MY text is our Lord’s question in Matthew chapter 16 and verse 3: “Ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”
We have seen in former articles that the Lord Jesus Christ must come again. If He does not the alternative is fearful to contemplate. Yea, fearful beyond all thought. God will be proved a liar, Christ an imposter. His death a failure, and His resurrection a myth. The Christian hope will be proved an utter delusion. The entire human race will sink under the weight of its iniquity forever. And Satan, the vile instigator of all the injustice, cruelty, and suffering on earth, will have the final victory over righteousness. But such an alternative is as impossible as it is unthinkable. Christ must come again. His coming is absolutely imperative, and we know He will come. His return is more certain than the dawning of the morn.
Not only so, but His return is imminent. Who can doubt this? You can discern the face of the sky, said the Lord. Well, can you not discern the signs of the times? In all ages God expects man to be intelligent enough as to do this. In David’s time there were men who had understanding of the times (1 Chron. 12. 32). The Lord upbraided the Pharisees in His day because they failed to read the signs of the times. I would therefore, that we to-day have the intuition and the wisdom to do so. For we are living in the most astounding period of all human history. The road we tread is well marked with sign posts. Who can fail to see them? And they all point in one direction, the return of earth’s rightful, though rejected, King. Whether you welcome the thought or not, God has sworn that He will again bring into the inhabited earth, His beloved Son. And He will. Not as a meek and lowly lamb, but as the Lion of Judah. He will come with the tread of a conqueror. And everywhere to-day the signs are crying out, “Behold thy King cometh”. For long these end-time signs have been in evidence. Saintly men of the past century who studied world trends and conditions spoke of them. For example, Henry Alford, Dean of Westminster, the famous Bible commentator, when referring to the then decencies of civilization and discoveries of secular knowledge wrote, “He must read prophecy but ill who does not see under all these seeming improvements, the preparation for the final development of the man of sin, when idolatry, and seven worse spirits shall bring the outward frame of so-called Christendom to a fearful end”. As the century advances, however, the signs multiply. It is the fact that they synchronise, that they converge contemporaneously and with such fulness and completeness, as I pointed out in my last article, that provides unmistakable, overwhelming evidence that the end-time is almost upon us.
A fact that ought to impress us is that this age, or dispensation, as some call it, has continued longer than any other in human history. The antidiluvian age lasted 1656 years, the age from the flood to the exodus 857 years, and from the exodus to the first advent of Christ was some 1487 years. But our gospel age has lasted almost 2000 years. That the age should be an extended one, need not surprise us. In the parable of the talents, it was after a long time that the lord of the servants returned to reckon with them (Matthew 25. 19). And the dispersion of the Jews which, of course, coincides with this period was to be for many days (Hosea 3. 4). That this age should continue so long demonstrates the mercy and grace of our God, who “is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”. For remember His coming will forever close the door of salvation against the Christ rejector. And the fact, that this, the longest period in history, is now so old should, in itself, tell you that it may be near a close. And indeed, so it is. It bears upon it the marks of decay. It is a dying age. Already the dark, sinister shadows of the great tribulation fall athwart our path. There can be no doubt, then, the night rapidly approaches. “Yet a little while is the light with you,” said the Lord Jesus, “walk while ye have the light, lest darkness cometh upon you; for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth” (John 12. 35).
In this connection, the late Dr. A. T. Pierson of Philadelphia, pointed out something that has interested me much. He showed that, in God’s great plan of the ages of time, something outstanding, something stupendous, has occurred at just about the end of every thousand years. It was 987 years from Adam to Enoch’s translation to heaven; 1020 years from that translation to Abraham; 981 years from Abraham until the dedication of Solomon’s temple, when Israel was at the zenith of her glory as an earthly power; and 1012 years from Solomon to Christ. Then from the advent of Christ it was 1000 years to what has been called the midnight of the dark ages. The great cleavage of Christendom occurred in the year 1054 A.D. It is interesting, therefore, that we find ourselves almost at the end of the next 1000 years. Further, when you remember that a Bible year comprises 360, rather than 365 days, you will understand that this millennium of years is now far advanced. Surely this is significant. It is no surprise, therefore, that there exists to-day a world wide sense and fear of impending catastrophe. What now are some of its signs?
To name and deal adequately with each of them would be impossible in the space at our disposal, presently. But I shall mention a few. In Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy, chapter 3 and verses 1-5, he mentions 18 or 19 sombre, sinister, and distinctive marks which will characterize what he terms the perilous or fierce times of the last days. Read this passage for yourself, and a little reflection will show that every one of these characteristics is a prominent feature in this day of appalling moral deterioration, and disintegration. No wonder Dr. D. R. Davis has said that the world has shaken loose of its moorings, and that it is a world of moral and spiritual twilight bereft of faith. This agrees with our Lord’s words, “that as it was in the days of Lot, even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17. 28-30). Yes, the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are rife in our midst to-day. And they are a blight upon our civilization. The daily press reports widespread violence, outrages, housebreaking, bank robberies, cases of stabbing, divorce, polygamy, and the most horrible sexual crimes, and also vice. Juvenile delinquency is a major problem. In one city there is a murder every day. The mad craze for pleasure continues to increase, boxing, racing, gambling, smoking, gluttony, drunkenness and the desecration of the Lord’s Day. Truly, as Paul says, “Men are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”. These are indeed perilous or fierce days, which indicate that we have reached that period termed in scriptures, the last days.
Now most of these features have to do with social life, but are there to be signs in religious life? There are. Such passages as Matthew 13. 33, 1 Timothy 4. 1-3, and 2 Thess. 2. 3-12 as well as Jude’s Epistle, show us that at the end-time there is to be a complete turning away from the historic Christian faith. There is to be a general apostasy. Is this not what we witness to-day in Christendom? What fundamental of belief has not been thrown overboard? The inspiration of Holy Scripture, the Deity of Christ, His virgin birth, His immaculate life, His atoning death, His bodily resurrection, His coming again, and the existence of everlasting punishment for the wicked, have all been denied. Yes, the mystery of iniquity doth already work and all seems ripe for the predicted general abandonment of Christianity. At the same time false cults and religions too many to enumerate, ambitiously publish their tenets as predicted in Scripture.
Not only so, but such passages as Revelation 17 make it clear that at the end there is to be a great reunion of sects and cults under the leadership of a vast religious system, the seat of whose power is a city of seven hills. This is precisely what we behold to-day. Catholics, Anglo-Catholics, and modernists of different shades and from different denominations, with some professed evangelicals, join hands and unite. This is what we call the ecumenical movement. By it the glorious work of the reformation 400 years ago is being completely undermined. And it will eventually head up in a vast religious combine, which will find its centre and authority in Rome, which as any schoolboy could tell you, is the city of seven hills. This is a certain mark of the end-time.
In connection with religious life, at which we have been looking, there is one other aspect of which I must speak. In the Book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, we have seven epistles addressed to seven churches which then existed in Asia Minor. It has long been seen that these letters, when read consecutively, give to us a complete prophetic preview of the history of the Christian Church from the day of Pentecost until the end of her earthly testimony. In all there are seven stages or periods pictured. We have not time to look at all of these, and I prefer only to refer to the last three without going into many details. Sardis pictures the Protestant period which began 400 years ago and still runs its course. Philadelphia represents the evangelical period which had its inception early in the 19th century, and continues concurrently with the earlier one. Laodicea comes next. The word Laodicea means “the rights of the people”. This, of course, is democracy. It comes at the end. Have we not here a mirror of our own day? Isn’t this the boasted democratic age? Of course it is.
What marks Laodicea? Spiritual apathy, she is affluent, increased with goods, and self-sufficient. She prides in her rich vestments, her beautiful architecture, her generous funds, her educated ministry and her social activities.
Intellectualism defines and settles the basis of her faith. She has her round of mirth, to entertain and hold the young. The theatrical plays, the gangster films, pools, raffles, the T.V. shows, the vulgar physical exercise called dancing, and all that makes up the devil’s mission of church amusements. This is Laodicea. But with all her religious machinery and boasted advancements she is cold and Christless. And what pray is the next stage in Church history, after Laodicea? There is no other. This is the last. After Laodicea comes doom. “I will spew thee out of My mouth,” says the righteous Lord. This is the time period in which we find ourselves, and the Laodicean stage is well advanced and almost ready for divine judgment. At His coming, the Lord will spew her out of His mouth.
Another sign is the great anti-God movement. This will come to fruition in the very last days. It is depicted in Psalm 2 when the kings of the earth unite against the Lord and against His anointed. Even in Paul’s day the mystery of iniquity was working. But to-day we have the scoffers, and the anti-christs, of whom Peter and John, respectively, have warned us in their Epistles. They come out in open defiance of the Lord. By then Christianity is mocked and ridiculed. In the hellish campaign, Soviet Russia takes the lead. There, religion is described as the opium of the people. There, the militant, Godless utter their vile blasphemies and carry on their satanic propaganda, effigies of the blessed and Holy Trinity have been carried through the public streets, the Last Supper has been degraded to a drunken brawl; the Lord has been pictured as running a still and passing the liquor to His drunken disciples. The whole thing is most revolting to our minds.
So we have seen that the age is already old and dying. That another 1000 years, the sixth of its history, is rapidly ending with rumblings of the wrath of God. That in social life and religious life the signs of the end are in clear evidence. The very signs that Scripture teaches us to expect, and that the great anti-God movement tells us that Psalm 2 must shortly be fulfilled.
These are but a few of the fingers that point to our Lord’s imminent return. Of even greater signs I hope to write on a later occasion. But though God flashes the red light of danger in our faces, the poor world rushes on to its doom. Oh blind eyes that cannot see the signs of His near return. I believe we are on the very verge of it.
I can almost hear His footfall
On the threshold of the door,
And my heart, my heart is longing
To be with Him evermore.
Yes, He is coming, coming quickly, coming one of these days. And ere He comes in fulfilment of these signs to adjust things in the world and reign here for God, He will come and rapture His blood-bought Church. This glorious event is not preceded by any sign as I pointed out before. He may come to-day. Oh, say, are you ready? If not, accept Him as your Saviour who died for you. Flee from the wrath to come. He died an atoning death. He died that you might live. He waits to be your Saviour. Linger not, it is later than you think. Delays are dangerous. Come to the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe the love of God and accept Him as your personal Saviour.
The Supremacy and Superiority of Christ especially seen in His present work and person as God’s Great High Priest.
Unknown but many attribute it to the Apostle Paul although others find difficulties in so doing, but since the Apostle Peter writes of Paul having written to Hebrews (see 2 Peter 3. 15,16), this is the only epistle answering to this description. Note, Peter calls it “scripture”.
It shares with such scripture as Genesis 1. 1, John 1. 1, and 1 John 1. 1 (all of which open without the author’s name) the most sublime opening and introduction and taken with those scriptures, sets forth the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is the only book in the Bible which primarily sets forth the High Priesthood of the Lord Jesus and tells us of His present work in Heaven.
It was written to Hebrews (as Dr. Barnhouse so clearly puts it) “to persuade Hebrews to cease being Hebrews”, and to break once and for all their attachment to Judaism which was a revolution in their lives for all the laws and ordinances of Judaism had been God-ordained and must be strictly adhered to on pain of death or being cut off from all the promises.
It required, therefore, as with Paul, a Spirit-given vision of a glorified Christ. He had that vision and interview physically on the road to Damascus. They must have it given by the Holy Spirit and also clarified from the scriptures themselves. They needed their eyes, minds and hearts opened (as the two on the road to Emmaus) to apprehend the superior glory to which the whole of their history and their scriptures pointed. Though having turned from Judaism and professed faith in the Lord Jesus, yet there were now powerful energies at work to cause them to fall away, to go back, to abandon Christ, and return to that with which God had finished.
To do so would be to go back unto perdition, to exchange the substance for the shadow, the unseen for the seen and tangible. To turn from Moses to Christ was reckoned apostasy, yet Moses had spoken and written of the coming Messiah, but to turn back again to Moses would be to apostatise from Christ, and crucify Him afresh and put Him to an open shame.
Almost the whole of the Old Testament is traversed therefore to show that Christ is the divine fulfilment of all God’s purposes and His last answer and final appeal to a nation which was soon to be scattered and come under the judgment of God as a nation.
Persecution was being brought to bear upon them to do so and they were virtually cut off from all their previous privileges, religiously, nationally and politically, and they must in no way retaliate, but suffer the reproach of Christ whatever it entailed.
The Epistle is almost a Bible in miniature. Historically it takes us from eternity to eternity. It commences with the Creation of the world and ages and concludes (except the final salutations) with the wind up of all things—see Chapter 12. 25-28.
It forms a great back cloth to and gives a divine panorama of the world wide events on which is superimposed God’s dealings with Israel, as an illustration of wider and eternal issues.
The grand subject is Christ, the Creator, Son and Heir of all things, but especially brings before the soul of man His present office, position and work during this present age, while touching upon His past work, the basis of it all, and His future work, the final outcome of these divine purposes. He is Prophet, Priest and King.
His life on earth is only lightly touched upon and His teachings not at all. He had come not primarily to teach but to die and thus lay the basis on which all God’s dealings with man could rest.
The first and larger portion of the epistle is taken up with the Person of Christ, on which the value of His work of Redemption so securely rests.
There is the reminder of the three main covenants of God.
With Abram in Genesis 15, as to his seed inheriting the whole of the promises (later including the land of promise). — THE PROPHET
The Law covenant with Israel in Exodus 24, based upon and associated with the sacrifices. — THE PRIEST
The Davidic covenant (Psalm 89. 28) whereby an everlasting Kingdom is assured to Israel. — THE KING
It is the centre one which is developed in Hebrews because the subject is the present Priesthood of Christ, and this present age the subject of the epistle, and the one upon which all others securely rest, i.e. His sacrifice.
This covenant is twice referred to here in chapters 8 and 10 .
His eternal Person and the Permanence of His work, based upon it, is therefore emphasised again and again.
Just as there is this threefold view of Christ, so His people are likewise seen in a threefold way. They are Pilgrims journeying through the wilderness, subject to trials and temptations. They are Worshippers with a Sanctuary. They are Runners in a race to be run leading on to rewards in the Kingdom.
THE SUPREMACY AND EXCELLENCIES OF CHRIST
He is GREATER than
1:2, 10, 12.
1:4-7, 13, 14.
Ten spheres in which Christ is superior to and supercedes those going before. Note that Angels give place to Man in Administration. Moses gives place to Joshua in Leadership. Aaron gives place to Melchisedek in Priesthood. Yet none of them are final and complete. They all lead on to Christ who displaces them all. In Him only is finality and completion.
Chapter 1. The Father speaks of the Son. The Past. 1. 2, 3.
Chapter 2. The Son speaks of His own. The Present. 2. 10-13.
Chapter 3. The Spirit speaks of the Inheritance. Future. 3. 7.
THAT the Candlestick is used in the Scriptures as typical of God’s people from the point of view of their testimony is made clear by our Lord’s own references to it in the Gospels. In Matthew 5. 15. 16, having described how a candle is set on its candlestick, He said, “Let your light SO shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven”. If we place the passage here alongside the similar one in Luke 11. 33, there is a slight but interesting difference. In the one the light is shown to “all that are in the house,” while in the other it is to those “that come in”; which may remind us of the effect of our testimony on both saint and sinner.
From Luke’s Gospel we also learn that Christ made use of this figure on at least two occasions, since we have it in ch. 8. 16 as well as in ch. 11. 33. And by coupling these two together we get at least three suggestions as to wrong places for the candle, which may teach us that our testimony can be spoilt in more ways than one. Putting the light under a Bushel, ch. 11. 33, would suggest business life, which may easily develop into sheer Worldliness. Putting it under a Bed, ch. 8. 16, would import that other extreme of Slothfulness. And putting it out of sight in a Secret Place, ch. 11. 33, might speak of Cowardliness.
With these passages in mind we are prepared to consider other references elsewhere to candles and candlesticks, or, as it is in every instance if we desire to be accurate, lamps and lampstands. But it may be noted in passing that most of these have more especially in view collective testimony, whereas in the gospels it is rather individual testimony.
In Exodus 25. 31-40 God gives instructions as to the Candlestick to be made for the Tabernacle, a single golden shaft which branched out to carry seven lights (by the way, the only instance in which the sacred number seven is found in the Tabernacle). It was a fitting type of the kind of testimony which God meant Israel to bear—a perfect witness linked with one earthly centre, the place He chose to put His Name there. This arrangement stands in marked contrast with the representation given in Rev. 1 of Church testimony; where there is the same material, gold, and the same number of lights, seven; but these are on seven separate candlesticks, unconnected except by the presence of the Son of Man who walks in the midst of them. There is no material centre, but just Himself; and well it would have been for them if the saints of God had ever recognised this difference.
Another feature which stands out prominently in the description of the Candlestick in Exodus 30 is that, while for most things pertaining to the Tabernacle lineal measurements are given, that is not so in its case. But it was to be made of a talent of gold; in other words, weight, not bulk, was what mattered; and this is always true of testimony for God.
The Candlestick of Israel’s testimony is seen again in Zechariah 4; a chapter in which God gives encouragement to His people in a day of great weakness, when on their return from Babylon the remnant sought to set up again a centre of witness. In such circumstances it would not have been surprising if the Candlestick had its lights reduced to two or three. But no; God does not lower the standard. The seven lights are still there, and amidst all the weakness God has provided for their maintenance. “Not by might (numbers, as margin), nor by power (ability),” but by His Spirit was Zerubbabel enabled to carry on to a finish the work he had begun. Thus the chief interest in the passage lies not in the candlestick itself, but in the two olive trees and the two golden pipes by which it is supplied with oil; typical no doubt of those whom God had raised up to restore the testimony at that time. Now much is here for us to learn, since we too live in days of weakness, and are assailed by those who would have us lower the standard which God has set up. Yet like Zerrubabel we can count upon the grace that ever meets the need; and should keep ourselves personally in such condition of soul that God can use us as supply pipes to maintain the light.
In Rev. 11. 3-12 there is yet another picture of candlesticks, suggestive of the last light that God will give to a rebellious and dark world. In this case there are two, not seven, which may imply that at least a competent witness will be given, on the principle of such Scriptures as Deut. 19. 15; Matt. 18. 16; 2 Cor. 13. 1, etc. The reference in verse 4 to the olive trees links the passage with Zech. 4, but here candlesticks and olive trees are treated as one. An interesting point is made in verse 7, where it is implied that the Witnesses are invulnerable until “they shall have finished their testimony”.
As for Rev. 1, that picture which is most nearly related to our own testimony; if we ask what kind of light these candlesticks were actually giving, we have the answer in the message to the churches in chapters 2 and 3. Two of them, Smyrna and Philadelphia, were shining brightly for God amidst opposition and persecution unto death in the one case, and against scorn and indifference of various kinds in the other. The remaining ones were more or less dim, requiring in some cases the “snuffers,” and in some renewal of the oil. In fact those few Assemblies in a corner of Asia Minor present all the varieties of collective testimony, good or bad, that have been seen in the history of the Church.
Ere closing, we may fittingly take notice of two statements made towards the end of Revelation, one connected with the future of Babylon, and the other with that of the Heavenly City. Of the one it is said, “The light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee”, ch. 18. 23. God’s testimony has been rejected, and is now withdrawn for ever. Of the other we read, “They need no candle,” ch. 22. 5; and the reason given is that, ^‘The Lord God giveth them light”. A testimony such as formerly was maintained is no longer required for He Himself is there in all His glory.
“WHERE two or three are gathered together unto My Name, there am I in the midst of them”. Matt. 18. 20. The Name is still the expression of all that He is as the Lord Jesus Christ. It still reminds us that He is absent, and that we are where He was put to death. It is the day of the Spirit’s presence to lead and guide and teach. But the expression is not now “in (en) My Name” as if we represented Him or were even acting by His authority— though we can exercise authority as so gathered—but it is “unto (eis) My Name” as the centre of attraction. And true reverence for the Holy Scriptures will not be manifested in trying to seek resemblances in things that differ, but rather in humbly seeking to discern the real difference between those which resemble one another. It implies association with Him, according to the revelation He has given of Himself. We are gathered, not to a particular doctrine or to a particular form of church government, but to His Name in all the truth of His Person, His work and His authority.
When He drew us to Him in all our sin and wretchedness, we learnt to know Him as our Saviour. He taught us then this blessed truth. But now, when He gathers us round Himself, He reminds us that He is our Lord as well. We found that the ransom which released us, also purchased us, and that He claims complete control. To be gathered to His Name will mean that we are not only intelligently associated with Him as the Saviour, but also as the Lord. We shall recognise that we have to do with One who claims unquestioning submission, and whose Word must regulate everything. Our being gathered to His Name will then be no mere casual meeting, or the outcome of simply agreeing with one another. It will be a meeting by His appointment in His divinely-ordered way. It will be no mere choice of ours, or a manner that appeals to us, or that in which we get most good, for that would have self as the object, instead of the claims of our Lord.
To be gathered in His Name will certainly not be looked upon as a privilege to be used or let alone as we please. It will be an acknowledgment of His love and grace indeed, but pre-eminently of His authority and His control.
How is it with us then? Let us leave now the mistakes of others, and let us ask ourselves, what do we really know of being gathered to His Name?
IN seeking to consider the offerings as they are presented * to us in the Book of Leviticus, there is a possibility that the fact of Leviticus being the continuation of the Book of Exodus may have been overlooked by many. To the careful reader, this fact will become perfectly obvious by the conjunction “and” with which the Book of Leviticus starts. Exodus 40 closes with a Finished Task, “so Moses finished the work”: a Filled Tabernacle, “the Cloud abode thereon, and the Glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle”: a Filled Tabernacle, yet not a Functioning Tabernacle: there remains a Further Teaching yet to be given.
This further teaching is given in the Book of Leviticus and our conception of the offerings must be linked with the Tabernacle system. A very distorted impression is obtained, unless they are viewed in this connected sense. Exodus finishes with God having taken His place in the midst of His redeemed people, as He had promised, not to be there in lonely isolation, but in order that He may be approached by His people. God’s desire in bringing a people out of Egypt was that He might bring them to Himself, to have them where He could dwell among them and be worshipped by them as their God. The offerings in Leviticus then provide the basis of this approach and must be viewed in this connection. We believe that the order of the offerings, as seen in Leviticus, is a straightforward one and requires to be taken up in this straightforward fashion. The order is the order of approach and acceptation, and is set out in this orderly way in Leviticus chapter 1 and 2. The Burnt Offering and the Meal Offering conjointly provide this approach and acceptation, as we shall shortly prove. “And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He interpreted unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24. 27). He turned the language of ritual into the language of reality. Every type and every shadow had its perfect fulfilment in Him. “To Him give all the prophets witness” (Acts 10. 43), and again, His own words to the multitude, “The Scriptures, these are they that testify of Me” (John 5. 39).
The offerings of the Old Testament then were types of Christ, and if we are to understand them aright, we must see Him there. The entire Tabernacle system, with its Priesthood and its offerings, is essentially linked together and presents not only a picture of the Past but a parable of the Present; as to the past, God dwelling in the midst of His redeemed people and their approach to Him; for the present, the Assembly of to-day, God in the midst and our approach to Him.
We shall look now at the offerings in the light of our approach and acceptation on the basis of His work and worthiness and our eternal links with Him. Leviticus 1. 1 begins like this, “And the Lord called unto Moses and spake unto him out of the Tent of Meeting, saying, Speak unto the Sons of Israel and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your approach offering of the cattle of the herd and of the flock”.
Leviticus 1 divides itself into four small sections.
Firstly. The Divine Instruction concerning the desire of the Offerer with a description of the offering he shall bring, (vv. 1-2).
Secondly. The Directions for a Bullock, (w. 3-9).
Thirdly. The Directions for a Sheep or Goat. (vv. 10-13).
Fourthly. The Directions for Turtle Doves or Young Pigeons, (vv. 14-17).
The graded character of these offerings have been considered time and time again and much has been advanced by godly men as to their meaning. Many and varied have been the conceptions that have been arrived at and whilst that is certainly true, we make no apology for the little contribution we are about to add.
Differing degrees of apprehension have been advanced as the probable meaning and possibly contains a great degree of truth. The wealth of the offerer, of course, would determine the size of his offering, but if the heart was right, many would willingly have given a bullock whose means extended only to a turtle dove. Does then the grading suggest poverty of apprehension or poverty of means? The means were literal in Israel’s day, but are spiritual in ours, and oft-times the gift was not a measure of the giver’s apprehension so much as the giver’s means. At least this is the principle which is taught in our day in New Testament language, “If there be first the willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not” (2 Cor. 8. 12). However, we feel that God has been infinitely gracious and has permitted in this grading the means for all the willing-hearted to give an expression of their love. The divine comment for bullock or for dove is just the same; it is an ascending offering, an offering made by fire, a savour of rest unto Jehovah. Such is the multi-coloured excellence of the Lord Jesus, that it takes these varied expressions in the grading of the offering to tell Him out.
Aspects of truth must be appreciated and, in order to obtain the full knowledge of the truth, all the aspects must be taken into consideration. Every aspect of the same truth will differ, but is essential to the expression of the whole truth. Having stated these things, the ground for our consideration of the offerings may have been established and we can proceed with our exposition in an orderly way. In the first section of the chapter, Moses is instructed to speak to the Sons of Israel and his instruction is passed on not “to any man”, but to “any man of you”. Only those who have been under the protection of Paschal blood and have been now numbered with the congregation and are associated with the dwelling place of God may have this right; it is to those alone, yet to all of those that this instruction comes. If any man of you will present, offer or bring an approach offering unto the Lord, he shall present, offer or bring it of the cattle, of the herd and of the flock.
The idea of presenting or offering or bringing his approach offering was to appear before the Lord, at His altar, with the appropriate offering which would denote and indicate the character of the exercise that was his.
This is all the distance that the offerer could come, but his exercise did not start here; it started in the tent, but was consummated at the altar. The altar was the meeting place between God and His people (Exodus 29. 43), an altar that had been Established upon blood which had been shed, that had been Encompassed by blood which had been sprinkled round about, and had been Empowered by blood which had been applied to its horns. Its Stability , its Scope and its Strength was governed by blood that had been shed, an altar that was the expression, not of Calvary's Cross, but of that which Calvary’s Cross produced. The Altar, the basis of approach, not for sinners but for saints, and from that altar there constantly arose the fragrance of the abiding excellence of that which had fully met the claims of God and provided for Him an Eternal Feast. The flame of the altar was never to go out and was perpetually fed by the morning and evening lamb. The altar flame was not the expression of the devouring wrath of God but was the expression of the satisfaction of God, a savour of the restful contentment that was now His in the value of that upon which His Holy Nature could eternally feast. Such is the value of the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all, and provides not only the substance of the satisfaction and joy of a Holy God, but provides also the basis and sufficiency of the acceptation and approach of all His people.