Antecedents to Service.

L. B. Hogg.

It has been properly remarked that the history of the book of Kings is that of man in responsibility; whilst the history of the book of Chronicles is of God's purpose. Sad though man's history had been, yet 2 Kings, strikingly closes (2 Kings 25:28), with an intimation that man will, through the mercy of God, be lifted to a seat of honour. Man's history would have ended in irrevocable judgment had God not intervened in sovereign mercy for His own glory and man's blessing.

In Chronicles we can trace God's purpose, and though man there, as ever, still fails, God continues His good pleasure by securing a remnant, see Ezra and Nehemiah, and in Malachi declaring His delight in such, and promising to them the rising of the Sun of righteousness. By Him eventually God's purpose is consummated. However, saints too, can find an honourable place in the record of God's purposes. In 1. Chronicles 4:10, we read of Jabez requesting God to bless him richly and enlarge his border. He was in accord with Eph. 3:16-19; and such prayers find a ready answer. Another bright jewel found shining amongst the apparently uninteresting genealogies of the early chapters is that in Ch. 4:21-23, which would seem to be so pleasureable to God, that He digresses to draw attention to it, and thus doubtless to instruct and encourage those who would in their day and measure serve Him acceptably.

Before mention is made of the activities to which we are directed in v. 23, the godly character of those under review is first given. This is most essential! We serve becomingly as we live becomingly! Shelah, the first named, means "peace," and assuredly all who serve commence there, whether this is taken to refer to the person and work of our Lord, as "He is our peace," and "He made and preached peace"; or, as may be more correct here, the manner of our service, as "endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Er, meaning "watcher," suggests Eph. 6:18, followed by Lechah — "addition." "The families of the house of them that wrought fine linen" reminds us of the need of righteousness in our walk, Rev. 19:8, confirming the fact that here we have practical, rather than imputed, righteousness. Jokim (Jah sets up), and Joash (Jah supports) need no interpretation in the line of purpose. Moab in Jer. 48:11 and 29, speaks of ease, pride, haughtiness. Saraph (burning-judgment) reminds us of the self-judgment needed that we may obey the word which says, "walk as wise, redeeming the time" (i.e., not at ease, idlers) "because the days are evil"; and also "walk worthy of the vocation or calling in all lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, etc., striving to keep the unity of the Spirit" (not unity merely) "in the bond of peace." These are some of the features traced for us here by God.

Before we touch the service of these men, we read, "these are ancient things." The word "ancient" means "removed." Matters relative to God's purpose are not connected with this world, being far removed from the sphere of natural man's interests. "Our citizenship is in heaven." Further, a vessel meet for the Master's use must be a purged (i.e., separated or removed) vessel. The features expressed in the names before considered are old and unchanging.

Now we come to the character of the service. "These are the potters," to fashion or form. This was true of him who in Gal. 4:19, writes "my little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you." Truly the New Testament potter at work here, as Jehovah Himself in Jer. 18:6. Then as to their abiding place, "they dwelt amongst the plantations and enclosures" (N.Tn. by J. N. D.). The plants are of the Father (c.f. Matt. 15:13), and the enclosures or folds, being plural, would speak of assemblies where are placed the called ones according to eternal purpose. Shelah and his posterity abode there, yet not alone. One is already there, "they dwelt with the king for his work." The Lord is in His assembly, He delights to be there, and such are with Him. With Him speaks of holy intimacy and companionship. Dwelling with, precedes working for. As we know Him, we are able to serve Him properly. Abiding in Him, according to John 15 assures fruitfulness. Therefore we read "with the King for His work." "I will build my assembly." His interest and activity has it in view. He both died and lives for it. The gifts bestowed by Himself are given with the object of perfecting the saints, and edifying the body of Christ. Also every part, according to its effectual working makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. May this Scripture encourage us to seek our Lord's presence, and there be fitted for His work in the plantations and enclosures. L. B. HOGG.