At the Lord's Table.

Exodus 33:18-19, 22; Exodus 34:6-7; John 20:17, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.

There are times and moments in our history when God, in His grace coming very near to us, makes us sensible of His presence and love, and when the redeemed soul tastes for a moment a sip of that eternal future that is awaiting it. In no way is this more distinctly realized on earth than in what we are privileged to be occupied with until the Lord shall come, that which was their delight in the beginning. "The disciples came together to break bread." (Acts 20:7.)

Not that we ought ever to lose the sense of His presence with us, and of what grace has done; for He is always with us; and there is the eternal, and therefore changeless, sunshine of His favour always beaming down upon us; and the clouds are not from Him. Still, He does at times allow them to come. Most of us know that there are times when it is not God in the fulness of His grace that is prominently before us, but rather the pressure of other things. It is the hour in our history when we are "perplexed, but not in despair; cast down, but not destroyed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, and for a season in heaviness through manifold trials;" for such a season God often sees there is a "needs be," as the apostle Peter says.

But it is He that lifts up. "God, that comforteth those that are cast down," does this Himself. The manner and way He takes with us in this has been the manner of His grace to all His people from the first. He makes His goodness to pass before us, and we are bowed by the sight of it before Him. Thus was it with Moses in this chapter. He had desired (when crushed, and well-nigh in despair as to the people) to see God's glory, and He said, "I will make all my goodness pass before thee." And for Moses, what was it? What would God do for him that he may not be overpowered thereby? "And I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by." (Ex. 33:22.) "And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. … And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped." (Ex. 34:6, 8.) The Lord passed by, and His goodness passed by in proclamation before His servant; and what could he say while, as sheltered there, he beheld it and heard it all? He made haste, bowed the head, and worshipped; and thus, beloved, is it always. Thus is it too with us whenever He makes us sensible of His goodness and of His presence; thus was it too with David when he went in and sat before the Lord. Words are wanting or die away in silence, the silence of worship; for he too is contemplating God, who has caused His goodness to pass before His soul. "Who am I, O Lord God, and what is mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? … What can David speak more to thee for the honour of thy servant? for thou knowest thy servant." (1 Chron. 17:16, 18.) This is all he can say. Words and expression both fail while the heart is bowed in worship and thanksgiving; for worship is not of necessity expression or language; often silence marks it. For it is as sheltered that we are called upon to contemplate "all His goodness," not now that into which we cannot look (as was the case with Moses), but sheltered, it is "with unveiled face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we see Jesus" (who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death) "crowned with glory and honour." Soon our portion will be to see Him as He is; but the Spirit causes now all His goodness ofttimes to pass before us; for the Spirit is not only the unfolder, discerning "the deep things of God," but the Spirit of sonship too, as He also is the bond of union. "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." "Heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ."

And now what has God to say to us? It is as sheltered, and also as covered, and, beyond all, as guests invited to listen to the Holy Ghost, and partake of the unfolding of all "God's goodness," that we are gathered together to break bread on each first day of the week. May we know how to value the privilege, and also how decorously to behave ourselves in the midst of such abounding grace as this. Here passes in review before the soul the destruction and overthrow of the enemy, and all His host in the Red Sea, while the ark stands firm in the bed of Jordan - both figures of the death of Christ. His goodness had passed before these poor slaves of Egypt and the desert rung again with a song that has not yet died away, nor ever will, but which is renewed and understood now by those who sing it in a desert (the desert of this world) as barren for us as was that which greeted Israel's eye that day. But it is of the Lord not of the desert. "I will sing unto the Lord; for He has triumphed gloriously, the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea." God is satisfied, and I (delivered) am now all that He would have me to be; for I am "accepted in the Beloved." "The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation;" and as to conflict in the land, the carrying out of all that His grace has purposed, we add, "The Lord shall reign for ever and ever." The Lord Jesus, who is with us (Matt. 18:20) the One who has come out of death and judgment, says, "My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation." He sings in the midst of the Church, the Leader of the song (Ps. 22), and claims us as His brethren - "My brethren" (John 20). God now bears to us the endearing name and relationship of Father - "My Father, and your Father; my God, and your God." He has passed (and we are with Him) into the sense of unclouded intimacy; for the work is DONE. God owns it where He has seated Christ. "Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." (Acts 2:34-35.)

How blessed then to be where the Lord condescends Himself to be! "Where two or three are gathered together to my name." Who would, who could, be absent, if they added, "There Am I," and if there were any possibility of being present? The place whereat He causes all His goodness to pass before us, and sends us out if into a desert as a rejoicing people, with the song of praise and thanksgiving in our mouths: "The LORD is my strength and song." Like the disciples of John 20, "glad;" for they saw "the Lord" - saw His hands and His side, and heard the blessed accents of His voice proclaiming, as the result of His death, "Peace unto you."

Have you done then with the world? It is our testimony. Have we passed into this blessed, this unclouded scene? It is what we declare week by week. Would we change places or be anything other than what God has been pleased to make us in, and through Christ - "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ"? Would Israel on the shore of the Red Sea go back again? Would David before the Lord change his circumstances? Would Job, before whom God had in those wonderful chapters (Job 28-29, 40-41.) caused all His goodness to pass, do anything but bow? "Now mine eye sees thee, wherefore I abhor myself;" this was, and it still is, the answer to the revelation of God's goodness. And when the disciples have learnt, and when we have learnt, that He claims us as His "brethren," what will the effect be upon us? What will it be, brethren, in each one of us if we are still left here? Will you live for Him, whom the world in its pride still rejects, a filled and worshipping people? May it be so while we are left here to show the Lord's death until He come, and to wait before Him in the blessed anticipation of His speedy coming the second time, "without sin unto salvation." "The night is far spent, the day is at hand."

H. C. Anstey.

The Christian is a new man, a new creation in Christ, risen into a wholly new place, on the utter rejection and proved insuperable evil of the first man - proved insuperable in the death of Christ. J. N. Darby.