By J. S. Giles.
[Bound in paperback 213pp., by G. Morrish, with other ministry and "Notes of Readings on the Epistle to the Galatians. At Brisbane, Australia, September, 1911. Revised by J.S.G. and slightly enlarged." Published here with: "The Greatness of Christ as Man. (Ps. 16)".]
The gospel of Matthew and the epistle to the Hebrews were written to help Christians who had been Jews. In both of these books THE GREATNESS AND GLORY OF THE PERSON OF THE SON is specially presented. Then on account of His greatness His work is great; the system He forms is great, and indeed all that is connected with His glorious Person must necessarily be great. It is who and what He is that gave value to His death, which is the foundation on which everything for God is built. The majesty of the Person gave character to the sacrifice upon which the glory of God rests for time and eternity, and is the basis on which the vast scheme of blessing is laid.
The object of the epistle to the Hebrews is that the people of God may have their hands filled (like the priests in Lev. 8) with their appreciation of Christ. No one can be in God's presence without having something to offer, and he must have that which can be presented, and be acceptable to GOD.
The Person of the Son is brought before us, and through the work of the Spirit we are brought to appreciate His preciousness and His work. The measure of this appreciation is the measure of that which we have to offer to God. We can only offer to God that which has been wrought in our souls by the Holy Spirit: therefore our poverty is often exposed by the meagreness of our offering when we draw near to God in our priestly character!
The epistle to the Hebrews commences with the greatness of His Person as SON. Chapter 1 gives five most beautiful, distinct, and instructive settings of His glory. We have thus a five-fold clear presentation of the divine glory of the One whom we have been brought to know and to love, that are most helpful to our souls to trace and meditate upon!
God has now spoken in the Person of the Son. He, in the past, spoke through prophets, who were only men privileged to express the will of God, but now God has spoken "in Son." He, the Son, the Speaker, is GOD. A prophet was chosen to be God's mouthpiece, but now God has spoken, not as Father, but as Son. The One in whom God speaks is God—THE SON, become man. What marvellous grace! What an astounding fact! One who is, in His own Person, "God over all," yet a real Man in whom God has spoken to men. God has spoken as Son.
In Old Testament times God spoke in different ways, and partly made known His mind, and gradually unfolded His thoughts. He did not make known the whole of His mind, but communicated it in part through many servants. Now the whole mind of God is revealed. A divine Person having become man could not express less than the whole will of God. If God has spoken as Son, no one can speak after Him. Elijah was an honoured servant, and John the Baptist the greatest ever born of a woman, but now the Son has come, and no one can add to that which has been expressed by and in Him. The mind of God has been completely declared, and henceforth it could only be the unfolding and developing of that which shone perfectly in Him.
The first setting in this marvellous exhibition of glory presents His Person apart in thought from the condition which He entered into by becoming man. It is His divine glory that is presented—the glory of a divine Person, His Godhead glory, which must ever be His own!
We have thus a most marvellous presentation of His glory, which we may liken to a chain of six links. The Son is established "heir of all things." In eternal purpose this was decreed, and now He is placed over all (Heb. 2), and soon all things will be manifestly under His sway. He will inherit the whole universe of God, not as an inferior, or as one who receives a portion through descent; for it is all His own! The purpose of God was that the Son, who became a man, should inherit everything.
He is the Creator of the worlds, therefore He will inherit all things. He formed all, and therefore He inherits the works of His own hands. It is all His own by creative right, and through redemption He will possess His own inheritance according to eternal purpose.
The material creation was formed—the heavens and the earth—in view of the accomplishment of God's purpose. The creation thus serves as a platform for the display of the ways of God, His power, His wisdom, His love; yea, the manifestation of Himself in Christ: and soon the vast system which will be formed to satisfy His heart will be displayed; therefore creation is ascribed to Him as God, the Son, and the Word!
The Son being the One who will complete the whole scheme of purpose was necessarily the Creator of that on which He would place a universe, characterised by the knowledge of the Father revealed in the Son.
Christ as "the Word" is the revelation of the mind of God concerning man. "The Word," as the thought or mind of God, is eternal, for it is God Himself (Heb. 4:12-13), and Christ incarnate was the expression of it to man.
This globe on which we dwell the Word created in view of the thoughts of God regarding man, and His purpose will eventually be fully effectuated to His own glory! Hence we can see the spiritual reason why creation is ascribed to the Son, and to Him as "the Word," for He was to be the One to reveal the Father, and to set forth in His own Person as man all that God is, and the whole thought of God in regard to man!
So God has spoken as Son, and God has appointed the Son "heir of all things," and by the Son the worlds were made.
What a privilege is ours to contemplate His glory! How sad would it be that any one should seek to tarnish it! The holy scriptures specially and consistently guard the glory of the Person of the Son because He was the One divine Person who became man to effect the purpose of God. He veiled His glory by coming in the likeness of men, and hence the special need of the marvellous unfolding of His glory in the holy scriptures. The Son—the One who will inherit all things, the Creator of the worlds, is "the brightness of God's glory"—the effulgence, the shining forth in harmony of all the traits of God's nature and being. God, as God, in His own essential being dwells in light inaccessible, but He has been revealed, "declared," in the Son. (John 1:18.) It is our privilege to know Him thus revealed, to know Him as fully as it is possible for the Infinite to be known by those who are finite.
Only One who was God could reveal God, hence we read, "Who being the effulgence of his glory, and the expression of his substance." He is the express image of, He exactly displays in His own Person, all that God is in His own essential being. Therefore when He became man He was the Son of God, because He set forth in His own Person all that God is. By Him becoming man God fully shone forth in the Person of the Son, in this scene of darkness.
We have another glory mentioned in this marvellous unfolding. He who is thus "the effulgence of his glory," &c., "upholds all things by the word of his power." We see the power of the utterance of the Son. The maintenance of what He created depends upon Him. This exercise of divine power is by Him who planned in perfect wisdom, and then created by His word, the worlds that are now dependent upon Him!
There is still another glory in this connection. When He had "by himself made the purification [or purgation] of sins, set himself down on the right hand of the greatness on high." Mark, this is not the place given to Him as man, but that which is His own! It is His as a divine Person, hence He set Himself down in highest glory. He took the seat which was His own; it belonged to Him because of who He is; but before He took it He acquired a glory—He achieved the purgation of sins! This He did after He became man. Still, only a divine Person could do it. All men had sinned, and no mere man could purify the world from these sins. The glory of wiping sins out of the universe belongs to Him. He has done it, and the glory must ever be His. He has, by going into death, accomplished eternally the perfect and complete purifying of sins from the universe of God by the sacrifice of Himself. This divine fact has now been accomplished, and the public result will be manifested at His appearing, but the glory of having achieved it will ever be His. Having obtained this glory, "He sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high." He had finished this great work Himself, and then He took the place which was His by right. He could set Himself down. What dignity! What moral greatness is expressed in this act! He entered the condition of manhood, and through this obtained the renown—the glory, of having by sacrifice made purgation of sins, and then He occupied the seat which belonged to Him because of who He is.
Thus these varied glories are linked together. He is the heir of all things, and the One who made the worlds. Then in His Person He is the effulgence of God's glory, the expression of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power; having accomplished the purification of sins, set Himself down at the right hand of the greatness on high.
We have now another chain of glories. In setting Himself down He takes a place "much better than angels, for he inherits a more excellent name than they." He, as man, inherits according to eternal purpose a glory far beyond angels. We are not now speaking of the distinctive glory of His Person as Son, apart in thought, from manhood, but of that into which He has entered by becoming man, for as man He must have a unique place, which is not only higher than angels but which is in marked contrast to the highest beings in the universe. There are three links in this chain of glory which are connected with the Son in the condition of manhood. Angels are called "sons of God" (Job 38:7), but God never addressed an angel as "My son." No angel ever was, or could be, addressed as "Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee." This position was unique. It is His alone. He inherited it because of WHO and what He is, and on account of His glorious position in the purpose of God.
He, as man, has a place that no one else could share. He alone could say, "I will declare the decree: the Lord has said unto me, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee." When here in manhood He was ever in the full consciousness of the glorious relationship which was His. He said, when about twelve years of age, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49). Satan knew He was the Son of God, and therefore suggested that He should "command this stone that it be made bread." (Luke 4:3.) As Son He had the right to "command," but having entered manhood He was the dependent man and would not use His power without a word from His God. Then, at the close of His sojourn here, He could say, "I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love." What a stupendous fact! A real Man in the perfect enjoyment of the Father's love, and in the full consciousness of the relationship expressed in the words, "My Son"!
Then, on the other hand, what a victory for God to have One on earth in this relationship in all the perfection of manhood! What a triumph, after all the ruin Satan had brought in, to have such a Man whom He could call "My Son"! He, indeed, had been born of a woman by the power of the Holy Ghost, but in Him there was every moral and spiritual trait that the heart of God desired. There was divine, heavenly perfection in that lowly Man Jesus, and God's eye could rest with perfect pleasure and satisfaction on Him.
He was ever the eternal Son in the bosom of the Father, but the relationship of Son in time into which He entered by becoming man He will ever retain. His bodily condition is now altered, for He is now glorified—a glorified Man in heaven—but the relationship is not changed. Hence Hebrews 1 speaks of Him when He has taken a place at the right hand of the majesty on high, according to purpose, and the Spirit applies the verse from Psalm 2 to Him when seated there. Then there is also added, "I will be to him for Father, and he shall be to me for Son."
These words were spoken to David of Solomon, but, in the mind of the Spirit, it was of Christ. Thus this first setting of glory presents the glory of His Person, apart in thought from the bodily condition He entered into; but in the second we have His unique position when He had become man. What food for meditation! How these thoughts are calculated to draw forth the homage of our hearts. How could we refrain from worshipping Him? We are bound to prostrate our souls before Him as the glory of His Person fills the vision of our souls. Then what could hinder us rejoicing as we think of this incomparable position He has in manhood, as expressed in these three clauses: "Thou art my Son," "I will be to him for Father," "He shall be to me for Son." How marvellous God's triumph is seen in having Man in such nearness of relationship, and in this exalted position. From this alone can we learn what "sonship" is for those who form the church. We have now a third presentation of His glory: "When he brings in the first-begotten into the world, he says, And let all the angels of God worship him"!
The bringing of the first-begotten into the world is primarily future, not exclusively the past. When? At any time. If He appears, He must be worshipped. The One who is the "first"—the highest One—must be an object for worship. When He is brought into the world, through becoming man, lest any should overlook the glory of His Person, it says, "Worship him, all ye gods" (Ps. 97:7), namely, those who represent God in His universe, are called to worship this One! He has a more excellent name than the most exalted angel, according to eternal purpose. He is the One "who is over all, God blessed for ever" (Rom. 9:5), and therefore, though He has become man, yet He is an object for worship to the highest beings in the universe of God. They may be called to prostrate themselves before Him, but those who are redeemed, and brought into association with Him, with great delight how before Him in adoration. They express the worship of their innermost being in intelligent praise to Him!
We have now a fourth aspect of His glory. He says, "Who makes his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire." Angels assume any form that God wills in order to carry out His service. They were made, but the Son was One who made all things. He is addressed by God thus: "But to the Son he says, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom"!
The One who has become man is thus addressed as GOD. He has therefore, as God, an eternal throne, an unchangeable one. He is also the true King, the One of whom Solomon was a type, and a sceptre of righteousness characterises His kingdom. The latter throne He will give up when the last enemy has been destroyed.
The Son veiled His glory and was rejected, and therefore throughout "the world to come" He will be specially exalted. Then, all having been brought into subjection, He will give up the position of being the One prominent Ruler, and GOD—Father, Son and Holy Ghost—will be all in all! He will never cease to be Man, nor give up His place as Head, but the position in rule He will no longer retain. The kingdom will have served its purpose, and all the redeemed will ever find their joy in God, and will live in the full, unclouded enjoyment of what God is in His own nature. Thus the moral elements of the kingdom will remain, though God will be all in all!
Surely we can only say, as we look upon the wonderful ways of God, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever"! (Rom. 11:33-36.)
What a privilege for us to contemplate His glory who has an unchangeable throne; and we can rejoice that He is, as He must ever be, pre-eminent everywhere!
When here, He "loved righteousness and hated iniquity," and now He has been "anointed with the oil of gladness above his companions"! Through sovereign mercy others are associated with Him, but He must ever surpass all others in love, joy and everything else!
We have now a fifth glory presented: He is the One who has passed through untold sorrows—yea, was pre-eminent—in this too! He has experienced isolation and loneliness in the midst of enemies. His "strength was weakened in the way"; and He was "cut off in the midst of his days," yet He was the One who "hast founded the earth; and the heavens are the works of thy hands." He was the Maker of all, and all will serve His purpose.
Thus the One who was "cut off" in the midst of His days is greeted as the Maker of the earth and the heavens. They will perish, but He is "the same"—the One who ever remains!
There could not be either decay or change in Him. Years rolling by never affect His Person. He is the One who "inhabits eternity." (Isa. 57:15.)
The works of His hands will serve His purpose, and then He will "fold them up," as a person does with the garments he has finished using. Let us note how the dignity, the majesty, the glory of His Person shines in all this!
First He is the Creator of all things inhabiting eternity; then, when the vast creation—of which only a small portion comes within the compass of our ken—has served its purpose, He will fold it up. (Ps. 102:25-27; Isa. 51:6.) The material universe serves for a platform upon which the will of God is accomplished; then, when His marvellous handiwork has accomplished its end, He will fold it up, and He changes it as a man changes his garments.
The earth and the heavens perish, but He continues still. They grow old like a covering which we use, and then He will "roll them up," and "they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail." (Heb. 1:12; Ps. 102:25-27.)
This immense creation was formed by His word (Ps. 33:9; 65:6; John 1:3; Eph. 3:9), and when the moment arrives He will change its whole condition. It is only as a vesture in His hands, which accomplishes His purpose, and then He will change it, and it will be changed according to the will of the unchangeable One! (Rev. 21:1; 2 Peter 3:10-13).
In the meantime the Son who became man is thus addressed: "Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool."
He still sits there (out of natural sight) and angels serve those who are, through divine mercy, connected with Him. (Heb. 1:14.)
We have thus the divine glory of His Person as Son brought before us in these five different connections for our adoring contemplation. The glory of His Person as SON (vers. 2, 3), the unique place which is His when become man (ver. 5). Then He is the object of worship for the most exalted beings in the universe of God. Then, again, the Son is GOD (John 1:1; Phil. 2:6), and is so addressed. (Ver. 8.) Then, lastly, He is the CREATOR (John 1:3; Col. 1:14-17), and when what He has created shall have served His purpose He will change it, but He Himself is ever the same.
May we, through contemplating His glory, be brought to know Himself better, and thus our heart's affections be more absorbed by Him. May His beauty, His moral excellences and glories, so fill the visions of our souls that we may bow before Him in adoring gratitude and praise, not only for picking us up but in associating us with Himself—now in the day of His rejection, and by-and-by with Him in His glory. May we be so under the power of the grace of His Person that we may be pleasing to Him, and be more distinctly for Him in this—the scene of His humiliation, sorrows, and rejection—till He comes. Amen.
The Greatness of Christ as Man.
The five (5) books of the Psalms (divided as follows: first, 1-41; second, 42-72; third, 73-89; fourth, 90-106; fifth, 107-150) form a very important part of the holy scriptures, and if read prayerfully, they have a very stimulating and healthy effect on those who fear God. The order in which the psalms are placed is of great importance, for though each one is perfect and complete in itself, yet to understand its proper bearing we must see its connection with those that precede and those that follow.
The psalms bring before us, in an orderly manner, the characteristics of the work of God in the souls of His people.
There is no other book in the Bible that so fully gives the distinct marks of the work of God in souls. God gradually leads His people onward, and the spiritual traits are seen in each as he grows in the knowledge of God as revealed in Christ.
The special privileges which belong to the church are not found in the psalms, but there are great divine principles that characterise the faithful in every period. The light, liberty and relationship now revealed in Christ is not there unfolded, for it is a people with an earthly hope that are generally contemplated. Still, the special features of the work of God in the soul are clearly and richly presented.
In the first book (Ps. 1-41) the Person of Christ—prophetically, and the purpose of God, are more prominently brought before us than in the other books. It looks at the godly remnant of the Jews in relationship with Jehovah, with the privileges attached to going to His temple. It gives their position and experiences in the last days under the wilful king before he declares himself as the Antichrist. This, in principle, was their position when Christ was on earth; hence He Himself is more personally presented in the first book, e.g., in Psalms 16, 22, 40, &c.
The other evening we were looking at "the greatness of the Son." "The Son" is His name as God—"unto the Son he says, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." (Heb. 1:8.) We were then contemplating His divine glories, and this psalm (16) presents the same Person, but as Man. It is the Man Christ Jesus! The One we would have known if we had been on earth during the time of His sojourn here. But we must ever remember that He is "God over all," yet a real man. These two thoughts we cannot take in at the same moment; we being only finite, have to think of Him as God, and then as Man. The scriptures thus present Him to us, for Hebrews 1 presents His divine glory, and chapter 2 the reality of His manhood. We read, "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power." We also read, "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared," or "because of his piety." (Heb. 5:7.) How plainly these scriptures show that the One who is "God over all, blessed for evermore," entered into the real condition of manhood, and that He is now the glorified Man on high.
Psalm 16 presents Him as Man, the dependent Man on earth. It is well, however, to notice that when our Lord is thus spoken of in scripture there are always passages alongside which show His Godhead glory, and thus the truth of His Person is carefully guarded.
We will first look at the connection of this with the preceding psalms. In Psalm 14, "The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any who did understand, and seek God." The solemn verdict was, "They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that does good, no, not one."
In Psalm 15, seeing there are none on earth of whom God can approve, the important question is raised, "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?" The Lord had chosen His holy hill, and He had a tabernacle, but it was not His purpose for the tabernacle to be empty, for the hill must be inhabited. The Lord's purpose was to surround Himself with men, but where were they to come from, when not so much as one man on earth would do? Psalm 15 gives the character required, but where are the persons? This question is now answered, for in Psalm 16 we have the Man—the One in whom God delighted. (Matt. 12:18.) God, as it were, says, Here is the One! He alone is the Man, the only kind of man, who could fully answer to the thought of God.
Thus in Psalm 14 there is not one man who will suit God. In Psalm 15 the question is raised, Who will be on God's chosen hill? In Psalm 16 we have the Man, the only one who answers to the mind of God! It presents Christ personally as Man. No other could be compared with Him. He is unique, and His greatness is seen by connecting this psalm with those that follow.
Psalm 17 presents Christ identified with His people. His "goodness" was towards them (Ps. 16:3), and now it is upon them. He links Himself with them—putting words in their lips, for He only could say, "Hear the right." No mere man could use these words but this unique One only, whose judgment was absolutely according to God. (Isa. 49:4.) In this psalm it is those saints who have a heavenly hope. They have not "their portion in this life" (ver. 14); they look forward to "behold his face in righteousness," and to be satisfied when in His likeness. They derive their character from Christ, for He is great enough to impart moral traits to all heavenly saints, both in this present period and to all who will be in God's universe.
In Psalm 18 Christ identifies Himself also with those of His saints who have an earthly hope. The Lord is here viewed as king over Israel; and then He is made "head of the heathen," and a people He, as Man, had not known serve Him.
Thus we have Christ personally in Psalm 16, then He identifies Himself with, and gives character and spiritual beauty to, His own who have a heavenly hope (Ps. 17), and also to His own who have an earthly prospect. (Ps. 18)
How this brings before our souls the greatness of the Man Christ Jesus! There will be millions of saints blessed in heaven and also on earth, but He will give character to each individual of the many families (Eph. 3:15) thus blessed!
God has given the earth to the children of men, and therefore they must possess it. When this is brought to pass the whole universe of God will display the greatness of the Man Christ Jesus, who was once despised but is now glorified, and who will give character to the whole "universe of God."
When in humiliation He could say, "Learn from me" (Matt. 11:29), but in that day all His people will have been formed by Him, so that what He is morally will be displayed in them. Thus Christ will shine characteristically and universally under the eye of God, to His praise and satisfaction.
We will now briefly look at this beautiful Psalm (16), which views our Lord as Man. There are three leading features in it; these are the marks of a perfect Man.
The first is, absolute confidence in God, for He says, "Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust."
Adam, though surrounded with mercies that should have spoken to him of the goodness of his Creator, had not this confidence in God. God Himself had prepared that garden, and everything that a wise and beneficent Creator could devise and supply was placed in it. Adam, though thus blessed and provided for, turned to an inferior creature, over which he had been placed as head, and to which he had but recently given the name "serpent." It was the most subtle thing in creation, and Adam had given it a suitable name. Satan uses this creature, and Adam listens to one whom he should have known was an enemy of his Lord, for he suggested that he would gain by disobeying the One whose goodness was manifested everywhere around him. He listens and trusts this one who thus assails him because he lacked perfect confidence in the One who had displayed such thoughtfulness and kindness towards him.
In this perfect Man of Psalm 16 there was supreme confidence in His God. He had not entered into an earthly paradise, as was Eden, but into a sinful world, where everything was in disorder. In Eden everything spoke of the goodness of God, but the scene into which Christ entered had all been marred. The true character of His God had been misrepresented; yet there was, in this blessed Man, such confidence in God that He would not use His inherent power to change His circumstances without a word from God. He may be in a wilderness, tempted of Satan, without food for forty days, yet He will not put forth His power to turn stones into bread. He was the Son of God, and as such had the right to "command," but He would not move without a word from God. He was a perfect Man, who knew the heart of God, and therefore what God ordered was the very best. Perfect confidence produced perfect obedience and dependence, and therefore the perfection of Manhood was seen in Him!
How much we lack through not really knowing God Himself. How often our paths are crooked and we endeavour to change our circumstances through lack of confidence in HIM who is perfect in wisdom, love and power.
Here is One who though "uncheered by earthly smiles" throughout His whole pathway (though He could have commanded) walked entirely and perfectly, placing His whole trust in His God. There was no self-confidence, no self-seeking, but a perfect life of fullest confidence in God, though His path was one of sorrow, suffering and rejection.
This heavenly Stranger had taken a place of subjection. He said to Jehovah, "Thou art my Lord." Jehovah was the One to control Him. He was not influenced by any person or anything around He thought not of consequences, results, or what would affect Him personally, but simply and entirely of God and His will. He came to do "the will of God," and in every detail of life He did it perfectly. He absolutely never moved without a word from God (Isa. 50:4), and everything He did was entirely according to God.
What a victory for God to have such a Man upon earth! "The first man" had fallen before Satan and under the power of sin, but this Man was impregnable against sin and Satan, and His delight was "to do the will of him" who had sent Him. In the innermost part of His being there was perfect subjection and delight in the will of God. It was not merely an obedience rendered, like a man bowing to his superior, but the obedience of One who never desired anything but that which the will of God directed. All His desires, tastes, yea, every spring of His moral being was absolutely according to God.
This blessed, unique, and perfect Man says to Jehovah, "My goodness extends not to thee." "Goodness" is a quality in God alone. (Luke 18:19; Ps. 16:3.) The Lord replied to the ruler who came to Him, but who only regarded Him as a good man—a teacher in whom he had some confidence, "Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God."
God is absolutely good, and "does good," but man, as such, is fallen. The springs of his moral being are all corrupted.
The Lord Jesus being a divine Person brought into manhood moral traits and characteristics which could not have been produced by mere creature power.
Here was One who is God, yet a real Man. He did not become a man in order to obtain a place with Jehovah, for He was Jehovah. His "goodness" was not toward Jehovah, but toward the saints. He came to put the moral and spiritual traits that characterised Him as Man upon the saints of Jehovah. Thus the saints in the heavens and those on earth are to take character from Him, so that all may be to the delight of the heart of God.
He had come to redeem and to save, and to present the saints before God in His own beauty, according to eternal purpose.
It is no wonder that the heavens opened, and that the Father's voice was heard, declaring, "This is my beloved Son, in whom is all my delight." (Luke 3:22.) Then the Son of God looks at the saints and says of them, "In whom is all my delight." His delight was all centred in the saints of Jehovah, because they were His. There was nothing in them, naturally, which attracted the Lord to them, but on account of God's workmanship seen in them, and because they were Jehovah's, they were the "excellent on the earth," and all His delight was in them. The Father found His delight in the Son, and the Son found His delight in the saints, because of who they belonged to, and He would present them to the Father, shining in His own spiritual beauty.
From the New Testament we know that it was not the clever, the intellectual, or the religious leaders of that day who went out to be baptised of John. (Matt. 21:32.) God in His sovereignty always has a few amongst the rich of this world (1 Cor. 1:26-27), and there were some in that day, but generally speaking it was the publicans, tax-gatherers, sinners, and the despised who received the testimony of God, while the Pharisees and scribes rejected it. (Matt. 21:31-32.)
Are there any in this room who in position and wealth are above others? If so, remember that the Lord looked on those despised but repentant ones, who were the saints of Jehovah, and said, "In whom is all my delight." His affections were set on those who responded to Jehovah's call, and His delight was in them.
This psalm presents Christ personally, but in proportion as He lives in us the same traits (in measure) will be seen. (Gal. 2:20.) If we are in subjection to the Lord, our affections and our delights will be in the saints too, because they belong to Him.
The Lord would not recognise any departure from God. For God not to have His place in our hearts is in principle to allow a false God. If God does not possess our affections, then Satan will use some one or something else to usurp His place in our hearts; and this is idolatry. We are, in ourselves, weakness itself, but there is priestly grace to maintain us in living touch with God Himself, and with His heavenly, perfect and eternal system to which we now belong. This priestly grace is not for those who draw back, but for those who go forward with God.
The second leading feature of this psalm is perfect satisfaction. He desired nothing but the portion given to Him by His God. This psalm presents the Man Christ Jesus during the three and a half years of His active ministry. It commences with His identification with the saints, which took place at His baptism—"it become us to fulfil all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15), and it closes with Him reaching the right hand of God by the pathway of life. What a suffering three and a half years was His! How He felt the unbelief and sin of man! Their wilful rejection of Him and His death was ever before Him. and even His disciples were dull and "faithless"; yet this perfect Man could nevertheless say, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage." He desired nothing outside the portion given Him. He did not ask for one thing to be altered. If there was perfect and absolute confidence in God, there was also perfect satisfaction, and not even a desire for one thing to be changed.
The Lord was the true Levite. Jehovah was His portion, His inheritance, His cup, and He maintained His lot. (Ps. 16:5.) He found His all in God. He said, "All my springs are in thee." (Ps. 87:7.) How often we find our hearts elsewhere, and are thus cheated out of our true portion and what is "really life." (1 Tim. 6:19, New Trans.) How often, through indulgence in even lawful things, we miss the enjoyment of "our own things." (Luke 16:12.) May we henceforth each know more of what the perfect One knew as He passed along among men.
The Lord was grieved because of the hardness of their hearts, and at every step He met that which oppressed His heart and mind, yet He could speak of "pleasant places" and of a "goodly heritage."
How little one knows what real Christianity is! How little we have drunk in of the Spirit of Christ. How often we are anxious to change our circumstances. There was nothing of this in this perfect, heavenly Stranger.
Paul followed closely in His steps, for he could say, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." (Phil. 4:11.)
Let us ever remember that real blessing lies in subjection to the Lord, and thus we can fill the little niche where He places us. To change our circumstances is most dangerous, and may result in present and eternal loss. Do we find them irksome and unpleasant? To run away may be to miss the greatest blessing. Perhaps it is the very school needed to teach some deep and important spiritual lesson which could be learnt in no other way. The things we do not like are those used in discipline to help us heavenward.
King Hezekiah had complained, but afterwards he said, "He has spoken, and himself has done it." (Isa. 38:15-18.) When he fully realised that the Lord had brought him low for his spiritual gain he broke forth, exclaiming, "O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit." The things we naturally like often bring death and barrenness to us spiritually; while those disliked often produce exercises, and so, through them, we live—Godward. The One who loves us perfectly knows best where to place us; what to permit and order or restrain; and our wisdom is in happy subjection to His will, to accept all from His hand, and thus reap the gain He has decreed. The Lord Himself in one of His most trying moments said, "Even so, Father: for it seemed good in thy sight." (Matt. 11:26.) How one longs for such a spirit!
The Lord was a true traveller. We often wander, and so get defiled by what is morally set forth by "bones," "graves," and by going into tents where there is death. (Num. 19:13-16.) The Lord received counsel from Jehovah. His inward thoughts also instructed Him "in the night seasons." He was no "open vessel," and could not be contaminated by the evil around.
He "set Jehovah always before him." He was conscious that Jehovah was "at his right hand," and therefore He said, "I shall not be moved." There was purpose of heart with Him. His face was set in the right direction, for He "set the Lord always before him." How good to have God before one, and therefore at the "right hand."
We, too, are called to walk with God, and it is our privilege to be ever conscious that He is at our right hand. There is no failure on His side, and if we do His will, He is always at hand. (Phil. 4:5.) The apostle could say, "Nevertheless the Lord stood by me," and it was indeed a trying moment when Paul experienced this.
We now come to the last three verses, where the third leading mark is found, namely, "fulness of joy." This could for Him be found only in the presence of God! To reach this He would pass through death. Death is the judgment of God on account of sin (Gen. 2:17), and therefore it was a dreadful thing in the sight of the Lord. It was a great mercy for God to end the condition man brought in through sin; but death in itself is an awful thing; it snaps all natural ties, breaks all links with this scene, and through it man has to pass into eternity. It is, we repeat, a very great mercy, but nevertheless it is the solemn judgment of God because of sin.
Our Lord being the embodiment of all perfection, He felt all that God would have a man to feel regarding death. (John 11:33.) He was holy, a man of a different kind from Adam—One who had Jehovah at His right hand, and who could say, "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices: my flesh also shall rest in hope"!
The blessed One who walked in perfect confidence in Jehovah has unshaken confidence in view of death, which He must pass through to reach the "right hand," if He would inaugurate the path of life for us. His heart—the seat of affection—was "glad" and (what distinguished Him from all others) "rejoiced." His flesh—that which was connected with His condition as man—"rested in hope" in view of resurrection. His soul would not be left in, or to, Sheol—the place of departed spirits. Hell (or Sheol) here, in this psalm, is not the place of torment, but simply the unseen.
In Old Testament times if a person died he went into the unseen—the great beyond. Now that Christ has passed through death a saint of God who dies goes into the unseen, but it is to "be with Christ"! (Phil. 1:23.)
Our Lord's soul would not, could not, be held by the unseen world, neither could the Holy One "see corruption"! This latter clause, of course, is connected With His body. But because of what He was—the "Holy One," if He went into death He must come out, for resurrection was inherent in Him. (John 11:25; 2:19.) A perfect, heavenly, holy Man could not be held by it. Death had no claim upon Him, or germ in Him!
If a sinner, in his sins, goes into death, it is to be raised for judgment (John 5:29); but for the "Holy One" to go there must be to break its power and triumph over it!
His humanity was holy (Luke 1:35), but the thought here appears to be that His soul would not be left to Hades, nor the Holy One to see corruption, because of what He was, morally and spiritually, as Man. He was an entirely new kind of Man, whose person was impregnable against evil, a heavenly Man wholly according to God in the deep inner recesses of His moral being, and therefore could not be holden by death.
Wicked men may "appoint" to bury His body along with the bodies of the two criminals crucified with Him (Matt. 27:38), but God would not allow this insult. "Joseph of Arimathaea" (Luke 23:50-51) comes forward and reverently lays it in his own new tomb excavated in rock, for He was to be "with the rich in his death." (Isa. 53:9.) The adversaries may seal the "great stone" rolled at the mouth of the opening, and to make it more sure "set a watch," but it only demonstrated more clearly the reality that there was one Man that could not be holden by death! How blessed and wonderful are the ways and triumphs of God! He, again we repeat, because of what He was morally and spiritually, would be shown "the path of life." Resurrection replaces man upon the earth, but "the path of life" leads to where "there is fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore." He inaugurates that path. He must tread it first if others were to follow; and now, through mercy and grace, they can follow. (Ps. 16:11.)
What a Person for our hearts to feast upon! Even His enemies had to say, "Never man spake like this man"! He was the unique One, the incomparable, excellent One, who was perfection exemplified in faithfulness and grace—the One who in the grace of His Person is unchangeable, and whose company we are privileged to enjoy!
If we were in company with Him we should be formed in moral likeness to Him, and others would observe the great transforming effect. (Acts 4:13.)
We are now where He has been rejected, but the Holy Spirit is here that we may get the gain of all that has been expressed in Him, and that now shines in His adorable Person on the Father's throne—the earth-rejected, but the heaven-accepted, glorified One! Surely with delight we bow reverently and adoringly before Him, saying, "Thou art worthy."
May the Lord, in His great mercy, grant that our faces may be set in the right direction, that we may walk more with Him, so that we may take character more from Him (for we are bound to be coloured by, the object engrossing our hearts and minds), and that we may in our daily lives express increasingly the grace of His Person where He is still rejected, for His name's sake. Amen.