Spiritually intelligent students of the prophetic word do not look for signs, but for Christ, but no one can fail to be interested in the remarkable developments that are everywhere around us in the world to-day. Everything is manifestly preparing for the last crisis, which now seems very near. The nations apparently have not very far to travel ere they reach the last terrible catastrophe.
The rise of Dictators, and the way in which millions accept them would indicate that government has completely broken down in human hands. Every form of rule has been tried since the national system began its history after the Babel scattering. Absolutism, Constitutionalism, Republicanism, all have been tested and found wanting. The miry clay is mixing itself more and more with the iron (Dan. ii. 41), with results that are truly disastrous. Human affairs are everywhere becomingly chaotic. Every thoughtful person can perceive that the world to-day is no more safe for democracy than for aristocracy. Ruin stares all classes in the face. Hence the desire, expressed loudly in many lands, for a strong hand to take the helm and guide the vessel safely through the storm.
“And I beheld when He opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely (unripe) figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and they say (R.V.) to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come, and who is able to stand?” Pray do not literalise the transformation of sun and moon, and the falling of the stars. Not physical, but social and political convulsions are meant, and that world-wide. The earliest chapter in the
Bible tells us that sun, moon, and stars stand for rulers. Rev. vi. 12-17 is the full development of that of which our Lord warned in Luke xxi. 25-26—“there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” The troubled sea (the evil masses—Isaiah lvii. 20) is destined to swamp every form of law and order. To borrow the picturesque words of a British Statesman, “civilization will go over the precipice.” All classes will be terrified at what they behold, and there will develop the general feeling in the presence of such a break-up that divine wrath has something to do with it, although, alas, there is no repentance.
Out of this universal upheaval will come forth Dictators. Strong men will be needed, and will arise. In the interests of law and order they will profess to act. Thus the doings of to-day are remarkably suggestive of the direction in which things are rapidly drifting.
The Western Dictator will be found in Rev. xiii. 1-9. Do not confound the Beast out of the sea with the Beast out of the earth. The latter is the Man of sin, the Antichrist, and has his seat in Jerusalem; the former is the Roman Imperial chief, whose seat will be in Rome. Dan. vii. 8, which speaks of him as a little horn which arises from amongst ten other horns, tells us that “he will pluck up three of the first horns by the roots;” verse 24 of the same chapter, in the interpretation, says explicitly “he shall subdue three kings. In this way he will prove his strength, and demonstrate his capacity for rule; seven other kingdoms will then unite under his leadership, and thus the old Latin Empire will be revived. But Parliamentary government will in that day be non-existent. Europe will be delighted with its wonderful head, and will pronounce him both incomparable and invincible (Rev. xiii. 4). But in a very little while he will be to the people as the glaring sun, and he wll scorch men with fire (Rev. xvi. 8-9).
A Northern Dictator is discernible in Dan. xi. 40-45; this passage also speaks of a king of the South, i.e. Egypt. It is not a little remarkable that now, after many centuries, there is again a king in that land. Truly, the world is moving swiftly forward to its appointed end! Joel ii. 11-20, and in the many passages in Isaiah and Micah which speak of the Assyrian. Here again we have suggested to our minds an ambitious, military chief, capable of uniting multitudes under his sway, and leading them on to do great things. His policy is the destruction of the restored Jews, and God will permit him considerable success for a time as chastisement for His unfaithful people for their acceptance of the false Christ (John v. 43). The king of the North is the Desolator of Dan. ix. 27 (see margin).
A Dictator in the far North is predicted in Ezekiel xxxviii, xxxix. This is undoubtedly the last ruler of the Russian hordes before their final overthrow. ‘Prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal,” as in the Revised Version, is beyond controversy the true rendering. The words were so translated in the Greek Septuagint three hundred years before the Christian era. The many powers named in Ezekiel xxxviii. 5, 6, arranged in three groups, some Japhetic, some Shemitic, and some Hamitic, prove that a very able hand will be at work to draw them together, and cement them into one compact mass. Gog’s invasion of Palestine is the last act in the long tragedy that will wind up the present age. Greed is apparently the cause of this terrible attack on the part of those who have for centuries been hostile to the seed of Israel. But Gog and his hosts will miserably perish in the Northern mountains. The fury of Jehovah will accomplish this.
Be it observed that the Dictatorship of which we have spoken will develop out of the widespread overthrow of existing authorities, as shown in Rev. vi. 12-17. However unmanageable the masses may become ere our departure, the worst will not happen while the Church continues on the earth. The overthrow takes place under the sixth seal, but the Lamb will not break a single seal, neither will He take the book out of the hand of Him who sitteth upon the throne, until the whole heavenly priesthood are enthroned above. Satan may desire to hasten matters, and indeed at times he seems to endeavour to do so, but the hand of God will restrain until the moment arrives that suits His sovereign will.
When we contemplate the appalling disasters that will come upon men in connection with their latter-day Dictators, it is refreshing to turn our minds to the King who at present sits at God’s right hand unknown and unappreciated here. In Him, and in Him alone, is found perfect competency for rule. No limitations need be imposed upon Him, such as men have felt constrained to impose upon their rulers, and no counsellors will be required. Perfection of power and perfection of wisdom are suggested in the “seven horns and seven eyes” of Rev. v. 6. His hand will administrate firmly, hence the “rod of iron” of Psa. ii. 9; Rev. ii. 27. Every form of evil will be suppressed, every insolent tongue will be silenced, and every proud knee will be compelled to bow. God will at last have His way on earth and all creation will be blessed. No wonder the sweet Psalmist of Israel said of the coming King, “He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds (2 Sam. xxiii. 4).
v. 1 “For l would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you,” Paul would impress the Colossians with the fact that the scope of his striving (1:29) included them. They were one of the churches for whose care he suffered much anxiety (2 Cor. 11:28)—in prayer, and in service, despite his physical infirmities. He strove greatly for them (R.V.).
“and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;” The apostle felt himself a debtor to all the Gentile churches (Rom. 1:14), to Colosse, to Laodicea, and to Hierapolis—three churches in the Lycus valley, whom Paul had not visited, and all alike exposed to the false teaching of the Gnostics. These churches had probably been planted by Epaphras (4:13), who had brought Paul word of the trouble they were enduring (1:8).
v. 2 “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding,” Paul strove in prayer for their encouragement in the midst of the opposition these churches were experiencing. He longed that they might be closely linked one to another in the bonds of Christian love (3:14). The gnostic teaching would separate them, and fellowship could only be established as they held to their Head (v. 19). Paul also prayed for the enlightenment of their minds. Note how he heaps up words here, to express his earnest desire for an answer to his prayers—‘all;’ ‘riches;’ ‘full;’ ‘assurance;’ ‘understanding.’
“to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;” This was the purpose for the enlightenment of their understanding. Note R.V., ‘that they may know the mystery of God, even Christ.’ The word translated, ‘acknowledgment,’ is lit., ‘the thorough knowledge,’ in contrast to the simpler term, ‘knowledge,’ used by the Gnostics (1:9). Paul desired for them an insight into the mystery of the Gospel of the Glory of God, expressed here in one word, ‘Christ.’ He wanted the saints to appreciate the mystery which revealed to them the fulness of the Deity of Christ (v. 9).
v. 3 “In Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Paul would point the believers at Colosse, in their search for wisdom and knowledge, to Christ alone, not to the secret teachings of the so-called Gnostics. If they wanted hidden treasures of wisdom, they would be found in Christ Jesus (1:28). He, too, is the fount of all knowledge (1:10). Wisdom and knowledge are rich treasures; they are from God (Rom. 11:33), Who ministers them to us by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:8). All the wisdom and knowledge the Gnostics presumed to impart to them would be found hidden in Christ alone, and revealed only to those who had put their trust in Him.
v. 4 “And this 1 say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words” Referring again to his ministry, Paul tells why he wrote thus. He knew the dangers to which they were exposed—the efforts of the Gnostics, with all their arguments and false reasonings (1 Cor. 2:4). He wrote to forewarn them, lest they be enticed. Let us to-day be fore-armed by these exhortations to the apostle, for what he was showing them has again been rearing its ugly head. To be fore-warned is to be fore-armed.
v. 5 “For though 1 be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit,” Paul was not disinterested in their plight, He was unable to be with them in bodily presence, but they were ever in his thoughts, even though he had never seen them. They were ever present to his spirit, in contrast to his flesh.
“joying and beholding you order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.” In his prison epistles Paul, so frequently in the company of soldiers, often uses military terms (Eph. 6:11-17, Phil. 1:13 R.V.). So here, in spirit he sees the Colossion church as a well-trained army, going out to battle against the Satan-inspired forces of the Gnostics.
Note the chiasma here—a figure of speech in which four words are related to each other in a definite pattern, (1) ‘joying,’ with (4) ‘steadfastness,’ and (2) ‘beholding,’ with (3) ‘order.’ Firstly, ‘beholding ... your order’—in this he sees the army of the saints in marching order, as they go forward to meet the foe, portraying the harmony in the church (1 Cor. 14:40), ‘knit together in love’ (v. 2). Secondly, ‘joying in ... your steadfastness’—he rejoices to know that the saints are drawn up as in battle array, like the Roman army phalanx, presenting a solid front to the enemy. So they resisted the Gnostics, ‘steadfast in the faith’ (1 Peter 5:9). Their faith was in Christ Jesus (1:4)—in Him it was grounded and settled (1:23). Thus would they overcome the attempts of the Gnostics to undermine their faith.
In this section (1:24—2:5) Paul presents the work of a faithful servant of God. The apostle suffered afflictions in his service for the Church, in order that, to the believers, he might show the treasures God had revealed in His Word. Paul strove unto weariness to this end, and through great conflict he sought the blessing of the churches. Let those saints, whom to-day God has fitted for this task, give themselves wholly to it, for the glory of God, and the blessing of His people. Let the teachers amongst God’s people remember that Satan still has his emissaries—set for the overthrow of the faith of the children of God. Let them seek the instruction of believers, that God might be pleased through these servants, to display the riches of the glory of the mystery of God, even Christ.
Joseph called his first-born Manasseh, “Making to forget” —“For God, said he, hath made me to forget all my toil in my father’s house.” Typically we may say that our Joseph has suffered toil in His Father’s house—Israel being that,
But what fruits have resulted from Calvary! The next son he calls Ephraim—“For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” A seed results from Calvary, and from the affliction that it has caused. And speaking spiritually, we may say that it is necessary to forget before we can be fruitful. Such was the experience of the Apostle Paul, when he says in Philippians 3:13—“This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind—whether they be achievements or failures—and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark ... .” But we find that Ephraim is put before Manasseh in the order of the blessing. The positive aspect must be set before the negative.
If He is greater than Ephraim in His fruitfulness for God, so that people can say “He hath done all things well,” (7:37), He is greater than Manasseh in His ability to leave the work alone when He has done it. He can sleep, and a work go on, “He knoweth not how.” We may do the work, but are never convinced that it has been performed! We pray about a matter when we are in trouble, and then go to bed and continue to worry about it! The divine servant will give us a lesson here. Did not the disciples know they were safe with the Lord Jesus on board? That trouble could not touch them, because He was involved with them? So it is with us to-day. And if He sleeps, we may be sure that He will move when it is time—“stir not up, nor awake my love till He please” The practical truth is emphasised again in Mark 8:14-21. It is the last time that we see the Lord upon the sea. The lesson of His complete supremacy over the world must be learned. The disciples have nothing but the one loaf on board. They fall to reasoning among themselves when the Lord speaks of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. They think that He is rebuking them for their lack of bread. How these natural things worry them, as they worry us! The Lord has to remind them of the two occasions when He had fed the multitudes. Had they forgotten? A battery of questions descends on their ears. They have not yet learned the complete way in which the servant may be dependent upon the One Who sent him. The work will go on, with the need met—“he knoweth not how.”
“He knoweth not how”—He has left things to God. This phrase may be linked with another peculiar to Mark in the Olivet discourse—“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father,” (13:32).
Did not—and does not—our Lord know all things? Yes, John’s Gospel, the other “universal” Gospel, will repeatedly tell us that He knows everything. Omniscience is the essential character of Deity. The question has been raised often of late, Could the Lord have sinned? To this we return an emphatic “No.” “God cannot be tempted with evil,” says James. There is a formidable army of new translations that, impregnated with modernism, minimise, or even distort, the key verses that speak of His absolute Deity. Here is something for the local assembly—to guard as zealously as the Cherubim. I raise the question, “Could the Lord have sinned?” because I have in mind a statement of a recent Commentary which said, speaking of Hebrews 4, “that the Lord might not have been able to sin, but then from Mark 13:32, we can say that there were things He did not know, therefore He might not have known that He could not sin.”
So lightly do we talk about sin, that we can reason like this. But this verse in Mark needs explaining, else it may stumble others. So we would say that it is an axiom, from John 15:15, that “the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth.” Now that Mark is the Gospel of the servant there should be little doubt. Even after His ascension, it is “The Lord working with them” (16:20). Accordingly, how fitting it is, that in this Gospel of the servant, He should express the fact that He is totally dependent on the Father. In this, He is greater than Manasseh. “He knoweth not”—the statement seems to occur twice in Mark, with its reference to the Son. As Son, of course He knows, As the servant, He has put it out of His mind. We read “their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” We sometimes say that God has forgotten our sins. That is not correct. If 1 forget something, that is because my memory is faulty. To Him, Who dwells in eternity— and so also does the Son— all things are present; the “hour” for the return cannot be an unknown date in the future, and our sins cannot be forgotten over the passage of the years. But He can will to put them out of His mind—that is to say, to remember them no more. The verses in Heb. 10:17 and Mark 13:32 are strictly analogous. As Son, He knows, As Servant, He will not know.
And in doing this He gives us a practical lesson to be dependent upon Another, telling us to bide His time, and not to seek to do things in ours. The stone associated with Manasseh is the Agate, which is supposed to be transparent. It indicates the One Who is totally dependent upon God, giving Himself credit for nothing. In His refusal to take credit, note how often He refuses to let men bear testimony to the things that He has done—see ch. 1:44, 3:13, 5:43, 7:36, and 8:26. “Making to forget”—we know that most men will proclaim their own goodness, but this One does not.
Ephraim is linked to the ligure. Upon this stone, which appears to have been reddish-purple in colour, the writer regrets that he has nothing to say, which is not to mean that there is no truth to be gleaned from it: only that it needs more exercise to find it out.
The final stone is the Amethyst, and the final tribe for the Gospel of Mark is Benjamin. The amethyst is purple, or violet, in colour, and will remind us of the purple that was put on the Lord (Mark 15:17). A universal kingdom is emphasised—this kingdom to be taken by the Son of God Who moves here with authority and Whose reign will be no weak thing—this is the Gospel which tells us that love to God must be “with all thy strength” (12:30)—only here! The kingdom of God will come in power—that is the expressive phrase used in ch: 1. In the Olivet discourse, Matthew and Luke speak of His coming in “great power and glory.” The fifteen references to the kingdom in Mark’s Gospel will bear close examination.
But who will secure the kingdom? It is the greater than Benjamin, whose name means “Son of my right hand.” There is only one Gospel that tells us what happened when the Lord returned to Heaven—significantly in a passage which some modern translations relegate to an appendix, or footnote. “So then after the Lord (note the dignity here!) had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God”—(16:19). That is where He is now! He is the true Benjamin. The “Son of God” is the “Son of My right hand.” Psalm 80 tells us something of Him—as it prays for the God Who is displayed in Mark’s Gospel to turn again to rescue the remnant of Israel ... “Before Ephraim, and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up Thy strength and come and save us.” Where is the one who is everything those tribes should have been? “Let Thy hand be upon the man (ish—strong man) of Thy right hand, upon the Son of Man, Whom Thou madest strong for Thyself” (v. 17). We are assured from reading Mark 13 and 14:62, that He will indeed come forth.
The Christian life is like a race, and the Christian himself like a runner. We derive inspiration from others, men and women of faith, named and unnamed in chapter eleven. Preparation is necessary, “lay aside weights” get rid of all superflous flesh. There will be opposition and conflict so the race requires concentration of purpose and singleness of aim—“let us run.” The Lord alone is both pioneer and victor and we need a renewed vision of Him as the Com-mencer and Completer, the cause and crown of faith. The message of the chapter is “Looking unto Jesus” a continual act is intended.
FOR DILIGENCE IN THE RACE v. 1-3. Verse one gives us the Course and verses 3, 4 the Champion, we must look to Him the whole time. Look away from all else, let nothing obscure your moral vision.
Christ is the goal, the all sufficient Saviour, and if our eyes are upon Him, we find at once the perfect example and energy for the race.
Verse two emphasizes the steadfastness and unflinching will to conquer on the part of Jesus. He is not only the Author but the Consummator of faith. He will bring faith to final attainment.
His motivation—“the joy set before Him.” This was the anticipation of His glory with the Father, the outcome of His finished work on the Cross. “Jesus” not the title “Christ,” to emphasize His humanity. This name is connected in a special manner with His life on earth, His true humanity and His humiliation. He is the triumphal Victor who endured shame and reproach. He went through humiliation to glorification, through rejection to recognition.
Our consideration (v. 3). The word means to reckon, to calculate, to count the cost. As Jesus exercised faith, we are to live by faith, and follow after Him.
FOR DISCIPLINE IN SUFFERING v. 4-11. God is our Coach and He trains us for the race. He allows setbacks, disappointments and rebukes to discipline and prepare us for all that the race demands.
We have to resist powerful enemies, that are subtle and powerful. Sin with its power to entice, the world and its contradiction, and burdens with their paralysing pressure. For victory we have the Lord IN US (Col. 1:27). He is above us and underneath us (Deut. 33:27); and at our side (Psa. 16:8). He has promised never to leave us (Heb. 13:5).
Discipline is training, correction from a wise Father (Psa. 94:12). It is a proof of sonship (v. 7, 8). There verses are full of the blessing of suffering (v. 5-11). Where discipline is lacking, true fatherhood is wanting. Sufferings are the very proofs of our nobility and standing as members of God’s family (v. 5-7). God is interested in us. He is moulding us bcause He loves us. His method is “scourging” and it is done lovingly and tenderly (v. 6; Rom. 8:28).
His motive (v. 10) “for our profit” that our lives should be changed into His image of holiness. Separation from sin and worldliness is the purpose of this ministry. Love and chastisement are not contradictory. Discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but it keeps us fit for the race and will bring forth the fruits of righteousness in daily life.
May we not faint under it (v. 3); avoid it (v. 4); despise it (v. 5); but benefit from it (v. 11).
“LOOKING UNTO JESUS” FOR DILIGENCE IN HOLINESS v.12-17.
We have duties selfward (v. 12, 13); manward (v. 14) and Godward (v. 15-17). We need to press on to the goal. Drooping hands must be lifted up to be engaged again in service. We require strong hands and knees which do not grow tired. They must be strengthened in the exercise of prayer. Looking unto Jesus gives us renewed vigour and fatigue disappears.
The lame must learn to tread straight paths and be healed (v. 12, 13; Psa. 97:11).
Among the saints there must be peacefulness and fellowship cultivated. Peace and holiness are absolutely necessary (1 John 2:4).
We are expected and exhorted to be a help for the reviving of others (Isa. 35:3, 4). Beware of falling short, of bitterness, fornication or profanity (v. 15, 16). Uncurbed desires lead to unchecked demands. Esau was earthly minded, wanted material things, and voluntarily sold his birthright, to his eternal loss.
DELIGHT IN FELLOWSHIP v. 18-24. Here are privileges to be valued by us. The contrasts drawn between the Old and New Covenant point out the advantages of going on in Christ, over a return to Judaism because of persecution (ch. 6:11). Faith delivers us from the Law of Terror (v. 18-21). This is marked by distance, blackness, darkness, burning and tempest (v. 18-21). Grace brings us to Mount Zion with all its glories. Here is tenderness and mercy. We have liberty—“ye are come;” beauty—“city of God;” the company of angels; unity and harmony—“Church of the firstborn;” purity—“just men” and Jesus the Mediator as the Surety. These spiritual possessions in fellowship with Jesus Christ should fill our vison and warm our hearts to listen as God speaks to us.
DISCRIMINATING WORSHIP v. 25-28. To reject the grace of God in Christ is to invite certain judgment. When God spoke from Sinai, those who did not accept perished. He speaks from heaven to win us by His love in Christ. Everywhere in the Epistle it is God who speaks, and that the Son made known God as He is in truth, and all things are true and abiding.
Our response in appreciation of an unshakable kingdom is worship. One day God will shake heaven and earth, they will utterly disappear. He will bring in a new heaven and a new earth, establishing a Kingdom of righteousness.
There should be a feeling of gratitude, “grace” or thanks to God in all our service. This is worship that is well-pleasing to Him. Called to such heavenly destinies, we must be heavenly minded and be watching and waiting (Luke 12:35, 1Pet. 1:13).
We have a continual privilege—the kingdom is ours, a daily need—have grace or “let us show gratitude;” may we hear God’s call—“serve God with reverence, and awe,” and ever remember, that “our God is a consuming fire.”
We need today a renewed listening to God, a fresh recognition of the authority of His commands, a restored conscious devotion and dedication of our hearts and lives to Him.
The reader is urged to read Isaiah Chapter 24 in its entirety, preferably in the Revised Version, where a more graphic description of contemporary society would be difficult to find. This includes a reference to the modern problem of pollution (v. 5) as well as the outcome of political and social trends.
If then, philosophy is moulding attitudes then Revolution Challenge is the logical sequal, for ‘Kingdoms were moved’ (Psalm 46:6).
When the writer refers to the earth being removed (v. 2) we assume that this means the breakdown of the established order in society. From the dawn of history there has been a well defined pattern of living, rich and poor, master and servant, ruler and subject have been its regular relationships. Nothing seemed more stable than the ‘everlasting hills’ of man’s environment. All this has changed. The ‘servant rides upon horses and the princes walk beside them,’ a ‘strange thing’ indeed. Democracy dictates that supreme power lies with the people, whilst the ruler has no effective voice. Even the wealth of nations fluctuates from day to day according to the whims of manipulating forces and erstwhile rich influential nations are subjected to the humiliation of holding the ‘begging bowl’ to once ‘third rate’ powers.
Quite naturally the sequel to these developments is seen by the Psalmist to be IMPENDING RUIN. He sees the imminent conclusion threatening even the established bounds of sea and land, mountain and valley, and even the ‘things seen’ will be subject to dissolution (v. 2, 3, 6). We understand all this to be a simile of the ultimate fate of Society. It is the end result of man’s fall, and as such is by no means exaggerated. Its workings have long since been in the course of development, and its final phase is close enough in time for all to be aware of its coming.
It is in times of crisis that man is invited to ‘behold the works of the Lord (v. 8). His first intervention in the affairs of men will be that of judgment, ‘his strange work,’ and yet how consoling is the thought that judgment is committed to the Son of God. Righteous judgment ensures not only that the guilty are condemned but, even more important, that the righteous are vindicated. ‘Wisdom will be justified of all her children.’
There follows DIVINE RETRIBUTION for so complete will be Christ’s victory that ‘he makes wars to cease unto the ends of the earth.’ e.g. Every enemy will be defeated and disarmed. All the machinery and weapons of war will be destroyed for ever. Man’s failing efforts to procure a lasting peace will give place to God’s ability to draw the teeth of every aggressor. He alone can succeed in this.
In the midst of all the ruin our confidence in Him is vindicated; there is no situation too complicated to baffle His wisdom, and no power too great to defeat His purposes. He alone is able to unravel the skein of human folly.
Our confidence in God would be shaken if there were no happy issue to these events. This provision is seen in the ‘river of God’ in all its refreshing beauty (v. 4). Apart from the prophetic significance of this there are practical applications which relate to life in every age.
Here then, we have steady forward movement teeming with life. There are ‘streams’ acting as tributaries to it from various quarters. Everyone who claims a share in this stream of life has something to add to its volume. There can be no stagnation with its toll of Disease and Death, and there is at last, a stable order of society, for the ‘city of God’ stradling its banks ‘shall not be moved’ (v.6).
As to the city itself, to borrow Bunyan’s phrase, it is ‘delectable.’ There is rejoicing for its river ‘makes glad the city of God.’ Its people are basically a joyful people and tribulations only serve to emphasise rather than detract from the level of their joys. Grace triumphs in adversity.
Then it has a rallying point in ‘the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High’ (v. 4), there is a sharing of the blessings of worship. Its people have to do with Him as individuals. He loves to see them as a company drawn together to ‘shew forth his praises.’ There is a testimony to the world of His people’s common bond of faith and love.
This confidence about which we are thinking is expressed by the writer’s RELIANCE ON GOD for ‘God shall help her’ (v. 5). David was no stranger to God’s help. Many of his songs were the result of His protection from foes both from within and without the bounds of Israel. Typically he cries on one notable occasion T will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord which made heaven and earth.’ (Psa. 121:1,2).
Finally there was the READINESS OF GOD to come to his aid, for this help would come ‘right early’ (v. 5). It is true that God’s help is neither too soon or too late, but our attitude may condition our awareness of its coming. To rest confidently in Him is to express a sense of surprise when He acts for us, and we say it was indeed ‘right early.’
Patiently waiting on Him is one of the achievements of the life of faith.
The last verses of the Psalm take us to the green pastures of the millenium. This will be a time of calmness as He says ‘be still.’ It will be a time of comprehension for He says ‘know that I am God.’ It will be a time when the fruits of true conversion are seen for, He says ‘I will be exalted among ‘the heathen.’ Lastly it is the climax of the ages for ‘I will be exalted in the earth.’
Can we not say if such a God is ours, ‘Cast not away your confidence for it hath great recompense of reward’ (Heb. 10:35).
Good works have invariably been held in high esteem amongst men, but it has sometimes happened that they have been accorded a false place in the mind. Some, for example, have judged them to be the sole procuring cause of salvation; others, not caring to go so far, have considered that they at least help forward the matter, even if something divine is required in addition. Both opinions are at fault, if Scripture is to be believed. If it is indeed true that the fleshly mind is enmity against God, filled with rebellion against His law, and incapable of being brought into subjection thereto, then it follows that “they that are in the flesh (i.e. the unregenerate) cannot please God.’’ (Rom. 8:7, 8). This entirely disposes of the notion that human works of any kind can contribute in the smallest degree to the salvation of the soul. God’s titles for the varied products of our fallen nature are “dead works’’ and “wicked works.’’
Salvation is the fruit of a totally different principle. “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast’’ (Eph. 2; 8-9). He who knows the plague of his own heart will be grateful for such a statement as this. Such a principle as grace gives hope for the most unworthy; indeed, it opens the door for us all. But grace must have a foundation of righteousness on which to work, else the grace of God would be mere trifling with sin, which is impossible. The majesty of the Divine throne must be upheld at whatever cost; the holiness of the Divine nature must be met in all its claims and dues. Here the cross of Christ comes in which is at once the full answer to all the Divine requirements, and the very expression of all the grace of the heart of God towards erring man.
In the presence of the stupendous work of the cross, none of us dare entertain the thought of salvation by our own efforts. Had this been possible for any, then surely Christ died in vain. Nor dare we think to add to the virtue of that work, by our own petty deeds, however and whenever performed. Either notion would really be an insult to Him, who suffered immeasurably for our blessing.
What then, is the true place assigned to good works in God’s great plan? They follow salvation as naturally as fruit springs from a living tree. The New Testament epistles are full of strongly worded exhortations as to the priority of good works, but they are all addressed to those possessed of living faith in the Son of God. Paul, Peter, John, and especially James, all insist earnestly that they that believe should be careful to maintain good works. Christianity is a vital reality, and revolutionary in its effects when really received into the soul. It makes the proud man humble, the selfish man unselfish, and the thief a worker and a giver. There is no moral force in the world to be compared with the true grace of God revealed in Christianity.
Nothing acceptable can be rendered to God until all His gifts of love have been received; then begins a holy activity which will not end with this fading scene, but will be continued in His heavenly presence for ever.
Verse 1—Saul seeks to involve Jonathan in his aim to kill David, but this is utterly foreign to Jonathan’s character; besides, he has great delight in David, and immediately informs him, and together they plan to anticipate Saul’s purpose. Jonathan intervenes on David’s behalf, and intercedes with his father in the field, in a manner which reflects his own Godliness and in a manner which effectively reproves his father’s evil intent. Saul yields, and swears: “As the LORD liveth he shall not be slain” verse 6. Verse 7 is typical Jonathan ministry. However, the calm is short-lived, for after a great victory over the Philistines under his hand, David returns to play in Saul’s presence, and is again attacked by him, but he dexterously avoids the javelin from Saul’s hand, and escapes to his house, to Michal his wife, Saul’s youngest daughter. Warned by her and let down through a window, he flees away to Samuel at Ramah, and tells him of all that Saul has done to him (v. 18). Together they move away to Naioth, close to Ramah, where was a company of prophets over whom Samuel exercised some authority (v. 20). The purpose for this is not disclosed, but David doubtless received encouragement and comfort while with the prophet Samuel. Saul, on learning of David’s whereabouts, sends mesengers three times to take him. Each time, they were rendered incapable of fulfilling their mission, by the restraining power of the Spirit of God; and Saul, coming himself, cannot resist the same operation of the Holy Spirit of God. To his great shame, he lies naked a day and a night and prophesies; body and mind possessed against his will, a captive.
Meanwhile, David returns and seeks out Jonathan, v. 1, and pours out his plaint to him—“what is my iniquity, and what is my sin before thy father, that he seeks my life?” Jonathan does not know of Saul’s latest attack, and is incredulous; is he not Saul’s son, and his special confidant? It cannot be so! But David is firmly insistent. Saul has discerned Jonathan’s love of David, and hides his evil intention from him. “And,” says David, “truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death” v. 3. Jonathan is willing to do whatever David’s soul desires, and agrees to test Saul’s intentions. David will abide in the field, ready to return if all is well. If not, Jonathan, who has brought David into a covenant of the LORD with him, will know. David deems it better that he should die by Jonathan’s hand rather than Saul’s, if he merits it. Cf. Acts 25 v. 11. A solemn assurance is given by Jonathan that David shall know the truth. Vv. 12 and 13 indicate surely that Jonathan is acting in the fear of
God, and it is now evident to him that a crisis has arisen. It may be that parting from each other is near; he is deeply affected, and the strong convictions formed at the Valley of Elah are again revived. David’s pre-eminence has been demonstrated time after time, by success after success in battle, he conducted himself wisely without affectation or display—“his name was precious.” Jonathan, it seems, had no such record during this period, but not a glance of envy, not a spark of jealousy sullies his soul. “If this must be” he bids David “Go in peace, and the LORD be with you as He has been with my father.” (Filial affection is very evident too in Jonathan). But he will have David covenant with him again, “to show the kindness of the LORD to him and his house’ and this he does because of the love that he had toward him, “for he loved him as his own soul” and trusted him implicitly.
Plans are made, vv. 18-22. David will be absent from Saul’s table on an important occasion—the feast of the new moon, without his prior knowledge, his reaction towards David will be noted, and David will be informed out in the field, where on the previous occasion Jonathan had pleaded David’s cause effectively before Saul. David hides himself and so his place is empty on the first day of the feast. Saul assumes it may be for judicious reasons; but on the second day he takes it as an affront and Jonathan is challenged on the matter; he will know; and he answers according to the formula David had propounded, i.e. he had been commanded by his eldest brother to attend the family feast at Bethlehem—would the King excuse him? This seems a somewhat dishonest approach which cannot be condoned; however, Jonathan is deliberately involving himself on David’s account, aware of the attendant dangers. The test proves Saul: he is uncontrollably wroth, v. 30. He inveighs against Jonathan and his mother (had Jonathan some of his mother’s characteristics? If so, she was a worthy mother, and many another good man has been so characterised) “Do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse?” Jonathan knew the LORD had chosen him. “As long as he lives thou shalt not be king; send and fetch him, for he must die.” Courageous, unselfish, Jonathan perseveres. Why should David be put to death? What has he done? (v. 32). The flying spear, aimed at his son, was Saul’s answer, but Jonathan avoids it. The truth is now evident: Saul his father would kill David. Jonathan is deeply incensed.
“His father had done David shame.” He leaves the royal dining hall; it is night. He will abstain from meat on the second day of the new moon for David’s sake. V. 35—in the morning the tryst is kept. Jonathan and his lad go out into the field and the procedure agreed is followed. Verse 36 “find now the arrows which I shoot;” “is not the arrow beyond thee” calls Jonathan as the boy, alert, picks up the arrow and at his master’s call hastens back, and then takes the weapons to the city, unaware of the importance of his service. These arrangements had been made so that the two friends did not need to confer again at that time if danger was at hand; but since it was not so, David proves his love for Jonathan, and there follows one of the most touching scenes of Old Testament history. Verse 41—David leaves his hiding place in the south (the direction where safety lay); he does homage to Jonathan, fallng on his face he bows himself three times before him. Jonathan had not failed him, and he was the king’s son: David had never selfishly exploited the love, devotion and strong friendship of Jonathan to mar it. This act of David’s is particularly noteworthy, as he knew and could never forget that he was The LORD’S Anointed. These two men kissed each other, and wept with each other, “till David exceeded.” This is the only direct evidence of David’s love for Jonathan, before this it was but inferred. Not a word is recorded of conversation about Saul, nor about Jonathan hazarding his life on David’s account the night before, it may be, they conversed, but these were perilous days for David, and with Jonathan’s “go in peace” as benediction-—based upon their mutual troth to one another before the LORD. David departs ‘THE LORD has sent him away” v. 22, and Jonathan returns to the city.
David has to be a fugitive for some years on account of Saul’s bitter enmity, but never to be his enemy or to contend with him for the throne or dispute his authority or be disloyal. He ever reverenced him as the LORD’S anointed, and awaited the time with peerless forbearance and patience when the LORD should see fit to fulfil the pledge of His anointing to kingship and establish him ruler over His people.”
Here for a time we lose contact with Jonathan in the scriptures; we may safely assume he had responsibilities in the affairs of the nation, that his loyalties would be tested, both to Saul his father, and to David—loyalties which did not conflict, they ran parallel to David’s loyalties to Saul his father and himself. Saul’s adverse attitude however greatly cramped these loyalties. Jonathan’s name is not involved in any of the extremely wicked acts of Saul, from Gilgal (ch. 13) to Mount Gilboa (ch. 31). Neither Jonathan nor David ever conspired against Saul to his hurt, or in any way foreign to his best interests, as the LORD’S anointed.
With these facts in mind, it is not difficult to understand why Jonathan did not leave his father’s side to sonsort with David; to do so would have indicated animosity, if not rebellion, and both David and Jonathan would have been in truth Saul’s enemies, David’s standing thus being compromised. Jonathan too would have publicly disclaimed his father and mother, and the law of God which was the very warp and woof of the national life of God’s earthly people would have been publicly violated—every word of the law was obligatory, unconditional and irrevocable. “Honour thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy GOD giveth thee” (Exodus 20 v. 12) is but one of the ten words, none of which had worn thin or threadbare by centuries of use. Matt. 5 vv. 17-19, 15 vv.1-9, Mark 7 v. 10, and other scriptures are relevant. The last three verses of the Old Testament are arresting indeed, Malachi 4 vv. 4-6, “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant which I commanded unto him, in Horeb, for all Israel, the statutes and judgements, v. 4. Surely this is a very weighty word. The LORD’S final appeal to Israel. V. 6, is truly apposite here. “And he (Elijah) shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to the fathers: lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Cf. Ezek. 22 v. 7.
Jonathan exemplified the law of God. He was, it cannot be doubted, one of the Godly remnant of his time, his life clouded over with much sorrow on his father’s account, and much care and anxiety on David’s account. In Israel, God’s earthly people with an earthly inheritance and testimony, the family unit was a vital constituent and parenthood was sacred. All was guarded and guided by the Law of Moses —God-given. Jonathan was not a free man, he was a bond-servant under the law to his father, was he not? (Gal. 3 v. 10) though not to do wickedness. David much rather exemplified Grace.
This is a study well worth examination and yields a fresh appreciation of the Holy Scriptures and God’s methods with man and his history. This is of course through Mary and on the legal side through Joseph who were related as we hope to show.
It can be seen more clearly on the chart in the book of charts by Clarence Larkin p. 85, which sets out the remarkable relationship between Joseph and Mary and the two lines issuing forth from King David, and both through Bathsheba, one line giving us the production of Solomon and the other of Nathan, from whom there descended on the one hand Joseph the legal “father” of the Lord Jesus and on the other Mary, from Nathan also descended from David and Bathsheba.
One genealogy is given us in Matthew and the other in Luke (although Mary, whose genealogy it is, is not actually named, which was according to Jewish custom and law).
How remarkable that Bathsheba is thus honoured, for David had other wives (1Sam. 25:43; and 2Sam. 5:13). The first in Saul’s days before David came to the throne and others after that. The reader should also study 1Kings 1:28, and others on this subject.
Now it is a remarkable thing that David should name one of his sons (Nathan) after the very prophet who came to him and accused him for the death of the first husband of Bathsheba and called him Nathan. See 1Chron. 3:5; and Luke 3:31. So the two separate lines, both from David the King meet in the production of Joseph on the one hand and of Mary on the other. The royal line, as we may call it is David, Bathsheba and Solomon, and the other line David, Bathsheba and Nathan, the legal line.
Thus Christ has a double entitlement to the throne, one through Joseph, his reputed father and the other through Mary, his actual mother.
Some see the royal line through Solomon to Joseph marred by the inclusion of Jechonias, see Jeremiah 22:24-30, but the legal line according to Luke 3:23-32 is seen intact through Nathan in 1Chron. 3:5.
Thus Christ has an undisputed right in every way to the throne of Israel and is seen to comprehend within Himself all these purposes of God and the histories emanating therefrom, and all also through David.
The blot on the escutcheon is of course the way in which David brought about the death of Bathsheba’s first husband, the manner of which he so regretted and for which he sought to atone. See Psalm 51. Had he only waited on and for the Lord how differently things might have been. Let us learn these lessons, for they are alluded to in many of the Psalms of David he afterwards offered to God.
The thing that will make you a soul-winner is divine love shed abroad in your heart, and the thing that will make you sacrifice yourself and everything to God is the spirit of divine love. Without love, the glory is departed. In the early church the heathen would say, “How these Christians love one another.”