Blessing and Conflict.

Revised notes of an address on 1 Chronicles 4.

How blessed it is to be occupied with the divine love that has been manifested in Jesus, and to know that God takes pleasure in the desires of His people after Himself and His things as responding to His love. As we deepen in the knowledge of the love of God we shall endeavour to hold the truth in love, to walk in obedience to the will of God, and to manifest in all our ways the same precious features that came out in the Lord Jesus. We shall be filled with compassion for sinners, our love for the children of God will be evinced in doing the will of God, and we shall value all that belongs to God as brought before us in His word.

Our chapter, which is concerned with the genealogies of the tribes of Judah and Simeon, bring before us some who had been well-known in Israel, such as Caleb, who brought back a good report from the land, and who along with Joshua was allowed of God to enter the promised land. Others, like Jabez, have no Scriptural mention outside this book, but their names have been put in the divine record to teach us what God values in His saints, and what should engage us as the people of God.

The very first words concerning Jabez are, "And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren," and the Spirit of God leaves us in no doubt as to the reason for this divine commendation. His name means "sorrowful," or "causing pain," so that the reason for his being more honourable than his brethren was not connected with what he was in a natural way. He was more honourable than his brethren because of his dealings with God.

As Christians, we have nothing to boast of in natural things; all that in which we might have boasted as natural men, we "count but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus" our Lord. All the distinctions of natural birth ties, all the accumulated glory of this world, all the advantages of wealth, rank and worldly fame; we see the end of all in the cross of Christ.

Honour for the Christian is not to be had in present things, but rather in the things of God; the honour that comes from men quickly fades and perishes, but the honour received from God abides. If we would have the approbation of God, we must seek it in communion with God, outpouring in His ear, as Jabez did, the desires of the heart.

The opening desire of this remarkable prayer is, "Oh that Thou wouldest bless me indeed." Like his father Jacob. Jabez coveted the blessing of God, and in this God takes delight. Jacob, unhappily, sought to obtain God's blessing in a wrong way, and for this he had to suffer in the government of God. Esau wanted the blessing, not because he sought the blesser, but because of what it would mean to him in material and earthly things: Jacob sought the blessing because it was God's blessing. Is it not because of this that we read in Malachi, "I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau?" In the sight of men, no doubt Esau would be a much more honourable man than Jacob, but God's estimation was entirely different.

God's estimation of us is bound up with our appreciation of His blessing. There is no need for us, as Christians, to ask for divine blessing, for God "hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3), but it is one thing to be thus blessed of God, and another to value what God has given to us in Christ. Alas! there are few today who seem to have much knowledge of, or concern for, the wonderful blessings that God has given to His saints. Will not those who do value God's blessings be esteemed by Him as "more honourable" than their brethren who are careless about them? So many, in these last days, have set their hearts on the passing things of this present world, even as the Apostle could say in his day, "All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's."

The second request made by Jabez was in relation to his inheritance; he desired that God would enlarge his border. This showed that he not only wished for God's blessing, but also that he prized the inheritance that God had given to His people. From the last chapter of Numbers we learn that the daughters of Zelophehad, and the sons of Joseph valued the inheritance that God had given to His earthly people; and should we not highly esteem the heavenly inheritance that God has given to us?

Of this divine inheritance we read in Ephesians 1, "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," and again, in the same chapter, "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened that ye may know . . . the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." Peter views the Christian hope in relation to "An inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you." God has not promised His heavenly saints earthly possessions. Everything possessed of present things must be relinquished, but the heavenly inheritance will be ours forever. We have been called to have part with Christ in all that shall be His in the coming day He is the Heir of all, and we are God's joint-heirs along with Christ, in the riches of His grace.

Do we, with Jabez, earnestly seek enlargement in relation to what God has given to His saints? Are our eyes set on present things, like Lot, viewing the well-watered plain of the Jordan? or are our minds set on the things that are above, where the Christ sits at the right hand of God?

The third request of this prayer is, "Oh . . . that Thine hand might be with me." Jabez had no desire to walk in his own strength, he sought the support of God, being evidently conscious of his own weakness. If we realise that all our blessing comes from God, there will also be the sense of our own powerlessness to be here for the pleasure of God. We need His support, the strength of His hand, and its guidance, to lead us aright, and to sustain our weakness. After Paul had been caught up to the third heaven, he received a thorn for his flesh, that he might from thenceforth be ever in the realisation that Christ's power sufficed for his weakness. Having learned this, he was able to say, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me . . . for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor. 12:9, 10).

The final request is "Oh . . . that Thou wouldst keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me." Jabez knew that in his own strength he was no match for evil; he required to be protected from the evil without, and preserved from the evil within. But God was His resource! For the flesh within us, we have the cross and the Spirit of God. If we walk in the Spirit, and by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body we shall live (Rom. 8:13). Moreover, we can say with the Apostle Paul, in this same chapter of Romans. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" God has given to us the "armour of light" to protect us from the darkness all around, and to meet all unrighteousness, He has given to us "the arms of righteousness on the right hand and on the left;" and to meet the forces of evil He has provided us with "The whole armour of God."

Jabez asked for much, but "God granted him that which he requested." God delights to grant the desires of a heart that confides in and relies on Him. To His disciples, the Lord Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My Name, He will give it you, ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23, 24). Again, in John 15:7, we read, "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Requests that flow from communion and dependence upon God will be for the honour of Christ's Name, and these the Father will gladly answer.

In verse 11 of our chapter, we have Chelub, who is the Caleb of verse 15, and of whom we read in Numbers 13, "And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it (the inheritance); for we are well able to overcome it." In verse 13 is the honoured name of Othniel, who at the challenge of Caleb, took Kirjath-sepher, and received Achsah, Caleb's daughter as wife, who received from her father "the upper springs, and the nether springs" (Joshua 15:16-19). These devoted men teach us valuable lessons concerning the inheritance of God. We are not only to prize God's inheritance; we are to possess it; we are even now to lay hold of what soon shall be fully ours with Christ. By the Spirit we can enter into the spiritual reality of what is ours in Christ.

The practical side of the Christian life is illustrated for us in verse 21, where we read of "The families of the house of them that wrought fine linen, of the house of Ashbea." In Revelation 19:8 we are taught that "The fine linen is the righteousnesses of saints," so that the workers of the house of Ashbea bring before us the precious privilege that belongs to the people of God of working out in the practical details of life the features of divine righteousness that are for the pleasure of God. Each act of practical righteousness in the lives of the saints of this dispensation, is a stitch in that beautiful garment in which the Bride of Christ shall appear before His eye, on the day of the marriage of the Lamb. Many of these ornamental stitches are wrought in circumstances of deepest sorrow, in the trials and persecutions of the saints, as well as in the ordinary, day by day, occupations of life. These are not wrought for the eyes of men: they are done only for Christ; He alone can see much of what His loved ones are doing now; but the day is surely coming when the bridal garment will be complete, and the Bride shall appear before Him in it for His delight.

In the house of Judah, mention is also made of "The potters, and those that dwelt among plants and hedges: there they dwelt with the king for his work" (verse 23). The potters were engaged with the forming of vessels that would serve the king, and their work was outside, among the clay, from whence the material was taken to form the vessels. And are there not devoted servants of the Lord whose concern is with those who are to be vessels in the service of the Lord? Their work lies outside, but it receives honourable mention; they are servants with those that dwelt among the plants and hedges.

Those who dwelt among the plants, dwelt with the king. The king had pleasure in the work of the potters, but he did not dwell in the clay beds, nor did they, but their work was there. But those who laboured among the plants of the king, both laboured and dwelt where the king abode. The Apostle Paul, in writing to the saints at Corinth said, "I have planted; Apollos watered; but God has given the increase. . . . For we are God's fellow-workmen; ye are God's husbandry." In this same chapter, 1 Corinthians 3, the saints are spoken of as "God's building," and "The temple of God." Paul and Apollos laboured among God's plants, and among those who formed the dwelling place of God.

There was not only the fragrant atmosphere of the divine plantations in which God's servants laboured, and dwelt with Him; there was also the protection of the "hedges." God's plants are to be sheltered from the influences of the outside world; they are to be kept separate from all that would cause damage to them, and so spoil the pleasure of Him whose plants they are. Much that the Apostle Paul wrote in his epistles, and especially in 1 Corinthians, was for the protection of the assembly of God; to keep the assembly from defilement, so that God might have pleasure in the gatherings of His saints. The consciousness that we are dwelling with God, and that He dwells with us, will have a very marked effect on the lives and service of the servants of the Lord. Coming from the presence of the Lord, we shall serve Him according to His will; not in our own way, but as He directs.

Of Simeon and Levi, Jacob had said, "I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel" (Gen. 49:7): and we know how this was fulfilled in Levi. What seemed to be a curse, in divine mercy proved for blessing, for the Levites were scattered throughout the tribes in connection with the service of Jehovah. In this chapter, we have the exploits of the sons of Simeon; those named are spoken of as "Princes in their families;" for they were men of renown. They too are scattered for the accomplishment of God's will.

It was late in the history of Israel, in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah, in whose reign Israel were carried away captive by Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, that these princes of Simeon went to seek pasture for their flocks, and found "fat pasture and good, and the land was wide, and quiet, and peaceable." To secure this rich heritage, the sons of Simeon smote the inhabitants, and dwelt in their rooms. It is now late in the history of the church; any day now and the true church will be raptured home, and the false church will be carried by "the beast," but this is not a reason for indifference or indolence. Those who care for the flock of God should still seek pasture for the sheep, and be prepared for conflict to secure it for them. During the last century, there were men like the sons of Simeon, who in searching for pastures found "fat pasture and good" and an inheritance that was wide, quiet and peaceable; and to secure this heritage for the saints they entered into great conflict, and brought the saints into a goodly heritage. Are we prepared to stand in conflict for the goodly heritage that was secured for us? Do we desire to keep the fat pasture and good, and the land that is wide, quiet and peaceable, even if it means "contending earnestly for the faith, once delivered to the saints?"

A special exploit was reserved for five hundred of the sons of Simeon, who had four of the sons of Ishi for their leaders; they executed Jehovah's final judgment on the Amalekites, and dwelt in Mount Seir, where they wrought this great deed, and which once had been the dwelling of Esau. Saul had been commanded to "utterly destroy" all that pertained to Amalek, but disobeyed the word of Jehovah, and for this lost his throne. What was not accomplished at the beginning was wrought towards the end with but five hundred men. Even if we are in the last days, and very weak, and few in numbers, the Lord can use those who are true to Him to carry out His will. With the panoply of God, we can stand for the truth in the evil day, weak in ourselves, but strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Two or three, gathered to the Name of the Lord, are privileged to walk in the light of the word of God, even if the great majority take another path. Indeed, nothing can excuse the saints, no matter how weak they may be, for acting contrary to the expressed word of God, whether in their individual lives, or as gathered together in assembly. May God give us grace to endeavour to act according to His will right until the end.
Wm. C. Reid.

Circumstances and the Lord's Coming.

We are frequently anxious to get away from present pressure; but if the pressure were removed, the longing would cease. If we longed for the coming of Jesus, and the glory of His blessed presence, circumstances would make no difference; we should then long as ardently to get away from circumstances of ease and sunshine, as from those of pressure and sorrow. . . . The believer may have to pass through the same circumstances — to meet the same trials — to encounter the same reverses as other men; but he must not meet them in the same way, nor interpret them on the same principle.
C. H. Mackintosh.