Rebekah and Abigail.

We adore God's grace and condescension in presenting to us what most intimately concerns our interests, as well as His own glory, portion by portion, "here a little, and there a little," so that notwithstanding our lowliness, yea, in our lowliness, we may enjoy communion with Him. "We know in part." The lamb in Egypt, the Red Sea, and the Jordan, combinedly illustrate in type His blessed salvation. The shepherd, the diligent woman, and the father of Luke 15, give us the seal of the Godhead, that this salvation should be the portion of the lost, and His joy when it becomes so. The sacrifices also unfold to us even now the manifold glories of the cross of the Son of God. No one thing could serve as a perfect illustration of the truth, and no one person could manifest it, however devoted to God, save the One in whom all foreshadowings blend, and on whom the most attenuated rays of divine light converge, even Jesus, who is the Truth. Whatever of true zeal, love, devotedness to God, or glory according to God, is manifest in man down here, it is but the feeble reflection of what is in Him. Wherever there has been acquiescence in God's evident arrangements, it but pointed forward to Him who lived "by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God." We have two beautiful examples of such acquiescence in the subjects of this paper - Rebekah's acceptance of God's arrangements for Abraham's son through his aged servant, as well as Abigail's determined acknowledgment of David's royalty, then seen only by faith. This enhances the circumstances recorded in Gen. 24 and 1 Sam. 25, and throws a beam of divine light upon both cases, enabling us to perceive in each a precious type of the Church.

It is our joy to own that when God would form a Bride for His Son, His love to Hint is the pledge that she will worthily occupy the marvellous position to which she is called. We read of her "prepared as a bride, adorned for her husband," as "having the glory of God;" and we are instructed that "He who hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God." (2 Cor. 5) Even now "the body" on earth reflects the glory of the Head above. He says, "I am glorified in them." (Compare 1 John 4:17.) When therefore we consider an Isaac, or a David, typically, not only do we read in a Rebekah or an Abigail his natural complement, even as the Church is "the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 1:23); but we may justly expect to find something premonitory of the grace of Christ in themselves also, which we have seen to be the case. This makes a study of our subjects directly profitable to our souls. In a consideration of the moral features displayed in Rebekah's history we find those doubtless which link her case with Abigail's; but the former presents more the ardent zeal manifested at the opening of the wilderness journey; the latter, the intelligent apprehension of the supreme worth of the bride's object, gained amid the vicissitudes of the journey, in immediate view of the close.

Abraham will not seek a wife for his son among the nations around him, upon whom the judgment of God rested because of their iniquity (Gen. 15:16-21), and whose destruction would be concurrent with the establishment of his seed in the glory which God had promised. God moreover had called him into a pilgrim-ship, away from country, kindred, and father's house, which, as he realized the call, extended to "his household after him." When therefore Abraham's servant suggested the compromise, by which Isaac's true place on earth would be ignored, to meet the contingency of the woman's hesitation or dislike to leave country, kindred, and father's house, and to become a pilgrim with him, the servant receives reiterated caution that Isaac's place on earth should be maintained at all cost. The standard should not be lowered under any circumstances. How many adopt the suggestion just referred to, and lower the gospel standard, to make grace palatable to those who naturally shrink from the claims of such glory as God offers, involving identification with the lowly Jesus in the scene of His rejection! How few work from the apostolic point of view, in which Christ's glory is supreme, and the gospel the means of gathering "from among the nations a people for His name!" (Acts 15:14.)

The servant goes forth, the bearer of glad tidings, and proves the truth of the scripture: "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." He "rolls his way upon the Lord, and He brings it to pass." (Psalm 37:5, marg.) Forth comes Rebekah before he had done speaking, who brings him to her father's house. He will not eat until he has told his errand, in which the glories of the heir, his separate place in the scene of his pilgrimage, and the uncompromising character of that pilgrimage, are set forth. He dwells upon the tokens by which the Lord God authenticated His servant Abraham's messenger.

This being accepted, Rebekah receives from the messenger's treasures (Matt. 13:52), tokens of Isaac's glory - a foretaste of what she is called to share. Her relations also profit through the overflowing abundance of the source which is henceforth to be at her command. It is worthy of notice that as yet she knows nothing of Isaac himself. She has not even heard his name. The parents see the advantage offered, but though appealed to, on the ground of God's hand being so manifest in the whole matter, to let Rebekah go at once away, they hesitate, saying, "Let the damsel abide with us a few days" (a full year, marg.). She however, like Paul in other days, "immediately, conferring not with flesh and blood," says, "I will go." She yields herself implicitly to that in which God's hand is so plainly seen, and enters upon the vicissitudes of a dreary journey, leaving country, kindred, and father's. house for a land and circumstances yet unknown, except through belief in the message. Arrived at Gerah, though she has met Isaac, and learned his name from himself, she has not reached the termination of her pilgrimage. It now assumes a new and characteristic phase, in which Rebekah learns how much is still to be endured in fellowship with Isaac, and how much he is to her in the midst of it all. Thus we have typified in her the commencement of the Church's wilderness journey, the start for and with Christ of a new-born soul. Such zeal! Everything laid aside and counted dead weight in the ardour of first love. It was so with early Christians. They "took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that in heaven they had a better and an enduring substance."

"All for Him content to leave."

*Thus it ever is with "flesh and blood." (Gal. 1:16.) Abraham could leave country and kindred; but not until his father's death set him free from the influences of flesh and blood, did he leave his "father's house" at Charran.

Turning now to 1 Sam. 25, Rebekah's pilgrimage passed on to her children in a manner too truly sorrowful, and they had not as yet entered into rest, God saying in David, "Today … for if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day." But in David, a man after His own heart, God offers rest to His people. Abigail owns David as God's anointed, whose soul should be "bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord God," realizes what God was offering to Israel, if they would hear his voice, and thus morally reaches the end of the journey upon which Rebekah entered. Historically, we know, Israel did not then attain to God's rest. The rest remains, and will be secured through mercy to Israel in the blessed ante-type. Meantime God's king is in rejection. Dark times have fallen upon David since the women of Israel sang, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands." Hunted as a partridge on the mountains, with but few followers, those whom distress, poverty, and bitterness of soul (22:2, marg.) had gathered around him, God takes occasion by these circumstances to test Israel, and to gather out a company, who should receive a distinguished place in the coming glory with their leader, and amongst these we find Abigail. Wherever faith exists, the trials which test it but manifest its character to the glory of God. (Compare Deut. 33:8-9.) Abigail's faith is equal to the test. Nabal, though her husband, fails altogether. His heart is set upon present advantage, and this blinds him alike to David's glory, and Saul's already twice-revealed rejection. (13:14; 15:23-31.) To him accordingly Saul, who heads his line of things, is supreme, and David perhaps a servant broken away from his master! David's place tests everything, as indeed one might expect in so striking a type of the Blessed One whom Simeon (Luke 2) speaks of as a "sign that shall be spoken against, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed," the sword piercing through even Mary's own soul, according to Heb. 4:12-13. Not alone is faith manifested; it is measured also in all who come in contact with the rejected David - God's standard. Hence we find, intermediate, as it were, between the Nabals and the Abigails, the Jonathans, who, though loving David as their own soul, fall short of the mark. David had wrought a great deliverance in Israel, in which God's hand was evident, and Jonathan so appreciates it that he strips himself to do David honour, brings Saul's. wrath upon himself by shielding David according to the dictates of the love which bound them together, holds sweet counsel with him in the wood (23:16), but returns from that friendly conference to Saul's house, and David to the hold in the wilderness! Why? The answer is unmistakable. "I know," he says, "that thou shalt be king over Israel," but adds, "And I shall be next unto thee." Here is Jonathan's weak point - self is there. To argue his humility from the circumstances would doubtless be easy; but the character of the humility is what is now in question; for God's king is in rejection. Love he certainly had, but not that which bid him to count all things but rubbish for the object of God's choice; faith too, but not that which dosed his eye upon the things that were seen and temporal. There was just enough self-love left to make him seek a place by-and-by, just enough of it to make him value the same now. He went back and died in company with Saul on mount Gilboa, losing both the future and the present! "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." (Luke 9:24.) "O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places I"

It is interesting to observe that in the poor, crippled Mephibosheth we discover the moral condition one would have looked for in the devoted Jonathan. Before the king he is but a "dead dog" confessed; and when David returns to Jerusalem upon the death of Absalom, he can say concerning the scheming Ziba, in respect of what might have been gain to him, "Let him take all, since my lord, the king, has returned again in peace." Utterly devoid of self, his heart is a vacuum which nought but David can fill. But what it has cost the son of Jonathan to be brought to this - shorn of his patrimony, an exile, and helplessly crippled!

Abigail attained morally the level upon which Mephibosheth stood before David, but surpassed him even in this, that David was not then in power; he was still in rejection, yet her faith and devotedness shine out brilliantly in a day of persistent darkness for the object of her esteem. Abigail ministers to David; but more, she saw the divinely imparted dignity which rested upon him amid the sorrows of his outcast place, and meets him becomingly. To her Saul is but "a man" (v. 29), and so zealous is she for the reputation of David that she pleads with him on this ground in behalf of her unworthy husband, identifying herself with his iniquity; and she merely begs to be remembered of David "when He cometh into his kingdom." This a crucified thief could do acceptably, and the becoming nature of his request from a despised and rejected Lord, manifests by contrast the ill savour of that which earned for James and John His just rebuke, and in which they morally stood alongside Jonathan. How different is the tenor of Psalm 131! David received Abigail's offering, hearkened to her voice, and accepted her person (v. 35); and when, in the Lord's judgment, ten days subsequently, Nabal dies, David sent and communed with Abigail to take her to be his wife. She bows herself to the earth before his messengers, and utters the most perfect expression of a truly humble heart - "Let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my Lord." (Compare John 13:5, 14.) She took Ham's place (see Gal. 3:13), a consciously unworthy, self-emptied thing, in more than mere words too; for she manifests her unfeigned humility by submitting unhesitatingly to the word of David; "she hasted … and went after the messengers of David, and became his wife."

Jezreel yielded David a second wife, according to verse 43, which evidently typifies the connection of Israel (the Jezreel or "seed of God," sown to Him on the earth, Hosea 2:19-23) with Christ in a future day; also "betrothed" to Him "for ever … in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies … even in faithfulness." She shall be brought unto the king in a raiment of needlework, wonderfully wrought doubtless, just as she, typified by Abigail, will be presented to the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-8) in a raiment suited to His eye. "To her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white … the righteousness of saints," As the world will see her, it will be purely as an object of grace, "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband … having the glory of God." But the blessed Lamb of God will delight to present unto Himself His Church, clad in a robe which bespeaks his own zealous and gracious care for her as she passes along through a defiling scene. He "loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." How zealous we might be in this also, were our eye filled with the scene which terminates our present course - the marriage of the Lamb! Clad in righteousness then, and in view of that, walking as He walked now, aiming at present likeness to Him, knowing that we shall be like Him when He shall appear. What need hinder us, adding, as it were, to the beauties of the bridal robe now, seeing that we find such a precious grouping of righteousnesses in Abigail - unfeigned humility, ready obedience, zeal for her lord's reputation, becoming service rendered him, thorough contempt for Saul's line of things, worthy prudence, and readiness to attribute to herself the shortcomings of others? J. K.