The Son in His Humiliation
"A little lower than the angels"
That part of the epistle which has already occupied us presented Christ to us in His glory as the Son of God incarnate, as He was manifested to men. We could not know Him as the eternal Son of God save as God declares the fact to us; but when He takes His place in His creation He is declared to be the Son of God. The Spirit of God, in this epistle, is most careful to declare His divine character in all its fulness, as we have seen throughout the wondrous unfolding of the first chapter. That which is before us now, however, seems to be in direct contrast to what we saw there. If we saw there the jealousy of the Spirit of God in maintaining the divine glory of the Son, we see in this portion, with equal care, the emphasis placed upon the fact that He was man. This is the great "mystery of godliness." It is "God manifest in the flesh," surely; and yet that flesh is a perfect man, so that as we gaze upon Him we can say not merely we behold "His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father," but we can also say there is the "Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus." And the Spirit of God is not careful, if I may use such an expression, in speaking of the divine glory, or of the human character of the Lord Jesus Christ, to check the fullest thought of His being that in each case. When He speaks of Him as God, there is no restriction, no check upon what He says. You are in the presence of your Creator, in the presence of the God of providence, and you must bow and worship. When He speaks of Him as Man, in the same way you are in the presence of One who has all the characteristics of an absolutely genuine man, apart from sin.
It is not merely that He was manifested in the body, that He had a human form, nor that He had a human intellect as well — perfect, imperial, human intellect; but He had also human affection. In other words, in body, soul and spirit He was as absolutely and entirely a man as He was absolutely and entirely God also. Faith must always be careful, first of all, to hold the entire truth, to receive everything that God reveals, and then let the Spirit of God harmonize what may apparently seem a contradiction. The great error into which men fall is that of shutting out a part of God's truth. The way to have the light is to welcome it all. Leave the Spirit of God to harmonize that which our poor, finite minds may but feebly grasp. We may be sure that it is all perfectly consistent with the divine glory. Our care is to receive it all.
So, in the portion which is to occupy us now, what we have distinctly before us is the humanity of the Son. If we might say "the Son of God" as to the first portion, we can here equally say, "the Son of man."
"For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the habitable world to come, whereof we are speaking; but one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man that thou rememberest him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels, thou crownedst him with glory and honor and didst set him over the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not in subjection under him. But now we see not yet all things put in subjection to him; but we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor, who was made a little lower than the angels on account of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for all."
You notice that here we have angels again. The apostle is not done with them. The first part was occupied in showing Christ's supremacy above all angels; His place there in that peerless glory which none of God's creatures could for a moment dispute. There He is, above them all; and when He is introduced into this earth, all the angels of God are called upon to worship Him. Here we have the angels again, but the thought is just the opposite of that.
The angels, first of all, are declared not to be the future rulers of this earth when it enters upon that era of blessing which is yet before it; for that is what is meant by this expression: "Hath He not put in subjection the world to come" (i e., the habitable world), "whereof we speak?" That "world to come" means the earth during the Millennium, the time when evil shall be put down and when the glory of God's kingdom shall be fully manifested. It is the period to which men have looked forward — to which Israel in the prophets was taught to look forward — with longing. We are distinctly told here that it is a time when the angels will not be lords and masters over it at all. God has not put that in subjection to them. On the contrary, "One in a certain place testified." We know that is in the eighth psalm; but it is very suggestive that he does not say "David," or even "the psalmist," because it is the fact of what is revealed that is emphasized, and not where or to whom it is revealed. "One in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him, or the Son of man, that Thou visitest him? "
That eighth psalm is a wonderful one, as to its position and its contents. In the early part of the book, the psalmist has looked at the great principles, and the themes that are to occupy him throughout the entire book. He has presented the character of the remnant, in their obedience to God, separation from evil, and meditation upon His Word, with the resulting fruitfulness, in contrast with the end of the ungodly, who, like the chaff, will be driven away in the judgment. He gives expression to their allegiance to God's King, who is to take His place upon God's throne in Zion, at which we have already looked in the first chapter. He then describes all the opposition of the enemy, as you find it in the earlier psalms (3 – 7). Then, in the eighth psalm, having looked over the whole field, as you might say, he looks up again to God, and proclaims the excellence of His name: "How excellent is Thy name in all the earth! who hast set Thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength, because of Thine enemies." Blessed and beautiful contrast that is — God's glory proclaimed through the mouth of feeble instruments, even babes! The enemy and avenger stilled by the praises of God from the mouth of infancy, as when our. Lord entered Jerusalem amid the acclaims of the little ones. Then the psalmist goes on; his eye sweeps the heavens, he thinks of all that mighty creation of God: "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him?" God has garnished those heavens, has shown His might, His wisdom, His glory, in those works. "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showed) His handiwork."
Well might the gazer, one of those babes and sucklings, as he took his place here in insignificance and gazed up into that infinity of glory, say, When I think of all the might and the wisdom displayed in that, what am I? "What is man," — any man, great or small, — "that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man," — man in the abstract, the ideal man, — "that Thou visitest him?" We might well say that of man as the creature of God. In one sense he is one of the least of God's creatures, so far as certain standards are concerned. As we contemplate the heavens, knowing something of the immensity of space, reaching out beyond the uttermost bounds of vision, where the time in which light, traveling with lightning speed, passes from star to star is measured by years; when we realize the number and magnitude of those heavenly bodies, their interdependence and grouping into systems; when we observe the perfect harmony and order of them all, — we begin to have some faint conception of the greatness and glory of that Being whose fingers fashioned them all, and who maintains them.
And yet creation itself is an evidence of humiliation on the part of Him who is infinitely above all His works. It is in this way a foreshadowing of that wondrous act of humiliation which we are to dwell upon, when He who was in the form of God stooped to be found in fashion as a man.
Thus man's littleness is seen as compared with the infinitude of God's creation above him. Passing now to the heavenly beings, compare him with angels: "Thou madest him a little lower than the angels." They are pure spirit, whose abode is in the heavens, and who excel in strength. They are not cumbered by the body of clay which would link them with the earth. Man carries about with him the witness of his weakness, his link with the animal life, yea, with the very earth below him, as well as his link with God.
But not only in creation is man feeble; when we remember that in creation he is a fallen being, that the very link that once bound him to God has been snapped by sin, and the only tie that could lift him out of his helplessness has been broken by his own act — what an utterly helpless being is man!
The psalmist goes on to say, further, "Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet." Again we are reminded of creation when God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." Everything was put under man's hand. He was head of God's creation according to His purpose. But if that were true according to creation, we are again reminded that the fall has come in, and from man's hand has dropped the sceptre which he should have swayed over all creation. Fallen man is not lord and master of all this creation at all. He can see his lowliness, he can own his degradation, he can confess that he is lower than the angels; but when it comes to his being crowned with glory and honor to be over the works of God's hands, if he is honest he has to confess that such lordship is in name, is only partial, and in the very instances when it seems to be greatest is but witness of his own utter imperfection.
For look about us today. We are living in the days of man's lordship. He has shown what his mind can accomplish, what organization can do, in the political, in the commercial, the educational, and the literary worlds. As we look about us today we see the sway of man over the earth in such a way that many would fain tell us that this, to a certain extent at least, is the fulfilment of his lordship over creation. But what do you find? Take man as ruler over this world, what has he done with his government? Do you find that it answers to the mind of God? Look at man's intellect. Has his mind led him into subjection to God? to obedience to Him? Is it not a fact that today, as never before, the world by wisdom knows not God? that the very wisdom which ought to be light is but darkness, and is shutting God further and further out of the minds of men? And so in every department of life, the very greatness of man, his very power, is as you have it in that description of Satan by the poet:
"What seemed to be his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on."
It is only the likeness of a crown; it is only the similitude of lordship. Man after all is nothing but a poor vain creature, and his lordship over creation is but an image, a reflection, a shadow.
But what has faith left in the midst of all that ruin? Does it say that the word of God is of none effect? In the midst of all the ruin and degradation of the old creation, faith sees God's provision, and says: "In that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him." "Not yet." The world is looking forward to a great era of peace and glory for man; but faith says, "Not yet;" no matter what may come to pass under man's government, faith says still, "Not yet." But what does faith say when asked about man and his glory and his rule? "We see Jesus." He is the Man after God's heart. He is the Man of God's counsels; He is the Son of Man, — that title which He took for Himself when here upon earth, — in whom all God's purposes centre, and through whom God will fulfil all the glory of that worldwide, that creation-wide dominion that you have in the eighth psalm. "We see Jesus."
And has He dominion over all things? Are all things yet put under His feet? Jesus is despised today in the world as much as when He was crucified — really rejected by all except those who receive Him as their Saviour and Lord. But faith can say, "We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor."
We see the One who took His place in His own creation amongst men, those that were lower than the angels, not to help men out of their condition by merely giving them a living example which they could follow. He took His place lower than the angels for one distinct object, and the shadow of the cross hangs over the manger of Bethlehem just as really as it did over Gethsemane and Golgotha itself. He became man for the distinct purpose of the suffering of death. But faith sees Him more than as an incarnate Saviour, more than as a suffering Saviour upon the cross; faith now looks up to where He is upon the throne of God, and declares, "We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor."
Let us notice something very beautiful just there. Faith has its eye upon Christ, and it will not be diverted from that blessed Object until it has seen Him seated upon the throne of the Highest. One might say, after we have seen Him in His incarnation, that faith might have paused and spoken of the benefits of His example; or at any rate, after the death upon the cross, faith might have paused and spoken of the benefits of His salvation. But faith must first see Him back there upon the throne of God. Then, when He has taken His place, the place which God has given Him, as having accomplished His redemption work, faith returns to earth, as it were, and says, "that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man." We know the effect of His death, He having drunk that bitter cup to its very dregs. He bore all that death meant for Him, to be cut off out of the land of the living, to lose His hopes as King of Israel, to be deprived of dominion over the earth, — it meant all that; but above all, to have God Himself turn from Him and pour out His wrath and indignation upon Him! To the last dregs He tasted the cup of judgment, of death, for all creation.
I do not think the Spirit of God limits it here. It is not a question of who accepts this work. We know that unless one accepts it, the value of it is of no avail. The sun shines for all, but the blind abide in darkness. For those who refuse Christ there is no benefit in the redemption which He wrought. And yet its value is perfect, complete for everyone, be they in multitude as the whole human race, they are welcome to accept that which has an efficacy for all the family of Adam. Whosover will may come; and what a comfort it is, in holding out the gospel, in declaring the love of God, to have no hidden reserve, or think it may not be sufficient for every one. We can say, "by the grace of God He tasted death for every man." May it not be more than that? For this "every one" is capable of referring not only to mankind, but to all creation as well — everything in heaven and earth reconciled by the death of Christ — so that the very heavens themselves as the scene of Satan's rebellion, have been purged by that sacrifice. His death forms the solid basis upon which the entire new creation, the millennial earth, the new heavens and the new earth will rest; nothing to be shaken because He has tasted death for everything. What a joy, what delight it is, to think that our eternal happiness and the sphere in which that happiness will be enjoyed are both alike resting upon a finished work which God has set His seal upon by placing the One who did it upon His throne!
There, then, is the blessed divine answer to the question, "What is man?" And as you go out into the night when the stars are shining bright above you, and you begin to feel your insignificance in the midst of all this great creation of God; and when the memory of your own sins and the sin of the human race comes upon you with tenfold power, and seems to crush you, a very mite, into the dust itself, remember there is a Man upon the throne of God, above the stars, who is the measure of God's thoughts for you. When we ask ourselves, "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?" we can say, There He sits at the right hand of God, angels and principalities and powers, and all the works of His hands, made subject unto Him.
Ah, dear brethren, there is a theme to engage the heart, to call forth worship and delight, as you think of that blessed Man, humbled unto death, now at God's right hand, and He, God's answer to the question, "What is man?"
"For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the originator of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he who sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the assembly. will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God gave unto me. Forasmuch then as the children are sharers in blood and flesh, he also in like manner took part in the same; that through death he might bring to nought him who hath the power of death, that is the devil; and set free as many as through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For it is not angels assuredly upon whom he taketh hold, but he taketh hold of the seed of Abraham; wherefore it behoved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, in order to make propitiation for the sins of the people; for in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor those that are tempted."
We come now to an enlargement of this blessed theme, to that which goes into it a little more in detail; and if in the first part we have been seeing the preeminent glory of this Son of man, here we have Him laying hold in grace and love upon those who are to be associated with Him.
Look at the exquisite beauty and grace of this 10th verse: "For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." That word "became" means, it was consistent with all that He was, it was suited to the character of God. Let us see what He was going to do. He was going to bring to glory. That was God's great object. And whom is He going to bring to glory? Many sons. He is not satisfied to bring a few men to glory, nor even to bring many; but when brought to glory they are to be in eternal relationship of sonship with Himself. We might easily conceive of God redeeming us without bringing us into the relationship of sons; He might have given us a distant place in His glory; but God's thoughts are far beyond that. He will have a family of children about Himself. Redeemed children they must be, but children in all the nearness and joy of a Father's presence.
How was He to bring many sons to glory? It had to be a work so blessedly complete that it would place us before Him in all the nearness and confidence of the relationship of sons. He had to do it in perfect consistency with His own character, which He could not violate in the least. He could not violate His holiness in dealing with unholy men. He could not violate His righteousness in dealing with those who had broken every law He had ever given to them. He could not violate His wisdom, or any one of His attributes. He could not violate that throne of His glory upon which He sits for evermore. Everything had to be in perfect consistency with His counsels, His glory, and His purposes. But in redemption we see every attribute of God fully vindicated. In bringing many sons to glory God has glorified Himself, He has manifested His character, He has shown every attribute; and He has done it by making the Leader, the Originator, the Prince of salvation perfect through sufferings.
I pause to say one word as to any possible misapprehension, which I am sure would not be in any thoughtful Christian's mind. Christ did not need to be perfected in any way save as a Captain of salvation. We know that He was ever perfect; He was "that holy thing" before His birth. He was perfect throughout His entire private life; perfect in all His ministry; perfect in Gethsemane; never more absolutely perfect than when as "a Lamb without blemish and without spot He hung bleeding on the cross. He was perfect in every detail of life, and it is only blasphemy to think of imperfection in any way connected with Himself. Personally perfect, and yet He needed to be made a perfect Saviour; as He says of Himself in one place, "I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected."
He was to take His place as perfect Captain of salvation, and the only way He could be perfected as that was through His sufferings. I say it reverently, that our blessed Lord's perfection could have had nothing to do with our salvation apart from the cross. His perfection would only bring out more glaringly our utter worthlessness. He might have ascended up where He was before, but had He not done so by the way of the cross we would still have been in our sins. But the perfect Captain of salvation so perfectly wrought redemption that He can lay one hand upon the very throne of God and the other upon the unclean sinner, and pronounce him "clean."
Now this perfect Leader of salvation has identified Himself in perfect and beautiful grace with His people: "For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren." Christ by His finished work has set apart His people to God. That is what sanctification primarily means in this epistle. It does not mean the work of the Spirit in our hearts: — that is the sanctification of the Spirit. We have also the Father's sanctification, as you might say, in His having chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world: — that would be the sanctification according to the purpose of God; but the sanctification spoken of here is primarily that work of Christ which has forever cut us loose from Satan and sin, and set us before God as His ransomed people. Far be it from me to say that the work of Christ could ever, as regards a true believer, be apart from the inward work of the Spirit. It is distinct, but not separable from it.
" For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one." Here is another wonder of grace. The One who sanctifies us and we who are sanctified — we have just been speaking of our sin and guilt, yet here he brings these two together, the One who has sanctified and they who are sanctified are "all of one" — belong to one company, to one family; or, as has been said by those who are devoted students of the word of God — they are "all of one Father." I shrink personally from absolutely declaring that I believe the "one" spoken of here refers to the Father, because that is not the general theme of the epistle; and yet there is no doubt that there is strong presumption that that may be just the meaning, for He speaks of them as His brethren. But whatever may be the full meaning of this expression, "all of one," it speaks of our identification with Christ, who has come down into our condition as the Captain of salvation, taken His place amongst us and through death has brought us into the place He has gained for us. Therefore He is not ashamed to call us brethren, to take that title upon His blessed lips which speaks of the closest and most endearing of relationships. You remember, when our blessed Lord rose from the dead, that He referred to His disciples as His brethren. He said to Mary, after His resurrection, "Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God."
You notice here it says: "He is not ashamed." It is an act of infinite condescension. Far be it from us to turn to Him and say, He is our brother, as frequently said by the Lord's people, without a restraining sense of His greatness when they speak of the Lord Jesus as their "Elder Brother." No; if He, in the condescension of His perfect grace, can address us as His brethren, we leave it to Him to use that language. Faith ever stands with unshod feet and bows its heart in the presence of perfect grace and perfect love. We leave it where Scripture leaves it. The heart thrills with joy as He uses that word, and we worship Him and bless Him for the grace that has stooped to call us His brethren, yea, that has brought us into that place of nearness to His God and our God, His Father and ours.
There are three scriptures quoted which give perfect testimony as to this, in that they show that He has the right to speak of us now as His brethren.
The first is taken from the twenty-second psalm: "I will declare Thy name unto My brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee."
It is a wonderful psalm. The first part is occupied with the cross where our blessed Lord was made sin for us, and at the very depth of His anguish you find Him forsaken of God, persecuted by man, the dogs yelping out their hatred and malice against Him, His hands and feet pierced as He is nailed to the cross; and yet, in the midst of all that, after the cloud of divine wrath is passed, we hear Him say that God has heard Him from the horns of the unicorn. And so He dies. After He has finished the work of redemption, giving up His spirit to the Father, you find a blessed contrast. It is no longer one that is forsaken, nor even one who has cried to God and been heard from the horns of the unicorn, but a strong, sweet, mighty Voice telling out the praises of God in the midst of those whom He calls His brethren: "I will declare Thy name unto My brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee."
It is our happy privilege as priests to sing praise unto God, to offer up worship and thanksgiving to Him, but is it not wondrous to listen first of all to Him who is the Priest and Psalmist, whose theme is ever, as it was here upon earth, the Father's name and the Father's glory: "I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them."
Listen to Him, the risen Lord, in the midst of those whom now He can own as His brethren, declaring the glory of God's name, and then lifting up His own high-priestly, mighty voice, leading the praises of His people in all the joy of exultant worship, pouring out His heart in leading the praises of His people in worship and in thanksgiving to God who is over all, blessed forever.
What association, what a wonderful scripture to show us our association with Him! What amazing grace — we linked with One who praises God, and leads our praises!
Then there are two other scriptures, taken from the prophet Isaiah. The second one is, "I will put My trust in Him." The first one emphasized our relationship, Christ calling us His brethren. The second shows it is the perfect Man that is speaking thus, He who was the perfect Man of faith. You will find in the eighth chapter of Isaiah that the prophet is a type of Christ, in the midst of ruin, when the unbelief of king Ahaz compelled the irruption of the Assyrians upon the land of Israel. The land of Israel was in a state of apostasy, and the whole of Immanuel's land was to be overwhelmed by the enemy, which comes in like a flood. "Therefore I will trust in the Lord," says the prophet, (as the Greek version of Isaiah gives it.) Faith — realizing God's purposes as shown to that unbelieving king Ahaz: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" — faith can look the ruin calmly in the face, and, as the enemy comes in like an "overwhelming flood," it says, "I will trust in the Lord," and looks that the Spirit of the Lord should lift up a standard against him. So with our Lord Jesus, who was ever the perfect Man of faith upon earth.
The sixteenth psalm presents Him in this lovely way, as the Leader of faith. There you find Him declaring that His goodness does not extend to God; not from divine glory, but from the place of service He is speaking here: "My goodness extendeth not to Thee; but to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all My delight." His delights were with the excellent of the earth, the godly in Israel, who by confession of sin had opened their hearts to God's grace. Then He goes on through that psalm to separate Himself from every form of ungodliness. As He simply trusts in God who is His portion and His cup, He can look calmly on towards death and say, "Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption." It is faith all through; and the faith that Christ had, it is our privilege to have also as we pass through this world He was a Man of faith as a Leader for us.
Then the third scripture emphasizes His relation with His people: "Behold, I and the children whom God hath given Me." That is also quoted from the eighth of Isaiah, and emphasizes the fact that He is not ashamed to call us brethren. What a precious dignity is put upon us! We are one with Himself, our blessed Lord calling us His brethren; and we have these three scriptures showing that He had the right to do so!
The children were flesh and blood; that is, they were really men. I call your attention to a difference of expression here, which suggests what is in the original. The children are partakers — that is, they belong to the order of flesh and blood; they are simple humanity. He also became perfectly man. The word however suggests that He came into it from without, in grace: "He also Himself likewise took part of the same." He came into the sphere of humanity. It was apart from sin, of course, but He participated, associated Himself with man. He took not hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham, of all who are, by faith, the spiritual seed of Abraham; though, as he was addressing Hebrews, the apostle might well refer to our Lord being, according to the flesh, of the stock of Abraham. He has come into that condition where He can lay hold of man.
Why did He come? Here we see it brought out in another connection: "That through death He might destroy" (or annul) "him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
Here we have the deliverance of Christ's people through His death from all the power of Satan. Satan had the judicial power of death. That he got through man in Eden deliberately taking his word instead of God's. "The woman was deceived, being in the transgression," and the man deliberately, with eyes open, accepted all the consequences of being under the serpent's rule. "Therefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin," Satan became, in that way, the prince and god of this world, and had the power of death. Thus death was the judicial infliction of God upon man, and Satan was connected with it in such a way that Scripture says he had the power, or authority, of death. Satan in that way was the executioner of God's judgment upon man. And how he has used his authority! How he has held the fear of death over people's heads! How he has driven them frantic with terror, made them suffer, turned their religion into superstition, made them commit incredible acts of cruelty through the fear of death! Satan is master of man's religion, and you will find that most of it is dictated by the fear of death.
But now Christ has come, and has delivered from the fear of death. How? By dying Himself he has become the destroyer of death, has taken away its sting and fear, and thus delivered all those who were subject to bondage through fear of death. For the believer the fear of death is now gone; it is really only sleep. Could you lie down quietly with the assurance that you would never wake again, and pass into eternity? Has the work of Christ so effectually removed every fear of death from you that you could do that? That is what He came for.
Our blessed Lord has come and broken that strong man's power; a Stronger than Satan has come and taken away his armor in which he trusted; man is set free.
The natural man fears death, for "it is appointed to men once to die, and after death the judgment." A courageous man may not fear physical death; but there is no man so courageous that he can think of the judgment of Almighty God without trembling. It is the judgment after death which "makes cowards of us all." And it is this judgment which our Lord bore in His death, and thus removed its curse from us. Instead of our enemy, "the king of terrors," death has become our servant to open the door to our Lord's presence, to enjoy sweet communion with Him while we wait for the resurrection of the body. Even His own people in Old Testament times were in bondage more or less. Witness the prayer of Hezekiah when the message came, "Thus saith the Lord, Set thy house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live." Witness what he says as he turns to God with entreaty: "Remember now, O Lord, I beseech Thee, how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore." He pleads and cries to God that he might be spared, He was in a certain sense in bondage. How perfectly has our blessed Lord Jesus set free those who were all their lifetime subject to bondage! Let us indeed praise Him for this.
In the two last verses we have the third truth which is brought out: our Lord passing through death "that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted." I will only refer you here to the sixteenth of Leviticus, where you find the high priest went into the holiest of all and sprinkled the blood once on the mercy-seat and seven times before it. Then, coming out, he could pronounce blessing upon the people; though failing and sinful, God could dwell among them, because of the blood of atonement which was upon and before the mercy-seat. So Christ, "a merciful and faithful High Priest," has gone into the presence of God, not "by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, . . . having obtained eternal redemption." This is His faithful work as High Priest. Then we have Him also as Leader and Captain of our salvation, able to succor His tempted people; for He knows from experience what outward temptation is. Satan assailed our Lord with every form of temptation: He was tempted to show forth His divine power by making the stones bread, and thus to doubt God's care and goodness; He was tempted to presume on that goodness by casting Himself from the temple; He was tempted with all the kingdoms of this world and their power if He would only do homage to Satan; but in all this, and at every point, He repelled Satan by the word of God.
How our blessed Lord turned from all such temptations! He suffered; He would rather go on in His lowly path of rejection, misunderstood, refused, resisted, and finally to the cross itself, than accept all the kingdoms and glory of this world from the hand of Satan.
Have you this day had temptation? has some poor, wretched little god of this world been dangled before your eye? have you grasped it, and yielded to the temptation? are you tempted to yield? Look at that blessed One who in His whole life here ever refused everything not given by His Father, and you see the perfect Example, and One who has power to succor us whenever we are tempted. Thus as a merciful priest He comes to the help of His feeble people — merciful toward us, faithful toward God.
Our blessed Lord not only — in the language of the type — sprinkled the blood in the Sanctuary, but He has also come out to put His arms about His tempted, weak, erring people, to sustain us in all our pilgrimage journey.
Here we have in some little measure the blessed Son of Man before us. Is there not enough here to fill us with joy and delight as we look upon Him, God's High Priest up there, and bow our hearts in worship to Him?