HEZEKIAH was 25 years old at his accession to the throne of Judah. Though the son of wicked Ahaz, “He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chron. 29:2), his character being probably shaped by the influence of his mother, whose father, Zechariah, had been an outstanding man of God in his day (2 Chron. 26:5). The fruit of Hezekiah’s personal piety was a reign characterized by godly administration, national recovery, and undreamt of progress in many directions, winning for him the affection of his grateful subjects, as was evidenced by the honour paid him at his death (2 Chron. 32:33).
The fact that Hezekiah prospered does not, however, mean that his life was immune from trouble. Even a cursory reading of his history reveals that at times he was faced with intricate and perplexing problems, that great difficulties arose amongst his people, and that he had to contend with fierce and crafty foes. In a word, he learned experimentally, as we, too, must sooner or later learn, that “Whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Prov. 3:12).
But Hezekiah also learned the value of trusting God in seasons of trouble. He was eminently a man of prayer. He believed "the living God” (Isa. 37:4, 17) to be more than equal to any emergency, and to Him he went for needed guidance and help. The name “Hezekiah” means “The Lord is strength”, and in times of grave crisis when Judah had “not strength to bring forth” deliverance (Isa. 37:3), this good and wise king proved by prayer that “In the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength” (Isa. 26:4), and that, even when all seemed lost, He could transform the most dismal defeat into a glorious victory. His recorded prayers are models of brevity, importunity, and faith—what all public prayers ought to be. Let us look at a few of them and at the circumstances which provoked them, in order that our own confidence in the Lord may be deepened.
According to 2 Chron. 30, Hezekiah had opened and cleansed God’s House, commanded the priests and Levites to sanctify themselves, and revived the worship of the Lord. He had also arranged for the restoration of the annual Passover, availing himself of the provision of Num. 9:10, 11, to observe it at a date later than the law prescribed. Further, he had invited his brethren of the Northern Kingdom to participate in its celebration, and many of these had responded to his invitation and had come to Jerusalem. “Then they killed the passover . . . according to the law of Moses the man of God” (vs. 15, 16). But in the midst of this holy festivity,
a disturbing feature presented itself, “For a multitude of the people . . . had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written” (v. 18). This was a serious matter and might incur the displeasure of God. Indeed, the use of the phrase, "healed the people” in verse 20, would suggest that tokens of His displeasure were already manifesting themselves. “BUT HEZEKIAH PRAYED FOR THEM” (v. 18). “And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people” (v. 20). “So there was great joy in Jerusalem” (v. 26). Prayer brought healing and joy to God’s people, as it has done on many an occasion since then.
It is said that when any disturbance arose in the assemblies with which George Muller, R. C. Chapman, and Andrew Fraser were respectively connected, these brethren used to give themselves up to prayer and fasting, sometimes for days on end, until God’s hand was seen in the restoration of His people. And how many troubles in our own time might have been healed, how many heart-breaking divisions might have been averted, if instead of acting in haste, God’s dear people had but taken time to pray!
Let us now turn to Isa. 36 and 37. These chapters carry us forward to the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign (ch. 36:1), in which Sennacherib, the Assyrian, sweeping all before him, “Came down like a wolf on the fold” upon the peaceful little kingdom of Judah.
For a time Sennacherib encamped at Lachish and while there he dispatched “a great army” under the leadership of three high-ranking officers (2 Kings 18:17) to besiege Jerusalem. The city was surrounded. “Hezekiah, like a cage-bird, I shut up within Ursalimmu, the city of his dominion”, was the proud Assyrian’s own description of the siege. One of the three officers, whose title was the Rabshakeh and whose duty it evidently was to act as a herald, with loud blasphemies, threats, and insulting language, demanded the surrender of the city. One can imagine the scene within the capital as the inhabitants listened to this intimidating speech and, trembling and weeping, looked over their ramparts at the serried ranks of Assyrian veterans, clad in steel, with their battering rams, engines of war, and other military accoutrements— a formidable array.
In such dreadful circumstances what was Hezekiah’s recourse? Did he lean upon his own understanding? Did he trust the arm of flesh and with his army chiefs plan defensive measures? Nay, “He rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord” (ch. 37:1). And he sent a message to Isaiah, the prophet, saying, “Lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left” (ch. 37:4). But did God attend to their prayer? Let the facts speak for themselves. “So Rabshakeh returned, and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah; for he had heard that he was departed from Lachish” (ch. 37:8). The seemingly impossible thing had come to pass. Once more the inhabitants of Jerusalem could breathe freely. GOD HAD ANSWERED PRAYER.
In Isaiah 37:14,15, the wicked letter which, a little later, came from the Assyrian King, was likewise spread before the Lord in prayer. As before, the king and prophet “prayed and cried to heaven” (2 Chron. 32 : 20). And once more PRAYER PREVAILED. The Lord’s intervention on behalf of His people on this occasion was immediate. In "that night” (2 Kings 19:35) the flower and chivalry of Assyrian might were broken like a potter’s vessel.
And how often, as we turn over the pages of history, we read the same marvellous story of deliverance. We think of David, the shepherd lad, in the vale of Elah, of Daniel among the lions, of Peter about to be brought forth to execution and of a host of others who “out of weakness were made strong” through faith in Him Who never fails His trusting children. Here surely, is “strong encouragement” (Heb. 6:18 R.V.) for tried and suffering saints. Let such "be not afraid nor dismayed”, for as Hezekiah exhorted the people in 2 Chron. 32:7, 8, “There be more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles.”
DOES it not enlarge our thoughts of Rom. 8:28 to view it in its connections, as we have done? By doing so we do not lose anything of what we already had, when we thought of it only as referring to the little things that directly have a bearing upon our own private affairs. It applies to these still as much as ever it did; but what an addition it is to think that the outer border of the “All things” is wide enough to include the entire creation, and that the meaning of the phrase, “work together for good,” will never be exhausted till God has all His chosen ones around Him in the glory. In view of this, we can say with Paul, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
It is no wonder therefore that Paul turns round to ask in verse 31, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with Him also freely give us all things?” This clause, “What shall we then say?” is an exclamation characteristic of Romans. The Apostle uses it seven times in the Epistle, and it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Every occurrence is interesting, for it is used each time to emphasise the point to which the writer’s argument has reached. Naturally this occurrence in Chap. 8 is the most interesting of all, since, so far as the doctrine of the Gospel is concerned, all the arguments have been completed and the truth brought out in full. That this is so the next verse shows when it goes with one mighty bound from the point of time when God spared not His Son for us, to that other point, when through and with Him, we shall have fully had given to us "all things.”
The Apostle now makes three great challenges, which to some extent correspond to the three sub-headings into which as we said, this first section of the Epistle is divided. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” None can, for God has justified them. “Who is he that condemneth?” None can, for the risen Christ is on their side. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” “Again, none can, for the very afflictions through which we pass make us all the more conquerors.
There is also in these three challenges the thought of a law-court, as there had been in Chap. 3, where after all proofs had been heard against the sinner he was pronounced “Guilty” at verse 19. Here, however, it is far different. The first question is in effect, “Who is the prosecutor?” Satan would like to take that place, for
he is the accuser of the brethren. But he cannot take it here, for you will remember that the very passage which names him as their accuser, goes on to say, “They overcame him,” and it makes three points as to how. First it says, “By the blood of the Lamb.” That corresponds to what we are taught as to justification in Chaps. 3-5 of our Epistle. Next it says, "By the word of their testimony,” which suggests their being enabled to live for God, as we find in Chaps. 6 and 7 and the opening verses of Chap. 8 here. In the third place it says, “They loved not their lives unto the death,” which is in keeping with “the sufferings of this present time,” referred to in this 8th Chapter.
Then comes the second challenge, which in effect asks, “Who will he judge?” Again there is silence in court, for God’s Son, the Judge, has already taken His place as their Advocate, and no one else dare judge them.
The third challenge now follows. “Who will execute the order of court, if any be given for their separation from this love of Christ?” Once more there is no answer. So there is no prosecutor—no judge—no court-officer. Thus the Apostle is left to pronounce his own conclusion: “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” vs. 38, 39.
Now all this, so far as we have gone, is doctrine. God’s doctrine, however, is “according to godliness”. It produces godly living. Men say, “Oh, if you have eternal salvation and have no fear of ever being lost, it will lead to loose and careless living.” What does the Apostle say? Drop out, for a moment, Chapters 9, 10 and 11—the Dispensational part of the subject—which after all are of a parenthetic nature, and read, as if following upon chap. 8, the opening words of the practical section of the Epistle at Chap. 12:1. As we have seen, "All things work together for our good.” No one can speak or act against us. None can separate us from the love of God. What then? “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God (those tender mercies which I have just enumerated), that ye present your bodies (those bodies in which you still suffer affliction, but which, as I have shown you, shall one day share fully in redemption) a living sacrifice.” That is your “reasonable service,” and it is reasonable service for which God asks.
Since we are "predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son” (Chap. 8:29), it is but to be expected that we shall not be "fashioned according to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our mind” in the path of the “good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (vs. 1,2). Progress in this will show how much you really enter into the truths of Chap. 8. What right has any worldly person to talk of the blessings of that chapter? Yet I know professed Christians who would be well pleased if I read or preached to them from it, but who would be irritated if I sought to pass on to them a message from this 12th Chapter.
The Apostle next exhorts the saints to keep humble, and in humility to exercise whatever little gift God has given them. These injunctions too may well follow on Chap. 8; for as I realize how I owe everything to God’s grace and love, can I be anything else but humble, and can I fail to use for him whatever little ability He has given me? Indeed, in so doing I shall be one of the little cogs in God’s great machine, working together with all others for the ultimate “good” of His people. Similarly, in measure as I feed upon the truth of Chap. 8, I shall be helped to obey all the little commands that follow in Chap. 12, as one might easily show in each case. When I come to my relationship with “the powers that be” in Chap. 13, that will also be kept right by realizing, as the Apostle points out, that even they are for my “good”—“He is the minister of God to thee for good” (v. 4).
When it is a question of my connections with my brethren in Chaps. 14 and 15, that is settled upon the principle, as it is laid down in Chap. 15:2: “let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.”
Thus we see how far reaching is the connection of the Epistle with Chap. 8:28. Most of what goes before leads up to it, and much of what comes after rests upon it. On the one hand, it is full of comfort and assurance to the tried—not alone comfort in the thought of present "good”, designed for us by God out of our trials, but beyond that the ultimate and eternal “good” that God has reserved for us with all His own. On the other hand, it should stir us up to heavenly minded and humble minded service in return, in our homes, in the church, and in the world.
“JACOB have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:13). The history of God’s dealings with these two brothers provides a sweet lesson for us concerning the grace of God. Before their birth Rebekah was told: “The elder shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23). Yet there appears to be nothing commendable about the character of Jacob, speaking after the manner of men. Jacob was chosen “that the purpose of God according to election might stand” (Rom. 9:11). However, while the inscrutable counsels of God are manifest here, several points arise from a study of the characters of Jacob and Esau which arrest the attention.
Esau was red, the colour of earth: in this respect he fulfils our type of the first man: “of the earth, earthy.” He was “all over like a hairy garment.” This speaks of the evidence of the energy of the flesh, again, a thing not pleasing to God. Before the Levites entered the service of God one of the things they had to do was to “shave all their flesh” (Numbers 8:7). Not only did Esau speak of the flesh and fleshly things from the physical point of view, in his actions too he is characteristic of all carnality. He appealed to his father Isaac’s carnal lusts, for we read “and Isaac loved Esau because he did eat of his venison” (Gen. 25:28). Yet it was due to this very indulgence that the blessing passed from Esau. The mind which finds satisfaction in the deeds of the flesh never appreciates the blessings of divine grace and mercy. The young ruler who was told: “one thing thou lackest” in order to have treasure in heaven went away sorrowful, “for he was very rich.” So full of conceit was he—“all these have I kept from my youth up”—that he had no appreciation for true riches. Said the Master: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The prodigal’s brother was so taken up with his own righteousness and good works that he had no appreciation of his father’s grace. Esau likewise was totally carnal: he despised the birthright, he lost the blessing.
In spite of all his cunning and craftiness, Jacob is at bottom spiritual. While after the flesh he is loathsome, yet he has a sense of values which is absent from Esau. Jacob valued the birthright and obtained it. It was his despising of this that brought down the wrath of God upon Esau: he forfeited the blessing too, for spiritually speaking the one gives title to the other. In fact, he sought it the wrong way; Isaac, his faculties dimmed, was no help; Isaac would bless him after eating of the venison. Venison is not spiritual meat. Jacob brought kids of the goats—spiritual meat. Esau, in fact, typifies in many ways the men of religion, who despise the birthright of the born-again believer, lose on account of this the blessings that are “in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:3) and like Esau cry in despair: “Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?”
On learning that Jacob has pleased his father by not taking a wife from the daughters of Canaan (Gen. 28:9), Esau in his lack of spiritual perception chooses a wife from among the daughters of Ishmael! Jacob, however, endowed with a true spiritual perception, acknowledges the positive will of his father as well as the negative. Not only do the daughters of Canaan not please Isaac, Jacob must seek a wife from his father’s people. In seeking a wife Jacob has a vision of a ladder from earth to heaven, that ladder being typical of Christ, the “one mediator between God and man.” He recognises such a place to be "the house of God,” and in the light of this he goes to find a wife. It is surely significant that the bride whom Christ has sought and fitted for heaven is also viewed as the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:6).
Abel is like Christ in resurrection—"he being dead yet speaketh.” Isaac is like Christ in resurrection—he was received by his father and given a bride. Jacob is like Christ in resurrection— he is given a new name—Israel, prince of God. God has blessed him and established him as a ruler, and given him a name to show this exalted position: Israel. So, after His sufferings and death, we read concerning Christ: “Wherefore, God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philip. 2:9, 10).
Reuben and Joseph
"Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel” (Gen. 49:4). One can almost feel the tinge of disappointment in Jacob’s words to his first-born, Reuben. As his first-born, Reuben was invested with all the “excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power”, but these came from his father: in his own character he was a failure, as have been the other first-born sons we have considered.
Some interesting parallels may be drawn between Cain and Reuben. When she bare Cain, Eve said: “I have gotten a man”— she thought this was the one of her seed who would fulfil God’s promise to her and bruise Satan’s head. How sadly mistaken she was! Leah called her first-born Reuben: “See, a son”. But again, he was not God’s man. Both are typical of those who have the form of godliness and deny the power thereof. We have already observed this to be so with regard to Cain and his offering. Reuben’s action when his brethren would kill Joseph suggests a similar trait.
"Shed no blood”, said Reuben, intending “to deliver him to his father again” (Gen. 37, 22). While undoubtedly Reuben’s intention was praiseworthy, does not his language remind us of the attitude of many religionists towards Christ? They will not accept his atoning death, his shed blood. Not that they side with his murderers. Like Reuben, they would rather retain his life. Reuben, the eldest, failed, and not only so, but he shared in the lie they told his father about Joseph.
“His bow abode in strength” (Gen. 49:24). In what contrast does Joseph stand to his brother! Reuben has shown his failure by his instability. Joseph, when grieved, shot at and hated by the archers, remains strong in the mighty God. Little wonder that he is a “fruitful bough”. He was the second man, for while Reuben was born to Leah, Joseph was the first-born of Rachel, the second wife, whom Jacob loved. In his life, he is one of the greatest types of Christ which we have. Beloved of his father, his brethren hated him and said: “Shalt thou indeed reign over us?” Put in a pit—type of the place of death—sold into Egypt, he provides salvation for his people in the time of famine. He is typical of Christ in resurrection. He had died so far as Jacob was concerned, yet Jacob said to him, “I had not thought to see thy face: and lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed” (Gen. 48:11). After all the indignity and suffering which his brethren had inflicted on him he said: “Now, therefore, be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life”. Of Christ, Isaiah prophesies: “Who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off from the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken . . . when his soul shall make an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days . . .”.
Manasseh and Ephraim
“Not so, my father, for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head” (Gen. 48:18). Little is said in Scripture of these two brethren, and the passage from which we have quoted seems the more important for that reason. The occasion of the blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh stands in contrast to that of Jacob and Esau. An enfeebled Isaac unwittingly blessed the younger son. Jacob, on the other hand, “guided his hands wittingly.” In so doing, Jacob set the principle of the rejection of the first man a stage further. That Joseph tried to interfere saying: "Not so, my father”, emphasizes the action of Jacob as being of divine inspiration. Ephraim is set before Manasseh as being blessed before him.
In view of the fact that so little is said of these two, one is cautious in approaching any references to them. Yet Ezekiel 37 would seem to have some significant teaching concerning Ephraim. Following the scene in the valley of dry bones, typical of resurrection, Ezekiel is told to take two sticks: one for Judah and the children of Israel, and one for Joseph, “the stick of Ephraim”, and the house of Israel. These two dead sticks are to be joined, and “they shall become as one” (v. 17). Before two dead sticks can be grafted together (for that is the force of them becoming one), new life must flow through both. Does not the first stick speak of the nation of Israel, “the children”, who have become scattered and separated and have gone away from God? Does not the second speak of Christ?—a rod suggests rule, and Ephraim, here typical of Christ, is "the stick of Joseph and the house of Israel;” we always connect the house with government. So the picture would appear to suggest Israel coming under the rule of Christ in the power of his resurrection.
Aaron and Moses
“Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well . . . and thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth” (Ex. 4:14, 15). While Aaron possessed natural ability, and of an order that God recognized, it was his younger brother Moses whom God chose to lead out his people Israel. It was a God who was angry at Moses’ lack of faith who appointed Aaron to speak to the people. Aaron was eloquent, but he was not spiritual. How often this is so! Moses was spiritual, but not eloquent, neither ready to speak for God at His bidding. How often this is so too! But while God graciously used Aaron, he was only to be a mouthpiece; God spoke to Moses, who told Aaron what to say to the people. It is significant that neither to Aaron, nor to any other of the people of Israel did God reveal his plans, but to Moses, “the second man.” David expresses it beautifully in Psalm 103: "He made know his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the Children of Israel”. So Christ says in John 8, 28, “As my Father hath taught me, I speak these things”.
Moses is typical of Christ in resurrection, and his very name suggests that it is so. He was put into the river, the place of death, and Pharaoh’s daughter, having drawn him out thence, gave him a name which would be a perpetual reminder of his resurrection— Moses—“drawn out”. It is such a one that God can use to bring his people out from Egypt’s bondage. He brings them out of Egypt, and across the Red Sea, and they “were all baptized unto Moses in the Cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:2). Having tasted the joy of redemption and seen the enemy defeated, they can sing to the Lord: "Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation”. (Ex. 15:13). Moses brought them out of Egypt and into the “habitation” of God; for did not God reveal to him the tabernacle in which He could dwell among His people? Thus has Christ brought us from sin’s bondage into the place of nearness to God, and made us his very dwelling place: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?” (1 Cor. 3:16).
Aaron by contrast, led the people back in spirit to Egypt: he made a golden calf and caused the people to worship it, displaying by this his earthy character.
It may be objected, however, that Aaron was a type of Christ as the High Priest. Not so. Aaron was a type of Christ only by virtue of the office he bore, never in character. Moreover, the priestly order of Aaron is not typical of Christ’s priesthood, but stands in contrast to it. Christ came “a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec”. The Aaronic priesthood was subject to death, “but this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood” (Heb. 7:24).
Moses, however, was like Christ in character: "Moses verily was faithful in all his house . . . but Christ as a son over his house, whose house are we ...” (Heb. 3:5, 6). His whole life was one of faith: hid “by faith”, by faith “refusing to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God", by faith forsaking Egypt, keeping the passover, crossing the Red Sea, he, who bore the grumblings and defections of Israel for forty years in the wilderness, has this said of him by the Holy Spirit, that he was faithful in all God’s house! What a reward for him in this beautiful comparison with Christ! How faithful are we? May we go on, looking with joy to the day when He shall say: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord".
THE Tabernacle was a picture of God’s order. The maintenance of that order and the saints’ approach to God in relation to it, we find in Leviticus. Consequently there are enumerated in this book those things which were forbidden. Altogether different from Exodus and Leviticus is the Book of Numbers, where it is neither inauguration nor maintenance, but rather the journeying of the people in relation to the Tabernacle that is in view.
Now the sustenance of God’s order of things is by the priesthood, the proper functioning of which is the imperative demand of the present day. Actually speaking, a priest is a marked man. His whole being is occupied with the upholding of the testimony of God. Rather than associate with anything that is not in line with God’s thoughts, he is willing to stand absolutely alone.
This exercise of the believer’s priesthood is purely spiritual, totally and unequivocally apart from the flesh. “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more” (2 Cor. 5:16). Here was the primary basis of the Levitical priesthood. “And of Levi he said, let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one . . . who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children.” (Read Deut. 33:8-11; Ex. 32 : 25-29). In respect of Massah, not only did Israel tempt God there (Deut. 6:16) but God assuredly proved Levi (Deut. 33: 8); not only did Israel strive with the Lord at the water of Meribah (Num. 20:13) but God strove with Levi (Deut. 33:8).
Eleazar, “God is helper,” was the third son of Aaron. Upon the death of his two elder brethren, Nadab and Abihu, he was not permitted to know any man after the flesh. “Uncover not your head, neither rend your clothes” was the injunction of Lev. 10:6. As “chief over the chief of the Levites” he had “the oversight of them that keep the charge of the Sanctuary” (Num. 3:32). To the office of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest pertained the oil for the light, and the sweet incense, and the daily meat offering, and the anointing oil, and the oversight of all the “Tabernacle, and of all that therein is, in the Sanctuary, and in the vessels thereof (Num. 4:16).
Towards the end of the wilderness journey, following the emphasis on the priesthood in Num. 17 and 18, we discover, in the 19th chapter a portrait of the truly spiritual man: Eleazar discharging his priestly function relative to defilement. Dead bodies strewed the wilderness: all had become contaminated. However, provision for cleansing was made, and no type so vividly silhouettes the awful loneliness, the utter forsaking of Calvary as the red heifer burned outside the camp. Her skin, her flesh, her blood, her dung, were all burnt. Echoing down through the centuries comes that forlornest of all cries, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me”?
Into the midst of the burning of the red (Heb: adom) heifer, Eleazar in true priestly fashion casts cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet (Num. 19:6). What saintly intelligence is this indeed! Everything relative to the first man, Adam, is consumed. Whether it be the grandiose ambitions, pride, attainments according to the flesh as signified by the cedar, or the wretchedly smug, self satisfied mock humility shown by the hyssop, or the plaudits and honours with which a godless world seeks to bribe the saints, pictured by the scarlet, all, all is cast into the midst of the burning.
The Assembly is reaching the close of its pilgrim pathway: that pathway strewn with defiling influences. 1 Cor. 10:1-12 (“ensamples written for our admonition”) gives a concise summary. After the resuscitation of the truth in respect of the priesthood, some 120 years ago, with its attendant corollary of the maintenance of New Testament principles of gathering, has alas, come retrogression. Consequently there is a crying need at this hour for spiritual men: men of Eleazar’s calibre: men of moral fibre: men of stamina who are prepared to speak the truth, albeit in love (Eph. 4:15). Today’s characteristic in many parts of our land is a supine, comatose nonchalance which brands the avouchment of the New Testament mode of things as “exclusive” or “sectarian.”
Oh! for competent men who have the care of the saints indelibly engraven upon their hearts! “Oil for the light”—watchful that amidst the flock the Spirit is not quenched (1 Thess. 5:19). "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Ah! the sad bickerings betwixt beloved saints: the virulent gossip which so frequently riddles the assemblies of God’s people. There is absolutely no warrant whatsoever to assert our rights, to uphold one’s own reputation. “He made Himself of no reputation” (Phil. 2:7). “Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” (1 Cor. 6:7). What bitter, heart-wounding pains, perhaps lasting for years, are caused by the unkind word, the scornful look, the malicious tattle! Like a clarion call down through the centuries come the words of the apostle, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even to God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you . . . and walk in love” (Eph. 4. 30-32; 5:1).
This is closely allied with “the daily meat offering and the anointing oil”—the saints’ lives permeated by the redolent fragrance of the Lord Jesus Christ, their governed walk under the unction of the Spirit of God.
Not only so, but there has to be that godly appreciation vouchsafed by the Holy Spirit in respect of worship. Too often we are barren even in our understanding of the position of the Assembly. Even when we gather to remember the Lord Jesus in His own appointed way we are so often taken up with our blessings instead of recognising that the purest-offering aspect, i.e., what the Lord Jesus Christ and His offering meant to God, is of primary importance. The same, of course, can be said of the prayer meeting: not thanking constantly for singing birds, fair flowers and the whole realm of creation which groans and travails in pain (Rom. 8:22) because of sin, but firstly taken up with the incomparable, altogether loveliness of the Lord Jesus and what He means to the heart of God. Then, and then only, will flow that deep, passionate, availing intercession reaching out and embracing all men. “Sweet incense” indeed: how we need godly concern in relation to attendance at, and in apprehension of, the assembly prayer meeting, that plumbline, that true gauge of the vitality of the company!
Beloved saints, we require to grasp the fact that spirituality— that ability in the things of God—is not assessed by whether we are Fellows of this society or that: is not measured by whether we hold philosophic or literary doctorates. Eleazar’s office was verily on a high spiritual level: a level neither supported by academical achievement nor bolstered by wordly culture, and far, far removed from ungodly alliances and unequal yokes. Eleazar knew no man after the flesh . . .
The twelve verses of the Second Psalm fall into four equal sections. The first three verses contain the voice of men, of nations, peoples, kings and princes. The other sections of three verses each bring before us the voice of the Persons of the Trinity severally.
THE VOICE OF ANARCHY (vs. 1-3) - (Man’s Voice)
The voice of men is lifted up against Jehovah and against His Anointed, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us”. How often does the human heart resist both the grace of God and the government of God! When the people of Israel demanded a king, the LORD said to Samuel, “They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them”.
Those spoken of in Acts 4, when praying quoted the first two verses of this psalm, applied them to the crucifixion of our Lord, and said, “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings”. Wheresoever the gospel is preached, there is opposition from human hearts.
THE VOICE OF ANGER (vs. 4-6) - (God the Father’s Voice)
“Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath” (v. 5). “The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered His voice, the earth melted” (Ps. 46:6). “And the nations have been full of wrath, and Thy wrath is come” (Rev. 11:18, New Trans.). Man may lift up his voice, but God will have the last word.
“Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion” (v. 6). “For He must reign” (1 Cor. 15:25). God’s Son is God’s King and He must reign. “God . . . removeth kings, and setteth up kings” (Daniel 2:21).
THE VOICE OF AUTHORITY (vs. 7-9) - (God The Son’s Voice)
The Son speaks to “declare the decree”, to declare what Jehovah had said unto Him, namely, “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel”. The Father has given the Son "authority to execute judgment” (John 5:27). Indeed all authority has been given Him in heaven and upon earth (Matt. 28:18).
THE VOICE OF ADMONITION (vs. 10-12) - (God The Holy Spirit’s Voice)
In the last section the Holy Spirit, through David, utters His voice and epitomises the moral lesson of the whole psalm. The kings and judges who utter their voices in the first section are commanded to serve Jehovah, Who utters His voice in the second section, and to kiss the Son, Who utters His voice in the third section.
The prayer of those praying believers of Act 4 was granted, “and they spake the word of God with boldness”. While the day of gospel testimony lasts, may praying and Spirit-filled believers everywhere speak the word of God with boldness. Thus will the voice of God be heard, Whose voice is powerful.
An old country baronet who died recently had a collection of forty sundials, which he kept proudly displayed on the walls and in the cabinets of his study. All were perfect, but none could tell the right time, because they were out of the sunshine. Let nothing keep you from being in the sunshine, for “the night cometh when no man can work.” Let your life ever tell the right time, as it will if it is bathed in the glorious light of the Sun of Righteousness. Do not be a splendid specimen of what can be. Be shining tellers of what is.
“Tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee” (Mar. 16. 7). What a tremendous word is this little “and.” It marks Peter as the arch-denier of Jesus. It selects him as the special recipient of divine forgiveness. Did ever angel bring a grander message of comfort? Are you a backslider? Have you deserted the Lord? Turn these words over as a piece of honeycomb in your mouth “and Peter.” Jesus thinks on you. He forgives you. He feels the same to you as he felt to Peter.