26) “SO SHALT THOU PUT AWAY THE GUILT OF INNOCENT BLOOD FROM AMONG YOU”
Read Chapter 21.1-9
This chapter contains a variety of “statutes and judgments,” 12.1, all of which deal with different aspects of distress. These include distress in the community over a slain man, distress to women prisoners of war, distress in family life over inheritance and disobedience. The five cases may be summarised as follows:
1) investigating an unsolved murder, v1-9;
2) marrying a captive woman, v10-14;
3) endowing a first-born son, v15-17;
4) punishing a rebellious son, v18-21;
5) burying an executed criminal, v22-23.
1) INVESTIGATING AN UNSOLVED MURDER, v1-9
We have already noticed that ch.19 contains one of several Old Testament passages dealing with the “cities of refuge.” These provided shelter for people guilty of manslaughter, but not for murderers. Failure to execute murderers polluted the whole land: “For blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel,” Num.35.33-34. We can continue to tremble at the degree of this kind of pollution in our own country.
Whilst a different situation is described in the current verses, nevertheless blood had been wrongly shed, and “the guilt of innocent blood,” v9, must be addressed. In the previous case, Deut.19.11-13, the murderer had been identified, apprehended and punished. But in this case “a man is found slain in the land” and “no one can tell whether it is murder or manslaughter, or who committed the deed. It lies entirely beyond the range of human knowledge … Sin has been committed, and it lies as a stain on the Lord's land, and man is wholly incompetent to deal with it” (C. H. Mackintosh). Since sin had been committed against the Lord, His claims must be met. Whilst the crime had been committed locally, and was to be dealt with locally, the entire nation was involved. The elders from the nearest city, acting in conjunction with “the priests, the sons of Levi,” v5, were to pray, “Be careful, O Lord, unto Thy people Israel, whom Thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto Thy people of Israel's charge,” v8.
We have already noted the same lesson in ch.13, where failure to deal with the idolatry of one city could only have an adverse effect on God's people in their entirety. The offending city, with its inhabitants, was to be utterly destroyed “that the Lord may turn from the fierceness of His anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as He hath sworn unto thy fathers …” v17-18. Bearing in mind the autonomy of each local assembly, it is neither possible nor desirable to suggest an exact parallel between these Old Testament passages and New Testament principles of gathering, but we should never forget that whilst the discreditable conduct of one assembly may not necessarily affect other assemblies, our personal lives do have an effect, for good or otherwise, upon the testimony.
The overriding lesson of these verses is that sin is immensely grave, whether or not the culprit has been identified. Some important principles should be noted.
a) Responsibility must be taken, v1-3a
“If one be found slain in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it … then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain: and it shall be, that the city which is next unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take an heifer …” We must notice, once again, that it is “the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it.” It is His land, and therefore His interests must be maintained there. At this point there certainly is a parallel with New Testament teaching. The local assembly is called both “the temple of God,” 1Cor.3.17 and “the house of God,” 1Tim.3.15, and therefore His interests must be maintained there as well. Sadly, all too often things go wrong, and good men stay silent or do nothing. In the case before us, the “elders of the city” were expected to shoulder their responsibility. There are no opt-out clauses in the instructions. The elders could not enter a plea of ignorance (“we know nothing about this crime”), or absolve themselves from responsibility (“it's nothing to do with us anyway”), or shift responsibility elsewhere (“try the next city”). In common language, “the buck stopped with them.” The Lord's righteousness was involved. New Testament elders are in a similar position. An overseer (“elder” describes the man's character: “overseer” describes the man's work) is described as “the steward of God,” Tit.1.7. He must therefore act, in concert with His fellow-overseers, for the glory and honour of God. Woe to the assembly whose elders have no sense of responsibility!
b) Punishment must be inflicted, v3b-4
It would be difficult, if not impossible, to explain the meaning of the details in these verses without reference to the Lord Jesus. We must never forget that the multiplicity of sacrifices and ceremonies in the Old Testament owe their existence to the manifold perfections of Christ and His work. One composite offering, suitable for every occasion, could never have displayed the infinite variety that we find in Him. Having said that, it remains that He is greater in Person and work than the sum of all the sacrifices! We should notice:
i) It was a female animal. “The elders of that city shall take an heifer.” This emphasises both the submission and feelings of the Lord Jesus. It is worth pointing out that when Christ alone is in view, as in the case of the burnt offering, a male offering was required, but when Christ is identified with others, as in the peace, sin and trespass offerings, a male or female offering could be offered, although in the sin and trespass offerings this varied from case to case.
ii) It was never subject to the yoke. “An heifer, which had not been wrought with, and which had not drawn in the yoke.” The Lord Jesus said of others, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin,” Jn.8.34, but unlike them, He was never subject to the yoke of sin. He was never subject to a humanly-imposed yoke, for when “they would come and take Him by force, to make Him a king, He departed into a mountain Himself alone,” Jn.6.15. He was never subject to a religious yoke, and condemned the lawyers who “lade men with burdens grievous to be borne,” Lk.11.46. As C. A. Coates comments, “He never came under man's influence in any way, nor did He serve man's purposes at all.”
iii) It was taken to a rough valley. “The elders of the city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown,” or “unto a valley with running water, which is neither plowed nor sown,” RV. C. H. Mackintosh follows the AV here in saying, “How aptly it sets forth what this world at large, and the land of Israel in particular, was to our blessed Lord and Saviour! Truly it was a rough place to Him, a place of humiliation, a dry and thirsty land, a place that had never been eared or sown.”
iv) It was killed. “The elders shall strike off the heifer's neck there in the valley,” or “break the heifer's neck there in the valley,” RV. Unlike the “red heifer” (read Num.19) which was slain before Eleazar, and whose blood was sprinkled “directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times,” Num.19.3-4, the emphasis here is on the violent death of the animal. The guilt of inflicting violent death on the man whose body had been discovered “lying in the field,” was met by another violent death. Peter refers to the death of the Lord Jesus in this way: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain,” Acts 2.23: “Ye … killed the Prince of life,” Acts 3.14-15.
In summary, the guilt incurred by the undetected murderer or man-slayer was met by a substitute. As Raymond Brown observes, “The offender cannot be found, but atonement must be made. Guilt hangs over the community like a dark cloud. The punishment must be borne. A sacrifice must be offered, so a young heifer is slain …” The city elders were therefore assured that clearance from guilt was available through the death of the heifer. This reminds us that fellowship with God today, which can so easily be interrupted by sin, rests upon the death of Christ. His work is both the basis on which that fellowship is created, and the basis on which it can be restored. But certain conditions must be fulfilled. So:
c) Priesthood must be involved, v5
As C. H. Mackintosh points out, “the moment the claims of justice were met by the death of the victim, a new element is introduced into the scene.” “And the priests, the sons of Levi shall come near.” This is grace acting on the blessed ground of righteousness. The death of the heifer made it possible for God to communicate with His people, and this was implemented through “the priests, the sons of Levi.” It is important to remember that our enjoyment of God's presence and blessing is secured through priestly fellowship and communion with Him.
This reminds us of the privileges belonging to every believer today. Contrary to the customs and practices of popular religion, every child of God is a priest, see 1Pet.2.5,9. Believers today should studiously avoid what has been called “redundant Judaism,” with its selective priesthood, ceremonial garments, incense, and everything else associated with carnal religious practice. All believers are included in the injunction: “Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water,” Heb.10.22. The passage alludes to the consecration of the Old Testament priests. See Ex.29 and Lev.8. Three things are said here about the priesthood:
i) “For them the Lord thy God hath chosen to minister unto Him.” This is what Peter describes as “an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ,” 1Pet.2.5. Whilst it is perfectly true that we have been “saved to serve,” it is primarily true that we have been saved to worship. God reveals Himself as the adorable God on the very threshold of Scripture. According to Thomas Newberry, the divine name Elohim (“God”, Gen.1.1) is the plural of Eloah, from Ahlah meaning “to worship, to adore” and “presents God as the one supreme object of worship, the Adorable One.” In view of this, every believer should gladly heed the injunction, “By Him (the Lord Jesus) therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name,” Heb.13.15. Are we ministering “unto Him” in this way?
ii) “And to bless in the name of the Lord.” Priests convey divine blessing to others. There can be little doubt that in this particular case, it was confirmation that the guilt incurred by the death of the man found “lying in the field” had been met by the slain heifer. Such blessing for others is, surely, part of our royal priesthood, and this is also described by Peter: “But ye are … a royal priesthood … that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light,” 1Pet.2.9. When Paul and Silas were in prison they acted as holy priests in praying and singing praises to God, and as royal priests in saying to the jailor, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” Acts 16.25,31. Are we conveying divine blessing to others in this way?
iii) “And by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried.” Priestly people are in a position to deal intelligently with problems and difficulties, see Mal.2.7. We will never be in a position to rightly understand and apply the Word of God unless we are enjoying fellowship and communion with Him. It was as the “prophets and teachers” at Antioch “ministered (a priestly word is used here) unto the Lord, and fasted” that “the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them,” Acts 13.1-2.
d) Confession must be made, v6-9
The basis on which renewal of fellowship with God has been established. The sacrifice has been made. The blessing of that renewal has been proclaimed by the priests, part of whose work it was to “bless in the name of the Lord,” v5. The actual putting away of “the guilt of innocent blood” took place, not so much because the local elders (acting on behalf of the city) said, “Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it,” v7, “but because they confessed the very fact that the crime had been committed, incurring a charge against the whole nation,” v8-9.
Whilst we may be hard pressed to make an exact application of this today, it remains that “If we confess our sins (do notice the plural word here), He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” 1Jn.1.9. As Raymond Brown points out, “Unrelieved guilt is the result of unconfessed sin. It is harmful to us, damaging to our relationships, and grieving to God. It is persistently acting as though no provision had been made for our pardon.” It is interesting to observe that Pilate “washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person,” Matt.27.24, but his guilt remained.
—to be continued (D.V.)
The Gospel of the Glory of Christ
(Address given by C. F. Hogg in U.S.A. in 1920's)
*Quotations throughout are from the Revised Version
Now I come to speak of the Cross itself. Its shadow began early to fall into His life, but He speaks plainly of it for the first time at Caesarea Philippi, as recorded in Matt.16.21. It is worthy of note that on that occasion He spoke for the first time of four things; of His Death, of His Resurrection, of the Church which He is to build, and of His Return.
The disciples had their own scheme of things, their only uncertainty was which of them should hold the place of prominence in the new Kingdom. This controversy, as to who should be greatest among them, they left unsettled to become the baleful inheritance of saints ever since. Men and women, if you would only, by the grace of God, come to the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ and say, ‘By the good help of God, from this day on I shall judge in myself every jealous and every ambitious thought,’ I could foretell for you a life of great happiness, of great efficiency, and of great fruitfulness. Nothing mars our service more than our ambitions and jealousies, and the Cross is the cure alike for jealousy and ambition. Remember that the law of the Kingdom of Heaven is that he who would rise high must go down low; in it the way to greatness is along the path of humility, Mk.10.42-44.
The Guilt of Men
At this point consider briefly some New Testament statements concerning the Cross. Let us look first at that of Peter ‘by the hand of lawless men (Romans), they (Jews) had crucified and slain the Lord of life and glory.’ Now it is true that men did all that was necessary to deprive the Lord Jesus of His life, thus incurring to the full the guilt of His murder, but over against this remember also that He Himself said, “I lay down My life … no one taketh it away from Me. … I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it again. This commandment received I from My Father,” Jn.10.17,18.
The Justice of God
The peculiar feature of crucifixion as a method of capital punishment is, that no human hand delivers the stroke that ultimately deprives the victim of life. He is simply put into conditions in which death is inevitable, and left there. But come a little closer to the heart of the matter and consider what Zechariah wrote, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is my fellow, saith Jehovah of hosts,” 13.7. And with these consider other like words such as, “Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death,” Ps.22.15, “When thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin,” and as these, “It pleased Jehovah to bruise Him,” and, “Jehovah hath caused to light upon Him the iniquity of us all,” Isa.53.6,10. In the awful darkness there was that which passed between God and His Son, a mystery into which we cannot penetrate, but which has other expressions, such as this, “He bare our sins in His own body on the tree,” 1Pet.2.24. We do know that then was accomplished the redemption of men.
What men did to Him was no part of the redemption price, but only that which passed between the Holy Father and the Holy Son. We bow with humbled hearts as we confess that our sins nailed Him to the Tree, that He, the Just, suffered for us, the unjust, that He might bring us to God, 1Pet.3.18.
An Evangelistic Interlude
Let me pause here for a moment. Taking nothing for granted, I will assume that there is not one regenerate soul in this audience, that I am speaking to a company of men and women who need to be saved. What should I say to you? I would tell you, with all my heart, that God loves you; that God loves you so much that He desires to have you with Him for ever; that He desires to deliver you from the guilt and the penalty of sin, and that in order to express His love, and His will to accomplish your salvation, He sent His Son into the world to die on the Cross that you might be saved. And I would tell you that God does not ask anything from you, that His desire is to give something to you, that He offers you His love, that He invites you to put your trust in the Lord Jesus, to pass out of the darkness into the light, out of death into life. I would remind you that almost the last words He spoke were these: “It is finished.” The work of salvation is completed and the grace of God is free. But remember this: you may come near Him in the crowd, where the hem of His garment may be touched; you may even be numbered with those who bear the Name of Christ. What a terrible calamity if any one of you should come short of salvation.
An old saint used to pray that he might be kept from “the false commerce of truth unfelt.” Let us see that we do not call men to enjoy that to which we ourselves are strangers, but if we keep ourselves in the love of God and in community with Christ, we shall commend His Gospel, and His salvation, to those before whom we live and to whom we speak.
The Willing Love of Christ
There is still another aspect of the Cross to be considered. I have already quoted the words of the Lord, “No one taketh it (His life) away from Me; but I lay it down of Myself.” Think, for a moment, of the voluntary nature of the sacrifice of Christ. Of His own will He veiled His glory; of His own will He came from Heaven; of His own will He trod every step of the bitter way to Calvary; of His own will He submitted to be nailed to the Cross; of His own will He allowed the awful burden of human sin to be put upon His soul. Deliberately, it was His own act, He laid down His life that men might be saved. The Cross stands alone, glorious in its isolation. There the heart of God is displayed, and there the salvation of men is secured. The Cross was in the heart of God from all eternity. It is the illumination of heaven, for we read that “the glory of God did lighten it and the lamp thereof is the Lamb,” Rev.21.23.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Think on These Things (Phil. 4.8-9)
by D. S. Parrack (England)
PAPER 7 — “IF THERE BE ANY VIRTUE — ANY PRAISE”
There are quite distinct words in the original language of the New Testament which, in the K.J.V. are translated as “virtue”. The first has the meaning of “power” or powerful force and is the one used in the record of the healing of the woman who had been ill for twelve years. Of that incident we are told that “Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that virtue (power JND) had gone out of Him, turned Him about in the press and said. Who touched My clothes?” See Mk.5.25-34. That shows us, among other things, that although “the power of the Lord,” (same word) is always “present to heal,” see Lk.5.17, it only becomes effective for those who come to Him personally to benefit from it.
That being said though, the word given as “virtue” in this passage from Philippians, conveys rather the idea of “excellency”. Peter uses this second word several times in his letters, including telling his readers that one purpose which God has for His people is “that ye might set forth the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness to His wonderful light,” 1Pet.2.9, JND. What then, we have been able to appreciate, in measure at least, of the virtues, the excellencies, of the Lord Jesus, God wants other people to see “set forth” in us. This, setting forth, is not of course limited to just what we say, it covers what we do, how we conduct ourselves, the sort of people we are.
Peter certainly had this in mind. He lists “precious faith — grace and peace — all things that pertain unto life and godliness” as being made available to us “through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord — Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” As well as those things already given he speaks of “exceeding great and precious promises,” showing the aim of these blessings as being, “that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” That “glory and virtue (excellency)” to which we have been called, is to be seen, or should be, operating in the lives of believers, with the effect that “ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” see 2Pet.1.1-8.
Oh yes, there are other constituents necessary in attaining this goal, including “temperance — patience — godliness — brotherly love — charity,” v6-7. In just the same way as the Corinthians were encouraged to build upon the firm, lasting and irreplaceable foundation laid by Paul, see 1Cor.3.10-11, so we are urged to add these attributes to what we have already by grace, been given.
The Lord Jesus then, has done everything, and given everything, necessary to enable us to “set forth the excellencies of Him that hath called us,” but it is only to the degree to which we appreciate them ourselves that they will be seen by others as being evidenced in our lives. The only way in which such an appreciation can be engendered and fostered is by our responding to Paul’s urging to “Think on these things.” Then, as the Corinthians were told, the outcome of our “beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord will be that “we are changed into the same image from glory to glory” an ongoing process, “even as by the Spirit of the Lord,” 2Cor.3.18. That really is setting forth His virtues, His excellencies.
Without in any way changing the intended sense of our passage, it perhaps makes for easier understanding if it is read as “if there be anything praiseworthy,” i.e. anything deserving of praise. Praise can of course be accorded when it is totally undeserved, e.g. “Men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself,” see Ps.49.16-20. That was the trap into which the religious rulers of Jesus’ day had fallen. “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” and so structured their lives to that end, see Jn.12.42-43; Matt.23.5-7.
There is too, a saying, not itself from Scripture but very much in line with Scriptural principles, “Self praise is no recommendation,” Paul certainly believed that to be true, even though from a natural point of view, he had plenty to boast about, see e.g. 2Cor.11.17-28. But he says to the Corinthians “We dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves.” Why not? Because “they measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise,” 2Cor.10.12. Another proverb, from Scripture this time, says “Let another praise thee and not thine own mouth, a stranger, and not thine own lips,” Prov.27.2. So none of us should be tempted into boasting of what we think of as deserving of praise in ourselves or our own accomplishments.
When however we come to consider the Lord Jesus, we are on a totally different level. Thinking again of those two aspects of praise already discussed, cultivating the praise of men and congratulatory self-praise, how did He conduct Himself? His behaviour perfectly fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. “He shall not cry nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the streets,” He was not a demagogue. “A bruised reed shall He not break and the smoking flax shall He not quench.” He encouraged rather than rejected those seemingly most unlikely to maximise the strength of any adulating following, those lavishing unsought praise, see Isa.42.2-3 and Matt.12.19-20. His natural brothers could not believe that that was the best way to get noticed. Their advice was “Depart hence” i.e. from unsophisticated Galilee, “and go into Judea,” the bustling metropolitan region, “that Thy disciples also may see the works that Thou doest — if Thou do these things, show Thyself unto the world,” Jn.7.3-4. Who was right then? Both Isaiah and John show that the way taken by the Lord Jesus was eminently successful in achieving what He wanted to achieve. “He shall not fail nor be discouraged — and the isles shall wait for His law,” Isa.42.4. “And in His name shall the Gentiles trust,” Matt.12.21. Bringing in “the isles,” which covered a multitude of little known and comparatively unimportant groups included in the overall description “the Gentiles,” was infinitely greater than winning the fleeting praise of a capricious few, and as and when such praise was forthcoming it was certainly very fleeting. See how moods changed over the course of just a few days by comparing Matt.21.1-11 with Matt.27.15-25.
What then about self-praise, self-adulation? How do we see the Lord Jesus in that context? “Being in the form of God, He thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” the position was already His, so it was not something to be grasped after. Rather He “made Himself of no reputation — humbled Himself” and since humility and self-praise can’t fit together there was no move to self-praise there. Real and deserved praise there was though from elsewhere. His Father’s estimate of His life and death, and what it accomplished is made very clear as Paul continues, “wherefore” because of those events, “God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name.” That was evidenced praise indeed, but God was determined that others should render deserved praise too. “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow — every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, see Phil.2.5-11.
That will assuredly happen at a coming time, but for believers it should be happening here and now, not just in words or even in song but as David puts it, “I will praise thee O Lord with my whole heart,” Ps.9.1. In another Psalm he gives his reason for praising with such fullness. This latter Psalm was written “in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies,” and he said “I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised,” see Ps.18, title and v3. That is how the praiseworthiness of the Lord Jesus should appear to us, and so it will in increasing measure, the more we “think on these things.”
The High Priest's Garments of Glory and Beauty
by W. W. Fereday
THE ROBE OF THE LORD
After the Urim and the Thummim comes “the robe of the ephod,” which was made wholly of blue, Ex.28.31. The fact is thus emphasised that ours is a heavenly Priest. “Such a High Priest became us, who is holy harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;” Heb.7.26. This is a truly marvellous statement. Who and what are we that no less a Priest than this will suffice for our need? The answer is that we are the brethren of Christ, His sanctified company, and partakers of the heavenly calling. Heavenly people need a Heavenly Priest. If Aaron were on earth today, and were to come amongst us in full canonicals offering us his gracious services, our reply could only be that a priest of his order is of no manner of use to us. His priesthood was earthly in its character, and was exercised in an earthly sanctuary on behalf of an earthly people. The feeblest Christian stands on higher ground than Israel ever knew. A priestly caste in Christianity, whatever form it may assume, is a base cheat of the enemy, designed for the degradation of the children of God, and to hide from their souls the wonderfulness of the grace of God towards them.
Around the hem of the blue robe were golden bells and pomegranates alternating, v33,34. “It shall be upon Aaron to minister; and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not.” The bells and pomegranates speak of testimony and fruit. “His sound shall be heard when he goeth in.” We know what happened when Jesus went in to God. The Holy Spirit came forth, and set the golden bells of Gospel testimony ringing in this dark world. We hear their joyful sound in Acts 2. The fruit quickly appeared, three thousand souls being blessed on the first day. God be praised, the bells are still ringing, and the fruit is still being gathered. The sweet story of the Gospel has reached our ears, and we are some of the fruit thus produced for God. The bells also sounded when Aaron came out from the divine presence. In like manner a fresh sound will be heard when the Lord Jesus comes again. A new testimony will be commenced in the earth, and abundance of fruit — a new crop — will be gathered by means of it. Israel, not the Church, will be God’s witness in that day: “out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Isa.2.3. It will be the time of the world’s blessing. Israel being restored to divine favour, all the ends of the earth shall fear Jehovah, Ps.67. “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea.” Isa.11.9. In connection with this new testimony there will be a second outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Joel 2.28,29. It is often said by pious people who feel the present low and unspiritual condition of things that the Church needs a fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God. This is incorrect. The power and blessing vouchsafed at Pentecost is with us still, spite of all our failure and sin. The great need of the hour is an awakening amongst the children of God as to what the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit means. There will be no second outpouring of the Spirit until the High Priest comes out of the Heavenly sanctuary to inaugurate the new era.
It may be a question with some as to whether the new testimony of which we have spoken involves a further opportunity of salvation for those who are now rejecting the Gospel. By no means. All who in this day are privileged to hear the proclamation of the grace of God, yet do not bow to the Lord Jesus, will, after the present testimony is ended, be given up to the lie of the Antichrist to their eternal ruin. As to this, 2Thess.2 is perfectly clear. But the world’s unevangelised millions (what a reproach to the Church that there should be such!) will hear the new message of God; and abundant will be the harvest.
THE HOLY CROWN
We come now to the plate of pure gold, with its striking inscription: “Holiness to the Lord.” Ex.28.36. This was fastened to the forefront of Aaron’s mitre by a blue lace. It is twice called “the holy crown,” Ex.39.30; Lev.8.9. We are thus reminded that ours is a crowned Priest. He whose blessed brow was once encircled with the crown of thorns is now “crowned with glory and honour;” Heb.2.9. Whatever God saw in the people of Israel, He always saw holiness in the priest. Typically, of course, for, personally, Aaron was no better than his fellows. The golden plate was put upon his forehead, “that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.” v38. The high priest was thus responsible for the people in divine things, i.e., in all matters concerning their worship and sacrifices. Surely there are no occasions on which we so much need the gracious intervention of the Lord Jesus as when we assemble for worship. Such is our infirmity that, with the purest of motives and with the best of intentions, we are utterly unable to render spiritual sacrifices to God in perfection. More serious still, in all that transpires there seldom lacks sin. Our comfort lies in the fact that all our offerings come before God through the hands of the perfectly Holy One in His presence. God looks at Him — at His perfections, and so accepts His people and what they bring. Faith says, “Look away from me,” Ps.39.13, JND, R.V.; “Look upon the face of Thine Anointed.” Ps.84.9.
Unworthy our thanksgiving,
Our service stained with sin;
Except as Thou art living,
Our Priest to bear it in.
There is a day coming for Israel when, not the high priest’s mitre only, but even the commonest of their possessions will bear the inscription, “Holiness to the Lord;” Zech.14.20. This will be in the day of glory — earthly glory, according to their hope. In our case, heavenly glory will yield this blessed result, for which every pious soul yearns. We shall be absolutely and wholly for God throughout the ages of eternity. There remains to be noticed Aaron’s embroidered coat, of fine linen, with its accompanying girdle of needlework, Ex.28.39. This coat was worn as an inner vest, Lev.8, and it typifies the personal purity of the Son of God.
AARON’S SON’S ROBES
Aaron’s sons’ robes, though of linen, are said to be “for glory and for beauty,” Ex.28.40-43; 39.27-29. Aaron’s sons typify Christians, viewed, not as members of Christ’s body, but as belonging to the priestly family of which Christ is the Leader and Head. Every detail of the sons’ robes as well as of the robes of their father, speaks of Christ. What have we then in this picture but every Christian so completely covered with the perfections of Christ that the holy eye of God sees upon us nothing but Christ when we draw near in faith before Him!
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon certain individuals and could later leave them. This was the experience of King Saul. “The Spirit of God came upon him (Saul),” 1Sam.10.10. Then after acts of sinful disobedience we read, “But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul,” 16.14. King David feared the same fate after his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah. “The Spirit of the LORD came upon David,” 16.13. But later he cried, “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me,” Ps.51.11. Under the old covenant the endowment of the Holy Spirit was external and could be temporary.
However, the Lord Jesus Christ marked a big change from the Old Testament to the New when he said to His disciples, “Ye know Him (the Holy Spirit); for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you,” Jn.14.17. The disciples at that point in time enjoyed the presence of the Holy Spirit as the Old Testament saints had done. But the Lord promised them that soon they would be energised by the indwelling Holy Spirit. This was fulfilled at Pentecost. “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you,” declared the risen Lord, Acts 1.8.
Now the regenerated believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. “For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people,” 2Cor.6.16. This is a quotation from Ex.25.8. In its original setting this statement of Scripture declares that God will dwell in the midst of the nation of Israel by means of the Tabernacle. But here in its New Testament setting it is stating that God by His Holy Spirit dwells in the individual Christian believer.
Or as Peter records this ineffable blessing, “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness … Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature,” 2Pet.1.3-4. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you,” Rom.8.9. “But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken (give life to) your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you,” v11.
10. GRIEVING THE HOLY SPIRIT
“Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption,” Eph.4.30. In this verse the apostle is speaking about our conduct. Such actions as lying, v25; wrath, v26; stealing, v28; bad conversation, v29, and malice, v31. It is this conduct which grieves the Holy Spirit of God. From whence come these evil deeds? From the flesh, which is the biblical word for our fallen human nature. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest,” Gal.5.19-21. V17 says, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”
To thrust aside the Holy Spirit and to seek to live the Christian life in the weakness of our own fallen human nature is not only to fail, it is also to frustrate and grieve the Holy Spirit in His ministry of supplying the strength to resist temptation and to display the virtues listed in Gal.5.22-23. “Ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise … The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know … what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according the working of His mighty power,” Eph.1.13,18,19. We must rely on the Holy Spirit so that He can produce in our lives the virtues listed in the epistle, such as kindness, tenderness, forgiveness and love, 4.32-5.2.
Then we shall show that we are true children of God, showing likeness to our Father. “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children, v1. Then our lives will become a fragrant offering for the pleasure of God, v2.
The believer is assured that the Holy Spirit cannot be grieved away. “Whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption,” Eph.4.30. The Lord’s promise to His disciples is that the Holy Spirit’s presence is permanent. “Another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth,” Jn.14.16-17. Indeed when we walk in the flesh, His presence is our only hope of conviction of our sin, our repentance, our confession and our restoration. “He (the Holy Spirit) will reprove the world of sin,” Jn.16.8. That convincing power extends to Christians! The Holy Spirit is the One who leads us to confess our sins. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” 1Jn.1.9.
—to be continued (D.V.)
“He Hath Declared Him”
by M. Hayward (England)
The first eighteen verses of John’s Gospel introduce us to the theme of the knowledge of God through His Son. The climax to this opening passage is found in the very last phrase, “He hath declared Him,” 1.18. The apostle reaches that point by showing us the various ways in which the Lord Jesus has made God known, culminating in His personal appearance in the world as the Word made flesh. The particular interest of this article is in what is said about the Word in v1-3, 14-18. It should be the concern of every believer to advance in the knowledge of God, and it is through Him who is the Word that this is done.
THE ETERNAL EXISTENCE OF THE WORD
“In the beginning was the Word” — When the first thing that had a beginning began, then the Word already was. This is a clear indication of His eternal existence. That the Lord Jesus is meant is evident from v14,17, but John deliberately refrains from giving Him any personal name here so that we may concentrate on His attributes. A word is an expression of what is in the mind, so John is telling us that if God is going to be told out, it must be through Him who, because He is the Word, is able to perfectly express His mind. He is not a Word, one option among many, but the one and only Discloser of the mind of God.
The use of the word “beginning” shows there is clearly a link with Gen.1.1, “In the beginning God created …” but whereas Moses is starting at the beginning and going forward, John is starting at the beginning and going backwards into eternity, before time was. Thus John is telling us of One who is able to bring eternal realities within the reach of men.
THE DISTINCT PERSONALITY OF THE WORD
“And the Word was with God” — If the first phrase tells of the pre-existence of the Word before time began, and therefore indicates His eternal being, this phrase tells of His co-existence. To be with God means much more than that the Word was in the presence of God, although this is true. By using a preposition that indicates “motion towards,” John is informing us that the Word was actively towards God, concentrating, in eternal perfection, on Him. This gives us great confidence, for it indicates that there is perfect harmony between the Word and God — their interests are the same, and nothing disturbs their communion. This being the case, believing in His name is a safe thing to do, for it forges a link with God that cannot be broken. The fact that weight is given to both “Word” and “God” is indicative of the distinct personality of the Word.
THE SUBSTANTIAL GODHOOD OF THE WORD
“And the Word was God” — A clear statement as to the Deity of the Word. Note that although there are distinctions of Persons in the Godhead, for “the Word was with God,” yet there is identity of essence, for “the Word was God.” This expression assures us that the One who is pre-existent, and co-existent, is co-equal with God as well. This truth is emphasized not only in the teaching of the Lord Jesus, (see for instance Jn.5.17-29 and 10.30), but also in His miracles, which clearly demonstrated His Deity. For example, He who had made the vine on the third day, Gen.1.12,13, now acts on another “third day,” Jn.2.1, as He accelerates the lengthy process by which rainwater is made into vintage wine, and thus manifests His power as Creator, “And His disciples believed on Him,” Jn.2.11.
“The same was in the beginning with God” — John makes it clear that the truths stated in v1 were all true together at the beginning — there was no development or progress. It was not that He was the Word, and then was with God, and then was God, but rather that He who was with God, and was God, was this eternally, for the nature of God cannot change. Deity does not develop, but is ever infinite. “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed,” Mal.3.6 — a great comfort to the remnant in Israel as they faced four hundred years of change until Christ came. Their preservation in those times is testimony to the unchangeableness of God. We who wait for the second coming of Christ may likewise take heart.
THE CREATORIAL MAJESTY OF THE WORD
“All things were made by Him” — Having stated fundamental truths as to the nature of the Word, John now indicates the way in which the Word showed Himself to be God, even by bringing all things into being, something only God can do. Literally rendered, the verse reads — “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him not even one thing came into being which has come into being.” John is writing about things coming to be that did not exist before — they are not revealed from their hiding-place. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear,” Heb.11.3. All things came into being by, or through, the Word when “He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” Ps.33.9. It follows logically, then, that He is not part of creation. There are those who appeal to this word “by” to say that the Word was only a high angelic intelligence, who was used by God to make all things as His subordinate. But in Rom.11.36 it is said of God that all things are through Him, (and the apostle uses the same word as “by” here), so on this theory of subordination, God Himself must be acting for another! This, of course, is impossible.
Perhaps as he penned these words the apostle John thought of the language of Isa.44.24, “I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by Myself.” Isaiah declared that the Lord, the God of heaven, had made all things by Himself, yet John, a sincere believer in the One True God, did not hesitate to say that the Word had made all things. Since John was inspired by the same Spirit as Isaiah was, then we are forced to the conclusion that the Word is God, not only by the plain statement of v.1, but also by the fact that He is Creator.
“And without Him was not anything made that was made” — there is no secret store of matter that derives its origin from some other power-source. Note how John puts things positively and negatively, (“all things were made by Him … without Him was nothing made …”), in order that the truth might be hedged about on every side. The first phrase, “all things were made by Him,” might be thought by hostile minds to refer only to things, and not beings with life, leaving the way open to say that the Word was created first, and then brought things into existence. This second statement of the apostle instantly and conclusively disposes of such a blasphemous notion. Everything that has moved from non-being to being has done so through the Word, therefore the Word did not come into being, but ever is.
THE CHANGED CONDITION OF THE WORD
As we turn to v14-18, we may see the apostle’s progress of thought more easily if we omit for the moment all parenthetical and explanatory matter, and read as follows; “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us … full of grace and truth … no man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” In the intervening statements there is the experience of John the apostle, the exclamation of John the Baptist, the experience of all believers, and then the example of Moses.
“And the Word was made flesh” — Note the “and”, which links back to v1-3; “In the beginning was the Word … and the Word was made flesh.” The intervening verses have spoken of His pre-incarnation involvement with the world He had created, but now John speaks of the Word as He is made in the likeness of men. Eternity is meeting time; He who was with God is now with men. The change is radical and His manhood is vital — just as vital as His Godhood. He cannot be either Last Adam, Kinsman Redeemer, Mediator, or High Priest, unless He is truly man, for all these offices depend on His death, and unless He takes flesh and blood He cannot die, Heb.2.14.
Whereas in v1-3 we have been told what the Word is, now we are told what He became, for this is the sense of the word “made” here. Several things are involved in this.
i) He gained the attributes of man without losing the attributes of God. He who is in the form of God took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, Phil.2.6,7. It is in John’s Gospel, which especially emphasizes the Deity of Christ, that He describes Himself as “A man that hath told you the truth,” 8.40. His Manhood is real, for He was born of Mary, but His Manhood is ideal, for He was not begotten of Joseph.
ii) He united manhood and Godhood for ever in His Person. John insists in his epistle that one way of discerning an anti-christ is by asking whether he believes Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, 1 Jn.4.2,3. The sense of the participle he uses for “come” is, “having come in the flesh and continuing to be in the flesh.” The precision of the Greek language expresses the truth that the manhood Christ has taken, He will never discard. The Jesus of Nazareth who was here, is the Jesus of Nazareth who spoke to Saul of Tarsus from heaven, Acts 22.8; the same Jesus who is crowned with glory and honour in heaven, Heb.2.9; and the same Jesus who will come again to earth, Acts 1.11.
iii) He did not merely come in man’s guise, as angels have done when visiting men, but became flesh. Not flesh in contrast to spirit, (as if He became a body, or clothed Himself with one), but flesh consisting of spirit and soul and body, the constituent parts of man, 1Thess.5.23.
iv) He now possesses both Deity and manhood, yet remains one Person. He never spoke of Himself as “Us”, as the Godhead does at times, Gen.1.26; 3.22; 11.7. Who can begin to understand the great mystery of godliness, that “God was manifest in flesh?” 1Tim.3.16. We dare not pry or probe, for to lift the lid of the Ark is to invite Divine judgment, 1Sam.6.19. If the god Dagon was found fallen on his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord, 1Sam.5.3, how much more should we fall before Him of whom the ark speaks.
v) The attributes of both His Godhood and His manhood are properly ascribed to the one Person. This means, for example, that the one who stilled the storm in Mk.4.35-41 was a Man, even though to still storms is Divine work, Ps.107.23-30, and the one who slept in the boat was God, even though the God that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep, Psalm 121:4. We ought not to say that He slept as a man and stilled the storm as God. He both slept, and stilled the storm, as one blessed, undivided Person.
—to be continued (D.V.)
John The Baptist
It is not our object, in the following pages, to dwell upon the ministry of the Baptist; nor yet upon the place which he filled in the history of God’s dealings with Israel, deeply interesting as all this might be, and profitable too, inasmuch as his ministry was at once solemn and powerful, and his dispensational position full of the very deepest interest. But we must, for the present, confine ourselves to two or three of his utterances as recorded by the Holy Ghost in the Gospel of John, in which we shall find two things very strikingly presented to our view, namely, his estimate of himself, and his estimate of his Lord.
Now these are, assuredly, points worthy of our attention. John the Baptist was, according to the testimony of his blessed Master, the greatest “among them that are born of women.” This is the very highest testimony that could be borne to any one, whether we consider the source from which it emanated, or the terms in which it is couched. He was not only a prophet, but the greatest of prophets — the forerunner of the Messiah — the harbinger of the King — the great preacher of righteousness.
Such was John, officially; and hence it must be of the deepest interest to know what such an one thought of himself, and what he thought of Christ — to hearken to his fervent utterances on both these points, as given on the page of inspiration. Indeed we shall find herein a mine of most precious practical instruction.
Let us turn to the first chapter of John’s Gospel, and read at the nineteenth verse:
“And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”
They were determined to have an answer; and he gives them one. They would compel him to speak of himself; and he does so. But mark his answer — mark his words! Who or what was he? Nobody. He was only “a voice.” This is morally lovely. The self-emptiness of this most honoured servant is perfectly beautiful. It does the heart good to be brought in contact with such practical grace as this. Here was a man of real power and dignity, one of Christ’s most illustrious servants, occupying the very highest position, whose preaching had stirred the hearts of thousands, whose birth had been announced by angels, whose ministry had been foretold by prophets, the herald of the kingdom, the friend of the King — and yet this remarkable man, when forced to speak of himself, can merely be induced to say, “I am a voice.” Not even a man; but only a voice.
What a lesson is here for us! What a wholesome corrective for our lamentable self-occupation, self-complacency, and self-exaltation. It is truly wonderful to think of the Baptist’s brilliant career, of his powerful ministry, of his widespread influence, extending even to the heart of Herod the king, of the place he occupied, and the work he did, and yet, notwithstanding all this, when forced to give out what he had to say of himself, he sums it all up in that one self-emptied word, “A voice.”
This, we must confess, contains, in its brief compass, a volume of deep practical instruction for the heart. It is precisely what is needed, in this day of busy self-importance — needed by each — needed by all; for have we not, each and all, to judge ourselves on the ground of our inordinate tendency to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think? Are we not all prone to attach importance to any little work with which we ourselves happen to stand connected? Alas! it is even so, and hence it is that we so deeply need the wholesome teaching furnished by the lovely self-emptiness of John the Baptist, who, when challenged to speak of himself, could retire into the shade and say, “I am only a voice.”
Now this was a very remarkable answer to fall on the ears of Pharisees, of whom were the messengers that were sent to question the Baptist, as we read, “They which were sent were of the Pharisees.” Surely it is not without meaning that this fact is stated. Pharisees know but little of self-hiding or self-emptiness. Such rare and exquisite fruits do not thrive beneath the withering atmosphere of Pharisaism. They only grow in the new creation, and there is no Pharisaism there. Pharisaism, in all its phases and in all its grades, is the moral antipodes, the direct opposite of self-abnegation, and therefore John’s reply must have sounded strange in the ears of the questioners.
“And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptisest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptise with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose show’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”
Thus, the more this dear servant of Christ is forced to speak of himself, or of his work, the more he retires into the shade. When asked about himself, he says “I am a voice.” When asked about his work, he says, “I am not worthy to unloose my Master’s shoe-latchet.” There is no puffing off or exalting of self; no making much ado of his service, no parading of his work. The greatest of prophets was, in his own eyes, merely a voice — the most honoured of servants deemed himself unworthy to touch his Master’s shoe.
All this is truly refreshing and edifying. It is most healthful for the soul to breathe such an atmosphere as this in a day like the present of so much contemptible egotism and empty pretension. John was a man of real power, real worth, real gift and grace; and therefore he was a lowly unpretending man. It is generally thus. The really great men are fond of the shade, and, if they must speak of themselves, they make short work of it. David never spoke of his wonderful feat with the lion and the bear until compelled to do so by Saul’s unbelief. Paul never spoke of his rapture to paradise till it was drawn forth by the folly of the Corinthians; and when forced to speak of himself or his work, he apologises, and says, again and again, “I speak as a fool.”
Thus it is ever. True worth is modest and retiring. The Davids, the Johns, and the Pauls have delighted to retire behind their Master, and lose sight of themselves in the blaze of His moral glory. This was their deepest, fullest, richest blessing. The very highest and purest enjoyment which the creature can taste is to lose sight of self in the immediate presence of God. Oh! to know more of it! It is what we want. It would effectually deliver us from the tendency to be occupied with, and influenced by, the thoughts and opinions of men; and it would impart a moral elevation to the character, and a holy stability to the course which, assuredly, are for the glory of God and our souls’ true peace and blessing.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by B. E. Avery (England)
We are introduced to Moses in Ex.2 as a babe under threat of death. Who ever would have thought that he was to become a great leader and bring the people out of the land where his own life had been in danger? However, as commanded by God and accompanied by his brother Aaron, he eventually stands before Pharaoh and demands the release of God’s people. On the wonderful Passover night the people leave Egypt and are brought into the wilderness where they fail some eighteen times. No wonder there is no singing from Ex.15 until Deut.32, which was around 40 years later.
In Ex.32 there is the story of the Golden calf, outlining Israel’s apostasy. This is the first time we have Moses in the character of a mediator as he stands between an angry God and His idolatrous people. As God tells Moses what happened He says, in v10, “… let Me alone …” as if anticipating what Moses would do and what he would say. Of course God knew already, but this is recorded in such a way that we can enter into the very emotions of the situation. God is ready to consume them all and begin again with His servant Moses.
Moses does not consider what, to many, would have been an attractive proposition, but he rather reminds the Lord of the likely reaction of the Egyptians as well as His promises to the fathers, v11-13. This stayed the hand of God. What a man and what power in mediation!
When Moses arrives back at the camp, it is his turn to be angry. He moves outside the camp and cries, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” His own tribe of Levi responds to the call and slay about three thousand men on that day. As Moses reviews what had been done in his absence and the awfulness of their sin, he understands the holiness of God has been outraged and knows that judgment will fall. He comes to God again and rather than be the head of a new nation, he is willing to take the judgment and be slain himself, Ex.32.32. Here again is an echo of mediation. What grace! We see reflections of another Mediator, who bore our punishment that we may go free.
We get another glimpse of Moses’ work in Lev.10, on the occasion of the death of Aaron’s two sins, Nadab and Abihu. We move forward to Num.11 where the people complain and judgment falls. Moses prays to the Lord and the fire is quenched. Immediately afterwards the mixed multitude among them weep as they thought of the food they enjoyed in Egypt. In v5 they mention six items, the first three depicted hidden sins, the final three detectable ones. They despise the manna and as they weep Moses and the Lord were affected. Moses, depressed under the burden, loses sight of the Lord and even seeks death for himself. Before the end of the chapter the Lord smites the people again and at the beginning of the next chapter Moses deals with murmuring from his own brother and sister. Miriam becomes leprous and Moses cries to the Lord for her cleansing. He was the subject of envy, even from his own family.
The children of Israel are now on the borders of Canaan. Num.14 reminds us that twelve spies were sent to view the land and the people listened to the ten faithless ones. The children of Israel wept again and wished they had died in Egypt or in the wilderness. God granted them their wish and there followed thirty-eight years of wandering until all over the age of twenty had died except Joshua and Caleb, the two faithful spies. Once more Moses is given the opportunity to be the head of a “greater and mightier nation than they.” Yet again Moses steps into the breach on behalf of a faithless people, v13-19.
Num.16 introduces us to a further rebellion concerning Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Spiritual jealousy fills their hearts and they, with others, accuse Moses and Aaron of seeking place and moving in the spirit of self-importance, v3. It is, however, the complainers who were guilty of the very thing of which they were accusing their leaders. “Tomorrow” they are required to appear before the Lord. This gave time for repentance, but they refuse to come. They lost sight of the Lord who had brought them up out of Egypt, v13, and brought further charges against Moses. Again they are given space, v16. How gracious is our God! They refuse to repent and the whole congregation is threatened with judgment by Divine intervention. Once more it is the intervention of Moses the mediator that turns God’s wrath away from the people, v22. This did not include the leaders of the rebellion and they are swallowed up into the pit and their two hundred and fifty supporters are consumed by fire from the Lord.
This is not the lesson it ought to have been and another “tomorrow”, v41, sees the congregation accusing Moses and Aaron of murder! Once more they are threatened with consuming judgment, v45, but the mediator Moses stands in the breach. The plague has started and fourteen thousand, seven hundred people die before Aaron, under instruction from Moses, made atonement for the people. God uses Aaron’s rod that budded to confirm His choice for priesthood and this was to be kept, “for a token against the rebels,” 17.11.
We have not considered all the occasions when the people required Moses’ mediation, but we are not overly surprised that Moses, the meekest man on the earth, 12.3, failed and eventually lost his temper, 20.10. We ought to be thankful that we have an unfailing Mediator, both in terms of salvation, 1Tim.2.5, and the new covenant, see Heb.8.6, 9.15, 12.24.
Good Tidings from Heaven
IS THERE ANOTHER LIFE?
The popular beliefs are, “When you’re dead, you’re done for,” and, “No one has come back to tell us.”
Whether we believe death is the end or not, we must admit that as far as our own experience goes, none of us can prove our case. Not one of us has yet passed beyond death to see what does or does not exist there.
Surely no one but God Himself has the answer. The Bible tells us that God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into the world for this very purpose, to teach us the things we could never discover for ourselves. “God … hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son,” Hebrews 1.2.
The Son of God taught us that death is not the end of our existence. For, concerning Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who had been dead for centuries, He said, “He is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him,” Luke 20.38. Also He did come back after His death to prove this to His disciples. “To whom also He shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs,” Acts 1.3.
Further, He taught that the dead will be raised again, the unrighteous to judgment and eternal separation from God, and the righteous to eternal life, Matthew 25.46. But before we think we are good enough to be among the righteous, the Bible warns us that because of our sins, we are all unrighteous in God’s sight. “There is none righteous, no, not one,” Romans 3.10. So we can do nothing to save ourselves from judgment. “That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God,” Romans 3.19.
The Bible also tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ came to save us from this eternal fate. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost,” Luke 19.10. How can He save us? By dying on the cross, bearing Himself the punishment due to our sins, “Christ died for our sins,” 1 Corinthians 15.3.
This is the only way to obtain the forgiveness of our sins, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins,” Ephesians 1.7. We must stop trying to save ourselves by good works and religious observances. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2.8,9. We must admit before God that we are sinners, and trust in His Son who paid the debt of our sin by laying down His own life instead of us. Then to receive Him, the risen Christ, into our lives. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name,” John 1.12.
Let this solemn warning from the Word of God be the answer to our question, “Is there another life?” “As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,” Hebrews 9.27.
Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Sinbearer and Saviour, then you will know that your sins are forgiven, Acts 13.38,39. You will have eternal life and will not perish, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3.16. You will not come into judgment, but at death you will pass into the presence of Christ in heaven, 2 Corinthians 5.6-8.
WHERE HE CAME FROM AND WHY HE CAME
God sent His only begotten Son … that we might live through Him, Jn.4.9.
I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, Gal.2.20.
Whether we live therefore, or die, we are the LORD's, Rom.14.8.
They which live should not … live unto themselves, but unto Him, 2Cor.5.15.
To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain, Phil.1.21.
Who died for us, that … we should live together with Him, 1Thess.5.10.
If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him, 2Tim.2.11.
by H. A. Barnes (England)
Great love, Eph.2.4
Exceeding grace, 2Cor.9.14 (see also Eph.2.7; 2Cor.4.15)
Abundant mercy, 1Pet.1.3
Manifold wisdom, Eph.3.10
Much longsuffering, Rom.9.22
Exceedingly great power, Eph.1.19; Psa.106.8 (cp. Lk.9.43)