The Lord in the Midst (1)

We hold that there could not be anything greater or more blessed for us to realize this side of heaven than the presence of the Lord in the midst of His own church, or assembly. And in case what we mean is not clear to our readers, we quote are text of Scripture. "For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one for which cause He as not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I WILL DECLARE THY NAME UNTO MY BRETHREN, IN THE MIDST OF THE CHURCH WILL I SING PRAISE UNTO THEE" (Heb. 2:11-12). This triumphant declaration is a quotation from Psalm 22, than which there is no more solemn passage in the whole Bible. It describes for us in the early part of it the sufferings of our Lord and Saviour when He was forsaken of God for our sakes and sins. It shows us in His own words the intense agony of His soul when He hung upon the cross, beset by the whole force of evil, and when more terrible than all, He was made sin for us. The Spirit of Christ in the psalmist portrayed all this a thousand years before it actually happened, showing what a place these sufferings had in the thoughts of God from the beginning. What an unspeakable blessing it would be to us if we mused upon those sufferings more! What enlargement of heart we should experience as we considered God's hatred of sin as expressed there, and His love for us who were the sinners; and the great price that was paid for our redemption and the love that filled the heart of the Redeemer that made Him willing to pay that price! O brethren, how cold and slow our hearts are! How little moved we are by the wonder of the ages — the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! Why do we not glory in it more, and say more often in wondering worship — the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me?

But in verse 21 of this psalm the sorrow and unfathomed woe give place to triumph, and there breaks from the lips of the One who had suffered these words that are quoted in Hebrews 2. Briefly we desire to consider what is involved in them.

The Risen Lord in the Midst

The fulfilment of this great thing began in John 20, where the Lord, raised up from the dead, sent that message to His disciples "GO TO MY BRETHREN, and say to them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." That message gathered them together, and when so gathered Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, saying, "Peace be to you," and that they might have no doubt as to who He was, He showed them His hands and has side. The effect was deep and definite and instantaneous, "THEN WERE THE DISCIPLES GLAD, WHEN THEY SAW THE LORD."

Many things crowd themselves into this revelation of Himself to them. They must have been assured of His power and victory by His presence with them. Death had been defeated or He could not have been there, hence peace could indeed be their portion instead of distress and fear and an overwhelming sense of loss.

Then He had come back again to them; they were His first thought on that never-to-be-forgotten day. What a sense of His grace they must have gained by that fact? He had always been tender, patient and gracious with them, but they had failed Him so completely in the hour of His deep need.; their faith had broken down and they had showed themselves to be so faithless, and yet He had come to them as full of grace as ever, unchanged by all their failure. His grace was as great as His power; this must have moved their hearts. Then those wounds manifested His love, a love that had suffered for them and gone before them, and met all their foes, that they might follow after Him in the way everlasting without fear or hurt.

There was only one thing they could do as they realized these things, and that one thing was to own Him unreservedly as their Lord, and this they did gladly. His supremacy in their midst was unchallenged. He had in them the nucleus of His church or assembly; a circle in which He could do as He pleased, where His will would be dominant and His rights maintained. And that company of disciples was most satisfied to have it so. They needed no other Lord, Head, Centre or Leader; Christ was enough. They were glad when they saw THE LORD. He had the right to be Lord in their midst because of who He was, He had gained the right to be supreme there because of what He had done. He had redeemed them — they were all His because of the great price that He had paid for them; they could not justly deny His claim. Thank God, they gladly owned it.

Now this manifestation of the Lord to His disciples was not for them only, the words we have quoted from Hebrews 2 show us very clearly that it was to be perpetuated and to continue until God's many sons are brought to glory. Let us notice the way in which those who are attached to Christ by faith are spoken of here for it is important. They are sons of God, and Christ is not ashamed to call them His brethren. We wish that we understood better the dignity with which we are here invested. Could anything be more wonderful? We are no longer bankrupt suppliants at God's gateway, but brought to Him as His sons; we are no longer saved sinners merely, though we are that, and should not forget it, but the One who has saved us and sanctified us has done it so blessedly that we are one with Him, and He is not ashamed to call us brethren, and this not because He has in grace stooped to save us, but because having done this, blessed be His Name, He has raised us up and brought us into the same relationship in which He stands to God, according to the message that He sent to His disciples — "My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God." He is the firstborn — the Chief and Leader among many brethren. And these brethren of His are His church in the midst of which He is today, as much as He ever was. How much have we realized this? Let us challenge ourselves as to it. We cannot read Psalm 22 without feeling that it means much to the Lord who suffered for our salvation. It is evidently a great by to Him to surround Himself with His brethren and to tell them of the Father, but what does at mean to us? In the days of His great sorrow the people passed Him by. It was nothing to them. Are His brethren guilty of this same indifference to His joy, is there any joy so great as His as He comes with the light and knowledge of the Father's love that had filled His own heart throughout eternity to declare it to His brethren? And is this nothing to His brethren?

To many of them it is nothing at all; they have been seduced from their loyalty to Christ, or corrupted by false teaching and false aims, and instead of having the glory before them as their longed-for destiny, the world and worldly ways fill their hearts, and "if any man love the world, the love of the Father as not an him." And consequently they have neither heart nor ears for the voice of the Son of the Father. Many are ignorant of the glory of Christ, and are so involved in worldly organizations and evil associations that at is impossible for them to realize the sufficiency of the Lord as the Leader and Head of His church. It as unspeakably sad that it should be so, and it must be a grief to the heart of the Lord. But has this defection on the part of the church, this indifference to His claims, changed Him? No, that were impossible, having loved His own that are in the world He will love them to the end. And these words abide for us "I will declare Thy Name to my brethren: in the midst of the church will I sing praise to Thee."

We repeat that nothing could be greater or more blessed than the realization of this. It were well worth while to count everything else loss for the knowledge of it; and to abandon every association that would hide the Lord from the soul when He appears in the midst in this character. We may see Him and hear Him just as truly today in a spiritual way as His disciples did on the resurrection day. And the One who has known this will be satisfied with nothing less "Let everyone that nameth the Name of the Lord depart from iniquity. Flee also youthful lusts, and follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart," and they shall know the power and blessedness of the presence of the Lord if this is their desire, for He will ever be faithful to His own word, He will ever be in the midst of His brethren, His church.

But here we must sound a note of warning, for it is easy to press with great vigour the need of separation from evil, and know very little of the blessedness of the presence of the Lord, and be very little formed and fashioned by it. We may lose sight of this positive side of the truth in urging the negative; we may endeavour to exclude disease and not know how to promote health, we may become censorious and pharisaical and do much harm and little good. We need to cultivate the eye that can see the Lord and the ear that can hear His voice and the heart that can own His positive supremacy in the midst, more than the nostrils that are keen to discover evil. His presence must form those who know it after His own likeness, so that with all lowliness and meekness, and with long-suffering, they will forbear one another in love. And these things will characterize those who know His presence, and by them we can test ourselves whether that presence is a reality to us or a mere profession.

Declaring the Father's Name To His Brethren

What fills the heart of the Lord is the blessedness of the Father's Name, and this He must declare to His brethren, that they may share with Him the great joy of this for them new relationship. The Father's Name is not a name only, it is the revelation of Himself — it tells us not only who He is, but what He is of old. He revealed Himself by a succession of names to those who were privileged to draw near to Him. But all those names by which He was known to Adam and Abraham, and Moses and David were names that had to do with some circumstance or need that had arisen in time, they were all relative to the conditions in which He found those whom He would bless. But the Name of Father belongs to eternity — it is the name and relationship that the well-beloved Son knew before the foundation of the world. It lifts us out of and above all circumstances and needs and dispensations into what is eternal — for this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." And this gives character to the assembly in the midst of which Christ is. It is not of the world, it is heavenly in its character, and before it reaches the Father's house, it should know the Father and find fullness of joy in this blessed relationship.

One of the sweetest names by which God was known in Old Testament days was "the mighty God of Jacob." It was by this Name that David knew Him when He set to work to prepare a habitation for Him (Ps. 132). It speaks of invincible, sovereign mercy. And David knew that nothing else would do for him and his people; he knew that if God in this character was amongst them they would be blest indeed; he knew that only the God who had borne with scheming, failing Jacob would do for his equally faulty children. But we do not go back to those old days to learn the relationship in which we stand to God. We are in New Testament days, and belong not to Israel but to the assembly, the church; Christ is not ashamed to call us brethren, and we know God as THE GOD AND FATHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. Here it is not mercy or even grace, but love, and not the love of compassion but the love of complacency, for there was everything in our Lord Jesus Christ to draw out the Father's love — He is the eternally worthy object of it. We can understand that; we do not wonder at His words "Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." But let us realize the exceeding riches of God's grace.

"We stand accepted in the place
  That none but Christ could claim."

Our sins for ever put away, our needs all provided for until the time of need ceases for ever, and we are brought into this place of nearness to God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to listen to the voice of His Son, while He tells us of what He knows so well — the Father's love. Is it still possible to enjoy this blessedness. It surely is, and what joy it must give the heart of the Lord to find some who earnestly desire it. We press it upon our readers. We pray while we do so that true exercise of heart may be given to us all in regard to it, that while we lay hold of and enjoy lesser blessings we may not miss this that is higher and brighter than all. It is not something that only those who have advanced far into the knowledge of the truth may enjoy. It is for all — even the babes know the Father. It is heart that is needed, heart for Christ and His things.