Chapter 5—Frenzied Feasting, Fear, then Babylon’s Doom
THE prophet Isaiah had foretold some 160 years or so earlier, that one should be raised up to act both as shepherd to Israel and as a scourge to the nations, and also gave his name as Cyrus (Is. 44:28 and 45:1). Thus when the seventy years of Israel’s servitude to Babylon, foretold in Jer. 25:11 neared its close, the overthrow of the world empire, represented by the head of gold in Daniel, ch. 2, must be accomplished, for “the scripture cannot be broken.” How impossible it must have appeared to Jeremiah as he wrote the words of ch. 50 and 51 that Babylon, the mighty conqueror under whose power the nation suffered, would so soon be overthrown, fulfilling the words “Babylon is taken, Bel is put to shame... lo? I will stir up and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north... I will punish the king of Babylon... as I have punished the king of Assyria” (Jer. 50:2, 9, 18). Furthermore Jeremiah could fill in details concerning the overthrow. “The Lord hath both devised and done that which He spake concerning the inhabitants of Babylon. O thou that dwellest upon the waters, abundant in treasure, thine end is come... Prepare against her the nations, the kings of the Medes... the mighty men of Babylon have forborne to fight... one post shall run to meet another... to show the king of Babylon that his city is taken... the passage (marginal reading, fords) are surprised, and the reeds they have burned with fire and the men of war are affrighted... the wall of Babylon shall fall... I will make drunk her princes and her wise men” (Jer. 51:12, 13; 28:30-32). So wrote Jeremiah at the time when Judah’s last king, Zedekiah, sought vainly to oppose the might of Babylon, (ch. 44:57; 51:59 and 28:1).
In chapter 5 of Daniel, the fulfilment of these prophesied details is recorded. When the king Nebuchadnezzar died, his son Evil-Merodach succeeded him, but this dissolute monarch was very soon murdered by his brother-in-law Neriglassar who then seized the throne. His son Labushi-Marduk who succeeded him was also murdered by conspirators less than a year later, and the throne was taken by Nabonidus who had married a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, and their son is the Belshazzar who, at the close of the empire, was acting as viceroy or king-regent while his father was absent on a military mission. Ancient historians such as Herodotus (who was present in Babylon shortly after its fall) do not refer to the ruler Belshazzar and therefore earlier critics of the book of Daniel have contested the accuracy, but in 1854 the archaeologist Sir Henry Rawlinson discovered tablets and translated them showing the names of Nabonaid (or Nabonidus) and his son Bil-shar-uzzar. When the Bible differs from any known history, critics always infer history is true, the Bible false. In time, as information becomes available, the Bible is verified and history shown to be deficient.
Whilst Medo-Persian hosts were surrounding the marvellous city of Babylon, its dissipated ruler, lulled to a false sense of security by the boasted impregnability of the city with its walls 87 feet thick and 450 feet high, called a great feast revelling in all the magnificent luxury. The numerous idol gods, with worship always associated with lustful extravagance, required annual feastings. The debauchery in this feast where a thousand lords and princes with wives and concubines abandoned themselves in drunken licentious revelry, reached its climax when the drunken king hurled insults at the great Jehovah, calling for the gold and silver vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem by his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar. Not content with this, in drunken revelry they “praised the gods of gold and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood and of stone” (v. 4). At that moment frenzied merriment turned to fear, as God wrote a message on the wall by the hand of an unseen messenger.
As the hand moved across the wall leaving the message “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin (or Peres)” the king’s conscience was stricken, his face blanched and he trembled in fear. Once again, despite their previous failures, “the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers” were called for (v. 7). And despite the promised rewards they were unable to “read the writing” or “make known to the king the interpretation.” Tn the midst of the perplexity, the queen mother. Nebuchadnezzar’s wife, came into the place of dissipation to remind the king of one whom Nebuchadnezzar had trusted—“Let Daniel be called” (v. 12).
From his obscurity, having been rejected by the impious king, Daniel was recalled and scorning the flattery and offer of rewards, he boldly accuses the trembling king, reminding him that (as Nebuchadnezzar had confessed), it was “the Most High God... gave thy father the kingdom and greatness and glory and majesty” (v. 18) and also of the humiliation and restoration. How solemn the charge “thou... hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this” (v. 22). You knew what the most high God had done yet you praise the gods of silver, gold, iron, wood, stone which see not, nor hear, nor know. The part of the hand was sent from the God in whose hand your breath is, He has given the writing.
Thus Daniel reads the awful message. Numbered, numbered, weighed, dividing, or as Daniel said, it already is divided. Even as Daniel spoke, the Medo-Persian armies had diverted the river and were swarming through its channel to surprise and affright the soldiers who were unfit to resist, coming upon the drunken princes, even as Jeremiah had foretold in detail over seventy years before. Though the trembling king should command rewards and proclamations concerning Daniel’s position as third ruler in the kingdom, all his commands were unavailing for the decree of judgment against him was speedily enforced. ‘‘That night Belshazzar... was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom” (v. 30, 31). Despite all his former authority under Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel had been in obscurity, ignored and forgotten, as had all his interpretations and warnings. Similarly in these last days when God is again about to speak in judgment. His messengers are ignored, His warnings unheeded. The fall of Babylon was the prelude to the delivering of the people of God from their seventy years of captivity. The fine “head of Gold” had degenerated to a weakly controlled kingdom with moral corruption. So now when apostasy and corruption are increasing rapidly, we see the signs that the end is near, “Mystery, Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth” is about to fall under judgment. When the mighty voice cries “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great” (Rev. 17:5; 18:2) then Israel will for ever be delivered from the long centuries of tribulation due to their rejection of their Messiah. Meanwhile in view of the imminence of these events let us heed the exhortation “Come forth My people out of her, that ye have no fellowship with her sins” (Rev. 18:4). Let os be sure that as His people, our worship and service is pure and clear of all contamination of carnal organisation, in lowliness of mind seeking nothing but His glory and praise.
The life of Abraham is mentioned more times in the New Testament than almost any other except Moses, although nearly as often as he, and there is far more spiritual teaching based upon his life than any. These are here enumerated, although not elaborated. This must be left to the investigation and patient research of the reader and especially their spiritual significance. We must note that no such teaching is based upon the lives of any of the other patriarchs, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph,
ROMANS 4. Proving justification by faith without the law of Moses and prior to it, and prior to circumcision. See the interruption of this section bringing in David and his “justification” under the law but note that this reference is more that of forgiveness for the saint and not original justification. Abraham is the spiritual “father” of both circumcised and uncircumcised where there is faith. Abraham is called the heir of the world in this passage which has in view the justification and the making righteous of the Gentile (sinner). Also free grace and the spiritual inheritance settled in Abraham’s spiritual children, as he is the “father of us all.” He is “quickened” to become the father of many nations. We have faith in the God of Resurrection.
The reader would do well to compare and contrast the teaching illustrated by Abraham in Romans 4 with that illustrated by Adam in Romans 5. Justification by faith, and living by the power of that faith, contrasted with our original standing in Adam and our condemnation originally, because of our connection with him, having sinned in Adam, before we came into being.
Justification by faith is a keynote of these three epistles under consideration where the quotation is thrice repeated “the just shall live by faith” from Habakkuk 2. In Romans the emphasis is on “the just” in Galatians it is on “shall live” and in Hebrews it is on “by faith.” Now it has been stated that the passage in Habakkuk can be read “Now the justified, or the righteous man shall live by his faithfulness” which is not justification by faith at all, and this is NOT how the Holy Spirit uses this Old Testament passage, and as HE is the writer of it, He should know its meaning. Not only so but this version (or perversion) is by no means universal and we quote from the Septuagint and by Spurred thus. “The just shall live by my faith” (marg. “faith in Me”) and “But the righteous (man) shall live through his faith.” Is it not possible that while ye have “versions” the New Testament writers knew what was in the original writings?
In GALATIANS 3, Genesis 15, is quoted and all nations are to be blessed through Abraham. Then, the curse of the law. The promise to Abraham through the seed. The law could not over-ride God’s promise to Abraham. The whole argument should be studied.
Galatians 4. The two wives and sons and covenants contrasted. The first covenant mentioned but not the New (but rather, Jerusalem) an intricate, legal but cogent reasoning. See quotation from Isaiah 54:1 and Genesis 21. “Cast out the bondwoman and her son”; and Heirship. This is the only place where these subjects are pursued and expounded.
HEBREWS 5. Melchisedek and the Priesthood of Christ, founded upon His sufferings (Gethsemane etc.).
Hebrews 6. God’s oath to Abraham. Melchisedek supercedes, even as he is before Levi and Aaron; and stands in contrast thereto.
Hebrews 11. The call of Abraham and his going forth in faith. His tent life and city prospects, Sarah’s infertility and Abraham’s vitality gone, (so a double miracle of quickening) Abraham offering Isaac. Note the division in the record by the parenthesis in 13-16.
Finally there is a remarkable link between the Old and New Testaments hinging upon the name of Abraham, the last mention in the one and the first mentions in the other. The reader should examine Micah 7:13-20 for the divine enactment of the grace and truth of God and then note Matthew 1:1, commencing the genealogy of the Lord Jesus and then Luke 1 containing Mary’s praise concluding with the ascription to Abraham and to his seed for ever and then vv. 68-75 recounting the praise of the father of John Baptist celebrating in prospect, redemption and salvation.
PHILADELPHIA (= brotherly love) was the name of a city so called by the founder, the king of Pergamos, in honour of his brother, Attalus Philadelphus, whose loyalty to the king had earned him this title. It was situated 30 miles S.E. of Sardis, and was in the centre of an earthquake zone, by reason of which it was neither rich nor powerful. The church there bore a resemblance to the city. It was weak, but like the brother of the founder, marked by loyalty—to God.
The Lord salutes the church by a four-fold title, (1) He that is holy, (2) He that is true, (3) He that hath the key of David, (4) He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth and no man openeth.
He that is holy points to the absolute holiness of the Son of God, whose life was always well-pleasing to the Father. 'Holy’ is an attribute of Jehovah, whom John equates with the Lord Jesus Christ (John 12:41). Thus the Lord here takes to Himself this title that belongs to Jehovah. ‘Holy’ thus used means unique, separate from sinners, far above men. Men could not convict Christ of sin, nor could Satan find any chinks in His armour of holiness.
He that is true. He is the faithful witness (1:5), who tells us all about ourselves. There are two Greek words rendered ‘true’ in the New Testament. One is the opposite of what is false; the other implies the fulfilling of all that is claimed for it. The latter is the word used here. It could well be translated by an obsolete English adjective ‘very,’ that is, He is very God, possessed of all the attributes of deity. So is He true to whatever office or title He takes to Himself. He fulfils them all.
He that hath the key of David. Referring back to Isaiah 22:22, whence this title seems to be a citation, we find an explanation of the symbol. Shebna had been deprived of the office of treasurer. Eliakim received the authority instead, and to him was given the key of David. Now great David’s greater Son has the key of David’s house. So here the Lord is seen as having the supreme authority in the churches. The key is the badge of office, and none can really act apart from Him who holds the key.
He openeth and none shutteth, and shutteth and none openeth. This has reference to a door of service for God, as seen in v. 8. When the Lord opens such a door for any in the assembly, none can close it against His servant. Nor can any hold a door of service open once the Lord has shut it.
The Lord knew their works, consequent on the open door of service that the Lord had set before them. They were activities in which none could hinder their efforts. It was a door for the preaching of the word of God (Col. 4:3); it was a ‘door of faith unto the Gentiles’ (Acts 14:27); it was ‘a great door and effectual’ which the Lord had opened (1 Cor. 16:9); it could not be shut, even if the many adversaries attempted to do so.
Next comes the Lord’s commentary on the church. He has nothing but praise for Philadelphia—nothing to condemn. His commendation was three-fold:—
Thou hast a little strength—only a little strength, but what they had they used for God. The fact that they had little ability made them more dependent on the Lord, and therefore more usable. The church in Philadelphia resembled the city, which had been weakened by repeated earthquakes.
Thou hast kept My word. The verb here is in the aorist tense, referring to a definite single time of persecution, possibly the time of the Jewish persecution of v. 9. They had obeyed the injunctions of the word of God.
Thou hast not denied My name. They were faithful to the Lord. Thus we see in Philadelphia a great contrast to Sardis. In Sardis we have a church with a big name in the eyes of the world, but it was dead as far as activity Godward was concerned. Philadelphia was only a weak church as the world saw it, but it was faithful to Christ, and hence of value in the service of God.
The Lord responds to the faithfulness of the Philadelphian church with three promises, each of which commences with the word ‘behold,’
An open door of service (v. 8), because it used its little strength. The door which the Lord promised to keep open for the church led to the works it had done for Christ, and of which He had taken good account,
Victory over Jewish enemies, because it had not denied His name. The church had thus honoured the Lord. He would honour the church by demonstrating His love for it before the Jewish enemies in the city. The synagogue in Philadelphia was composed of Jews like those in Jerusalem whom the Lord told were of their father the devil (John 8:44). These were not Jews inwardly; their circumcision was not that of the heart, nor in the spirit, but merely in the letter (Rom. 2:29). They had apparently despised the weak church, but the Lord would cause the Jews to come and acknowledge their superiority, that Christ was in their midst of a truth, and had shown His love for them. This would be a change for the high-minded Jews who thought that God had a regard for them alone,
Preservation from tribulation, because they had kept His word, the word of His coming that required patience on their part. As a result of their faithfulness in this respect the Lord in return would keep them from (lit., out of) the hour of trial, or tribulation that was soon to come upon the whole habitable world. This does not merely mean that they would be kept through the trial, but rather taken out of, or away from it. It may be that the reference here is to the time of worldwide persecution of the Christians under Trajan shortly after this epistle was written. Then, for ten years anyone in the Roman Empire (sometimes called the habitable world) who named the name of Christ was put to death. Philadelphia alone would be spared this trial.
But this promise has a message for the church to-day. The Lord has a special word of encouragement for those believers who are conscious of their weakness, yet are faithful to the name of Christ, and patiently keep His word, especially that referring to the rapture of the Church. Such will be kept out of, taken away from, the Great Tribulation, the time of Jacob’s trouble, which for 3 1/2 years will affect the whole inhabited earth. The whole Church will have been raptured before that day of trial. That this is the main application of the word of the Lord here would seem to be indicated by the Lord’s promise in the next verse.
For the church in Philadelphia the Lord has a word of counsel, of comfort and encouragement in difficult times, ‘I come quickly.’ The coming of the Lord for His own is ever a word of hope. In the meantime they are counselled to hold fast what they had—‘the word of My patience.’ They should continue to do their work for God, lest another take the crown they should have received for faithful perseverance, even with such little strength. This is the crown of righteousness as given to Paul, and to all who have so loved the Lord’s appearing as to keep the faith, and fight the good fight valiantly to the end (2 Tim. 4:8). The work of the Lord must be done. If the Philadelphians did not persevere some others would, and to these the crown will be awarded. The place of defaulters in the Kingdom of God will be secure—that depends upon the work of Christ alone—but their reward would be forfeited (1 Cor. 3:15).
There is a two-fold promise given to the individual overcomer, the true possessor of eternal life, who manifests it by faithfulness to the end.
I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God. As contrasted with the temples of Philadelphia, so prone to earthquakes, the overcomer would be reckoned a pillar in a temple that cannot be shaken. For being steadfast under persecution he will be seen as a steadfast pillar in the temple of God’s building. Though weak on earth he will be a strong pillar in the heavenly temple. The overcomer who served the Lord in weakness on earth will serve in mighty power in heaven (Rev. 7:15). He will dwell there permanently, not as in Philadelphia, where the worshippers so often were compelled to quit the temple hurriedly to avoid disaster. It teaches the eternal security of the believer—to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I will write upon him. Just as on the pillars of temples in Philadelphia there were inscriptions (2 Tim. 2:19), so on the overcomer would be written a three-fold inscription— three names:
The name of My God. This gives the overcomer the right to be in the temple of God. He belongs to God.
The name of the city of My God. His citizenship is written on him; he belongs to the heavenly Jerusalem, described in Rev. 21:2-7; he will be proud to belong to such a city; he will find bis inheritance there.
My own new name, which none knows save he who receives it. Compare a similar promise in 2:17. It is a secret relationship between Christ and His servant, into which secret the world cannot enter. He will reveal Himself in a new way to the overcomer.
The letter finishes with the usual exhortation to every overcomer who would hear—that he might pay strict attention to what is taught therein. It is for the admonition of all, in every church, in every dispensation. Let us look to the Lord to open for us a door of service, not to push one open for ourselves, but to wait for Him. Then none will be able to shut it. Let us not despair if we have only a little ability for God’s service. God can use that little strength. God still says that service for Him is ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit’ (Zech. 4:6). Let us, like Paul, ‘take pleasure in weaknesses... for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong’ (2 Cor. 12:10, R.V.). If through ‘weakness and defeat we win the meed and crown’ we shall be pillars in the temple of our God. Let us copy the example of the woman in the house of Simon the leper, whom the Lord commended with the words, ‘She hath done what she could’ (Mark 14:8). Then we shall also have the commendation of our Lord.
COULD the Lord Jesus have sinned when here on earth in the days of His flesh? This is an oft recurring question which admits of but one answer—an unequivocal negative. But not all agree with this. Some feel that such an answer destroys the reality of the temptation through which He passed and that, if He could not sin, this temptation was meaningless. Others say that He could sin, but would not, or that as man He could sin, but as God could not sin. Now all such answers are a serious perversion of the truth and a grave aspersion on the impeccability of the Lord.
That He was able to do anything is not true. Being God either before His incarnation or since it, He had the attribute of omnipotence, but that does not exclude the moral impossibility of His doing anything contrary to His being or to any relative position which He occupied. He was the Creator of the Universe, and all things were made by Him, but that He could make bread out of stones at such a time when the devil made the suggestion to Him was an utter impossibility. So that it is incorrect to say that He could but He would not.
We must never divide the Person of Christ and speak of Him doing this as God or doing that as man. The union of the two whole and perfect natures of deity and humanity in Him, which commenced at His incarnation was such that whatever He said or did was the utterance or deed of One who was indivisibly God and man. He had experiences which are common to all men because He was man, so that He ate and drank and slept, and thirsted and hungered and suffered pain, etc., etc. But sin was no part of humanity: it was an invader and is not an integral part of human nature: it is a baneful intruder. Moreover, He did things which only deity could perform, so that He wrought miracles, but He never acted at one time as man and at another as God. It is a grave mistake to attempt to divide or dissect the Person of Christ. Our natural reason will never lead us into the knowledge of the Son. Only the Father knows Him fully (Matthew 11:17). The great marvel is that “God was in Christ.” “God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,” not in sinful flesh. The flesh that He took was not the likeness of Adam’s flesh prior to the fall, but the likeness of sinful flesh which became so after the fall But He Himself was free from all taint of sin.
What is temptation? The word itself means to test, to try, to prove, to examine, and James discusses the matter at length.
His view of temptation is not that of Genesis 22:1 in which the one who tempts or tries is God. Nor is his view of temptation that of Matthew 4 (recorded also in Mark and Luke) for that trial came from the devil. James defines his view in chapter 1, verse 14. “Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin.” Note also particularly what James adds: “God cannot be tempted of evil.” We have but to ask the question whether the Lord Jesus is God, and if the answer is, as it must be, “yes,” then we have here a clear affirmation that the Lord Jesus could not sin, for He could not be tempted in this sense. There was in Him no lust to answer to the external object, so that when lust and object unite sin is brought forth. “The prince of this world cometh,” He said, “and hath nothing in me.”
In what sense was He tempted then for in Hebrews 4 we are informed that He “was tempted in all points like as we, sin apart.” Does this mean that the temptation resulted in no sin, or that He was not tempted to sin? The writer to the Hebrews uses the word, not as an allurement or enticement to sin, but as a testing or proving which resulted in the fact that it showed He did not sin.
1John 3:9 affirms that He “who is born of God cannot sin”—“he is not able to sin.” That it is the continuous tense makes no difference to the fact: John makes this ruling statement that it is utterly impossible for the one born of God to sin. If it be objected that 1John 3:9 does not, in the context, speak of the Lord Jesus, reference may be made to 5:18 where the phrase “begotten of God” is certainly used of Him. And what is stated, therefore, in 3:9 must apply to the one spoken of in 5:18. That our Lord Jesus was born of God is plain from the records of the Incarnation. That He could not sin is plain from the testament in St. John’s epistle.
What shall we say then, of the wilderness temptations through which He went? We should not overlook the fact that He was tested of the devil. Why did the devil test Him? Testing or tempting in this sense is a move taken with a view of ascertaining an unknown or uncertain quantity. God had declared at His baptism “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” The devil doubted the truth of this and took steps to put Him to the test with a view of checking up the accuracy or otherwise of the statement. Luke 4:34, records a statement made after the temptation when the verification of the assertion of the Sonship of the Lord Jesus had been made: “I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.”
Therefore, the threefold temptation of the Lord was no allurement springing from without but answering to an inward urge to comply with the wrong suggestions. It was a test, put not by God, for “God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man” (James 1:13). It was put by the devil, the Prince of this world, and he found nothing in the Lord Jesus to respond to his evil suggestions. It demonstrated in result that not only was He able not to sin but that it was not possible for Him to sin. To say that He could sin, no matter what supplementary statements may be made, is to impute the principle of sin within Him, thus denying the holiness of His being and, in consequence, denying His true deity. The question need only be asked—Can God sin?
What, then, it may be asked does the phrase mean—“in all points like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15)? It is plain that the circumstances in which the Lord Jesus was throughout His earthly course differ in many details from those of ours. But as merchandise is classified into a number of classes for the purpose of trade mark registration, so the trials of life may be classified and in every such class He was tested. He knew a test in the food class, for He hungered and thirsted; in bereavement for Lazarus died; in physical pain and bodily tiredness; but we repeat He knew no test in which He was allured by an external attraction to sin, such allurement finding a response within. The angled fish is caught by the hook because of the desire within the fish for the external object, the bait, but it was not so with Christ.
Paul says the Lord Jesus knew no sin, that is, He did not know it experimentally. Peter says that He did no sin. And John says that in Him is no sin. We must remember that these are not the opinions about Him expressed by mere men, but they are the words of the Spirit through those writers.
But, it may be said that, if the Lord Jesus were truly and fully man He must experience the temptations which men in general experience, and He must be liable to fall as they were. This is not so. That He was truly and fully man we do not deny, we rather affirm it; but we repeat that sin is not an integral part of humanity. The Lord Jesus was unfallen Man, all others are fallen men. In the perfection of His being He felt the full force of the subtlety of the suggestions of the devil in a way that no fallen creature could do.
It may be asked, is not free will an integral part of humanity, and, if so, did not the Lord Jesus have a free will? Yes! free-will was given to Adam and he mis-used it. The last Adam, the Lord Jesus, being perfect man, had free-will, but He said, “Not My will but Thine be done.” “I came not to do My own will but the will of Him that sent Me.” That He could use it wrongly was altogether impossible, for unlike Adam who was a creature, He was the Creator. Adam was man but Christ is God. Yet He could say, “I can do nothing of Myself” (John 8:25). It was a moral impossibility for Him to take independent action apart from His Father. There is no independency in the Godhead, not even when Christ was here in the days of His flesh. Liddon has written: “The highest liberty does not imply the moral capacity of doing wrong. God is one perfectly free Being, yet God cannot sin.”
IN Isaiah, chapter 61, verse 2—in centre of verse—there is a long historical parenthesis. That parenthesis is timeless! It is in this timeless period that God is taking out from the Gentiles a people for his name—the church is being formed. We belong to the society of heaven. The church is never mentioned in the Old Testament. The Church is not a subject of prophecy.
Matthew 16: The building of the Church was still something that was in the future. In the epistles, we learn that this was a mystery, but it was revealed to the apostle Paul. We have pictures and types of the Church in the Old Testament, but the Church itself was never mentioned. It did not come into existence till Acts 2. The Church is not a material building. The Church is not just a religious organisation named after a person or after a country, or a system of government. The word “Church” is made up of two Greek words, and they simply mean ‘called out.’
We have an illustration of the Church in Israel. The children of Israel were divinely called by God. Called out of darkness into light, called out of the kingdom of Satan, called out of the world—a called out people.
Matthew 16 : We have the Church’s foundation. Simon Peter said “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” Verse 18 “Upon this rock”—upon Peter’s confession. Christ himself is the Church’s foundation, and that foundation was laid at Calvary. Where were we? We were in nature’s quarry, in trespasses and in sin, but the Holy Ghost began to work, and he digged us out of nature’s quarry.
Verse 18: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The Church is against opposition.
Wind and rain—outward opposition.
Gates of hell—inward opposition.
But the Church is going to be triumphant at last.
Acts 2: We have the formation of the Church, and the formation took place with the descent of the Holy Spirit, Christ was gone on high, and then the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost, and when the Holy Spirit descended, the Church was born. When the Holy Spirit descended, those separate units were Baptised into one body, and that is the mystic body of Christ. Surely it is a great mystery. All of God’s beloved people are one.
This is seen in type in Leviticus. Although the Church is never mentioned in prophecy, it is pictured in Leviticus 23. The Children of Israel were to bring a new meat offering. It had to be brought fifty days after the wavesheaf. The new meat offering consisted of two loaves, and yet although there were two loaves, it was but one offering. Two loaves with leaven—representing the Jewish and the Gentile element, but now both one. The meat offering (Leviticus 2) is a type of the Lord in His blessed manhood, and there was to be no leaven in it because leaven speaks of sin.
In Ephesians the word “Church” is mentioned no fewer than nine times. It is always the wide broad aspect of the Church that is brought before us. In Ephesians we are given three figures of the Church:
Chapter 1—Church as His body.
Chapter 2—Church as a building.
Chapter 5—Church as a bride.
Chapter 1: The body is particularly associated with the Holy Spirit because it is the Spirit’s life that permeates the Body.
Chapter 2: The building is more associated with God the Father.
Chapter 5: The bride is more associated with Christ. Christ the Bridegroom, the Church the Bride.
Chapter 1—The body—the head is above.
Chapter 2—God is within.
Chapter 5—Christ is with his bride.
Chapter 1: Life. Where you have the body you have the thought of life. The Church is a divine organism, that is to say, it has life within itself.
Chapter 2: Light. There you have the temple and God dwells in that Temple. God’s purpose is that it should be a temple of light.
Chapter 5: Love. You have the bride. The bride is the object of His love.
In Chapter 5 you have her past, her present and her future. The bride is the one that appeals most to our hearts. We are down here, and we are the object of His love. No man is able to make his bride just everything he wants her to be, but Christ is able to do it with His bride.
The future of the Church is going to be triumphant. The Church is heaven-born and heaven-bound. He must come and take the Church to her proper sphere. ‘What a story, in the glory, she’ll repeat.’
He will present her to Himself, and she will be a glorious Church, like Himself, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
‘Spot’ suggests defilement.
‘Wrinkle’ suggests age and decay.
His manifold wisdom, and his exceeding goodness and kindness will be seen, and it will be displayed through His Church.
The wilderness will soon be past. Many a time there are thorns in the way, and many a time you are hurt, there are hills to climb, but thank God, soon He is coming, and the future of His Church is to be with Him, to be presented with Him in glory.
IT is easy to play at being a Christian, to make a public confession of faith without real submission to the urgent and permanent claims involved therein. Sometimes a person pretends to be a disciple of Jesus Christ as Lord, and at the same time does his utmost to evade the consequences of his professed discipleship. That kind of practice is extremely easy, and of it even the best-intentioned may not be aware; and it throws any one of us open to the charge of hypocrisy, if not in the eyes of our fellow-disciples, certainly in the reckoning of an all cognizant Judge. One of the deterrents to such an attitude is a frequent reading of the so-called Sermon on the Mount.
Some have very deftly neglected the teaching contained therein and relegated it to a future condition they call the Kingdom of heaven, and refer to the Sermon as ‘Kingdom Truth,’ forgetting, perhaps, that divine principles do not change. They are the same under grace as under law. Discipleship always makes exorbitant demands, and it is spiritually hurtful to attempt to escape the claims of Christ in the present dispensation of the Church by allocating His teaching to others than ourselves. The Sermon has been aptly described as “The Manifesto of the King.” Others have called it “The Principles of the Kingdom,” “A Pattern for Living,” “The Way of Discipleship.” Let it be admitted, however, that the Pattern cannot be followed if it is not known, and the Manifesto cannot be obeyed apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the Sermon some very searching words are given about the priorities demanded of the disciple. Here is the first of these. ‘If thou bring (art bringing) thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift’ (Matthew 5:23-24).
The context is illuminating; it should be carefully read and pondered. Our Lord with consummate skill has been pointing out the contrast between the demands of the ancient ritual and the principles of His kingdom “Ye have heard it was said by them of old time... whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother (without a cause) shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22). Anger evidently means an attitude of bitterness which might at any time explode in expressions of hatred. Another has explained: “The main points to be observed are, the distinct extension of the conception of ‘killing’ to embrace malevolent anger, whether it find vent, or is kept close in the heart; the clear recognition that, whilst the emotion which is the source of overt act is of the same nature as the act, that therefore he who ‘hateth his brother is a murderer’” (1 John 3:14). Anger stands in the same relationship to killing as thought to deed. Rabbi Eliezer puts the matter in this epigrammatic form, ‘He who hates his neighbour, lo, he belongs to the shedders of blood.’
The illustration which the Lord uses is most apposite. Picture the enactment in its several stages.
Our Lord used language that could be understood by His hearers, but the principles enunciated are applicable in the Christian dispensation. For our purpose, abiding by the principles, the persons involved are Christians, although the language is that of the Jewish Temple. The gift being brought to the altar, although not specified, is in all probability a Peace Offering. That was an offering which had peculiar characteristics. The offerer could share his offering with others, because it was a thanksgiving in recognition of the goodness of God (Leviticus 7). Such an offering frequently accompanied an act of forgiveness and reconciliation, as on the occasion when Jacob called Laban and others to share with him a meal when he had offered sacrifices (Genesis 31:54). That possibly gives significance to the meaning of the gift referred to in the passage—a peace offering.
Let us try to translate the passage into modern circumstances. The altar was the place of worship, of self-dedication, and could be made to correspond to the Lord’s Supper, at which in worship there is the recognition of the goodness of God. The worshipper brings his gift of thanksgiving, and should be recognizing that in his act of worship he is offering himself in gratitude—an aspect too easily and too often forgotten.
The second stage in the enactment is this. The offerer has his act of worship interrupted. As he stands at the altar, and is about to hand his offering to the priest he remembers that a brother has been offended, and, whether rightly or wrongly, has somewhat against him. Memory suddenly goes to work, and the thought which arises cannot be suppressed. That is the action of the Holy Spirit. Conscience is touched, and the offerer becomes uneasy. He is perturbed, mentally. Then will begins to operate, and to relieve his disturbed conscience, the offerer leaves his gift before the altar, while the priest stands bewildered. The offended brother is sought and reconciliation, presumably, is effected. The injunction has been obeyed, ‘First be reconciled to thy brother and then come and offer thy gift.’
That having been done the offerer, with a clear conscience, can return, offer his gift happily, and present his worship in an acceptable way.
Circumstances have changed; but what a sensation would be caused at the Lord’s Supper if a brother who had risen to present his worship and thanksgiving were suddenly to become aware that a difference with another had not been resolved, and it was necessary for him to be reconciled to his brother! Would Christian courtesy, and divine enabling, cause him to cross the floor and in the presence of others take the step which would lead to reconciliation? He could then return to his place and worship, unhindered, having no load upon his conscience.
‘Such self-conquest, which will often seem like degradation, is more acceptable service to the King, and truer worship than all words or ceremonials. Deep truths as to the relations between worship, strictly so called, and life, lie in these words, which may well be taken to heart by those whose altar is Calvary, and their gift the thank-offering of themselves’ (Maclaren).
DIFFERENT names indeed, with vastly different meanings, descriptive of two distinct characters that were poles apart. The one, Jehoshaphat, the good and God-fearing king of Judah, who did much to abolish idolatry, and to restore the true worship of God in Judah (see 2 Chronicles 7:8): the other, wicked Jezebel, the idolatrous daughter of a heathen king, through whom, as the wife of Ahab, Baal-worship became fully established in Israel. Her hands, too, were red with the shed blood of the prophets of the Lord, and that of Nabal (1 Kings 18:4, etc.).
You ask for the connection suggested by the heading of this article. Alas, that there was any, but just in this, no doubt, lies the secret of much of the defection that was seen in Jehoshaphat’s life, and a clue to the disaster that befell his posterity.
We are sometimes reminded of Jehoshaphat’s ever-inclining toward the ungodly Ahab, and of the results of these contacts and associations, as illustrating the evils of the “unequal yoke” in business and in social life.
Impressive as all of this is, and significant, too, the real point of departure with Jehoshaphat is often missed, the true meaning and far-reaching consequence of which is usually overlooked.
This we see, where after the early stage of his reign, which was promising, we read “Jehoshaphat joined affinity with Ahab” (2 Chronicles 18:1). From then on his contacts with Ahab and his posterity were all too frequent.
We ask just what this affinity included and implied. We believe that reference to the original is helpful here. There we find the Hebrew word to be one that in its Bible usage is always suggestive of a close marriage relationship. It has about the meaning of “becoming an in-law,” and is, in the Old Testament, only used of matrimonial alliances and relationships. It is to be distinguished from the word that is used in ch. 20:35, where we read of Jehoshaphat joining himself to Ahaziah.
Since we later learn that Jehoshaphat’s daughter-in-law was from the house of Ahab, we conclude that this was nothing less than the contracting, or arranging for, the marriage of his son Jehoram to the daughter of Ahab.
This woman we would identify as Athaliah, who in 2 Chronicles 22:2, is referred to as the daughter or granddaughter of Omri, father of Ahab. She is also described as the daughter of Ahab, and so we judge of the notorious Jezebel.
Thus, it would seem, was introduced into the royal line of Judah that infamous person, with such memorable results. That she followed in the steps of Jezebel in idolatry and bloodshed is all too apparent from the sacred record.
It is certain that of all unequal yokes, there is none so compromising as that of Matrimony. First because it is the closest of yokes, where body, soul and spirit is to a great extent shared with the partner. What disastrous effects result to the believer, who seeking in vain for fellowship in spiritual things, find that all that is shared in common, must of necessity be alien, if not hostile to the spiritual life.
Again because of its permanence. As a union that death alone should dissolve, the whole life of the believer concerned may well be ruined.
Further, where the partner is opposed to the claims of Christ, the true spiritual sanctitv of the home and family life is impaired. The stream of family piety is affected at its very source, and with what far-reaching results?
This we see exemplified in the case of Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, who was thus closely linked with the family of Ahab by marriage (2 Chronicles 21:6).
Early in his reign he stains his hands with the blood of his brethren, and others of royal estate. Influenced by his godless wife he did much evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 8:18). His final sickness and death was an act of divine judgment on this son of a pious father, whose reign began with a “blood-bath” and continued with wholesale idolatry (2 Chronicles 21:13).
The only living son of Jehoram then ascended the throne. Counselled by this same woman, Athalia, his mother, he fully conformed to the pattern of the house of Ahab. His death by the hand of Jehu was linked with the execution of God’s judgment on the house of Ahab (2 Chronicles 22).
Yet once again we see the hand of this wicked woman, Athalia. Following the death of her son, Ahaziah, she tries to destroy all the seed royal. Thus she was murdering her own grandchildren, and all for selfish ends, it would seem.
In spite of this Satanic attack on the very royal line of David, that formed the official lineage of Christ, Joash was spared to reign over Judah, and Athaliah came to a well-deserved end (2 Chronicles 23).
The very meaning of Jehoshaphat’s name, “God is judge,” is pertinent here, reminding us that “the Lord will judge His people.”
The results of an unholy alliance, extending to the third and fourth generation, surely remind us that sin is not to be condoned or connived at, much less to be embraced.
And patience, experience, and experience, hope, and hope maketh not ashamed. (Romans 5:4-5.)
This word “experience” is a peculiar word. It applies to the act of the assayer, who when he has passed the metal through the fire, puts on it the stamp of approval. When the metal was molten, much alloy is in it, and it is called “reprobate.” What is the thought? God passes you through the fire, patience endures it, the dross is refined from the pure metal and then God puts His stamp of approval on you. Now you will have hope. When God has given the sign and seal of His approval, what a new hope springs in your breast. —A. T. PIERSON.