we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous," Righteousness ever abides in God's presence, and hence the ground of the restoration of communion when it has been lost. If any man sin, we are not driven to a distance but the soul is restored because Christ has prayed for us. It is not that we have to ask Him to intercede, or to exercise His priesthood for us, but that He has done so; for the movement of grace is always on His heart. The priesthood of Christ is for those who are righteous, who are redeemed, in order to carry them on through the wilderness of this world. He is their Advocate, constantly carrying on their affairs, and the Holy Ghost is spoken of by the same title (for "the Comforter" is indeed the Advocate).

Thus Christ applies, in divine wisdom, to the heart, all that we have by virtue of His intercession. He is perfectly cognizant of all that is in us, and knows how to meet it. It is not the idea that I am going to glory, but that, God having set me in perfect righteousness, He teaches me by the priesthood of Christ to discern between good and evil according to His light, or according to His nature. I am utterly dependent in my condition, and He feeds me day by day with manna as I need. As He said of Israel: "Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years," Deut. 8:2-4.

62 He never forgot Israel for a single day, because all their supplies in the wilderness depended on His remembrance and faithful care; and His care as our High Priest and Advocate is the same to us now. In all this Christ is an agent; but in this psalm He is an object - an object in His humiliation, and, more properly, the food of our souls. He is not our food in glory, but in humiliation. We feed on Him here, as a living and dead Christ. Christ does not say in John 6, "The bread of God is he" which went up to heaven; but "He which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world."

That which especially draws out our affections is the tracing of Christ's passage through this world, through everything down here about which He has to deal with us. When He was on earth, the Father could delight in Him in the beginning of His path, on account of His inherent excellence; and at the close, because of His developed perfection. He could say, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased"; and God has given us for delight, the very same object in which He delights. What do we say then? Why, in weakness and poverty, it is true, yet surely, with unhesitating confidence, we say the same! We cannot indeed reach His perfectness in our thoughts; but then the very sense we have of the poverty and weakness of our apprehensions is because the Father has shewn us something of His perfectness.

The Father, in communicating His own delight, does not say, This is My beloved Son in whom you ought to be well pleased, but in whom I am well pleased. How marvellous that the Father should tell us what His thoughts are about His Son, and what His delight is in Him! It was not what was true about Christ that attracted the poor woman in Simon's house (Luke 7:37-50), but it was the beauty and attractiveness of Christ Himself that absorbed her heart. She loved and admired Him for what He was, before she knew what He was for her. When she knew this, she could reflect upon it, and this would give the ground of constancy to her affections and delight. Jesus commended all she did - her tears - her affection - her silence; because all were drawn forth by her contemplation of Himself.

63 But, before we can properly feed on Christ as our food, we must know Him as our righteousness. Some are attracted to Christ for a while, and have joy in Him, but for the want of a knowledge of righteousness lose their joy, and know not how to find it again. Righteousness sets us in peace before God, and then we have fellowship, and can speak of it; as the apostle says, "truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." And on the same ground we have fellowship one with another. Connected with this there are three things: 1st, Walking in the light as God is in the light; 2nd, consequent fellowship and communion one with another; 3rd, being perfectly cleansed by the blood. When the soul has the sense of being perfectly cleansed by the blood of Christ, and His death is thus entered into, there is the ground for feeding on Christ, and occupancy with Him as our object. And this the Lord reckons on as a result of His love. He says to His disciples, "If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go to the Father." He reckons on their affections making them glad on account of His joy; and He only refers to His joy, to shew how He looks for their sympathy to be engaged with what concerned Himself. This however cannot be until salvation is known. But Christ should be our object; and dwelling on what He is, the food of our souls.

Two things form perfection in the creature before God: dependence and obedience. Independence is sin - necessarily so. All effort after a freedom of this nature is but an attempt to break away from the sense of creature - dependence on God. The action of our own will is sin.

When Christ became man He took the character of a dependent, an obedient one. His Father's will was not only His guide in all He did, but His motive in doing it: and this was His perfection. Observe the place of dependence He takes in verse 1 of this Psalm: "Preserve me, O God! for in thee do I put my trust." It is beautiful to see His obedience, and beautiful to see it in dependence too.

64 Whenever the Father has His rightful place in our affections, He has it in everything. "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." Take the example of a child in pleasing a father: love makes it a matter of perfect indifference to the child's heart as to what the thing is that is to be done; it is done to please its father, and this is motive enough for anything. And how does the heart look back with delight, and trace this in Christ, in all His ways in His pathway through this world! He had all power, but never used it to serve Himself. From the manger to the cross it was the embodiment of the word, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God!" Because He was above all evil, He was able to go through all evil, unassailable by it; while at the same time He was capable of touching and dealing with those who were in it.

In the words, "I said unto Jehovah, Thou art my Lord," Christ takes the place of the servant to God; and there is not a step in the path of life - divine life - but He trod it, in order to shew it to us. Surely it was enough to draw out the delight of the Father to see the Son, as man, walking down here, in everything dependent upon His pleasure, and in everything obedient to His will. And we know indeed that it was so, from the opened heavens at the baptism of John, and from the voice from the excellent glory - "this is my beloved Son." In everything He manifested a blessed and perfect dependence. He came out from the Father, and carried back into His presence, a man with the stamp of the same blessed perfectness which He had with the Father before the world was.

He says, "Thou wilt shew me the path of life"; and He passed through death in dependence on the Father. Adam found the path of death in his folly; but back to the path of life he never could get. The trees of knowledge and of life to this day are perplexing the minds of men; but no reason nor philosophy of man can reconcile responsibility and the gift of life. Man cannot make it out. From the beginning he has tried to stand in responsibility, whenever the mind has been awakened to acknowledge the claims of God, without a knowledge of His grace. But in everything he has failed; and all that he has done by it is to earn death. Christ comes into the place of ruin and death, and makes out and shews us the path of life - that "path which the vulture's eye hath not seen." He was the life; and He tracks a path for us in the wild waste - "in the wilderness," as it is said, "where there is no way." He finds it and shews it to us, and we have to learn to tread it in dependence and obedience. To Him it must be through death; therefore He says, If any man will follow me, "he must take up his cross." Christ would rather die than disobey; there is His perfectness. We have to tread in the same steps; but Christ before us is the One we have to look to, to think on, to feed upon, in this wild waste of sin and death. It is not the quantity we do that marks our spirituality; but the perfectness with which we present Christ.

65 "In thy presence there is fulness of joy." There are two parts of blessedness - being with Christ, and being like Christ. If we were constantly before God in the consciousness of being unlike Him, it would only distress. But we shall be with Him and like Him; and the consciousness of this is blessedness. With Him we shall enjoy the Father's countenance; crowned and sitting on thrones, but delighting to cast our crowns down before Him, and to say, "Thou art worthy" - our souls being filled with the excellency of Him who is in the midst.

The saints, the excellent of the earth, with whom Christ associates Himself, are all His delight. No matter how feeble or how failing; He says they are the excellent, and His delight is in them - not in their state, it may be, but in them. And He must have them with Him. "Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me may be with me where I am." He would have them with Him! He will be in company with them in the glory, in the presence of His Father, where is "fulness of joy." And oh! may it rest on our minds in what way Christ associates Himself with the excellent down here; and may our hearts dwell on God's delight in Him, and on His perfectness down here, that we may make it our delight to trace His footsteps, weigh His words, and feed on Him.