As we have already noted, this chapter covers a variety of topics and could be summarised as follows:
preservation of property, vv.1-4;
propriety in clothing, v.5;
protection of birds, vv.6-7;
prevention of accidents, v.8;
prohibition of mixtures, vv.9-12;
purity in relationships, vv.13-30.
We must now address the last of these, and whilst it is tempting to give a general summary of these verses, the opportunity must be taken to emphasise particular lessons. At the same time, the passage is noteworthy for its economy of language, and that in itself is important. The Bible does not provide lurid details for unsanctified minds. These verses underline the importance for God's people, then and now, to preserve high standards of morality, and emphasise the consistent teaching of Holy Scripture that physical sexual relationships are to be confined to marriage, and to marriage alone.
Bearing in mind that “as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation,” 1Pet.1.15, we must notice the way in which the New Testament emphasises the sanctity of the believer's body: “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body …” 1Cor.6.19-20; “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth (the teaching in the preceding verses), despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit,” 1Thess.4.7-8.
The legislation in these verses covers six possible instances of immoral behaviour and while the prescribed punishments are not applicable today, this does not mean, for one moment, that the sins in question are any less serious in the sight of God. Their gravity is not in any way mitigated by the fact that they are commonplace to the extent that we “live in a period of widespread moral decadence, and sexual permissiveness is openly applauded in news items, theatre, films, videos and novels” (Raymond Brown). Eph.5.3-7 is compulsory reading at this juncture. We must also remember that having dealt with a case of tolerated immorality at Corinth, Paul commands the assembly to “put away from among yourselves that wicked person,” 1Cor.5.13. Assembly discipline in this way has in view the repentance and restoration of the guilty person. See 2Cor.2.5-11.
1) CASES OF UNCHASTITY, vv.13-21
“If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, and give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid …” In this connection, we must draw attention to two very serious issues:
i) The seriousness of an unsupported charge, vv.13-19. It was extremely serious if the Hebrew husband slandered his wife and gave her a bad name. In his case, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the Hebrew husband was looking for an opportunity to withdraw from his responsibilities towards “the wife of his covenant,” Mal.2.14, whom he no longer loved. He describes her as “this woman.” Alas, it is not uncommon today, when things go wrong in married life, for even believers to assert that their marriage was a mistake in the first place, and that there never really was any true love between them. This inevitably leads to defamation of character. Perhaps assembly elders, and brethren who “officiate” at weddings, should give more careful and prayerful consideration to the important task of preparing young couples for the privileges and responsibilities of marriage, with all its stresses and strains. It does not seem unreasonable to suggest that this could well lead to lessening instances of divorce and separation amongst the Lord's people.
We should also say that defamation of character is not limited to the circumstances described here. There are other ways in which character can be slandered. See, for example, Lev.9.16: “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the Lord.” The defamed wife here is described as “a virgin of Israel,” v.19, which conveys the purity, dignity and beauty of her status, and we must not forget that the Lord's people are precious to Him in the same way. If unsupported charges were to be exposed and dealt with then, vv.18-19, then we should be equally firm in rebuking them now. “Thou shalt not bare false witness.”
ii) The seriousness of a supported charge, vv.20-21. It is equally serious, arguably more so, if the Hebrew wife was proved guilty of deceiving her husband at the time of their wedding. Her “folly (‘infamy’, JND) in Israel” and whoredom “in her father's house,” is described as “evil” and must be dealt with by stoning. We must not avoid the solemn implications of these verses. They convey God's verdict on pre-marital sexual relationships. We live in a different world, where stoning is not practised, but sin is no less serious. We should notice that national purity is involved, hence the words “folly in Israel,” which reminds us that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” 1Cor.5.6. Immorality had actually infected the testimony of the assembly at Corinth: “It is universally reported (that there is) fornication among you,” 1Cor.5.1, (JND). If Israel was to “put away evil,” v.21, then the assembly was to “put away … that wicked person,” 1Cor.5.13.
In his “Outline of Deuteronomy,” C. A. Coates draws attention to the ceaseless attempts of the enemy to bring reproach “on the fair name of that which is espoused to Christ.” Coates refers to 2Cor.11.2-3, “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealously: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” He adds, “If we yield to the corrupting influence of that which has no title to us, it really means spiritual death … The saints at Corinth had, to some extent, yielded to the corrupting influences of the serpent and his world. But Paul laboured to free them from all those influences by presenting Christ to their affections as the One who alone was entitled to those affections.”
2) CASES OF ADULTERY, v.22
This sin attracted uncompromising severity. “If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.” We must notice, again, that the entire nation was involved: “so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.” Personal sins have a wider effect than we sometimes imagine. Whilst it was Achan who coveted the spoils at Jericho, the Lord made it clear that the entire nation was involved: “Israel could not stand before their enemies, because they were accursed,” Josh.7.11-12. Our personal conduct has an influence, for good or otherwise, on the life of the local assembly. Searching, isn't it?
We cannot emphasise fidelity in marriage too strongly. Listen to the following: “Can a man take fire into his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So is he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent. Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry … But whosoever committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul …” Prov.6.27-35.
The Scribes and Pharisees evidently referred to this passage in saying “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned: but what sayest Thou?” Jn.8.4-5. Very clearly, this was a “catch question,” and “the whole affair was an endeavour to find ground, not to accuse the woman, but the Lord” (E. W. Rogers, Answers to Bible Problems). Rogers points out that “God, in the first instance, had twice written the law in tables of stone,” but “here was the Law Giver who again twice writes on the stone … He, the Law Giver, come in grace to save law breakers, refuses to enact the penalty on the one hand, or to countenance the sin on the other,” (see question 65, page 34).
3) CASES OF UNRESISTED ADVANCES, vv.23-24
These verses deal with “a damsel that is a virgin … betrothed to an husband” who evidently consents to the advances of a man in the city. We should notice that the words “force her,” v.25, are used in the next case, but not here. The sin described here attracted the same uncompromising severity attached to cases of adultery. In the case of the woman, the advances of the man were not resisted with cries for help when it was available, indicating willingness to surrender the sanctity of her body. The woman evidently did not possess any surplus in the matter. In the case of the man, he had “humbled his neighbour's wife,” A betrothed maiden was regarded as a wife. Compare Matt.1.18-20 where, although Mary “was espoused to Joseph, before they came together,” she is nevertheless described as Joseph's wife: “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” For the third time, we read “so shalt thou put away evil from among you.” See also vv.21,22.
4) CASES OF RESISTED ADVANCES, vv.25-27
In this case, the woman cried for help but none was available, “He found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.” She was not therefore guilty, but the man was to be put to death. He was guilty of rape, v.25. This emphasises the perfect equity of God's law.
C. A. Coates makes the following application: “The latter part of the chapter would suggest that there is a security in the ‘city’ which may not be found in the ‘field.’ To keep near to our ‘fellow-citizens’ is a great safeguard; the companionship of the saints is full of preservative influence. To get away from it often leads to falling an easy prey to what is corrupting.”
5) CASES OF SEDUCTION, vv.28-29
This deals with another case of pre-marital sex. “Here, a man seduces a young woman who is not pledged to be married. The offender was ordered to make financial compensation, marry the girl, and never be free to divorce her” (Raymond Brown). This emphasises our observation at the beginning of this paper that it is the consistent teaching of Holy Scripture that physical sexual relationships are to be confined to marriage, and to marriage alone.
The injunction, “Flee fornication,” 1Cor.6.18, is perfectly clear. Do notice that it is “Flee fornication.” This means what it says: “Run away from it. Do not go as close to it as possible, insisting that you will never succumb to it. Stay far away from the edge!” This quotation is taken from a chapter entitled “What about sexual relationships?” in booklet number two of “What About?” subtitled “Questions Young People Ask” (Precious Seed Publications). This is recommended reading. It deals with this and associated subjects clearly, but with delicacy and sensitivity.
6) CASES OF INCEST, v.30
This was the very sin that brought such disrepute on the assembly at Corinth. See 1Cor.5.1: “such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.” Such behaviour was under the divine curse. See Deut.27.20. We need say no more.
As God's people, we must remember that we are “washed … sanctified … justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God,” 1Cor.6.11, and behave accordingly.
—to be continued (D.V.)
“Jonathan and his times”
by W. W. Fereday
When David returned from the conflict with the head of the Philistine in his hand, Jonathan’s affections went out towards him. David could say of him after his tragic death, “Very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women,” 2Sam.1.26.
There is No Substitute For Love. Nothing that the wit of man can devise can ever take its place. “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned” SofS.8.7. Jehovah lamented concerning Israel, “I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest out after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was holiness unto Jehovah … Thus saith Jehovah, What iniquity have your fathers found in Me, that they are gone far from Me … Thou said’st, there is no hope; no; for I have loved strangers, and after them I will go,” Jer.2.1-5, 25. In Rev.2.4 we hear the Lord’s rebuke to Ephesus, “I have against thee that thou hast left thy first love.” Works were there; orthodoxy and ecclesiastical order also; but the decay of love spread its dismal blight over them all.
David returning from the slaughter of Goliath is a type of the risen Christ. Only thus does the Christian know Him 2Cor.5.16. In His death He made expiation for our sins; He brought to an end, as before God, the old man of sin and corruption; and He overthrew the might of our every foe. He is now Man exalted in heaven. He who once descended into the lower parts of the earth, has ascended up far above all heavens that He might fill all things, Eph.4.10. Surely our souls are exhilarated as we think of Him thus! Surely our affections follow Him to the place where He has gone! What place can the world hold in the minds and hearts of those who have the blessed knowledge of Him whom man rejected here, and who is honoured there?
Jonathan Loved David as his own soul, and forthwith gave proof of his love by stripping himself for him. The extent of his surrender is remarkable. “Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle,” 1Sam.18.4. It was a great thing to give David his robe and garments, but for a soldier, and a royal prince withal, to yield also his weapons was extraordinary. How great then was the affection of Jonathan for David!
We find Paul in the stripping-room in Phil.3. If any other person in his day thought he had whereof he might boast in the flesh, he had more. Every natural, racial, religious, and moral advantage was his. But the first sight of the glorified Christ knocked the value out of it all for him for ever. “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ,” v.7. It was not the impulsive act of momentary enthusiasm with Paul, but the cool calculation of a man who was learning with God the true value of things both above and below. Paul no more went back upon his first devotion to Christ than Jonathan from his first devotion to David. Both loved their object until life’s end. After years of unparalleled suffering and reproach for Christ (and the story may be read in an abbreviated form in 2Cor.11) Paul could say, “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, and be found in Him,” Phil.3.8,9.
“Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,” Rom.15.4. Brethren, what have we learned from Jonathan and from Paul. The latter writes appealingly to us all in 1Cor.11.1, “Be followers (i.e. imitators) of me,” adding, “even as I also am of Christ.” Again in Phil.3.17, “and mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an example.” Let us review our Christian path. What have we really surrendered for the One we profess to love? What cherished idols have we abandoned for Him? To what extent have we shared His rejection? It was clearly seen that Paul and his fellows were treading a path of loss; they were made “a spectacle (or theatre) unto the world, and to angels, and to men,” 1Cor.4.9. Is it as clearly seen in us? May God by His blessed Spirit exercise our hearts and consciences as to this.
Oh, let thy life be given,
Thy years for Him be spent;
World-fetters all be riven,
And joy with suffering blent;
Bring thou thy worthless all,
Follow thy Saviour’s call.
(F. R. Havergal)
The contrast between the attitude of Saul and Jonathan towards David was very great. The poor jealous king, now frequently plagued with an evil spirit (typical of the last king who will reign in Jerusalem before the great Appearing) hated him, and would destroy him, and even instructed Jonathan as well as his servants to kill David 1Sam.19.1. Jonathan, on his part “delighted much in David.” This was the rock upon which father and son split, and the cleavage was irrevocable. In like manner today every man’s eternal destiny is determined by the attitude of his soul towards the Son of God. “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God,” Jn.3.18. “What think ye of Christ?” is the great question which will either make or break every person to whom it is presented. The rich young ruler of Mk.10 was all that could be desired, morally and otherwise; the difficulty was as to Christ. He did not see sufficient in Him to let all go for His sake.
The cleavage between those to whom Christ is everything, and those to whom He is little or nothing, is indeed most serious. Witness His own words in Lk.12.51-53, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth. I tell you, Nay, but division; for from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother …” Whatever matters of contention there were amongst men before His coming to earth, all have been eclipsed by His coming and rejection. Half-hearted Christians dropped Paul in the hour of his deepest need because they were not prepared to identify themselves with the disgrace and deprivations which came upon him for Christ’s sake 2Tim.1.15; 2Tim.4.16,17.
Jonathan was willing to speak up for David. His remonstrance as given in 1Sam.19.4 is deeply touching, “Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been to thee-ward very good; for he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine, and Jehovah wrought a great deliverance for all Israel; thou sawest it, and did'st rejoice; wherefore then wilt thou sin against innocent blood, to slay David without cause.” In these words we can almost hear the Christian speaking up for his Saviour and Lord. The hated one’s words and works had been very good, and a great salvation had been wrought for Israel by his hand. Who dare impeach either the words or works of the Son of God, and who can deny that He has wrought for His people “so great salvation”? Heb.2.3. David “put his life in his hand.” Our blessed Lord went immeasurably further, for He laid down His life for the sheep. “No one taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power (authority) to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father,” Jn.10.18.
Jonathan reminded his father that at the moment of David’s victory over Goliath — “thou sawest it, and did’st rejoice.” But it was a mere passing emotion; not a vestige of divine sentiment had any lodgement in his soul. Rocky ground hearers are very emotional, and seem to be filled with divine joy as the wonders of divine grace are set forth, but it quickly passes as the dew before the sun, Matt.13.20,21.
It was good that Jonathan should speak up for David, and it is also good that we should be ever ready to speak up for the Lord Jesus; but the weakness of Jonathan lay in the fact that he was not prepared to follow David in his rejection.
He reminds us somewhat of Nicodemus in the New Testament — The Midnight Talk — with the Son of God as recorded in Jn.3 evidently left its impress upon his soul, for we find him later pleading His cause before the Council in Jn.7.50, and bringing down upon his own head the contempt of his fellows. But he was not yet prepared to throw in his lot with the Nazarene, and to share the reproach and shame that came upon Him from day to day. Thank God, Nicodemus shone out brightly at the finish. When all others had fled, boastful Peter doing worse still, Nicodemus proffered his assistance to Joseph of Arimathaea for the burial of his Lord. His righteous soul was stung to the quick by the unrighteousness that he had witnessed. Delay was no longer possible; timidity was thrown to the winds; and he allowed it to be seen by all that he loved and honoured the outcast Son of God. Truly, “the last shall be first, and the first last,” Matt.20.16.
God is never limited in His resources. Accordingly, He had instruments other than Jonathan for the help of His persecuted servant. Michal by a ruse enabled David to escape when Saul would have murdered him in his bed, and Samuel sheltered him in Naioth when his own home was no longer tenable. When Saul essayed to fetch him thence, the Spirit of God came upon him in a remarkable manner, thus witnessing to the wilful King of the uselessness of waging war with God 1Sam.19.11-24.
—to be continued (D.V.)
The Servant Songs of Isaiah
By G. Hutchinson (N. Ireland)
PAPER 3 - Isaiah 50.4-11
In the initial Servant songs recorded by Isaiah the emphasis is placed on extolling the virtues of the Lord Jesus Christ. This theme continues into the third song but there is now a much sharper focus given to the sufferings of the Servant, particularly those inflicted by man. Though His sufferings are further developed in the fourth and final song, 52.13-53.12, there the reader is able to reflect on the judgment stemming from Jehovah. As to the general structure of Isa.50, the song not only occupies a major part of the chapter but it may also be described as a “rose between two thorns!” For example, prior to the commencement of the song, the prophet records features of the rebellious nation of Israel, vv.1-3. This article briefly summarises the opening section of the chapter but, in so doing, it merely marks a transition toward the third Servant song. Then in the concluding section the thorn is perhaps less pronounced as it contains a number of references to those who follow Jehovah, but it also speaks of those who rebel against Him and are therefore judged, vv.10-11. The Servant has appropriately the largest section devoted to Him, vv.4-9, and it contains some of the most solemn and graphic descriptions of Messiah’s sufferings (even when compared to the New Testament and Gospel records). This article briefly develops the three strands of Isa.50.
THE WAYWARD SERVANT
If we desire to observe the impact of sin there is little need to look further than in the opening verses of the third Servant song! The question in the opening verse may well be rhetorical in nature — “where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement.” Some have suggested that, as the concluding verses of ch.49 point to Israel’s future, the question may be best interpreted from the perspective of a coming day when there will be a vain search for the “bill of divorcement.” Why? Because on the ground of the Saviour’s sacrifice and subsequent repentance by believing Israelites, Rom.11.25-26, Jehovah will graciously grant the nation complete restoration and a glorious future! However, the aim of the opening section of the chapter is to highlight how far Israel had departed from God. The terminology is particularly strong - “iniquities”, “transgressions” — and they are again used when description is made of the Servant’s work on the cross in 53.5. The responsibility for the nation’s oppression lay fully on their shoulders and Israel alone was culpable, v.2.
Their solemn condition is only further heightened when consideration is given to Jehovah’s faithful character: He remained keenly interested in His people, v.3, and He still had the same power as in Egypt to bring about a change, vv.3b-4. Sin had evidently caused the nation to ignore the gracious pleadings of Jehovah and their memory of His past deliverances had all but disappeared. This opening section is therefore a solemn reminder as to the seriousness of sin amongst God’s people. It also paves the way for the revelation of a Servant who was never wayward or sinful — the Lord Jesus Christ. This approach is consistent with the opening two Servant songs where contrasts are also drawn between Israel and Messiah, 41.8; 42.1; 49.3.
THE WILLING SERVANT
The primary message of the third song is the extent to which the Servant is willing to render His service despite being confronted by those who sought His destruction. There are at least nine separate attributes of the Servant in this song:
His reverence: As the Servant speaks in vv.4-9 it is important to observe the manner of His address — “the Lord God,” vv.4,5,7,9. The Servant acknowledges that it is the “Sovereign Lord” who commissions Him and subsequently sustains Him in His service. Living in an age that encourages “informal language,” believers should be extremely careful in how they address God. The perfect Servant establishes an important principle for us to follow in our prayer life — approach God with care and reverence.
His dependence: The Servant’s own description of Himself as “the learned” (or “disciple” as rendered in 8.16), is significant. It reveals that throughout His earthly sojourn the Saviour wondrously took the place of Jehovah’s Servant. The fact that He was “given” the tongue of the learned further emphasises this truth. Any wonder that as the Apostle Paul sought to develop a humble spirit amongst the saints at Philippi, he turned their attention to the Saviour, Phil.2.3-8!
His benevolence: The Servant remarks that He was given the tongue of a disciple that He might “speak a word in season to him that is weary.” The second song teaches that the Servant knew what it was to be weary, 49.4, and now we learn that He puts this experience to good use by ministering to those who find the way wearisome. We too must remember that as God instructs us, we need to pass on divine truth to others — in the right way and at the right time!
His diligence: The repeated nature of the Servant’s work is conveyed in the words “morning by morning,” v.4. The Gospels record some important mornings in the life of the Saviour, Mk.1.35; Lk.4.12-13; Jn.18.28 and Matt.28.1, but here we learn that morning devotions lay at the heart of each day. Remember that we accomplish very little for God if we fail to start the day in meditation with Him.
His obedience: In vv.5,6 we note that the Servant faithfully discharged His commission despite being treated as a common criminal. At the hands of men, His back was smitten; His cheeks were rudely torn and His face was spat upon. These actions indicate the strongest form of humiliation and contempt, cp Deut.25.9; Neh.13.25. Though there is no indication of the Saviour’s ultimate death, this will be drawn out in the fourth and final Servant song. The emphasis here is that the Servant kept going despite the adversity. As we sing, “from the track He turned not back.”
His confidence: The Servant expresses His trust in Jehovah, vv.7,9a. This was also a feature of the second song, 49.4, and it provides succinct advice in dealing with troubled times — “trust God.” The Servant also remarks that He would neither be “confounded” nor “ashamed,” v.7. But how is this to be reconciled with the verses previously outlined, vv.5-6? It appears that this song (and the final one) looks forward to the vindication of the Lord as He was raised from the dead; given glory, cp 52.13, and world-wide acclaim now awaits the perfect Servant, cp 52.15.
His persistence: Aside from being obedient to Jehovah the perfect Servant also displayed resolution and determination. Combining v.7, “face like a flint” and Lk.9.51, “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” we learn that the Lord was single-minded as He discharged His unique work. It is also noteworthy to remember that flint was a particularly strong stone, Ezek.3.9, and so we marvel not just at the Servant’s persistence but also His supreme strength.
His allegiance: A key feature of the Servant’s confidence lay in the fact that He enjoyed a close relationship with Jehovah: “He is near that justifieth Me,” v.8. In other words, aside from the Servant’s work being declared righteous by Jehovah, there is equal emphasis given to Their harmonious relationship, cp 2Cor.5.19.
His pre-eminence: In the final verse where the Servant is clearly speaking, v.9, He outlines that His enemy will be defeated. Indeed He likens them to both a worn-out garment and one that is moth-eaten. Therefore, as the Servant observes His victory over the enemy we rejoice in His ultimate superiority.
THE WISE SERVANT
The concluding section of the song combines an exhortation to those who fear the Lord, v.10, and also a warning to the rebellious, v.11. Aside from an implicit reminder of the Servant’s deity (notice that fearing Jehovah is synonymous with obeying the Servant) there is important counsel for believers of all generations. As God’s servants today, working in a dark and sinful world, we will be marked by wisdom if we act as the perfect Servant: “hearkening to the voice of His (Jehovah’s) Servant” (Newberry, v.10a). As He exercised trust in Jehovah, v.7, we are to do the same, v.10b. Again we learn that the Servant songs are not solely devotional in teaching but have practical implications as well.
In the final verse there is a solemn contrast. The ungodly are in view and as they seek to provide their own light with a ‘do-it-yourself’ approach, it ends in sorrow. Eternal judgment is their sad portion, “this shall ye have of Mine hand” and is in marked contrast to the happy end of the perfect Servant and those who associate themselves with Him.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Birds of the Bible (Genesis)
by Ian McKee (N. Ireland)
We have considered Adam’s review of all creatures, including birds, in Gen.2 and a similar review by Noah in Gen.6 and 7. The first species review was of nature in pristine splendour. The second review was also impressive, but the original splendour was now stained by the fall.
We have also reflected upon the new distinction between “clean” and “not clean” species, with the raven being representative of the latter. We shall now consider the representative of the clean species: the dove.
There are about 300 species of pigeons and doves. They occur worldwide, except in the coldest regions and the most remote islands. They are all medium-sized, compact, fast-flying birds with pointed wings and clipped wing beats. Doves and pigeons feed on seeds and fruit. They drink with their bill lowered into water, which they then suck up. This makes this family distinct from other birds, which sip water and then swallow by raising their head. Doves feed their young on “pigeon milk” from their crop, which the nestling obtains by poking its bill down the parent’s throat!
But let us return to Noah and read, “Also he sent forth a dove from him,” Gen.8.8. This may have been simultaneous to the release of the raven. The final phrase of that verse, “to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground,” gives the reason for Noah’s action.
Above an alien environment it soared, “But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot … for the waters were on the face of the whole earth,” Gen.8.9. The dove could not be at home in a world under judgment, with nothing to satisfy its appetite and nowhere to rest.
The dove’s homing instinct, strong and unerring, was then asserted: “and she returned unto him into the ark,” Gen.8.9. No matter how far she had ranged — and note it was a female dove — there was no place of true rest apart from her mate. Her eventual landing on the ark was matched by Noah’s activity, “then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark,” Gen.9.9.
We note that God’s original “male and female” intention for all species at creation was maintained after the fall and in the ark. For mankind that intention was made explicit: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh,” Gen.2.24. That position was similarly maintained in the ark: “And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark,” Gen.7.7. We reiterate the creatorial foundation of marriage and family life, sanctioned by Scripture in both Old and New Testaments. The Bible does not provide any basis for the concept of civil partnerships; quite the contrary!
We have noted that the dove’s homing instinct brought her back to her own mate. Do we desire to be at home? We live in an ever more pressured age, with increased business travel, etc. But, even so, do we retain a predominant “homing instinct”? Has spouse, family and home a central place in our lives? Career, cares and children’s needs (plus a host of other things) may all intervene between husband and wife to the extent that God’s intention for marriage, while professed, is not promoted practically or positively. It is surely not God’s intention that husband and wife should progressively, even unintentionally, begin to live in separate spheres. This can only be detrimental. Let us all linger at this point, reflect and, as necessary, make immediate adjustment.
Returning to Noah we recall that, after waiting for another seven days, “again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off,” Gen.8.10.11. Again we have the homing instinct, plus a token of new life.
Then we have another mission for the dove: “And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more,” Gen.8.12. What about the homing instinct now? Well there was another pull, stronger than any other consideration: the attraction of a new world. And just as surely, the call of Christ and heaven taking us from time to eternity, via the Lord’s return or death, will be the strongest of all appeals that the Christian will experience. Regardless of all earthly and tender ties, we will be transported from this world to the next.
This can also be applied to Assembly loyalty. Saved and spiritual people desire to be associated with those similarly minded. “Then they that gladly received His word were baptised … And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers,” Acts 2.41,42. And this is to continue: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching,” Heb.10.25.
While the Divinely implanted desire towards both our domestic and spiritual home should be nurtured our whole life through, the pull towards heaven will prevail. That competing attraction is demonstrated in the words of the Apostle Paul, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you,” Phil.1.23,24.
There are other verses in Gen.8 and 9 that make general reference to birds, but enough has been said. Lord willing, we shall consider next Abram and birds.
—to be continued (D.V.)
The Truth of Gathering to the Lord Jesus Christ
By Ian W. Gibson (Winnipeg, Canada)
The Truth of Gathering in PROPHECY — Genesis 49v.10
In Gen.49, we have the blessing and prophecies of the aged Jacob upon his sons, and when it comes to Judah, v.10 “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between His feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.” This prophecy found an initial fulfilment in the son Judah; 1Chron.5.2 “For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler.” It also found fulfilment in God’s earthly people, the tribe of Judah becoming the royal or kingly tribe; from Judah was to come God’s lawgiver, His chief ruler. But the prophecy had in view ultimately the Lord Jesus, who sprang from that royal tribe of Judah; “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah,” Heb.7.14, He is “the Lion of the tribe of Juda,” Rev.4.5. It has always been God’s purpose for His people to be gathered around His own dear Son, in acknowledgement of His Lordship, appreciating Him as the sovereign Ruler, that “unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.”
In the Revised Version and Newberry, the word “people” is “peoples” (plural), and really this prophecy concerning the Lord Jesus will find its ultimate fulfilment in that coming day of Christ’s glorious Kingdom, when He will sit on the throne of His father David, and reign over this world as King of kings and Lord of lords, the divine Chief Ruler. Then, the Nation of Israel, and every nation and people on earth, will be gathered around Christ, acknowledging His righteous rule and desiring His blessing. The name “Shiloh” may therefore be seen as a Messianic title of the Lord Jesus, and has the thought of Him as the Pacificator (Newberry) or Peacemaker, for He will reign as “the Prince of Peace,” Isa.9.6, and preside over a Kingdom in which there will be unprecedented peace.
Today, men’s hearts are perplexed and fearful, as they think on a world so insecure with violence and terrorism, capable and seemingly intent on destroying itself. But the Psalmist says “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof,” Ps.24.1, and He will not allow men to destroy what He has created, and what belongs to Him. This whole earth was purchased at Calvary by the precious blood of Christ. In the parables of the Kingdom we learn that He purchased the field, Matt.13.44 and that “the field is the world,” v.38. There will yet be very far reaching implications of the death of Christ for this world, a day when the creation will be “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God,” Rom.8.21. In that glorious Millennial day the whole earth will enjoy a time of unparalleled peace, when He who is the Peacemaker (Shiloh) comes, and all peoples and nations will be gathered unto Him. Isa.11.10, “And in that day there shall be a root out of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people (peoples, Newberry); to it shall the Gentiles (nations, Newberry) seek: and His rest shall be glorious.”
The Old Testament prophets speak of the peaceful conditions of that coming Millennial age. Isa.2.4 and Mic.4.3-4, “And He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid.” All then will dwell in safety and security, without fear. Jerusalem today is a city under siege; every house and apartment block has its underground bomb shelter. But in that day of peace, all will be able to enjoy God’s fresh air, sitting at peace under their vine and fig tree. Zech.8.4-5, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for every age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.” In that Millennial day, it will be completely safe for young and old alike, there will be no danger, no mugging of pensioners or abuse of children.
It will be a reign of peace that will extend also to the animal kingdom; Isa.11.6-9, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of an asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Animals which today prey upon one another and upon man, will in that day dwell in peace and tranquillity. It is all a lovely description of the peaceful conditions that will prevail when Shiloh, the divine Peacemaker, shall come.
These are wonderful Scriptures which convey something of the blessing for all in a coming day, when Christ is the future centre of gathering. After all the days of great tribulation and dreadful unrest, He will bring real and lasting peace. Such will be that glorious Kingdom of our Lord Jesus, Isa.9.7, “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” When Shiloh comes, and all are gathered to Him, it will then be a glorious Kingdom of unending peace and justice, presided over by the Prince of Peace.
He will then take His place in the midst of His people. In the closing chapters of Ezekiel’s prophecy, there are visions of the millennial temple and the millennial city. In Ezek.43, Ezekiel is brought to the east gate of that temple, where he sees “the glory of the God of Israel (Christ) came from the way of the east,” v.2. In v4, “And the glory of the Lord came into the house,” and in v7, “He said unto me, Son of man, the place of My throne, and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever.” He will be Christ in the midst of a restored Israel, their future centre of gathering.
The name of the millennial city is given, “The name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there” (Jehovah-Shammah), Ezek.48.35. He will be there, in the midst of that restored Nation in a future day. Zeph.3.14, “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.” Why such joy? Zeph.3.15, “The LORD hath taken away thy judgements, He hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee.” The cause for rejoicing and gladness is that the LORD is in their midst. In the similar language of Zech.2.10, “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD.” Zech.2.11, “And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be My people: and (He repeats) I will dwell in the midst of thee.” Zech.2.12, “And the LORD shall inherit Judah His portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.” Truly Israel will in that millennial day be “the holy land,” because the LORD will be there, dwelling in the midst of His people and many nations — “and unto Him shall the gathering of the peoples be.”
All these scriptures convey scenes of great joy, gladness and rejoicing, the enjoyment for a restored Nation of Israel, the LORD dwelling in their midst, He will be the future centre of gathering. But what joy, gladness and rejoicing for believers today in the Church, the bride of Christ. What God will yet accomplish for that Nation in a coming day in a physical way, with the LORD in their midst, He has already accomplished today in the Church, spiritually. Every time we gather, we can say Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord is there, we can sing and shout for joy, we can be glad and rejoice, because we know the reality and blessing of gathering with the risen Christ in our midst.
—to be continued (D.V.)
The Double Offerings
by A. Summers (Scotland)
The offering of the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell and the sending away of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement is treated by Scripture as a single offering, Lev.16.5. The use of two identical animals of the same sex and species is a distinctive feature of the sin offering sacrificed on the Day of Atonement for the “congregation of the children of Israel,” 16.5. It shares this distinction with the two turtledoves or young pigeons offered by a mother on the day of her cleansing and the birds used in the ritual attending the readmission of a cleansed leper to the camp of Israel.
The sin offering for the sins of the people on the Day of Atonement was possibly the most important single offering of all the Levitical offerings. Its importance was a consequence of its scope. The sin offering offered on behalf of the people on the Day of Atonement covered a whole nation. In contrast the other offerings were on the whole brought by and for individuals. There were some communal offerings for example the sin offering offered when “the whole congregation of Israel” sinned “through ignorance,” Lev.4.13. The elders offered that offering on behalf of the congregation. However, it is likely that this offering was for a particular sin such as a decision or deed committed by the elders when acting on behalf of the people. The offering was not designed to deal with the accumulated sins of the people. Another example is the sin offering offered at the induction of the priesthood, Lev.8.14, which then covered Aaron and his four sons. The sin offering of the Day of Atonement however, did not only deal with a Nation, but also covered an extended period of time. It was celebrated once a year, Lev.16.29; 23.26, and covered “all the iniquities of the children of Israel and all their transgressions in all their sins,” Lev.16.21. The offering therefore covered the totality of the Nation’s sins over the course of a year. To this extent the offering subsumed and overlapped the other offerings for sin for which sacrifice had already been brought during the year.
Despite this however it was deficient in certain respects. It required yearly repetition and the Hebrews writer notes that this exposed its inferiority when contrasted with the sacrifice of Christ, Heb.9.7,12; 10.10,12-14, which obtained “eternal” redemption. In selecting the sin offering on the Day of Atonement as the focal point for his discussion of the inadequacy of the offerings, Heb.9.7,25; 10.1, the writer to the Hebrews is showing that the Law even at its highest point was inadequate when compared with the sacrifice of Christ. The sacrifice of Christ eclipsed in every point the offerings of the Old Testament.
The instructions regarding the slaughter of the first goat are similar to other Levitical offerings except in one material particular — the blood was taken within the Holy of Holies and sprinkled on the mercy seat, Lev.16.15. This reminds us that Christ entered into heaven in the value of His own blood and purified “the heavenly things,” Heb.9.23. The treatment of the second goat however is without precedent and requires particular attention. The High Priest pressed both his hands on the head of the live goat and confessed the nation’s sins over it. A “fit man” then led the animal away into the wilderness. According to rabbinical tradition (Mishnah - Yoma 6.2-8) as it was led away the people would shout and spit and pull the wool of the animal. Once in the wilderness, it was forced over a precipice in order to ensure that it never returned to the Camp. Whatever the authority of these traditions, the believer in the Lord Jesus is able to see in the fate of the scapegoat a vivid depiction of the Lord Jesus and His journey into the “land uninhabited” as their Sin Bearer.
While it is no surprise to find that the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell made atonement, Lev.16.16, it might be thought surprising that the following words are recorded — “the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to make an atonement with him,” Lev.16.10. This makes it obvious that atonement was made by a live goat. Given that Scripture teaches clearly that there is no atonement apart from sacrifice and death, it is necessary to ascertain why the scapegoat did not share the same fate as the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell. Leaving aside any argument as to whether atonement is or is not an exclusively Old Testament doctrine, it is apparent that true forgiveness depended and depends not on the sacrifice itself but rather on what the sacrifice symbolised. Thus blood shed was a symbol of the final sacrifice of Christ. That said there are other symbols of the Lord’s death found in the offerings that do not entail blood shedding. In the law of the Sin Offering, for example, flour could be offered in exceptional circumstances for the sin of the offerer, Lev.5.11. That flour had once been a living ear of barley of wheat, but it had been cut down and crushed by the millstones and so was a fitting emblem of the death of Christ. The Lord Jesus described His death in a similar way when He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit,” Jn.12.24. Thus when Scripture records a living goat making atonement it is necessary to appreciate that the absence of blood does not necessarily mean that the death of Christ is not in view. It is suggested that the double offering is designed to depict two aspects of the death of Christ. On the one hand the death of the Lord Jesus as depicted in the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell and on the other the consequences of that death are depicted in the fate of the scapegoat (azazel - 05799).
The High Priest’s hands pressed on to the goat pictured the transfer of the sins of the nation to the scapegoat. This is to illustrate that the punishment due to our sins was borne by the Lord Jesus when He was “made sin for us,” 2Cor.5.21. To use New Testament language, to the scapegoat was imputed the sins of the nation and it bore them away so that they would never be seen or heard of again. Thus it is written, “And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited,” Lev.16.22. Peter writes of the Lord Jesus, “who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree,” 1Pet.2.24. John describes the Lord Jesus as the “Lamb of God” and no doubt had in mind the lamb of the Passover and the lamb of Isaiah ch.53 and possibly the lamb in the burnt offering. When he adds the words “which taketh away the sin of the world,” Jn.1.29, he may have in mind the sacrifice that took away, not merely the sins of a little nation for a year, but laid the basis whereby all and every sin can be removed and that for all eternity.
—to be concluded (D.V.)
Thoughts of Timothy in 2 Timothy 1
by Steve Walvatne (U.S.A.)
In the previous paper we saw that Paul considered Timothy’s Tears, Timothy’s Testimony and Timothy’s Teachers.
Now we note that the apostle also contemplates Timothy’s Talent: “Stir up the gift of God, that is in thee,” v.6. This “gift” (charisma) was not natural talent, but spiritual; something divinely bestowed at conversion, 1Cor.12.7,11. Not all have the same talent. Timothy’s appeared to be pastoral in nature. Paul, with certain assembly elders, had laid hands on Timothy, v.6 and 1Tim.4.14, not in ordination as some assert, but in identification with that which the Lord had already imparted. It is a blessing for any assembly when brethren of vision detect gift in fellow saints and seek to enable it to God’s glory. Unlike the selfish and self-centred, spiritual men feel no threat from those younger saints making progress in spiritual things. Consider Moses with Joshua, Elijah with Elisha, and Paul with Timothy.
But like natural talent, spiritual gift must be developed and maintained personally. Initial months after conversion are crucial, for if “new born babes” fail to feast on the “sincere milk of the Word,” 1Pet.2.2, spiritual growth will be impeded and precious time lost. Timothy did not waste these early days, but grew “in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” 2Pet.3.18. Paul witnessed this firsthand and now urges him to carry on. Timothy was to “stir up the gift of God that is in thee,” not that which was in another. How sad when saints abandon their God-given gift and assume something the Lord never intended. Such only fosters confusion.
Paul then turns to Timothy’s Temperament: “The spirit of fear,” v.7. The word “fear” means “timidity” or “cowardice.” By nature, Timothy was a sensitive soul. Paul earlier admonished Corinthian believers to “see that he (Timothy) may be with you without fear,” 1Cor.16.10,11. They were not to “despise” or set him at naught, but “conduct him forth in peace.” Mindful of Timothy’s temperament, Paul graciously directed him toward the enabling power of God. Rather than “a spirit” (JN Darby) of fear, the Lord imparts a spirit of “power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” A spirit of power (might or force) “needs to be controlled by love, and both force and love must be governed by ‘a sound mind’ or ‘wise discretion’ if the energy that we have by the Holy Spirit is to be rightly employed” (F.B. Hole). “ ‘Discipline’ (a sound mind, AV) signifies self-control, the power of resisting self-indulgent laxity and the passionate impulses of the natural heart.” (W.E. Vine)
“Cowardice,” however, spawns “shame.” Timothy was not to be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord or of Paul “His prisoner” (not Nero’s). “Suffering rather than shame (was) to characterise Timothy’s ministry” (J. Stott). Oliver Smith of Iowa, spoke about “being ashamed of being ashamed.” “Who am I,” he’d say, “that I should be ashamed of the Lord?” As Joseph Grigg wrote:
Ashamed of Jesus! That dear Friend
On whom my hopes of heav’n depend!
No; when I blush, be this my shame,
That I no more revere His Name.
After that, Paul considers Timothy’s Title: “… According to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” v.9. Nothing lends more dignity and weight to one’s work than the truth declared here. Timothy’s title lay in God’s sovereign choice of him, “according to His own purpose and grace.” The thought of it thrilled the apostle’s heart and he uses it to further motivate and strengthen Timothy in view of hardships ahead. This is sublime truth, and rather than wrestle with it, we should wonder at it. “When I think about this it staggers me,” said the late Sydney Maxwell. “I don’t understand it, and yet away back in the counsels of God, in His sovereignty and foreknowledge, He elected me. That’s a remarkable thing … Long before you were ever impressed with your sin or need, the Spirit of God had you in mind and began to work with you and set you apart … that the counsels and purposes of God might be worked out in your salvation.”
In contrast to Israel, which was “chosen from the foundation of the world,” Matt.25.34, we (as Timothy) were chosen “in Christ Jesus before the world began.” Thus, as J.N. Darby states, “we have nothing to do with it but to get through it.” If only we grasped this more! How different then, would be our assessment of earthly things in light of all that is ours from eternity to eternity.
In v.14 we notice Timothy’s Trust: “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost ...”. The word “committed” (parakatatheke) is also found in 1Tim.6.20: “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust …”. There, as here, it refers to a deposit or trust consigned to one’s person, and composed, as W.E. Vine writes, of “the faith, the doctrines of Scripture, to be kept unchanged, unalloyed, unextended.” It is “good” or “precious,” and Timothy was to guard it from evil assault; not by his own power, but through the Holy Spirit that indwells every believer. “He must defend it against every attack and never allow it to be changed or modified in the slightest degree” (Hendrickson).
Then as now, deceivers were distorting God’s Word. To combat this, Timothy must “preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine,” 2Tim.4.2. Only one who has given “attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine,” 1Tim.4.13, is able to do this. The importance of learning and teaching sound doctrine cannot be underestimated. C.H. Mackintosh wrote: “How are we to account for all those gross and terrible evils into which Solomon and successors were drawn? What was their origin? Neglect of the Word of God.” Do we know our Bibles? We cannot hold what we do not possess.
Lastly, the apostle alludes to Timothy’s Times: “… All they which are in Asia be turned away from me …” v.15. Defection was in the air and Paul felt it keenly. Saints in Asia Minor who might have stood by him, now turned away. Like the Lord Jesus who “came unto His own, and His own received Him not,” Jn.1.11, so Paul knew the sting of being spurned by those who meant most to him. And Demas, who had been by his side, “left me in the lurch” (H. Kent), out of love for this present age, 4.10. To be deserted by unsaved relatives and friends is one thing, but to be similarly treated by fellow believers, especially during grievous circumstances, is quite another indeed. This spirit would only intensify and come to characterise Timothy’s times. They were abandoning a suffering disciple now, but soon would go further and abandon sound doctrine as well, 2Tim.4.4.
Our day is equally dark. Christians no longer speak with “one voice,” and truths that previous generations bought at great cost are being discarded as inconsequential. Many now want to be humoured rather than humbled; counselled rather than corrected; entertained rather than edified; soothed rather than searched. The popular preacher acquiesces, and is financed and flattered in return, but faithful men will have none of it. Like Paul, they refuse to sugar-coat reality, and like Naboth, would rather die than sell their inheritance to the highest bidder, 1Kng.21.2, 3. The “nice” man is not necessarily a “good” man. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,” Ps.37.23. May the Lord help us to be faithful through the “perilous times” in which we live!
Meditations in Isaiah 9.6
by James M. Flanigan (N. Ireland)
PAPER 2 — A SON IS GIVEN
Our Lord Jesus has at least eleven titles which involve some aspect of Sonship. Five of these titles relate Him to His Father and to the heavens. He is Son of God, Son of the Father, Son of the Blessed, Son of the Highest, and Son of His love. Three titles link Him with Nazareth and with the family of the carpenter. He is called Son of Mary, Son of Joseph, and Son of the carpenter. Another three relate Him to earth and to the coming kingdom. He is Son of David, Son of Abraham, and Son of Man. Each title suggests some particular facet of His glory and each title will repay careful and prayerful meditation and study. “Unto us a Son is given.”
1. Son of God
It may be argued that this title does not belong to Him alone since others are also called sons of God. Adam is called the son of God, Lk.3.38. We who believe are called sons of God, Rom.8.14. Angels are called sons of God, Job 2.1; 38.7. How then it may be asked, is our Lord the Son of God uniquely? In some respects the answer is simple. Adam and the angels are sons by creation. We are sons by adoption, Gal.4.5. But He whom we love is Son neither by creation nor by adoption. He is the Son of God eternally, the Only-begotten Son, with a Sonship which is His exclusively and alone, Jn.3.16.
2. Son of the Father
Here, and only here, in 2Jn.3, is this inscrutable title given to the Lord Jesus. Neither Adam, or angels, or believers, are ever called by this title. It is His alone. It is a tender appellative given to One who ever dwells in the bosom of the Father. It portrays the sacred intimacy between the Father and the Son who was ever with Him, face to face with Him in a holy fellowship of love, for such is implied in that expression “with God,” Jn.1.1,2.
3. Son of the Highest
This title is again unique, found only in Lk.1.32, used by Gabriel in his message to Mary concerning the miraculous conception of her Son, the promised Messiah. The power of the highest would overshadow Mary to effect that conception in her virgin womb. John, His forerunner, son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, would be known as the prophet of the Highest, Lk.1.76, and when the angels finally announced that He had come they said, “Glory to God in the Highest,” Lk.2.14. How reminiscent of Him who in Old Testament times was so often called “The Most High,” Dan.4.17,24,25,32,34.
4. Son of the Blessed
This is another title found only once in our Bible, Mk.14.61. Two words in the New Testament are translated “blessed” but require to be distinguished. W.E.Vine’s Expository Dictionary helps in this regard, as does Strong’s Concordance. One word, anglicised as makarios means to be counted happy or blessed and is used often in the beatitudes in Matt.5 and Lk.6. The other word is eulogia and it is perhaps obvious that it is from this word that the English word “eulogise” is derived, meaning to praise or to speak well of. This is the word that Israel’s High Priest used of our Lord! Jesus stood silently, patiently, as men railed upon Him, slandering Him with blasphemous false accusations. “Art Thou the Son of the Blessed?” the High Priest asked. “I am” the Saviour replied. Let men slander if they will but He is the Son of the God well-spoken of! Blessed Saviour!
5. Son of His love
So do J.N. Darby and many others render that expression in the KJV in Col.1.14, “His dear Son.” Like previous titles, it occurs but once in the New Testament and it is unique. The beloved Son has ever been the object of the Father’s affections and His coming into our world has revealed that great heart of love to us. “The Father loveth the Son,” He said, Jn.3.35; 5.20, and then, “I love the Father,” Jn.14.31. We who believe have been brought, by grace, into that love.
6. Son of Mary
That the Son of the Father should become the Son of Mary is wondrous grace indeed. The eternal has come into time. The Omnipotent has become dependent. From glory inexpressible He has come to humility and to poverty, born of a Hebrew peasant maiden to be called a Nazarene.
7. Son of Joseph
Joseph of course had no part in His miraculous conception but so that His entitlement to the throne of His father David should be beyond dispute He must not be the Son of the virgin alone. Joseph is His adoptive father and guardian so that Mary could say later “Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing,” Lk.2.48.
8. Son of the Carpenter
It was in a spirit of unbelief that the men of Nazareth called Him the carpenter and the carpenter’s Son, Mk.6.3; Matt.13.55. They failed to recognise the wonder of it all, that the Creator had become a Carpenter and was in their midst. He must have toiled at the carpenter’s bench in those early days, fashioning tables, chairs and yoke for oxen out of the very trees that He Himself had created! Grace indeed!
9. Son of David
In the opening verse of our New Testament our Lord’s link with David is stated and in the genealogy which follows, that link is established and with it His right to the throne. When He came He was born King, Matt.2.2, for Herod on the throne was but a puppet of Rome, an Edomite with no entitlement to the crown. Technically therefore, the throne was vacant. But the King had come! Israel rejected His claims however and it was a Gentile who wrote His title above His head in death, “This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews,” Matt.27.37; Mk.15.26; Lk.23.38; Jn.19.19.
10. Son of Abraham
If David is associated with the throne, Abraham is associated with the altar. In Solomon David raised a son for the throne. In Isaac Abraham raised a son for the altar. These two names with which our New Testament opens are suggestive of the two great covenants. David is heir to the crown. Abraham is heir to the Land. Jesus is Son of David and Son of Abraham and is therefore the legal Heir to both the throne and the Land, but the throne will be reached by the way of the altar. First the cross, then the crown.
11. Son of Man
Jesus used this title of Himself some eighty times in the Gospels. As Son of Man He is the representative Man, the second Man, 1Cor.15.47. The title transcends even Son of Abraham and Son of David for as the second Man Christ is the established Heir not only to the throne and to the Land but to the world which the first man lost. Our Lord used this title when speaking of His death, resurrection and coming kingdom. He is then —
Son of God eternally
Son of Joseph legally
Son of the Father intimately
Son of the Carpenter practically
Son of the Highest uniquely
Son of Abraham prophetically
Son of the Blessed morally
Son of David royally
Son of His Love affectionately
Son of Man dispensationally
Son of Mary miraculously
As has been remarked earlier, our Bible can say so much in so few words! A Child is born! A Son is given! These truths will engage our hearts not only in time but also throughout eternity.
—to be continued (D.V.)
Good Tidings from Heaven
We are frequently told that when making decisions every consideration should be made and all events should be taken into account as the problem is approached from every angle. This is good advice and is taught in the Holy Scriptures also.
The wise man Solomon wrote in Proverbs chapter 6vv6-8, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” This is good advice. We ought to learn from the prudence of the ant! We could hardly be asked to consider any lesser creature. We may have thought of the traditional wisdom of an owl or the cunning of a fox. But an ant! Is this to emphasise our smallness, weakness and bring humility?
What is it we are to learn? The ant has no teacher, “having no guide, overseer, or ruler” yet within her is an inbuilt intelligence so that she, “provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” She looks to the dark days ahead and makes preparation while there is opportunity. She is not like the grasshopper that sings and sports herself in the summer and then perishes in the winter.
Have you learned the lesson, or do you live as though tomorrow and eternity did not exist? The great man Moses prayed for the people in his day, “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” Deuteronomy 32.29. Dear reader, death is not the end. We all have eternity to face and if preparation is not made it will be the darkness of the judgment of God. How solemn are the words of Solomon, “But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity,” Ecclesiastes 11.8.
Amos gives the advice in chapter 4v12 of his prophecy, “prepare to meet thy God.” How can we prepare for eternity and this inevitable meeting with God? Hebrews 12.3 gives the answer. “For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself.” We are asked to ponder, which means to consider, a Person. Please note it is not a religion or some philosophy but a Person. Who is He? The same book gives the answer in chapter 1v2,3, “His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” He is the only Son of God who is both the Creator and Sustainer of all creation.
Yet we are also to consider His Passion, “endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself.” This brings us to the cross of Calvary where, “He bore our sins in His own body on the tree,” 1Peter 2.24. Dear reader, this is where you will find salvation. Ponder His death and ask why did the Son of God come to earth and die? Let the Bible answer. 1 Corinthians 15.3, “Christ died for our sins,” 2 Corinthians 5.21, “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”; Ephesians 1.7, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
The reality and seriousness of such consideration is captured in the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 50.22, “Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.” For all who have not the sense of the ant and meet God without preparation there will be No Safety, “I tear you in pieces” and No Saviour, “there be none to deliver.” How dreadful! O be wise and consider these matters carefully.