Proverbs 8:22-32; Ephesians 1.
J. A. Trench.
Article 49 of 55 from 'Truth for Believers' Volume 2.
There are two very distinct aspects of the glad tidings of the revelation of God and the riches of His grace. We are in danger of limiting the work of Christ to the measure of our need. In Ephesians 1 God carries us back into the eternal counsels of His own heart, and, wonderful to find, He has not been only meeting my need, but the need of His own heart — He had need of me.
It is important that we should be able to take our place at this standpoint.
In Proverbs, where we might least expect to find it, we find the delight of the Father in the Son. What communion of divine joy! And here in this wondrous scene we find the direction and tendency of their thoughts — "Rejoicing in the habitable parts of the earth; and my delights were with the sons of men." Before the second verse of Genesis 1, or even the first verse, the heart of God was going out into the habitable parts of the earth. What a word for us! It passeth all that we can understand, His delights with the sons of men! Where shall we look for the accomplishment of these thoughts? Not in the history of the first man; it is in the second Man already before Him in His eternal counsels.
What a scene it is as we look over the history of the first man; blessed be God that it has come to an end in the cross of Christ, but this has to be learnt individually in the history of our own souls.
Stephen sums up the history of the ages in Acts 7. The promises were despised, the law transgressed, the prophets slain, the Just One betrayed and murdered, and the Holy Ghost always resisted. God has brought us to the consummation of the ages to see the close of its history in the culminating sin of man. We must turn away our eye from all that is of the first man. Here (Prov. 8) we find One over whom the heavens could open at His birth and the angels say, "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, divine delight in men." It was the dawn of the accomplishment of God's eternal counsels.
In Matthew 3, in the first step of His public path, we find Him identifying Himself with all that was for God in Israel, according to His own precious word in Psalm 16. "Thou art my Lord; my goodness extendeth not to thee: but to the saints that are in the earth . . . in whom is all my delight." How wonderful to think who those were, ungodly and despised, but taking their right place, confessing their sins. At that very moment — "Jesus when he was baptised, went up straightway out of the water; and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him; and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matt. 3:16, 17)
Now for the first time the heavens found a Man on earth worthy of their opening upon, and the Spirit descended in the form of a dove — long since departed, finding no rest for the sole of its foot in the scene under God's judgment (Gen. 8) — and rested on Jesus. We see set forth in all its perfection the place that He now gives us before the Father. (Matt. 12:18) "Behold my servant whom I have chosen; my beloved in whom my soul is well pleased." And again in Matthew 17 we hear the voice from heaven acknowledging Him as God's beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased.
In all this we have seen only one Man before God declared to be the Object of His pleasure, but that was not the thought of Proverbs 8. No one could have disputed His right to take His place in the glory from the Mount of Transfiguration, but then He would have been alone there, and He turns down from the mountain with His face toward Jerusalem. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (John 12:24) He would not be alone in that glory, the eternal counsels of the heart of God would not have been fulfilled: He must go down to death in order to associate others with Himself.
After revealing all that God was down here, the only answer of our hearts was, "Away with Him, crucify Him." Out of that scene of universal death, where no leaf of life stirs in all creation (so to speak), God raises up not the first man, but the second — the One who loved us and gave Himself for us, to be Head over all things. The scene clear for God and for faith of all that we have done or been, God carries us back to the eternal counsels of His heart in His beloved Son to what He chose as suited to His own heart. "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." (Eph. 1:4) In His presence, before His gaze, suited to Himself.
It is an immense help to remember the path of the Lord Jesus before God. Surely He was holy and without blame before Him in love, and all that He was down here upon earth is now unfolded to us in a risen Christ in glory, where it is what we are in Him according to God's counsels.
In the next verse we find the relationship that could alone satisfy His heart, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." To Himself; not something for you and me merely, but for Himself according to His own counsel; far beyond angels — we are sons. He wanted to surround Himself in His own home with the cry of Abba Father, and nothing short of this would satisfy Him. From the mouth of the opened sepulchre He could send by Mary Magdalene the wondrous words of association with Himself — ("My Father and your Father, my God and your God") in His double place as Man before God and as Son before the Father. Here it is the latter. The Spirit of the Son sent into our hearts to cry Abba Father. This is our place as the fruit of redemption, God acting to the praise of the glory of His grace has taken us into favour in the Beloved. Wondrous words! — Here, redemption, so largely developed in other places is dismissed in one little verse, only as a means of introducing us into the wonders of His love. It was according to the riches of His grace that He met us in our poverty and need. In Matthew 3 it was what He was personally in Himself (personally in ourselves we were only fit for hell), but it is as the result of having believed the glad tidings of His grace that we receive the Holy Ghost. On Him He could descend without blood, with us it is through the value of that blood that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. And now the heavens are thrown open, oh! how widely; what can we do but adore and worship Him. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." We have thus seen Christ as the pattern of the position we are in according to the eternal counsels of God, in three points: the heavens that opened to Him are now the sphere of our blessing in Him, in the place He had as Man before God (ver. 4) answering to "In whom I am well pleased." In His relationship as Son with the Father, "having predestinated us unto sonship by Jesus Christ," and, the seal of the Holy Ghost. Only we must ever remember that in His case it was what He was personally in Himself — with us it is what we are in Him. What a position! And this the fruit of God's everlasting counsels revealed that we may be able to take up our place before Him according to this wonderful plan. Are we walking in the sense of these things, beloved? Are we walking in the consciousness of being His delight, of being sons before the Father, so as to bow down before Him in worship, not now as God Almighty, not as Jehovah, but as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, reminding us of all that He is before God, the only measure of our place in Him!
But now having set us in this place in all the nearness and intimacy of relationship, He counts on our hearts entering into His counsels for the glory of His Son. "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance." We find the expanse of the glory of the inheritance, and then we find that we have been made heirs in Him; no wonder that the Apostle betakes himself to prayer. (Vers. 17, 18, 19) The way in which we enter into the inheritance comes before us; even as when the first Adam was set as head over all creation Eve was given him to share all with him, so the second Adam as Head over all things has His heavenly Eve, as heir and sharer of all with Him. Quickened together, raised together and made to sit together. This is the way I know it is all for me. God found us dead in trespasses and sins when there was not one movement of our hearts towards Him. There would have been no glory for God if He had taken a good man to heaven (had there been such), but in the ages to come we shall do to show how far the grace of God could go. We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works — the new creation — there could be none in the old; they are the fruit of His eternal counsels, and the rest of this epistle is the development of these good works.
I feel the difficulty of speaking of these things; one's heart can only find relief in turning to Him with praise and thanksgiving, and as our hearts bow and worship before Him, surely all this will be an incentive to seek out the path in which He would have us.