"His will" - "His work."

"My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work." John 4:34.

There are two points to be observed in the reading of the Old Testament, without which it cannot rightly be understood. The first is, that the gap or interval in time, from the ascension of Christ to heaven till the taking ups or rapture of His own, is never contemplated in its Scriptures; nor is it ever computed as time at all. And the second is, that what is said of the Lord in many cases in these Scriptures, is similar in language to what is said of the Church - His body, in the New Testament. Thus it is that Paul, speaking of the mystery of Christ and the Church, calls these truths, with all collateral ones, "The unsearchable riches of Christ." (Eph. 3:8.)

The searchable things were all there: Incarnation, Life of suffering, Atoning death, Resurrection, Ascension to heaven, Receiving gifts in the man, Coming again in glory, His glorious reign, or Kingdom. All these were to be found in the Old Testament. But the interval in time from the ascension - characterized by the presence of the Holy Ghost dwelling in the Church - as an habitation of God, His abiding with her during her earthly sojourn while Christ is hidden in the heavens, and His coming forth to receive her to Himself when caught up in the clouds to meet Him in the air; these things were not in the Scriptures of the Old Testament; they were "hid in God," "according to the purpose of the ages." Nor are they spoken of by any of the apostles or teachers of the New but Paul. Old Testament Scriptures are silent as to them; so are New Testament apostles and prophets - with the exception of him.

I mention one Scripture out of many as to the interval, or gap, of the New Testament times being unnoticed in the Old. The well-known passage from Isaiah 61:1-2, first clause, cited by the Lord in the opening of His ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:18-19), as far as the middle of a sentence, when He closed the book and sat down, causing all in the synagogue to fasten their eyes upon Him. The parenthesis of grace thus falling between that moment and the fulfilment of the next clause - "And the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn." Yet when He foretells the long centuries of judgment which ensued upon His rejection, during which "Jerusalem (would) be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24), He touches upon His second coming in glory, according to Isaiah 63:1-4, connecting with that "day of vengeance" the words - "For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come" (Isaiah 63:4); also, "For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled" (Luke 21:23); and again these - "Then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." (v. 28.)

The parenthesis of grace thus lying between that day in Nazareth, and the day of His coming in power and great glory. The parenthesis of glory of which Paul treats, lying again within the other parenthesis of grace of Luke, from His ascension to the rapture of the saints on high, while the "unsearchable riches of Christ," "the manifold wisdom of God" - in Christ and the Church, are unfolded. These come forth when Christ is in the glory and the Holy Ghost here.

We see this, too, in the portion of the passages of Isaiah 49:6-8, cited by Paul in the New Testament, which apply to Christ Himself in the Old, and to the Church, His body, in the New. "I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth." This the prophet speaks of Christ. And Paul at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:47), "For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth." Again, "Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time I have heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee." (Isaiah 49:8.) This of Christ. While Paul, of the Church, in 2 Cor. 6, "We then, as workers together, beseech also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. For He saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee; behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." In Rom. 8 also, speaking of the security of the believer, "It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?" While Isaiah, of Christ, in Isaiah 50, "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that pluck off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting …  He is near that justifieth me … who is he that shall condemn me?"

Now while all this is true, and the general matter of the Old Testament is silent as to these things, when it deals with the world and Israel, and Jehovah Messiah's connection with them; there are two Scriptures in the Old Testament which touch upon the counsels of God outside the earth, the line of His eternal thoughts, at which I would now look for a little. I speak of His eternal counsels as those connected with things which are outside all His dispensational dealings with the world. Prophecy connects itself with "times and seasons, and days and years," which belong to the world, and exist while it exists, ending when it ends; then the eternal counsels of God have their fruition, and time has passed away.

1. In Proverbs 8:23-36, where Christ is seen as the Eternal One, the "wisdom of God." He is there seen in two ways. First, as the resource of God; and second, as His delight, the One in whom all the good pleasure of the Eternal was. "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was." Then follows a lovely description of the priority of Him on whom all depended, before the mountains, or hills, or oceans, or clouds were. "Then," says the Eternal One, "I was by Him, as one brought up with Him; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him; rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth" (before it was formed); "and my delights were with the sons of men."

2. Psalm 40 gives us the other; and while Prov. 8 unfolds to us those thoughts before the earth was, in Psalm 40 the silence of eternity is broken by the words here spoken by the Lord. Time and earth had intervened; sin had entered the fair scene, and man fell; Israel had been redeemed, and had been tried under law; prophets, priests, and kings had been there, and His people all had failed. These blessed words are then heard, and connected with the lowly path of faithfulness of Christ: "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God."

In the epistle to the Hebrews we find the establishment of this "will." The sacrifices proved wanting, and only recalled sin to remembrance - not putting it away; they are set aside - by His one perfect blessed work, and the will of God is done. "He taketh away the first," even these sacrifices, "that He may establish the second," God's eternal will. This had been outraged through man, under the enemy's power; but could not be turned aside or disannulled. (Heb. 10)

Thus we have in Psalm 40 the "will" of God to be made good in His cross on earth; and in Prov. 8 the "good pleasure in the sons of men" revealed. In Hebrews we have the eternal will established; while in the Ephesians we find the "good pleasure of His will" brought forth from the secrets of eternity, when He is gone on high; and this to the "sons of men," in whom His "good pleasure," or "delights," ever were. "If ye have heard of the administration of the grace of God, which is given me to youward" and that "Ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed," etc. (Eph. 3)

From creation until He came to the earth, Jesus, the eternal Son, the wisdom of God, was ever "by Him" - His resource, and His delight.

Did the counsels of the Godhead resolve to create the universe, or to frame the world out of the chaos which is found in Gen. 1:2? The Son was the actor, for "by Him were all things created." "Without Him nothing came into being that did exist."

Did man in innocence succumb to the temptations of the enemy, the old serpent, the devil? Did sin and disobedience thus enter into the world? The seed of the woman would bruise the serpent's head; and in the foretold "bruising of his heel," and in the death which Adam's coats of skins required, ere he could walk forth from the garden consciously and manifestly clothed of God - Jesus was again before the mind of the Father. How sweet to see that because of Him, in this first scene of the world's youthful history, God was the first to move in approaching the sinful pair!

Again, when violence entered in, and Cain slew His brother, it was because Abel, finding himself "born in sin," outside of paradise, his state as a sinner pressing upon his soul, and recognizing what a Righteous Being required to meet His nature and His claims, he brings "the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof." He came with the pure and sinless life of another, but displaying in death the excellency of life. In all this he confessed that he could not provide that which God in His nature demanded, and he as a sinner needed; and God, as it were, seeing that faith apprehended some thing of His resource and His delight, pronounced him a righteous man.

Did Noah's sacrifice ascend as a sweet savour in the sight of the Lord, after His judgment of the waters of the deluge, because of the earth's corruption? He turns at once to His resource, His delight; and says in His heart, "I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; because the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth: neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done." (Gen. 8:21.)

Again, idolatry enters the scene; and all the world was worshipping demons rather than God. He calls Abram out, and "preaches the gospel" in him. (Gal. 3:8.) "In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Gen. 12:3.) And when Abraham ascends the mount Moriah, in company with his only son Isaac, his faith entered upon the thoughts of God Himself in Jesus, "My son, God will provide Himself a lamb." The risen Isaac, "received from the dead in a figure," speaks in the sight of divine omniscience, of that scene yet to be enacted between the Father and the One then "by Him," "His delight." And God, "because He could swear by no greater, sware by Himself," to fill with "strong consolation" the feeblest heart that flees for refuge to Jesus. (Heb. 6:16-18.)

Mark the delight, the suddenness (Ex. 40) with which in after years, when Moses had reared the tabernacle, after the people had made the golden calf, and failed in their obedience to law, God enters, and fills the whole scene so fully, that even Moses himself could not but be an intruder - none could share His company in that tabernacle, which was the pattern of things in the heavenlies reared up in the obedience of faith, but He of whom every cord and pillar, board and altar, curtain and hanging testified.

Thus and thus was Jesus, God's resource, always by Him," "His delight," "rejoicing always before Him."

But I need not go further. Step by step, Christ, in type and figure, in parable and shadow, kept God's heart reminded of plans that never could be frustrated; but while hindered by Satan, and man, and sin, only disclosed the inexhaustible resource that Jesus was ever before Him.

The day came when Jesus, though always "by Him," the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father, was to divest Himself of the glory He had there, before the world was; and taking manhood in the womb of the virgin, was to be "Emmanuel, God with us;" yet ever His delight, His good pleasure. In the lowly manger in Bethlehem, the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, was laid; and the anthem, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good pleasure (His delights) in men," is sung.

Thirty years elapse, and Jesus appears amongst the crowd who were confessing their sins in Jordan. The wandering sheep were in the waters, and the Shepherd would go there too. Grace was at work in their hearts, and Jesus would go with the grace; they were confessing their sins through grace, and Jesus would be with that grace, as He, in the Godhead, had produced its fruits. At once we hear the voice of the Father, as we had heard that of the angels at His birth, proclaiming, "Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I have good pleasure." And the Spirit, in bodily shape, as a dove, alights upon Him. Father, Son, and Spirit, seen and heard, for the first time on earth, when He stood in the waters of Jordan, charged with the bringing forth of God's "good pleasure in the sons of men," and establishing on a revolted earth His will!

In a few short years we find Him on the mount of Transfiguration when about to be received up. His own had not received Him; the world, though made by Him, knew Him not. A momentary glimpse of His true glory evokes the words from a bystander, "Master, it is good for us to be here," and the Father's voice again is heard owning His earth-rejected, though heaven-honoured Son, as "my beloved Son, in whom I have good pleasure; hear ye Him." (Matt. 17:5.) He then returns to the scene of His sorrows, and steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. The seventy disciples return. (Luke 10) He had not given them power over unclean spirits when sending them forth. But faith in Him had caused them to use the value of His name, and to their joy they were answered. They return to Him and say, "Lord, even the devils are subject to us through thy name." (v. 17.) How joy fills His heart, too, as they tell the tale, in the thought of the day of glory, when Satan will fall as lightning from heaven; and even the earth will yield no place for him, while he is chained in the bottomless pit for a thousand years.

But hearken now to what He says in their hearing "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it was thy good pleasure." (Luke 10:21.)

And, lastly, in the gospels, when Jesus would cast the light of God on all that man's ways present (Luke 12), between His leaving them and His return, He speaks of His people as a little flock; but even so they were not to fear, "for it was their Father's good pleasure to give them the kingdom. (Luke 12:32.)

But to recall what we have touched upon, we have:

1. Before the world was, this "good pleasure" filled the heart of Jesus, "in the sons of men." (Prov. 8)

2. At the birth of Jesus it was shared by unjealous angels, and the heavenly hosts proclaimed from the excellent glory (Luke 2), "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good pleasure in men."

3. When He came up out of the Jordan the Father's voice again proclaims, "In thee I have good pleasure." (Matt. 3; Luke 3)

4. The same words are heard from the excellent glory, on the holy mount, "For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I have good pleasure." (Matt. 17; Luke 9; 2 Peter 1.)

5. And as He descends to His path of service, and sends forth the "seventy," and receives them as they return, He tells of His Father's "good pleasure" to reveal these heavenly secrets, not to wise and prudent, but even to babes, whose names were written in heaven.

6. And as He instructs them for their pathway (Luke 12) in this world of sin, He adds His "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." His "delights were with the sons of men."

At last the hour was come, "Your hour, and the power of darkness," when all was arrayed against Him, to stay the eternal Will being done on earth, as counseled in the heavens. If in the gospel of Luke we found the "good pleasure" so often expressed, as Luke presents Him a Man, in whom all was centered, it is in the gospel of John we find His heart set, who was presented there as the Eternal Son, to do this - Will of God. "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work." (John 4) "I seek not my own will, but the will of Him that sent me." (John 5) "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me." (John 6:38.). "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." (John 6:39.)

He who expressed His own perfect will but twice in all His earthly path, was now to do His God's. Once in Gethsemane He expressed it, to lay it down in blessed submission to the Father, "Not my will, but thine be done;" and once again in John 17:24, for the eternal blessing of those whom His Father had given Him, "I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." "Before the mountains were settled … Then I was by Him, one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him." (Prov. 8) This hour then came, and Jesus in that hour could repeat, as it were, "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire mine ears hast thou opened; burnt-offering and sinoffering has thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come in the volume of the Book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." (Ps. 40) And closing in the cross that work, and establishing that will, He cries, "It is finished." His will is done, and "He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost."

He died and lived again: He ascended on high in glory, and all now was removed which could frustrate that" will" of God. All was settled for ever that established it. The "good pleasure" of the "will" could now be made known to the "sons of men." We hear the exponent of it, now by the Spirit, unfold it in our calling on high of God. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved." (Eph. 1:3-5.) How sweet those words, "accepted," "taken into divine favour," "in the beloved." "Whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord." (Prov. 8)

Now the Ephesian Epistle unfolds these eternal thoughts and counsels of our God. In it we find (as in Christ and by the Spirit) God most fully revealed and seen. His Church displays Him in these two ways

1. God Himself to man, to the universe, as God now fully known.

2. Man before Him, displayed according to His counsels, as seen in Christ. His Church, Christ's body, in union with her Head, by the Spirit, now in mystery, and in full display in the day of glory. The Spirit too now gathering to the confession of His name on earth those who are His own, until the day when He with His Church becoming manifestly the centre of an ordered universe. As we read that, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, He will gather together in one all things in heaven and earth, in Christ; in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.

What a calling: God displayed in Christ, for "in Him all the fulness was pleased to dwell." (Col. 1:19.) Christ displayed in the Church His body, His bride, "the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22), the ordered centre of a reconciled universe, the helpmeet, the Eve of the second Adam, in the day of power.

How then is all this to be realized in the soul? How are we to walk in the power of this calling of God? We must be strengthened with all might, according to the riches of the glory of the Father, by His Spirit in the inner man. But for what? What need of such blessed living action of God in us? It is that this Christ, this centre of all things, to whom heavenly, earthly, and infernal beings must bow the knee (Phil. 2:10), "may dwell in our hearts by faith!" That the soul's affections may centre in Him, surround Him, entwine themselves in Him; that being rooted and grounded in love, no Satan's power can disturb this planting of our souls in the soil of love! Down deeply have struck the roots there, though this will be tried and tested; far and wide the soul has spread its branches. Sorrows but unfold it, and want but finds in it its rich supply. Temptations to disturb it are met by the power of it ministered to the soul. The coldness of our brethren deepens the joy of its being ours. The world's sneer and scorn turn the heart more distinctly to Him who loves. The entranced soul rises to the deeper contemplation of that central Sun, and looks out from Him to the length, and breadth, and depth, and height, which centre in Him, and is lost in the fields of illimitable glory. Yet it finds itself at home there, recalled by that well-known love which, as a sinner once it tasted, and found itself at peace with God; as a saint too who failed along the way, and who found its never-dying power humbling to the dust the soul with its unchangeableness; or as a chosen one of the Father before the world was - the gift of His heart to the Son, one "whom thou hast given me." How deep the wellspring of that love must be to one who was the object of His eternal choice, whose delights were in the sons of men!

Yet this love of Christ is that which touches the heart, and makes it feel itself at home in those fields of glory. Yet while known and tasted, "it passeth knowledge." Too great for finite hearts to grasp, yet, like the babe which knows its mother's love, unable though it is to explain its power, it is the link of heart with Him whom not having seen, even now we love.

The finite vessel is thus launched upon the infinite sea of light, and love, and God - filled into all His fulness! "Unto Him be glory by the Church by Christ Jesus, throughout all generations of the ages of ages [see Greek]. Amen." (Eph. 3:21.)

The more one enters upon and realizes what the Church of God is, and, connected with His counsels for Christ's glory, what a place she holds in God's plans for the ordered manifestation of His glory, the more one feels how hopeless is the ruin which lies far and wide around our path. How false is everything which pretends to be His Church on earth! How Satan has succeeded in destroying outwardly all that bears Christ's name! How feebly do those, whose spiritual vision is opened to know some what of her blessing, grasp the thought of her place and calling in connection with her Head on high in glory! How few there are who care for more than that which speaks of their own blessing! How few even that have realized their personal blessing at all! How little is the voice of the Spirit heard in the bride, calling on the "bright and morning star" to "come!" How His people may say, even at their best, "My leanness, my leanness; woe is me!"

Yet God would gather a people in these days to the confession of the name of Jesus, and the truth of His body - His bride. He would awaken bridal affections which Jesus looks for in His Church, for which He gave Himself. He has brought forth in living power these long-buried truths. He would awaken His people, and recall them to the state of those who at first looked for and awaited God's Son from heaven. He would form a heavenly company of true whole-hearted souls, whose aims, and life, and work, are for the glory of His Son. Are there not those who would respond to those Spirit-wrought desires? who long to answer in all things to the heart of Christ? Surely there are. Surely when God has again brought these things to light, He will find a people who will value them, and answer to His heart's desire. F. G. Patterson.

We are told in the Word to let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven. (Matt. 5:16.) Too often we reverse this precept, and let our works shine that our light may be seen to our own glory. Hence the danger of speaking or writing about our own activities. The intention may be good, but it is seldom done without leading - even if unconsciously - to the exaltation of self. If, on the other hand, we are careful to let our light shine before men, our works, like our blessed Lord, cannot be hid. * *