The Ribband of Blue.

Num. 15:37-39; Col. 3:1.

[04 1863 329] Let me say a word on the Lord's instituting a blue ribband to be worn by the Israelites on the fringe of their garments. No Christian would suppose that this was unmeaning; or if it conveys a divine lesson, that it is not our business to seek to understand it; and more than this, to act by the grace of God accordingly.

As to the general meaning of the "blue," which we often find in this book of Numbers, there cannot be any doubt about it. It is the colour of heaven and the appropriate witness of a heavenly character. We have white used commonly for the representation of purity, as crimson or scarlet is the image of the world's glory; and the ribband of blue being the heavenly colour, the thought connected with it is very simple, though of immense practical importance. The Lord would have His people, even in the commonest things of daily life, to present the constant testimony before their own, as well as others' eyes, that they belong to heaven. The effect of this we shall find to be mighty over the soul. It is not enough for us that we should simply abstain from that which is evil, or that we should cultivate godliness. No person born of God could doubt or deny our obligation to holiness, and that the children of God are bound to abstain even from the appearance of evil. But supposing all this, and that each wore his garment ever so undefiled, would this be the ribband of blue? Does it not mean the reminding our souls from day to day of the place to which we belong? The outward raiment was used to set forth that which is displayed before people — our character and ways. What God, as I think, intended by the blue on the fringe, was the intermingling in the most ordinary ways of daily life the constant token that we are heavenly, and not merely that we shall be there by and by, if we, as it were, put heaven off, making it purely a hope for the future, would not this be for the Israelite, not to wear or look upon this ribband of blue? For if we are merely treating heaven thus, we might be led to say, We may be earthly now, but we shall be heavenly by and by when we get there. But the effect of our souls taking in the truth which this type teaches is that, while we are on earth, surrounded by difficulties, heaven is before our eyes and hearts. Otherwise we shall be in the constant danger of acting simply as earthly men — godly, I will suppose, and kind and truthful; but all that is totally short of God's will concerning us. Even to serve Christ, blessed as it is, is not the same thing as being heavenly. All that might have been, and indeed in many cases is, true in beloved saints of God, where the blue ribband is forgotten. What answers to the type, and gives it us far more fully, according to the power of the New Testament — no longer merely the shadow, but the very image — is the truth we have in Col. 3. We are there addressed as those who belong to heaven, but, of course, still upon earth, which gives rise to all the difficulties of the path of faith. There will be no difficulty in walking rightly when we are in heaven; but the fight and victory is by faith now. We are so apt to judge by the feelings of our hearts, so easily led away. And what can strengthen us against ourselves? Let us hearken to what the Lord says here: "It shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them." Is it not remarkable that the blue fringe should be used of God as an incentive to obedience? The very fact that our souls begin each day with this memorial before us is no small thing. Supposing that we have in our business, or in anything else, to do with men, what is it that will preserve us by the grace of God? What an encouragement to us! What a remembrancer that we belong to heaven! "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth." Were this before us, there is nothing, small or great, that the Christian would not do according to God: there would be a felt link with heaven, and not merely a matter of necessity or of character, which is below a Christian. Of course a Christian will be honest and godly, but if I make character or necessity the reason why I do a thing, I am not walking as a Christian at all, but like many a man who is the enemy of God and His Son. Doing it as a matter of duty does not lift you above self and present things. Nay, supposing I look at the Lord simply as one strengthening me in my daily duty, it is quite true; but it is not the full measure of the truth. I may lower the Lord to be my helper upon earth merely; but that is not the ribband of blue. But if my eyes are raised from the earth, and fixed on Christ in heaven — if I remind myself that my present association is with Christ in heaven, and that God looks for me to walk worthily of Christ now above myself, being one with Him who is there — in this you find, I conceive, the great truth that answers to the figure. And this the Lord here connects with remembering all His commandments and doing them and walking holily. He had brought them out of Egypt that they might thus walk according to Him, and that they might be His people and He their God. How often, alas! we walk merely "as men." But if we do not rise above that standard, we are not walking according to that witness of heavenly things which the Lord set forth in type to Israel. We shall find that the power of being heavenly, is according to the measure in which our souls enter into Christ there. It is not a question of correcting this or that, or of beginning one thing and another, but of heavenly things in Christ separating our hearts from things on earth. When we look from heaven, as consciously of it, and work from heaven downwards, earthly things soon dwindle, and the praise of their disappearance returns not to ourselves in any way, but to Christ. Thus He Himself has all the glory, whatever good thing there may be wrought by the Spirit among the children of God.