46) "I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves"
Read Chapter 31. 1-29
In our previous study, we suggested that Chapter 31 may be divided as follows:
Promised Leadership, vv.1-8;
Public Reading, vv.9-13;
Predicted Apostasy, vv.14-23;
Permanent Witness, vv.24-29.
In connection with the public reading of the Scriptures, we have already noticed:
When the Law was to be Read, v.10, and
Where the Law was to be Read, v.11.
This brings us to:
c) To Whom the Law was to be Read, v.12
It was to be read to "men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is in thy gates". When the law was read in Neh. 8, "Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding" v.2. Men, women and children all listened to the reading of God’s Word. We are therefore reminded:
that all age groups need instruction from the word of God;
that part of the spiritual education of younger people is to listen and observe in the company of older people. (But do remember that it is a terrible mistake to insist that ‘sit and listen’ is the sum total of their responsibilities, otherwise when those young people become old men and women they’ll still only be able to ‘sit and listen’). Whilst there are legitimate exceptions from time to time, it is a mistake not to bring children to the Lord’s Supper, either by keeping them at home or by arranging a creche. It is a mistake not to encourage young people to attend all assembly meetings. We must also remember that assembly meetings are as incomplete without sisters as they are without brothers.
d) Why the Law was to be Read, vv.12-13
The law was to be read:
for the benefit of the current generation, v.12;
for the benefit of the coming generation, v.13.
i) For th e benefit of the current generation, v.12. "Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law" v.12. So the law was to be read that they may:
"Hear". In this connection we should remember that the Lord Jesus said, "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And He said unto them, take heed what ye hear" Mk.4.23-24. This brings to mind a galaxy of passages, including "This is My beloved Son...hear ye Him" Matt.17.5; "Martha...had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His word" Lk.10.39; "My sheep hear My voice" Jn.10.27; "he that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches..." Rev.2.7 etc. We must also remember that the Lord Jesus said, "Take heed therefore how ye hear" Lk 8.18. James reminds us that we should be "swift to hear" Jms.1.19 and not be "a forgetful hearer" Jms.1.25. This means that we must "give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip" Heb.2.1. It would be tragic if it had to be said of us "ye are dull of hearing" Heb.5.11. The activities of "the wicked one", who "catcheth away that which is sown" in men’s hearts, Matt.13.4,19, are not confined to non-Christians.
"Learn". Put negatively, we hear Moses say, "Thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations" Deut.18.9, but, alas, "They did not destroy the nations ... but were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works" Ps.106.34-35. Men and women around us are "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" 2Tim.3.7. Happily, we can be amongst those of whom it is said, "many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased" Dan.12.4, which means "many shall diligently investigate" (JND), or "many shall read and review the book" (A.T.Pierson), or "many shall scrutinise the book from end to end" (S.P.Tregelles). A.R.Fausset is beautifully clear: "Many shall scrutinise it, running through every page". Just think about it, we can actually fulfil this prophecy ourselves! Timothy was urged, "continue thou in the things which thou hast learned" 2Tim.3.14."Fear". That is, "fear the Lord your God". The "fear of the Lord", is not a cringing or craven fear, but an attitude of devotion. It has been defined as being akin to "the attitude of a devoted son to his much loved and honoured father, lest anything should mar the perfect harmony that subsisted between them" (Montague Goodman). Its idea is conveyed in Ps.119.38, "Stablish Thy Word unto Thy servant who is devoted to Thy fear (yirah)".
"Observe". James reminds us that we are to be "doers of the Word, and not hearers only" Jms.1.22. Mary’s instructions to the servants at the "marriage in Cana of Galilee" are relevant to us as well: "Whatsoever He saith unto you do it" Jn.2.5. These are her last recorded words! The Lord Jesus emphasised the necessity of being "doers of the Word, and not hearers only" in saying, "Whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock ... And every one that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand" Matt.7.24-27. Failure to "keep and do them (the statutes and judgments) with all thine heart, and with all thy soul" Deut.26.16, is one factor, probably the primary factor, in the collapse of so-called ‘well taught’ assemblies. So often it is not a case of lack of teaching, but lack of application.
ii) For the benefit of the coming generation, v.13. "And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it". The teaching of God’s word is vital in making provision for the future. Psalm 78 envisages continuity in this way: "He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded to our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children" v.5. The four generations here have their counterpart in 2Tim.2.2, "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also". This emphasises the necessity to constantly restate divine truth. We must not assume that the next generation is "nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine" 1Tim.4.6.
3) PREDICTED APOSTASY, vv.14-23
This section of the chapter commences and concludes with reference to the "charge" to Joshua, vv.14,23, and the intervening verses describe Israel’s apostasy. We could be forgiven for thinking that this was hardly encouraging news for Joshua! Against this, we should remember that the Lord did not want Joshua to be under any illusion about the idolatrous potential in the people, anymore than Paul did not wish the Ephesians elders to be unaware of coming danger. See Acts 20.28-31. We should also remember that He gave Joshua personal encouragement: "And [Jehovah] commanded Joshua the son of Nun, and said, Be strong and courageous; for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I have sworn unto them; and I will be with thee" v.3, JND.
C.H. Mackintosh has the following here: "Joshua was not to be discouraged or faint-hearted because of the predicted unfaithfulness of the people. He was, like his great progenitor (C.H.M. refers here to Abraham), to be strong in faith giving glory to God. He was to move forward with joyful confidence, leaning on the arm and in the word of Jehovah, the covenant-God of Israel, in nothing terrified by his adversaries, but resting in the precious, soul-sustaining assurance that...the God of Abraham would infallibly maintain and make good His promise, and glorify His name in the final restoration and everlasting blessing of His chosen people."
With reference to vv.16-22, we must briefly notice the following:
the Sleep of Moses, v.16;
the Sin of Israel, vv.16-18;
the Song of witness, vv.19-22.
a) The Sleep of Moses, v.16
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers." Needless to say, this refers to his physical death. According to Ellicott’s Commentary, the Hebrew word means ‘to lie down’. Any notion of ‘soul sleep’ must be rejected. There can be no doubt that after his decease, he was ‘alive and well’. We next see him enjoying good fellowship with Elijah and, of more importance, with the Lord Jesus, Matt.17.1-3 etc. Since Elijah "went up by a whirlwind into heaven" 2 Kgs.2.11, we can safely say that this is where Moses went as well, though not physically. Otherwise, when the Lord Jesus was transfigured, Elijah came ‘down’ from heaven and Moses came ‘up’ from some mythical second compartment of hades, and when it was all over, Elijah went back to heaven, and Moses went back to hades! The case rests!
b) The Sin of Israel, vv.16-18
This makes frightening reading: "this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them (‘into which they enter’, JND), and will forsake Me, and break My covenant which I have made with them". It should make frightening reading to us, bearing in mind that the injunction, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" 1Jn.5.21, implies that the danger exists for us as well.
c) The Song of witness, vv19-22
The expression "this song" occurs three times in these verses, vv.18, 21, 22. The song itself is recorded in chapter 34. Its purpose was to remind God’s people of His faithfulness and their unfaithfulness, and in this way it would "testify against them (the future generations which would "turn unto other gods, and serve them", v.20) as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed" v.21. But, as we shall see in a future study, the "song" does conclude with reference to God’s unwavering faithfulness to the covenant, and this undoubtedly brought reassurance to Joshua. In the words of C.H.Mackintosh, "Had Joshua occupied his mind with Israel, he must have flung down his sword and given up in despair; but no, he had to encourage himself in the Lord his God, and serve in the energy of faith that endures as seeing him that is invisible."
4) PERMANENT WITNESS, vv.24-29
"And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book (‘upon a roll’) until they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark (‘put it in by the side of the ark’, JND) of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee." It was therefore placed in the presence of the Lord "which dwelleth between the cherubim" 1Sam.4.4. There was, therefore, a twofold witness to God’s faithfulness and their unfaithfulness. The first lay in the Scriptures in God’s presence, and the second lay in the song taught to the people by Moses. The "words", v.28, are the "words of this song", v.30.
As Moses approached the end of life he looked backwards and forwards. The view was uninspiring, to put it mildly. As he looked back, he said, "For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death? v.27. As he looked forward he said, "For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn away from the way which I have commanded you..." v.29.
There is a warning for us all here: "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give an account, that they may do it (that is, the work of leading God’s people) with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you" Heb.13.17. Do we give our assembly elders joy, or grief? Moses could not say, with Paul, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you" Phil.1.3. What impression do we make upon other people?
Some saints are afflicted with doubts regarding the possession of salvation and this new series is designed to highlight the truth of assurance. These papers are taken from an old (undated) book called “Salvation and How to Possess it,” published by J. Ritchie
GUILTY BEFORE GOD OR JUSTIFIED IN HIS SIGHT
By John H McKnight
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all," Jas.2.10.
"And if a soul sin … though he wist it not, yet he is guilty, and shall bear his iniquity," Lev.5.17.
"Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God," Rom.3.19.
"How then can man be justified with God, or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?" Job 25.4.
There is nothing of more vital consequence to a man than that he should be "justified with God". And one reason why so many well-meaning people are indifferent regarding this is that they think lightly of sin, and treat it as a matter of little or no importance.
Robert Murray McCheyne, a well known preacher of the last century, said, "Sinners in our day have great insensibility as to their lost condition. Many know that they have never believed on the Son of God, yet they are smiling and happy. Many know that they were never "born again," and that the Bible says they cannot see the Kingdom of God; but their step is as light, and their laugh as loud as if they were heirs of the Kingdom of God, instead of heirs of hell."
There is scarcely anything more misunderstood than the use of God’s holy law. Multitudes think that by trying to keep it they will be saved, whereas, the law was given "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin," Rom.3.19,20. "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all," Jms.2.10.
A cage containing a canary fell with a crash to the floor of a room, the little bird suffering a sudden death; yet, out of the 124 links in the gilded chain, only one was broken. A man need not go a mile beyond the fence of a private demesne to become a trespasser; the moment he crosses the boundary he is guilty of breaking the law. As surely as one theft makes a man a thief, and committing one sin made our first parents sinners, so surely he that offends in one point by breaking God’s holy law is guilty.
But perhaps you say, "I do not feel guilty." Well, your not feeling guilty does not alter the fact. Lev.5.17 says, "Though he wist (knew) it not, yet he is guilty." King David does not seem to have felt guilty until Nathan the Prophet brought his sin before him; he then at once hung his head and acknowledged that he was guilty. So will it be with those who never felt guilty while on earth, when at the great White Throne judgment they find their names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life; they will then drop their heads and be left speechless. Reader, it need not be so with you, for God tells you in His Word how you may be justified.
A great many people admit that they are sinners, but think it impossible to be justified, and be assured of it in this life. Indeed, they go so far as to say, "No one can tell," "No one can know," No one can be sure." How different is the teaching of God’s Word. The Apostle Paul, when preaching at Antioch, said:
"Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you," Acts 13.38-41.
The Shorter Catechism puts it thus, "The benefits, which in this life do accompany, or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are: assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end." What glorious benefits! Assurance of God’s love — Peace of conscience — Joy in the Holy Ghost! And all to be had in this life! Reader, are these blessings yours? If you are not "justified" you are "guilty." The man who is justified is treated as if he had never sinned; the charge against him can never be raised again.
In the Evergreen Cemetery, New York, over the precious dust of a child of God, stands a stone with the one glorious word, "forgiven"; but a more glorious word would be "justified", for it means something more than forgiven. A man might be an offender and be forgiven, but neither lawyer nor judge could clear him of guilt. No man can justify his brother. God alone can justify. "It is God that justifieth," Rom.8.33.
"Now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe … Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood; to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," Rom.3.21-28.
In The Great Sacrifice of Calvary God has found a ransom. He has found a mercy seat — a meeting place — where He can meet with and justify the sinner who confesses that he is sinful and guilty, and puts his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
On the cross God dealt with His only begotten Son. He "laid on Him the iniquities of us all." The waves and billows of God’s wrath against sin and guilt went over Him. Out of the darkness came His lonely cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Matt.27.46. "For He hath made Him to be sin for us … that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him," 2Cor.5.21.
"To Him give all the prophets witness that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins," Acts 10.43. "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved," Acts 4.12.
In conclusion, we would again point the anxious reader to Christ and His finished work. He is the great object of faith. A dying woman when asked if she was at peace with God, and if her prospect for eternity was sure and clear, said, Thank God, I have a title without a flaw, and a prospect without a cloud, my title is Christ and His finished work, and my prospect is eternal glory with Him."
May this assurance be the blessed portion of the reader.
1Jn.3.2 contains a glorious promise for the believer when it states that, at Christ’s appearing, "we shall see Him as He is". This is a wonderful truth – not only that we will see Christ, but that we will see Him as He is, with no distorting filter, with no infirmity of sight. What a hope, that we will see the One "whom having not seen, [we] love" 1Pet.1.8. What is truly remarkable about this promise, however, is that it is only part of the programme that John outlines in the opening verses of chapter 3. To see Him will be wonderful, but our hope does not stop there. Rather, the apostle looks above and beyond this, and scales the heights of God’s purpose for His people, asserting categorically and unconditionally that "we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him" v.2. God wants us to see His Son, to be with His Son, but best of all, He desires and ordains that we should be like His Son.
The Certainty of the Change
For the believer, it sometimes seems an unthinkable thing that this could ever happen. We are conscious of the flawless perfection of Christ and of failing and weakness within ourselves. Physically and spiritually imperfect, we wonder that ever we should be like Him. But like Him we shall be: this hope carries all the power and assurance of divine purpose and promise. Rom.8.29 brings before us very forcibly the certainty of this change: "whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." Likeness to Christ is not – if we dare use the expression – an optional extra; nor is it the aspiration of God for some of His people. Rather, it is the destination, clear and certain, for which He has marked us out. Notice, too, that this certainty is linked with God’s purpose for Christ. A similar emphasis can be seen in Phil.3.21, "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself". Why, we might ask, is it not the power of resurrection that is stressed in these verses? Surely it is because we have already discovered, in chapter 2 of Philippians, that God has committed Himself to the glorification of His Son, so that "every knee should bow ... and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" vv.10-11. For the prospect of our change to the image of Christ to be underwritten by God’s promise to us should be all the certainty we require. God has gone further, however, and linked our future with that of His Son, and our transformation is doubly certain, because of God’s promise to us, and because of His promise to Christ.
Chronology of the Change
All of the hopes of the believer have definite implications for the present – this, we have seen, is one of the hallmarks of true hope. But the hope of likeness to Christ is unusual in its chronology. It is a comprehensive hope. Romans chapter 8 connects it to our past, and the passages referred to in Philippians and 1 John link it with our future. As well as being a goal ordained in the past, and a glorious feature of our future, it is a process ongoing in the life of the believer presently. Consider 2Cor.3.18: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." This verse speaks of a change that is ongoing and incremental. In our experience it can be hard to recognise, and seem frustratingly gradual, and few of us would claim to have made the progress we ought to have. However, if it is true that we are not what we should be, it is also true that we are not what we once were, since the great work of transformation has already begun in our lives. Though we may not feel especially glorious, it should encourage us that God already sees in us some resemblance to His Son, and, while we do well to grieve over the slightness of that resemblance, we rejoice and go on "being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" Phil.1.6.
The Catalyst of the Change
While 2Cor.3.18 tells us about the present progress of glorification that God is carrying out in the lives of His people, it also tells us what produces this change, what is its catalyst. It is the act of "beholding ... the glory of the Lord" that causes us to grow like Him. Our transformation is supernatural, but it is not mystical. It is the contemplation of Christ, as recorded for us in Scripture, that will mould and shape our lives, causing us to manifest ever more of His character and glory. As always, the path to spiritual growth is through the Word of God, and there are no shortcuts.
The Consummation of the Change
Beholding Christ in the Scriptures is the catalyst of the great change that God intends for His people. It is the sight of Christ Himself that will perfect and complete this change. "We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" 1Jn.3.2. In that moment, as we look, for the first time, on our Saviour and our Lord, we will be fashioned like Him. Suddenly, the work of transformation, so gradual, so slow, will have its perfect completion.
The reality of the experience of this change baffles our imagination. Even the Apostle John, who knew his Lord so intimately, cannot scale the heights of God’s purpose for His own. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be", but it is enough for John, and ought to be so for us, to know that we will be like Him: all our imperfections and frailties erased and obliterated, never to be grieved by our sinfulness, never to mourn our failure, equipped, for all eternity, to glorify and to enjoy our blessed Saviour and our Lord.
The Consequences of the Change
Likeness to Christ is both a future hope and a present experience. Like every other hope that we have been given as believers, it is designed to shape our present as well as our future. 1 John chapter 3 outlines our hope, but it also explains the necessary consequence of this hope in our lives: "every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" 1Jn.3.3. Our hope, with Christ as its object, is not an excuse to live as we like because we will one day be changed. Rather, it challenges us to live now in a way that will be consistent with our future condition, to aim for the purity that is perfectly embodied in Christ. God’s "good, and acceptable, and perfect" will to conform us to the image of His Son demands that we "be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" Rom.12.2. It is this inner transformation that should shape us, and not the deforming pressure of an external and godless world. It is our present responsibility to manifest Christ in this world even as we anticipate perfect conformity to His blessed person.
Having looked at the faith of Moses’ parents, we come now to the record concerning the faith of Moses himself as given in the Hebrew epistle, the Holy Spirit’s commentary on this illustrious character, Moses "the man of God". His name and notable faith appear along with other notable worthies in what has been referred to as the biblical "Westminster Abbey" of faith! Heb.11.24 opens with the words "By faith Moses, when he was come to years…". The indispensable ingredient of faith as the operating principle by which we are enabled to please God, v.6, moved and motivated Moses to make a clear-cut, conscious decision about his place and position in Egypt.
It was C. H. Mackintosh who so aptly said that the one hundred and twenty years of Moses’ life could be divided into three stages of forty years each, so that in his first forty years in the palace of Egypt he learned he was something. In the second forty years in the backside of the desert he learned he was nothing. In the final forty years in the wilderness journeyings he learned that God was everything! We can do no better, than to concur with C.H.M. How poignantly precious! It is only in the school of God, as we progress through the ‘university of the wilderness’ as it were, that we shall learn with increasing awareness that we are nothing in ourselves. We need to empty ourselves of the slavery of ‘self’ with its self-importance, self-centredness and self-sufficiency, and to allow the Spirit of God to fill us "with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" Col.1.9.
"When he was come to years" Heb.11.24, would indicate that having reached a maturity both moral and spiritual in his experience, a mental process began to formulate in his mind. At the same time a moral principle began to work in his heart directing him to do a number of things. These are to refuse, to choose, to esteem, to respect, to forsake, to endure, to keep and to pass through. As we consider these areas of conscious, clear-cut decision-making as recorded in Hebrews chapter 11, we must observe how these decisions of Moses apply and affect our lives as the Lord’s people. Since we are men and women of faith, having believed and received Christ by faith, we are also duty-bound to live and walk by faith, that is, taking God at His Word, "Looking [off] unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" Heb.12.2, whilst at the same time leaning our whole being upon the unfaltering, unerring Word of our unchanging, unchangeable God!
A REFUSAL – v.24, "By faith Moses, when he was come to years refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter."
Moses refused Egyptian adoption! The world would like to adopt the child of God and change his or her name as it did with Daniel and with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel chapter 1. Pharaoh’s daughter had said to Jochebed, "Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages" Ex.2.9. Then it is said of Jochebed, "And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water" v10. When we turn to Stephen’s testimony in Acts.7.21, we read, "And when he was cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son". For forty long years Moses had endured it, but now he was saying No! For forty years he "was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds" Acts.7.22. But he had now reached a point in his life when all the glitter, glory and glamour of the Egyptian palace no longer appealed to him. To have an Egyptian princess, royal, regal and responsible for him though she was, Moses could no longer regard her as his adopted mother and could no longer regard himself as being her adopted son! He belonged to another people, the people of Jehovah. He belonged to another place, the Promised Land as Jehovah had made promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So he refused to be called the son of an Egyptian. He refused to know and recognize Pharaoh’s daughter as his adopted mother and he refused to be known as her son. Egypt is always a picture of the world and its influential ways. Moses came to realize that he could no longer be part of anything that represented the world and he therefore made this conscious decision to sever ties with all that Egypt was and all that Egypt worshipped!
We too must heed the warnings of Scripture when it says, "Love not the world [the spirit of the world], neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world", 1Jn.2.15-16. And again, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" Jms.4.4.
Adoption is the legal act by which a person takes into the family someone who is not his or her own child. The adopted person is given all the rights and privileges of an own son or daughter, but does not have the nature of the one adopting. Spiritual adoption is the act of God by which He places the believer in the family of God as an adult son or daughter, having made them partakers of the divine nature. How marvellous - we have been adopted by Him and given all the rights and privileges of sons of God in Christ! Gal.4.5, "… to redeem them that were under the law that we might receive the adoption of sons [the placing of sons, the full rights and privileges of sons]." Again in Eph.1.5, "predestinated unto the adoption of children [sons] by [through] Jesus Christ." Predestination has to do with divine purpose. It was the purpose of God by His grace to place us as sons in His heavenly family. Lastly in Rom.8.15, "…Ye have received the Spirit of adoption [sonship] whereby we cry, Abba Father". What a portion and what a privilege! May the Lord help us to appreciate and value it more and more! To increasingly realise that we are not our own, nor do we belong to this world and its systems but we belong to Christ. Bought with His own precious blood we are His own peculiar, precious and prized possession! Like Moses, the wooings and wanderlust of the world must be refused if we are to fully enjoy the blessings of the life of faith in God!
A RESOLUTION – v.25, "Choosing [a conscious, decisive act of the will which demands obedience] rather to suffer affliction [hardship, oppression, maltreatment] with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season [the fleeting enjoyment of a sinful life]."
The Lord Jesus warned His disciples, "In the world ye shall have tribulation [trial and testing, oppression and opposition, difficulty and distress, etc.], but be of good cheer, I have overcome [prevailed, triumphed over] the world" Jn.16.33. Discipleship makes demands upon us, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" Lk.9.23. It is said of the disciples when Jesus called them to follow Him that "they forsook all and followed Him" Lk.5.11. Forsook their business interests [they were fishermen] and chose to suffer hardship for the name and for the cause of Christ, and to become "fishers of men" for the Master. Joshua could challenge the children of Israel, "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve … but as for me and my house, we will [we have chosen to] serve the Lord" Josh.24.15. Interestingly enough, the ‘choosing’ on the part of individuals in O.T. Scripture always has to do, in the main, with service of one kind or another. The word does not appear in the N.T. except in one instance where Paul states "But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose [whether to live or to die] I wot not" Phil1.22. However, all the choosing in the N.T. [apart from Heb.11.26] is on the part of God and always has to do with divine sovereignty.
Now that we are believers, we have come to understand [albeit in measure] the glorious truth of election – divine choosing. "According as He hath chosen us [elected, picked out] in Him before the foundation of the world…" Eph.1.4, to experience and enjoy all the spiritual, heavenly, eternal blessings which God the Father purposed in Christ.
On the human side, however, we as believers have to make choices practically every day which affect and will affect our spiritual condition and relationship with the Lord [especially when they happen to be the wrong choices] when choosing a job, a profession or a partner in life. May every choice that we make, every resolution that we take in our spiritual experience, be a conscious, decisive act of the will in keeping with God’s Mind and Will, being for His glory and our resultant good.
In the first paper we noted that in Lamentations chapter 4 there are seven things that bowed Jeremiah before God with a heavy and burdened heart causing him deep exercise and tears. The first three of these and their practical implications for the saints of this age have been considered and, in this present paper, we will deal with the last four.
V.4 – The Loss of Spiritual Nourishment
"The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst: the young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them." Here we have the result of v.3. Those who should provide nourishment fail to do so because of a lack of affection. The gifts given are for the spiritual nourishment of the saints. In the local assembly there should be bread enough and to spare yet so many saints today are spiritually undernourished. There is a great need today for faithful and wise stewards who will give the children of the household food. There is also a great need for wholesome, health giving food containing all the ingredients necessary to produce spiritual health in the people of God. In 2Tim.1.13 we have such food, "sound words," wholesome words – that which contains all that is necessary to promote and maintain a spiritual health. In 2Tim.2.2 the apostle Paul draws attention to his teaching, the important, inspired, instructive truth that builds and beautifies Christian character. In that verse we have the passing on of the truth of God from generation to generation. The responsibility of this generation is to pass on the truth of God intact. Failure to do so robs the saints of spiritual nourishment. Our standard of truth and our standard of conduct are found in the apostolic teaching contained in the New Testament.
V.5 – The Loss of Spiritual Wealth & Dignity
"They that did feed delicately are desolate in the streets." They were the rich indicating wealth. "They that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills." They were the royalty indicating dignity. Wealth and dignity go together. If we are living in the enjoyment of our inheritance and feeding upon the Word of God we will be spiritually wealthy. If we allow the Word of God to dwell in us richly we will live in the dignity of our heavenly calling and we will be richly equipped to share our spiritual wealth with our fellow believers. If we lose our spiritual wealth and become poverty stricken with low thoughts of God, His Word and the local assembly we will lose our spiritual dignity and Christian character in the eyes of men. This must be so because they go together. The one is the outcome of the other. We need to feed upon the Word of God to be spiritually wealthy. The Word of God is a gold mine of divine truth in which we can, through diligence, obtain golden nuggets thus making us spiritually wealthy in the things of God and enabling us to live in the enjoyment of our inheritance unfolded to us in the Scriptures of truth. Such spiritual wealth will result in the development of Christian character and cause us to walk in the ways of God. Many of God’s beloved people, even in assemblies, are poverty stricken in spiritual things because of failure to dig in the gold mine of divine truth that leads to stunted growth and the loss of spiritual dignity.
VV.7.8 – The Loss of Separation
V.7 unfolds the beauty of Nazariteship – the beauty of being different, of being separate. "Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire." But that was all past as v.8 indicates, "purer than snow...whiter than milk". The purity of separation from all that would defile, from all that is contrary to the Word of God will produce its own beauty, "more ruddy in body than rubies." For an illustration see Dan.1.8,15. This description depicts the health and vigour of the beauty of godly character that only comes through time spent in the presence of God and of constant activity in the things of God. That is why the next expression reads, "their polishing was of sapphire". Sapphire is the heavenly colour that speaks of a heavenly demeanour, deportment, and manner of life. However, things had changed "their visage is blacker than a coal". There was no longer Nazarite beauty, no purity of separation, but rather the marks of departure from the truth of God: "they are not known in the streets." They were no longer recognized as Nazarites, they were not distinguished from others any more, they lived like everyone else; not recognizing the claims of God upon them: "their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick." Their health and vigour had given place to weakness and lethargy. All this illustrates for us the loss of separation to God, the loss of the spiritual beauty of our separation unto the Lord. The Nazarite was simply an extraordinary Israelite, but extraordinary only in that he had deliberately separated himself unto the Lord. Any Israelite could have been a Nazarite but every Israelite was not a Nazarite. Many may say, "don’t be unreasonable, we do these things, why shouldn’t you?" But the reply should be, "because we have separated ourselves unto the Lord". Many may ridicule and call them legal, narrow or strange, but they couldn’t do things that others were quite happy to do simply because they were separated unto the Lord. In Ps.84.10 we have a striking contrast, "I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness [lawlessness]." The contrast is between the house of my God (the place of divine presence and divine rule) and the tents of wickedness (the place of lawlessness where divine rule was rejected and set aside). The Psalmist who was so appreciative of the divine presence and the value of divine rule that he found great delight in the path of separation from all that was contrary to the character and claims of God. If we appreciate what it means to be in the assembly in the sphere of divine rule and in the dignity of the divine presence we shall find supremely attractive the path of separation from every kind of lawlessness. Have we lost the beauty of spiritual Nazariteship? The law of the Nazarite is found in Numbers chapter 6 which is divided into two sections: vv.1-21 deal with the law of the Nazarite and vv.22-27 deal with the priestly blessing pronounced upon the people of God. These two things are closely connected – the path of separation to God will bring the blessing of God to His people. Where are the saints today who will separate themselves unto the Lord – who are prepared at all costs to separate themselves unto the Lord in order to bring spiritual blessing and power into the assemblies? The loss of spiritual separation is a great loss and will inevitably result in the spiritual poverty amongst the assemblies.
VV.9-12 – The Loss of Divine Approval
These verses indicate that the nation of Israel had lost the approval of God and now His hand was upon them because of their departure. The loss of separation to God inevitably results in the loss of divine approval. "The Lord hath accomplished His fury; He hath poured out His fierce anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion", tells us that Israel had lost the approval of God because of their departure from His Word. V.12 indicates the astonishment of the nations around at what had taken place. They would never have believed that the adversary, the enemy would have successfully entered into the gates of Jerusalem. So many of them had proved by bitter experience that the people of God, the nation of Israel, were absolutely invincible so long as their ways were approved by God but here there is the loss of that approval which resulted in total defeat and captivity. The enemy would never have triumphed if only Israel had followed the ways of God and thus had His approval. This is also true of the people of God today. The enemy will never gain a footing or be victorious as long as our ways are approved of God. This is true of every child of God and is most certainly true in relation to every assembly. The only reason why the enemy is successful is because we have lost divine approval. All of these seven things are closely connected in a moral and spiritual way and to lose one of them is to lose all – to lose the first of these is to lose, in turn, all the others. To lose the assurance of divine approval, how great a loss that is! Before Enoch was translated he had this testimony, that he pleased God, Heb 11.5. The Lord’s coming is very near and soon we will be translated. Have we the approval of God? In 2 Cor.5.9 Paul writes, "Wherefore we labour [we are ambitious], that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him [well pleasing to Him]" and he gives the reason in v.10: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ". The Judgment Seat of Christ is just ahead of us. When we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ the only thing that will matter then will be divine approval. In the light of it, are we ambitious to be well pleasing to Him, to have His approval?
Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm which foretells, in graphic detail, the feelings and experiences of the Lord when He was hanging on the cross as the perfect Sin Offering. David who was not only a king but also a prophet, Acts 2.29,30, wrote the psalm under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, 2Tim.3.16. He wrote it before crucifixion became the Roman method of execution.
The sufferings of the Lord are now over, for we read, "this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool" Heb.10.12,13; and He "hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" 1Pet.3.18.
Today, some people wear a small cross as a piece of jewellery which is intended to be attractive, and a highly decorated cross is used in some religious services. Crucifixion, however, is surely one of the most gruesome, agonizing, shameful and disgusting forms of torture and execution ever devised by sinful, depraved men. The Lord Jesus Christ knew all things, Jn.16.30. He was never surprised or overtaken by events. He knew before the world existed the suffering He, the perfect Servant, would have to experience to make possible our salvation. The sufferings of the Saviour were foretold, "in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms" Lk.24.44. He "came into the world to save sinners" 1Tim.1.15, and there was only one way in which this could be achieved and that was by His suffering, bleeding and voluntary death on a cross, bearing there the punishment our sins deserved from a holy God. Blood had to be shed, Heb.9.22, and "the blood of Jesus Christ ... cleanseth us all from sin" 1Jn.1.7. He glorified His Father in all He did and said. He was "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" Phil.2.8, and "His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree" 1Pet.2.24. The Lord voluntarily suffered as He did because of His love for His Father and His love for us. He, "for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame" Heb.12.2, and one day He "shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" Isa.53.11. Because of all that His beloved Son suffered, God can now be "just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" Rom.3.26.
Psalm 22 begins with an awful cry of the Lord as He hung on the cross, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" v.1; Matt.27.46; Mk.15.34. This was a terrible cry of loneliness, desolation, suffering unprecedented and never to be equalled. God loves His Son, Jn.10.17, and the Lord Jesus Christ loves His Father, Jn.14.31, and was always obedient to Him, Lk.22.42; Heb.10.7. The Lord always pleased His Father, Jn.8.29. He was daily His Father’s delight, Prov.8.30, and God could say "This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" Matt.3.17; 17.5. How the Lord must have suffered when He was forsaken by His God. This was the climax of His terrible sufferings on the cross. He, the holy, sinless One, 2Cor.5.21; 1Pet.2.22; 1Jn.3.5; Heb.4.15, loved us and gave Himself for us, Gal.2.20.
The Lord uttered seven cries while He was hanging on the cross. Three of these cries were payers to God, Lk.23.34; Matt.27.46; Mk1.15.34; Lk.23.46. In these prayers the Lord addressed God twice as "Father" and once as "God". It was in the hours of darkness, while He was bearing sin, that the Lord cried to God addressing him not as "Father", but as "God". This fourth cry from the cross was a direct quotation from v.1 and it is the only time we read of the Lord addressing a question to God. We find the answer to the question in v.3, where we read, "Thou art holy". God is "of purer eyes than to behold evil" and cannot "look on iniquity" Hab.1.13. While He was bearing "the iniquity of us all" Isa.53.6, the Lord could not address God as "Father" because God was acting as Judge and He "spared not His own Son" Rom.8.32.
The Lord had been forsaken by His disciples, Matt.26.56, by the Jewish nation, Jn.19.15, and now, in His anguish and loneliness, by His God. The Lord knew that this was the price He would have to pay to redeem us, Isa.53.10, and He paid that price so that we would never be forsaken, Heb.13.5, but be with Him eternally, Lk.23.43; Phil.1.23; 1Thess.4.17; Jn.17.24.
On the cross, the suffering Lord cried for help, v.2, but there was no response. When the patriarchs called to God, in Whom they trusted, He delivereth them, vv.4,5, but the Lord could say, "But I am a worm, and no man ... and despised of the people" v.6. Callous men mocked and laughed at Him, believing that He would not be delivered by God, vv.7,8; Matt.27.43.
The Lord’s faith in His Father, who had always watched over Him during His time on earth, vv.9,10, was absolute and unchanging, but there was no help for Him in His suffering on the cross, v.11. The Jewish people and their leaders showed their hatred towards Him. He felt as if He was surrounded by the strong aggressive bulls found in Bashan, v.12. A "roaring lion" v.13, and "the lion’s mouth" v.21, turn our minds to Satan, 1Pet.5.8. The details given of the Lord’s feelings and the suffering He experienced are striking and awful. He felt as if He was being "poured out like water", His bones were out of joint, His heart was like melting wax, His strength was gone and His thirst was intense, vv.14,15; Jn.19.28. The dogs, that is, Gentiles, Matt.15.26,27, were there to add to His suffering. The Lord had been tortured, mocked and spat upon before being crucified, and then He was nailed to the cross with nails that pierced His hands and His feet, v.16. He hung there and could see all His bones standing out, v.17. We read in the Psalm that the soldiers would share His clothes among them and gamble for His seamless tunic, v.18; Jn.19.23,24. He cried for help, to be delivered "from the sword", that is, the power of the Roman government, and from "the power of the dog", that is the Roman soldiers, vv.19,20. The "horns of the unicorns" mentioned in v.21 might refer to aurochs. These were wild oxen, having sharp horns. Sometimes men were tied to these horns and suffered in agony when the animals were set free. The mention of these animals gives another insight into the intensity of the Lord’s sufferings.
Half way through v.21 the subject matter of the Psalm changes abruptly from the detailed account of the Lord’s suffering to the exuberant praise and thanksgiving which will ascend to God and the glory which will be the Lord’s in the Millennium. On the cross, the Lord wore a crown of thorns but one day He will be seen as the triumphant, victorious, pre-eminent Lord Jesus Christ with "many diadems" on His head for He is "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS", Matt.27.29; Rev.19.12,16, R.V.
The Lord graciously calls those of us who are saved "brethren". We read, "He is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee" Heb.2.11,12. The Lord, Who was surrounded by enemies when He was on the cross, will be surrounded by those He has redeemed. The Lord Jesus Christ will lead a vast congregation of His brethren in praise of God, v.22.
When He was bearing the sin of the whole world, the Lord was forsaken by His God. But God heard His cries and showed His complete satisfaction with the completed work of His beloved Son when He honoured and glorified Him by raising Him from among the dead, Eph.1.20. The Lord "offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared" Heb.5.7. Praise is called for from those who know God and fear Him with a holy, reverential, loving fear. At the end of the Great Tribulation the Lord will deliver the nation of Israel from her surrounding foes. In the Millennium, redeemed Israel will praise God, vv.23,24. The Lord, the Church and the Gentile nations, which go into the kingdom in the Millennium, will praise God, v.25. Then the Lord will rule the nations righteously and justly and "with a rod of iron": any rebellion will be put down immediately, Ps.2.7-9; Rev.2.27; 12.5; 19.15. In the Millennium, there will be peace, prosperity and plenty. People of all nations will turn to God and He will be praised, thanked and worshipped. The Lord’s righteousness and what He has done will be declared to those who will be alive at that time, vv.26-31.
Psalm 22 contains notable contrasts, beginning as it does with the Lord’s terrible cry of anguish and such harrowing details of His crucifixion and ending with praise and speaking of wonderful days of blessing ahead for the redeemed. The Psalm brings before us the horror of the Lord’s substitutionary sacrifice which glorified His Father and made possible our salvation. Meditation on this Psalm causes us to dwell on the love of God and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. It makes us long for the wonderful days of blessing which are ahead for the redeemed. All the blessings we enjoy in this life, Jms.1.17, and will enjoy in eternity are due to the eternal love of God and the suffering endured by the Lord Jesus Christ. The completeness and sufficiency of the Lord’s glorious work on the cross are brought out in the last verse where we read "that He hath done this" v.31, that is, "He has finished this", bringing to mind the Lord’s great cry of victory, "It is finished" Jn.19.30. Such a wonderful salvation, such a wonderful Saviour, make us want to join the praise that will rise to Him eternally. Well might we sing, as we do so often:
The first man Adam died, the oldest man Methuselah died, the wisest man Solomon died, the meekest man Moses died. Patriarchs, prophets, princes, princesses, prime ministers, presidents, politicians, philosophers, peasants and paupers all die. The mighty Pharaohs passed away, the conquering emperors of Rome had to succumb to this mighty foe, Alexander the Great could not withstand the onslaught of death. The rich, the poor, the famous, the unknown, the wise and unwise, the religious and the heathen, the terrorist and the law abiding alike must fall beneath its cruel stroke.
Power, position, prestige or possessions cannot halt the onward march of this terrifying adversary. It cannot be bribed or persuaded to bypass us. No tears, laments, pleadings or threats can affect this unfeeling, uncaring, unsmiling enemy of all humanity.
It needs no passport or visa, it crosses all national, geographical, social and political boundaries. It enters the palace as well as the hovel, it takes the best as well as the worst, it robs the family of a cherished mother, it carries away the much needed breadwinner and often it steals the darling sons and daughters from their grieving parents. It severs the tenderest ties on earth without an apology. It does its dreadful work and departs without a tear or a backward look to see the sadness it has inflicted.
In spite of staggering advances in science, medicine and technology, the words of the wise woman of Tekoah are still alarmingly true, "… we must all needs die …" 1Samuel 14.14. Likewise the Scriptures state with uncompromising confidence, "… it is appointed unto men, once to die, but after this the judgment" Hebrews 9.27. We are totally powerless to change this sobering fact and as with every generation that has passed, it can be said with certainty of every generation to come, that they too will everyone be added to the ever growing statistics of death’s conquests.
You see, death is the inevitable consequence of sin and because we are all sinners, we must all die. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" Romans 5.12. Again, in Romans 6.23 we read "For the wages of sin is death …". In James 1.15 we read "… and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
But in the Scriptures we repeatedly read that "Christ died …". Was He not sinless and incapable of sinning? Death surely had no claim upon Him. His death was like no other. That was the very purpose for which He came into the world; "… that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man" Hebrews 2.9; "… that through death He might destroy him that had [has] the power of death, … and deliver them who through fear of death, were … subject to bondage" Hebrews 2.14,15. He did not die of disease, decay or debility. He was the only Person against Whom death had absolutely no power.
Why then did Christ die? Allow the Scriptures to provide the wondrous answer. "… Christ died for the ungodly" Romans 5.6. "… Christ died for us" Romans 5.8. "… Christ died for our sins…" 1Corinthians 15.3. In the words of Mrs. Alexander’s hymn we affirm "He died that we might be forgiven, He died to make us good, that we might go at last to heaven, Saved by His precious blood." Trust Him, my friend and death will hold no dread nor will you fear the eternal judgment for all who die in unbelief.