One of the happiest hours that any lover of the Lord can spend is to sit down quietly of an evening and muse on “what would happen if the Lord were to come tonight?” To enumerate all things would take pages; we name a few of the leading triumphs:
EVERY BELIEVER WILL BE CHANGED in a moment of time into the image of his Lord. In the epistle addressed “to the Church of God in Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all that in every place call apon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:2, 3), we are assured that “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump” (chap. 15:51, 52). “When He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Like Him “as He is.” Like Him “as He is pure” (1 John 3:2, 3).
The extent of the change is indicated in 1 Corinthians 15:49, one of the great ratio texts of the Bible: “As we have borne the image of the earthy, so we shall also bear the image of the Heavenly.” Wondrous thought! As I have been like the first Adam, marred, scarred and defiled by sin, so shall I be like the last Adam, purified, glorified, perfected! “Whom He justified them He also glorified” (Rom. 8.30).
LOVED ONES WILL BE UNITED. “Them also which sleep in (or through) Jesus, will God bring with Him” (1 Thess. 4:14). Those who believe in Him “sleep,” as to their bodies only. Alas! how many, for which of us has not had to say—
“A light is from our household gone,
A form we loved is stilled,
A chair is vacant at our hearth,
Which never can be filled.”
But through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we, and they, shall meet again at His Coming.
David said, concerning his dead babe, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Sam. 12.23). So may every saved parent say concerning children dying in infancy and innocency. The Patriarchs looked forward to “being gathered to their people” (Deut. 32:50), whom they would then know. Moses and Elias were known in the Holy Mount. Jesus said concerning a dead member of a family whom He loved, “Thy brother shall rise again” (John 11:5, 23). In chapter 12 the beautiful picture of reunion indicates busy Martha, devout Mary and the loved and lost, yet risen, Lazarus sitting at the table with the Lord they loved. So saved sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as pictured in John 12:1-3, raised or changed at His Coming, shall be reunited around Him in Glory.
Paul, looking forward to the day when He would lay his devoted head on the Roman block and have it severed by the rude executioner, expressed his firm conviction of ‘‘having a desire to be with Christ which is far far better” (Phil. 1:23). In his dying moments he thought of reunion on the Crowning day, “Not to me only, but unto all them that love His Appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).
In the foretaste of the Glory given on the glory-mount we see Moses, the lawgiver who died 1400 years before; Elijah, the prophet who never died, but was caught up to Heaven 900 years before; Peter, the impetuous, like so many of us; James, the devout, who early laid down his life for his Lord; John, the beloved disciple, who pillowed his head on the Saviour’s breast, and served Him down to hoary hairs, all gathered round the Lord, knowing each other, and covered with the Shekinah glory of God. So our loved ones, young and old, scattered far and wide on earth, manifesting vastly different degrees of grace, by virtue of the Precious Blood, with us shall join the multitude which no man can number, and ascribe “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, to Him that sitteth on the Throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Rev. 5:8-13).
’Mid the sorrows of parting we are not without hope, for—
'Those who believe “the Church” to be simply an outgrowth and extension of “the law and the prophets” are obliged to ignore or pervert the meaning of its first mention in the New Testament. Matthew 16:18 is a promise by the Messiah of Israel of an entirely new thing, quite distinct from the nation which had rejected Him and the terms of earthly rule He had offered them (Matthew 10:1-25). “I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH” indicates a new order and reveals what “the Christ, the Son of the living God” is producing in this age when His national people have denied His royal Person and His rights of rule. He has turned for an unspecified period from the promised earth-rule to the formation of a great spiritual edifice of which He claims to be the Builder, the Foundation and the Proprietor.
The fulfilment of this promise must be timed and interpreted by reference to two fundamental facts, namely the exaltation of the Risen Christ and the baptism in the Spirit. In the first of these there is a given point in time when God the Father constituted the Lord Jesus the all-authoritative “HEAD of the church which is His body”. That point in time aligns with the prediction of Matt. 16:18 and was reached when in the exertion of His mighty resurrection energy God raised His Son and “gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church”. It needs to be categorically stated that Christ was not the Head of the Church prior to His death, resurrection and placing at the right hand of God (Ephesians 1:19-23). In the second fundamental fact, the baptism in the Spirit, we have the essential outcome of the first, the formation of the body of which He is Head. There is a most interesting sequence in the Scriptures which declare that our Lord Jesus Christ would baptise in the Holy Spirit.
John the Baptist was to identify Him as the Baptiser by the descent on Him of the Holy Spirit at Jordan and His abiding upon Him. This supernatural event caused John to witness “that this is the Son of God” (John 1:32-34). Again, in His ministry John distinguished three baptisms; His own in water, and those in Spirit and Fire by the Messiah. He declared, “I indeed baptise you in water unto repentance: but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptise you in the Holy Spirit and fire: whose fan is in His hand and He will thoroughly cleanse His threshing-floor and He will gather His wheat into the garner but the chaff He will burn up with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11-12). The Fore-runner’s prediction indicates two distinct acts of the Lord Jesus, one in grace, the other in judgment. The act of judgment is logically the alternative to the act of grace. Those sharing the baptism in the Spirit are, in grace, sheltered in His granary, whilst those sharing in the baptism of fire are encompassed with eternal punishment. This effectively disposes of the very misleading idea that the Holy Spirit is the baptiser. It is the Lord Jesus Christ, in the first instance acting as Head of the church, and in the second as the Judge of His rejectors. The next stage in this sequence is found in Acts 1:4-5 where the newly risen Lord commanded His Apostles to “wait for the promise of the Father, which He said, ye have heard of me, for John truly baptised in water but ye shall be baptised in the Holy Spirit NOT MANY DAYS HENCE”. This unique act of grace was about to take place and the timing was limited to a few days, seen later to be fifty days after Christ’s resurrection (Acts 1:3, Acts 2:1). The day of Pentecost was at once the fulfilment of John’s prediction our Lord’s promise and Joel’s prophecy (Matt. 3:11-12, John 15:26, and Joel 2:28-32). The absence of any reference in Acts 1:5 to a BAPTISM IN FIRE is appropriate and significant of the fact that great periods of “Grace” and “Kingdom” divide the baptism in the Spirit from the baptism in fire.
The final stage in the sequence can be seen by a comparison of 1 Corinthians 12:13-15 (R.V.) with Acts Chapter Two. “For in one Spirit were we ALL baptised into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free and were all made to drink of one Spirit.” This looks back to the actual descent in fulness of power of the Holy Spirit of God on those one hundred and twenty obedient, waiting and expectant believers in the upper room in Jerusalem. The Spirit’s Presence filled both the place and the persons. Here was a sharing together of a divine Presence and a fulness of His power never known before. The upper room had become a baptistry and those believers had been baptised in the Spirit and as 1 Cor. 12:13 put it, at the same time “made to drink of ONE SPIRIT”. This supplied what was lacking in them up to that moment, first in giving them oneness in the ONE SP1R1T and second in giving them power in the fulness of that ONE SPIRIT. Pentecost is as unrepeatable as Calvary, but by virtue of the Spirit’s Presence then and since every believer in Christ is incorporated into Christ at the new birth and by the Spirit of God vitally united to the Church’s Head in Heaven. What overwhelming superabounding grace it was that in the very city in whose precincts our blessed Lord had been betrayed and rejected and outside whose walls He had been cruelly crucified, this amazing work was initiated! In a way comprehensible only to faith the Spirit of God united, first believing Jews, Acts 2, then believing Samaritans Acts 8, and ultimately believing Gentiles, in one body where all distinctions of race immediately disappear.
The expression “A royal priesthood”, which we have been considering, is but one of several occurring in the same verse, 1 Peter 2:9, and each of these has its own special significance as descriptive of God’s people. The verse itself appears to be built up of two Old Testament passages, Exod. 19:5, 6 and Isa. 43:20, 21, its first and final clauses being taken from the latter, and the three intervening ones from the former. All five of them had been used to set forth what God’s purpose was, and still is, for the nation of Israel; but Peter employs them to describe what His purpose is for saints of today.
It is interesting to notice how these five clauses, in the order in which Peter gives them, link themselves with the relationship to Israel borne by
THE FIRST FIVE BOOKS OF THE SCRIPTURES
“A chosen generation”, or as the R.V. has it, “An elect race”, might well be used as a sub-title for Genesis, the book in which we are led on from an elect individual, Abraham, to an elect family, and thence to an elect people (see ch. 12:1-3,etc.). “A royal priesthood” suggests to us Exodus; not only because we have this dignity offered there to the nation, and the title itself employed at ch. 19:6; but because in ch. 32 we have the occasion which resulted in the setting apart of the tribe of Levi for the priesthood, and in the chapters that follow the building of the place where they were to minister, and the making of the garments they were to wear. As for Leviticus, it is certainly the book of “a holy nation”, since it is largely occupied with precepts and laws on the subject of holiness (see ch. 11:44, 45; 19:2, etc.); and Numbers just as clearly deals with Israel as “God’s own possession” (see ch. 3:13, etc; and R.V. of 1 Pet. 2:9). “Lastly, in Deuteronomy it is emphasised again and again that God intended the nation to “show forth His excellencies” by being a testimony for Him amongst the other peoples of the earth (see ch. 4:6; 28:10, etc.).
These clauses of 1 Peter 2:9 also suggest the various truths which were occupying the apostle’s mind as he wrote the epistle, and which he emphasises in it; truths that are of the utmost importance to all who desire their life and walk to be in keeping with
GOD'S PURPOSE CONCERNING THEM.
They have been chosen by Him, and brought into nearness to Him as priests, therefore they should be characterised by holiness. They have been purchased to be His own, and therefore should in all their ways manifest that they belong to Him. Israel the nation had failed in these matters, and so many a time have we; but this is still the standard that is set up for our attainment—that we should show forth the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light.
Indeed our verse may well be taken as a text whereon are based all the practical exhortations that follow in the middle section of the epistle; exhortations which, as has been already pointed out, cover every possible relationship with those about us, whether in the State, in the business, in the family, or in the Church. Four times in the course of them we are reminded that welldoing, even under suffering is “the will of God” for us (see ch. 2:15; 3:17; 4:2, 19); a thought which seems to look back; on the one hand to this 9th verse, in which we have been “called... to SHOW FORTH THE EXCELLENCIES” of the great God who has made us His own; and on the other to verse 21, in which we have been “called to... FOLLOW THE STEPS” of the rejected and suffering One, who bore our sins on the tree. For, of course, that to which we are “called” is but another way of describing that which is “the will of God” concerning us.
The term “welldoing’', above mentioned, is the rendering of a word that, as noun, verb, and adjective, is almost peculiar to 1st Peter, so far as its use in the epistles is concerned. It occurs there six times, and always in connection with
THE BEHAVIOUR OF SAINTS
under the various circumstances to which the apostle successively makes reference. Another word, found nowhere in the New Testament except in 1 Peter 2:12, and 3:2, and in both cases rendered “behold”, is also of interest as suggesting the influence that their welldoing will have on those who are spectators of it (which is what the word implies). Both in the public surroundings which are depicted in the one instance, and in the home life which is described in the other, it will bring about in the unsaved beholder a favourable attitude of mind towards the gospel message. It will not of itself save them, but it will “win” (ch. 3:1) them, so that they will “glorify God in the day of visitation” (ch. 2:12). And even where this influence is still resisted, it will at least “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (ch. 2:15), and cause them to be ashamed that falsely accuse your good manner of life in Christ” (ch. 3:16, R.V.).
Reference has already been made in these papers to Peter’s great knowledge of the Old Testament. He does not, however, parade this knowledge before us by formal citing of passages; for out of thirteen quotations and semi-quotations that may be traced in his first epistle, only two have any reference to their origin prefixed to them; ch. 1:16, where he has “It is written”; and ch. 2:6, where he begins with “It is contained in the Scripture”. Elsewhere he drops without warning into the words of Old Testament passages, and does so with more or less exactness, as may best suit his immediate purpose. Chapter 2 contains many examples of this, and its closing verses afford perhaps the best of these, being almost entirely built up from statements of Isaiah 53. This feature, in a paragraph addressed to servants many of whom were suffering wrongfully, will seem all the more suitable when we remember that Isaiah 52:13; 53:12, calls on us to behold God’s true SERVANT, scorned and suffering, but ultimately triumphant and glorious. This is the One whose “STEPS” the servants were to follow, instead of being “as sheep going astray”, which in their unsaved days they were. And in this path He would be to them, not only their “EXAMPLE”, but the “SHEPHERD and BISHOP of their souls”.
One of the most interesting passages containing the ex-^ pression “flesh and blood” is Hebrews 2:14 where we read, “For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he (our Lord) also likewise took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Some preliminary notes may clarify the contents of the verse.
The order of the phrase “flesh and blood” in the original here is reversed, as in Ephesians 6:12, where again the text has “blood and flesh”. Westcott’s comment on the order is that stress is laid on the element which is the symbol of life as subject to corruption. However, there does not seem to be any doctrinal significance in the change of order.
“Flesh and blood” is a Rabbinical designation of human nature in its frailty and as being subject to death. That feature of human existence seems to be the salient point in the passage, to stress the necessity and nature of the Incarnation.
A distinction is to be made between the “children” and the Redeemer. The former are “sharers of flesh and blood”, and that is their natural condition. Of the Lord it is said that at a certain historic moment in time He “took part” of that condition. The tenses of the verbs indicate the difference “Human beings possess human nature in common with one another.” Our Lord took to Himself something with which by nature He had nothing in common (Wuest). Westcott’s comment is this that the first “marks the common nature ever shared among men as long as the race lasts”, while the other “expresses the unique fact of the incarnation as a voluntary acceptance of humanity. And under the aspect of humiliation and transitoriness this was past.” Prof. F. F. Bruce has an illuminating footnote on the verse: “The children are sharers of flesh and blood in the sense that that is their original and natural state... Our Lord, however, existed before His incarnation... flesh and blood form no essential part of His eternal being, but at a fixed point in time, by His own choice, He also in like manner partook of the same, and so began to share fully the nature of those whom He willed thus to redeem.”
Our Lord voluntarily partook of our human nature in order that in His sinless humanity He might wrest from the devil the power of death. That is an astounding fact. As Man he did for fallen man what man could not do for himself. That identification was complete through the incarnation. The context of our passage contains, among other matters, that basic truth of Identification. The Redeemer made Himself one with those whom He came to redeem, and that amazing fact is stated in a variety of ways.
He was made a little lower than the angels. According to Psalm 8, where the question is asked, What is man? the answer is given that the Creator made him a little lower than the angels, so that when the writer of our Epistle quotes the Psalm as applying to our Lord, he is virtually admitting the reality of His humanity, His solidarity (apart from sin) with the human race. Identification was complete.
He is called “the Captain of their salvation”, that is, of the many sons who are being brought by God to glory. He is the file-leader, the pioneer of a mighty host whom He is leading to eternal salvation. Those in His train can say of Him, “He is one of us, and we are one with Him.”
He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one (V. 11). The “One” is God the Father. The Sanctifier is Christ Himself. The sanctified are all those who by faith are “in Christ”. Both He and they are “sons” of God, He intrinsically, they relatively. He said on the morning of His resurrection, “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Again the idea of identification is complete.
He is not ashamed to call those whom He has sanctified, or separated unto God, His brethren. He says of them, “Behold I and the children whom thou hast given me”. They are both in the same family, He, because He is The Son of God, the only-begotten, they through union by faith in Him. What amazing condescension on His part!
That identification was made possible by the Incarnation, when the pre-existent Son of God partook of “flesh and blood”, and was made like unto His brethren (V. 17). That is one of the fundamental contentions repeatedly made in the Epistle. More frequently than in any other Epistle is He referred to by His human name, Jesus, a name meant to emphasise the humanity of the Son through whom God had spoken. Moreover, it is in this Epistle that we read of Him,
“who in the days of his flesh, offered up prayers and supplications with strong cryings and tears” (5:7). Several times reference is made to His literal, physical body, as in 10:5, “a body hast thou prepared me”; or again in 10:10, “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ”. Furthermore, the constant reference to the blood is an impressive way of reminding readers of the reality of the humanity of the Redeemer—His own blood (13:12), the blood of Jesus (10:19), the blood of Christ (9:14).
The fact of the Incarnation is repeated in our passage:
The Redeemer is said to have taken part in flesh and blood. As already noted the tense of the verb points to a definite act in the history of mankind when the Son of God became involved in the drama of Redemption. Perhaps, who knows? There is a veiled reference to the Virgin Birth, for it must have occurred to early Christians as it occurs to thoughtful Christians of today to ask the question, how otherwise could the One who was the brightness of God’s glory take part of “flesh and blood”? It was another way of asserting, as John did, that “the word became flesh”, that is, was incarnate. “The flesh and blood which the Lord Jesus Christ took shows that He became truly and really man” (Saphir).
He took not on angels, but he took on the seed of Abraham. That is how V. 16 reads when the words in italics which are not in the original are omitted. The verb “took on” means, “took hold on” with a view to deliverance and help. While the verb does not mean “took on the nature”, that fact is almost implied in contrast, “not angels—but the seed of Abraham”. I quote F. F. Bruce again, “He became man, then, in order to help man. When the Son of God, Creator and Lord of Angels, humbled Himself, He passed by angelic estate and stooped lower still, becoming man for man’s salvation—He became “the Son of Abraham” (Matt 1:1). In doing that, however, He became the helper and liberator of all the sons of Abraham—the whole family of faith.”
In all things, it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren (V. 17). To be a sympathetic priest, He had to be like those whom He represented before God, to have the same nature, apart from sin, as His brethren, those who are called “many sons”. That was made possible by the incarnation when He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3) and He was found in fashion as a man (Phil. 2:8).
The passage states the intention of the Incarnation. Detailed exposition is impossible. Attention is simply drawn to the several statements.
It was that by death the Redeemer might “destroy” him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. By submitting to death and entering the domain of Satan our Lord robbed him of his power by rising again. “Death could not keep its pray, He tore the bars away,” and Satan was defeated.
It was to deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Since “our Saviour, Jesus Christ, has abolished death and brought life and incorruptibility to light in the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10), Satan has lost his power and can no more terrorise those who know Christ as Saviour. They may face death with equanimity. Of the Cross we sing,
It makes the coward spirit brave,
It nerves the feeble arm for fight,
It takes the terror from the grave,
And gilds the bed of death with light.
It was in order that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest—to make reconciliation (propitiation) for the sins of the people (V. 17). Ample provision has been made to maintain “the people”, that is the “brethren”, “the children”, “the many sons”, in fellowship with God through the representation of the merciful and faithful High-priest. A similar truth is expressed in slightly different language by the Apostle John, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2).
The Incarnation was with a view to succour those who are tested in the way of righteousness. Verse 18 needs no explanation, “For in that he himself has suffered, being tempted (tested), he is able to succour (help) them that are tempted (passing through a period of trial).
”He knows what sore temptations are,
For He endured the same, and, consequently, multitudes of His brethren have been fortified in the hour of testing by the consciousness of divine aid through the ministry of their High-Priest at the right hand of God.
The original word translated “Lord’s”, signifying Lordly or Dominical, characterized as belonging to the Lord, is used only here in 1 Cor. 11:20 and by John on Patmos (Rev. 1:10), “the Lord’s Day”. It is the only ordinance of church character; the other, baptism, being, of course, an individual matter. The three Synoptic Gospels each portray the Supper as the outcome of the celebration of the Passover feast. If we accept as we must that Christianity is not a continuation of Judaism but a new departure entirely in the ways and the purposes of God, then this view of the Lord’s Supper Would not appear to be so fully representative of the Christian ordinance as is the presentation of the apostle Paul in the first Corinthian Epistle. Whilst the inauguration was by the Lord Himself in the Gospels, Paul tells of his receiving that which he delivered to the Corinthian Church direct from the Lord in heaven. It is thus that it is firmly established in the Christian calendar.
Its predominant place in Christian fellowship, doctrine and practice is clearly emphasised in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11. In the former chapter, which treats of the Lord’s Table (as distinct from the Supper), the symbols are introduced as basic to the fellowship, the cup, symbolising the precious blood of Christ, mentioned before the loaf. The table of the Lord is here contrasted with the table of demons: it is often spoken of as synonymous with the Supper, but the two, whilst connected, are quite distinct. The tenth chapter does not mention the Supper but deals with the fellowship of Christians generally, of which all partake. In the eleventh chapter the Lord’s Table is not mentioned; the Lord’s Supper is introduced as being a specific occasion (Acts 20:7 suggesting that this would normally be on the first day of the week). On looking through some church accounts recently one was found to contain the item, “To repairs to the Lord’s Table... 7/6d.’ One is tempted to wonder today if some of the Lord’s people still consider His Table to be a piece of furniture!
From post-apostolic days and down the centuries the Lord’s Supper has lost much in Christendom generally of its original simplicity, culminating in the Roman Catholic doctrine of trans-substantiation, the belief that in the consecration of the elements there is an actual change into the body and blood of Christ. In many “high” Anglican circles something of this idea still persists and even where this is refuted an aura of mysticism still surrounds the Lord’s Supper. It is quite frequently regarded as a means of grace: it is essentially a simple act of remembrance of the blessed Lord who offered Himself as the perfect and spotless sacrifice for sin, by which sacrifice (and not the sacrament) the believing sinner is cleansed from all sin. It is true, of course, that in the corporate remembrance of Himself, especially where the presence and power of the Holy Spirit is experienced, there cannot but be blessing for the participants, but this is not the object nor is it an automatic consequence. Nevertheless, the calling to mind of a love that is supremely expressed in the giving of Himself by the Lord Jesus must result in the deepening of the work of God in the soul with lasting effect.
There are two distinct aspects of the Lord’s Supper; the public or testimonial side and the inner or remembrance aspect. The former is expressed by the apostle in the words “For as often as ye do eat this bread and drink this cup ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come” (1 Cor. 11:26). This aspect is perhaps not so prominent in our minds as it deserves and it would appear inappropriate that it should be celebrated behind locked doors. It might be said that the public generally are not present but this would be irrelevant, the point being that it is a matter of public testimony. This is seen from the verse quoted to be in the act; what is done rather than in the spoken word. An important question is then raised as to those who participate in this showing forth (or announcing) the death of the Lord. If this is the testimony to the world in which we live, in what measure are we practically in accord with that death and, conversely, marked in our walk and ways by separation from those in the world to whom this testimony is rendered? It is also important in this connection to observe that, whilst it is the right and privilege of all Christians who are sound in doctrine and Godly in walk to have part in the Supper, the apostle asks pertinently what fellowship has light with darkness or a believer with an unbeliever.
As already remarked, this precious occasion is not a means of grace. Rather is it in the words of the Lord Himself, ‘This do for a remembrance of Me”, a desire on His part for an affectionate response on the part of His own to a strong appeal in the emblems of His own unparalleled love in the giving of Himself in death. This is the inner, private and intimate aspect of this unique occasion. Something of its character may be seen in the home of Bethany, where He often resorted; there “they made Him a supper” (John 12:2) and present were (as one version presents it) “the dead man, Lazarus”, Martha (serving as adjusted) and Mary, representing the true spirit of worship in anointing her Lord with the costly spikenard. These are features so suited to such a time and so attractive that we would desire increasingly to furnish for the heart of the One for Whom each can say “He loved me and gave Himself for Me.” Lazarus would suggest one in whom fleshly activities had been thoroughly judged, Martha the devotedness that was ready to do all that was needed and in Mary the spiritual sensitiveness that comes only with the habitual practice of nearness to Himself. Let us then, having examined ourselves and so ready to eat (and not stay away), prepare ourselves to give pleasure to the heart of Him to Whom His church is espoused as a chaste virgin. Let us avail ourselves, in the time of His rejection by the world, of this special opportunity for the outlet of bridal affection gathered np during the preceding days to be expended upon Him on the first day of the week.
God oftentimes, in order to bring out into outstanding prominence the pleasurable features of man, does so by bringing him into contrast with another man, and thus provides the background against which these pleasurable features stand clearly out: conversely, the unpleasing features of the other man are just as prominently seen.
Selfishness and Selflessness are two contrasting features, the one belonging usually to the carnal man, the other to the spiritual man. With the one, there is that with which God is constantly pleased; with the other that which is marked by his consistent displeasure. Possibly something of these characteristic features might be seen in the lives of these two men who will provide the subject of that which we are about to consider.
If ever we are to be anything for God, in seeking to live for Him down here, we must learn, very early in our Christian experience that our own resources as ministered by ourselves are entirely inadequate in the accomplishment of Divine things. We must trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not unto our own understanding. Proverbs 3:5. Leaning upon anything but God is insufficient: This possibly was the result of Lot’s tremendous failure.
God’s sendings are always God’s enablings: “Go in this thy might—have I not sent thee” was God’s message to Gideon; this has always been the way with God; when he requires a servant, he calls him and sends him forth.
Abraham, having been called by God went forth: implicit unquestioning obedience to his call is what God requires and the called one, moving now at the dictates of God can lean upon Him for the accomplishment of the service for which he has been called and sent. Abraham went out, not knowing whither he went, but he knew that the God who had called and sent him would be his support and sustenance during the whole course of the pathway into which he had been called.
Lot had no call from God, therefore he had no claim upon God and consequently he had to cling to Abraham to support him in the pathway of his personal choice. Anyone who ventures out into the pathway of service without a call from God is depending upon his own resources, or the stability of the brother upon whom he has perforce to lean. He never moves by faith but always by sight, thus we find that while Abraham had been called, it was into the path of faith, but for Lot, all that could be said of him was “Lot who went with Abraham”.
How then are you moving dear child of God? Is it along the pathway of faith or is it the pathway of sight, propped up by some Abraham who can be seen instead of leaning upon the unseen God. The best of men are only men at best, therefore “Cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of” (Isaiah 2:22).
Lot spelled God with a double “O”. Moving by sight, it was good that attracted him instead of God. Substantial good instead of Spiritual Guidance. When the eye is not constantly upon God, it is inclined to be attracted by Gain, becoming like those who are supposing Gain to be Godliness, consequently the substance of Haran produces the first delay. Gathering substance is a toilsome task and ultimately leads to separation from the Man of Faith (Gen. 13:11-12). Separated from the Man of Faith, Lot’s eyes are filled with the well watered plains of Jordon, then the cities of the plain, then towards Sodom and finally into Sodom itself. When the eye is affecting the heart and the heart is directing the feet, it is Drift instead of Drive and very soon, Lot who went with Abraham becomes Lot who dwelt in Sodom (Genesis 14:14). Flow easy it is to become like “those who are going down to the pit”. Thank God, we shall never go down to the pit, but how possible to lose our pilgrim character and to become like those who are going there. Quite possibly Lot might have tried to soothe his conscience by thinking that he might be of some service to God in the salvation of some of those who had been described as “Wicked and Sinners before the Lord exceedingly, yet when he tried to speak the word of warning he seemed like one who mocked” (Genesis 19:11). Dear child of God, these things are written for our admonition, in order that we might be warned (1st Corinthians 10-11) and taught (Romans 15:4). So let us ever remember to ask ourselves the pertinent question, “Shall I do evil that good should come of it”: Lot might have gathered some substance for himself, but he had lost his testimony for God, and like Solomon of a later day, he was to sadly discover that those things, so dearly gained, were only vanity and vexation of spirit.
If we had only the testimony of Genesis, we might have been inclined to think that Lot was an unsaved man, but there is the Spirit’s comment in 2nd Peter 2:7-8, where he is described as “Righteous Lot” and which is so often misquoted. It is usually said that His Righteous soul was vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked, but the correct rendering is, He vexed His Righteous Soul, seeing their lawless deeds and hearing their filthy talk. Lot had no right to be in Sodom; he was there by personal choice. If we put ourselves into circumstances that are not conducive to our spititual wellbeing because of material gain, then the consequences are ours. What is the ultimate result of Lot’s actions? This is something we should do well to consider. Dragged out of Sodom, disobedient still to Divine counsels, Dishonoured by his daughters, he fades out from the Divine picture, leaving nothing here for God, except the fruits of his own Selfwill and sin, that which was to remain as the permanent and persistent enemy of the people of God as seen in Moab and Ammon.
No wonder the wise man said “Ponder the path of your feet and let all your ways be established, turn not to the right hand nor the left, remove thy foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:27). A persistent pursuit along the pathway of pleasing self has its ultimate end in disaster for the child of God. What did Lot gain? He got a nameless wife in Sodom, he produced two nameless daughters in Sodom, he became one of Sodom’s magistrates but he had to leave it all: Saved so as by fire, a saved soul but a lost life. Dear child of God, as we journey along the pathway of life, our own resources as ministered by ourselves are not sufficient, and if the path has to be pleasurable for God or profitable for ourselves, we must realise that our sufficiency is alone from God. God takes account of all men, he only gives account of some and those concerning whom he gives account are to suit his own Purpose and Grace and are set on record for our admonition or our admiration and emulation.
The need for study. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable... (2 Timothy 3:16). This verse whilst including New Testament writings, is mainly referring to the Old Testament. The Lord Jesus Himself referred to the Old Testament as “they which testify of Me” (John 5:39), and particularly to the Pentateuch for “he (Moses) wrote of Me” (John 5:46). Later on, in resurrection, when He drew near to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “He opened up their understanding and beginning at Moses... He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). Moreover, the apostle Paul refers to the Old Testament “as things written aforetime for our learning” (Romans 15:4), and again, “these things were our examples (types)” (1 Corinthians 10:6). From these scriptures it is plain that the Old Testament is of permanent profit to the believer’s spiritual life in revealing the Saviour and providing many object lessons.
The Tabernacle and its furnishings are referred to many times in the New Testament. The Epistle to the Hebrews cannot properly be understood without a background knowledge of the subject. The epistle describes the tabernacle as “a copy and shadow of heavenly tilings” (Hebrews 8:5); indicating the original from which the copy was made and the substance which shaped the shadow. The tabernacle was a reflection of heavenly things on earth, “the patterns of things in the heavens” (Hebrews 9:23). It was a temporary reflection, pointing to spiritual realities now revealed in Christ, “a figure (parable) for the time then present” (Hebrews 8:5). Dwelling on truths associated with the tabernacle enhances our appreciation of the Person and Work of our Lord Jesus, and enables us to enjoy our spiritual privileges in a more intelligent way. Many are the gems and veins of truth buried in the strata of scripture which the Spirit of God will discover for us if we are prepared to excavate.
The time the tabernacle was revealed. It is precious to know that God’s delights are ever with the sons of men (Proverbs 8:31). In Eden “He came down in the cool of the day...” to converse with man whom He had made. Sin spoiled the sweet communion; man lost the sense of God’s presence. The purpose of the tabernacle is expressly stated “that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). God desired to dwell with men, in spite of sin; hence as soon as Israel was delivered out of Egypt, preserved by the blood of the Passover Lamb, a dwelling place for God comes into view... “we will prepare Him an habitation” (Exodus 15:2). God can only dwell amongst a people whose sins have been accounted for. The Church universal (i.e. the body of Christ comprising believers from Pentecost to the Rapture) is designed to be a “habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22), and where believers are gathered in the Lord’s Name locally “there He is in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). In the eternal state, “the tabernacle of God is with men” (Revelation 21:3). God who is the Centre of Heaven teaches us through the tabernacle that He desires to be the centre of His people on earth. It is to be noted that the Holy of holies where God dwelt was in the midst of the tabernacle, and the tabernacle itself was in the midst of the encampment. We should therefore be careful to give Him central place in our hearts, in our homes, and in the assemblies.
The materials for the tabernacle were provided by willing hearted giving and prepared by wise-hearted working of both men and women (Exodus 35:5, 10). This is a principle which operates today. The service of God in relation to His assembly must be supported by the willing gifts of all the people and built up by wise servants whom the Spirit of God has endowed, if it is to prosper spiritually and be to the glory of God. Furthermore, the divine blueprint had to be complied with. There was no room for the ingenuity and opinion of men. What division and disorder would be avoided today if believers strove to conform to the divine pattern of New Testament assembly worship, work and witness.
The transportation through the wilderness. The preparation of the camp, the procedure for dismantling and bearing the tabernacle during the journeyings occupy chapters 1-10 of the book of Numbers, which repay careful study. The priests alone were to dismantle and cover the furnishings (Numbers 4:15); the Levites alone were responsible for carrying the various parts of the tabernacle. The arrangement of the tribes in their tents with the tabernacle in the midst, as well as the order of the tribes in their marchings, was carefully prescribed by God. The Ark with its covering of blue was to be centrally placed in their pilgrimage. Nothing was left to man’s opinion. They camped, marched and fought according to divine precision. Oh, that we gave more heed to divine order in private and public testimony! We are not left without guidance. The New Testament is full of detailed divine instructions for the believer and the assembly.
(To be continued)
by R WOODHOUSE BEALES, Ipswich
Before examining the life of the Patriarch, about whom so much is recorded in the Bible, we must look at the circumstances surrounding that life. God is not a God of circumstance but of order and His works are works of progression, development and ordered arrangement, although He is not imprisoned, as it were, within His own laws, yet He moves in this way throughout the ages, and this is specially to be seen in His dealings with Israel, His people, which ordered development can be seen nowhere else, nor in the histories of other peoples, except as they come into contact with Israel. The whole Bible indicates this and gives us this development.
Before Abram is brought into view the judgment of Babel took place with its confusion of tongues. This had been an attempt on the part of man to make a name for himself and instead of inhabiting the whole earth attempting to concentrate in one place “lest we be scattered abroad” and to have a city and a tower “with its head in the heavens”. This was an idolatrous movement to establish centralised worship and this idea associated with Babylon, carries on throughout the divine record, and can be traced therein.
God scattered them and confounded their language so that they left off to build the city and tower. It will be noted therefore that Genesis 10 and 11, 1-9, are chronologically in the reverse order. The references to their “tongues” in 10, 20 and 31 indicates this. In spite of this judgment upon idolatry as we shall see the family of Abram “served other gods” (Joshua 24:2. See also Genesis 31:30-37) so this scattering did not prevent idolatry. It was out of this God called Abram and raised up a witness to Himself and commenced a new commonwealth, a new nation, out of whom, according to the flesh Christ should come, and God’s purposes be brought to fruition throughout the ages. Noah was the 10th generation, and he was “perfect in his generations” but Abram was the next 10th generation and was idolatrous.
The book of Genesis is built around ten genealogies of which five occur in Abraham’s family (see 11:27-29; 22:20-24; 25:2-4; 25:12-16 and 25:19-26).
This life of the patriarch, Abraham, is seen in Scripture divided up into definite phases and with differing doctrinal applications in the New Testament based upon these experiences of God, which were vouchsafed to him. The various ways in which God appeared to him and revealed Himself under various names, most of them for the first time, and the number of times his name appears, indicates the importance of his call and experiences. There are high heights to which he ascends in faith and depths into which he fell in unbelief, all for our encouragement and warning.
Note, each crisis in the life of Abraham brings a renewal of the promises, accompanied by an appearance of the Lord Jehovah, and a fresh revelation. The various names of Jehovah should be studied in these portions as these “are too deep to be ignored” (I.V.F. Commentary). See with regard to Hagar 16:7 and 21:17. “The angle of Jehovah” (the first occurrence) is the same as Jehovah and God for she said “Thou God seest me” and she saw God and lived whereas the usual thought was that to see God was to die.
The character of Babylon occupies an important place in history and throughout the Bible, and it is usually referred to alongside a call to faithfulness. The reader should study this important subject. Although Abraham was of the line of faith yet he was an idolater originally for he lived near Babylon, which emphasises the grace and call of God and his obedience.
In Acts 7 we read that the God of glory appeared to him and called him to leave country and kindred and come into the land which God would show him. The response of obedience was not at first immediate or complete for in Genesis 11:13 it was the act of Terah, his father, which took the family out of Ur of the Chaldees in Mesopotamia (near Babylon) to go into the land of Canaan, so he (Abraham) did not completely leave his kindred, some of whom were a snare to him afterwards, nor did he go immediately into the land of Canaan but stopped part way at Haran. It was necessary to travel from Ur up the bank of the Euphrates in a northward direction, for the desert lay between Ur and the land of promise and this was practically impassable, and at the extreme north lay Haran and then Canaan lay south again, i.e. he had to travel in a north-westerly direction and then south-easterly. But they stopped in the north and there settled (see ch. 24) and not until the father, Terah, died did Abraham travel further at God’s fresh command. There was therefore at first incomplete obedience, and who does not know of such?
So we read in Genesis 12:1 that the Lord “had said”, and this was before he lived in Haran (Acts 7:2) he may therefore have had a second call or a renewal of the first one, such is God’s patience and tenacity of purpose. This then is what we may call the first Separation of which there were many. With this first call went the first promise (12:2, 3) concerning the great name, the great blessing, including all families of the earth, and the curse upon those who cursed him, and thus they came into the land of Canaan and the significant phrase occurs “the Canaanite was then in the land”. There God appeared to him again and implemented His promise, mentioning for the first time the “seed” through whom the land would be possessed, and we come to the first Altar which was to be so prominent in the life of the patriarch (12:7). Then he removed to near Beth-el, “house of God”, and there built another altar where he pitched his tent between the “house of God” and Ai “the heap of ruins”, a place midway, where the believer always sojourns, and he called on the name of Jehovah Whom he now worshipped. The Tent, the Altar and the Name. These are what every heavenly pilgrim has. Abram has his altars, Isaac his wells, Jacob his pillars, all expressive of their individual lives and characters.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
He (Christ) overcame the world when it attacked Him in the worst possible shape, for He was poorer than any of you, He was faj more sad than any of you, He was more despised and persecuted than any of you, and He was deprived of certain divine consolations which God has promised never to take away from His saints, and yet with all possible disadvantages Christ overcame the world.