When discoursing with His disciples after His resurrection, the Lord said "that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning" Him, indicating the concurrence of testimony to be found in that threefold division of Old Testament Scripture as to Himself. The subject at the head of this paper will furnish us an instance of this concurrent testimony which we may profitably examine and compare.
In Exodus 21 we have a deeply-interesting Jewish ordinance, and the very first that was enacted in Israel of a judicial character after the law of the Ten Commandments had been promulgated at Sinai, and Jehovah had declared His will as to the altar of burnt-offering. It established that the Hebrew servant who should be bought must fulfil his prescribed term of service, and was afterwards entitled to his liberty; but should he have acquired during his servitude a wife and children, these he must surrender to his master, going out alone. In case, however, his affection to his master, to his wife and to his children, precluded his doing so, provision was made by Jehovah for the Hehrew servant to indulge the yearnings of his heart, but at the expense no less of a painful ordeal than of a perpetual service. It was also enacted that he should voluntarily and emphatically make public declaration of the fact and the grounds of his refusal to be manumitted. His master in presence of the judges should then transfix him with an awl through the ear to the door or door-post, by which procedure his service would be constituted a perpetuity. Who can fail to observe in this striking and significant enactment a beautiful type of that incomparable Servant whose meat was to do the will of Him that sent Him, and to finish His work? - that blessed One whose service to His Father (or master), to His church (or wife), and to His earthly people (or children) will in its unfading and unforgotten moral glory be the eternal expression of a love to Him, to us, and to them, which is and which shall be as perpetual as it is profound -
"Love that no tongue can teach,
Love that no thought can reach;
No love like His!"
If we now turn from "the law of Moses" to "the Psalms" (see Ps. 40), we find again the opened or digged ear of this devoted Servant. The subject of the psalm is the devotedness of Christ to God: "Blessed is the man" (literally, it has been said, the strong man) "that maketh Jehovah his trust." Though the poor and the needy One, He was mighty to save, and strong to deliver; but is depicted here as the sorrowing, suffering Witness bent upon doing the bidding of God, in the body which had been prepared Him, and waiting patiently upon Jehovah-Elohim, delighting to do His will, whose law was in the midst of His bowels! What a picture is this of the perfect Servant, the Sent-one of God! And in the midst of it we read that beautiful exclamation that forms the divine answer to the exquisite type of Exodus 21 - "Mine ears hast thon opened" (or digged).
Again, if we add to these the completing testimony of "the Prophets" (see Isaiah 50:4-7), we get a yet fuller delineation of the devotedness and self-abnegation of this peerless Servant - the Servant of God's counsels, of the Father's will, and of Jehovah's glory, but also, of our necessities here, and of our blessedness when we are perfected! "The Lord God," He says, "hath given me the tongue of the learned that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned" (perhaps more properly learner, compare Isaiah 8:16, disciples, and Isaiah 54:13, children). "The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting." Surely no language could more touchingly express how truly He had emptied Himself to hecome the dependent Man upon earth! And here we may fittingly remark how suitably the ear, being that organ through which commands are received, and instruction acquired, is in the Scriptures referred to made the subject of the ordinance of Jehovah and of the prophetic teaching of David and Isaiah concerning God's faithful Servant, - the Lawgiver, the Psalmist and the Prophet thus uniting their testimony concerning Him who was to come "to do thy will, O God." Nothing could be more beautiful than the attitude of the Lord Jesus as listening morning by morning with the opened ear of a subject will, to take instructions from His Father ere He went forth to fulfil the assiduous service of each recurring day!
Thus also may we understand what otherwise might seem inexplicable, His reluctance or refusal to do at one time what He really does shortly afterwards, three instances of which in John's gospel will probably occur to the reader. In the second chapter His mother, as they sit together at the marriage in Cana, says to Him significantly, "They have no wine." In His answer He affirms, "Mine hour is not yet come." But we seem to gather from the narrative that there was but a short break, a trifling pause, before He wrought the kindly miracle that manifested forth His glory Also in the seventh chapter, when His brethren suggest His going up to the great feast of tabernacles, "Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready," indicating surely to us that while they gave the rein to their own will, doing as they listed, He of the opened ear waited upon the will of Another. So He abides in Galilee; but a day or two afterwards, probably to be in time for the closing day, which was the feast of ingathering, He goes up to Jerusalem; and what a message He is charged to convey! what an announcement He makes (Jehovah having visited His people) had there but been opened ears to hear! Again in John 11, after receiving from the beloved sisters of Lazarus the pathetic message concerning the sickness which had invaded the home in Bethany, He abides two days still in the same place where He was. "Then after that" He gives the unexpected word to His disciples, "Let us go into Judea again." May we not say that when the touching appeal from the sorrowing family reached Him He had received no word from the Father, and consequently, resisting the sympathetic impulses of His love, He moves neither hand nor foot? As the girded Servant both hand and foot must wait orders, to be received through an opened ear, and not until then must He allow the generous dictates of a loving heart to bring them into activity, even on behalf of ever so beloved an object. Who then could portray what that tender nature of His sustained at knowing the sickness of His friend and the anguish of the sisters, so affectingly conveyed in the brief word they had sent Him? Who could describe what He felt in His deep human compassion and sympathy, as with omniscient eye He followed the ravages of the disease up to its culmination in death, tarrying throughout the whole two days, rooted, as it were, to the place where He was, intently expecting the word on which He waited? At length He gets this morning note; the Lord Jehovah wakened His ear to hear as the learner, and at length He gives the signal for departure.
Now, however, arises another thing. His disciples, in the timidity of unbelief, bring in their human fears, and would dissuade Him from returning to Judea; there is a lion in the way! How full of divine wisdom and of heavenly light is the ready reply with which He not only silenced their objections but banished their anxieties! "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world, But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him." And thus as He would not be induced by the precious, tender love of His human heart to move towards Judea until He had Jehovah's word in His ear, so on the other hand will He not be deterred from returning thither by any apprehensions of Jewish enmity or Satanic opposition, The will of Him who sent Him had fallen upon His opened ear, and it is enough.
What a lesson in subjection to the Father's will do these scriptures convey to us if we had only His teachableness of spirit! He is unmoved by His mother's suggestions, by His brethren's entreaties; and by His own heart's promptings; and equally is He unhindered by the dissuasions which emanate from His bosom disciples. As the perfect Servant, in absolute submission of will and perfect self-surrender, He waits upon Jehovah's word and having that, He treads the hitherto untrodden path of a perfectly obedient and dependant man. He who was Jehovah's fellow gave Himself unto suffering and servitude, and hid not His face from shame and spitting. Precious, peerless Saviour!
If, in conclusion, we may add a word as to His distinct characters of service to us, three well-known scriptures will bring its past, its present, and its future character divinely before us. In Hebrews 10 the apostle refers to Psalm 40, a scripture we have already looked at, where the words "mine ears hast thou opened" are quoted according to the Septuagint, "a body hast thou prepared me." In that body He bare our sins, and by His death - delivered us from the wrath to come. He was serving us there; for this was the will of God, that through such service He should glorify Him, and take spoils from the enemy.
In John 13, before going away, knowing the Father had committed everything to His hand, He disinvests Himself, and becomes the girded Servant of our present daily need, in the same act rebuking His disciples for their unseemly strife (compare Luke 22:24), and setting before them what His ministrations on behalf of His saints should be during the long night of His enforced absence, in which also He would be a pattern for our care and love to one another.
And lastly, in Luke 12, where He gives every true saint the character and the credit of being a watcher for His return, He lovingly cheers their hearts with the hitherto unheard of disclosure, that He had a deeply-cherished purpose to fulfil in the glory, even that of making us to sit down to meat, and coming forth Himself even then also as the girded Servant of those whom He will delight to serve for ever!
May the reader and the writer of these lines have the understanding so opened by Him of the opened ear, that through grace we may gather up this lesson from the law of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets concerning Himself, that, being imbued with the like spirit, we may exhibit more of His own self-abnegation to the glory of our Master and God! W. Rickards. (Derby).
The Gospel of John.
The more we examine the gospel of John, the more, we shall see One who speaks and acts as a divine Person - one with the Father alone could do, but yet always as One who has taken the place of a servant, and takes nothing to Himself, but receives all from His Father. "I have glorified Thee:" "now glorify Me." What language of equality of nature and love! But He does not say, And now I will glorify myself. He has taken the place of man to receive all, though it be a glory He had with the Father before the world was. This is of exquisite beauty. J. N. Darby.