This Psalm is probably the best known portion of the Word of God, a proved source of comfort and inspiration to the child of God in all ages and in every circumstance of life.
The connecting link between Psalms 22, 23 and 24 is worth noting, the order is significant, conveying to us the indispensability of the Lord Jesus Christ relative to the Divine plan in its past, present, and future aspects.
In Psalm 22 the great Cross work of the Lord Jesus is presented, the foundation of the truth taught in the following Psalms ;
A Ferocious Mob. (verse 12).
A Forsaken Cry (verse 1).
A Finished Work (verse 31).
In Psalm 23 we have the Crook, the present session and ministry of the Great High Priest at God’s right hand, the One who has passed through the heavens (Heb. 4:14), now appearing in the presence of God for us, (Heb. 9:24). Jesus the Son of God, as Jesus He had an experience here as a Man among men, sinless yet knowing perfect manhood, He wept, was weary, slept, thirsted and hungered, as the Son of God He has the power to succour and sustain, coupled with a perfect knowledge of our every need.
Psalm 24 the thought is the Crown, anticipating the coming kingdom and the Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. The wounded feet of the Son of God will yet ascend the earthly throne, His pierced Hands will hold the sceptre and He shall reign “till moons shall wax and wane no more.”
We shall look at Psalm 23 devotionally and experimentally, after all, this is the important thing, to know in a practical way the leading and guiding of the Shepherd.
The Person of the Shepherd. Verse 1.
The character of the Shepherd inspires confidence and contentment in the sheep. “The Lord is my Shepherd” this betokens a living personal relationship with the Shepherd, we have the same thought in John 10:14, “I am the good Shepherd and know My sheep and am known of mine.” The three fold character of the Shepherd is worth repeating, in John 10.14 He is presented as the Good Shepherd who died, in Hebrews 13:20-21, He is the Great Shepherd in resurrection, In 1 Peter 5:4 He is coming again as the Chief Shepherd to the under shepherds who have faithfully shepherded the sheep.
The Plan of the Shepherd. Verse 2.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures” plenty and peace belong unto those who allow the Shepherd to lead and guide without question, all His paths are pleasantness and peace, He knows what is best for His sheep. Much of our failure upon the pathway home can be attributed, to this important aspect of Christian experience, that we did not take advantage of the green pastures and still waters, it is only in the good of this that we shall triumph in the valley of the shadow.
The Paths of the Shepherd. Verse 3.
“He restoreth my soul” How often the trials of life have almost proved too much for us, foes internal—sin, foes external—the world, and foes infernal—Satan and his hosts, have marshalled their forces against us to turn us from the path of God’s will, we have needed Divine restoration, and having received this have been enabled to pursue the carriage-tracks of righteousness, knowing the leading and guiding of the Shepherd.
The Presence of the Shepherd. Verse 4.
“Thou art with me” What a comforting thought and how we need His presence in a real way in the valley of the shadow of death, as loved ones are called home, the vacuum must be filled in a deeper way by His own presence. The two on the road to Emmaus had this experience, of walking in the valley of the shadow, they had the answer “Jesus Himself drew near” Luke 24:15 “and went WITH THEM” May we know of a truth the words “I am with you alway even unto the end of the age” Matthew 28:20.
The Provision of the Shepherd. Verse 5.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, my cup runneth over.” Can God furnish a table in the wilderness, we have lacked nothing, the lines have fallen unto us in pleasant places, yea we have a goodly heritage. What rich provision has been made for us in God’s precious Word, we have been brought into a large place, “Blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3) we can only touch the fringe of the infinite blessings into which God in His matchless Grace has brought us, our physical and spiritual needs abundantly met by Him!
The Place of the Shepherd. Verse 6.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” What confidence SURELY, the words of the hymn are appropriate “Can I doubt His tender mercy who through life has been my guide” it is in the experience of the past that we trust for the future. We are being well attended by GOODNESS and MERCY, the first supplies our need and second looks after our failures. Hebrews 4:16 Mercy for failure and grace to help in every time of need. The day is fast approaching when faith will give place to sight, when our eyes shall see the King in His beauty, the sands of earth no more shall defile our feet, we shall go in never more to come out, we shall be like Him, we shall see Him as He is, and the wonder of it FOR EVER!
From outside where the Altar, the Molten Sea, and the Lavers were all of brass, we now go inside the Temple where all the furniture was of gold.
In the Holy Place, there were ten Lampstands of gold, “five on the right and five on the left” (2Chron. 4:7). No measurements or detailed description are given, except “the flowers (probably part of the ornamentation), and the lamps and the tongs, made of gold” (2Chron. 4:21, cp. 1Ki. 7:49).
Presumably, these ten Lampstands were like the seven-branch one in the Tabernacle, each with seven lamps. How the gold ceiling and floor must have reflected the light of these lampstands! Think of the gold covered wall carvings embellished with precious stones and the golden tables and altar, and how they must have glistened in the light of these seventy lamps! What dazzling splendour was beheld by the priests!
The lampstands, the light and the oil need to be distinguished, for the lampstands were light-bearers whilst the light was from the burning of oil. The gold lampstands and their light are suggestive of how “the truth is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21), which, according to W. E. Vine, means “not merely ethical truth, but truth in all fulness and scope, as embodied in Him; He was the perfect expression of the truth; this is virtually equivalent to His statement in John 14:6, which reads, I am ... the truth.” There were ten lampstands and seventy lights in all! To us, they resemble the many facets of the truth in Christ Jesus.
Paul’s claim, “the truth of Christ is in me” (2Cor. 11:10) is what we should emulate. We need to imbibe the truth as revealed in the Word of God, and so this brings us to the oil for the lights of the lampstands, which typifies “the Spirit of truth,” a title used three times of the third Person of the Trinity. As He indwells us, His ministry is to guide us into all truth, concerning the Person and glory of Christ (Jno. 14:17, 15:26, 16:13f).
There were also “the lampstands of silver,” but in 1Chron. 28:15 there is no mention of their number or location. These lampstands were probably in the side-chambers for use by the Levites, as suggested by Thos. Newberry. Silver and gold, the two metals used for these and the other lamp-stands, are suggestive of the full range of truth, from redemption to glory, into which the Holy Spirit guides us.
The Tables of Shewbread:
For the Holy Place, Solomon “made ten tables and placed ... five on the right side and five on the left, ... whereon the Shewbread was set” (2Chron. 4:8,19).
These Tables are a symbol of fellowship. No mention is made of the wood used, but the Scriptures state they were of gold (I Ki. 7:48), and so the emphasis is upon not the humanity but the Deity and glory of the One with Whom we have fellowship. According to 1Corinthians 1:9 (RV), God has “called (us) into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Look at the Person with Whom we have fellowship! “His Son,” namely, the Son of God—the dignity of His Person; “Jesus Christ,” that is, the One Who humbled Himself and is now exalted in glory; “our Lord,” which is an acknowledgement of His authority over us.
Christian fellowship: how sweet! Such fellowship, not to be confused with friendship, is “with the Father and His Son, ... (and) with one another” (I Jno. 1:3, 7). The gold of these tables made them distinguished, and it is the Deity of the Persons, with Whom we have fellowship, that makes fellowship distinctive. No mention is made of the size of these Tables, which implies there is no limitation imposed upon our fellowship.
The Tables were in the Temple. Likewise, the sphere of our fellowship is the sanctuary, not a hostile world but with the Lord in “the secret place” and with one another in the assembly.
Upon the Tables, there were loaves of shewbread (2Chron. 4:19) which are a type of Christ. For the maintenance of fellowship, we need the sustenance of feeding upon Christ in the Word of God. The priests ate the shewbread when they changed the loaves once a week, and they ate it in the Temple. We too need spiritual food, not periodically but daily, and it is found not in the world but in the Lord’s presence.
Brief mention is made of “the tables of silver” (1Chron. 28:16), and presumably they were placed in the Side-chambers for the Levites. Not only as worshippers but also as workers, as prefigured by the priests and Levites respectively, we need the fellowship and sustenance of the sanctuary.
The Altar of Incense :
“The Golden Altar,” as it is also called, stood in the Holy Place, before the veil, and it was made of “cedar wood” and “overlaid with gold” (2Chron. 4:19, I Ki. 6:20,22).
Upon the Golden Altar, the high priest burned incense every morning and evening, and it typifies Christ, our great High Priest, exercising His ministry of intercession.
The two materials, cedar wood and gold (used elsewhere extensively in the temple), point respectively to the excellence and glory of the risen and ascended Lord, Who is our great High Priest. Such aspects of His Person and office are expressed in Rom. 8:34, “Christ, ... (Who) is risen again (and is) at the right hand of God, ... maketh intercession for us.” Unlike all previous priests who died, our High Priest, having tasted death and triumphed over it, “ever liveth to make intercession” for us. The Aaronic priesthood was constantly interrupted by the death of its priests but the priesthood of this Man cannot be interrupted by death for, as prefigured by the virtually indestructible cedar wood being not liable to attacks of wood pest or rot, He “continued! ever” in His office and “ever liveth” to exercise His intercessory ministry (Heb. 7:24f).
If the Altar made of the two materials of cedar wood and gold point us to the Person and priestly office of Christ, then the incense burnt upon the altar symbolizes His intercessory ministry. Under the law, the high priest had to bum “a perpetual incense” upon the Altar (Exo. 30:8), which meant a constant column of smoke from the continuous burning incense. As the office of our High Priest is “unchangeable,” not subject to any successor, so His ministry of intercession is perpetual and it cannot be interrupted or terminated.
He is the revealer of God (v. 3a), the ruler of creation (3b), the redeemer of men (3c), the recognised heir (v. 2). His relationship is acknowledged (v. 5-6), the righteous king with rightful prerogatives (v. 8-9); His reliable work as Creator (v. 10). He remains because of perpetuity (v. 12), and will receive universal dominion (v. 13).
His Expounding Sonship (v. 1-2). This Prophet not only speaks FOR God but AS God. The former ministry was partial and fragmentary; differential-“various ways,” patriarchal - “to the fathers,” preliminary, progressive and diverse in the manner of presentation. The O.T. prophets have been overshadowed by the coming of Christ into the world both as the Son of God and the Word of God. The Son is God’s full and final revelation of Himself to man, not through mere man but through Himself becoming man. (1 Timothy 3. 16).
His Eternal Heirship (v. 2b). This means that the universe belongs to Him by divine appointment and He will soon reign over it. (Romans 8. 17; Psalm 24). His inheritance is over all things and is eternal as well as universal. He is the mediatorial heir of the universe. The future universal recognition of Christ’s sovereignty over the whole of the created order cannot fail to be realized because it is the subject of divine decree. (Psalm 2:8; Philippians 2:9-11).
His Expressive Sonship (3a). He exactly represents the Father. God is seen, or is made visible, in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the perfect impress of the nature, character and power of God. He is a distinct Person from the Father and yet one with Him in the Godhead, (John 1:1-2; John 1. 18; Col. 1. 15).
The divine glory which once rested upon “the tent of meeting” has been fully manifested in the Incarnate Word. (John 1. 14 R.V. 14. 9). Just as a coin bears the image of the diestamp from which it is struck, so the Son expresses the Father.
His Expiating Sonship (v.3d). The Creator and Sustainer of the universe and the ages became the sin-bearer. The sovereign Lord stooped to become the sacrificial Lamb. This is sacrificial language; it points out the objective effect of Christ’s atonement. (Exodus 30.10; 29.36). He effected it, by His sole activity, all by Himself, He was at once priest and victim, so defilement is purged away. His was a finished redemption, for “He sat down,” becoming in His present session, an interceding priest on the basis of an accomplished redemption (8. 1-2; 10. 12).
His Eminent Sonship (v. 4-5). He has an acquired superiority resulting from His resurrection, ascension and exaltation as Lord and Christ, (Acts 2). He has a higher position or rank; His name as Son being more distinguished, more eminent. The superiority of the new covenant resides in the excellence of the Mediator through whom it is inaugurated. His fitness to fulfil this function rests upon His Sonship as the Messiah. He has also inherent superiority for He is uncreated Diety and angels are mere creatures (v. 7). Christ’s absolute supremacy over angels was openly demonstrated when He entered into the Messianic inheritance as the triumphant Son of Man (2. 7,9).
He is addressed by God as Son (v. 5a), and acknowledged by God as Son (v.5b). His first advent by birth is in view here. Angels are collectively referred to as the “sons of God,” but SON is singular to Christ, and incommunicable to any other.
His Exhibited Sonship (v. 6,7). The word “again” is yet future His second advent, the subjection of the inhabited earth to the sovereignty of the exalted Mediator. Being heir He shall be brought again into the habitable world and installed into His inheritance and all angels shall worship Him. “Firstborn” is a recognised name of the Messiah the honoured heir of the universe. (Psalm 89. 27). In Colossians 1.15, firstborn is a title of uncreated Deity; He is the Creator of all things. Angels are commanded as creatures “to worship Him,” their Creator, they are His messengers and servants (v.7).
His Established Sonship (v. 8-9). The Son is addressed as God, attributes of Diety are ascribed to Him and He is seen to be incomparable. As the king is divine. His kingdom must endure for ever, for He is the Eternal Sovereign. Psalm 45 describes the theocratic kingdom, it is viewed ideally, not as they ever actually attained to be, but according to the true conceptions of them. His dominion over all things remaineth for ever and His righteous kingdom rule is intimated. Established by God His throne is permanent in character. His sceptre is reliant for rectitude and his rule is beneficent in effect. During the period of His humiliation Christ proved His undeviating attachment to righteousness and His inflexible hatred of iniquity.
His immeasurable anointing may refer to the heavenly coronation which followed the victorious completion of His earthly ministry.
His Enabling Sonship (v. 10-12). Superior to angels in His work as Creator. God addresses His Son as Lord, that is Jehovah, the Jesus of the New Testament is the Jehovah of the Old. Christ as Son carried out the original act of creation, bringing it into being “As Jehovah He stands apart from the world and above it—being before it, for He laid the foundations; and after it, for He shall fold it up as a garment, and while it waxes old He stands over against it, unchanging.” A. B. Davidson.
The creations transcience is contrasted with the Creator’s perpetuity. His works will perish but He Himself remains, changeless and endless (13.8).
His Exalted Sonship (v. 13-14). The Son in exaltation is the end and aim of history (2.9; 10.13; Ephesians 1. 10). Angels are only servants helping forward by their service, to the heirs of salvation, the purpose of God in the earth. The Psalm quoted presents Christ as Potentate and Priest and all things will be put in subjection under His feet. No angel is ever addressed in this fashion.
As Prophet listen to Him, as Heir we will share with Him, as Priest may we thank Him, as Son and Jehovah worship Him, as King submit to Him, as Creator be moulded by Him and as Lord surrender to Him.
This chapter gives us a detailed account of the movements of Elisha in the company of Elijah, furnishing us with teaching of spiritual and practical import for the day in which we live! How significant the places mentioned as the two journeyed on! Gilgal, this was the first place touched by Israel when they had crossed the Jordan. (Joshua, ch. 4). The sharp knife was used upon the flesh, have we learned this lesson that the flesh is evil, and must be mortified (Col. 3:5) Next they came to Bethel, if at Gilgal we learn that the flesh is evil, at Bethel we learn that God is faithful, (Gen. 35:7) “He built there an altar and called the place El-beth-el” here Jacob had a revelation of the character of God, he had his name changed (Gen. 32:28) again it was here that he was assured of the continued presence of God. (Gen. 28:15). Jericho is now mentioned, here we are reminded of the power of our God. Jericho was a fortress of the enemy, impeding the progress of the children of Israel, how true are the words of (Rom. 8:31) “If God be for us who can be against us?” Lastly the prophets came to the Jordan, and crossed over dry shod, do we know what it is to stand on resurrection ground with Him, says (Col. 3:3) “for ye died” (Col. 3:1) “If ye then were raised with Christ.”
1Kings 19:19 marks out Elisha as God’s successor to Elijah, here we have a Divine principle that we find through out Scripture, namely that God’s choice is always of those who are diligent in their earthly calling (compare Amos 7:14 and Mark 1:16). A physically lazy man. lethargic with regard to his daily calling will seldom be used of God to expedite spiritual work! It is tragic to see those who have failed in business and others who are unhappy in their employment using these circumstances as a reason for embarking upon service for God.
Let us journey on in the company of Elijah and Elisha, and learn the lessons that experience alone can teach;
“Elijah WENT WITH Elisha” — UNITY (v. 1).
This surely is essential if our service for God is to be fruitful, a oneness of mind relative to the work of the Lord! We hear much about unity today! The unity which Christendom is clamouring for, is not the unity described in the Word of God, Christendom which disregards, and denies the truth of God’s Word are destroying the very foundations of true unity, namely the authority of the Scriptures of Truth and the Lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ. The unity in the local assembly has been much assailed by Satan to the dishonouring of His Name. “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” Psalm 133:1. “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3. Peter stood up with the eleven (Acts 2:14). “Striving together for the faith of the Gospel” Phillipians 1:27.
“They WENT DOWN to Bethel” — HUMILITY (v. 2).
Oh that we might be delivered from pride, if ever there was an obstacle relative to our testimony as individuals and as a collective company, it is pride, how many have been brought to spiritual ruin because they failed to deal with the pride of their own hearts. The downfall of Lucifer in Isa. 14:13 was his desire to go up, the order must be reversed in the experience of the Child of God, if we have to know real blessing (James 4:10).
“He that is down need fear no fall,
He that is low no pride,
He that is humble ever shall,
Have God to be his guide.
There are four kinds of pride which we should fear ;
Pride of Face. The mirror of God’s Word would cure this affliction.
Pride of Place. Mark Ch 9:34 “Who should be the greatest.”
Pride of Race. Phillipians, Ch. 3:8. “I count ALL things but loss.”
Pride of Grace. Romans, Ch. 11:20. “Thou standest by FAITH, be not highminded but fear.
“And they two “WENT ON” — CONTINUITY (v. 6).
This was a feature which characterised the early disciples, a steadfast continuance in the apostles’s doctrine (Acts 2:42). The exhortation of Hebrews 6:1 is needed today “Let us go on” to know Him! The Hebrews had failed to make progress in Divine things, they were spiritual dwarfs, how tragic! this teaching is connected with spiritual maturity and not wth age, the idea is “Full growth” we are reminded of the blessed man of Psalm 1 “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season, his leaf also shall not wither” firm, fadeless, and fruitful, this surely is a result of progress. We would do well to take a sounding (Acts 27:28) to see if our course and chart correspond, that we may in a coming day be able to say “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
“And they two “WENT OVER” — VICTORY (v. 8).
Elijah and Elisha passed over dry shod, but when the ark passed over in Joshua 4:18 the Jordan was over-flowing, a picture of the One who on Calvary’s Cross, exhausted the storm of Divine judgement, which should have been our eternal portion now we can rejoice in the face of death and say “Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Cor. 15:57). Again, have we in spirit passed over Jordan standing as it were on resurrection ground, to enjoy our portion, and in the good of our position in Christ. The two and a half tribes who stayed on the east side of Jordan, stopped short of that which God had intended for them, and they became an easy prey for the enemy being the first to be carried off into captivity (Num. 32:19). Israel left Egypt but alas! Egypt never left them, the desire for the leeks and garlic was still very much in evidence (Num. 11:5). We shall never have an appetite for the heavenly manna unless we in spirit have crossed over Jordan.
“And WENT BACK” — DUTY (v. 13).
Elisha recrossed the Jordan in order to commence his great work in Israel. Does not this correspond with the words of the Lord Jesus in His great intercessory prayer in John’s Gospel Ch. 17: We are ...
a gift from the Father to the Son “out of the world” (John 17:6) this is SPIRITUALLY.
“Not of the world” (John 17:14-16). MORALLY.
Still in the world (John 17:11). PHYSICALLY.
Sent into the world (John 17:18). REPRESENTATIVELY.
The truth of the second and fourth point applies to our study. “Not of the world” we have in spirit crossed over Jordan, again, “sent into the world,” just as Elisha crossed over Jordan to carry on the work of his absent master! He smote the Jordan with the mantle of Elijah “Where is the God of Elijah” with his own garments rent in two before taking up the mantle of Elijah, he thus declared that the flesh must be crucified if Christ would be magnified, there was no doubt in this instance that “the spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha” (2Kings 2:15). Are we recognised because of our likeness to our ascended soon coming Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 4:13).
“He WENT UP” — GLORY (v. 23).
"Soon with joyful glad surprise,
We shall hear His Word arise,
Mounting upward to the skies,
Glory, glory, glory."
Our destiny is heavenly, we wait for the trumpet sound, and the assembling shout, to usher us in to His eternal presence.
“We wait for the hope of righteousness through the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:5).
“We wait to wit the redemption of the body.” (Rom. 8:23).
“We wait for His Son from heaven.” (1Thess. 1:10).
“Behold I come quickly, even so come Lord Jesus!” (Rev.22:20).
It seems to me that at the Judgement Seat of Christ we are going to be turned inside out. Our private lives are going to be reviewed. In 1Corinthians 4 our very motives, the motives of our hearts, our inward counsels, our desires, our ambitions are all going to be reviewed and sifted in that great day.
I want you to think of the character of the judgement that will take place. It will be most personal. You remember that we read “everyone shall give an account of himself.” Every man’s work shall be made manifest. Every man shall receive his own reward. Every man shall have praise. In that day the review, the judgement, is going to be of a most personal character. We read in 1 Corinthians 3 “It shall be revealed by fire.” Maybe that fire is there used as the symbol of God’s word, or the symbol of God’s holiness. The fire shall reveal every man’s works. That is to say, the judgement will be most revealing. That which is done in secret is going to be known openly, that which is done in the dark is going to be proclaimed upon the house top. The things that we do now, will all be revealed in that day. Everything that is hidden, everything that is concealed, everything that has never been brought to the light, will be revealed in that day. What a revelation it is going to be. All that goes on in the assembly, everything that is hidden, it is all going to be revealed. It will be most searching, for the fire will try every man’s work of what sort it is. It will be most impartial. God has no pets. It is well to remember that. There is no favouritism with our God. The review will be most personal, most revealing, most searching, and most impartial. “According to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Paul says “He that doeth wrong shall receive the wrong that he hath done.” In that day, my private life will be turned inside out, my heart will be turned inside out, my motives will be seen. The testing, by the Best of Masters, will be most personal, revealing and searching.
What a moment it will be when we stand in the blaze of His presence. Brethren, is it any wonder that I said we should contemplate it with profound awe? We should tremble at the thought of the judgement seat. In that day each one is going to have to give an account. As I stand there, the Master will speak to me, and the Master will say to me— give an account of this and give an account of that. “They watch for your soul as they that must give an account.” The elders will have to give an account. Romans “Every man will give an account of himself to God.” Luke 16: “Give an account of thy stewardship.” Brethren, how shall we render that account, what will the result be? The results will be that “Some will suffer loss” (1 Cor. 3). “Some will be disapproved” (1 Cor. 9). “Some will be ashamed” 1 John 2).
If the Lord comes and finds you occupied in something in which you should not be occupied, will you not be ashamed. How would you like the Lord to come and you sitting at your T.V? Some silly old play—looking at Satan’s screen. How would you like your Lord to find you sitting there? When you might be reading His word or praying. Some will be ashamed. If there will be such a thing possible, there will be red faces in heaven. If such a thing will be possible there will be tears at the judgement seat of Christ. Some will be ashamed before Him at His coming. But thank God that for everything that we have done for Him, there will be a bright and a glorious reward. Praise His name. We have to keep that before the Lord’s dear people, and before our own selves. There are two sides to everything. There is the side that ought to sober us, but thank God there is the other side, and every thing done for Him in that day there will be a reward.
Some verses in Matthew teach us the kind of service He values. In that day our service, from the moment of conversion onwards, is going to be reviewed. What are those features of service that the Lord appreciates and values?
Matthew 5: “Blessed are ye when ye are persecuted” The Lord appreciates service that brings suffering. In my service for Him at times I may have to suffer and the Lord appreciates that, and He here says “Great is your reward in heaven” For every little bit of suffering endured for Him. There is not the persecution today that there once was. When you get the cold shoulder from the unconverted because you are a Christian—that is a persecution. I wonder do we know anything about this? You may go to your neighbour next door and give her a gospel leaflet, maybe she laughs at you. Well that is a little bit of suffering for Christ. We ought to take it patiently when we suffer for Him. For every little bit of suffering there will be a reward.
The sister sees from reading 1 Corinthians 11 that she ought to allow her hair to grow. Maybe she is laughed at, but she takes it patiently. She has read her Bible and she learned how the sister has to dress. Well, in that day there will be a reward. Be encouraged sister the Lord is looking on and says there is going to be a reward in heaven.
“If ye love them that love you, what a reward have ye.” There is going to be a reward for service that is selfless. For every little bit of selfless service that I have done for Him, there is going to be a reward in the crowning day. There is nothing more natural than loving people that love you, but then the Lord says that your service is to be selfless. You are to love the people that don’t love you, and the Lord appreciates every little bit of selfless service that is done for Him.
In the next chapter “Do not your righteousness before men to be seen of them.” You notice that at the very end of chapter the Lord returns to those that he introduces at the beginning of the chapter. To be interested in His righteousness, don’t be interested in your clothing or what you will eat. Be anxious about the Lord’s kingdom and righteousness.
Our Lord breaks up that righteousness into three different departments:—
Verse 2—4: giving alms
Alms: That is to do with my attitude to my fellow men.
Verse 5—6: praying
Prayer: That is to do with my attitude to God.
Verse 16—18: fasting.
Fasting: That is to do with my attitude towards myself.
When you read about fasting here, and in other places in the New Testament, it means abstaining from food. The point in the passage is this, that you are doing your righteous deeds to be seen of men. What the Lord values is service that is done in secret. He values service that brings suffering, He values service that is unselfish, ard He values service that is done in secret. Do not let your left hand know what the right hand doeth. What does the Lord mean by that? I think that the Lord means when we do something for Him hide it from yourself as much as you can. Don’t parade it before others. Your father sees in secret, and He will reward you openly. It is going to come out in the day of review. Chapter 5: great reward. Chapter 6: open reward. All that is done in secret will be rewarded in that day. Your name may never be in the “Witness” or the “Believer’s Magazine,” but it will come out in the morning.
Matthew 10: The Lord says “Whosoever shall give a cup of cold water in the name of disciple shall in no way loose his reward.” That means that the Lord appreciates service that is small. The little things. You give a disciple a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple. The Lord says that is not the end of it. He says “He will in no way lose his reward.” The reward is going to be sure. And thank God, the least we do for Jesus is appreciated in His sight.
He is a worthy master, and everything that we do for Him, remember it is going to be paid back to us in the coin of heaven. Our reward is going to be sure. You will not lose it, what you give to Jesus you will not lose.
Matthew 25: Notice what the reward is—words of praise and commendation. “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” To hear Him saying well done, that will make up for all the trials and troubles of the road. That will far more than repay us for all that we have had to suffer for him. Peter says: “That the trial of our faith ... may be found unto the praise and honour and glory.” Well done—the Lord is going to praise us. Your brother may never praise you, but “the master praises—what are men?”
“Enter into the joy of your Lord.” That will be the glory. The place of honour in His coming kingdom. While you and I are down here upon earth, we are being trained for a place in His coming kingdom. There will be a place of honour in His kingdom, and now is the time to train for that place of honour.
Five crowns of reward are mentioned :
The crown of life
The crown of rejoicing
The crown of righteousness.
The incorruptible crown
The crown of glory.
The reward will be sure, the reward will be great, the reward will be open. In 2 John God’s desire is that “we should have a full reward.” I believe that every Christian will have some reward. If you are saved only five minutes, in that five minutes you look up and thank God for giving Jesus to die for you, and God will reward that. But God means that we should go in for a greater reward. God help us that we may go in for that full reward. Why shouldn’t we?
Much is taught us in the New Testament about the Holy Spirit’s relationship with men after the events described in Acts 2—His coming on believers in a collective capacity. Note first the reception of the Spirit by the individual believer thereafter.
THE METHOD OF RECEPTION
Three ways by which the Holy Spirit was received by New Testament believers are mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.
Acts 2:38. This shows how the JEWS who had believed in Christ received the Spirit. Note the order. They repented, were baptised, and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Jews had rejected Christ. They must first acknowledge Him by being baptised into association with Him.
Acts 8:17. A different procedure was necessary in the case of believing SAMARITANS. They believed, were baptised, and needed the apostle’s hands laid on them before they received the Spirit. Thus Peter, the representative of believing Jews, identified them with the believing Samaritans. These had refused to have any dealings with Jews, and must first submit to being identified with them before receiving the Holy Spirit. In Acts 19:6 a similar reception was accorded to a company of twelve disciples of John the Baptist. Like Peter with the Samaritans, Paul must needs lay his hands upon these Ephesian believers before the Holy Spirit came on them. The reason for this is difficult to assess. In these three instances the Holy Spirit was given as a Divine approval of what man had done.
Acts 10:47. Here we have the reception of the Spirit by believing GENTILES. They believed, and immediately received the Spirit—even before baptism. The reason for this is given in Acts 15:8. God knew their hearts, and bare witness of their faith by giving them the Holy Spirit. This is the normal method of the reception of the Spirit by the believer to-day.
THE REQUISITE FOR RECEPTION
The one condition necessary for men to receive the Holy Spirit is faith in Christ. This the Lord Himself taught in John 7:38, ‘He that believeth in Me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive).’ Paul reminded the Galatians that the reception of the Spirit was not through works, but by faith (Gal. 3:2). This is all that is needed to-day.
THE OCCASION OF THE RECEPTION
The Holy Spirit is received when men believe on Christ, lit., on having believed (Acts 19:2, RV). In the case of these Ephesian disciples their baptism into the name of the Lord Jesus (v.5) was a confession of their faith. The aorist participle, ‘having believed,’ is again used in Eph. 1:13 to indicate that upon the act of believing men are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Paul, in Rom. 8:9, emphasises that those who have not the Holy Spirit do not belong to Christ. The converse of this is also true; those who belong to Christ have the Holy Spirit.
THE NATURE OF THE RECEPTION
Five words are used in the New Testament to indicate the nature of the reception of the Holy Spirit—to show what is implied by receiving Him. They are, (1) Indwelling, (2) Sealing, (3) Earnest, (4) Unction, (5) Filling. Let us examine these
THE INDWELLING OF THE SPIRIT
Three New Testament passages emphasise this aspect of the truth.
1 Cor. 6:19. The believer’s body is a temple of the Holy Ghost. The word here translated ‘temple’ was used in classical Greek to designate the dwelling-place of a god, in the innermost part of the shrine. Thus the believer’s body is the place where God the Holy Spirit is pleased to dwell. A similar expression is found in 1 Cor. 3:16, but there the assembly is seen as the temple.
Rom. 8:9-11. Three things result from the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer,
He dominates the believer’s life,
He indicates that the believer belongs to Christ,
He guarantees the believer’s resurrection. Or, it may be that the quickening in v. 11 is the present quickening of the believer’s body, as in Eph. 2:5. The body is mortal only in life; after death it is corruptible (1 Cor. 15:53).
2 Tim. 1:14. The indwelling Spirit enables the believer to keep the faith; He gives him power to follow the example of Christ; He enables him to display the fruit of the Spirit; He energises him to serve God.
The finite mind of man cannot comprehend fully the meaning of this indwelling. The Holy Spirit is a Person—a Divine Person. How an Infinite Being can dwell in finite man we cannot understand, except by faith.
THE SEALING OF THE SPIRIT
This expression is found three times in the New Testament.
2 Cor. 1:22. God is the sealer. The verb here is in the middle voice, implying that God seals us for Himself. He has a special interest in us.
Eph. 1:13. Sealing is one of the spiritual blessings in Christ (v.3). Note the aorist tense—indicating a single act in past time. The sealing took place at conversion, as the aorist participle, ‘having believed,’ would show. The seal is the Holy Spirit, promised by Christ (John 14:17).
Eph. 4:30. The sealing is unto the day of redemption, the day of the final home-bringing of those whom God has acquired as His Own. It assures us a safe passage through the world, and a safe arrival in the glory.
What is implied by sealing is learned from its many uses in scripture. It is used as an emblem of:—
Ownership (2 Tim. 2:19). The seal on a building indicates the name of the owner, and the purpose for which it will be used. We belong to God, and exist for His glory.
Authority (Esth. 3:12). The document in Shushan bore the seal of the king’s ring, to indicate that it had been written in the king’s name, and upon his authority. Our salvation bears the stamp of God’s authority, because of the Holy Spirit He has given to us.
Security (Matt. 27:66). The chief priests, to make the sepulchre as sure as they could against the resurrection of Christ, put a seal upon the stone. Being sealed with the Spirit makes the child of God safe and secure, for time and eternity (John 10:28).
Unchanging Purpose (Dan. 6:17). Darius the king sealed the stone laid upon the mouth of the den of lions, ‘that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.’ God has given us the seal of the Spirit that nothing might be changed concerning our salvation.
Authentication of a Fact (John 6:27). God the Father sealed the Lord Jesus Christ to authenticate the fact that He was the Messiah. The fact of the believer’s salvation is authenticated by his having the Holy Spirit.
The division of the Scriptures into various verses and chapters is, of course, no part of plenary inspiration. There is, however, no doubt that so excellent a work must have involved the over-ruling hand of God. Our Authorised Version, even apart from its essential content, is in this respect a master-piece. Notwithstanding we may occasionally have had some slight preference for the joining together of a verse or verses to a previous chapter or perhaps the placing of a verse at the end to a succeeding chapter. An instance of this occurs at the end of chapter 7 of John’s Gospel, “And every man went to his own house.” Chapter 8 opens, “Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.” The contrast would probably have been heightened had this verse concluded chapter 7. These remarks are, however, a diversion from the subject of this, article, prompted by a look at this chapter (7) as suggesting the completion of a; section of the Gospel.
There is in this Gospel a very beautiful linking together of Christ and the Spirit (1:32), the Baptist speaking “I saw the Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and it abode upon Him.” Upon no other could the dove, in all its sensitiveness have alighted and dwelt bodily in complete complacency and full identification. The divine intent was that this should be seen by an accredited witness and recorded for our edification. Earlier this same witness had the view of Christ coming to him as “The Lamb of God who beareth away the sin of the world” and again, “as He walked” saying of Him “Behold the Lamb of God.” In chapter 3 (vv 5-8) Christ relates the new birth to the operations of the Holy Spirit, saying of the movements of the wind “so is every one that is bom of the Spirit.” At the end of the chapter is a potential statement (v. 34), “For God giveth not the Spirit by measure,” the A.V. adding “unto Him” (Christ) which is not in the original. This addition might be seen as limiting the scope of the measure of the gift which takes in all believers. Though the capacity of each may differ, fulness is in the mind of God.
In chapter 4 is recorded an incident which is peculiarly appropriate to this Gospel, itself so distinct in character from the synoptic gospels. The truth opened up to the woman of Samaria, so unlikely a person to be so privileged, is astonishing in its depth. We never fail to wonder at the skill with which it is unfolded by the Lord, opening with the simple request “give Me to drink.” Then is opened up the giving of the living water, typical of the Spirit as chapter 7 clearly declares. Satisfaction is the outcome of drinking and here ((vv 13, 14) it is eternal, “shall never thirst for ever.” Moreover it becomes in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. The emphasis is on “the water that I shall give him.” Christ is the great Giver and the proposal is that those in the dignity of sonship, conferred by the Father, should have in the Spirit an income commensurate with that dignity. It is portrayed in figure in the widow’s unfailing cruse of oil (2 Kings 4:6,7), Paul similarly speaking of “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19).
In chapters 14, 15 and 16 the Spirit is presented in general relative to the collective position but in these earlier chapters it is to the individual. Leading up to chapter 7 is the identification of the Spirit as the dove with Christ (ch. 1), the believer as born of the Spirit (ch. 3), the living water of chapter 4; the power of Christ (chapter 5); the bread which came down from heaven; all calculated to bring about a state, the climax of which is seen in chapter 7 (vv 37-39). The last day of the feast (of Tabernacles) should have been the height of a season of great rejoicing, but the words of the Lord “If any man thirst” suggest that the feast had left the participants unsatisfied. Indeed this must be true of any and every merely religious observance, even of the Lord’s Supper, of which the hymn writer says :—
If now, with eyes defiled and dim,
We see the signs but see not Him,
Oh, may His love the scales displace,
And bid us see Him face to face.
Satisfaction is found only in a Person, Christ Himself, and so the word is “let him come unto Me and drink.” As already noted the “supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19) is unlimited and “God giveth not the Spirit by measure.” To thirst is to have an intense desire which will allow nothing to stand in the way of obtaining that which will fully satisfy.
It is a challenge as to how much we are really are in earnest. John speaks of believing (usually in the present tense) as expressive of a living faith and not of mere acquiescence.
As in chapter 4 the stress is on giving and the Giver, it is now (chapter 7) on receiving, suggesting a state arrived at after passing through the preceding chapters (especially chapter 4). The promise now is amazing, “out of his inward parts shall flow rivers of living water.” We may be quite sure that on no occasion did the Lord Jesus exaggerate but spoke words of sober truth, no matter in how small a degree we may experimentally have entered upon it. This outflow from the heart of the believer is intended to be a blessing to all, whoever they may be, saint or sinner. The only qualification for its realisation is that we come spiritually thirsting to Christ and drink. His word to us unequivocally is then that from us SHALL flow this living water, not as a stream but as rivers, speaking of the Spirit given by the ascended and glorified Son of God.