ISAIAH 53 AND ISAIAH 6
by J. C. R. Tambling
CHRIST IN THE HEBREWS
by J. B. Hewitt
by John Heading
by John Cowan
THE DEW OF HERMON
by C. H. M.
by John Peters
by J. C. R. TAMBLING
Isaiah’s prophecy—all sixty-six chapters of it—has a great place in the New Testament. Sixty times the book is quoted there, with, in all, forty-five passages being alluded to. Seeing these quotations should always send us back to the original context, to find it enriched! So when we find John, by the Spirit of God, bringing together two vital chapters— the 6th and the 53rd chapters written, we believe, by the same Isaiah, we have much to learn.
As we read John 12:37-41, we note that John begins by quoting the chapter that, if we were reading Isaiah through, we should come to later—he begins with the first verse of ch. 53. “Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
“Our report” has the sense of “the report that was delivered to us.” Isaiah is not speaking for himself: he is giving the voice of the repentant remnant of Israel, in the day when “My people shall know My Name” (Isaiah 52:6), a yet future day, of course, as at present the nation knows nothing of the sort. Jehovah gives us His view of His “righteous servant” in 52:13-15, then the stage is cleared, as it were, for the nation to give their view of Him, how they refused to hearken to the report sent to them, and did not perceive the presence of the Lord in grace—the Arm of Jehovah. How relevant this is, as a confession, to John 12! For in chapter 12:36, He departs from the Jews and hides Himself. His public manifestation to them, even in Jerusalem, has resulted in obdurate unbelief. So v. 37 tells us. The next time we see the Lord Jesus in John’s Gospel, it will be in ch. 13, in the upper room, away from the unbelievers, with those who in grace He calls His own. The Arm of Jehovah has been seen—has even raised the dead—yet Israel have refused to discern it.
John explains this unbelief, by reference to Isaiah 6. In that chapter, Isaiah sees the Lord—Adonai, the Sovereign One—and He gives Isaiah, not a general commission, but a new message—that the nation were to be dispersed from their land. How long that state of affairs has lasted! In John, grace (the Arm of the Lord) is followed by judgment—the sentence passed on the nation, from Isa. 6. Behold the goodness and the severity of God! John quotes from ch. 6: “He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” Eyes and heart are singled out. The eyes should have seen the Arm at work. In the signs He did, He manifested forth His glory. (John 2:11). Never say that He laid His glory by. To have done that would have been to have made Himself less than God. The heart should have received the report given— the words of grace He spoke.
After quoting Isaiah, John adds, “These things said Isaiah, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him.” The Adonai of ch. 6 and the Servant of ch. 53 are the same— the Lord Jesus. So much is clear. Why is the order of chapters reversed? Does it suggest to us that chronologically, 53 comes before 6, so that we get “the sufferings of Christ, and the glories—plural—that should follow?”
And in banding the two chapters together with that statement in v. 41, is it not to emphasise that there was a glory to be seen in the One Who was despised and rejected, as well as when He is seen as the Man on the throne? Moral glories marked Him down here. John said, “We beheld His glory ... full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14). David prayed that he might, “in a dry and thirsty land,” “see Thy glory, so as I have seen Thee in the sanctuary,” (Psa. 63:2). Isaiah saw the glory in the sanctuary, and then saw a far different glory in the One Who grew up before Jehovah as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground. What a wilderness was this to the Lord! The glory John saw in the despised One, he tells us of in his Gospel, in the Revelation, he tells us of the Man on the throne.
Isaiah 53 and 6 belong together, then. And there are some links of interest. What does Jehovah say? “Behold, My servant shall prosper (A.V. mg.), He shall be exalted, and shall be extolled, and shall be very high.” And in ch. 6? “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. He is on a throne, but “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool,” Isa. 66:1. The heaven of heavens cannot contain Him. The throne is in heaven, but He claims the earthly temple as well. Truly, He shall be higher than Agag, “lifted up.” Delitzsch explains 52:13 as “He will rise up, He will raise Himself still higher, He will stand on high.” The threefold repetition is worthy of Deity. Three, in the Scriptures, is connected with the full manifestation of the Godhead. Isaiah goes in for couplets— “Comfort ye, comfort ye,” “peace, peace,” “line upon line, line upon line,” “awake, awake,”—but the Seraphim cry “Holy, Holy, Holy”—a threefold repetition, again, that is suited to the context—the greatness of Christ. The threefold division of the Seraphim’s wings seems to have a related significance.
“Kings shall shut their mouths at Him” ... Why? Because this One, marred more than any man, is hailed by Isaiah as “the King, Jehovah of hosts!” This King needs no further description! No need to say where His territory is. The whole earth is full of His glory! Isaiah says that he is a man of unclean lips, acknowledging himself to be a moral leper, like the King who had descended into the grave, as a picture of the helpless state of the nation. The Kings shutting their mouths suggests that they also are taking the place of lepers (compare Lev. 13:45, Job 40:4), with the Lord taking the place of the Priest, “sprinkling” them from defilement. The present writer is unwilling to lose the word “sprinkle” of the A.V. with its sense of a priestly work; invoking for support David Baron, amongst others.
If, in the day of His glory, others appear as lepers, how different when He was on earth! Not “mine eyes have seen the King,” but, “when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” This One—“the King in His beauty,” “the glorious Lord”! (Isa. 33:17,21). No, men thought otherwise of Him when He came forth to serve, as 53: 3 shows. And at the end of that public service, “we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God”. . the word “stricken (“naga”) being the word employed for the inflicting of leprosy. Men esteemed Him as no better than Uzziah who was plagued for his presumption.
Before Him, Seraphim hide their faces. They, who represent the burning holiness of God, do not look on Him Who is holy. But when He was here with the glory veiled, “we hid as it were our faces from Him.” Man prefers not to see the sight of God here in grace, and suffering for righteousness’ sake. Before Him, Seraphim cover their feet, but of Him, Scripture says “How beautiful ... are the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings,” (Isa. 52:7), commenting on the walk of Him, Who, having proclaimed peace, went out as a lamb to the slaughter, led away from prison and from judgment.
When Heaven speaks, “the posts of the door moved.” What could He have said in Pilate’s judgment hall? Yet “He openeth not His mouth.” Why was He silent? “He sitteth alone, and keepeth silence, because He hath borne it upon Him,” (Lam. 3:28). (The whole of the chapter is relevant to the sufferings of Christ). What was borne on Him? Let Isa. 53:6 answer. As accepting what God had given Him to bear on the Cross, He remained silent before men. The God Who judgeth righteously had set Calvary before Him.
But in chapter 6, the Lord Jesus pronounces judgment on the nation. For their unbelief, and refusal to hear, the people are to be given over to blindness. These solemn words echo through Matt. 13:14, Mark 4:12, Luke 8:10, as well as through John 12. In Matthew, the words are quoted when the Lord, having failed to find fruit as He desired from the nation, goes out to begin a new ministry, as a sower, sowing the seed of the Word to produce fruit for the harvest—at the end of the age. In John, the words occur at the end of His ministry on earth. They are quoted again in Acts 28:26,27. There we get the end of Paul’s distinctive ministry to the Jew. The glory has departed. The Jews’ opportunities of repentance, and of embracing the Kingdom, seem to have gone for ever from them. “According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, unto this day. Blindness in part is happened unto Israel, until . . .” (Rom. 11:8, 25).
But if such must be the sentence, faith sees grace behind it all, and asks, as Isaiah did, (6:11), “Lord, how long?” God hath not cast away His people whom He foreknew. A great future awaits Israel, after the Church has been taken home. To this future, ch. 53 bears witness, in contrast to ch. 6. After the Crucifixion, “He shall see His seed.” That is renewed Israel, compare Psa. 22:30, Psa. 45:16. “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied.” Not only will He have a portion with the great—or, literally, “a portion in many”—taking the wealth of the Gentiles for Himself,—but “He shall divide the spoil with the strong.” That is how the nation are described, compare Dan. 11:32, Psa. 110:3. Consequent on the death of Christ, Israel have been set aside, a prey to the Gentiles. Yet chapter 53 ends and ch. 4 begins, with glorious promises of regathering for that people scattered and peeled, in association with the Lord Himself, the One they will yet acknowledge, with weeping, as they do, prophetically, in Isa. 53. Not one of God’s purposes for Him, for the Church, which, of course, is not, save in application, referred to here, or for Israel, or for the earth, can ever fall to the ground. No, rather, “the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand!”
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
“The Interceding Priest” Chapter Seven
The priesthood of Melchisedec is a fact to be recognised, more than a figure to be interpreted. The Son of God in His humanity is better than Moses and Joshua in the household of God, and now better than Aaron before the throne of God. Here we reach the summit in Priesthood. The Lord is the Forerunner Who entered within the veil to dwell there as an abiding Intercessor. The priesthood of Melchisedec finds its continuance and consummation in Christ. As Priest we see His Sufficiency, ch. 2:16-18; His Suitability ch. 5:1-10; His Sympathy ch. 4:14-16; His Superiority ch. 7; His Sphere ch. 8:1-6; and His Sacrifice chapters 9 and 10. May we avail ourselves of His perpetual ministry day by day. This chapter is concerned only with the Person of the priest not with His work, because no priestly work is associated with Melchisedec in Genesis 14. Christ as our Priest ever continues and everlastingly cares. Melchisedec as the political and spiritual leader of his people. This will be true only when Christ reigns in righteousness and will unite kingship and priesthood in Himself. Zech 6:13; Isa. 32:1,17.
The Dignity of His Priesthood v. 1-3.
From this illustration we are helped in our understanding of what Christ is to us and what He has done for us. Melchisedec is the first personal instituted type of Christ as Priest. It is SPECIAL “This” denotes something specially eminent in the person spoken of. God arranged the details of his life to make him a suitable type of Christ. His priesthood is not derived nor inherited. He is introduced as if he were one from heaven, appearing reigning and officiating. ROYAL “King of Salem” His amazing likeness to Christ; He stands alone in person, name, royal position and character v. 1. King of righteousness, Isa. 32:1; King of Peace Isa 9:6; Jer. 23:6. Majesty and authority are invested in Christ. HELPFUL “He blessed Abraham”; his priestly ministry. His order of priesthood comes in properly with the millennium.
The title, “Most high God” connects itself with that golden age, when God will be supreme. His blessing upon Abraham and blessing God is typical of the very two things Christ will do. Luke 24:50; Psa. 22:22; Heb. 2:12.
Spiritual and Peaceful v. 2. “Righteousness” in the O.T. prophecies is the fundamental characteristic of the Messiah and His kingdom Psa. 72:1,2; Isa. 9:7; Jer. 23:5,6; Dan. 9:24, fulfilled in our Lord 1 Cor. 1:30.
This is a higher order of priesthood than Aaron’s. He was rightful in authority and peaceful in all activity. One who is anterior and superior to all mediators. PERSONAL v.3 This order of priesthood possesses a dignity underived and unsurpassed, having neither beginning of days nor end of life. This man was a real person and his titles indicate supremacy. His priestly office was derived from his personal dignity, and in this he resembles the Son of God. Here is an office without ancestry or posterity, no one preceded or succeeded him.
Almost alive before He was born; alive after he was dead. In the Aaronic order the priests who could not prove their genealogy were disqualified. ETERNAL “abideth a priest.” In the timelessness of his priesthood he resembles the Son of God. These are the qualities which differentiate the priesthood of Melchisedec from the ordinary priesthood. No one can follow him in his office. The characteristics of his priesthood were superiority and duration.
The Superiority of His Priesthood v. 4-10.
A comparison of Melchisedec and Abraham prove the former’s eminence, greatness and pre-eminence,
- By BENEFACTION v. 4 The greatest of the Patriarch acknowledged the grandest of the Priests, “gave the tenth of the spoils,” to a Gentile priest. Thus the Aaronic is inferior,
- By ASSOCIATION v. 5 Only the tribe of Levi had a warrant to take tithes from their brethren but Melchisedec received tithes from the founder of the nation. His personal greatness entitled him to receive tithes. He had a special right before and above the law.
- By DISTINCTION v. 6 Abraham had special privilege and honour conferred upon him, “the promises” yet he received the blessing of Melchisedec, refreshing the weary warrior with the bread and wine of heaven,
- By COMPARISON v. 7. There is no dispute “the less is blessed of the greater.” Abraham was only a prophet but Melchisedec was King and Priest,
- By DURATION v. 8. The Levitical priests are mortal men, they retain their office for a time, the new order is marked by immortality. Thus the priesthood to which Christ belonged was before, superior to, and continues after the Levitical.
The Excellency of His Priesthood v. 11-14.
INEFFECTIVE. The Aaronic priesthood was not only transitory but limited, it lacked finality of function and completeness of operation and effect. The whole system could never remove sin, nor grant a position before God v. 11.
INCOMPLETE but the new is independent, a different priest and after another kind. INADEQUATE v. 12-14 It must be superseded for it did not restore the lost access to God. In our Lord the priesthood has passed from Levi to Judah, a tribe not mentioned in the legislation of Moses concerning priesthood. Thus the spiritual priesthood supersedes the legal and sacredotal. The new priesthood is not limited by bounds of time, nor associated with a legal system. “Our Lord”—stresses Deity; “sprang”—His Incarnation v.14 His priesthood is deathless, ageless and timeless in its administration.
The Permanency of His Priesthood v. 15-19
The supernatural advent of the Eternal Priest was preshadowed by Melchisidec and promised by David Psa. 110. This priest is different in nature v. 15 in constitution v. 16. “Endless” is not duration, but the quality of the life, it cannot be dissolved. Different in authorisation and Divine acknowledgement v. 17.
The Father Himself solemnly declared Him to be so before the angels in heaven, and revealed it to men on earth by the prophet David.
Christ’s priesthood will never be superseded for it is marked by finality. God will never take Him away and give us another. Christ brings in a better hope, in Himself, with immediate access to God v. 19.
The Perpetuity of His Priesthood v. 20-25.
The revelation of God’s eternal decree in the solemn oath is further proof of the superiority of Christ’s priesthood, v. 19. The purpose of God is immutable and the divine oath establishes the Lord’s eternal priesthood. Verses 20-22 stress its immutability and verses 23-25 its continuity. We have a better Surety and covenant bringing better privileges and results.
His priesthood is unique as to its origin v. 21; unchanging in its character v. 24; unfailing in its objects v. 25, because of His ability, assurance and acceptance. May we trust the changeless Christ who holds His office by virtue of the unalterable Word and Will of God.
The Suitability of His Priesthood v. 26-29.
His power is absolute v. 25; He is always able to save and succour, so we need never change our priest. His lofty moral characteristics and the consequent perfection of His high priestly work make Him indispensible to us. His perfections are apparent v. 26, Godward, manward and selfward. In Him we see true manhood at its highest and best, man without sin. Superior in personality v. 27. Priesthood is based upon sacrifice and Christ’s priesthood perhaps most of all, for He is in Himself the great Antitype of all priesthood. Trace the word “HIMSELF” and the many “NECESSITIES” in this letter. His work on the Cross was High Priestly in character. His provision is adequate, for His glorified humanity is the pledge of His accomplished work.
Superior in potentiality v. 28. The contrasts drawn between His perfectness and their weakness, between His diety and their humanity emphasise His superiority.
As we think of the perfection, power, purity and provision of His priesthood may we rejoice that He is just suited to our case.
by J. HEADING
THE CHURCH AND ITS SERVICE 1 Cor. 11:1-16.
We have seen that structure in a local church is important. Christ is seen as Head and foundation. Believers as saints are placed there by God. There are a few with local charge (the elders), and all have some qualifications and gifts for service. All this is so unlike what is practised in high ecclesiastical circles. We would therefore expect the service in a local church to be quite distinct from the ritual, repetition and religion practised in these circles. If we opted to run our own affairs, we could arrange our service according to our own tastes and policies, or we could seek out a denomination to satisfy these tastes. But God expects those whom He has saved NOT to have tastes and policies of their own—“let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches,” Rev. 2:7, etc. This is not bondage, but a glorious liberty to enjoy God’s methods and ideals. If a man is spiritual, let him acknowledge that Paul’s writings are the commandments of the Lord, 1 Cor. 14:37.
In the Old Testament, the tabernacle service was regulated by ceremonial law, showing how the offerings were to be offered, the ritual of incense, the day of atonement and other feast days (Leviticus). In every case, exact instructions were given to Moses to obey. In the New Testament, the local churches are not under law or ceremony, but as belonging to the Lord they submit to His revealed will and control. The recognition of this is vital for all service.
1Corinthians 11-14 are the great chapters on principles in service. Chapters 1-10 deal with individual conduct in the light of local church membership; chapters 11-16 deal with the service and doctrine of the church. In particular, 11: 1-16 shows the individual’s (both men’s and women’s) display to the Headship of Christ. 11:17-end, presents service Godward, the Lord’s supper. Ch. 12 shows service amongst the saints— the variety of gift given by the Spirit, yet with unity in the church maintained. Ch. 13 shows the motivating power of love to pervade the outworking of service. Ch. 14 deals with the regulation of the use of specific gifts in the church (in other words, in chapters 12-14, doctrine is spelt out before practice). 15:1-9 presents service sinnerward, namely the gospel.
The display of the Headship of Christ. There is no ceremony in the functioning of a New Testament church, as there had been in the Old Testament types; yet God requires a few things that really cannot be called ceremony. This contrasts with many religious circles, where there is plenty of ceremony, but the abandonment of most things that God wants. Even in circles that profess to follow the Word of God, there can be an easy-going take it or leave it attitude adopted. The first feature that Paul notes in chapter 11 is that brethren’s heads are uncovered in the Lord’s service, but that sisters’ heads are covered. This has nothing to do with tradition, custom, convenience or pleasing the men-folk (though John could have no greater joy than to see his children walking in the truth, 3 John 4); rather this act on behalf of both men and women alike is a service of display that pleases God. In the order in 1 Cor. 11-15, all other forms of service follow from this. Paul adopts three arguments—spiritual, creatorial, natural, followed by an appeal to follow other churches. The woman’s head reflects upon man’s authority, headship and glory. Man’s head reflects upon Christ’s authority, headship and glory. In all church service, there can be no rivalry between men and Christ for authority, headship and glory. God would have us all recognize this fact (i) devotionally in our hearts; (ii) displaying it outwardly, (iii) walking in practical conduct giving the Lord all the glory. Hence both men and women are needed to set forth this truth—it is NOT just the province of the sisters only. The brethren look at the display that the sisters give; the sisters look at the display that the brethren give. Read 1 Cor. 11:1-16 in the light of these remarks, and you will find that a difficult passage becomes easier. Also read 1 Pet. 3:3, where the adorning is rot outward, but rather showing the hidden man of the heart; in the sight of God this is of great price; 1 Tim. 2:9-15.
Service Godward. Many young converts love to run into activity immediately after conversion, but the Lord has another way. In Mark 3:14, the Lord chose twelve, that they first might be WITH Him, and then to be sent forth to preach. Later, in Mark 6:31, they told Him what they had done, so He said that they should come apart into a desert place to rest awhile. In other words, our hearts should turn first to the Lord and then to the many forms of service. This is the object of the Lord’s supper, 1 Cor. 11, 20; it is placed first in the list of church activity because it brings us into special contact with Him. Believers come together in a scene of moral night to remember Him until He come, an event that will bring in the morning. Note: The Lord’s supper is that aspect of the Breaking of Bread that is Godward, 1 Cor. 11:20, the word properly being dominical. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the word appears only once: “the Lord’s day,” Rev. 1:10. On the other hand, “the Lord’s table,” 1 Cor. 10:21, refers to the blessings of lasting fellowship flowing to us throughout the whole week. In the next chapter we shall consider details of the meeting for breaking bread, but here we stress that our hearts and objectives are wholly for God in that meeting. In 1 Peter 2:5, we function as a holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Such a concept “all for God, nothing for self” is irksome to the mind that thinks that church service is directed wholly to men. But this cannot be spiritual, as the Lord asked, “Could ye not watch with me one hour?” Matt. 26:40.
Service saintward. Following the order in 1 Cor. 12, we must never forget that we are here to serve one another as members of a family. Even then, the service is for Christ, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” Matt. 25:40. We all have differing needs, and differing abilities. The whole is tempered together so as to serve the whole, so totally there should be no one-sidedness in service. In Paul’s case, there was a lovely evenness; on the one hand there was the “care of all the churches,” 2 Cor. 11:28, and on the other, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel,” 1 Cor. 9:16. On the one hand he “declared all the counsel of God,” Acts 20:27, and on the other he testified “the gospel of the grace of God,” v. 24.
Ability in service is just as much a miracle as is conversion. There are important principles for the use of gift: There are “diversities of gifts,” 1 Cor. 12:4—the ability is given by the same Spirit to all. In verse 5, there are “differences of administrations,” namely the spheres of service where the gift is used; it is the same Lord to all. In verse 6, there are “diversities of operations”—the results of such service; yet it is the same God that works all in all. Here is dignity and spirituality since the Trinity is engaged. Consequently, the service is entirely in His hands—with no room for the energy of the flesh and of the world. We do not entangle ourselves with the affairs of this life, 2 Tim. 2:4; only those after the flesh mind the things of the flesh, while those after the Spirit mind the things of the Spirit, Rom. 8:5. We must therefore examine ourselves to see how we fit into God’s work locally; how would God have us develop in preparation of soul?
There is not only the doctrine of service as in chapter 12, but also the underlying motivation characterized by love, as in chapter 13. This is not defined in the chapter; God is love, but cannot be “defined.” The use of gift without love profiteth nothing. Only the characteristics of love are mentioned, so we can discern it. Thus there is no pride, no seeking self-glory, no trade with iniquity, but only in the truth. Love does not acquiesce with worldly ways in brethren.
Then chapter 14 shows gifts plus love in assembly service; by writing the chapter, Paul shows love in correction. The basic principle is that all the gifts that God endows at any particular time must be used “all for edifying,” 14:26, namely the objective must be the development of Christian life, character and service. The mere desire to use gift for outward show (as was taking place in Corinth) is not a sufficient reason to use that gift. In all service, we must think of the intended results. Don’t rush in; God is not the author of confusion, v. 33; rather all must be done decently and in order (i.e. consecutively), v. 40. Above all, God expects the spiritually-minded to own His commandments in service, v. 37.
Service sinnerward, 1 Cor. 15:1-10. Paul recalls the gospel that he “preached unto you” when they were unconverted in Corinth. For such an object, God calls “some evangelists,” Eph. 4:11. Personal testimony is distinct from public testimony (Acts 8:4 seems to be the former). There is nothing worse than listening to a preacher preaching the gospel when he has no ability of gift in that direction. Hence young converts should seek to be built up in doctrine before public service. The gospel is too solemn for inexperience to mar it, since the message concerns Christ and Him crucified and raised again.
The work of elders. An elder is not made in a day, but is recognised in a local church when spiritual maturity is reached. Their work will be done, even if the time has not come when men are recognized as elders; ultimately the church will perceive them—if they desire the work and if called by the Spirit. Thus in Acts 14:23, there were no elders in the churches founded during the first missionary journey; only at the end were they discerned by Paul, after they had grown first.
Elders are not policy makers, leading the flock in strange paths where the sheep do not want to go; sheep have no “lord’s over God’s heritage,” 1 Pet. 5:3, since the sheep have spiritual sense as well as the elders! Their work is manifold: They willingly feed the flock of God without the idea of gain, 1 Pet. 5:2. They are examples to the flock, v. 3. They speak the Word of God so that others can follow their faith, Heb. 13:7. They hold fast the faithful word as they have previously been taught, so that by sound doctrine they can exhort and convince, Tit. 3:9. They take care of the church of God, 1 Tim. 3:5. They labour and admonish, and should be esteemed very highly for their work's sake, 1 Thess. 5:12. They rule and labour in word and doctrine, 1 Tim. 5:17. They must take heed to themselves firstly, and then to all the flock, to feed the church of God, Acts 20:28. Additionally, when numbers are small, such men may have to engage in administration as well—e.g. to do the work of Acts 6.
by the late JOHN COWAN
Our approach and access into the court having now been obtained by Him, there have also been facilities given in order that it may be maintained by us. The Gate is the answer to the judicial claims of God. “It was exacted from Him and He became answerable” Isa. 53:7. R.V. The Gate answerable to the height of the Court. It might be profitable to look at some of the features of the Gate, as to its length and breadth and as to the colours and the material of which it is composed. Length is used in the scriptures to denote the course of a thing such as the course of life, while breadth has the character and circumstances of the thing in view. The length and breadth of the Gate would correspond to what we find in John 16:28. “I came forth from the Father and came into the World, again I leave the World and go to the Father.” His entrance into time with all the circumstances associated therewith. Twenty is the length while five is the breadth. Twenty is divine values while five is human weaknesses associated with Divine strength; when I am weak then I am strong, so in the length and breadth of the gate we see in the course of that life in time every standard of Divine values fully met. The Gate was displayed by four pillars and could possibly be that four fold presentation of the Lord Jesus as presented by the four Gospellers in the record which they make. The Blue in John, the Purple in Mark, the Scarlet in Matthew and the Fine Twined Linen in Luke, each displaying their own particular conception of the Lord Jesus in this fourfold way, yet requiring a blending of the four to fully set Him forth; The Blue is Heavenly Splendour, the Purple, the Splendour of Imperial dominion, the Scarlet the Splendour of Earth in a Kingly way, while the Fine Twined Linen, that righteousness of conduct in all its spotless purity, only seen in its perfection in the manhood of the Lord Jesus here on earth, the Beauty of the Blue, the Blend of the Purple, the Brilliance of the Scarlet, with the Basis of the Fine Twined Linen for their display. Having availed ourselves of the avenue of access seen in the Gate, it is our privilege now to enter the Court and enjoy to the full the variegated excellencies of this nearer view.
The Court then is a presentation of a sphere of service, expressing the Fellowship of Communion in a unity of unbroken and unblemished character, as the various materials of its composition describe, containing also the vessels for the maintenance of this communion and for its restoration when it has inadvertently been broken. Communion is the consciousness of nearness and intercourse, while Fellowship is the active expression of it.
This sphere then is an enclosure of three hundred cubits supported by sixty pillars and is expressive of the power of resurrection fulness, having been made available to us, and in which we, having taken it up, will be enabled to stand in testimony for Him as being in the world, yet not of it. The Court then is described for us, as having one hundred cubits of fine twined linen on the South side, supported by twenty pillars and one hundred cubits on the North side supported by their twenty pillars. This then would speak of the fact that, not only have we been brought into a sphere of delightful privilege but also into a sphere of definite responsibility, and if the unity of things have to be maintained, we must shoulder our responsibilities as well as share our privileges.
Twenty plays an important part in the construction of court and is a constant reminder that the fullness of sanctuary values is the expectation of God. The good is not enough, he wants the best, and only the best is good enough for him. Surely beloved, when we consider the sphere into which we have been brought and that, not in a typical sense, but in all the Spiritual fullness of all its actual Riches and Glory and Beauty, surely this would encourage us not to laze about basking in the sunshine of the sunny south, whilst others are burdened excessively, endeavouring to maintain in a united way the rigours of the North. The South side is the sunny side, where the wealth of divine blessing is constantly experienced and where it is an easy matter to witness for God. This is the side where effortless enjoyment can be experienced without any thought of responsibility. We must remember, however, that great as our privileges are, our responsibilities are equally great, and while we can enjoy to the full the many blessings that privilege has brought, we must be prepared to take our share of the North side with the enablement given to us, to shoulder our responsibilities, and not to shirk them.
This then is the Fellowship into which we have come and in order to maintain it, according to divine expectation, there have been facilities given to us which we are expected to use and not abuse. The Court then is a display by us of the spotlessness of Christ, not Christ personally but characteristically as seen in you and I. The standard is an exacting one, but not an impossible one, and in order to maintain it in the purity of Divine expectation, it calls for constant exercise and constant care.
We have been briefly considering the pillars in their collective capacity. It might be well for us now to take the same brief look at them in their individual setting. There is an eightfold significance associated with each pillar and this would speak of the new position into which we have now come, the responsibilities we are called upon to discharge and the rich privilege which is ours in so doing. First of all there is the pillar itself, shittim wood its composition, reminding us of the great change that has taken place in each of our experiences, at one time in the world, drawing our sustenance from it and satisfied with our position in it, but God had an interest in us, and from the bareness of nature’s distance and death, He brings us into the place of nearness and life, “out of the Kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of his Love,” cutting us off from the old life, severing us from the old root and establishing us now upon the new foundation whereby old things pass away and all things become new. This, of course, would speak of the brazen socket, the merit of Christ, from being in the world, now, not of the world we stand upon His Merit alone, from being in Adam where all die we are now in Christ where all shall be made to live, to live now not to ourselves but to Him who died for us and rose again.
Then, there is the Hook, the Connecting Rod, the Chapiter, the Pin, the Cord and in all its excellency and display, the beauty of Christ, not Christ personally, but as displayed in you and I, in the five cubits square of fine twined linen, answerable to the compass of the brazen altar, from whose established basis all testimony Godward and Manward comes. In the Pillar, then, we have the shaft of our New Strength, the Socket our New Standing, the Linen our New Service, the Hook our Suitability for Service, the Chapiter the Servants’ Crown, the Connecting Rod our Suited Links with Him and with one another, the Cord our Support and the Pin our Security. Thus furnished, we take our place, endeavouring to maintain the Unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of Peace.
Having considered, in a brief and suggestive sense, our approach toward God by way of the Gate and into the Court, our attention would be taken up with the vessels that the Court contain. These vessels, in a wondrous way, speak very eloquently of the Lord Jesus Christ in connection with the basis which He has established in relation to our communion with God. We sometimes speak of the Joy of the Justified; this evidently is the expectation of God from His People, and would be their continual experience so long as they measure up to the standard of the Claims of God. We know that, such is the efficacy of the Blood of Christ, we can never lose our Salvation. We have been saved and that eternally, but, there is the solemn possibility, that we might lose the joy of our Salvation. This then is the purport of these vessels, because, we being what we are, and sin being what it is, it is possible, even though in an inadvertent way, to lose the joy of our Salvation and to have our Communion broken.
The Court Vessels, then, provide that basis for our unbroken communion and for its restoration, if and when the break takes place.
by C. H. M.
The expression at the head of this paper has, it seems, long proved “a geographical puzzle” to some. But to one who has the mind of Christ it is no puzzle, but a most striking and beautiful figure. Hermon is the very loftiest peak in all the land of Palestine, and from its snowy cap, when all the surrounding country is parched, the refreshing dew descends upon the mountains of Zion: and this is one of the figures used by the Holy Ghost to illustrate the beauty and pleasantness of brethren dwelling together in unity.
Let us quote the entire psalm.
- “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments. As the dew of Hermon that descended upon the mountains of Zion;* for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”
- * The interpolated words, “and as the dew,” spoil the beauty of the figure.
Here we have two lovely illustrations of unity among brethren. It is like ointment descending from the head of the high priest to the skirts of his garment; it is like the dew descending, in refreshing power, from Hermon’s snowy top.
How truly delightful! And yet they are but figures used to set forth the divine idea of unity among brethren. But how is the unity to be promoted? By living sufficiently near to our great priestly Head to catch the fragrant ointment as it descends from Him—to be living so near the Man in the glory as that the refreshing dew of His grace may drop upon our souls, thus rendering us fragrant and fruitful to His praise.
This is the way to dwell in unity with our brethren. It is one thing to talk about unity, and another thing altogether to dwell in it. We may profess to hold “the unity of the body” and “the unity of the Spirit”—most precious and glorious truths surely— and all the while be really full of selfish strife, party spirit and sectarian feeling, all of which are entirely destructive of practical unity. If brethren are to dwell together in unity, they must be receiving the ointment from the Head, the refreshing showers from the true Hermon. They must live in the very presence of Christ, so that all their points and angles may be moulded off, all their selfishness judged and subdued, all their own peculiar notions set aside, all their cues and crotchets flung to the winds. Thus there will be largeness of heart, breadth of mind and depth of sympathy. Thus we shall learn to bear and forbear. It will not then be loving those who think with us as to some pet theory or other. It will be loving and embracing “all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.”
The blessed Head loves all His members, and if we are drinking into His Spirit, if we are learning of Him, we shall love all likewise. No doubt, those who keep His commandments enjoy His special love—the love of complacency; and so we cannot but specially love those in whom we trace most of His blessed Spirit. But this is a totally different thing from loving people because they adopt our line of truth, or our peculiar views. It is Christ, and not self; and this is what we want, if we are to “dwell together in unity.”
Look at that charming picture presented in Philippians ii. There truly we see, first of all, the divine Head Himself, and from Him the ointment descending to the skirts of His garments. Where did Paul get the grace to enable him to be ready to be poured out as a drink-offering upon the sacrifice; of his brethren? What was it that made Timothy care for other people? What led Epaphroditus to put his life in his hand to supply his brethren’s lack? What is the one grand answer to all these questions? Simply this; these beloved servants of Christ lived so in their Master’s presence and drank so deeply into His Spirit, they dwelt so near the Man in the glory, that the fragrant ointment and the refreshing dew fell upon their souls abundantly and made them channels of blessing to others.
This, beloved Christian reader, be assured of it, is the grand secret of getting on together. If brethren are to dwell together in unity, they must have the “ointment” and the “dew” dropping continually upon them. They must live close to Christ and be occupied with Him, so that they may shew forth His virtues, and reflect His blessed image.
And then, what joy to be enabled, in any little measure, to refresh the heart of God! He delights to see His children walking in love. It is He who says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Surely this ought to stir our hearts to seek in every possible way to promote this lovely unity. It should lead us to sink self and all its belongings, to surrender everything that might tend in any measure to alienate our hearts from one another. The Holy Ghost exhorts us to “endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Let us remember this. It is the unity of the Spirit, not the unity of the body, we are to keep in the uniting bond of peace. This will cost us something. The word “endeavouring” shews that it cannot be done without sacrifice. But the One who so graciously exhorts us to service will ever supply the needed grace. The ointment and the dew will flow down from Him in refreshing power, knitting our hearts together in holy love, and enabling us to deny ourselves, and surrender everything which might tend to hinder that true unity which we are imperatively called upon to maintain.
by JOHN PETERS
- In Christ redeemed, in Christ restored,
- We keep the memory adored
- And show the death of our dear Lord
- Until He come.’
‘In Christ’ the believer has :
We have redemption through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins (Romans 3:24, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, 1Peter 1:18). The Word of God reminds us that “once in the end of the world did He appear to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” (Hebrews 9:26).
To be justified means (1) to be declared/pronounced acquitted from guilt; (2) to be accounted righteous, and again it is because of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:9). Something of the thrill of justification is captured by the hymnist in the following words :
- “I hear the accuser roar
- Of ills that I have done,
- I know them well and thousands more,
- Jehovah findeth none.”
Not only does the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ cleanse us (1John 1:7), but we are constituted the Righteousness of God in Him. Thus the believer is viewed before God as if he had never sinned. The results of our justification are glorious: (a) Peace with God. (Romans 5:1) (b) Access (Hebrews 10:19) (c) Nearness (Ephesians 2:13); we have been brought nigh by the blood of Christ.
(3) A Completely New Life.
According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, “if any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” In Christ the believer enters into an entirely new order of existence: not only peace with God but the peace of God in our everyday lives.
(4) Ascended to Heavenly Places.
Recently it has been suggested that to be ‘blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places’ means, negatively, that the believer is now no longer under the dominion of Satan, nor does he live under the wrath of God. Positively, it means that the believer belongs to God’s kingdom, is controlled by the Holy Spirit, is in the realm where he is near to God, and already knows something of the life of heaven in this world.
In Philippians 1:26 the apostle Paul speaks of “our rejoicing” being “more abundant in Jesus Christ.” A better translation for rejoicing would be glorying or exultation. As believers we can exult in our position ‘in Christ.’ We possess a joy that nothing can take away from us.
(6) Been Made Gracious.
In Philemon Paul describes how Onesimus, once ‘unprofitable’ had become ‘profitable,’ indeed a ‘brother beloved/ He had been made gracious in Christ, and Paul pleads with Philemon to accept Onesimus back, ‘receive him as myself.’
(7) Hope for the future.
The believer’s hope ‘in Christ’ is clearly set forth in the New Testament. In total contrast to the fear that abounds in the world the believer can pray with Paul that he “may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost,” (Romans 15:13). Our God is the ‘God of hope’ simply because he is HIMSELF the hope of His people— “Thou art my hope, O Lord God” (Psalm 71:5); “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him” (Lamentations 3:24). In 1Timothy 1:1 Paul refers to the Lord Jesus Christ “which is our hope,” and here the Greek word for hope, elpsis, conveys the idea of absolute certainty. Indeed, Christ in us is “the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27), whilst Paul also exhorts us to look for “that blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Finally the apostle John reminds us that “every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1John 3:3).
But what of our responsibilities in the light of our glorious position ‘in Christ’? Again the New Testament is quite specific. We are expected to: preach Christ (1Thess. 4, 11-12); be like Christ (1Thess. 4, 11-12); be ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20); bear the reproach of Christ (Heb. 11:26).
In conclusion, let us remember, with gratitude and delight, that one day we shall be WITH CHRIST.
Sold - By Thee?
- It may not be for silver,
- It may not be for gold,
- But still by tens of thousands,
- The Prince of Life is sold;
- Sold for a godless friendship,
- Sold for a selfish aim,
- Sold for a fleeting trifle,
- Sold for an empty name;
- Sold in the mart of Science,
- Sold in the seat of Power,
- Sold at the shrine of Fortune,
- Sold in Pleasure’s bower.
- Sold where the awful bargain
- None but God’s eye can see!
- Ponder, my soul, the question:
- Shall He be sold by thee?
- Sold! O God, what a moment!
- Stifled is conscience’ voice—
- Sold! And a weeping angel
- Records the fatal choice!
- Sold! But the price accepted
- To a living coal shall turn,
- With the pangs of a late repentance
- Deep in the soul to burn.
- —WM. BLANE (Lays of Life and Hope)
“Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”—Ephesians 5:11.
Whitefield and a Christian companion were much annoyed one night by a set of gamblers at an inn in an adjoining room where they slept. Their noisy clamour and horrid blasphemy so excited Whitefield’s abhorrence that he couldn’t rest. “I will go to them and reprove their wickedness,” he said. And he went. His words of reproof were apparently powerless. Returning, he lay down to sleep. ‘‘What did you gain by it?” his companion asked. “A soft pillow,” he said, and soon fell asleep. A good conscience gives a soft pillow.
- And when the evening stars appear,
- And in their train the darkness bring,
- May we, O Lord, with conscience clear,
- Our praises to Thy glory sing.
QUOTATIONS from John Douglas (Ashgill)
- But for the commendation of a Butler we would never have had a JOSEPH.
- But for the commendation of Saul’s Servant we would never have had a DAVID.
- But for the commendation of Arioch we would never have had a DANIEL.
- Jonathan loved David; his soul was knit unto him. God’s love is measured by the gift He gave. “He gave His only begotten Son.’’ Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it”—Jonathan stripped himself of his sword; he delighted in him; he spake good of him, yet he would not bear reproach—He never went to the cave!
- 10 spies saw 3 G’s: Grapes, Giants, Grasshoppers.
- 2 spies saw 4 G’s: Grapes, Giants, Grasshoppers and God.