Sin, Humiliation, Judgment
Judges 19 and 20
Grievous sin had been committed in Israel, shocking and revolting to every ear that heard it. Nor was any tribe allowed to remain ignorant of, or indifferent to this defiant challenge against the holiness of the God of Israel. It was a matter of such vital consequence as to involve the entire Nation.
But let us carefully note the matters that led up to the awful event, for it is these things that manifest the careless, unprofitable state of soul that characterised the Nation as a whole, and which are so sadly repeated in the present history of our own dispensation of the grace of God. Evil had been allowed to gradually creep in unchallenged and senses had become dulled to it, until by a sudden, shocking exposure we learn the results of the laxity that leaves the roots of evil unjudged.
1. First of all, the Levite was one particularly separated from his brethren for the service of God, a teacher and example of the people, responsible to perfect holiness in the fear of God. Yet no conscience of the people seems to raise any question as to the unholy alliance of the Levite with a concubine. What shall we say of this indifferent state of the people? Can it be that such an example was pleasing to them? And what shall we say of the questionable alliances of our own day? — not perhaps with low forms of gross evil, but with that which is respectable enough in the world's eyes, yet which compromises holiness and manifests a heart not thoroughly faithful to “one husband” — our own faithful Lord and Saviour? “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord” (Lam. 3:40).
2. However, we find the concubine adding greatly to the confusion by her sinful conduct (Judges 19:2). Do we not discern here how our own careless ways may embolden another to stoop to more serious evil? We may indeed lament it too, but how thoroughly do we judge ourselves concerning it? Would we dare to disclaim all responsibility in such matters? Such cool complacency is the sure forerunner of more solemn disclosures.
3. Let us also observe the mere friendly, gracious spirit in which the Levite recovers his concubine (v. 3). Not that we should object to grace, but where is the salt with which it should be seasoned? — the holiness so necessary in searching the poor woman's soul and restoring her in heart to the Lord by means of her own true self-judgment? This, sad to say, is painfully lacking. Indeed, we might ask, how could the Levite possibly do such vitally important work when it is evident that he himself was not a self-judged man?
4. Nor is there a shadow of encouragement in the attitude of the girl's father. Instead of showing a broken and contrite spirit as before God, and a seriously humble and quiet state of soul which in such circumstances was only becoming, he is quite indifferent to the shame of it all, and complacently covers it over with merry-making and false fellowship. The Levite too is fully subservient to this mere social vanity until he could stand it no longer (vv. 4-10). God forbid that we should ever accustom ourselves to indulging in such idle social pleasure; but how much more disgusting on an occasion of serious import! Yet this is not an uncommon thing.
5. Now in Gibeah, where there is no-one to show them hospitality, they are finally entertained by an old man, a sojourner from mount Ephraim. How much like the wicked city of Sodom this city of Israel had become! When determined wickedness raises its head, let us consider how this old man, who has settled down in the evil city, can only think of conciliation as a means of meeting the evil. He is ready to sacrifice his own daughter, thus imitating the faithless folly of Lot (vv. 22-24). But this was not within his rights. Nor is it within our rights to make any compromise whatever with evil. Still, if we are linked with it, it makes cruel demands on us, requiring that we surrender what really belongs to God. “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil” is the divine decree (Ps. 97:10). If we hated evil we would not in any way connect our name with it nor show it the least consideration. How can we dare consent to the slightest evil in order to avoid (as we hope) a greater evil? Are we so foolish as to suppose that we can subdue evil by allowing evil? But who does not discern that this is widely practiced in present day Christian profession? Where is our faith in the living God, whose power alone is able to meet the challenge of sin? What can satisfy the holiness of our Lord except our thorough separation from the evil and firm stand against it? If these are lacking, then however we may plan, compromise, and manipulate things, evil will eventually overwhelm us. What salutary, searching considerations for our souls. May they cast us truly upon God in unfeigned humiliation.
6. However, the faithless, craven Levite sacrifices his concubine to save his own neck. The evil manifests itself in all its horror, breaking out in cruel violence and moral corruption such as even in Sodom had been hindered by the angels, but in Israel is allowed to go to its awful extent of iniquity. At least, if we do not discern in the former things the low and defiled state of Israel, yet certainly none would raise a doubt as to the repulsive wickedness of this act of the men of Gibeah. It is a matter in which all that heard it were of one mind: such evil must be judged.
But is this all? It is to be feared that too often the people of God regard it so, and the prevailing feeling here is simply that of indignation against the offenders. Yet in reality how much deeper does the whole matter go. We may in fact regard it as an undeviating principle that every such shocking exposure among the people of God should bring us all to our knees in sober, real self-judgment, before ever we take part in judging the evil. Can we, for instance, wink at those things that preceded this outbreak? Could the nation Israel rightly regard itself as clear of evil when they were required to act in this solemn case? Not by any means. The sin was Israel's sin, and it manifested a corrupt internal state that also required judgment. The Nation must be brought to feel it as the guilt of the Nation, not merely of the individuals. So too, in the church of God, an occasion of such guilt is an occasion demanding the self-judgment of the church as a whole, the self-judgment of all who may have any knowledge of, or connection with it. Compare 1 Corinthians 5:2.
But a still darker complication arises (Judges 20:12-17). When the tribe of Benjamin is asked to deliver up the guilty for judgment, they ignore the demands of righteousness and take up arms to defend the wicked offenders. Such is the awful power that evil wields that complicity with it is quite unhesitating and bold. Let us not underestimate the formidable power of evil, which it has gained by being tolerated, harboured and cherished in secret over a period of years. It may lead many unwary souls with it, perhaps many unwilling to believe or investigate the actual facts. Let us take care that our sympathies are not linked with the wrong camp.
Israel must act: there is no alternative. Yet twice they are defeated, with a great loss of men. True, at first they had inquired of God as to what tribe should lead in the battle, and God had answered, “Judah,” which speaks of the spirit of praise in contrast to mere indignation. But it was not a real waiting on God for complete guidance. How serious a lesson for our own souls! The second time they weep before the Lord, and ask, “Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother?” The Lord answers, “Go up,” for there could be no altering the fact that they must judge the evil. But they lacked the consideration of “how” to go up, that is, in what spirit, and with what resources. Hence, when beaten the second time, their weeping now is attended by fasting and offering burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord (vv. 26-28).
There is nothing like a humble, proper appreciation of the offering of the Lord Jesus Christ to give us a right perspective of what evil is, and to enable us to judge it rightly as before God. The burnt offering reminds us that the glory of God was supremely involved in this matter, glory which can only be rightly vindicated by the sacrifice of the holy Lamb of God. The peace offering speaks of communion with God and with one another, which had been so rudely violated, and which is secured only by the same blessed sacrifice of Christ. Why do we forget this most vital of all touchstones when faced with matters of so great consequence? This is God's resource for meeting evil, and we must seek grace to share God's thoughts if we are to know the victory which He gives “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Along with this the fasting would speak of the simple, real judgment of the flesh in ourselves, which is only properly accomplished as we view ourselves in the light of the death of our Lord. Self-confidence invariably forgets such resources, and will invariably fail. May we turn from our pride and cling to Him whose grace and power are blessedly manifested at Calvary: He cannot be supplicated in vain.
Yet the solemn work of judgment must be finished. Evil is determined to fight to the end and before Benjamin is subdued thousands have fallen, both in the guilty tribe, and in Israel. Terrible was the cost of securing righteousness, but it must be done. Can we dare to be less firm with manifested evil today, under the specious plea of how many may be adversely affected by a definite, unequivocal stand against wickedness and complicity with wickedness? True indeed that God will require of us a chastened, broken spirit in dealing with it, and specially since our own low state of soul, our careless indifference, is all too sadly involved, but God's glory is far more important than the outward peace of His people. If we are broken for a reason of this kind, it is evident we need to be broken.
Again, however, let us press the fact that this was no mere isolated case of evil, but one which revealed the downward trend of the nation Israel. God would have the conscience of all the Nation in exercise, not merely to judge the grossly guilty, but to judge the deep roots of evil in their own hearts. No mere angry retribution is allowed, and before judgment they must be made to feel the reality of their own link with the evil, in speaking to God of “Benjamin my brother.”
Shall we not today seek grace from our holy Lord and Saviour to let these things burn into our hearts, that we may be fully with God both in the stand we take, and the becoming spirit of humiliation with which we take it?
L. M. Grant.
The Life of David (10)
David's Influence in the New Testament
(Continued from page 29)
Having looked at many references to David in the Old Testament, not by any means every reference, it is interesting to see that his influence was not exhausted in that portion of God's Word. The New Testament has rich and instructive references to David and not surprisingly mainly in connection with the Lord Jesus, his great and glorious Son.
The New Testament, as translated in our excellent Authorised Version, commences with the statement, “Book of the generation of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham” and closes with the Lord Jesus saying “I Jesus … I am the root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star” (Matt. 1:1; Rev. 22:16). David's chief honour is not that he was the warrior king of Israel, or the sweet Psalmist. His honoured and dignified place as witnessed by these quotations from the New Testament stems from his association with Jesus, God's King and Son.
The genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1:1-17 establishes indisputably the fact that He is the true Son of David. There are many interesting and solemn features connected with the genealogy, but its main interest for our study is that it shows the descent from David the king (v. 6), to Joseph the son of David (vv. 16 and 20), and thence to Jesus Christ. The King has arrived as a little Babe and the Spirit of God in accurate and legal precision shows that the Babe is none other than the promised Seed of David (Isa. 9:6-7 and Isa. 11:1-10). Long centuries have elapsed since God made a covenant with David, a covenant which could not possibly be fulfilled in a mortal failing man, but the One has arrived in whom God's purposes and covenant with David will eventually be fulfilled (2 Sam. 7). David is long since dead but his name is to be perpetuated in Jesus Christ, the Son of David. Note how the oft repeated term “begat” is dropped in verse 16 and is substituted with “of whom.” The change is to show that Jesus was not born of human generation. He was conceived in Mary's womb by the power of the Holy Spirit of God (vv. 18-23).
Chapters 8 and 9 of the Gospel by Matthew display the powers of the kingdom exercised by Jesus the King, the Son of David. Death, disease and demons had to bow before His omnipotent power. David the king of Israel could subdue Philistines, Amonites, Moabites and rebels of his own nation but he was powerless to deal with death, disease and demons. The power of Jesus was infinitely greater than the power of David and brought blessing and comfort into the lives of afflicted people. Well might we sing “Wondrous heart and healing hand.” Two blind men pleaded for mercy from the Son of David and obtained it. This was a partial fulfilment of Isaiah 35:5 and Psalm 146:8. The passage in Isaiah 35 anticipates the universal sway of the Messiah, the Son of David. The land of Israel particularly will redound with the fame of the power of Jehovah exhibited in the Messiah. But that time had not yet arrived. Jesus did not seek public acclaim. Well He knew the dark days that were before Him. The cross at Golgotha would show how unreliable was public acclamation. Until the appropriate time arrived for the display of the Kingdom for a thousand years the Son of David continued in His humble but powerful witness as to who He was. For references to a similar though later act of healing by the Son of David see Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52 and Luke 18:35-43. There are some differences in these accounts when compared with Matthew 9:27-31, but they are substantially the same.
Have ye Not Read what David Did? Matthew 12:1-8
The reference to, “At that time,” at the beginning of Matthew 12 is significant. It was a time of indifference toward the ministry of Jesus. It was a time of His rejection. In the previous chapter the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum had shown callous indifference to His wonderful works of power. Consequently Jesus pronounced the dire punishment that awaited them in the future. Disappointed but not dismayed, He referred the matter to His Father and thanked Him for the ongoing blessing to others. In chapter 10:5-6 Jesus instructed His disciples to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but now He issues an invitation to all. The King was rejected by His subjects so He widens the sphere of invitation for all to come to Him for relief and blessing. It is in this context that Jesus challenged the Pharisees with the statement, “Have ye not read what David did when he was hungry, and they that were with him?” David, the anointed of God and the lawful king of Israel, was in rejection because of the hatred and opposition of Saul, the deposed king of Israel. David and his men went to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest, and obtained from him the shewbread to satisfy their hunger. Strictly speaking they ought not to have eaten it as it was the food for the priests, but the kingdom was in disorder and the king in rejection. The disorderly circumstances warranted the irregular conduct. (1 Sam. 21:1-6). The Lord used that incident involving David to counter the criticism of the Pharisees. They attempted to enforce their Sabbatical laws ignoring the fact that the Nation was in a state of disorder. The Romans were the masters of the country, proof of the Nation's unfaithfulness, and what was yet more solemn, the King was treated with indifference and rejection. It wasn't wrong for the disciples to satisfy their hunger. David had done that for his followers. It was a powerful rebuttal of the religionists and they had no answer to it. Little did David realise that when he asked for the shewbread for himself and his followers, the Messiah, about eleven centuries after, would commend his action and use it to justify the action of His disciples. Praise God that at the Judgment Seat of Christ every man and woman who is faithful to God shall have praise from God. They perhaps forgot what they did for God but God never forgets what is done for His interests (1 Chr. 4:5; Heb. 6:10).
Is this Man the Son of David? Matthew 12:23-32
From the Old Testament Scriptures the godly Israelite had his hope centred in the coming of the Son of David. Ezekiel 34 and 37 promised Him as Shepherd and King. Isaiah 11 looked forward to a reign of blessing and justice, and specifically Isaiah 35:5 stated that the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. When a crowd of people saw with great amazement the Lord Jesus healing a blind and dumb man possessed with a demon they exclaimed, “Is this man the Son of David?” The evidence before their eyes answered their question. Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the promised Son of David. But how blind were the proud Pharisees. Because of their blindness they committed a terrible sin. They attributed to Satan the power that Jesus exercised in healing the stricken man. The kingdom power was in expression before their eyes but they had no faith to perceive this. Envy and animosity are blinding features. Satan's power had been curtailed and his captive delivered from his grasp by the Lord Jesus. The Pharisees were powerless to help the poor man but they were ready to slander the One who had healed him. Mark 3:30 shows how evil was their allegation. They claimed that Jesus had an unclean spirit. How awful! The Holy Son of God, anointed and sealed with the Holy Spirit, having an unclean spirit? Unthinkable! The humble Son of David could forgive, as the son of Jesse had often done, but to speak injuriously against the Holy Spirit was a sin of unpardonable gravity. It was blasphemy of the worst possible kind (See Hebrews 10:29 — insulting the Spirit of grace). The totally unjust charge was another feature in the accumulating guilt of the Jewish leaders. That guilt finally brought upon the Nation God's just government and wrath after Jesus was crucified. Israel's moral condition was illustrated in the condition of the demon possessed man. Satan's power had produced blindness (unable to perceive their Messiah) and dumbness (unable to respond to God in praise and thanksgiving) Is this man the Son of David? The answer is a resounding “Yes.”
A Gentile Woman and her Daughter Blessed by
the Son of David. Matthew 15:21-28
How stern and distant the Lord Jesus appeared to be when a Gentile woman appealed to Him as “Lord, Son of David.” She appealed to the Lord to heal her demon possessed daughter. Jesus never answered her. He acted as if He had not heard her plea for help. That was strange behaviour by the most accessible of men, the Man Christ Jesus. Was He hard and unfeeling? No! He was most kind and compassionate and ever ready to help those in need. Why was He silent? The cause was her mode of address to Him. She and her daughter as Gentiles had no claim upon the Son of David. Her persistent cries for help upset the disciples and they requested that Jesus dismiss her from them. Jesus, according to the prophecy concerning Him, (Matt. 2:6), replied to His disciples that His mission was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Persisting, the woman came to Him and bowing to Him cried simply, “Lord, help me.” Surely the Lord would respond to that simple but earnest prayer? But He didn't, and indicated to the woman that she had no claim on the blessing that belonged to the children of Israel. “Quite so,” she replied, “but dogs get crumbs from their masters tables,” which meant, “I know I have no claim to the blessing that belongs to Israel but I and my daughter are needy creatures. I make a claim on Thy mercy” (See Matt. 12:21 and Rom. 15:9). Such an appeal could not be refused and the woman's great faith was rewarded with the healing of her daughter. Jesus the Son of God revealed Himself as a true Son of David.
David the son of Jesse had many Gentiles in his army. There was Zelek the Ammonite, Uriah the Hittite, Jithmah the Moabite and Ahimelech the Hittite (1 Chr. 11:39, 41, 46; 1 Sam. 26:6). There were also six hundred Gittites (from Gath in Philistia) led by Ittai the Gittite (2 Sam. 15:18-22). David reminded Ittai that he was a foreigner and advised him to return to Absalom. Ittai point blank refused and expressed his loyalty and allegiance to David. Eventually, David rewarded Ittai for his faithfulness and made him a commander over a third of his army (2 Sam. 18:2).
There is a certain analogy between the stories in Matthew 15 and 2 Samuel. David was rejected by many in Israel and Jesus was rejected by many in Israel. Ittai was a foreigner and the woman and her daughter were Gentiles. David didn't encourage Ittai and Jesus didn't encourage the woman. Ittai was persistent and the woman was persistent. Ittai's loyalty was rewarded and the woman's faith was rewarded.
The blessing of the Gentile woman and her daughter ante-dated the time when Jew and Gentile, without any national distinction, would be blessed in one body in Christ (Eph. 2:15-19. See also John 10:16).
(To be continued, if the Lord will)
Tabernacle, Not Made With Hands (2)
“A greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands … ” (Hebrews 9:11)
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands … ” (Hebrews 9:24)
(Continued from page 35)
“He entered in once”
It is by virtue of His own blood that Christ has entered into the Holiest of all. He has gone in permanently. When Aaron entered the Holiest of all in the tabernacle in the wilderness it was on a temporary basis, and only once a year did it take place. The expression “by His own blood” is significant. In verse 25 reference is again made to the day of atonement which was year by year. Referring to the required offerings of that day it says “with blood of others.” There was no permanence connected with those offerings. How beautiful to contrast these with “His own blood” by which He has entered in “once,” never to be repeated. Added to this is the obtaining of an “eternal redemption.” There was no thought in the Old Testament of an eternal redemption. It is only by the Lord's death that this has been effected. There is therefore a setting aside now of the inadequate offerings of the Old Testament times.
One of the most striking verses in the whole of the Epistle to the Hebrews is verse 14 of our chapter: “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” The first thing to take our attention is the involvement of all three Persons of the Godhead.
(a) The blood of Christ.
(b) The Eternal Spirit.
(c) The Living God.
We have already commented upon the blood of Christ as obtaining an eternal redemption. In the Old Testament offerings there was always the distinction between the offerer and the offering. But here is shown the perfection of His sacrifice, in that He “offered Himself without spot to God.” The priests who offered were failing men and the offerings themselves were inadequate. With regard to Christ's offering, how perfect it was! It was “without spot.” In all His life there was no flaw. As we often meditate upon that perfect pathway we are reminded of the meal offering described in Leviticus 2. It was of fine flour, mingled with oil and anointed with oil. Frankincense was put thereon which was all burnt, speaking of that which ascended to God as a sweet savour. There was to be no leaven in the meal offering. No taint of sin was found in Him. The offering of Himself tells of His devotion and obedience to God to the end.
We have already noticed that the very best that could have been secured by the sacrifices under Judaism only brought about, “the purifying of the flesh.” But in this verse we are dealing with the result of the Lord's sacrifice which is so much greater: “How much more shall the blood of Christ … purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” The offering of Himself “to God” may suggest the work of Christ as it is presented in the burnt offering, that is, for God's pleasure. We ourselves having a purged conscience and sin having been fully dealt with once for all, point to the work of Christ as the sin offering. In the light of this perfect offering, works must be seen as dead works. Perfect liberty is now ours to serve the living God; serve here meaning worship. The Holy Spirit being referred to as the “Eternal Spirit” emphasises the unchangeable and abiding results of the finished work of Christ.
Into Heaven Itself (Hebrews 9:24-28)
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (v. 24). Of the three appearings referred to in this section, the first is His appearing in the presence of God for us, that is, “heaven itself.” This place is in contrast to the “holy places made with hands” that are now set to one side.
Looking at all three appearings, we see that these are past (v. 26), present (v. 24), and future (v. 28). If we had been writing we would have commented upon them in this order. However, the apostle as being inspired by the Holy Spirit gives first place to His present appearing. It is obvious that this is pre-eminent. It is a signal truth, belonging to our day, that Christ has entered heaven itself permanently as man.
Christ Our Representative Before God
“Now to appear in the presence of God for us.” The two words “for us” assure us of His place as our representative before God. In Exodus 28 a full account is given of the garments of Aaron, the High Priest. Upon each shoulder of the ephod there was an onyx stone. Upon each stone six of the names of the children of Israel were engraved: all twelve names were upon his shoulders. “And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord upon his two shoulders for a memorial” (Ex. 28:12). The shoulders speak of strength. They speak of Christ's ability to represent us in God's presence, maintaining us there in a perfect acceptance.
There was also a breastplate in which were set twelve different precious stones, and the breastplate was securely attached to the ephod. “And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes” (Exodus 28:21). These types from the Old Testament serve us well as illustrating the meaning of the expression “for us.” The breastplate speaks of the love of Christ. We cannot refrain from another quotation from this wonderful chapter: “And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually” (Exodus 28:29). There is no doubt as to our acceptance before God, neither is there any diminishing of His strength and love toward us. Notice the words, “upon his heart.” We are continually and always there.
Christ's Past Appearing
“But now once in the end of the world (age) hath He appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26). When the ages had run their course the Great Redeemer appeared. None other could take up this momentous task. To “put sin away” points to the Lord's work as making “propitiation.” The day of atonement again comes to mind. On that day the blood of the bullock and the blood of the goat were taken into the Holiest of all and sprinkled upon the mercy seat once, and seven times before the mercy seat. In type this points to the Lord's work as a propitiation by which God has been glorified and His justice vindicated. It is in virtue of His blood and its value to God that sin has been put away. Indeed, such is its value that ere long all taint of sin will be put away for ever.
In verse 28 of Hebrews 9 another reference is made to the Lord's offering, conveying to us the thought of substitution. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” It is not a matter here of the putting away of sin but of bearing “the sins of many.” On that same day of atonement, described in Leviticus 16, the blood was taken within the veil into the Holiest of all. Then followed that which typified the substitutionary aspect of the Lord's death. “And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness” (See Leviticus 16:1-21). What a beautiful illustration this is of Him who “bear the sins of many.” This aspect of the Lord's death refers to those who have availed themselves of His offering and know that their sins have been forgiven. In both verses in Hebrews 9, verses 26 and 28, the word “once” is emphasised, cancelling out the Old Testament offerings.
Christ's Future Appearing
There is a third mention of the English word “appearing” and in this case it is future. “And unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation” (v. 28). Writing to converted Jews, there may very well be an allusion to the time when the Lord Jesus will appear to the remnant of Israel. It is of interest to note that the Greek word here translated “appear” is different from the other two. The actual word is “optomai” and is that from which we get our English word “optics.” He is coming to be seen. And it is to them that look for Him that He will appear. There is a reminder here of Zechariah 12:10: “and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced.” Whether this is the correct explanation or not, we should all be looking. This is not the rapture but His appearing when He will be seen by all. Everyone of us should “love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).
Psalm 119 (13)
(Continued from page 64)
10. YOD — HAND
In Phoenician and Samaritan writing as well as on the coins of the Maccabees this letter presents the figure of a hand rudely drawn. In the Aethiopic language it has the name of “yaman” (i.e. “right hand”). In Hebrew it is called “yod,” from the Hebrew word “yad” which means “hand.” This is seen in the shape of the letter which looks like a hand pointing from right to left. Similarly, the Hebrew language is written from right to left.
“Yod” is also the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, like our English “i.” In the Greek the letter jota (which is printed the same way as the English “i” except it has no dot), is also the smallest letter.
Do we not have an important lesson here? Man is so very insignificant in spite of all his boastfulness. Nevertheless, with his ten fingers on his hands, and his ten toes on his feet, he is responsible to God. We have then the idea of responsibility in this letter, the numerical value of which is ten.
We all remember what the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 5:18: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” The Lord was referring to the letter “yod” of the Hebrew alphabet, which in the Greek “jota” is spelt with a “t.” It therefore becomes “jot.” The letter “jod” is spelt in Hebrew simply “jd.” Thus the letter is made up, written from right to left, “daleth-jod.” We have already learned that “daleth” means “door.” So the two letters together spell this thought: a hand is pointing to the door. The Lord Jesus is the Door into salvation for poor sinners.
The tittle is seen in the Hebrew letter “beth,” which means “house.” Under that letter I pointed out that the letter has a foundation line which protrudes a little and this looks like a little edge. This little edge is called the tittle, and it is this which keeps the house from being swamped. Taking all this together we get this message: The Father's house will never pass away, it stands firm and is superior to whatever man tries to achieve.
Verses 73-96. Spiritual Maturity through Daily Meditation*
Section Ten.* Verses 73-80: “The Word of God Shows Me My Responsibility”
No evolution but creation!
Verse 73: YAH-DAK … “Thy hands … ”
In Isaiah 43:6-7 we read the following: “bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by My name; for I have created him for My glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” It is clear from this that the Bible teaches creation, not evolution.
a. As to our spirit God says: I have created him.
b. As to our body God says: I have formed him.
c. As to our soul God says: I have made him.
Job adds to this: “Thine hands have made me, and fashioned me together round about; yet Thou dost destroy me” (Job 10:8). Let God be true, and every men a liar. Let me study the circulatory system, plasma, the nervous system, the brain, the eye or any other part of the body … “give me understanding … ,” and I will know that God created me, and that I am a responsible intelligent human being answerable to Him.
Those who are genuine
Verse 74: YAHREHK … “They who fear Thee (reverence) … ”
Here we have the encouraging influence coming from a tried but steadfast believer. Others can see how he has come through trials,
The three previous articles in this series should each have included the general heading: “Our Immense Spiritual Riches.” The article on the letter Zain was section seven; that on the letter Cheth was section eight and the last article on the letter Teth was section nine. We apologise for these omissions. The main headings and sub-headings being used are set out in pages 89-90 of Volume 2.
and perhaps intellectual doubts and he becomes to them a source of gladness.
The apostle Paul speaks of this in Philippians 1:14: “And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” They had seen how Paul could rejoice in the midst of persecution and trial, and how he had hoped in the Word of the Lord. How do others see you and me? What kind of an example or influence are we in our surroundings? Whether we are conscious of it or not we are an influence for good or for bad. We are therefore forcibly reminded of our individual responsibility to be a help and blessing and not a hindrance. If we are genuine and sensitive to the Holy Spirit's guidance, we shall be an encouragement to many.
We must be positive
Verse 75: YAHDAGT … “I know (perceive, am aware) … ”
Speaking about being an influence for good in our surroundings, here we have it expressed more precisely in the way I have headed this verse — we must be positive!
Negative influences are destructive and a hindrance to the progress of the saints. First we must be positive in our attitude towards the Lord and the ways in which He deals with us: “Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” How emphatic the writer is: “I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right … ” What He decides is for our good! Once we are sure that His way is best for us, we accept it and can be happy in it. Think of Paul again in prison writing to the Philippians (Phil. 1:14). Satan is baffled by such believers! He cannot handle that kind of attitude!
Now follow five “let's”
1. Let His kindness enfold you
Verse 76: YAHINI … “Let be I beg Thee, Thy mercy … ”
The Lord gives grace, and helps in time of need. When we need strength and enabling for the tasks He gives us, His grace is abundant. However, should we fail or come short, then His mercy is there to lift us up. He restores and sets us upon our feet and encourages us to start again!
Like the Psalmist we can pray this prayer: “Please let Thy mercy be for my comfort … ” (literal rendering). We are so vulnerable, so frail, so weak, so insignificant, but He knows our frailty! That is why we need Him to enfold us in His arms. What comfort to a little child it is to be enfolded in his mother's arms when he has fallen.
2. Let His mercy comfort you
Verse 77: YABOHNI … “Let come to me (Thy mercies) … ”
Here a Visitor is invited who is expected to bring what we so desperately need at the moment. There has been failure. I have failed in my responsibility. I am conscious of defeat and am discouraged. I hesitate to come to Him, but He is already “on the way” to me to lift me up and comfort me.
Notice He brings tender mercies! Let me quote the words of a saint (G. Horne): “The mercies of God are “tender mercies;” they are the mercies of a father to his children, nay, tender as the compassion of a mother over the son of her womb. They “come unto” us, when we are not able to go to them. By them alone we live the life of faith, of love, of joy and gladness. And to such as delight in His law, God will grant these mercies, and this life; He will give them pardon, and, by so doing, He will give them “life from the dead.”
3. Let Him keep me humble
Verse 78: YABOHSHU … “Let be ashamed (the proud) … ”
Let me repeat this question once more: What kind of people are we? What kind of impression do we give to others? What kind of influence do we spread around us? Positive? Are we like the Lord Jesus? Or are we rather superior, rather haughty, rather obnoxious? Do we give others cause to oppose us in any way?
The Lord Jesus Christ could say: “They hated Me without a cause” (Ps. 35:19; Ps. 69:4; John 15:25). How then could those “proud” who deal perversely, be made “ashamed”? Surely, when they find no real reason to criticise or condemn us for anything inconsistent, or anything repugnant in our lives? When they see our good works they must give glory to God! “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
4. Let His winsomeness clothe me
Verse 79: YESHEEVLI … “Let turn to me (fearers of Thee) … ”
This certainly is a Christ-honouring prayer! We do not seek to attract people to ourselves but to our Lord Jesus. But our lives must therefore be winsome. This winsomeness is what the early Christians displayed at Jerusalem: they had “favour with all the people” (Acts 2:47).
There are believers whose lives are upright, whose doctrine is absolutely correct and transparent like ice, but sometimes unfortunately just as cold. It is a cold kind of correctness and there is very little that is warm or attractive about them. Not so these Spirit-filled believers at Jerusalem. We are responsible to proclaim Christ by our lips and by our lives. He should be manifested in our lives and that is what makes others who fear Him turn to us and walk in fellowship with us.
5. Let my heart be true
Verse 80: YAHI … “Let (my heart be blameless) … ”
This seems to be the key verse of this section. What a prayer this is! Here is the literal rendering: “Let my heart be blameless in Thy statutes so that I may not be ashamed.” There are the “perverse” in verse 78, yet might there not be a measure of hypocrisy in any one of us? Pretending to be so pious and spiritual on the outside yet not totally yielded to the Lord Jesus? It is only when the Holy Spirit fills and directs and guides us that we shall be kept blameless. Then we shall not be ashamed before our own consciences, before the world's scrutiny, or ashamed in a coming day before the judgment seat of Christ.
If the Lord will, the next part of the series on Laodicea will appear in the next issue
“The Sermon on the Mount” (11)
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16)
One of the two characteristics of true disciples of the Lord in Matthew 5:13-16 is light: “Ye are the light of the world.” In our daily lives we are so dependent on light that everyone will understand the meaning and the importance of this expression. Light is synonymous with brightness and clarity, with seeing and recognising, but also with warmth and life. Think only of the source of light on which all the life on our planet depends, the sun. Without this light everything would be dark, cold and dead.
God is light
In the Bible, light is often mentioned in connection with God. We read in Psalm 36:9: “in Thy light shall we see light,” but when the Lord Jesus was teaching His disciples in Matthew chapters 5-7, the simple but striking words: “God is light,” were not yet known. John, one of the disciples, would write them decades later (1 John 1:5). The nature of God cannot be described in a shorter or clearer way. That God also dwells “in the light which no man can approach” emphasises His absolute purity, holiness and glory even more (1 Tim. 6:16). God's light is a wonderful light. It is a light that brings life. In contrast, darkness in the New Testament always characterises sin and distance from God.
When the Lord Jesus said to His disciples: “Ye are the light of the world,” He Himself was still the true light here. The eternal Son of God, the effulgence of His glory and the expression of His substance, had come into the world as the light in order to reveal God (cf. John 1:4-9; John 8:12; John 9:5; John 12:46).
Everyone who accepts Him in faith is now brought out of darkness into God's marvellous light. Furthermore, instead of darkness, he is now light in the Lord (1 Peter 2:9; Eph. 5:8).
Ye are the light
The depth of the meaning of the word “light” was certainly not yet known to the disciples when the Lord said to them: “Ye are the light of the world,” but they could understand that He meant their testimony in the world. While salt works invisibly and internally, light is visible afar off.
“A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” Whether an enemy was planning an attack or a traveller was seeking accommodation, a city on a hill in Israel would be visible for everyone — during the day by the bright shining of its white walls and buildings, and by night by the lights of the houses. Thus the walk of the disciples of the Lord ought to be a light in this world, seen by everyone.
“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” The relatively small oil-lamps of ancient times, thousands of which have been found in the rubble of excavation sites, could only give poor light. Therefore they were, individually or in groups, put on a lamp-stand which was either suspended from the ceiling, fixed to the wall, or stood on the floor. The candlestick of the tabernacle, which had seven branches, was one of those lamp-stands. In this way the best possible distribution of light was effected.
How absurd it would have been to put such a light under a bushel, i.e. to hide it! A bushel was a vessel of approximately 2 gallons capacity used to measure corn. If one had put it over a lamp it would not only have hidden the small flame and thus made it ineffective, but would, in the long run, also have smothered it.
In Mark 4:21 the Lord Jesus mentions, besides the bushel, also the bed. Both would hinder the shining out of the light. Does not this contain a two-fold warning — on the one hand of business (the light under the bushel) and on the other of laziness and sleep (the light under the bed)?
Let your light shine
Like the city on the hill, the light should be visible to everyone. “Let your light so shine before men.” This light is the disciple's confession of his Lord. By this it becomes evident to whom he belongs. Let us therefore confess Christ everywhere and in all circumstances. When we go out to a restaurant, do we confess by giving thanks before the meal without embarrassment, that we belong to Him, even if those at other tables continue their conversations loudly or show their disdain? Sometimes unbelievers ask for our opinions regarding worldly entertainments like the cinema, theatre or discotheque, or on topics such as homosexuality, relationships outside marriage or abortion. Do we then confess the Lord, or do we give evasive answers?
Are we friendly, helpful, peaceable and righteous in our dealings with colleagues, neighbours and other people? In this way we can let our light shine before men. “Do all things without murmurings and reasonings, that ye may be harmless and simple, irreproachable children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverted generation; among whom ye appear as lights (heavenly lights) in the world, holding forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:14-15 J.N.D. Trans.). To let our light shine means that as well as our spoken testimony for our Lord in the world, our new nature and our position as children of God are expressed by our behaviour.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” The Lord Jesus does not speak in these verses of the preaching of the gospel for the salvation of the lost. The entire “sermon on the mount” does not deal with this, but with the Christ-like walk of the disciples of the Lord. Although the people of this world are mentioned frequently, it is not the purpose of the “sermon on the mount” that they may receive blessing or be led to the Lord, but that the character of the Kingdom of God may be expressed in His disciples.
Here, the good works are the fruit of the working of divine light in the soul. If we let our light shine, good works will also be connected with it. But they are not the focus of our attention here. In this world many good works are being done by different individuals and groups. For example, the Red Cross and other organisations providing humanitarian aid have, especially recently, been able to do much good to needy people. If we as children of God purpose to do such good works, we are not necessarily a testimony to our Lord. He wants us to be a testimony to Him. Therefore He does not exhort us here to do good works, but to let our light shine. We should not think of “our” works, but of Him. Good works will then be the result. The apostle Paul speaks of the fruit of the light which is in all goodness, righteousness and truth (Eph. 5:9).
“ … And glorify your Father which is in heaven.” If good works bear the character of heavenly, divine light, then people will not say, “What a good person this is,” but rather they may be led to glorify God. If the light shines, the actions will be seen as in connection with this light.
This is the first time in the New Testament that God is called “your Father.” The Name “Father,” standing for God, occurs also in the Old Testament but it does not refer to the personal relationship of an Israelite to God. Jehovah was the Father and Israel, the nation, was the son (cf. Ex. 4:23; Deut. 32:6; Isa. 63:16).
Only when the Son of God came to this earth to reveal the Father could believers be brought into this wonderful relationship of children and receive the spirit of adoption by which they cry: “Abba, Father.” For this it was necessary that the Lord should die and rise again. After His resurrection he gave Mary Magdalene the wonderful message: “but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God” (John 20:17). This was, at the time of the “sermon on the mount,” yet future. Nevertheless, the Lord speaks to the disciples already of “your Father which is in heaven,” although they knew neither the basis of this new relationship — the work of Christ — nor its intimacy and power through the Holy Spirit.
The Sonship of Christ (3)
(Continued from page 43)
The Sonship of Christ and Christianity
The Gospels by Matthew, Mark and Luke are largely occupied with the ministry of the Lord Jesus outside of Jerusalem and Judaea. They record the animosity of the religious leaders toward Him and also trace out the stages in His rejection by the common people. As this rejection becomes more and more apparent a new work comes into view. If He is rejected as the Christ it is upon Him as the Son of God1 (see footnote on page opposite) that this new work is founded. In answering the Lord's question, “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter confesses, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee … upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:15-18). John's Gospel is more concerned with events in Jerusalem and Judaea. In this centre of Judaism He is rejected from the outset and we are occupied with this new work from the beginning (John 2:18-21; John 3:14-16; John 4:23-24; John 5:23-25; John 6:53-57; John 7:37-39 etc.). We might well call John's Gospel the Gospel of Christianity.
John's Gospel was written that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, we might have life through His Name (John 20:31). Eternal life is connected with the knowledge of God, who is made known to us as the Father by the Son (John 17:3; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 5:11). This revelation of God is brought before us in John's Gospel chapter 1 where we read that “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” (John 1:18). This verse shows that there are Divine Persons within the Godhead and that these Divine Persons are in relationship with one another: they are Father and Son. Furthermore, this relationship is shown to be a relationship of love. The only begotten Son is in the bosom of the Father. This is how God is declared to us. It is not what God became, but what He has always been. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned here because it is objective revelation. He works in our hearts to give the capacity to receive the revelation (John 3:5-8). The revelation itself is of God the Father by the Son.
This revelation is at the very heart of the gospel. God is “in the light” (1 John 1:7). He no longer dwells in the thick darkness which concealed Him before Christ came (Ex. 19:9, J.N.D. Trans.; 1 Kings 8:12; Ps. 97:2). It is in this light that our sin is exposed. There is at the same time the manifestation of all that can be known about God, and the manifestation of the truth about ourselves. Yet God is revealed as One who loves us and who provides for the need which He shows to exist. The Father sends the Son to be the Saviour of the world. (1 John 4:14). It was in this that the love of God toward us was manifested, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9). And when expressing the love of God to the world it is not said that God gave the Son of man, but that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:14-15). He gave the One who was the eternal and always worthy object of His love and delight.
1In the parallel passages in Mark 8:27-9:1 and Luke 9:18-27 He is confessed as “the Christ,” but there is no reference to His being the Son of God or to the building of the assembly
Those that believe on the Son have eternal life. They receive it when they receive Him, for “He that hath the Son, hath life; and He that hath not the Son of God, hath not life” (1 John 5:12). He is “that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1:2).
Just as the initial receiving of eternal life is bound up with the receiving of the Son, so growth in the divine nature is connected with the knowledge2 of the Son. In 1 John 2 it is this that marks the fathers, those who are spiritually mature. They know the Son, the One who is “from the beginning” (1 John 2:13-14). The gifts given by an ascended Christ have the same end in view: “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect (full-grown) man” (Eph. 4:13). There can be no advance from this knowledge, as the two references in 1 John 2 show (Verses 13 & 14). It is knowledge that is gained as we keep company with Him. Like the disciples of old we can see where He abides (in the Father's bosom), and abide with Him (John 1:38-39). We can contemplate His glory, “a glory as of an only begotten with a father” (John 1:14 — J.N.D. Trans.).
2In Matthew 11:27 we read, “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.” The Greek word for “knoweth” is the same in both places (epiginõsko). Since the Father, who is not incarnate, can be known by those to whom the Son reveals Him, it does not seem that the Lord is here referring to the impossibility of the creature comprehending God (1 Tim. 6:16). Rather, it is the incarnate Son who cannot be comprehended — it is impossible for us to understand how Deity and Humanity can be united in His Person. This is a great mystery (1 Tim. 3:16). Such verses as these should not be used to deny or oppose what is revealed (Matt. 16:16-17). The same word (epignõsis) is used in Ephesians 4:13, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”
These and other verses show that the Sonship of Christ has a vital bearing upon everyday Christian living. It is certainly not an abstruse point of doctrine with which we need not concern ourselves. This is also seen in Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” The law did not give life and because of what we are according to the flesh, it was really a ministry of death and condemnation (2 Cor. 3:7, 9). It set no object before the soul, apart from the obedience which it required, and it imparted no power in order that that obedience might be rendered. The verse here in Galatians 2 shows that these three things are connected with the Son of God. Paul had received Christ, the Son, and life in Him. And the Son of God was the constant and sustaining object of his faith. The love of the Eternal Son of God was set on him, and Paul had a deep, present, consciousness of it. He had given Himself for Paul and having Him before his soul he was furnished with the power that enabled him to live such a victorious and exemplary Christian life.
The One who came from heaven and gave Himself for Paul and for every believer, is coming again. The life of faith will then be at an end. Are we waiting for His coming? The believers at Thessalonica had “turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God; And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:9-10). Is there not a parallel between this verse and Galatians 2:20? The other references to the second coming in this epistle all speak about the “Lord Jesus Christ” or “the Lord” (1 Thess. 2:19; 1 Thess. 3:13; 1 Thess. 4:15; 1 Thess. 5:23). He has absolute authority and we are accountable to Him, but the reference in the first chapter seems to lay particular stress upon the Person who is coming. The love of the Son for them was such that there was no question of their being left in the world when the day of the Lord should be present (2 Thess. 2:2, J.N.D. Trans.). He had delivered them from that coming wrath. Having Him as their object and hope, the One in whom the love of God and of the Father had been so perfectly manifested, they were kept in peace. We know from the second epistle that it was this hope that the enemy sought to shake, but Scripture clearly teaches that the saints will be caught away from the world before the hour of trial comes upon it (1 Thess. 4:16-17; 1 Thess. 5:2-5; 2 Thess. 2:1-8; Rev. 3:10).
In his epistles John shows a similar concern for those who were in danger of being deceived. It was not deception connected with wrong teaching about the timing of the day of the Lord, but what is even more serious, deception flowing from wrong teaching about the Person of Christ. Does not the apostle John insist upon the vital nature of the doctrine of Christ? In his first epistle he especially warns the little children. “Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: but he that acknowledgeth the Son, hath the Father also. Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father” (1 John 2:22-24). In these verses we have again the same elements that we have seen before. He is the Christ, the Son of God and of the Father. Like the Thessalonian believers, the little children that John addressed knew that Antichrist was coming (1 John 2:18a) but he warns them that, “even now are there many antichrists” (1 John 2:18b). What constituted them antichrists was the denial of the truth as to Christ's Person. They professed themselves to be Christians while at the same time denying the revelation of the Eternal God that has come to us in the Son. The safeguard of the little children was to abide in the teaching of the apostle's concerning Him. They were to receive no new, no novel teaching about the Person of Christ. The Unction (the Holy Spirit) which they had from the Holy One (the Lord Jesus) would enable them to continue in the Son and in the Father (1 John 2:20, 24).
In his second Epistle John writes to “the elect lady.” She too was vulnerable. It was not the man, but the woman who was deceived by the serpent and John writes that “many deceivers are entered into the world” (1 Tim. 2:14; 2 John 7). It was the doctrine of Christ that was to be the touchstone, and if those who professed to bring something brought not that doctrine she was not to receive them into her house: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed, is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2 John 9-11).
In closing let us call to mind again how the Sonship of Christ is interwoven with every strand of Christian truth. It is by the Son as such that God is revealed to us. “The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” (John 1:18). We receive this revelation when we believe the gospel and the gospel of God concerns “His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 1:1-3). Believing the gospel we are delivered “from the power of darkness,” and translated “into the Kingdom” of God's “dear Son” (Col. 1:13). Those so translated form part of the church that Christ is building on the unshakeable foundation of His own Person as “the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:15-18). While that building continues we are waiting for God's Son from heaven and while we wait it is our portion, like Paul, to live by faith, “the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (1 Thess. 1:10; Gal. 2:20). It is clear from these and many other passages that the Sonship of Christ is not peripheral to Christianity. Indeed, how can anything that is so vitally bound up with His Person be peripheral? To maintain that it is so is to depredate His glory and to manifest that Laodicean spirit which is such a dishonour to Him. Christianity is centred in Christ, the Christ of the Scriptures, and any false idea we have of Him is not only fatal in itself, but will also (eventually) show itself in a wrong idea of Christianity, and in wrong practice (1 Cor. 15:33).
May the Lord grant us a deepening appreciation of His glory and the desire to be faithful to His Name.
Were you to apply the directions given for judging immorality to fatal error touching our Lord's person, you would have a very insufficient measure of discipline. False doctrine does not touch the natural conscience as gross conduct does. Nay, you may too often find a believer drawn away by his affections to make excuses for those who are fundamentally heterodox. All sorts of difficulties fill the mind where the eye is not really single. Many might thus be involved who did not themselves hold the false doctrine. If I accept the principle of dealing with none but him who brings not the doctrine of Christ, it will not do; for there may be others entangled by it. What is any individual, what is the church even, in comparison with the Saviour, the Son of the Father? Accordingly, the rule laid down by the Spirit for vindicating Christ's person from blasphemous assailants or their partisans, is infinitely more stringent than when it is a question of moral corruption, be it ever so bad.
W. Kelly — Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew, page 324.
From Our Archive
The Revelation of the Father (2)
(Continued from page 53)
It is obvious that I shall only be able to touch the text of this Gospel here and there. The alternative would be to spread my remarks over every part of the Gospel and I feel by doing that the essence of what I particularly want to try to bring out would be largely lost. So without attempting to expand the relations of the various parts of the Gospel to each other, except in one or two special cases, it will only be possible to touch those verses which outstandingly are those which bring before us the revelation of the Father.
In John 12, at the end, we have the end of the Lord's public ministry. His words in verses 44-50 give the Holy Spirit's commentary upon that ministry. What follows was spoken in the inner, intimate circle of the upper room with the door closed and the Lord Jesus surrounded by His disciples. Outside there was the bitter enmity which He had encountered and which was to bring Him to the cross. Inside were the blessed Saviour and His own and they were supping with Him and hanging upon His every movement and word. There is a great deal of difference between the utterances of the Lord Jesus Christ, even relative to His revelation of the Father, amongst those who needed awakening, and the intimate disclosures and communications of the upper room. Nevertheless the Spirit of God in the first part of that summary and commentary in John 12 indicates the amazing fact that so few believed and yet so it was foreseen by the prophets. But those who did believe, what was the quality of what came to them? Well, nothing less than this. They were put in touch with the Father. This is what happened to the woman of Samaria. We are told that hearing the Lord Jesus they heard the Father, and seeing the Lord Jesus they saw the Father, and believing in the Lord Jesus they believed in the Father. He said that the Father had given Him commandment what He had to say. All these things that we have been touching upon are what the Father commanded Him to say. In that commandment is eternal life. In reflecting upon, in meditating upon, in seeking to feed heart, mind and spirit upon these the words of the Son — this is eternal life.
Now let us cast our eyes upon this passage of very special interest in the fourth chapter without in any way attempting to go back over the story. The woman introduced the question of worship. It seems to me extremely unlikely that to a woman still in spirit dead and far from Him, such immense disclosures and basic teaching about the true worship would have been made. There must have been, it seems to me, in those seconds perhaps, the reception of that water that Jesus could give springing up into everlasting life. She said: “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain.” The king of Assyria had deported the whole population of the northern kingdom of Israel and the Samaritans were the direct descendants of those who took their place. They had thought it wise to placate the god of that country, and so they began to imitate the worship of the Jews. They had the five books of Moses in a version which is still called the Samaritan Pentateuch. This was the Samaritan worship and it was a spurious worship of the God of Israel. Now the Lord Jesus Christ says here, considering Himself for the moment as a Jew, He says, “we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” There was a contrast between what was all the time an entirely spurious worship and something which was instituted by God to be the worship of the real God who made all things and had revealed Himself to His people as the God of Israel. But of course at a stroke the Lord Jesus Christ puts clean out of court these two kinds of worship that belonged to a place. He substituted the worship of the Father in spirit and in truth and said, “the Father seeketh such to worship Him.”
Now the introduction, without any special explanation of the introduction, of the Name “the Father,” is the point about which I would like us to reflect together for a few moments. Let us first of all consider this other contrast, and that is the contrast between the worship of the Father and the worship which formerly had quite rightly gone on in Jerusalem, and that was the worship of Jehovah the God of Israel. In this contrast between the knowledge of Jehovah and the knowledge of the Father is the very essence of the contrast between Israel and the church, between Judaism and Christianity. It must be manifest to us all that what concerns the Name under which God has made Himself known to His people must be a matter of the greatest possible interest to the people of God in every age. The Names under which God revealed Himself to the patriarchs and to Moses in Israel were in the highest degree a matter of strength and comfort and light to the people who received these revelations. When God said to Moses, “I am El Shaddai: walk before Me, and be thou perfect,” attention was specially drawn to the power of God who had revealed Himself to Abraham to sustain him in his pilgrim pathway. Later, in Exodus 6, we read that “I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the Name of El Shaddai; but by My Name Jehovah was I not known to them.” There God made Himself known by a new Name according to the needs of the formation of a Nation who would be God's people and amongst whom there would be worship of God. Then we only have to reflect upon the way in which the Name Jehovah proliferated itself into those compound Names to see that the experience of the people of God, the strength of the people of God, the victory of the people of God, was largely involved with their learning by experience as well as by the instruction of the prophets, the content of the Name Jehovah.
I love to think of the ministry of Elijah in this connection. How his whole soul was devoted to the restoration of the people Israel to the knowledge of the true God, Jehovah, the God of Israel, and to His worship. But, if we look at the last verses of Exodus 33, we are told as plainly as language could speak that this was not the end of the process of the self-revelation of God. Moses prayed, “shew me Thy glory” and God said, “I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the Name of Jehovah before thee; and … thou canst not see My face; for there shall no man see Me … and thou shalt see My back parts.” Could words speak more loudly of the fact that there was still more to be revealed? The last secrets of the divine nature were not revealed either in the Name El Shaddai, or even in the Name Jehovah which dominates all the rest of the Old Testament. Why is it that when we turn over from the last verse of Malachi to the first verse of Matthew, the Name Jehovah, for all the wonder it has been to the people of God, vanishes like the stars in the sunshine. Why? Because immediately the Lord Jesus Christ began to speak of that Name, that wondrous Name, in which the last secrets of the divine nature are made known. A Name never to be superseded as the others had been superseded.
It is an interruption, I know, and perhaps it would be better not to have such an interruption, but I feel absolutely bound to repeat a simple statement that I have often made before. It is that since the essence of the contrast between the Name Jehovah and the Name the Father contains the essence of the contrast between God's relationship to His people Israel and His relationship to the church, then those who refuse to see the distinction between Israel and the church will not see the immense difference and distinction, the all important difference for a true Christianity, between the former Names of God and the Name of the Father. Well, John Calvin did not distinguish between Israel and the church for all he was a mighty man of God in many things, and for all his teaching on many things was very wonderful. He was a man raised up of God, yet he fell short as it says in the letter to Sardis, “I have not found thy works perfect before God.” When Calvin wants to deduce from holy Scripture instruction for the church of God he is just as happy to get it from Amos as he is from the epistle to the Romans. And since the teaching of John Calvin is still dominant in evangelical circles, this truth of which we are now speaking is not known. Of course they will say, “We know very well that God is our Father and we are His children,” but this is a world away from realising that the Father with the Son there in eternity at last make themselves fully known. The dominant central truth of the Christian faith is ignored and it is not known in evangelical Christendom. When we get such benefit as is to be got from the writings of some people of this class, let us ever remember that on this point they will certainly lead us astray. I remember the shock which came to me when I was reading Campbell Morgan on John 17. He comes to the passage which we shall be considering on another occasion, “Holy Father, keep through Thine own Name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one.” Now, says Campbell Morgan, a great man of God in many ways and a very clear teacher in many ways, “What is the name of God? God has only had one name and … it is Jehovah.” Well, the book almost fell out of my hands. It is so absolutely staggering that it is difficult to persuade people that it is true, but it is true. You can search the hymn books used in the evangelical circles until now and you will find practically nothing about the knowledge of God as the Father. Much less will you find the whole world of supreme divine truth regarding the Father's love for the Son and the special way in which we, the children of God in this immensely privileged age, are being called to share the Father's pleasure in His well-beloved Son, and to have and share for ourselves, the manner in which the Father has loved the Son. So let us strive to understand, let us try to have in our hearts this wonderful truth, the revelation of the Father's Name. Let us strive to guard it as one of those things that in the last days are to be guarded according to what the apostle Paul said to Timothy in the second epistle that he addressed to him.
Now I want to speak for a few minutes about the content of the Name of the Father because for all that we speak about things which are indeed the subject of holy ground, yet we are certainly called evermore and always to reflect upon the meaning of such a Name to us. It is a matter that might immediately strike us with surprise that when the very last secret of eternity about the revelation of God is made known, it should be brought with a Name that is familiar to us. When we come to the last secrets of God, it is in a Name which is written in every human heart, “Father.” In Ephesians chapter 3, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the J. N. Darby Translation continues by saying, “of whom every family in the heavens and on earth is named.” Now I suggest, and it can be no more than that, but it certainly commends itself very strongly to me personally, that what the passage really means is this: “I bow my knees unto the Father of whom all fatherhood in heaven and earth is named.” In other words, the whole concept of fatherhood comes by the fact that God made man in His image. God made man with the concept and experience of fatherhood and sonship so much a part of his established constitution that when that secret comes to be told, we find that in our nature and in our being has been written beforehand the means whereby the word immediately means something to us. Now we are here at a point when it is very wonderful indeed to seek to have an intelligence of the things that God has revealed. I am sure that you will feel with me that when we come to the end of this verse 23 we have the very throbbing outreach of the heart of the Father: “the Father seeketh such to worship Him.” When the Son of God came forth He uttered two expressions of a seeking God. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost;” and we must say nothing to take away from that tremendous urge that brought Jesus from heaven to earth to seek and to save by Calvary. But beyond that seeking and beyond that saving there lies that other request, and how much we are in danger of making little of it. We ignore so often this tremendous reach out from the heart of God to your heart and mine by the Spirit, the renewed heart capable of response to God: “the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.”
J. S. Blackburn.