We have already noticed that Psalm 18 may be divided into two parts: David’s deliverance from his enemies, vv.1-27, and David’s destruction of his enemies, vv.28-50. In our first paper we confined ourselves to vv.1-6, and noted: David’s Deliverer, vv.1-3, and David’s distress, vv.4-6, leaving us now to address: David’s deliverance, vv.7-19 and David’s integrity, vv.20-27. We come therefore to:
David’s Deliverance – vv.7-19
The vivid imagery in this section is reminiscent of the phenomena accompanying God’s presence at Sinai, Ex.19.16-20. Compare "the earth shook and trembled" v.7, with "the whole mount quaked greatly" Ex.19.18. Compare "there went up a smoke out of His nostrils" v.8, with "mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke" Ex.19.18. Compare "fire out of His mouth devoured" v.8, with "the LORD descended upon it in fire" Ex.19.18. Compare "He bowed the heavens also, and came down" v.9, with "And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai" Ex.19.20. Compare "the Highest gave His voice" v.13, with "God answered him by a voice" Ex.19.19.
As far as we are aware, David’s deliverance was not accompanied by the audible, visible and tangible evidences of God’s presence at Sinai, but He was present in mighty power to save His servant. The language used here suggests a violent storm. The "smoke" v.8, suggests a thundercloud; the "fire out of His mouth" v.8, suggests sheet lightning; the "pavilion round about Him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies" v.11, suggests rain-clouds. It is a poetical picture of God’s wrath. "Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because He was wroth" v.7. The suggestion that David is using figurative language here is supported by v.16, "He drew me out of many waters", referring to deliverance from "the floods of ungodly men" v.4. We should notice God’s intense anger against those that ill-treat His people. He cares deeply about His children. "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye" Zech.2.8. We should notice the following:
"Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because He was wroth" v.7. (A similar statement is found in 2Sam.22.8, with "the foundations of heaven" instead of "the foundations of the hills"). Nothing can impede His will. He moves heaven and earth to defend and deliver His people.
"There went up a smoke out of His nostrils, and fire out of His mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it" v.8. Fire is an emblem of judgment. Compare Ps.21.9, "Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of Thine anger: the LORD shall swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them". Smoke is also used as an emblem of judgment in Deut.29.20: "The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy shall smoke against that man". According to Keil and Delitzsch, "the figurative idea is that of snorting or violent breathing, which indicates the rising of wrath. Smoke is followed by fire …"
"He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under His feet" v.9. "As in a storm the dark clouds seem to lower and almost touch the earth, so had God stooped in His wrath to deal with His enemies" (J. Flanigan).
"And He rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, He did fly upon the wings of the wind" v.10. The cherubim form the Lord’s chariot. See Ezekiel chapter 1, which describes the body, vv.9-14, the wheels, vv.15-21, the purity, vv.22-25, the throne, v.26, and the Occupant, vv.27,28, of the chariot. Note that the "living creatures [the cherubim: see Ezek.10.1] ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning" v.14.
"He made darkness His secret place; His pavilion round about Him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies" v.11. "God in His wrath withdraws His face from man. He envelops Himself in clouds" (Keil and Delitzsch). He is unseen to natural eyes, although one day "every eye" will see Christ, the Son of God, when He "cometh with clouds" Rev.1.7.
"At the brightness that was before Him His thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave His voice; hail stones and coals of fire. Yea, He sent out His arrows, and scattered them; and He shot out lightnings, and discomfited them" vv.12-14. The "arrows" evidently refer to hail. Compare Rev.8.7.
"Then the channels of the waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at Thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of Thy nostrils. He sent from above, He took me, He drew me out of many waters [possibly alluding to the rescue of Moses from the Nile]. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me. They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay. He brought me forth also into a large place; He delivered me, because He delighted in me" vv.15-19. Having been threatened by "the floods of ungodly men" v.4, David testified to Divine deliverance: "He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me" vv.16,17. Through this experience David was faced with his own inadequacy and proved his own words: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" Ps.46.1. How much we need to realise our own weakness and limitations, and trust implicitly in the Lord.
‘Tis what I know of Thee, my Lord and God,
That fills my soul with peace, my lips with song;
Thou art my health, my joy, my staff and rod;
Leaning on Thee in weakness I am strong.
The Lord answered David’s prayer: "I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: He heard my voice" v.6. It was Divine deliverance: "He sent from above, He took me, He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me ... He brought me forth also into a large place; He delivered me …" vv.16-19. "Salvation is of the LORD"! Jonah 2.9. He is well able to answer the prayers of His people. David found himself in "distress", that is, in a narrow, straitened position, v.6. J. Baldwin calls it ‘straits’ or ‘tight corners’. But now he is in "a large place" v.19. There seemed no way out in vv.5,6, but now he is no longer hemmed in by enemies and enjoys perfect liberty.
The language here is strikingly reminiscent of events at the Red Sea. The words, "the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night" Ex.14.21, are converted into poetic language here: "Then the channels [beds] of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered [uncovered] at Thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of Thy nostrils" v.15. Israel certainly seemed to be "in distress" in Exodus chapter 14. Moses told the Lord that Pharaoh would say "they are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in" v.3. But after their deliverance Israel sang, ""Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance" Ex.15.17. That could certainly be described as "a large place"! Israel could rightly say, "He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that hated me: for they were too strong for me" v.17. Pharaoh pursued Israel with "six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them" Ex.14.7.
David’s Integrity – vv.20-27
The closing section of this part of the song expands the words, "He delivered me, because He delighted in me" v.19. There are two paragraphs: firstly, David speaks personally, vv.20-24; secondly, David speaks generally, vv.25-27.
David Speaks Personally – vv.20-24
The paragraph begins and ends with reference to David’s "righteousness" and "cleanness": "The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath He recompensed me" v.20; "Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His eyesight" v.24. We must not think that David is taking credit for his deliverance. As Keil and Delitzsch observe, "the ‘righteousness’ and ‘cleanness of hands’, i.e. the innocence, which David attributed to himself were not perfect righteousness or holiness before God, but the righteousness of his endeavours and deeds as contrasted with the unrighteousness and wickedness of his adversaries and pursuers, and consisted in the fact that he endeavoured earnestly and sincerely to walk in the ways of God and to keep the Divine commandments". In particular, he had refused to kill Saul, and waited for the Lord to vindicate him, 1Sam.26.8-11. His deliverance from all his enemies was proof that he had acted rightly. See Ps.66.18,19: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: but verily God hath heard me; He hath attended to the voice of my prayer". Although surrounded by enemies, vv.4-6, David was amongst those who "commit their souls in well-doing to a faithful Creator" 1Pet.4.19, J.N.D.
David’s words, "my righteousness" and the "cleanness of my hands" are explained in vv.21-23. We should notice three positives and three negatives in these verses, forming three pairs. In each pair, the positives are put first: "I have kept the ways of the LORD … all His judgments were before me … I was also upright before Him". The negatives follow: "I … have not wickedly departed from my God … I did not put away His statutes from me ... I kept myself from mine iniquity." Compare Ps.45.7: "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness …" Love for God’s will and God’s Word is the best bulwark against sin.
David Speaks Generally – vv.25-27
This paragraph illustrates Gal.6.7: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap". Notice the law of sowing and reaping here: "With the merciful Thou wilt shew Thyself merciful; with an upright man Thou wilt shew Thyself upright; with the pure Thou wilt shew Thyself pure; and with the froward [‘perverse’ J.N.D.] Thou wilt shew Thyself froward [‘contrary’ J.N.D.]" vv.25,26. The parallel passage, 2Sam.22.27, reads, "with the froward Thou wilt shew Thyself unsavoury [‘contrary’ J.N.D.]". This reminds us of the words of Azariah to Asa: "The LORD is with you, while ye be with Him" 2Chr.15.1,2. While it seems that David wrote this song before his moral aberration in 2Samuel chapter 11 (remember that 2Samuel chapters 21-24 are an appendix and cover various periods in his reign), he lived to prove the accuracy of all these statements, including the last: "with the froward Thou wilt shew Thyself froward".
The paragraph ends with a contrast between the humble and the haughty. "For Thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks" v.27. The expression "the afflicted people" is used to describe "the pious and depressed in the nation" and "high looks" describes "the godless rich and mighty in the nation" (Keil and Delitzsch). Peter reminds us that "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" 1Pet.5.5. "Though the LORD be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly: but the proud He knoweth afar off" Ps.138.6.
On the basis of our present lifestyle, do we have the moral right to count on God’s help? The principle remains: "Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded" Jms.4.8. Only then can we say, "For Thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. For by Thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall" vv.28,29.
Having considered David’s deliverance from his enemies, vv.1-27, we will turn our attention in our next paper, God willing, to David’s destruction of his enemies, vv.28-50.
The two questions and answers below have been submitted by a reader, who, with many others, is burdened about current trends, and who desires that the truth stated in these answers be brought to the attention of the people of God. The questions and answers are from the book "Bible Problems and Answers" by William Hoste and William Rodgers, published by and available from "Ritchie Christian Media", whose permission for their use here is gratefully acknowledged.
Is it right to address the Lord, in prayer and praise as "You", rather than as "Thou", as some occasionally do, and as certain hymns are worded, e.g. "I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord – I’ll be what You want me to be," etc.?
Certainly the general custom has always been to address the Lord as "Thou", but then the question arises whether this custom is based on Scriptural usage? In the case of the prayer which the Lord taught His disciples, the Father is addressed all through in the second person singular – "Thou", and this may well serve as a model for us, though it is true that the prayer, not being offered in the Name of the Lord Jesus, lacks something appropriate to the present dispensation. It was certainly never intended to be used as a sort of conventional formula at the close of every public exercise of prayer, as it is to-day in some circles, sometimes twice or thrice in the same morning. Surely this is to make a repetition of what was specially given to avoid such. The disciples’ request was not, "Teach us a prayer" but, "Teach us to pray." "After this manner pray" were our Lord’s words. When we come to the recorded prayers of our Lord in the Gospels, e.g., His prayer at the grave of Lazarus (John 11.41,42), or that offered in the next chapter, verses 27 and 28, or once more, His sacerdotal prayer in chapter 17, we find that He always addresses His Father in the second person, singular – "Thou". The same is true of the apostolic prayers of Acts 1.24, "Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men", and chapter 4.24, where the apostles address God as, "Thou art God which hast made heaven", etc. Likewise the prayer of Stephen in chapter 7.60, "Lord, Iay not this sin to their charge", is literally, "Lord, lay not Thou this, etc." The same is true of praise in Psalms or Songs like Simeon’s (Luke 2.29; see also the songs of the elders in Revelation 4.11 and of them and the four living beings in chapter 5.9). Those of Mary and Zacharias are in the third person. We conclude that the general custom is right and not to be departed from. Hymn-books are not always models of good English or true poetry or sound doctrine, and ought to be revised, if they depart from the standard of God’s Word. We should instinctively shrink from anything common or familiar in addressing the Great God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Can we approach the Lord Jesus to worship Him apart from the Father?
We are on holy ground when considering any aspect of divine truth, but especially do we need to approach "with unshod feet," when it is a question of the Being of God! We can only know what He is pleased to reveal, and even then it is "as in a glass darkly" and "in part". There is one God – that is, one Divine Essence; but in that unity there are three Divine Persons or Subsistencies, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; co-equal, co-eternal and co-substantial: that is, each of the three possesses the whole Divine substance. We must neither divide the substance, nor confound the persons. These three Persons are in necessary relations to one another, and it is important not to confound these relations. Each possesses the Personal properties essential to Himself, and which cannot be predicated of or communicated to the others. Thus it belongs to the Father to "beget": His are the eternal counsels; the Son is the Only-begotten, the Incarnate One; He alone suffered for sin. The Spirit proceedeth from the Father and the Son. The Spirit reveals the Son, by whom the Father is declared or interpreted. Now, it is not derogating from one Divine Person to refrain from attributing to Him what the Holy Scriptures assign to Another. Thus we never read of worship being offered to the Holy Spirit, though He is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, eternal, divine as the Father and the Son. But we do read, even in the days of His humiliation, of worship being rendered to the Lord Jesus, and He accepted it. And in Revelation, e.g., chapter 5 verses 8,12,13, Divine worship is paid to the Lamb in heaven. Nevertheless, the Lord proclaims in John 4.23,24, that the true worshippers will worship the Father, and that it is the "Father" who is seeking worshippers – "God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." The apostle Paul indicates, too, in that pregnant verse (Eph.2.18), the true Divine order. "Through Him (Christ Jesus) we both (believers from Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit unto the Father." The Lord is the way to the Father and the substance of worship; the Spirit the power; the Father the recipient of the worship of the people.
Luke’s Gospel opens with "a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth" Lk.1.5. An angel appeared to Zacharias, when he was within the temple, and said "Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John" Lk.1.13. It is most unlikely that Zacharias and Elisabeth were still actively praying for a son, given their advanced years! But their earlier heartfelt prayer exercise is now to be answered. However Zacharias, even when engaged in sacred responsibilities, with an angel before him, hearing the first direct communication from God for some four hundred years, proves to be a disbelieving Levite. He is then rendered a dumb Levite until John the Baptist is born. This incident reminds us that if our sincere prayers are not answered immediately, it does not mean they will never be answered! Is there a person, or a spiritual exercise, that you have stopped praying for?
It is Luke who also describes, in what we call ‘the parable of the good Samaritan’, a disinterested Levite who "passed by on the other side" Lk.10.31,32. This is an integral part of the Lord’s answer to a lawyer’s self-justifying question "And who is my neighbour?" Lk.10.29. This teaches that we should take an active interest in the welfare of others, seeking their spiritual and eternal as well as their temporal blessing.
How encouraging that Luke’s Gospel ends with the Lord Jesus Christ lifting His hands in priestly blessing and His voice to provide direction. The result was that the apostles "were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God" Lk.24.53. That, and subsequent history, showed that they were not disbelieving, dumb nor disinterested. Nor should we be either!
LEVI – IN THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
In the years after Pentecost there was a notable convert from the tribe of Levi: "And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is being interpreted, "The son of consolation,") a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet" Acts 4.36,37. A detailed consideration of the range and quality of Barnabas’ Levite-type service for the Lord is recommended as a profitable study. Often the focus is on his parting from Paul, Acts 15.36-41. However, some years later, Paul joined Barnabas’ name with his own in vindication of his principled position regarding material support, 1Cor.9.6. The service of Barnabas, as that of Paul, was marked by what they could put into the work of God, not by what they could get out of it! Men with such pure motives in service are very valuable. "Bless the LORD, O house of Levi: Ye that fear the LORD, bless the LORD" Ps.135.20.
LEVI – IN HEBREWS
Not surprisingly, given the subject matter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we have abundant reference to priestly service and, in Heb.7.5,9, specifically to that of the sons of Levi. However, as those references are not relevant to the historical overview, with its focus on tribal characteristics, they are not commented upon here.
LEVI – THE FUTURE
The tribe will have an important role in the future millennial kingdom. This will follow on from Israel’s national mourning and repentance for their former rejection, and the death, of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their mourning will include that of "the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart" Zech.12.13. Indeed, the future service of Levi will be characteristic of all true worship and tribute then: "I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the LORD" Isa.66.21. Then there will be continuity of service: "Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually" Jer.33.18.
There is also a close association between the future rule of the Davidic line and the service of the house of Levi. God promises that while day and night continue there will be a ruler of the lineage of David upon the throne; and God’s covenant will also be unbroken "with the Levites the priests, My ministers" Jer.33.21. In addition, "As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David My servant, and the Levites that minister unto Me" Jer.33.22.
Faithfulness leading to future reward is ever a Divine principle. So it will be for "the priests the Levites that be of the seed of Zadok" who will have responsibility for approaching the altar of the millennial temple, Ezek.43.19. That honour recognises the earlier faithfulness of their ancestors. "But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near to Me to minister unto Me, and they shall stand before Me to offer unto Me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord GOD" Ezek.44.15.
It is also a Divine principle that unfaithfulness has future consequences. Those descended from "Levites that are gone away far from Me, when Israel went astray, which went astray away from Me after their idols; they shall even bear their iniquity" Ezek.44.10, are therefore given less prominent responsibilities in the millennial temple.
Degrees of reward, or loss, are therefore determined by degrees of faithfulness. The foregoing also emphasises that our decisions and choices made in relation to present testimony have potential implications for succeeding generations, for good or ill.
Not surprisingly, the Levites, like the priests, are assigned territory in the division of the land in relation to their service at the millennial Temple, Ezek.40.46; 45.5; 48.10-20,22. This Temple and its service, like that of the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple, is an interesting subject, but is not for our consideration here. One of the three gates on the north side of Jerusalem will bear the name "Levi" Ezek.48.31, alongside those of Reuben and Judah. Not being alongside that called "Simeon" is a further fulfilment of Jacob’s prophecy, "I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel", Gen.49.7.
God’s purpose, even in times of the nation’s departure and sin, is "that My covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts" Mal.2.4. God always remembered the tribe of Levi’s loyalty to Him when Israel sinned with the golden calf; and the loyalty of Phinehas when Israel sinned morally at the instigation of Balaam. Hence He anticipates a day of national refining and cleansing: "And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years" Mal.3.3,4. In that day there will be no more failure and then the Divine intention will be fulfilled: "For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts"; and never again will it be said, "Ye have caused many to stumble at the law; Ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi" Mal.2.7,8. But we must not miss the practical teaching of the final Old Testament prophecy, which reminds the tribe of Levi in particular that failure to live up to privilege will turn blessings into condemnation.
The tribe of Levi will also contribute twelve thousand to the one hundred and forty-four thousand faithful servants of God in Rev.7.7. Here, in God’s grace, they are listed beside those of Simeon!
LEVI – FURTHER STUDY
We have been careful not to digress into consideration of the detail of Tabernacle or Temple service performed by those of the tribe of Levi. Nor have we considered character studies on the life and times of Moses, Aaron, Eleazar, Phinehas, Samuel, Zadok, Jehoiada, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jeshua, Ezra, John the Baptist or Barnabas, to name but a few of Levi’s greatest sons. These are all suggested as subjects for valuable study, as is the Mount of Transfiguration. If Elijah was indeed of Levi (as per Jewish tradition), then, with Moses, it was two noble sons of Levi who had the unparalleled privilege of speaking face to face with the incarnate Son of God about a subject that eternity itself shall never exhaust.
LEVI – THE NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATION
As indicated when considering Simeon, examination of James’ practical application would await our review of "Levi the man" and "Levi the tribe", given the close association between these two tribes in Jacob’s prophecy and its outworking in their subsequent tribal history.
In our next paper we shall therefore consider James’ teaching in relation to Simeonite and Levite character traits.
"Seek those things which are above" Colossians 3.1
"Set your affection on things above" Colossians 3.2
This world is not our home: we have become increasingly conscious of that since conversion. The Saviour said twice in His prayer to His Father, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" Jn.17.14,16.
Since we have known the transforming grace of God in salvation, we have come to recognise heaven as home; we are citizens of the celestial city and soon to populate the Paradise of God.
Then, fulness of joy will be ours and the everlasting pleasures at His right hand will be sampled by our satisfied souls eternally. "Earth’s sad story will be closed in glory, on yon shore"; the dark clouds that hung so low in our sky will give way to the brightness of that unclouded day. There will be no night there and sin and sorrow can never enter that blest abode.
Best of all, the Lamb is there and we shall see His blessed face.
Oh, what a prospect! How, how can we cling
To earth’s dark dream, when such a hope is given?
Oh may we from this hour, on faith-plumed wing,
No longer cling to earth, but soar to yon bright heaven!
"Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you." 1Peter 5.7
Are you in circumstances that make you question His love and care? Do you, like Peter, and the other disciples, ask in the depths of your depression and despondency, "Carest Thou not?" Have you begun to wonder if there is any point in continuing to pray? Maybe, a beloved saint reading just now, feels like Jonah, "It is better for me to die than to live" Jonah 4.3.
My brother, my sister, "He careth for you"; it really means that you matter to Him; your concerns are His concerns. He will lend a listening ear and He is touched in all the tenderness of His sympathetic heart.
Have you forgotten the weeping Christ of Bethany; the compassionate Man Who took Jairus’ daughter by the hand and presented her alive to her grieving parents? Have you forgotten the love which led Him all the way to Calvary for you? Should we not look again and again at the nail-pierced hands Thomas saw, until we learn just how much He cares?
Ephesians chapter 4 is the bridge between the doctrinal part of the letter, chapters 1-3, and the practical part of the letter, chapters 5,6. Vv.1-16 are largely doctrinal whereas vv.17-32 are largely practical.
Paul appreciated that it is difficult to unite people who are from different backgrounds. In Ephesus the Christians were largely Greeks who had been converted from paganism, but the other churches were predominantly Jewish. Tensions were inevitable not only within churches composed of Jew and Gentile but between churches of diverse backgrounds. He knew that the Jewish believers would find it hard to get over their disdain for people from pagan cultures. They had been reared to believe that they were superior to other peoples because of God’s choice of Israel and the promises God had given Israel. Greeks on the other hand were proud of Greek culture and learning. Their language was read and spoken throughout the world and came to be the language of the New Testament. They would find it hard to co-operate with people who had a superiority complex since they had one as well!
Paul therefore encourages the Ephesians to be patient with one another, vv.2,3, and to focus on what they had in common, vv.3-6. Paul lists a number of truths they could unite around. These are arranged in triplets.
One Body – God had united all Christians. This idea is expressed in the picture of a body. Although a body has many parts, the parts together make one body. In Ephesians the "body" is a figure of speech for all Christians, for example, 1.23; 4.12,16. Elsewhere the body is a metaphor for a company of Christians in a specific location, 1Cor.12.27. Here he is focussed on the bigger picture. He is teaching that all Christians form part of one universal Church. The negative aspect of this truth is that the Ephesians should no longer view themselves as part of the religious groups to which they formerly belonged.
One Spirit – it is interesting that even when he is trying to focus on unity Paul does not seek to focus on one God, Deut.6.4, the Shema. Instead he focuses on the Trinity, three persons united in one. The first person is the Spirit. The Spirit is mentioned before the Lord Jesus and the Father in keeping with the idea that in the Church age the Spirit is prominent. He has taken on the role occupied by Christ of unifying the disciples. Paul may also have been pointing out that, in contrast to the many gods of paganism and the evil spirits that lay behind them, there was one Spirit, the "Spirit of truth".
One Hope – the hope arises from "the calling" of the Christians. In the New Testament the "calling" of the Christian occurs at salvation, see v.1 where "vocation" means ‘calling’. Just as Jesus called the disciples from their old lives to follow Him, so believers are called by God to serve Him. However, specifically this refers to the hope of final salvation in our resurrection and final deliverance through the gospel. The Lord Jesus expressed the same idea when He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life". The only way to salvation is through the gospel.
One Lord – this refers to the Lord Jesus. The Bible places this triplet of statements in v.5. Identifying Him as Lord rather than the Lord Jesus or as Christ is probably designed to draw attention to His authority as Lord. Hence Christians have only one Master and own allegiance to no other.
One Faith – sometimes the Bible refers to personal faith which is the faith of each believer. Sometimes it speaks of the faith as a name for the body of doctrine which Christians accept. It makes better sense to interpret this verse as a reference to the latter. This is because there is only one faith, i.e. one body of doctrine. By contrast there are many faiths in the sense that there are many Christians who have faith. See as follows: "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" Jude 3; "… in the latter times some shall depart from the faith" 1Tim.4.1. Paul does not here specify what doctrines comprise "the faith". Some passages indicate the scope of fundamental truth, e.g. Heb.6.1b; Acts 2.41,42.
One Baptism – One baptism probably refers to the fact that for Christians there is only one type of baptism, which is in the name of the Lord Jesus and by immersion. There were other baptisms in New Testament times, for example, the baptism of John, but only one that identified the believer with the Lord. While it may mean baptism in the Spirit, this truth would sit more comfortably in the preceding triplet, which is linked with the Spirit.
One God – here is the last member of the Godhead, the Father. The structure here is different. He stands alone rather than being bracketed with other truths. Three of His attributes are identified. He is "above all", which refers to His pre-eminence, He is "through all", which refers to His power to achieve His ends through man, whether they are aware of this or not, and "in you all", which refers to His presence in the believer.
The Ephesian Epistle was written when, despite the efforts of the Judaisers, there was still a visible unity in the Church. The consensus of belief and practice that this depended upon gradually eroded. Paul’s later Epistles show how the apostle dealt with the situation where the teaching of the apostles was rejected, 1Tim.6.3-5; 2Tim.2.16,21,23; 3.14; 4.2. A common belief in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; a common salvation and hope of heaven; a common baptism in the name of Jesus Christ and a common adherence to "the faith" is the foundation of unity between Christians.
THE CHURCH – ITS DIVERSITY OF GIFTS
The section vv.7-16 shows that a united Church is also a diverse Church. The Lord Jesus is depicted, using words adapted from Psalm 68, as a victor who returns from battle with prisoners, "He led captivity captive", and hands out gifts as spoils of war to His people, "gave gifts unto men". The reference to "captives" is simply part of the image of a triumphant victor drawn from the Psalm and is not intended to suggest that the Lord actually took prisoners to heaven. The gifts are likened to the spiritual gifts Christ gave to the Church after His ascension. In Psalm 68 the capital city to which the victor returns is Jerusalem, on Mount Zion. Paul draws the analogy with Christ returning to heaven. He makes the point that the One Who ascended up "on high" (to heaven) is the One Who first descended to earth. The expression the "lower parts of the earth" was interpreted by the ‘Church fathers’ to mean the realm of the dead. Reading this passage with 1Pet.3.19,20 they believed that the Lord Jesus after death went into hell and delivered the saints from their captivity, "the spirits in prison", and took them to heaven. A surprising amount of Bible teachers still follow this view. A simpler way of looking at the passage is to interpret "on high" and "the lower parts of the earth" as representing on the one hand a place of glorification and on the other as a place of humiliation. The Lord was born in humiliating circumstances in Bethlehem, He was reared in Nazareth, a disreputable town, and He was crucified at Calvary, where criminals were executed. While the counterpart of heaven might be thought to be hell, it is unthinkable that the Lord would be dispatched to a "prison" for the spirits of the dead after His sufferings on the cross. Moreover, such a view contradicts His statement that after death He would go to "Paradise" Lk.23.43, an expression that describes heaven itself, 2Cor.12.4. There is no indication He descended into the spirit world during the forty days prior to the ascension, far less ‘upper hades’ or ‘lower hades’, expressions which do not appear in Scripture.
In other passages gifts are described as miraculous endowments of the Spirit, 1Cor.12.8. Here the gifts are identified with the men whom God has gifted. The ambit of gift here is narrower than that in Rom.12.4-8 since it is confined to public gifts and those who exercised them. Apostles, if the examples of Paul and Peter are anything to go by, possessed a variety of gifts and a leadership role over the whole Church. Prophets were God’s spokesmen and spoke directly for God to the people without requiring to read and interpret Scripture. Evangelists preached the gospel. Pastors and teachers refer to one gift. He was a "pastor" or shepherd, as well as a teacher. This combination of shepherd care meant they taught in a way that benefited the people of God. In this section it is clear that these gifts are to the Church as a whole. Thus while each is a member of a local church, their ministry was for the benefit of the whole Christian community. The purpose behind these gifts is so that the Church might grow, 4.12, until the day when God’s purpose is complete and the Church is taken to heaven, 4.13,30. The ultimate maturity of the Church will be a work of God and will not depend on gift. Only then will the Church reach full maturity and each saint acquire a perfect knowledge of the Son of God. This will occur at the resurrection of the saints and rapture of the Church. In the meanwhile He has given gifts to assist the Church reach its potential.
THE CHURCH – ITS DIFFERENCE IN LIFESTYLE
From 4.17 onwards to the end of the letter Paul speaks about the practical issues of life. Christians should be different from society around them. We do not party or strive after wealth, v.19. The "old man" with his tastes and behaviour should be "put off" just as an item of clothing is put off, v.22. We should strive to "put on the new man". In one sense this occurred on salvation, Col.3.10, when in God’s eyes the "old man" who was associated with Adam was put off and we "put on" the "new man" who is associated with Christ. In practical terms the old man is linked with our old nature which is still present within each believer. The flesh needs to be "put off". V.25 describes the soiled clothing of lying, anger, dishonesty and bad language. This can be exchanged for the clean clothes of truthfulness, good temper, honesty and pure speech. From 4.30 we learn that God is not indifferent to our behaviour. The Spirit is "grieved" when we sin. In conclusion he points out that we should not be ‘mouthy’. The angry and bitter language which belongs to the world should give way to behaviour which is kind, gentle and forgiving.
God does not intend the Christian life to be lived in a vacuum.
The old has to be discarded and the flesh ruthlessly dealt with. However there is a new attire to be clothed with, that which speaks of the graces of Christ, for God would have us all to be like His Son.
Such features will help us in the assembly to maintain an atmosphere of love and respect. They will help us in the family whether wives, husbands or children and they will govern our behaviour in the work place as well.
Wherever we are and whatever relationship we are found in, we represent the name of the Lord Jesus, 3.17.
This ought to cause our hearts to well up in thanksgiving to the Father through Christ, Whose peace rules in our hearts.
Graces of Christ Adorning Us, vv.12-14
What we have to put on is in keeping with what we are before God. We are the subjects of Divine election ("elect of God"), sanctification ("holy") and affection ("beloved"), v.12, and certain Christ-like characteristics need to be displayed. Divine activity toward us is such that we are chosen ("who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?"), chaste (sharing in God’s purity means abstaining from earth’s defilement) and cherished (the direction of God’s will to the object of His joy) but this demands a positive response. We are to have a heart of compassion which demonstrates a practical goodness and tender consideration of others. Kindness is grace which pervades the whole nature mellowing all that would have been harsh and austere. There is to be genuine lowliness of mind, which is the acceptance of the yoke of Christ, Matt.11.29,30 and the kindness He shows even to the unthankful and the evil, Lk.6.35. This is coupled with the ability to maintain control of personal strength demonstrating that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us without disputing or resisting. Longsuffering shows patience with respect to persons and forbearance bears up under pressure and opposition. If we have a complaint against someone it affords the opportunity to show him or her the kind of forgiveness that the Lord Jesus has already shown to every one of us as in 2.13: to graciously remit a person’s sin and bestow favour unconditionally. Then, to crown these graces, Paul says "put on love". Love (agape) is that which binds believers together and provides the impetus to make progress towards the spiritual completeness intended by God.
Peace of Christ Ruling Us and the Word of Christ Dwelling in Us, vv.15-17
These verses may be paraphrased as follows: "Allow the peace of Christ to arbitrate, to act as an umpire, in our hearts, if disputes arise among you." No doubt "the peace of Christ" J.N.D., is His own personal peace and is referred to in "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" Jn.14.27. Note that this peace is what we were called to in the one body. No wonder the apostle exhorts us, "and be ye thankful", for who better to be filled with a spirit of grateful appreciation?
To continue paraphrasing: "Let the word of Christ abide in you in all the richness of its wealth. Let the wisdom of the doctrine of Christ teach and admonish each one of you." Teaching would be the positive presentation of the truth, particularly here in relation to, and from, Christ, while to admonish is to warn by putting in mind. In 2Thess.3.14,15 those who are disobedient to the Word and who walk disorderly have to be admonished. Resuming the paraphrase: "Let the worship of Christ arise as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs being thankful to God." "Psalms" speaks of experience and affliction, "hymns" of praise and appreciation to God and "spiritual songs" of spiritual calibre and aspiration.
Everything we say and do must be in subjection to the authority of the Lord Jesus and through Him our gratitude is directed to God the Father. Is Jesus Christ Lord of my words and works?
Christian Behaviour in Various Relationships, vv.17-25.
Name of Christ Governing Us, v.17
V.17 is a comprehensive statement affecting every part of our lives in a general way. There is to be a balance between what we do and say and our behaviour is to be governed by the truth that we carry the name of Christ with us wherever we go. We are to be thankful in it all coming to the Father through Christ, the Son. Conduct before men is governed by our character before God!
Specific Relationships, vv.18-25
Paul deals with the home and the workplace in these verses.
In every mention of wives in the epistles the principle of subjection is emphasised. Note that it is always to her own husband that the wife is to submit and Paul adds that this is fitting in the Lord, v.18. Note also that subjection does not imply inferiority! In Lk.2.51 "He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them". It is surely becoming when a Christian wife can accept with grace the role that God has fitted her to fulfil.
Husbands have to love their wives and not to be irritating them out of a bitter spirit. The idea is to cut or to prick, and care must be taken not to inflame, with barbs of one kind or another, the wife’s response, v.19. Here the love is unqualified but in Ephesians chapter 5 the husband must love his wife as his own self and as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it.
Children are exhorted to obey their parents and Paul adds "in all things", v.20. Note the higher thought that this is well pleasing not just to the parents but is in keeping with a desire to please the Lord Himself.
This instruction to children is balanced by the requirement to fathers not to provoke or stir up their children, v.21. It is possible, by displaying the wrong attitude, to dishearten your children, so as to take any feeling or passion out of them.
In v.22 we enter the work place, with an appeal to servants, or slaves. Perhaps because of the background of Onesimus, the converted slave being sent back to his master, Col.4.9, Paul deals more extensively with responsibilities in this context. Obedience, continuance, diligence and reverence are the features that must characterise their service. Whatever they are asked to do and whether anyone is watching or not, they will work putting their soul into it with energy, as serving the Lord Himself.
They may be slaves down here and may have nothing of their own in this life but the Lord will recompense their labour with a heavenly inheritance. What dignity is conferred on the Christian slave, and indeed all of us, when we remember that we serve the Lord Christ! William Kelly has made the following observation on this passage: "No person becomes obedient by good rules. The heart must be filled with right motives." Truly this elevates the most mundane of service when the motive is to serve the risen Christ.
In the first paper the greatness of the Lord Jesus was traced from His pre-existence to His baptism. In this paper we see His greatness from His public ministry to His ascension.
IN HIS PUBLIC MINISTRY
We read, "Behold My servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth" Isa.42.1. No wonder that God could say at the Mount of Transfiguration, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him" Matt.17.5. The Lord perfectly represented His Father, so that He could say, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" Jn.14.9. He never ceases to represent us in God’s presence, Jn.17.20. May the Lord help each child of God never to cease to try to represent Him better for we bear that worthy Name, Jms.2.7. When we are gathered to His Name we bear His Name in a double sense and any one of us can cause that worthy Name to be blasphemed, as the Jewish people did, Rom.2.24, and as David did in his double sin against Uriah the Hittite, 2Sam.12.14, "Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die".
When God’s Word says, "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" Col.3.17, it does not mean that we are obliged to say that we are doing it in His Name, but we should always be conscious that we are representing Him. We are thankful that we can have the privilege of glorifying His Name, as we read, "That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ" 2Thess.1.12.
The Lord Jesus trusted God perfectly every moment of His life on earth, more than any other person that ever lived. The nation’s religious leaders sought diligently to find a flaw in His character, but they could not find one! However, they could tell by His very deportment that He trusted God. When He was on the cross the chief priests with the scribes and elders said, "He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said, ‘I am the Son of God’" Matt.27.43. In saying that, they were taunting Him, implying, "You trusted God, but the position you are in now is inconsistent with such a life of trust." Thus they fulfilled Ps.22.8. The next verse of the Psalm shows that He trusted God more than it is possible for anyone else to trust Him: "Thou art He that took Me out of the womb: Thou didst make Me hope ["trust" in R.V.] when I was upon My mother’s breasts". Surely, no other baby ever did that! The following verse tells us of His life of trust: "I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My mother’s belly" Ps.22.10. He trusted God all of His life, went through infinite sufferings, and even then was still trusting God: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Ps.22.1 and Matt.27.46. May the Lord help us to trust God more, as He did.
The apostle Peter summarised our Lord’s life in Acts 10.38: "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him". May our service be more and more controlled and empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit for the glory of God.
The following story was told about Dwight L. Moody. The ministers of a city in the U.K. were meeting to consider inviting Moody to their city. One minister who was not enthused about inviting Moody said, "Does Mr. Moody have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?" Of course, he didn’t. But a minister in favour of Moody said, "No he doesn’t, but it is obvious that the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on D. L. Moody". That is the best monopoly for every child of God!
AT GETHSEMANE, GABBATHA, AND GOLGOTHA
At Gethsemane He said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" Matt.26.38. This was in anticipation of drinking the cup of wrath that our sins deserved. In the next verse He prayed, "O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt". We should notice that the second and the third time His words were a little different. "O My Father if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done" Matt.26.42,44. Our Lord Jesus was so submissive to the Father’s will that a little later He said to Peter, "Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" Jn.18.11. He was willingly going to take that cup from His Father’s hand and drink it to its last dark dregs for the glory of His Father. If ever the will of God seems hard, it will help any child of God to submit to the will of God by being occupied with His perfect submission, and you will appreciate His submission in a way that you never did before.
The Lord Jesus witnessed a good confession before Pontus Pilate, 1Tim.6.13. Part of that good confession was His silence, "insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly" Matt.27.14. Our Lord Jesus was majestic in His speech, majestic in His silence, unmoved by threats to speak and unmoved by threats when He had spoken. "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth" Isa.53.7. "Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously" 1Pet.2.23. May God help us, when representing His Son, to carry ourselves with dignity as our Lord Jesus did, even if sometimes we are treated with disrespect or worse.
When Judas had gone out, "Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him’" Jn.13.31. At Golgotha, the Lord Jesus displayed the greatest moral excellence ever seen in a man. When they were nailing the Lord Jesus to the cross, that was painful, but there was a sudden increase in pain when the cross was put in place and all His weight was held by the spikes. We think of His first words from the cross in His pain, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" Lk.23.34. He lived out in perfection all that He Himself had taught. In Matt.5.44 He taught, "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you". God gave Stephen grace to die like the Lord Jesus, Acts 7.59,60.
On Golgotha the Lord Jesus did what no one else could do. He satisfied every claim of God against sin and He suffered all that was necessary before any sinners like ourselves could be brought to God: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins; the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" 1Pet.3.18. He was the just One and we are the unjust ones.
During World War II, I read a leaflet that told of a born-again soldier who prayed on his knees at his bed every night. One day when it had rained very heavily all day the sergeant came in with muddy boots. When he was getting ready for bed he took off one boot and threw it the length of the barracks and hit the Christian, just as he had hoped to do. The sergeant took the other boot off and went to bed. When the Christian had finished praying he got the other muddy boot, cleaned the mud off, shined them up, and put them under the sergeant’s bed. When the sergeant woke up in the morning, saw his boots all shined up, and remembered how muddy they were and what he had done with one of them, it just about broke him to pieces to think that the Christian could do that. He got saved within a couple of days!
AT HIS RESURRECTION
Scripture records a few that were raised from the dead to die again. The Lord Jesus was the first Person to rise again from the dead in a glorified body. He went right through a rock-hewn tomb with a stone at the door. (He was not inside when the angel rolled away the stone, to show that He was risen from the dead). He is still the only Person with a glorified body, but at the Rapture there will be many resurrected with glorified bodies. Of Him it is recorded, "Who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification" Rom.4.25. We can look at the cross and see atonement made. We can look at the empty tomb and see atonement accepted by God.
Our Lord Jesus’ first message in resurrection to Mary Magdalene was significant, "Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend to My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God" Jn.20.17. He can call us His brethren and God is our Father and our God because of His death and resurrection. Nevertheless, we must never forget that God was His Father and His God in a unique way; a non-transferable way, a way that is His and His alone. This very verse shows that it is irreverent to call Him our elder brother.
AT HIS ASCENSION
There was no place too high in heaven for Him. He ascended and went right to the right hand of the Majesty on high, Mk.16.19; Heb.8.1. This infinitely great Person is the One that we serve, He is the One we represent, He is the One to Whom we are gathered, He is the One that we remember each Lord’s Day, and He is the One Who is coming again for us.
C. T. Studd once said, "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him".
This article was conceived while listening to our late brother Matt Murphy, worshipping at the Breaking of Bread meeting in the Gospel Hall in Lynden, USA.
Recently UK politicians have been grappling with the decision as to whether there should be a second referendum, a ‘people’s vote’, regarding the recently negotiated Brexit deal between the UK and the other twenty-seven members of the EU. The UK Prime Minister and others argued strongly that the people had already spoken in 2016 and a majority had made it clearly known that they wanted to leave the EU. Such are the demands of democracy: the people must have their say!
In John 19.15 we read of a very serious choice that was made by the people who thronged the narrow streets around the Praetorium on the day the Lord Jesus was being tried by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Convinced that the ‘prisoner’ before him was completely innocent of every charge made against Him, and therefore totally undeserving of punishment of any kind, let alone death, Pilate attempted to gain a favourable response from the baying mobs jostling in the streets below.
Firstly, he brought Him out wearing the crown of thorns cruelly woven by the heartless soldiers and His face etched with the evidence of the shockingly brutal maltreatment meted out to Him during the mock trials of the preceding hours. Pilate said, "Ecce homo!"; "Behold the man" John 19.5. Not a spark of sympathy could be ignited in their callous hearts. Then he attempted to present Jesus as their King but the unanimous answer of the assembled crowds was, "Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him …" John 19.15. There was not a single dissenting voice as the people unhesitatingly recorded their vote. They could not tolerate the best, the kindest, the gentlest, the most compassionate Man that has ever lived on Planet Earth. As far as they were concerned, the sooner He was dead, the better. They hated Him with an intense but causeless hatred and their utter rejection of Him was stated in the clearest of terms. Of course, their attitude came as no surprise to the Saviour. In Psalm 69.20 these prophetic words were written, "… And I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; And for comforters but I found none." In but hours their wish was granted and the greatest travesty of justice was committed when this sinless, innocent Man, having been sentenced to death, was nailed to ‘that old, ruggèd cross’.
Beyond the frenzy and clamour of the crowds that day, with calm composure, the Lord Jesus submitted to the soldiers without a murmur and allowed them to drive the nails through His precious hands and feet. He knew that His death was absolutely necessary; His blood to which all the sacrifices of past centuries had pointed as the sole source of cleansing and pardon, must be shed. "Yes, a victim must be slain, else all hope of life is vain." "… without shedding of blood is no remission" Hebrews 9.22.
Alone, despised and rejected, the Son of God bore the dread penalty of our sins and paid the full price of our eternal redemption. Dear reader, He did all that God demanded to be done and He willingly did it all for you. Now the choice is yours: will you accept or reject this blessèd Saviour? Your choice will have eternal consequences so think seriously lest you make the worst decision of your life. "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons [children] of God, even to them that believe on His name" John 1.11,12.
"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding." Proverbs 3.5
This is one of the most often-quoted verses in the Proverbs, but are we as good at obeying it as we are at saying it? In typical Hebrew poetic style, its command is in two parts: positive (totally depend on the Lord), and negative (put no trust on anything that originates within oneself). In making decisions, do we always lean on the counsel of God’s Word, or do we rely on our own ideas? Matthew Henry comments: "Those who know themselves cannot but find their own understanding to be a broken reed, which, if they lean to, will certainly fail them. In all our conduct we must be diffident of our own judgment, and confident of God’s wisdom, power, and goodness, and therefore must follow Providence and not force it. That often proves best which was least our own doing."
In this part of his message to the congregation at the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia, Acts 13.14-41, Paul emphasises what men did to the Lord Jesus: "they that dwell at Jerusalem … they knew Him not … they have fulfilled [the voices of the prophets] in condemning Him … they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that He should be slain … they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre" vv.27-29. The sevenfold occurrence of "they" in our English Bible shows clearly the role played by human beings in those events: wicked men in all that was involved in Him being nailed to the cross; righteous men in taking Him down from it, and burying His body.
How beautifully contrasting is the next statement: "But God raised Him from the dead" v.30. The terseness of the statement emphasises the contrast between the many actions of men and this one act by God. Men could do all those things, but here was something that no mortal man could do. Here was God’s succinct and powerful answer to the actions of men. Only God could do it, and (praise His Name) He did it!
"And the angel of the LORD said unto him [Manoah], ‘Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?’" Judg.13.18;
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful" Isa.9.6
The word "secret" in the first quotation above is essentially the same as "wonderful" in the second (the latter being a noun and the former its corresponding adjective). Manoah’s response to his encounter with the angel was "We shall surely die, because we have seen God" Judg.13.22, and the link with Isa.9.6 confirms that indeed the "angel" he and his wife met was God: the Lord Jesus Christ, in a pre-incarnate appearance. However, he was mistaken in thinking that they would die, as his wife wisely reasoned with him, Judg.13.23.
The Lord said that "there shall no man see Me, and live" Ex.33.20. Yet Manoah saw God and did not die, and Jacob said, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" Gen.32.30? How can both statements be true? John gives the answer: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" Jn.1.18.
True image of the Infinite, Whose essence is concealed;
Brightness of uncreated light; The heart of God revealed.