J. N. Darby.
Christian Friend, vol. 13, 1886, p. 93.
It is just the place that nature likes. The world which has no relations with God delights in exalting self and shutting Him out. Self gets for self what it likes, and forgets God. Man is always setting up self, pushing for self against God. He does not think so; for he says he is only using his faculties. But so Adam did to hide himself from God. Do not we use our faculties to please ourselves, rather than for God? While the master is away the servants go on in their own way, and do their own will. A man is naturally hurt when he is put down in a corner and despised. Flesh does not relish being thrust aside; but this seeking for a place is to seek for it where Christ had none. Therefore He says, "When thou art bidden to a wedding, sit down in the lowest room."
The point of this parable is seen in Luke 14:8-11. It refers the heart to the master, to "Him that bade thee." If I am conscious of being a sinner, and therefore deserving no place, I shall take none, but wait till God bestows one on me. I shall have honour indeed, when God gives me a place. The point is, What does He bestow upon me? Having the eye upon God, and referring to Him, seek for the lowest place as Christ did. It will not do to say, "I will not have a place in the world." The great thing is, the heart resting on God's place in the world. When the eye is thus upon God, self is forgotten; if not, I am thinking of the slights I receive, and neither faith nor grace are in exercise. If I could think nothing of myself I should be perfect. The man who bade the guests has the right estimate of each, and the honour due to them. The evangelist's place, the pastor's, the apostle's, etc., will all be appointed by God. When God gives me a place, it is one of power and nearness to Himself; but when a man takes a place for himself, it is one of weakness and alienation from God, because self is the object.
Then, again, we must guard against the mere refusing to take a place in the world because we know it is wrong, as followers of Him who has been rejected. A mere legal estimate of what is right can never last. A thing may be very right; but there is no stability in pursuing it, because there is no power to subdue the flesh in merely doing what one knows to be right. There was the sense of obligation with the law; but the law did not set an object before me to attract my heart; it did not bring God to me nor me to God. That lasts which feels we are nothing, and that God is everything. Many have begun very energetically, and taken a certain place, right in itself; but if legality be the source of it, there will be no power of perseverance; for that which is taken up under law will be sure to be lost in the flesh. When God is the object, the low place here is sufficient. He Himself carries me on; and whatever it be, if the mind and affections are upon Him, what was hard at first is no effort as I proceed. His love, which attracted and gave me power at first to take such a position, becomes brighter and brighter when better and longer known; and what was done at first tremblingly, is easy with increasing courage. The only thing which can enable me thus to go on is to have CHRIST the object before me; and just in proportion as it is so, I can be happy. There may be a thousand and one things to vex me if self is of importance; they will not vex me at all if self is not there to be. vexed. The passions of the flesh will not harass us if we are walking with God. What rubs we get when not walking with God, and thinking only of self! There is no such deliverance as that of having no importance in one's own eyes. Then one may be happy indeed before God.
If we look at Christ, we learn two principles; first, that He humbled Himself because of the sin of the world all around Him; second, the world did all they could to humble Him; for the more He went down, so much the more they sought to pull Him down.
No one cares for another; so that if a mail does not care for himself, he will be sure to be pushed down low enough. Then, again, so deceitful are our hearts, that it is possible we should be willing to humble ourselves, if we could get anything by it, even the approbation of men. On the other hand, if we, in the usual sense of men, merely seek to imitate Christ in this, it will be but legal effort. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." He humbled Himself. First, "He made Himself of no reputation;" that is, He emptied Himself of His glory to become a man. In doing this, He left the Father's glory to become a man. This was a great descent (though we think a great deal of ourselves). But was that all? No; He humbled Himself to death, even the death of the cross. It is the same principle which is put before us in this chapter in Luke. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Real lowliness is being ready to serve any and everybody; and though it may to the eye of man look low, it is in reality very high, being the fruit of divine love working in our hearts. God, operating in our hearts, makes us unselfish. The only thing worth doing in the world is this service, except it be enjoying God. We should be ready to serve one's enemies. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted," This is not only being humbled, but humbling one's self, and not doing it before those who would honour us all the more for being humble. Paul could say of himself and others, "Ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." He felt they had a title to serve in grace; and in proportion as he took the humble place, he will be exalted in the day that is coming.
J. N. Darby.
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We may draw nigh to the world, because the flesh is in us. The world cannot really draw nigh to the children of God, because it has only its own fallen and sinful nature. The approximation is all on one side, and always in evil, whatever the appearance may be.