Tabernacle, Not Made With Hands (1)
“A greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands...” (Hebrews 9:11)
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands,...” (Hebrews 9:24)
The expressions in these verses are similar to those we considered in connection with “circumcision made without hands,...” (Col. 2:11). The contrast with regard to circumcision was seen to be between what was outward and what was inward; the inward replacing the outward. Romans 2:28-29 explains this. In our present study it will be seen that the permanent replaces the temporary.
Tabernacle Made with Hands
In Hebrews 9 a little is said about the tabernacle in the wilderness. Verses 1-5 give a brief description of the Holy place and the Holiest of all, and the furniture that was found therein is referred to. It must be remembered that the instructions were given by God to His servant Moses. Earlier, in Hebrews 8:5, quoting from Exodus 25:40, it says: “See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.” The holy places made with hands are said to be figures of the true, that is, the tabernacle Moses produced on earth answered exactly to the pattern shewn him on the mount. It is much to the credit of Moses that it is said: “And Moses verily was faithful in all His house, as a servant,...” (Heb. 3:5). Faithfulness becomes servants, whether we think of Moses in his day, or ourselves in our day. Paul writes in another place: “Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2).
The Production of the Holy Places Made with Hands
Moses had the overall responsibility of producing and constructing the tabernacle. When it was finished and erected it is said: “So Moses finished the work” (Ex. 40:33). But Moses wasn't alone in this. Two men were called to make the various parts of the building.
The Work of Bezaleel and Aholiab
Of the first it is said: “And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship” (Ex. 31:3). To Christians it may seem strange to consider men filled with the Spirit in order to give craftsmanship and skill, but so it was. “To devise artistic work — to work in gold, and in silver, and in copper, and in cutting of stones, for setting, and for carving of timber — to work all manner of work” (Ex. 31:4-5, J.N.D. Trans.). The artistic ability was given by God. We recognise that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual power, altering our lives and enabling us to offer spiritual sacrifices, but in Exodus the things produced were tangible. Yet, though made with hands, Divine power was needed. This should not really surprise us, because all the things Bezaleel made were types of Christ. It says in Exodus 37 and 38:
“And Bezaleel made the ark...” (Ex. 37:1)
“And he made the mercy seat...” (Ex. 37:6)
“And he made the table...” (Ex. 37:10)
“And he made the candlestick...” (Ex. 37:17)
“And he made the incense altar...” (Ex. 37:25)
“And he made the altar of burnt offering...” (Ex. 38:1)
“And he made the laver of brass...” (Ex. 38:8)
What typical value is in these seven items of tabernacle furniture, all pointing to Christ in various aspects! It is little wonder that the filling of the Spirit alone imparted the skills to produce them.
With regard to us today it is said of the Comforter, the Spirit of truth: “He shall glorify Me: for he shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:14). It is only in the power of the Spirit of God that likeness to Christ may be seen in us. We are to walk in the Spirit. Guidance into the truth is also in that same power. So even though the vessels made by Bezaleel were produced by hand, were tangible and lifeless, Divine power was exercised in the making of them as being figures of the Lord Jesus.
The Women Involved in the Work
Mention is made of the women who played their part. It is interesting that with them the heart is mentioned. “And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen. And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats' hair” (Ex. 35:25-26). What a scene of activity is seen here in producing the tabernacle. Would that there was more of this heart work in our day, seeking to promote the interests of our Lord Jesus among His own.
Not Made with Hands
In dealing with the expression “not made with hands...” as found in Hebrews 9, the section from verse 11 to 14 dwells mainly on the inadequacy of the Jewish sacrifices contrasted with the completed offering of the Lord Jesus. In the section from verse 24 to 28 the emphasis seems to lie upon the present position of Christ in “heaven itself...” In all, the day of atonement is never far away from the writer's mind. “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; How much more shall the blood of Christ...” (Heb. 9:12-13). In these two verses, “the blood of goats and calves...” (v. 12) and “the blood of bulls and of goats...” (v. 13), reference is clearly to Leviticus 16, the chapter that is central to that book. Also, “and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean,...” has obvious reference to Numbers 19, which is central to that book.
Summing it up, the best result achieved is given: “sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh...” Even these chief offerings were totally inadequate to deal with the heart and conscience.
A Greater and More Perfect Tabernacle
In verse 11 reference is made to: “a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands,...” We have considered the tabernacle made with hands, set up in the wilderness. It is said to be a pattern of things in the heavens, but it was set up on earth as suitable to an earthly people. Now, because Christ has come and redemption has been accomplished, there is a heavenly sanctuary, suitable to a heavenly people. It is “not made with hands...” We have come to the heavenly things themselves.
(To be continued, if the Lord will)
Christ Our Refuge
“There is a Place by Me” (Exodus 33:21)
A place near God
We live in a day when people seem to have less and less time for one another. Very often children or unborn children are not wanted, young people have trouble finding their place in society, and an increasing number of elderly people live in difficult circumstances. We are reminded of the words, “There was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). Although it should not be like that, even we as believers may show the same wrong attitude and act in a worldly way towards children, young people or elderly people. Therefore we need to ask ourselves whether we really have room in our lives for our fellow believers and to receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God (Rom. 15:7).
Anyway, it is a great blessing to know that God always has a place for us, a place of perfect security and complete safety. This place is found by Him, or near Him. There is peace and quiet, protection from dangers, and eternal safety, for nothing can harm us in the presence of God. The natural man does not know this place by God, for he has turned his back on Him and has gone out from His presence.
Our eyes must be opened so that we see this place, which is only possible by faith. Therefore God said to Moses: “Behold, there is a place by Me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock...” (Ex. 33:21). The eyes of our spiritual understanding must be enlightened. Then we will realize the great things which God has done for sinners in order to save them and bring them into His holy presence, and we will take refuge with God Himself (cf. Eph. 1:18; Eph. 4:18).
The Rock of ages
It is a wonderful thought that God Himself has prepared this place of security for us. We had no right to it, for we were children of wrath and could not come into God's holy presence. How did God prepare this place near Himself? He did it by laying a sure foundation in the finished work of the Lord Jesus on Calvary's cross. This enables us to stand before Him.
Our place near God has been prepared by Christ. This is exactly what we see in type in the second part of this verse in Exodus 33: “And thou shalt stand upon a rock” (Ex. 33:21b). Just as Moses was shown a place on the rock, we have found a sure foundation in Christ, the Rock of ages. He is the Rock that offers solid ground to mortal man, to the children of dust. He is the One upon whom our faith can build, both personally and collectively. For the church of the living God is built on this chosen Stone. When we come to Him in faith we receive a new and incorruptible life, “the life of the Rock of ages.” And as living stones we are together being built up a spiritual house (Matt. 16:16-18; Matt. 21:42; John 1:42; John 5:21; Eph. 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:4-6).
The rock was the only safe place for Moses, for otherwise he would have been consumed by the glory of God. There is some important teaching in Scripture about God as the Rock. In Deuteronomy 32 Moses repeatedly spoke about God as the Rock of His people: He was the Rock of their salvation, the Rock who begot them and who fathered them (vv. 4, 15, 18, 30, 31). This picture is also often used in the Psalms. God was the Rock in whom David trusted, and whom he blessed as the God of his salvation (Ps. 18:2, 31, 46). In Him he found a safe place in times of trouble: “In the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me: He shall set me up upon a rock” (Ps. 27:5). Psalms 31 (vv. 2-3), 40 (v. 2), and 61 (vv. 2-4) also speak about this place of shelter on the rock.
It is evident that all these passages refer to God Himself as the Rock where David found security and safety. The New Testament believer occupies the same place. For as Christians we rest in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Our eternal safety is founded on His finished work. And Christ is also the Rock on which the church is now being built.
In the cleft of the rock
It does not stop at this, however, for Moses was not only given a place on the rock but even in the rock. God said to Moses: “And it shall come to pass, while My glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with My hand while I pass by...” (Ex. 33:22). God put Moses in a cleft of the rock, and covered him with His own hand. This is a beautiful picture of our position in Christ. And it is God Himself who grants us this place in Christ (1 Cor. 1:30-31; 2 Cor. 1:21-22). As believers we are no longer seen in the first man, Adam. Just as Moses was put in the cleft of the rock, we have been united with Christ. In this way we have found a place of perfect safety before God, a place where we are covered by God's own hand. All of this is God's work (“I will put thee in a cleft of the rock...”). As Paul tells us: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works...” (Eph. 2:10). It is His free and sovereign grace, as revealed in Christ.
I would also like to point to the fact that the cleft rock not only gave shelter and safety, but also provided God's people with water during their journey through the wilderness (Ex. 17:6; Num. 20:7-11). The Israelites drank of a “spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). A river of water flowed out of the rock to quench their thirst. This is typical of the streams of living water, the Spirit poured out from on high (Isa. 44:3). Christ is the Rock that was struck with the rod of God's judgment, and His sufferings and His atoning death opened up an inexhaustible fountain of blessing to us (John 4:10-14; John 7:37-39; Acts 2:17-18; 1 Cor. 12:13).
A divine dwelling place
So the important lesson of Exodus 33:21 is that there is a place of shelter in God's presence, a place near God. It is a place given by God Himself to this end. The Hebrew word for “place” in this verse is very common in the Old Testament. In the book of Deuteronomy it is used to designate the place of worship that Israel was to seek in the Promised Land. In this place, which the Lord would choose, the people would come to meet Him and rejoice in His presence. We also have a God-given place of meeting, for it is His desire that we should meet around His beloved Son. Christ is the Centre of our worship and we come to God through Him. So we worship the Father in spirit and truth, and we rejoice in His presence.
As Christians we also have the blessed hope that God will grant us a place in His own glory (Rom. 5:2; 1 Thess. 2:12). God has prepared a place for us near Him. He thought of us before the foundation of the world, and predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself (Eph. 1:4-6). Christ obtained this place for us by His redemptive work. He is our heavenly Head and our Representative in the glory, for God has made us accepted in the Beloved. This is our present position in Christ, realized by faith.
When we think of the glory that is still to come, we also think of the place which the Lord Jesus has prepared for us in the Father's house. There are many mansions in that heavenly home, as He told His disciples in John 14:2. When He had finished His work on earth He went back to the Father. Thus He opened up the way for us to heaven, and He promised us: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3).
“There is a place by Me” — how wide is the scope of these words! They speak of our position in Christ before God, a place of perfect security and safety. They also speak of our place in God's presence here on earth, the dwelling place where He chose to make His Name abide. Finally, they refer to our heavenly hope: a place has been prepared for us in the Father's house, where we shall enjoy eternal rest.
The Sonship of Christ (2)
(Continued from page 9)
The Sonship of Christ as Seen in His Pathway
We have seen that the nature of the Son is deity. We have seen that He has an eternal relationship with the Father and that this relationship is a relationship of love. Each of these hallmarks of His Eternal Sonship were seen in the Son in this world.
In John's Gospel chapter five, having healed the impotent man on the Sabbath day, the Lord was confronted by the Jews. In verse 17 we have the words of the Lord Jesus Himself: “But Jesus answered them, My father worketh hitherto, and I work.” Verse 18 tells us what we are to understand from these words. It is not merely what the Jews inferred from them, but what John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote: “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” This passage shows that the incarnation did not change the nature of His Sonship. Just as He was not one whit less God after the incarnation than before it, so His Sonship too was unchanged by it1 (See footnote on next page). John 10 shows this just as clearly. The Lord says: “I and My Father are one.” He is of the same nature, of the same essence, as the Father. The Jews knew very well what the Lord was claiming and they accuse Him of blasphemy, “Because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God” (John 10:30-33). As proof of His Divine and Eternal Sonship the Lord there refers to the fact that He was sanctified and sent2 by the Father into the world, and that as having come into it He did the works of His Father (John 10:34-39). These works showed that as the Son He has the nature of God in all its fulness. In John 5 we read that: “The Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth,” and “What things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19-20). As the Son He could be shown everything that the Father was doing, and as the Son He could do the same things Himself. But there is one work in particular which shows that the nature of the Son is deity: He gives life to the dead. “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will” (John 5:21). It is this attribute of Deity that Paul refers to in Romans 1 in proof of the Divine Sonship of Christ: He is “Marked out Son of God in power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection of the dead” (Rom. 1:4 — J. N. D. Trans.).
The Lord Jesus has the nature of God in all its fulness, and as the Son He also has an eternal relationship with the Father. This relationship with the Father characterised the Son as come into the world. It didn't begin when He came into the world, and neither did it cease then. The relationship continued without interruption. On only one occasion in the Gospels does the Lord address God, and that is on the cross: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34). At all other times He addressed God as His Father and this known and enjoyed relationship with the Father was the home of His heart. He referred to it in His first recorded words in this world. Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple and Mary mistakenly reproved Him: “Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing” (Luke 2:48). Was Mary forgetting that while legally Joseph's Son, the Lord Jesus had been born “before they came together”? (Matt. 1:18). The Lord answered with words to Mary's conscience: “How is it that ye sought Me? wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?” (Luke 2:49). The Father had sent the Son and the Son had come down from heaven, not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him (1 John 4:14; John 6:38).
1The incarnation was considered in an article by Mr. W. R. Dronsfield which appeared in the January/February 1994 issue, pages 193-196. Copies of that article are available on application to R. Wall, whose address appears on the back page.
2The sending of the Son was considered in the previous article in this series.
His last words upon the cross were addressed to the Father. While the Son was in the world, the Father who had sent Him had been with Him. He had not left the Son alone, because the Son had done always those things which pleased the Father (John 8:29). Now that the work was done, and in the unclouded enjoyment of that same eternal relationship, it is to the Father that He sends away His spirit. “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit: and having said thus, He gave up the ghost” (Luke 23:46). The Lord had been hanging on the cross for six hours, yet shortly before those words were spoken He had been able to declare, “It is finished,” with a loud voice (Mark 15:25, 34; John 19:30). How was this possible? Mark tells us that: “When the centurion, which stood over against Him, saw that He so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39). In John's account of the crucifixion we are told that “He delivered up His spirit” (John 19:30). He had power to lay down His life and power to take it again. Even in the circumstances of His death His glory is manifested, and it is the glory of the Son.
This relationship between the Father and the Son was and is a relationship of love. As being one with the Father He can say: “All things that the Father hath are Mine” (John 16:15). Yet as the incarnate Son all things are given to Him by the Father. That the Father gives Him all things is a proof of the eternal love of the Father for the Son: “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand” (John 3:35). In John 5 it is this eternal love of the Father for the Son that leads the Father to show the incarnate Son all things that He is doing: “For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth” (John 5:20).
This love for the Son is also seen in the various ways that He is described. He is the Father's “beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17; Matt. 17:5; Mark 1:11; Mark 9:7; Luke 3:22; Luke 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17), “The Beloved” (Eph. 1:6), God's “own Son” (Rom. 8:3, 32), and the Son of the Father's love (Col. 1:13).
The Sonship of Christ in Relation to the Jews
The Sonship of Christ was a central issue with the Jews. We have seen from John's Gospel chapters 5 and 10 how He pressed it upon them in plain words. Later, in the counsel of the Jews, the high priest adjured Him by the Living God to say whether He was the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 26:63-64; Mark 14:61-62; Luke 22:70). His answer was “I am” (Mark 14:62).
The Lord also pressed His Sonship upon the Jews in parables. In Matthew 21 He speaks about a certain householder who planted a vineyard. It is a picture of Israel nationally, planted by Jehovah (Jer. 2:21; 11:17). When the time for fruiting drew near servants were sent to receive of the fruit. Some were beaten, some were stoned and some were killed. Last of all the householder sent his son, saying, “They will reverence my son” (Matt. 21:37). In Mark's Gospel it is added that: “Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him last unto them” (Mark 12:6). But those to whom the son is sent reject him and as a consequence they are themselves rejected and judgment falls upon them.
In Matthew 22 there is a parable that is only recorded in that chapter. A certain King makes a marriage for his son. Those first bidden to the wedding refuse the invitation and others fill up their place. Matthew's Gospel repeatedly contrasts the dispensations of law and grace and this change of dispensation is shown to hinge on the rejection of the Son.
At the end of Matthew chapter 22 the Lord refers to prophetic Scripture. When He had answered the contrived questions of the Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees, He confounds the Pharisees with a question of His own: “What think ye of Christ? whose Son is He?” He refers to Psalm 110, and they cannot answer how, if He is David's Son, David should call Him his Lord, saying, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool” (Matt. 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44; Psalm 110:1).
What was the outcome of this presentation of His Sonship to the Jews? His claims to Divine Sonship were utterly rejected. On the basis of His confession in the counsel of the Jews He was condemned to death (Matt. 26:65-66; Mark 14:63-64). When He was taken to Pilate the Jews said: “We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:7). He was mocked as He hung upon the cross. Those that passed by reviled Him, “wagging their heads, and saying... If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matt. 27:39-40). “The chief priests mocking Him, with the scribes and elders, said... He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for he said, I am the Son of God” (Matt. 27:41, 43). If, as the Son of God, He has the nature of God in all its fulness, had He not power to come down from the cross? If He has an eternal relationship with the Father and this relationship is a relationship of love, would He not be delivered? Those that mocked Him supplied the answer, though they did so in unbelief: “He saved others, Himself He cannot save” (Matt 27:42). As the Son He had power to lay down His life. This commandment He had received of His Father, and on this account the Father loved Him, because He laid down His life that He might take it again (John 10:17-18).
This really brings us to another point. Since the coming of the Son of God into the world, all blessing hinges upon receiving Him as such. This was true of the Jews when the Lord was here. The man in John 9 who was born blind, had his eyes opened and worshipped the Lord Jesus as the Son of God. He typifies the remnant of the Jews (John 9:35-38). We see the same thing with Saul of Tarsus. When “There fell from his eyes as it had been scales... straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:18-20). This testimony to the Jews as to the Sonship of Christ was continued in the epistle to the Hebrews. And the eyes of the remnant will be opened to this Personal and Eternal glory of Christ after the church is taken to heaven.
At the beginning of John's Gospel we read of three days. There is one day, and then “The next day” (John 1:29, 35), and then “The day following” (John 1:43). The spiritual bearing of these days is this. The ministry of John the Baptist and of the Lord on earth is connected with the first day. What marks the second day are the features of Christianity. Christ is known as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and as the Son of God who baptises with the Holy Spirit (John 1:29, 33-34). But what characterises the third day is the opening of the eyes of the Jewish remnant to the Divine glory of the Lord Jesus, even in the face of their long prejudice against Him. Like Nathanael towards the end of John 1 they will confess Him as the Son of God and the King of Israel (John 1:43, 47-49).
R. F. W.
(To be continued, if the Lord will)
Zion's King (2)
(Continued from page 26)
Zion's King at the Second Coming
In the second part of this article we are glad to sound the note, “Jesus is coming again”; “the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner” (1 Peter 2:7). This time, when He comes, it will be with clouds, and with great power and great glory, testimony to which is borne by many Scriptures. It will be in His own glory, the Father's glory, and the glory of the holy angels (Luke 9:26). Authority is one thing, power is another, and this King has both. He will come, amid His other glories, as Israel's Deliverer. “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion; shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, thy King cometh to thee: He is just, and having salvation...” And when He comes, whose right it is to reign, He will send forth His angels and they shall gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and they that do iniquity (Matt. 13:41). The fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor. The wheat will be gathered into the garner, and the chaff will be burnt with fire unquenchable...
This theme however is so grand and extensive that it is helpful to have some framework. As a lead into this wonderful subject we suggest Romans 14:17 where we get the three features of the Kingdom selected by the Holy Spirit: righteousness, peace and joy. These are the features of the Kingdom, but they take their character from the King and this is the area upon which we would like to meditate.
The word righteousness, in various forms, occurs almost 30 times in Matthew. This King's throne is established in righteousness (Prov. 16:12). It is righteousness that exalteth a nation and this King loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity (Prov. 14:34; Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1:9). Righteousness is the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins (Isa. 11:5). Even His enemies acknowledged this: “And they sent out unto Him their disciples, with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest Thou for any man; for Thou regardest not the person of men” (Matt 22:16). His judgments are unerring, His eyes, like a flame of fire, piercing even to the secret intents of the hearts. He will discern and distinguish between wheat and tares, faithful and unfaithful servants, wise and foolish virgins, sheep and goats (Matt. 13:24-25). Needless to say He will strike terror into the hearts of His adversaries. His enemies shall lick the dust but His good and faithful servants will rejoice (Ps. 72:9). “Henceforth,” says the apostle, “there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). True it is that every knee shall bow to Him (Phil. 2:10). There will be a rod of iron (Rev. 12:5; 19:15), and some will render feigned obedience (Ps. 18:44-margin). In this connection a sinner being 100 years old shall be accursed (Isa. 65:20). But He will also be, as in the types, a Shepherd King, for He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper (Ps. 72:12). What a day that will be! A King shall reign in righteousness (Isa. 32:1)!
Not only in His day will the righteous flourish, there will be abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth (Ps. 72:7). He will make wars to cease to the end of the earth (Ps. 46:9). Men will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks (Isa. 2:4). There will be neither enemy nor evil occurrent (1 Kings 5:4). They will not hurt nor destroy in all God's holy mountain (Isa. 11:9). There will even be peace in the animal kingdom (Isa. 11:6). But what of Himself? He is the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6)! We often notice the difference between peace as defined in the dictionary and peace as we find it in the Bible. In the dictionary peace is the absence of war and this is what men look for. In the Bible however peace is the possession of adequate resource to meet every contingency, a very different thing. The peace of God which passeth all understanding, keeps hearts and minds through Christ Jesus, even when the circumstances are adverse. The God of peace also will bruise Satan under our feet shortly. It is a favourite appellation of our God. He is described as “the God of peace,” no fewer than 6 times in the New Testament. Nothing can disturb His steadfast throne, even an uprising at the close of the 1000 years reign. Fire will come down and devour the adversaries. “When He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?” (Job 34:29). He is the Prince of Peace.
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord” (Matt. 21:9)! This was the language of the multitude at His first advent. So it will be at the second (Ps. 118:26). “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah.” The joy of God's earthly people can best be described in the words of Scripture. “We were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (Ps. 126:1-3). The Hallelujah-Psalms give the picture, and some of the prophetic Scriptures excel in beauty. “The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isa. 35:10). Jerusalem, the city of the great King, beautiful for situation, will be the joy of the whole earth (Ps. 48:2). Even the boys and girls will be playing in the streets (Zech. 8:5). But what of the King? “The King shall joy in Thy strength, O Lord; and in Thy salvation how greatly shall He rejoice! Thou hast given Him His heart's desire, and hast not withholden the request of His lips... His glory is great in Thy salvation... Thou hast made Him exceeding glad with Thy countenance” (Ps. 21:1-6).
God's earthly people will be betrothed... no more Forsaken and Desolate but Hephzi-bah and Beulah... and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall the King rejoice over Israel (Isa. 62:4-5). And not only will He then be seen as Son of David but also as Son of Man, His dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the end of the earth. He shall have the dominion and the glory. “And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a Kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His Kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:14).
Such is the righteousness, peace and joy of the Kingdom, and of the King, Zion's King, the One so soon to come. But what of ourselves? Let us remind ourselves that the Lord Jesus Christ is never called King of the assembly. In the present day of grace those who know Him as Saviour know Him in much nearer relationship. We are not subjects of a King. We are members of His body, bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh, shortly to appear as His bride and His wife. He is our Lord and Head, and the Bridegroom of the bride. When He reigns, wonderful grace indeed, we shall reign with Him. In the types, sometimes the wives are associated with their husbands in exaltation, like Eve with Adam, Rebecca with Isaac, and Asenath with Joseph. Sometimes however the wives have to share the rejection of their husbands, like Zipporah with Moses, Leah with Jacob and Abigail with David. This brings to us a warning. Only in the measure in which we suffer with Him shall we also reign with Him; but what an encouragement this should be to us not to be offended in Him. Let us share His reproach and be found waiting, working and watching for His soon return, Zion's King, the Bridegroom of the bride. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
From Our Archive
The Revelation of the Father (1)
For the understanding of Bible references to things like eagles we have to remember that we are dealing with days before the modern paraphernalia of rock climbing, and in every eagle story the idea of it belonging to a region inaccessible to all natural powers is never very far away. In Isaiah 40 it talks about the youths fainting and being weary, but then we read that, “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles...” In Revelation 12 where the mother of the child is given the wings of a great eagle to fly into the wilderness there is again the idea that by its power the eagle has access to, and has its home in, a region that is inaccessible even to the greatest powers of men. In considering “the face of a flying eagle,” we remember then that the eagle soars in a realm inaccessible to men, but the fact that holy Scripture does also speak of the face of an eagle indicates that although its home is in a region so far removed, yet it does present itself close to man.
There are two passages which speak either about the flying eagle or the face of an eagle. The first is in Ezekiel 1, and in this particular case the cherubims had each one four faces. It is a description, some of it very difficult to present to the imagination, of these creatures that formed part of the sustainment of the divine glory. “As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion on the right side; and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.” The other passage is very similar in many ways. It is in Revelation 4, once again about the living creatures that are connected with the throne of God and its administration. It says in verse 7 of the four beasts, the four living creatures, “The first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.” It does seem quite plain that we are to understand by these four figures the four representations of the Lord Jesus given in the four Gospels and although from ancient times there have been all kinds of disputes as to which they are, generally speaking, Christians have always understood that the eagle represented the Gospel of John. Now I would like to begin with this idea that the principal feature of the Gospel of John is that it presents to us the Lord Jesus Christ whose home was in a region quite inaccessible to the mind or any power of man, but who came to earth to make it known. In this sense this Gospel is the Gospel represented by the face of an eagle or by a flying eagle.
If we look at the first verse, we already find ourselves face to face with a region that is inaccessible. “In the beginning was the Word.” This represents eternity to us as nearly as it can be grasped by us even when our minds are renewed by the Holy Spirit. In this whole prologue to the Gospel of John we have to draw an extremely careful distinction between what was, what existed, generally speaking unchangeably existed, and what began to be or began to be something that it was not before. We will notice verse 14 where it says the Word became something that He was not before. He continued to be the Word but the Word became something that He was not before and that is flesh. But in the first verse, it is very different. “In the beginning, the Word was,” the Word existed. In other words, if we can take our minds back to the moment, perhaps only in imagination, when all things began, not only did it begin through this Person, the Word, but He already existed. And taking our stand upon the absolute limit of the shores of time as we can know it, we find ourselves gazing out over the sea of eternity. There immediately we have the very definite indication that this Person belonged to a region concerning which the human mind unaided can know absolutely nothing.
Now we had no knowledge at all of the region spoken of in the opening verses of John's Gospel until the Word of God came. There were one or two hints in the Old Testament, such as the statement in Isaiah 57:15, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, and whose Name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit...” There is this vast stretch of eternity, out there beyond the reach of the human mind, and we are brought knowledge of it. But not only are we brought knowledge of it, which of itself would be an empty thing, but we find very soon that it is given a content and that content brings us very quickly to part of our theme. “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” We have read of the Word that He existed in the beginning, He existed with God and He was God, and it is absolutely necessary to make such statements. But here we find something the Word became: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The apostle John's mind goes back to his youth when he was one of that band of disciples who were with the Lord Jesus Christ. A little lower he says, He “dwelt among us,... full of grace and truth,” and after the parenthesis in verse 15, “And of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace,” or “grace upon grace.” Looking back over all the years that had intervened John recognised and testified to the fact that nothing but wave upon wave of divine grace had come to him from the fulness that was in the Word made flesh. The statement, He “dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory,...)” indicates that there was time for the eye to linger and to take account of all that was passing before it. We beheld and admired His glory. But what was that glory in the exact statement of this verse? I am partly retranslating and partly paraphrasing when I say it was “... (... the glory as of an only begotten from the side of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” I suppose the brackets are quite correct. The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, (...) full of grace and truth. But, of course, it is what is between the brackets that we are particularly concerned with because we are told that He came, when He became flesh, from being at home with the Father. That is what gives substance, meaning and glory to the concept of eternity that we have here. And in the end we will see it gives not only glory but eternal love, and the very fount of eternal love, to the concept. As their eyes lingered upon Him and they heard His words, they recognised and realised that this was the only begotten from being at home with the Father, full of grace and truth. I don't want to suggest for a moment that the Lord Jesus Christ ever ceased to be in the bosom of the Father, but there was a sense in which He left the glory that belonged to that place. He was the only begotten and He was coming forth from His glory with the Father.
Verse 18 is the verse which next speaks to us of the Father. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” John's Gospel has a vital place in the distinctive New Testament part of the blessed self-revelation of God which occupies the whole of Scripture. A central theme is the revelation by the Son of the Father's Name, and a mere inspection of the contents compared with the Synoptics confirms that this revelation of the Father occupies a unique position in John. In this verse 18 taken together with verse 14, we meet the opening note of this transcendent theme, the knowledge of the Father. Christendom appears largely to ignore the immensity of the step forward immediately apparent in John's opening page when compared with the, in themselves, tremendous steps by which God made Himself known in the Old Testament. This opening note presents to us, not God's power as in the Name El Shaddai, Almighty God, nor the foundation elements of God's character, as in the Name Jehovah, but it presents to us His affection. And this is seen at first embracing the everlasting object of His delight, the only begotten Son. This quality of eternity which belongs to the Father's bosom, is indeed connected here with the Person who is there. Matthew first noted His Sonship of God at His baptism. Luke goes further back and notices it at His birth. But John goes farther back still even to the unmeasurable, unspeakable distance of eternity and declares His Sonship in the bosom of the Father. The Lord Jesus is the firstborn Son, and in this He has companions: He is the firstborn among many brethren. But as the only begotten Son He is alone from eternity. The first is Sonship in manhood, the second is Sonship in deity. At this moment the phrase “which is” must be taken account of. These two small words might with sufficient accuracy be translated, “the One who is.” In such a context only the most exalted meaning is to be considered, and there is no doubt what that meaning is. This is the Name used in the Greek Bible in Exodus 3:14 when the presence is so solemn that Moses is commanded: “put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” God commissions Moses to be His messenger to Pharaoh. Moses asks for God's Name and God said unto Moses: “I am the One who is. Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the One who is hath sent me unto you.” Here is the divine mystery. The One who lay in the bosom of the Father was Himself the Eternal God. The only begotten Son and the bosom of the Father are co-eternal.
When it says here that “the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him,” it is perhaps the simplest of the statements that are made about this unveiling part, the great central part, of the mission of God's only begotten Son. We are told by the Lord's prayer in John 17 to which we will come afterwards, God willing, “I have manifested Thy Name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world.” Then we have the declaration of Psalm 22, “I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren.” But this one is the simplest of all for it means to “tell the whole story.” When you have Cornelius telling the messengers the story of the dream that he had had, and the apostle Paul telling the church at Jerusalem how God had worked by him amongst the Gentiles, and the disciples from Emmaus coming back and telling what had happened to them, it is the same word. It means, “tell the whole story” and that is exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ came to do. He came to say all that could be said, to say all that had to be said, to say all that must be said, in order to make God known and set the knowledge of Him in a light accessible to us by the Spirit of God. It was in the bosom of the Father that He was and therefore it is as the Father that He declares Him and that gives its character to the pages that follow. It is the whole story of the Person whom the Son came to reveal in all His glory and love and that is the Father.
Now I want to turn aside for a moment to read chapter 12 verse 44 to the end. You might wonder for a moment why I should take this leap while we are in the middle of considering John 1:18. A moment's thought will show us that these verses occupy a very special place in the structure of the Gospel of John. The public ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ closes with the words of the Lord in verse 36. “While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide Himself from them.” Now that is the end of the story of His public ministry and the remaining verses of this chapter are the Holy Spirit's commentary, the Holy Spirit's explanation, of the significance of the public ministry. That commentary is in two parts. First of all, from verse 37 down to verse 43, we can see that the Holy Spirit is commenting upon the staggering fact that so few people believed in Him. He takes two passages from Isaiah to explain that it was to be expected as a matter of fact, that it was prophesied, that few would believe and the reason would be that their hearts were hardened. Yet for those whose eyes were enlightened and who did believe, the remainder of the part we read, verses 44 to the end, presents to us the real essence and quality of what they received who believed. They were put in touch with the Father. The Spirit of God's comment upon the public ministry is that those who heard Him had this great thing done for them. It was great to know the Son but we understand that a person who would be satisfied — I must be extremely careful here — who would be satisfied with knowing the Lord Jesus, would not have gone to the conclusion that holy Scripture in the words of the Lord Jesus presents. Why? Because they haven't known the Son unless they have been taken by Him to the Father. Unless they have explicitly seen the Person of the Father in Him, and they have heard the Father speaking in Him, they have not really known the Lord Jesus and what He came to do. So this tremendous truth is set before us that the purpose of the public ministry was to put those who heard and believed in touch with the Father. Only so would a person fully know the Son, because He came for this purpose to make the Father known.
Well, when all the story is told, there is a great deal more about the blessedness and the wonder of the Person of the Son Himself. There is a great deal about what the Son does and what the Father does. There is a great deal about what the Lord Jesus Christ personally is to those who believe in Him. But in the end it comes down to this, that if we really have heard and believed, then we have been put in touch with the Father. I wonder if our souls have really been in the realisation of this, that it is only if we are consciously in touch with the Father that we have received the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and the full end of believing.
Now let me return again to verse 35 of chapter 1. Two of the disciples of John heard him speak and they followed Jesus. They were following Him and He turned to them and said, “What do you want?” They said, “Master, where dost Thou live?” and He said to them, “Come and see,” and they came and they stayed with Him for the rest of that day. Now that is a simple story and there is absolutely not a word about it to give us an assurance, if we feel we need an assurance, that it has another meaning. But could anyone doubt that in the setting of the first chapter of John we are being invited to come and see the dwelling place of the only begotten Son in the bosom of the Father?
As we follow through in the pages of the Gospel of John seeking to gather up the details as far as it may be permitted to us, the Lord Jesus Christ declaring, manifesting; perhaps declaring in the first part of the Gospel, perhaps manifesting in the latter part of the Gospel; then we are surely following the invitation of the Lord Jesus Christ when he said, “Come and see.” I suppose that there are very few young people who won't say, when they hear a title such as has been announced, “This is too deep for me.” But let us never forget that in that portion of holy Scripture most explicitly addressed to the babes in Christ, the babes in the family, the Holy Spirit says by this same writer John, “I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.” I represent to myself that that means it is absolutely natural for the most new-born babe in the things of God to turn to God in prayer and to say “Father.” The very first step upon that line is what we are invited to take when the Lord Jesus Christ says, “Come and see.” Every new-born babe in the family has started with the knowledge of the Father and if only we will heed these words, and keep on coming and keep on seeing, then we shall indeed know where He dwells and we shall dwell with Him. We shall be able to understand what the apostles mean when they say, we want you to have a sharing of fellowship with us and truly our sharing is with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
J. S. Blackburn.
Christ's Greatness in the Epistle to Laodicea (2)
(Continued from page 14)
“These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14).
Who is this Amen who is at the same time witness and beginning? He is the most wonderful Person in the universe and is speaking to His church. In these verses written to Laodicea we see the Lord in various relationships, for example:
1. As the Beloved addressing the objects of His love;
2. As the Son of the Father speaking to God's family;
3. As the Lord giving direction to His servants;
4. As the Teacher instructing His disciples.
Why does He present Himself in these ways? Is it not that, because of these unique features, He is the only One who qualifies to be the true Judge? His searching eyes are examining the whole spectrum of the Christian testimony! Does He not see that, despite high pretensions, His church has really forsaken the truth, or even worse, abandoned Himself? In His great love He wants to draw the attention of the individual believer to Himself, even when the overall picture is quite hopeless. “Laodicea” means something like: “people's rights,” or “the people speak or decide;” in other words: democracy. This spirit lures man into placing his “rights” and personal “ideas” above the rights, words and verdicts of the Lord Jesus, who is God Himself, the Amen, blessed for ever.
We must realise that He is “the Amen.” This does not merely mean “may it be so,” as when a prayer or a discourse is concluded. No, it really means that when the Lord has spoken it is so. There is no shadow of a doubt left. When He has decided something, it is true and it stands. Even though man may seek to change God's purposes, He will see them through. Finally, the Name “Amen” also suggests a link with the concluding phase of the history of the church. Furthermore, the “Amen” is intimately connected with the truth of God. In the Hebrew this is quite clear, as Isaiah 65:16 shows, the God of truth being the God of Amen. The word/Name Amen might be linked as well with another Hebrew word which has the same letters (a.m.n.) and which means “artificer” or “nursling,” as in Proverbs 8:30. Thus Mordecai brought up (nourished — same word) Hadassah (Es. 2:7). This is an interesting thought because it fits in with what Christ is as the Chief Executive of God's creation, who will bring things to pass. Therefore in the four characteristics suggested earlier, He uses these qualities to nurture (as in nursling) and build up His church.
In the text of the New Testament and especially in John's writings, we find many times “verily, verily” or “amen, amen.” Using those words, our Lord confirms the truth of His remarks. A helpful reference is 2 Corinthians 1:20, read together with the notes in the Darby version. Thus Christ as the great Amen is the embodiment, the manifestation and confirmation of God's truth. Is He not the Amen who reveals what He is in Himself1: “I am... the truth?” (John 14:6). He declares the truth and maintains it to God's glory, even today when the truth has been (or is being) given up. How great He is!
According to 1 Timothy 3:15 the church has the great privilege and responsibility of being the pillar of the truth. This means that God considers her to be the public supporter and witness of the truth. However, she is never supposed to usurp a position in which she would decide about the truth. Nevertheless, this is what has happened: the church has placed herself above the truth, to sit in judgment upon the Word of God, instead of being ruled, lead and judged by it. Today the Lord Jesus in the glory is the perfect expression of God's truth (Col 2:9). This He was here on earth (John 8:29), when the Fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Him (Col. 1:19). As He was on earth, and is now in heaven, He speaks from the glory, as the perfect Communicator of God's truth. In both capacities (the Word incarnate as well as the glorified and exalted Son of man) He, the great Amen, addresses Himself to Laodicea. Do we listen when He speaks? Do we say amen to the “Amen?”
Summary on the great Amen
All that God is, is found and expressed in Him who is the glory of God (See Hebrews, which explains the Old Testament in this respect, and Ephesians which links God's purposes with Him.
1Already in the Old Testament we find that the Angel of Jehovah, God's representative (messenger), is Jehovah Himself.
Nothing can be added, as Colossians shows — we are complete in Him; Col. 2:9). Our unity and union with Him is the secret of this dispensation. Furthermore, in the Amen there is stability. All things change, but in Him there is what is absolute and solid, and what He says is sure and reliable. Therefore He is also the embodiment of the truth (2 Cor. 1:20) and the confirmation of the truth (as was the case when He was on earth: John 14:6). In 1 John 1:2 we meet Him as the word of life: the expression and communication of the truth in view of its present enjoyment. It would be edifying to study the link between the Amen and the Logos.
Some examples of verses with amen lead to the conclusion that the word amen is used:
to accept a task; conform to the will of God (1 Kings 1:36; Neh. 8:6);
to confirm the personal application of a divine threat or curse (Num. 5:22; Deut. 27:15ff);
to attest the praise of God in response to a doxology (Ps. 41:13; 1 Chron. 16:36);
to express agreement, to confirm a vow (Neh. 5:13; Jer. 11:5);
to respond in worship (at the end of 14 doxologies in the New Testament epistles);
as a concluding wish, a claim that binds (Jer. 28:6).
Being the Amen (the truth, John 14:6), our blessed Lord revealed God's thoughts. 25 times in John's Gospel statements are introduced by saying “verily, verily” or “amen, amen.” John 8 confirms that He is what He declares and He declares what He is! Thus Christ is also the true witness of the truth and martyr (same word), because of the present condition of the world system. Therefore He is at the same time our perfect example and model.
In Revelation 1:7 the word amen follows closely the word yes. Thus we have seen God's yes in 2 Corinthians 1:20, followed by an amen. Both are expressed in Christ and Paul could add his own yes and amen “for glory to God.” Today we listen to the Lord's voice saying “Yea (yes), I come quickly.” Do we answer “Amen; come, Lord Jesus”?
A. E. Bouter.
(To be continued, if the Lord will)
“The Sermon on the Mount” (10)
Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men (Matthew 5:13)
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Matthew 5:13-16 represents a kind of insert. In these verses the Lord Jesus speaks about the position of His disciples in the world. When He says “ye,” He does not only mean His disciples or future leaders in the Kingdom of God, but, as in the preceding beatitudes, all His disciples at all times and therefore also us!
Here the Lord Jesus uses two illustrations: salt and light. Both are so commonly known that they do not need further explanation to be understood and yet, as is the case with almost all illustrations in the New Testament, a few considerations are appropriate. The nature of salt is to be salty and the characteristic of light is to shine. But in spiritual life nothing comes automatically! Sadly, it happens far too often that divine power is hindered or concealed by our fleshly actions. It is for this reason that we get so many exhortations in the New Testament. But without the new life in us these exhortations would not be of any use. This is why the Lord does not say, “Ye should be the salt and the light,” but, “Ye are the salt of the earth,... the light of the world.”
In ancient times salt was the most important agent for seasoning and preserving foods. Salt is pungent, bitter; but it keeps what is good and prevents corruption. In the Old Testament, the “salt of the covenant” had, on God's order, to be added to all sacrifices (Lev. 2:13). Thus salt is a clear symbol of the sanctifying, keeping power of God which should be expressed in us. We are not sugar or honey, but the salt of the earth. If we witness mockery concerning divine things at school, at work or in other situations and we do not ignore it, but reprimand the scoffers in the right way, and if we do not laugh at certain jokes, then we are the salt of the earth. Often our mere presence will exercise a moderating influence on unbelievers. Two further passages make clear that this “salt” should not be confounded with human pungency or even cutting remarks. The Lord says in Mark 9:50 to His disciples: “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Paul writes to the Colossians: “Let your word be always with grace, seasoned with salt.” (Colossians 4:6) Grace and peace therefore are not opposed to salt but complementary to it.
Salt is ordinary and commonplace, but it has a strong effect. This is not easily noticed outwardly, but takes place more in secret and in the long term. We might consider it useless to be the only ones in our surroundings who take a stand for the things of our Lord, but let us remember: “Ye are the salt of the earth!”
In contradistinction to the following verse, the Lord says: “Ye are the salt of the earth.” “Earth” is not the same as “world.” The Greek can mean “land” as well as “earth,” and here it seems to point to the scene where witness is borne to God. Firstly this was Israel, to which the disciples belonged. But then we can see in it also the wider sphere of the testimony to God in Christianity today, which in its broadest scope corresponds to the Kingdom of the heavens. Here where the light of the gospel and the truth of God shone brightest, the greatest apostasy of all times will take place in the future. This the Lord points out with his following words.
“But if the salt have become insipid, wherewith shall it be salted? It is no longer fit for anything, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot by men.” The salt known in ancient times did not have the purity of modern salt. In particular the salt gained from the Dead Sea contained considerable amounts of minerals. If the salt got too wet, i.e. when it was stored for a long time under wrong conditions, the salt could be washed out. Thus the salt became “insipid” because only the useless ingredients remained, which were then cast out to be carelessly trodden under foot by men.
The Lord speaks in this passage of the position of the disciples in the Kingdom of God. Salt is a picture of the influence going out from the testimony to the holiness of God. Somebody whose testimony does not have this power is useless. For this reason Jerusalem, the city that rejected its own King, will be trodden under foot by the nations (Luke 21:24). And Christendom, which for centuries possessed the tidings of grace and salvation in Christ, will apostatise from God and come under His judgment.
This passage does not deal with whether or not a born again Christian can be lost. God's Word does not leave this question open. He who believes on the Son of God has eternal life. And nobody can or will seize out of His and the Father's hand those to whom He has given eternal life. (John 3:36; John 10:28, 29).
The words of the Lord contain a serious admonition for each one of those who belong to Him. Is not our spiritual life and our witness often “insipid'' and without power? Then we are, practically speaking, useless for the Lord! We are like the salt that has lost its taste and power. If we do not have fellowship with our Lord daily, by prayer and the reading of His Word, our spiritual life will be dry and without joy and power.
If we think we have always to be only gentle, patient and nice, the power of the salt will be lacking in us. There are situations in which we have to take a decided stand for our Lord and for His rights, even if this causes offence. We have already pointed out that in such moments grace and peace should not be forgotten.
But the greatest danger is conformity to this world. Lot, the nephew of Abraham, was a believer who settled down in the godless town of Sodom. When at the end he wanted to warn his sons-in-law of the threatening judgment of God he was in their eyes “as if he jested” (Gen. 19:14).
Some Christians think one could gather from this verse that we have to get together within Christendom and its organisations, or even with the world, and actively work together. By this means, it is said, we are able to exercise, to a greater degree, a Christian influence on the government and its legislation, and on our fellow men. But this is not meant by the words of the Lord Jesus, “Ye are the salt of the earth.” Our influence on our surroundings and our testimony for the Lord does not work through numerical strength, but through our moral behaviour in separation from evil (cf. Romans 12:2; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 2 Tim. 2:21; Heb. 13:13).
On the other hand, our necessary separation must not degenerate into unspiritual isolation, because then we cannot be what we should be: the salt of the earth.
Psalm 119 (12)
(Continued from page 18)
9. TETH — A SNAKE
The meaning of this letter is uncertain. It is generally thought to signify “a serpent” (Arabic: “tet”), to which it has a resemblance in figure in several Phoenicio-Shemitic alphabets. Others make it something like: “rolled or twisted together,” from the Arabic root “tih,” or perhaps it is the Egyptian “tôt” meaning hand. Its numerical value is nine. It may signify “Opposition” whilst there is goodness present. For instance, tabeal means “The goodness of El,” which was the name of the opposing king in Isaiah 7:6.
Verses 65-72: The Word of God Strengthens in Adversity
Let's count our blessings!
Verse 65: Tohv...“...good, goodness, kindness of God...”
“Good Thou hast done with Thy servant...,” is the literal rendering in Hebrew. When you feel depressed count your blessings! We often sing that hymn: “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” This is an excellent therapy for discouragement.
In verse 67 he speaks of having been afflicted. He has learned that even when the Lord deals with us in discipline we can give thanks and say afterwards, “Thou hast done good with Thy servant.” Jacob saw this in his experience. In Genesis 42:36 he says: “...all these things are against me.” In 45:27: “the spirit of Jacob their father revived...,” and in Genesis 48:15: “... God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long, unto this day...” Jacob realises the “nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness...!!” (Heb. 12:11). This verse in Psalm 119, “Thou hast dealt well with Thy servant,” is an answer to the prayer he prayed in verse 17: “Deal bountifully with Thy servant...” Can you look back and thank the Lord for everything?
Good may be the enemy of the best:
Verse 66: Tohv...“Good (judgment teach me)...”
He prays for discernment (judgment). Sometimes this may signify a “spiritual sense of smell,” or “taste;” but here it has the sense of taste for judgment, discernment, reason. Paul prays for the Philippians in chapter one verse 10: “That ye may approve things that are excellent,” or as the N.I.V. puts it: “... so that you may be able to discern what is best...” For the believer it is not a question of refusing sin or sinful things, but of discerning what is profitable and constructive, and what is not. Good judgment and knowledge are essential for spiritual growth. “... but solid food belongs to full-grown men, who, on account of habit, have their senses exercised for distinguishing both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). Now this kind of spiritual discernment does not come to us automatically, as we learn from the verse in Hebrews 5. It comes with practise. That is why the writer begins this verse 66 with: “Teach me...” Are we willing to be taught?
Discipline results in experience
Verse 67: Tehrem...“...Before (I was afflicted)...”
God has been dealing with him (verse 65), and now he can give thanks! Let us take encouragement from these words in Hebrews 12:5: “... My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.”
How many parents there are today, even Christian parents, who do not discipline their children according to the Scriptures. They think that it is unkind to punish a child and to correct it, or to give it corporal punishment when necessary. This is of course Freudian philosophy but not Biblical instruction. It is actually a lack of love that does not correct and guide a child when it goes wrong, or when it must be compelled for its own sake.
The result of the discipline the Psalmist had accepted was that he could say: “... now have I kept Thy word.” Had there previously been resistance or rebelliousness on his part? The necessary discipline that had followed had brought forth that peaceable fruit of righteousness and for this he is thankful. Can we thank the Lord for discipline?
All things work together for good
Verse 68: TOHV ATA...“Thou art good...”
God can never do anything that is not good and beneficent! He is good in His essential nature, and therefore whatever He does must be good! Do we doubt this? Romans 8:28 gives us these wonderful facts about God's unfailing purpose:
a. “all things work together for good (Beneficent)
b. “all things work together for good (Active)
c. “all things work together for good (Inclusive)
d. “all things work together for good (Harmonious)
It is God's purpose to conform us to the image of His Son. His discipline in our lives has this one aim, to make us more and more like His Son.
Evil is always plotting
Verse 69: TAH-PHALU...“... have forged (against me)...”
Here we have the first mention of the adversary. It is in connection with verses 69 and 70 that we see the need for the enabling of the Word of God by strengthening us in adversity, as the title over this section points out. Satan is called “the accuser of” the brethren, as well as “a liar, and the father of it.” Those who are his children of course bear the same characteristics and are said in this verse to “... have forged a lie...” against the godly man.
Let us never be surprised when this happens to us. However, if they are occupied with forging lies, let us who love the truth be occupied with the Word of God. The verse here helps us as it continues: “... I will keep Thy precepts with my whole heart”
Spiritual cholesterol kills!
Verse 70: TAH-PHASH...“...without feeling (fat as grease)...”
“Without feeling, like fat, is their heart,” is the literal translation. A fat heart is a slow heart, that might finally be brought to a halt and die. Cholesterol is a killer for the body as well as for the spirit!
Believers are certainly not children of the evil one, but regrettably they may sometimes be like the unregenerate in their behaviour. For instance, there are believers who are never on time, who are always late at the meetings for prayer or Bible-study or edification or worship! Do you know about them? They lack spiritual energy. It seems that the round of meetings is a real burden to them. They go through the motions, but their heart is not in it. They need our prayers that they may be revived and energised and healed from their spiritual “fat heart.” May we be characterised by a fervent spirit, serving the Lord whole-heartedly!
The hidden blessings of affliction
Verse 71: TOHV-LI...“...for my good (I was afflicted)...”
The writer to the Hebrews tell us: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby ” (Heb. 12:11). This is not easy to accept, especially when we are actually going through a trying period in our lives. The apostle Paul had learned to glory in his infirmities! He could say that when he felt utterly weak, then he was made strong by the strength of the Lord. And so it is always.
The Psalmist also sees the positive side of affliction: “... that I might learn Thy statutes.” Nothing is lost in the school of faith in which we are all enrolled as believers. And this thought leads me to the last verse of this section:
There is no gain but by a loss
Verse 72: TOHV-LI...“...better to me (the law of Thy mouth)...
To say “There is no gain but by a loss,” means that in order to gain spiritually we must be willing to loose first. This principle is explained by the apostle Paul in the letter to the Philippians: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Chapter 3:7-8).
In this verse 72 we have contrasted thousands of gold and silver and the law of Thy mouth. The Psalmist chooses the law, i.e. the Word of God. What do we choose? Remember in the introduction I said that the meaning of the word “Law” is: a divine instruction concerning our conduct and our character. The root meaning is “to guide.” The writer would sacrifice anything, such as gold or silver, if only he might have the guidance of God in his life, if only he may know the will of the Lord for every step of the way!
I summarise this section as follows:
Verse 65: What God does is good
Verse 66: What God teaches is good
Verse 67: When God afflicts it is for our good
Verse 68: God is good
Verse 72: God's Word is good
To know this is to be best armed for the fight in a day of adversity and opposition.
(To be continued, if the Lord will)