As the Lord Jesus emerged from the baptismal plunge at Jordan the Heavens were opened to Him and the Spirit of God descended and abode upon Him. This was the predicted enduement of God’s Messiah—that is “His Anointed” (Psalm 2. 2). Immediate accompaniments of the anointing became apparent. Objectively, John the Baptist had indisputable proof of His identity. He declared, “I saw and bare witness that this is the Son of God” (John 1. 31-34). Subjectively, the Saviour abandoned Himself to the sway and power of the Spirit. It was in this way and at this time that the Lord Jesus Christ took His place publicly as Jehovah’s Servant (Isaiah 42. 1-4, Behold My Servant whom I uphold, Mine Elect in whom My soul delighteth, I have put My Spirit upon Him, etc.). From Jordan He set out to fulfil that programme which will culminate in the complete glorification of God upon this world scene. In every phase of His ministry the unction of the Spirit can be traced. He was “filled by the Spirit” and “led by the Spirit” to be tempted by Satan (Luke 4. 1-2). He met the arch-enemy of mankind having no armoury but what is available, Christian, to you and me—faith in God, the Word of God and the power of the Spirit of God. He returned from the temptations “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4. 14) and thus victorious as the Spirit filled Man, the Lord Jesus entered the Synagogue in Capernaum and publicly appropriated the language and programme of the Christ, i.e. The Anointed. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; because He hath anointed Me to preach the good news to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted; to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind: to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord”. Then having concluded at the point relevant to His first advent He closed the scroll, gave it to the servant of the Synagogue and added, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears”. They were listening to God’s anointed Prophet, Priest and King. All through that career of amazing signs, of remarkable sayings and lovely submission we can sense the fragrant, holy oil that was poured upon Him at Jordan. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the Devil; for God was with Him” (Acts 10. 38). Asher-like the Son of man dipped His foot in oil and every step of the pathway was marked by the gracious words and deeds that placed Him on a level far above His fellows (Psalm 45. 7). This attitude of dependance upon and co-operation with the Spirit is discernible in Christ’s great act of mediation for sinful man, for we read that He “through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot unto God” (Hebrews 9. 14). In some undefined mystical way the Holy Spirit associates with the presentation to God of that eternally efficacious and acceptable sacrifice.
The third stage:
IN THE KINGDOM OF THE CHRIST ON EARTH
The citation of a few of many pertinent passages of the Word will suffice to show that when our blessed Lord has concluded His present session at the right hand of God and received His own to the rallying point in the air He will return to earth to resume the programme interrupted by His rejection as Israel’s Messiah (1 Thess. 4. 16; Matt. 24. 30). Those who do not indulge in spiritualizing jugglery will agree that the Son of Man will again operate in the mighty power of the Spirit. The partial fulfilment of Isaiah 61. 1-6 will now be fully implemented by “the day of vengeance of our God” and the promised comfort, healing and spiritual and material enrichment of the Lord’s national people—“the desolations of many generations” giving place to harmony and joy. How could a fair-minded reader of Isaiah Ch. 11 deny that God’s anointed King is there specifically described ana that the blessings naturally belonging to His Presence and government on earth will be made good in the power of the sevenfold spirit ? “And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch out of His roots, and the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of Jehovah, and His delight shall be in the fear of Jehovah ! and He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes neither reprove after the hearing of His ears: but with righteousness shall He judge the poor and reprove with equity the meek of the earth: and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth . . . they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, standing as a banner of the peoples: the nations shall seek to it, and His resting place shall be glory”. The inspired forecast of “the Root and Offspring of David” reigning personally and literally over the whole earth admits of no tampering by biased interpreters. It requires the Lord’s Anointed present on earth in all the fulness of His spirit-enduement bringing felicity and harmony into every sphere of this sin-marred and battle-scarred scene. Jew and Gentile will oe irresistibly drawn to one unifying centre. The King Himself, our glorious Lord Jesus Christ will be “the Banner of the peoples”; the rallying point when “the nations shall seek to it and His rest shall be glory”. Today, in the bitterness of national and international disruptions and disunity men have no such magnetic and mighty Personality to solve their problems or heal their dissensions. In the prophetic music of this inspired writer the sweetest note to our hearts is the fact that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11. 9).
Psalm 45 presents in the language of an overflowing heart a lively and lovely portrait of the King as He will be seen in the day of His glory and power. It details His personal and surpassing moral beauty; His solemn mission with sword and arrow, with glory and majesty. It tells His holy motivation; He is impelled by truth and meekness and righteousness. It recalls His rights to reign as God and as wielding the sceptre of righteousness, because of which the holy and fragrant oil had been poured upon Him. How appropriate the language “the oil of gladness” to that great “crowning day” and to the peace and felicity which will flow from the world rule of God’s appointed and spirit-anointed King, (compare Psalm 45. 18 with Revelation 5. 6).
IN John 17. 20, 21 the Lord is praying not for the apostles only, but for a far more numerous post-apostolic aggregate of believers. His language varies accordingly. “That they may be one” of verse 11 becomes, in verse 20, “that they may all be one”. “As we are” of verse 11 is elaborated in verse 21 to read, “as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they may also be in Us”. (Our A.V. has “one in us” but is acknowledged that here “one” is not genuine).
“That they all may be one” speaks of unity. But “in Us” is more than this. It is the language of identification, of the Father with the Son, of the Son with the Father, and of believers with both. Think of the identification denoted in Eph. 1 by “in Christ”, “in Christ Jesus”, “in Him”, “in the Beloved”, and similar examples elsewhere. Thus, from John 17. 20, 21, it is to be realised that we of this present time should be in unity (“that they all may be one”) in identification with the Father and the Son (“in Us”). Is this identification to be in respect of our standing or does it pertain to our walk and practice? For the sake of our testimony we should face this question.
It can be answered from an appreciation of what the identification is meant to effect, namely, “that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me”. Will the Christian’s standing in Christ cause the world to believe something or is it his walk which can do this ? The answer is, the latter. The Christian’s standing is known only to faith, trust, belief. His walk can be seen, and more or less evaluated by the world, as evidence of something unworldly and desirable. Thus, it is to be recognised that in John 17. 20, 21 the Lord is praying that believers of our day should show such unity in a walk of identification with the Father and the Son that the world, looking on, might be led to believe that the Father really did send the Son into the world.
Verses 22 and 23 are now to be studied. They speak of a perfection in unity, in terms which show an advance on what is in either verse 11 or 21. For v. 11 has, “that they may be one”, and v. 21 has, “that they all may be one”, but v. 23 has, “that they may be made perfect in one”. And the following details show another gradation, namely, v. 11 has nothing to correspond with “that the world may believe” of v. 21, but this gives place, in v. 23, to “that the world may know”. Knowing is an advance on believing.
Again, gradation shows itself in what the world is to know, in v. 23, as compared with what it is to believe, in v. 21. That the Father sent the Son, and that He loves the sons as He had loved the Son, is more than what is said in v 21. It is indeed a perfection in unity. It looks not to the present, intermediate testimony which is the subject of v. 21, but to the ultimate result, a condition of finality, “a state of completeness with respect to oneness”, as K. S. Wuest’s Expanded Translation gives it. It envisages the completion of the Church the body of Christ, the final gathering together of the sheep from Israel and from the nations too into the one Shepherd’s one flock. It is impressively described in Eph. 4. 12, translated by H. C. G. Moule, “till we all attain, the whole number of us . . . to a full-grown man, even to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”. The whole number of us consists of all believers of this Church interval and the full-grown man is the completed Church. As yet it is not complete. The Lord Jesus is still building it, though the process is not perceptible to the senses of man, as in Solomon’s day neither hammer nor axe nor tool of iron was heard while his temple was in building (I Kings 6. 7). When complete it will be raptured, as 1 Thess. 4. 13 to 17 says. Thus is ushered in the Parousia of Christ, His presence with His people. We shall be manifested at His judgment seat, the “bema” of God. (Romans 14. 10; 2 Cor. 5. 10). The sons of God will be manifested to the world. For this the whole creation waits (Romans 8. 19). Then, not only will the whole number of us be complete as to aggregate but there will be perfection in unity as to character so that the world will have the knowledge of which John 17. 23 speaks, that the Father sent the Son, and that He loves the sons as He loves the Son.
THAT there is a total of seven sayings spoken from the Cross by the Lord Jesus Christ, scattered in the four Gospels is a matter that arrests the attention of the believer. That the number seven has spiritual significance in scripture every student will agree. It denotes completeness, or divine perfection. Perfection is seen in every aspect of the Lord Jesus’ life and character. IP is seen too in His death. The last words of men (especially in the scriptures), sum up their whole life, and inner character. The longer we linger over the last words of the Lord, the more beauty and perfection is discovered,
Each saying seems to highlight a characteristic, revealing its utter perfection in the extremity of suffering and death. Each is a gem proving its value in the fiercest tests.
Father, forgive them...... His mercy to the rebellious (Luke 23. 34).
To-day shalt thou...... His grace to the repentant (Luke 23. 43).
Woman, behold thy son...... His love to the saints (John 19. 26, 27).
My God, My God...... His holiness in the presence of Sin (Matt. 27. 46); Mark 15. 34).
I thirst...... His obedience to the Word of God (John 19. 28).
It is finished...... His supremacy over every force (John 19. 30).
Father, into Thy hands...... His communion with the Father (Luke 23. 46).
That this is the order of the sayings is generally acknowledged, from the context of the Gospels. Certainly Luke gives us the first ahd the last. “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them . . .” (Luke 23. 34); and after the seventh saying, adds “and having said thus, He gave up the ghost” (v. 46). Observe thart: the first three concerns others, just as we would expect in the Lord, the central one only concerns Himself, and the last three are concluding statements regarding the work and will of God.
The last four sayings have connections with the Psalms. The orphan cry is a direct quotation from Psalm 22. 1; the cry of thirst is to fulfil Psalm 69. 21; some see in the words “It is finished”, a close resemblance to Psalm 22. 31, “He hath done this”; and the final phrase is taken from Psalm 31. 5. All this indicates that during these hours of suffering, the Lord’s thoughts dwelt deeply on the Psalms. In His wilderness temptations, it is evident from His replies to Satan that the book of Deuteronomy was His meditation. What lessons for us. May we be men and women of the Word, meditating in its pages that we may face Satan and sufferings if necessary with strength and serenity.
Another interesting point to notice is that the central and the sixth sayings are said to be shouts (Luke 23. 46; Mark 15. 34). This indicates that the Lord’s physical strength was still intact, and proves that He did not die from exhaustion. The reference to the Lord knowing all things in John 19. 28, indicates further He still possessed His mental powers Physically, mentally and spiritually, humanly speaking, the Lord was strong and sound to the end.
Then said Jesus, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23. 34). After the betrayal, the trial, the rejection, the cruelty, the taunts, which occasioned physical, mental and spiritual suffering, the Saviour pleads forgiveness for His enemies. He was not provoked into self-vindication or retaliation but was moved with compassion for His persecutors. Concerned more for their sins than for Himself, for their pardon than for His own pains. Remarkable ! This is divine. This prayer was speedily answered. The words fell upon the ears of the thief beside Him, whose heart was soon melted into deep contrition and whose lips were moved into decided confession. The Centurion too who had supervised the crucifixion later acknowledged His divine character (Luke 23. 47; Matt. 27. 54). On the day of Pentecost, and subsequently many who had raised voices to condemn Him were converted (Acts 2. 41), even a great company of priests themselves (Acts 6. 7). Paul, too, was an example (1 Timothy 1).
Of course, here was laid the foundation of forgiveness for us all. What assurance the memory of this gives us. However, we had offended God, despised or denied His Son, no matter the number or weight of our sins, these words of the Saviour in His hour of suffering, breathe peace into our souls. No wonder we read in later writings, “your sins are forgiven you for His Name’s sake” (1 John 2. 12), “in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Eph. 1. 7). His Name, His blood are prominent thoughts in connection with forgiveness, both take us back to the scene of Calvary where the first saying stands recorded. Someone has said that “forgiveness is like the fragrance a flower gives when trodden upon”. Men did their worst to Christ seeking to tread Him down at the Cross; their cruelty but yielded the perfume of compassion. What immeasurable mercy!
The first word of the prayer commands attention. “Father ...” Every man’s hand and voice was against Him. He was being cut off in the midst of His years. The hopes some had set on Him seemed to be dashed. Yet confidence and communing with the Father still characterised Him. He was conscious of accomplishing the Father’s will, notwithstanding the circumstances. “I am not alone, the Father is with Me . . .”
What an example is He to us. He who said, “Love your enemies, pray for them who despitefully use you . . .” and “I am meek and lowly in heart . . now exemplifies His own teaching in the hour of extreme testing. Are we in any way like Him in times of adversity ? This spirit of the Master had captured Stephen’s heart when in his last moments too he prayed forgiveness for his persecutors (Acts 7. 60). This should inspire our zeal in Gospel service too. If forgiveness is offered to such as those who crucified the Son of God, the vilest of sinners can be saved. Let us tell it then to earth’s remotest bound that “through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins”. Moreover it is presented in the epistles as a powerful appeal to believers to preserve harmony in relationships with one another in assembly fellowship, to forgive one another, as Christ also hath forgiven us (Col. 3. 13). Let us linger near the Cross to absorb this sweet spirit of the Saviour.
IN the ordinance of the Red Heifer we get an aspect of the work of Christ which is especially toward the believer, and which it is most important he should understand. Did you ever consider what it would mean, were there no such aspect of the work of Christ found in the New Testament as is typified in Numbers 19 ? We will just suppose a case to illustrate this. Here is a believer, one lately bom again. He is full of joy, and gratitude to Christ fills his heart, for having died in his room and stead. As yet no cloud has come in between his soul and Christ, nor can he understand how he could ever backslide from One who loves him so well. The one aspect of the work of Christ which occupies his mind is, His death to bring him as a lost sinner to God. But time passes on, and he has had an awakening to the fact that there is something still within him which responds to temptation from without, and ere he is scarcely aware of it, his joy has fled, and a cloud has settled down upon his soul. What is he to do now ? Must he go all the rest of his life like this ?
If no such provision were available for him, as is foreshadowed in the Red Heifer of Numbers 19, how unspeakably wretched he would be ! The link of union between him and Christ still holds, but the link of communion has been broken. And but for this precious aspect of Christ’s work, it could never be re-knit. What an exceedingly solemn thought! But, thank God, the believer can never be in this state for the death of Christ, which met all the sin and guilt of his unconverted state and delivered him from hell and the judgment of sin, now as perfectly meets his need as a failing child of God.
In taking up this subject our desire is to help young believers. Much in this chapter we shall not deal with.
First of all, it is suggestive, that we do not get this type of the Red Heifer in the opening chapters of Leviticus, where naturally we would have expected to find it. For there we get a full account of the various offerings. It is one of the perfections of God’s Word that it is found in Numbers and not in Leviticus. Numbers gives us the wilderness, with its dangers of defilement, so we have this ordinance in the wildernes book. It is God’s provision to remove defilement from His people there. The wilderness for the believer is this present evil world, with its abounding evil, and the Red Heifer, that aspect of the Lord Jesus and His work for His people passing through the world. He lives now to keep them clean.
First let us look at the animal, next at its burning, then at its ashes and their use, and lastly, at the consequences of neglecting these.
The Animal: It was to be a female; thus it suggests Christ as the One who was subject to the will of the Father. If the male speaks of strength and ability in dealing with sin, the female typifies subjection. That is the thought here. In John 6. 38 He could say, “I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.”
It must be Red. No other colour would do. Red speaks here of blood, of death. It tells what doing the will of the Father meant for Christ. As we read in Phil. 2. 8: “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.”
“Without spot”: The spot may spea;k of what may be easily seen, something in the daily life. All who came in contact with the Son of God had to bear testimony, willingly or unwillingly, that He was the Spotless One.
“Wherein is no blemish”: This is something deeper than a “spot”, and tells of what only the eye of God could see. But here also all was infinite perfection in Him. He was holy in His nature as well as spotless in His life.
“Upon which never came yoke”: Had the heifer but once been in plough or cart, even if the yoke had not worn a hair off its shoulders, it would have been unfit for this sacrifice. Christ alone of all who ever served on earth, never came under the bondage of sin. Satan sought by all his subtle wiles to bring Him under His yoke, but all was in vain.
The Burning: The heifer was killed and her blood sprinkled seven times before the Tabernacle (where Jehovah met with His people). Then the whole animal was carried outside the camp and wholly burnt to ashes. While the burning was in progress, something was done which at first sight seems foolish. A priest took some “scarlet” and a bough of “cedar wood” and a sprig of “hyssop” and cast them into the midst of the burning of the heifer. But however trivial the act might appear, a truth of tremendous importance to the child of God was being told out in type. And that truth is expressed in Galatians 6 .14: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world”. Paul had stood by the burning of the heifer in antitype, and had seen the end of more than his sins. The Cross was for him the end of himself and of the world.
“Scarlet” is ever emblematic of worldly glory, the royal colour, so associated with military pomp. How it attracts the eye! Until that day on the Damascus road when Paul met Christ, he was under its spell. And how fitted he was to reach the goal of his ambition. Of the purest Hebrew stock, a free-born Roman citizen, having received a splendid education. To these advantages we must add an indomitable will and tireless energy. Here we see a man who could have reached the highest place of honour and fame his nation could bestow. But what a change the Cross wrought upon that proud, aristocratic young Jew. He had seen One whose glory cast all earthly glory into the shade. That word in Acts 22. 11, “And when I could not see for the glory of that light” (referring to the effect of the glory light upon his bodily eyesight), is the effect of the Cross on Paul’s after life, expressed in one brief sentence. He is now content to be to others what Christ had once been to himself, and glory in thus sharing his Lord’s rejection, being counted as “the filth of the world” and “the offscouring of all things”. If “scarlet” thus speaks of the pomp and glory of the world, “cedar wood and hyssop” brings before us what is more substantial and to men more profitable. Solomon “spake of trees from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall” (1 Kings 4. 33), the whole range of the vegetable kingdom. Doubtless Paul in his unconverted days, like most others, could appreciate the emoluments which as a rule go with places of honour. But all is changed now. He knows what it is to be “hungry”, “thirsty”, “naked”, to have no “certain dwelling-place”. Nor does he ask men’s sympathy; rather does he glory that the world, once so living and attractive to him, has, through the Cross of Christ, become a dead thing. And he himself, once so attractive to the world, now by that Cross is a' dead man to it. It is not only that he had seen all earthly pomp and glory to be stained with the blood of Christ (as in Lev. 14. 6), but he sees its end altogether for him in the Cross. It would be good to ask ourselves, how much do we in reality know of this aspect of the Cross ? What practical power does it exercise over our lives ? Is it not this, that is needed to deliver from the growing worldliness, alas ! too manifest on all hands ?
THE two High Priests faced one another in the Sanhedrin, one on his way out and the priesthood finishing, the Other on His way in, about to commence the new High Priesthood, for although earthly High Priests carried on after this, they were so in name only. The teaching of Hebrews makes it clear that the High Priesthood of Christ is based upon His One and Only sufficient sacrifice. It is not however, mainly as the High Priest that he stands before the Sanhedrin (nor does He make that claim) but as the Son of Man.
False witnesses rose up against Him (Psalm 35. 11) and the wording of verses 59 and 60 would appear strange, unless these mean that until the two last came they could not find two which agreed together. These misquoted the words of the Lord which He had spoken earlier. There was no treachery to which this evil man Caiaphas would not stoop to gain his ends, and to fulfil his own prophecy that one man should die for the nation (spoke doubtless under divine compulsion). He was, we are told, a Sadducee, and therefore believed neither in angel nor spirit, nor certainly in the resurrection, this must be borne in mind in contemplating this scene. How he could profess to believe in God who is Spirit, it is difficult to conceive. He now brushes aside the witnesses and takes charge of the interrogation, stung to the quick by the fact that Jesus will not answer him. He has a method by which an answer can be forcibly extracted and this he now employs to gain his evil ends.
In Leviticus 5. 1 the Israelite is compelled to answer when he hears the voice of swearing or adjuration, placing him on oath, or else be considered as pleading guilty. Another has written that “the betrayal by Judas is rightly regarded as an awful thing, but in some ways, was not the ‘delivering up’ or ‘betrayal’, by the High Priest even worse ? As evidence of the devil’s malignity against God there will be nothing more convincing until the man of sin be revealed . . .” This word ‘betrayal’ or ‘delivering up’ can be traced also in Mark 10. 33 and 1 Cor. 11. 23, where it may well be, not Judas, but Caiaphas who is alluded to. See also John 19. 11.
Caiaphas demanded that the Lord should tell him whether He be the Christ, the Son of God, and the Lord placed upon oath confesses that He is, but He does more that that, He claims to be the Son of Man, who hereafter will be seen sitting on the right hand of power and also (later) coming in the clouds of heaven. Now this in the minds of Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin was blasphemy and would indeed be so if untrue, and made Him worthy of death under the law of Moses. There was no doubt about His claims, He was quoting a scripture which all would know applied only to Messiah and His kingdom, moreover it revealed the very unseen world which they completely denied.
It has been said that this scripture in Daniel 7. 9-14 is the most referred to passage from the Old Testament prophecies in the New Testament, and this we shall endeavour to point out, but it will be noted that the action occurs in the last days of the Roman Empire under which the Jews were now suffering. It shows us the Ancient of Days in all His dignity and magnificence in high heaven holding solemn court, and instituting judgment, and surrounded by the heavenly host. The previous world empires had been briefly described—the Babylonish, the Medo-Persian, the Grecian (yet future in Daniel’s day) and the final un-named Empire. The first three are distinctly named in the other chapters in this book (viz., 8, 10 and 11), but the Roman Empire is described only, not named. We have but to turn the pages of our Bibles to the New Testament and there we see it, named and described, and in full dominion and power. It is when that Empire and its head are described that the narrative is interrupted to give a view of the court of heaven and the Ancient of Days in verses 9 and 10, to be introduced again at verses 11 and 12 which deal with its destruction, so that we return after this interruption to the scene in heaven to behold yet another wonderful vision, none less than the Son of Man Himself coming with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days to receive dominion, glory and a kingdom which shall never be superseded nor destroyed, and this is at the time when the judgment is set (the same word in v. 9, not “cast down” but “set”) and the books of final judgment are opened. To which scripture our Lord added the fact that the Son of Man would also have the right to SIT on the right hand of power and also to come in the clouds of heaven. This is precisely what He had said to the disciples. (See 24. 30).
So in this vision, we see God in bodily form, not here described but seen and worshipped even although God is Spirit, and also spirit beings, the angelic host, are seen likewise as well as the Son of Man. Such a claim enraged this court of earth, which should have been a representation of the court of heaven, such is the dignity of the people of God. This earthly court was about to fulfil the Lord’s own parables and cast out the Son Himself and treat Him in the most cruel, vicious and evil manner which could be devised. The reader will have no difficulty in tracing the course of the Roman Empire, which was soon to destroy Judaism and which would in turn be destroyed by God Himself, but which was to arise again in the last days for the final judgment. This most certainly did not happen during the years following A.D. 70. It lies still in the future and is described for us in the succeeding chapters of Daniel.
This claim sealed the doom (speaking after the manner of men) of the Son of Man. There was no further need of witnesses. He had made His own stupendous claim, which was indeed blasphemy if untrue. But, blessed be God, we know that it abides true throughout the ages.
It is this scene which is described for us in Revelation 5, but there it has the added blessedness and glory of being associated with Redemption. There is seen a great redeemed host, glorified and actually singing the song of redemption unto the Lamb before the Son of Man opens the books of judgment which are to fall upon that revived empire of Rome, in order to subdue the whole earth and bring in the universal kingdom and glory of the Lord Jesus.
Preceding this wonderful vision we have a similar scene in chapter 4 but this time occupied with the glory of creation and the Creator, not indeed mentioning redemp-tien but creation. There is the throne and the Sitter upon it and the four living creatures giving glory and honour unto the Sitter on the Throne and also, instead of angels, the twenty four elders, enthroned and crowned, and casting their crowns before the throne, as they worship Him that liveth for ever and ever. In the fifth chapter they worship (and they are the same company) on the ground of redemption, and sing the new song of redemption, but here (chapter 4) there is no song, and the theme is the glory of creation and the Creator. There is also a final scene of universal worship from heaven, earth and under the earth, which has certainly not taken place yet. It is a future scene. So we have Creation and Redemption eternally celebrated.
Travelling back into chapter 1 however, the Seer is given a preliminary Vision of this glorious Son of Man (v. 13) not yet glorified universally but coming in Judgment in the clouds of heaven, which scene we must place in between verses 10 and 13 of chapter 5 for in that chapter we do not have His actual coming described, but in chapter 1 we do have this sublime and awe inspiring event shewn to us, and with Him we have a sight of the redeemed who are also a kingdom of priests celebrating His eternal glory and dominion. This is the preliminary for the chapters which follow in which are added the details of His coming dominion, but here is described not only the redemption of the saints but the great love which accomplished it.
Going further back still, we must now draw attention to the vision and voice which struck to the ground the pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, following in the train of the evil Caiaphas and indeed with letters of authority from that very Sanhedrin to stamp out by every possible means the very Name of the Nazarene. A light which even at mid-day with the sun at meridian in the Eastern sky, outshone it and felled him to the ground and blinded him as he heard the voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” This was not a vision of the heavenly court certainly, but of the One who was and is the glory of it, the true shekinah outshining of glory, and this vision transformed this bigoted Jewish persecutor into the one who would serve, suffer and die for the Name which he once abhorred.
Further back still we have a scene upon which this persecutor had looked and which must have begun in him a work of conviction though not yet of conversion, but which caused him to kick against the pricks and urged him on to still further acts of rebellion and hostility, until arrested on the road to Damascus. And what had he seen ? A man taken up with the vision of the glorified Son of Man, and whose face shone as the face of an angel, as he cried, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God”. He saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on that right hand, a view surely, in some respects at least, like that vouchsafed to Daniel. Stephen had stood before the very same council before which the Son of Man had stood (doubtless with Caiaphas conducting the proceedings, see 4. 6) charging them with the murder of the Son of God, and he himself being charged with the very same indictment which had been levelled at the Lord Jesus, the destruction of the temple (compare Acts 6. 13, 14 2nd Matthew 26. 61) which was so soon to take place, but which is to rise again in order that the last scenes may take place when the “times of the Gentiles” will have run their course. Their history commenced associated with an image which all must bow down to and worship and will conclude with something similar, the image of the beast, which brings us back to Daniel 7. 11 (with Revelation 13. 4-14).
The practical value of these visions of the glorified Son of Man to these three men is the fact that it enabled them to minister this glorified Christ to others and also to lay down their lives for Him as martyrs.
Meantime let us rejoice that we are through His wonderful redemption eternally related to the One who went to death and judgment, not only of men, but of God also, to bring us to His eternal glory and to share His eternal throne.
THIS chapter you will find most simple: it is divided into three distinct subjects or sections; the first extends to to the end of v. 24; the second from vv. 24 to 27; the third from v. 28 to the end.
In the first section you find the rebuffs that the Lord Jesus met with in His ministry. In the second, the resources He found in the living God. In the third, the returns made to us. A person may say, I don’t understand what you mean by the Lord Jesus Christ meeting with rebuffs. Did you never read those words in Isaiah 49: “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and in vain ?” These words applied to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was the only perfect servant, the only perfect workman, the only perfect minister. He was a marvellous teacher and minister; but He met with rebuffs and disappointments. Did you never read those words in Psalm 69: “I looked for some to take pity but there was none, and for comforters but I found none ?” He passed through every sorrow and pain possible for any perfect human heart to feel. Don’t suppose that, because the Lord Jesus Christ was “over all, God blessed for ever” that He did not feel all these things as a perfect human heart would. We are apt sometimes to say, He was God, He did not feel things as I feel them. There is the mistake: He felt every single thing, not a single slight put on Him that He did not feel. What did He say to Simon the Pharisee ? “Thou gavest me no water for my feet; thou gavest me no kiss; my head with oil thou didst not anoint”. He felt every slight, and let me add, He feels it still: not only as to His person, but every slight we put on Him by indifference and coldness. His heart is jealous over our hearts; He wants our affections. He feels everything. He felt all the rebuffs; and what will you say when I tell you that the very first was administered to Him by no less a one than John the Baptist—think of John the Baptist administering the first rebuff to the heart of Christ. Look particularly at this question which John sends. I want you to lay hold of it; I say so because many say he sent the question for the sake of His disciples. No such thing: he sent the question because his own faith was wavering for a moment. That man that gave that brilliant, that magnificent, testimony to Christ, look at him ! Now, in the darkness of Herod’s prison realising death, he sends this message to the Lord, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” You may feel a difficulty in believing that John could waver like that; if you do, it is because you don’t know enough of that heart that beats in your bosom. You say, how could John the Baptist waver—that giant-like man who bore such a testimony to Christ, who talked to the Pharisees as he did, said he was only “a voice”—not worthy to unloose His shoes; and again, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the. sin of the world”: and again, “Behold the Lamb of God”: and again, “Ye yourselves bear me witness that I said I am not the Christ”. But here he is in the darkness of Herod’s prison, and his faith wavers. It is one thing to start in the fervency and power of a new life, but quite another, when we meet with rebuffs, to hold fast. Let me tell you that there is not a single one who has started in the path whose faith will not be tested—God loves us too well to leave us without trial. If you and I are going to follow Christ in the path of service, we must be prepared to go to the wall, to be put down in the gutter. Do you suppose I want to frighten you ? God forbid. I want you to feel the foundation under your feet; I want you to have such a sense of the heart of Christ that you may stand firm, come what may, for we are not going to have a smooth path. What then does. John’s message remind you of ? It reminds me of Elijah under the juniper tree. The man who had stood for God before all the prophets of Baal, the next moment under the juniper tree, fleeing from a woman. The most gigantic minister, the best servant, is like a falling leaf before the wind. What was the end of it ? Elijah is taken to heaven in a chariot of fire. He says, I am no better than other men; it is better to die than to live. What does the Lord say ? I’ll take you to heaven in a chariot of fire. So here the Lord Jesus Christ sent back this message to John, “Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see. The blind receive their sight .... And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me”. Do mark this most exquisite touch; I speak to those who can appreciate it. Here is the most exquisite touch to be found in Scripture.
You find this is a general principle in Scripture—the Lord never exposes us to others. He will expose us to ourselves, never to others. He’ll never expose us to a stranger. I want to dwell on this, it is a great practical truth; you see it all through Scripture. These disciples are going back; do you suppose the Lord Jesus Christ is going to expose their master to them ? Not at all, that’s not His Heart at all. He wants to speak to John’s conscience. How was it to be done ? He wants to send an arrow that will reach John’s heart, but He will enclose it in a case so delicate, that the disciples don’t know what they are carrying: it illustrates the wonderful grace of the heart, of the Lord. Whatever may be your infirmity He’ll never expose you to another, and He won’t allow another to deal with you; He’ll deal with you Himself. He sends back this message to John, “Go, show John,” etc. These signs ought to have been far more powerful than if He had put forth His power to deliver him. There is such a thing as power and sympathy. I suppose there is not one of us who has not some crook in his lot; it is a necessary ballast, we could not do without it. Perhaps you don’t know where your breakfast is to come from tomorrow morning. You know the Lord could find you in all you want. Why does He not do it ? I ask you a question. Which would you rather have, the power of His hand, or the sympathy of His heart ? You say, The sympathy of His heart. Well, you would not have that if you had the power of His hand. Like Paul, the Lord says, I can’t take away the thorn, I’ll do something better, “My grace is sufficient for thee, and My strength is made perfect in weakness.” If I take away the thorn you will get something worse. Perhaps you are looking at the weak constitution of your family circle, or something in your business, some person you have to do with that is a constant grating, going on day after day. Perhaps you are disposed to think there could not be a more trying temper, that you could get on with anyone better than just that person, his or her temper is so dreadful. You would like to have a change. If you get from under that, you’ll get something worse. Victory over yourself is what you want; a change won’t do. The reason why you find that disposition so trying to you is because your own will has not been subdued. One once said, saints in domestic life were like bottles in a basket: if they had not plenty of hay round them they were always jarring together. They get on very well in meeting-rooms, and seem all that’s nice there, but put them together in domestic life, and you find out what they are. They are like the cogs of a machine, grating together, they want a little more oil. I see it constantly in visiting, for people are ever ready to pour out their sad tales into your ear. I see constantly that saints, when they come together in domestic life, cannot get on at all, because there is not self-subjugation, self-judgment. People say charity must begin at home. I say, self-judgment must begin at home, too.
Mark this, the Lord Jesus Christ never exposes you to another, so he sends back this message to John. Don’t you see that everything is being done, this work and that work, and blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me”. That is the very point of the arrow—that was for John’s own heart. Don’t you see he would not let anyone else do the work ? Don’t you remember the case of Abraham and Abimelech (Gen. 20) ? Abraham was quite wrong, but will God allow Abimelech to tell him ? No, on the contrary, He says, take care what you do with that man, he is a servant of Mine; I won’t let you touch him. God throws a mantle over him. If he were to fail ten thousand times over, He says, I would not let you touch him, but you must be a debtor to his prayers, for the restoration of your household.
DANIEL is a fine picture of what a Christian servant ought to be. There he was, away down in Babylon, far from the home of his boyhood, serving an ungodly master, and in the midst of ungodly fellow-servants. But Daniel shone as a light amid the darkness: he lived for God. Three times a day—and that was no doubt as often as he could leave his duties—he went away up to his chamber, and there dropped on his knees in prayer (Dan. 6. 10). Would to God that all Christian young men in situations were like him -- How it would keep them fresh and bright for the Lord; and how it would strengthen and sustain their souls to live and work for Him! Do you make it a fixed thing in your every-day life, young believer, to get some part of every day alone with God ? Do you seek, like this young man, during your dinner hour, or whenever you can get it, to get a little while on your knees speaking to your heavenly Father ? I’m afraid some forget to do this. You see them too often idling away their time at the street corner. No wonder they get cold and become backsliders. All backsliding begins by neglecting prayer, and meditation on the Word of God— the two grand sustainers of the life of God in the soul.
Think, too, of Daniel’s life and character among men. He got a better situation than any of his fellow-servants, because an “excellent spirit” was found in him. His godliness did not make him cross or selfish, but the contrary. Do you manifest an “excellent spirit”, young believer, among your fellow-servants ? Does your employer see by your subjection, and willingness to obey, that you are really what you profess to be—a Christian ? This is what ought to be—what God commands (Eph. 6. 5, 8; 1 Peter 2. 18)—and what was seen in Daniel.
Look, too, at his walk and conduct. They tried to find occasion against him—to pick a flaw in his character. They watched him closely, to see if they could challenge him for inconsistent conduct. They kept their eyes open to see if he made any blunders in his work, or if he smuggled any of his master’s money or time; and they watch you too, believer. Well, did they manage? Ah, no! Hear what the testimony is: “They couud find none occasion nor fault, forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him” (Daniel 6. 4).
Noble Daniel! truly he was a son of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation. O that there were more like him: young men and women, whose employers and fellow-employees should have to say—“They are faithful—they are the best servants in the house— they are truly Christians”. This is what is wanted—less of a loud profession, and more of the Daniel type of living and acting for God. This will commend the gospel, help on the Lord’s work and gain the Master’s smile at that day.
ONE thing is certain regarding the above subject namely that if the Lord was not divine, in distinction from all others who have been born of women, He would have refused in no uncertain way the worship and adoration which men gave unto Him. Paul and Barnabas, when the men at Lystra would have given them divine honours, rent their clothes, and ran in among the people beseeching them to turn from such vanities, and they instructed the people that worship belonged to God only, the One who made the heavens and the earth, and all things therein. (Acts 14).
What shall we say then to Peter’s confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”, or to Thomas’s confession, “My Lord and my God”, if He was not as the Scriptures affirm, “Emmanuel”, “God with us”. To Peter the Lord replied, “Blessed art thou Simon, son of Jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven”. And to Thomas the Lord said, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (Matt. 16; John 20).
Job’s confession, “Behold I am vile”; Isaiah’s cry, “Woe is me for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips”; Peter’s entreaty, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”; are but instances of the felt unworthiness of all holy men and women of God when in the presence of their Maker. (Job 40; Isa. 6; Luke 5).
The Lord’s own references to Himself however stand in direct contrast to the above, “Which of you,” said He to the Jews, “convicteth Me of sin ?” His statement that He came “from above”, that He had a glory with the
Father before the world was; that all judgment is committed to Him, are but examples. (John chs. 8 and 17). Such declarations as: “I am the Light of the world”; “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”; “I am the Resurrection and the Life” would be impiety or blasphemy on the lips of any created being however exalted. Truly, never man spake like this Man. Even angels refuse worship, yet of the Son of God it is written, “Let all the angels of God worship Him”. Also that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father. (John 5; 8; 11; 14; Heb. 1; Phil. 2; Rev. 22).
That the Lord was a good man none can doubt. His abundant works of healing and mercy, His wisdom and teaching, His exposure of hypocrisy show this to be so. The reason why men rejected His testimony was because they loved darkness rather than light. As the Lord said, “Everyone that is of the truth heareth My voice” (John chapters 3 and 18).
John the Baptist, who in moral dignity and greatness exceeded all who were before him in the prophetic office, realised an essential difference between himself and the One whom he announced to Israel as “the Lamb of God bearing away the sin of the world”. This One coming after him, was preferred before him, whose shoe latchet John confessed he was not worthy to stoop down and unloose. (Mark 1; John 1).
We must not think that the Deity of Christ is confined to the careful grammatical analysis of a few Scripture texts. The Deity of Christ is interwoven throughout the Scriptures, and those who deny this living truth or direct souls to other names than His for salvation deceive themselves and divest the gospel of its saving and life giving power.
Moses wrote of Me, said the Lord; David also in the Psalms, and the Spirit of Christ was in the prophets of old testifying beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow; and the apostle John reveals the culmination when in heaven angelic hosts join with the redeemed in ascribing blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. (Luke 24; 1 Peter 1; Rev. 4 and 5).
King Solomon in his prayer at the dedication of the temple said, “Will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth ?” and as if in direct answer thereto the apostle when writing of the Lord Jesus says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”. (2 Chron. 6; John 1).
The Lord once asked His disciples when some were offended at His words and walked no more with Him, “Will ye also go away ?” And Peter’s earnest reply was: “Lord, to whom shall we go ? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the Holy One of God”. And blessed are those who likewise believe, and are assured by God’s Spirit in their hearts that no one else could redeem them from their lost estate and bring them to His eternal kingdom and glory. (John 6).
Is it any wonder that Peter when proclaiming the gospel later said: “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).