Rejoicing before the Lord.

(Notes of address by J. A. Trench, Galashiels, 1916).

The Pentateuch has been the constant object of attack by the higher critics and Deuteronomy has always been marked out for special criticism by them. However, it is of prime interest to observe that in the Temptation in the Wilderness, the Lord Jesus met Satan with quotations entirely from Deuteronomy. The fear inspired by the reign of Law and the trials of the wilderness was displaced by joy in Deuteronomy. No other book of Moses presents this feature. In Deut. 12, after unfolding the wonderful issue of the wilderness in the successful entrance to the Promised Land, involving their rest in the inheritance given by God, twice over Moses indicated that they were to rejoice before the Lord their God. Then subsequently on five great occasions joy was to be the prime feature which would mark the relationship with the Lord in the Land, He had given them to possess, viz.: (1) when the tithe of the increase of the Land and firstlings of the flocks were presented to Him; (2) on the feast of Weeks; (3) on the feast of Tabernacles; (4) when the basket of first fruits was presented; and (5) finally on entering the Land and setting up the altar bearing the inscription of the Law. If the heart is filled with gladness there cannot be any foothold for the enemy of souls! Obviously joy springs from possession. The deliverance effected in redemption lays the basis for the process which emerges in joy.

We are brought to the culmination of blessing at the end of the first section of eleven verses in Romans 5. After the long connected statement springing from the thought of justification, we read "We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ by whom we have now received the reconciliation" (Rom. 5:11). There could not be anything beyond that, and it is based on reconciliation to God by the death of His Son. Later we find the doctrine developed that it is in consequence of man being in Christ and new creation having taken place, that the ministry of reconciliation is effectual (2 Cor. 5:17). If it could be conceived that there should be any vacant space in the heart it will be filled by the blessed God who will get in return the joy of that heart. At first consideration the passage in Romans may appear to hinder the outburst of joy because subsequent to the rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, tribulations are introduced. We do not usually associate these with the thought of joy. Nevertheless, the Apostle said "we glory" (i.e., make our boast or rejoice) in these also because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.

We cannot but be greatly affected by the sense of deliverance gained at such infinite cost, but the difference between that and the subsequent joy is well illustrated for us in the Book of Deuteronomy. The Passover was the first great gathering of the Jewish year bringing to the people's remembrance the ground of deliverance, as well as of blessing typically in the sorrow and death of Christ. Thence joy would not be appropriate, but solemn self judgment is set forth in the unleavened bread which accompanied the celebration of the Passover. The contrast with that feast is found in Deut. 16 where the feast of Weeks and the feast of Tabernacles are brought together. The former was marked by freewill offerings unto the Lord, and the latter by the abundance of the blessing in harvest and vintage. In both feasts they were to rejoice as fitting to their typical significance.