The first psalm has been described as an estimate of perfect human character, when tried in the furnace of an evil world.
While the first three verses call attention to the fragrance of a Godly life, the following two verses give the sober warning of the folly of a Godless life. The last verse summarises all that has gone before.
There are three divisions in the Psalm :
The Blessed Man (vs. 1-3).
The Ungodly Man (vs. 4-5).
Their Respective Destinations (vs. 6).
THE BLESSED MAN
The first description of the godly man tells of what he does not, followed by what he does. The negative view is first, because of man’s proneness to walk wrong rather than right.
He walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly; nor standeth in the way of sinners; nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. He who walks has time to change his course and direction, he who stands has come to a crisis, but he who sits has decided his course and appears to be happy with it. These same three movements can be observed in the experience of Lot, who walked into Egypt, pitched his tent toward Sodom, and finally sat, as magistrate in the gate of Sodom. The place to break with the wicked is while still walking. If we do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, we will not stand in the way of the sinner, nor sit in the seat of the scornful.
His negative qualities can be summed up under the heading of the three-fold evil :
Walketh not in evil counsel;
Standeth not in evil ways;
Sitteth not in evil company;
This godly man has not only negative, but also positive qualities. He is something and does something. He delights in the law of the Lord. He meditates in that law day and night. To delight in the law of the Lord carries with it the responsibility of meditation of its character and obedience to its commands. Remember, it is impossible to delight in the law and continue in disobedience to its demands. The child of God who finds his joy and satisfaction in the law of the Lord, does so, because he loves the Lord. Therefore, loving the Lord and keeping his commandments are two great inseparable virtues of Christianity.
The psalmist calls our attention to the fact that these negative and positive qualities indicate a stable character. He is like a tree in very favourable circumstances, “by the rivers of water.” Not a mere ornamental tree, but rather a tree producing fruit in season. A godly life maintains a freshness, even when surrounding circumstances are dry and barren. Such freshness and fruitfulness is the evidence and work of the unseen root continually producing that which will bring glory to God and blessing to His people. While other forms of vegetation blossom and die, this tree remains unaffected by change of seasons; its beauty is permanent.
How happy then is the man who delights in God’s law for truly such a man will find true prosperity in the things of God. How tragic to-day, when the Christian assesses his prosperity by the wealth he accumulates. Remember, that true prosperity is not based upon what we gain, but rather by what we lose for Christ.
THE UNGODLY MAN
Having outlined the qualities of the Godly man the psalmist proceeds in considering the characteristics of the ungodly with whom he is contrasted. Two verses are taken up with what the blessed man is not, and what he is, the positive and negative qualities of the ungodly are summarised in two little words—“not so.” Whatever is negative in the blessed man is positive in the ungodly; and that which is positive in the blessed man is negative in the ungodly. Thus he can be described as a not so man.
When it comes to telling what the Godly man is like, the description is elaborated; he is like a tree; he brings forth fruit; his leaf never withers and consequently he prospers spiritually. Observe the similes used to illustrate the character of each of the men. Over against the tree as a simile of the Godly man’s stability is the chaff of the ungodly man’s instability. The wind that would only cause the waving of the branches of the trees, is the same wind that would carry away the chaff. One defies the storm while the other is driven before it. For the Godly man there is no mention of judgement, it is all in the past, whereas for the ungodly one it is a future certainty.
Therefore, says the psalmist, “the wicked shall not stand in the judgment.” The judgment in this case, would seem to refer to standing in the congregation of Israel. It is only the spiritual man who can enjoy and participate in spiritual activity.
Concluding the psalm we are presented with a summary rather than a third division. We have the destinies of these two men contrasted and summed up. The way of the righteous—“the Lord knoweth,” while the way of the ungodly—“perish.”
May God bless this brief meditation of the psalm to the hearts of all who read it.
Much more could be said about our Lord as the true Judah, but we must press on to Issachar, whose name means “There is reward.” The name is alluded to in Gen. 49, where the R.V. reads, “Issachar is a strong ass couching down between the sheepfolds. And he saw that rest was good and the land was pleasant, and he bowed his shoulder to bear and became a servant unto tribute.” No doubt there are things said here that reflect badly on the nation, settling down at ease under a Gentile situation, but, as often in Scripture, the words have a dual application. As referring to the Lord, they must be taken in a good sense. The strong ass emphasises the thought of service; the reference to the sheep folds indicates a pastoral work being done. Thus in Matthew 2:6, the Governor is to “shepherd”—marginal reading—God’s people Israel. Elsewhere we see the shepherd in 9:36, 10:6, 25:32, 26:31. There is also, I believe, a reference in ch. 27:9, when taken in conjunction with Zechariah ch. 11, which Old Testament prophecy will explain Genesis 49 to us. In that chapter we see the Lord feeding the “flock of the slaughter” against a background of apostasy. Israel’s “possessors (the Romans) slay them and hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them (the Herodians) say, Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich: and their own shepherds (the Pharisees) pity them not.” Zech. 11:5. In contrast to these, with the nation under tribute, we see One Who bows His shoulder to bear, and becomes a servant unto tribute. Why does He serve? He saw that rest was good. It reminds us of the lowly character of service that He has in Matthew 11, when all—even, it would seem, including John the Baptist appear to have refused Him. At that hour He rejoices in spirit. Wonderful demonstration of how everything in His life was for the Father! He says, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” Everything here has the marks of the burnt offering! He could say “Lo, I come ... I delight to do Thy will, O my God”—Psalm 40:8—He took a yoke upon Him—no one ever laid it on Him—He came to serve willingly. “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me” He can say. That was His yoke—to do the Father’s will in a spirit of meekness and lowliness. He saw that rest was good. “I will give you rest.” “He saw the land was pleasant.” He serves in view of the Millenial earth being brought into being. So He bows His shoulders to bear, and becomes the servant. The culmination of all that is seen in Zech. 11:12-14, where we find that He has been rejected by the shepherds of the nation. They weigh for His price thirty pieces of silver—the price of a slave gored by an ox, Ex. 21:32. A pierced servant! In ch. 12, Israel look upon Him who they have pierced, ch. 12:10. In ch. 13, verse 6, He speaks of the wounds that He has received in the house of His friends. The following verse, 13:7, is quoted in Matthew 26:31; the Shepherd of Israel, the One of ch. 11 has been smitten by Jehovah Himself. What is the result in blessing? “I will turn my hand upon the little ones.” That is what has happened to us!
Zechariah 11:13 is quoted in Matthew 27—this Gospel which tells of the greater than Issachar, the servant unto tribute, is the only one that tells us of the price that the nation valued Him. The present writer believes that the words in Matthew 27:10 are ascribed by Matthew to Jeremiah in order that we might think, not merely of the literal words of Zechariah, but that we might be put into the atmosphere of Jeremiah’s prophecy, particularly chs. 18 and 32. But this cannot be dealt with more closely here.
Israel was under tribute to Rome—but what “tribute” this One rendered to God! Matthew is the Gospel which expounds the Trespass Offering, as Mark the Sin, Luke the Peace, and John the Burnt Offering. It is debts that are dealt with in Matthew—see Mt. 6:13. He makes adequate restitution—He restores that which He took not away, Ps. 69:4. What value is here! It would seem from Job 28:19 that the topaz was only excelled in value by gold. Accordingly we find it linked with this servant, whose name means “Reward.”
Finally, we turn to Zebulun, whose name means “Dwelling,” What a great word that is at the end of Matthew 1—“They shall call His Name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, GOD WITH US,” v. 23. In Isaiah 7, from whence the passage is taken, it is the mother who calls Him that, but here it is the nation—“His people,” v. 21, who do so. The passage is thus prophetic of what the nation will think and say in the Millenial day. At the end of Matthew we have another great word, “Lo, I am WITH YOU alway, even until the end of the age”—the age that will close with the dawning of the Millenium. There is no ascension in Matthew, and the women hold Him by His feet after His resurrection—great contrasts with John’s Gospel. In Matthew we see the King, who belongs to the earth—who has come to dwell, and the women grasp His feet as an act of homage to the King. As Immanuel, He is the greater than Zebulun.
“And leaving Nazareth, He came and DWELT in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken ... The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people which sat in darkness saw great light, and to them which sat in the region of the shadow of death, light is sprung up.” Matt. 4:13-16. For “the way of the sea,” campare Gen. 49, “Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea,” He is connected with the sea of Galilee, but His border reaches unto Zidon—as we see in Matt. 15. However, there is more than literal truth here, for the mention of “the sea” suggests the wealth of the nations which belongs to Him, in Gen. 49, while in Matt. 4, the “sea” suggests how closely allied to the Gentile world the Jews had become.
But He came to DWELL! Not to visit, like an angel, and then return to glory, but to be found here in fashion as a man, with but one way to go back to the Father that had sent Him—by the Cross itself. And He come to dwell in the most degraded of circumstances. The people sit in darkness here—not “walk;” as in the quotation from Isaiah 9; that they sit now, suggests that they have accepted their miserable lot as under sin, and being unable to do anything for themselves. But in the region of darkness, light “springs up.” The name Naphtali suggests—as in Gen. 49, vigour in movement; here the name lives up to expectation, for where there had been helpless sitting down, now there is life—“a springing up.” That is what happens in the soul when the Lord Jesus comes to dwell. In Isaiah, the light shines, as if from above—that is, it looks on to the Millenial day, when the light will come from heaven, but here it comes up, as if from the earth, as if to suggest the changes that come about when the Lord Jesus comes.
Light is thus associated with His dwelling—and the stone for Zebulun is the carbuncle, which has a root which means “lightning,” the stone itself, we are told, has a flashing forth quality about it. It aptly suggests the truth that is conveyed in the words from Matt. 4. And if the light shone when He came then, what brightness was associated with His resurrection! Only Matthew (ch. 28:3) tells us of the angel whose countenance was as lightning: only Matthew tells us that His face, when He was transfigured shone as the sun, while His garments were white as light. And Matthew reminds us also that when He returns in glory, that His coming will be as the lightning that cometh out of the east and shines even unto the west (Matt. 17:3, 24:27).
As we consider Who this heavenly dweller was, both the devoted servant, and the true King, whose name will result in praise from all nations, so we learn something of the scope of Matthew’s Gospel, and appreciate more the truth that ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is therefore profitable to us.
Conversion is a moral necessity for all who would have to do with God, in peace and blessing. The Saviour indicated its indispensability plainly enough when he said, “Verily, I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3). The statement is startling in its peremptoriness; put in such a form it constrains us to pause and enquire what this conversion means. To have any misunderstanding here would clearly be fatal to any of us.
Of all the pictures of conversion given to us in the Scriptures, none is more expressive than that of the Thessalonians. Their city had been steeped in idolatry from its foundation, and with the exception of a few Jews who worshipped Jehovah, all the Thessalonians bowed down to the deities of the heathen. Suddenly there entered the place a small band of itinerant preachers, who proclaimed not only the living and true God Whom the Jews acknowledged, but also His Son, Jesus Christ. Concerning the Son of God, they told of His death and resurrection, His entrance into heaven, and His future coming for the full deliverance of all His people. The preaching gripped the hearts of many. Dead deities they had long known, but a living God was a new idea. Deities supposed to be possessed of every savage passion they had long served, but a self-sacrificing Saviour aroused thoughts and feelings in their minds, such as they had never experienced before. One of the preachers afterwards described the effect thus: “Ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, Who delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:9-10).
“Ye turned to God!” That is conversion. The necessity for it arises from the fact that we are all sprung from a corrupt stock; every individual on earth having been shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin. It is natural to every child of Adam to go astray like a lost sheep. The Divine judgment of our whole race was long ago expressed in the sorrowful words: “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no not one” (Rom. 3:12).
“Ye turned to God,” wrote the Apostle to the Thessalonians. The forceful preaching to which they listened brought them face to face, as it were, with God. In His light they saw light. The awfullness of sin, and especially the vanity of idolatry, was thus brought home to their hearts and consciences; terrible lessons truly for any to have to learn. But it was a Saviour—God to Whom they turned; hence not terror or despair, but rest, peace, and satisfaction became their portion, as they learned of His tremendous sacrifice of love when He gave up His only-begotten Son to death for their salvation. Never again could they turn their backs upon such a God; He had fixed and attracted their hearts for ever. “Ye turned to God!” Yes, that is Scriptural conversion, and that only.
The Philistine armies are again assembled to do battle with Israel, and Saul is in command. David had returned home v. 15—how long before, we are not told. The three elder sons of Jesse are at the war with their compatriots. All occupy one side of the Valley of Elah and the Philistines occupy the other side. The Philistines’ great champion, the giant Goliath of Gath, assumes the right to determine the issue—as to which nation should be subservient—by his challenge for a man to contend with him for the mastery. For 40 days (proving period) he does this morning and evening without response. No one dares to do battle with him; not even Jonathan. Now God withholds faith; instead, fear and dismay has seized them all. The last clause of vv. 23 and 26 of chapter 15 give the reason for this. “The LORD hath rejected thee from being King,” so that Saul in his presumption is acting in outright defiance of God’s plain word; and under his authority no one can move in this time of crisis. God’s help is denied Saul, God abhors carnality, He has made choice of another.
When the proving period is ended and Saul’s and Israel’s impotence is made evident, then, in God’s perfect ordering, David is brought on a purely domestic errand to the scene of conflict as the host goes forth with battle cry to fight. As he greets his brothers and talks with them, he hears the challenge of the giant Goliath who has come forward from the Philistine ranks and he sees the men of Israel flee from him, for they were sore afraid v. 24.
Now this challenge from Goliath which he hears, and the reaction of all Saul’s armed men to it, raises David’s ire. He is told “The King will greatly enrich the man who kills him ... and he shall be the King’s son-in-law” v. 25. But to David the very idea of reward is so incompatible that he can hardly imagine it to be possible. In his amazement he asks “What shall be done to the man that kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel; for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the Living God?” (v. 26). Israel’s testimony is at stake, and God’s honour is assailed. This is paramount to David, and his response is in accord with it. He is quite undeterred by his brother Eliab’s unjust censure. Saul is informed, and David is sent for and stands before Saul. We assume that Jonathan was present.
The paragraphs including verses 32-37 and 40-51 have an undiminishing appeal to all Bible lovers. David says to Saul “thy servant will fight with this Philistine.” He replies: “Thou are not able, thou art but a youth.” However David’s confidence is based upon earlier experiences of God’s enabling and deliverance, although he was so young. So he replies “there came a lion and a bear and took a lamb out of the flock—and I ... smote him and delivered it out of his mouth and when he rose against me I caught him by his beard and smote him and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the Living God.” V. 37—here David introduces the name of Jehovah into the councils of that day; so seldom heard in Saul’s court, 1 Chron. 13 v. 3—“The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said, “Go, and the LORD be with thee.” Verses 38 and 39—Saul’s natural reasonings intrude again; David must have on Saul’s armour. It is unthinkable that Israel’s military power should be represented by a shepherd lad; he must have on traditional equipment and protection; soldier’s dress (N. Tr.), helmet, coat of mail, and sword, but he was unaccustomed to all of them. “I cannot go in these,” says David to Saul, and he put them off him. Goliath’s massive physique, his prowess, has armour—helmet of brass, coat of mail, greaves of brass, target of brass—his ponderous spear and his armour bearer withal, are totally discounted, by David. Through the years, he has learnt the skilful use of sling and stone; and God alone—with these—are his confidence. With staff and shepherd’s bag, symbols of his calling, he unpretentiously goes down in the valley, taking five smooth stones from the brook. V. 40.
Now the challenge is taken up, Goliath disdains David— could this be his opponent? It was incredible! An insult! And he curses David by his gods. “Come to me and I will ... v. 43-44. David confidently replies “Thou comest to me with sword, with spear, and shield; I am come to thee in the name of the LORD of HOSTS, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied, and HE will give you into our hands.” The use of sling and stone does not permit of the thought of merely possible success; God designs to use the skills attained by much application, if in line with His purposes, both Old and New Testament records confirm this. Thus David will fulfil the task for which God brought him to the scene of conflict, to fatally bruise and then to sever Goliath’s head with his own sword; and in the energy of the Spirit of God it is accomplished v. 48-51. In this we see foreshadowed the supreme triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ, won at infinite cost—“He also himself likewise took part of the same (flesh and blood), that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” Heb. 2 vv. 14-15.
David returns up the hillside with the giant’s head in his hand; we must agree that “David had wrought with God that day.” The confidence of the Philistines, “the arm of flesh,” had failed them, their champion was dead; and they flee. The armies of Israel—until now held down by fear— pursue, and a great victory is won.
Saul enquires of Abner: “Who is this young man?” “I cannot tell,” says Abner. David is brought to him with the grim evidence of victory and answers Saul; “I am the son of Jesse the Bethlehemite” (of the neighbouring tribe of Judah). Saul’s promised lavish reward is withheld; David is despised, not honoured—just a servant to Saul, but now allowed to return home, and Saul’s eldest daughter Merab is later given to Adriel as wife, 1 Sam. 18:19. For the grim sequel to all this see 2Sam. 21 vv. 1-9. Carnality and honour do not go hand in hand.
This chapter is an exposition of chapter 10:38 “the just by faith shall live.” We are called to live and walk by faith. True faith is active and energetic and courageous. Verse one is a description of what faith does for us.
Faith is acting now on the basis of promises not yet fulfilled. Faith is acting Here on the basis of power not here visible. Faith conquers time and space. The value of faith v. 1-7; the visions of faith v. 8-22; the vigilance of faith v. 23-29; the virtues of faith and the victories of faith v. 30-40.
The Lord Jesus promoted every feature seen in these men of faith and each was found perfectly expressed in His own character 12:2.
Abel—Christ the Righteous One,Acts 3:14; 1 John 3:12. Abel was the first shepherd and by faith brought his lamb to God for acceptance. His offering was commended by God, being offered in God’s way. Cain’s did not acknowledge the claims of God. Abel’s gifts were accepted, and his righteousness attested. Rom. 10:10. His sacrifice is still speaking by telling of the necessity of blood shedding for acceptance with God, ch. 9:22.
Our Lord is the Good Shepherd who gave His life, shed His blood, and its efficacy is available to all who by faith accept Him, 12:24. He is the only way to God, John 14:6. The nation of Israel, like Cain, slew the Righteous One and are guilty before God, Acts 3:14.
Noah—Christ the Rejected One. “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord,” Gen. 6:8. Our Lord was “full of grace and truth” and was every pleasurable to God. Noah’s righteous character portrays the Person of the Lord Jesus and the Ark the work of Christ in saving power. His message of “righteousness” 2 Peter 2:5 was rejected by the people, as was the warnings of judgement by the Lord. Noah by his life of faith and work in building the ark condemned the world. He became an heir of righteousness, our Lord is the “Heir of all things,” Heb. 1:3; and our Refuge, Isa. 32:2; Heb. 6:18.
Enoch—Christ received up into Glory,Gen. 5:22; 1 Tim. 3:16. “He pleased God,” his faith acknowledged the existence and beneficience of God, v. 6. Our Lord Jesus was dedicated to the Will of God, John 6:38. He brought pleasure to the heart of God, Matt. 3:17; 17:5 and His testimony through Enoch indicates His coming in glory, Jude 14. Abel did priestly work and Enoch acted in the prophetic office. In daily living we ask of every action, “Does it please God?” Like Enoch, we do not divide life into sacred and secular and await the day of translation to heaven, 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:17.
The whole of God’s revelation is viewed in these verses: creation v. 3, redemption v. 4, and glorification v. 5. Our Lord is the Creator and Redeemer and we will be glorified with Him, Rom. 8:30.
Abraham—Christ the Stranger and Pilgrim. Our Lord like Abraham regarded the life to come as of more importance than this one. Abraham ventured on God and responded to an unusual call from God in unhesitating obedience. He lived as a stranger and had companions in his son and grandson. His godly life left its mark on them as did the life of the Lord on His disciples, Acts 4:13.
His seed were heavenly and earthly. The “stars” may suggest the heavenly seed, the Church of God; the “sand” may illustrate the earthly seed, the Jewish nation, the kingdom of Israel.
There is a City where Architect and Builder is God, it is the Celestial City, at the end of our pilgrimage. Our Lord was a Stranger, Luke 24:18, but is also the way to celestial bliss, John 14:6, Rev. 20:15, 16.
Isaac—The Son Sacrificed, v. 17. See Genesis 22 and compare the similarities between Isaac and Christ the Beloved One in the N.T., over twelve in number. Our Lord laid down His life and was raised again from the dead, John 10:17, 18; Rom. 8:34; 4:25. Isaac was the promised Seed, v. 11, his birth was by promise and not in the power of the flesh—it was miraculous, Gal. 3:16.
The Risen Lord will have an innumberable seed that will gladden His heart eternally, Isa. 53:10. (See the author’s “Study in the Pentateuch” page 50).
Jacob—The Servant, v. 21. The closing scene in Jacob’s life honours him as a hero of faith, dying, blessing and worshipping. His devoted love in serving fourteen years for Rachel illustrates Christ’s love for His Church and His service to His saints, Eph. 5:25-27.
Jacob was faithful, Gen. 31:38-41; Hosea 12:12, and faintly portrays the perfect Servant of Jehovah, Isa. 42:1-3; 52:13. His staff had been his life companion, the witness with himself of the goodness of the Lord. It completes the picture of his life as a pilgrim and stranger.
Jacob’s remarkable prophecy regarding his sons in Gen. 49 intimate the Lord in His sufferings, Priesthood, Kingship, Refuge, Resurrection, the Prophet and in Joseph and Benjamin, His Reign and Conquests.
Joseph—Christ the Sovereign. Much in Joseph’s life foreshadowed the Lord Jesus as the Son, recognised by his father, and rejected by his brethren. Suffering reproach for his words and his works, Gen. 37:4, 5, 8; John 5:18:10:30, 31. He served his father and sought his brethren, yet they stripped him and sold him into Egypt. There he became a Servant and all things prospered in his hands, 39:2, 3; Like our Lord he suffered at the hands of the Gentiles, Acts 4:26, 27. The Revealer of Secrets, ch. 41:16-25, 37-39, was duly exalted and set over all Egypt, His authority and glory were publicly acknowledged, 41:43, Acts 2:36, Phil. 2:9, 10.
His brethren went forth to proclaim his glory, 45:9, 13, reminding us of restored Israel going forth to declare the glory of the Lord, Isa. 66:14.
Moses—Christ the Apostle and Prophet, v. 24-29; Heb. 3:1-6. Note faith’s courage, v. 24; choice, v. 25; consideration, v. 26a; confidence, v. 26c; consciousness, v. 27c; and consistency, v. 28, 29. Moses is one of the greatest leaders and administrators the world has known.
He illustrates and typifies Christ as Apostle and Prophet. Think of the following similarities; both were preserved in childhood; fast forty days; suffered at home; endured murmuring and introduced a new dispensation. They were divinely commissioned and supported in their work; both had seventy helpers, had radiant faces, made intercessory prayers and established memorials. Their seven mountain experiences are worthy of study. But Deut. 18:15, 18-19 portray a greater than Moses, for the words of the Lord Jesus are authoritative, John 10:14-25; 6:63.
Through Moses and the Law there was but a partial revelation. In Christ there is fullness and finality, the revelation is complete, John 1:17; 14:9; Heb. 1:2. In Heb. 3:1-6 the Lord is better than Moses as a Builder and as Son over God’s House. Moses was a servant in the house. The Lord is superior in glory.
He is also greater than Gideon as the Conqueror; than Barak as the Light; better than Samson in His Strength; than Jephthae as our Leader and Samuel as Judge and Guide to Israel, v. 32, Jer. 15:1.
David—The Beloved One, v. 32. His faith shines out in family life and in national life; He was anointed three times; in his father’s house, then over Judah and lastly over all Israel. Our Lord is the Anointed One, Acts 10:38; Heb. 1:9; and the Shepherd, Ezek. 34:23.
He is the Root and Offspring of David, Rev. 5:5; 22:16; Like David He is the Overcomer. He alone gave David courage as he faced Goliath, also the confidence and competence in gaining his decisive victory.
Our Lord had victories over sin, disease, every form of ‘signs’ in John’s gospel demonstrate. He is the great ‘I AM’ the totality of truth preceding yet succeeding David. Christ as the Beloved One was the illustrious Son, the industrious Servant, the inspired Seer and will be the incomparable Ruler, Isa. 11:1-10.
David’s writings are full of Christ, Psalm 8, 16, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 110. Matt. 22:42-45. David is seen at his best in Kingship and better than any of his successors in his generosity, in integrity, in ministry and in his conformity to God’s will, Acts 13:36, 37. David was never defeated and saved Israel from all their enemies, 2 Sam. 3:17, 18.
This prophet was raised up at a crucial moment in the history of Israel (See 2Kings 14:23-27). Ninevah and the Assyrian Empire were a terrible threat to the nation of Israel. Why God should spare them was a great mystery to Jonah, who would rather see them done away with. That is why he was not willing to go and warn them so that they could turn from their evil way and be spared (which they were for some 300 years). Instead he took ship to get as far away as possible (some 2,000 miles to Tarshish on the tip of the Spanish peninsula) and where the Assyrians could not get at him.
He also typifies the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus as spoken by Him (See Luke 11:29-32). It is possible, though not so actually stated, that Luke himself was the only Gentile prophet in the Scriptures. (Examine the differences in his Gospel from the others—a whole section not given by the other Evangelists and his companionship with Paul afterwards). The Evangelists divide the facts concerning Jonah into (a) his experiences in the great fish and (b) his later message to the Gentiles to whom he was sent. He did not want this great Gentile hostile power to be spared, but his experiences afford us an opportunity to see the long-suffering and the delivering power of God as well as affording a type of the death and resurrection of Christ Himself. There was the “sign of the prophet Jonas” and the “preaching of Jonas.” He came to them as one who had typically passed through death and resurrection and he undoubtedly bore the marks of such (even as our Lord did) in his own body. These marks undoubtedly brought about the repentance of the Ninevites as they could SEE in him the signs of death and resurrection.
It has been said that no whale or big fish has a throat large enough to do what this one did but it has been established that there are such which could swallow a whole building quite easily, so massive are they. Now our Lord actually died but the prophet did not, but was in the place of death and darkness, and how he survived we just do not know but a book has been written about a large ship and it is called the “Cruise of the Cachelot” (the name for a whale—see dictionary)—where a man had just this experience and survived after the whale was caught and slaughtered. He had been swallowed whole by this animal, which was caught and he delivered, but the stomachic juices had turned him white, so that the Ninevites could not merely hear the words of the prophet, but could SEE in him the result of the judgment of God. Doubtless it is this that caused them to turn from their sin and implore the forgiveness of God. They SAW what God’s judgment was like. (Matt. 12:40-41) and (Luke 11:32 etc.) the “sign” v. 30 and the preaching v. 32, and he adds that it was an “evil and adulterous generation” when applying it to Israel.
Is not this what we need today? His death and resurrection is accounted to us as Paul’s letters so abundantly testify. What is needed today is a people who have entered into and are in a spiritual way those who have died and risen with Christ and are sent to THIS evil and adulterous generation. “Ye have died” says Paul and your life is hid with Christ in God, and when Christ Who is our life shall appear then shall we also appear with Him in glory. And this is all through His great work upon the cross and present intercession at the right hand of God. May we rise to it. Our compatriots should be able to see such a people who are spiritually dead and risen with Christ awaiting that great moment of glorification.
v. 15. Who is the image of the invisible God, Paul had just mentioned the Kingdom of God’s Son, and the believers’ association in it (v. 13). Now he presents to the Colossians the Person of the Son, in all the fullness of His preeminence (v. 18). Thus would he deal with the faulty teaching of the Gnostics. His answer to their heresy is, ‘Christ is all’ (3:11).
Paul commences with the Fullness of the Deity of Christ —all that the Father is, the Son is. The Son revealed to men the God upon whose divine fullness man had never looked, and lived (Ex. 33:20, John 1:18). God in His own glorious Divine Essence cannot be seen, and has not been seen by man.
All the Aeons that Philo of Alexandria had regarded as emanating from God dwelt in Christ. ‘In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily’ (2:9). The word for ‘dwelleth’ here implies a permanent dwelling, not the temporary abiding that the Gnostics postulated of Christ. It was so eternally. Thus Christ was in the beginning; He was ever face-to-face with God; He ever was God (John 1:1). Before and during His incarnation He never relinquished His Deity; on earth He was the only begotten Son of God; He will never cease to be God. Men saw embodied in the Man, Christ Jesus, the powers and attributes of God—His omnipotence, His omniscience, His omnipresence, His longsuffering, His love, His life that was the light of men (John 1:4).
The word, ‘image,’ is defined for us in Gen. 1:26, where God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ ‘Image’ is something in which man is like God. ‘Likeness’ is not something different from ‘image,’ but is explanatory of it. The image of God in which man is made consists in the spiritual personality of God. Man is also in the image of God in that he was crowned with glory and honour, and all things were put in subjection to him; he was made ‘but little lower than God’ (Ps. 8:5, R.V.). This glory and honour man lost at the Fall, but he will regain them (1 Cor. 6:3). When Paul says that Christ is ‘the image of the invisible God’ he declares that He is the exact likeness of God—‘the very image of His substance’ (Heb. 1:3, R.V.). Thus the image that Christ presents of God is (a) Resemblance (Gen. 1:26), (b) Representation (1 Cor. 11:7), (c) Reflection (John 14:9). His essential character has ever been the image of God; He was originally, eternally in the form of God (Phil. 2:6, R.V.).
the firstborn of every creature; One of the evidences of the fullness of Deity dwelling in Christ is seen in the title Paul gives to Him here, ‘the Firstborn of all Creation’ (R.V.). The term ‘firstborn’ in Scripture implies at least three attributes (Gen. 49:3), (A) Priority—in time and in dignity. As God He was before all creation (v. 17). ‘Firstborn’ is also applied to the dignity of Israel, as the highest among the nations (Ex. 4:22), (B) Sovereignty—‘being made firstborn’ is being accounted ‘the highest of the kings of the earth’ (Ps. 89:27, R.V.), (C) Might—Christ was the firstborn before all creation, before the whole created universe. He was not part of that creation. The explanation of this phrase is given in v. 16.
v. 16. For by Him were all things created, In contradistinction to the idea of the Gnostics, who taught that angels participated in the creation of the universe, Paul, by the Spirit, affirms that it was the manifestation of the power of Christ alone. Note the three prepositions that are referred to Christ in this verse, as far as creation is concerned, (a) ‘by,’ or rather ‘in’ (R.V.) Him, as the source—the One who planned all creation; (b) ‘by,’ or rather ‘through’ (R.V.) Him, as the agent of all creation (John 1:3); (c) ‘for,’ or rather ‘unto’ (R.V.) Him, as the One for whose ultimate glory all things were created (Rev. 4:11).
that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: Paul then proceeds to catalogue the ‘all things,’ and to show that they included, under four designations, the angels that the Gnostics magnified. (1)
‘The heavens (R.V.) include the material heavens and their inhabitants—angelic beings; (2) the earth and its occupants, including men; (3) visible things—the earth and its inhabitants; (4) the invisible things—angelic beings. Then the supernatural potentates are cited. This classification is not complete, nor their descriptions. But these are intended to show the relative greatness of the angels. These, so far from being equal in power with Christ as far as creation is concerned, are themselves the objects of His handiwork. Even their various ranks were themselves the outcome of the Fullness of Creation resident in Christ.
all things were created by Him, and for Him: The fourfold mention of the ‘all things’ emphasises that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself created the universe. He needed not the assistance of angels.
v. 17. And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. This verse predicates for Christ the other two implications in the term, ‘firstborn’ (v. 15)—(1) Priority in time—He is before all creation. The present tense, ‘He is,’ reminds us of the Lord’s own words in John 8:58, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’- indicating His eternal and absolute pre-existence, (2) Sovereignty—‘In Him all things hold together’ (R.V.). He controls the universe, and regulates the movements of the heavenly bodies (Heb. 1:3). The Lord Jesus Christ is vastly superior to the puny conceptions of the Gnostics. The angels are dependent on Him; they serve Him, they worship Him (Heb. 1; 6-7). No need then for believers to bow down before them (2:18). The Lord alone is worthy of our worship.
v.18. And He is the Head of the Body, the Church: The apostle now refers to the fullness of Christ, as far as the Church is concerned. Three titles are used of Christ to set forth His pre-eminence relative to the Church, (a) Head, (b) Beginning, (c) Firstborn. In these we see that what had just been said of Him with regard to the material creation is true also of His relation to the new creation, the Church. The metaphor of Christ as Head of the Body is explained in Eph. 4:15-16. The head controls, sustains, holds together, and builds up the body. Thus Christ, the Head, sustains the Church, in like manner to His holding together the material things of the old creation (v. 17).
Who is the Beginning. The Eternal Word is the Beginning of the creation of the universe (Rev. 3:14). The Incarnate Word is the Beginning of the new, spiritual creation. He is the first in point of time (1 John 1:1), and the Source and Author of eternal salvation to them that believe (Heb. 5:9).
the Firstborn from the dead; He is the Firstborn from among the dead. The resurrection gives Him the right to this title, implying as before, (1) Priority—the first to rise from the dead, no more to die, (2) Sovereignty—He conquered death, and has the keys of death and of hades (Rev. 1:18), (3) Power-—the resurrection declared Him the Son of God with power (Rom. 1:4).
that in all things He might have the preeminence. The lesson Paul would draw from all this is that God has ordained that Christ should have preeminence in all things, in the Church as well as in creation. Let not the Gnostics then degrade Christ to a level below that of angels. The Lord Jesus Christ must not merely have place, nor prominence, but preeminence in the thought and affections of believers. The preeminence that Christ had in the creation of the universe (v. 15) is seen also in His relation to the Church.
v. 19. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell; Whilst the words translated, ‘the Father,' are not found in the Greek text, their introduction here gives the true sense. ‘Pleased’ suggests the personality of the Father as the nominative, rather than the neuter ‘fullness.’ This would seem to sum up vv. 15-23, where we see that in Christ there dwells the Fullness oL Deity (v. 15), the Fullness of Power in the Creation of the universe (v. 16), the Fullness of Power in the New Creation (v. 18), and the Fullness of Reconciliation (v. 20). Fullness means all that is necessary to the completion of anything, in effect, the perfection of Christ- Perfect God, Perfect Creator, Perfect Redeemer, Perfect Reconciliator.
The word, ‘dwell,’ here indicates a fixed dwelling-place. The Gnostics had implied that one of the Aeons had descended on Christ at His baptism, in the form of a dove, and it left Him before His passion, thus belittling the work of the Saviour on Calvary. But Paul, by the use of this word, would imply that the fullness was not merely a temporary sojourning, but a permanent, eternal plenitude.
v. 20. And, having made peace through the blood of His Cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; The word, ‘And,’ in this verse connects w. 19 and 20 — the continuation of the thought of the Father’s pleasure. He was pleased that all fullness should dwell in Christ. Then follows, as cause and effect, the Father was pleased to reconcile all things unto Himself, through (R.V.) Christ’s peace-making work on the Cross, where He shed His blood (Rom. 5:10).
by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. Paul emphasises the words, ‘through Him’ (R.V.). This reconciliation was possible, whether it related to things on earth, or in heaven, because of His Fullness as the Creator of heavenly and earthly things (v. 16). Only One who was both God and Man could do the work of reconciliation. In Him dwelt the Fullness of Deity; He became Man that He might die the death of the Cross; He is both God and Man. As through the Lord Jesus Christ were created all things in heaven and earth, so through Him, through His death on the Cross, all things in heaven and on earth that had been estranged have been reconciled to God (Isa. 11:6-9).
The fall of Satan had affected the universe—the earth (Gen. 2:17), and the heavens (Job 15:15). But the Lord, through His death, has brought Satan to nought (Heb. 2:14). The reconciling work of Christ goes far beyond man’s redemption. We are only the firstfruits of His work (Jas. 1:18). Our finite minds cannot grasp what the reconciliation of all things in heaven and earth involves. Note that what is under the earth is not reconciled. There is no reconciliation for the fallen angels (2 Pet. 2:4), nor for those who have been consigned to Gehenna (Mark 9:43, R.V.).
v.21. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled. Paul here reminds the Colossian believers that they had participated in this reconciliation, even though they had been ‘alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise ... now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ’ (Eph. 2:12-13, R.V.). They had been alienated from God by the evil intent of their minds. In their evil works their minds were turned away from God. As such they needed to be reconciled to God, not God to them (2 Cor. 5:18). Thus was the grace of God revealed to them through Jesus Christ; that which had hindered fellowship between God and them, He had removed, now, in this day of grace—“not reckoning unto their trespasses” (2 Cor. 5:19).
v. 22. In the body of His flesh through death, The Lord Jesus took upon Himself a body of flesh, like unto ours, in order that He might, through death, bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:14). The life of the flesh is in the blood (Lev. 17:11), and only through the shedding of blood could sin be put away, and peace procured (Heb. 9:22). None of the angels, whom the Gnostics exalted, had a body of flesh, like Christ (Heb. 2:16); none of them could shed his blood for the remission of sin.
to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight: Not only did the Lord Jesus Christ die for believers, but He would present them to God for His approval—holy, without blemish and unreproveable—holy in relation to God; without blemish in relation to oneself; unreproveable in relation to the world. This is a present not a future appraisal. It is something that the Lord Himself produces in believers—the work of the Head for the Body, the Church (Eph. 4:15-16). In this respect the Church in Eph. 1:23 is called the fullness of Christ, that is, something that has been filled full by Christ. Paul has there in view the finished article—the Bride which the Lord presents to Himself (Eph. 5:27). This fullness, too, is the measure unto which those whom the Lord has gifted must aim, in their building up of the saints (Eph. 4:13).
v. 23. If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, Paul had preached to them the gospel of faith and hope in Christ. Continuance in it would indicate the desired perfection. They could not achieve this end by abstaining from meats and drinks, nor by the keeping of feast-days, nor by worshipping angels. Only by holding fast the Head could they do so (2:19). From Him alone all supply and increase would come.
which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; The gospel they had heard had come into all the world (v. 6), or ‘in all creation’ (R.V.), used as a hyperbole for its widespread proclamation. The universal preaching of the gospel, and its acceptance, were proof of its genuineness and worth.
whereof l Paul am made a minister; ‘Minister’ here is the usual word in the New Testament for any form of service (John 2:5). It has no reference to the office of a deacon. Paul was conscious of the faithful discharge of his service in the gospel, and was justly proud of his high calling to it.
May we learn the lessons Paul would teach the Colossian believers of the first century. To-day, modernistic teaching would detract from the glory that is Christ’s. Let us not be misled by it, but rejoice that the Christ who died for us possesses all the fullness of God. Upon Christ we depend for everything—our being, our redemption, our upbuilding.