In the Hebrew language the numbers are singular, dual and plural. The Divine name first mentioned is “Elohim,” translated “God.” This is neither a singular nor a dual noun, but is plural, meaning at least three. Another Divine name, “Adonahy,” translated “Lord” (Isaiah 6:1) is also a plural noun. In Genesis 1 the plural noun “God” is joined to a singular verb “created.” Again, in the words, “let US make man in our image and after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26), the word “image” is singular. The same is seen in Matt. 28:19 where the three distinct Persons of the Godhead are named, and yet it is into only one “Name” that disciples are to be baptized. Thus we have the mystery of the Godhead—Trinity in Unity. Take again the remarkable declaration in Deut. 6:4: “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God in one Lord.” The name “Lord” is the most frequent Divine title used in Scripture. It is “Jehovah.” There are two Hebrew words translated “one.” They are ECHAD, a compound unity, or one made up of many, and YACHID, one only, absolutely, or uniquely. In our verse the word “echad” is used, not “yachid,” so the true sense of the declaration is “Jehovah our Gods is one (a compound unity) Jehovah.” We find other indications of plurality, thus “the knowledge of the holy” (Prov. 30:3), where “holy” is plural and should be, “holy ones;” or “Remember now thy Creator” (Eccl. 12:1) where “Creator” is plural (see Rotherham and Darby trans.).
While there are many indications in the Old Testament of this mystery it was not until the new Testament was written that the full light of the truth was revealed. This is because it needed the incarnation of the Son to reveal the Father. The Gospel of John reveals the relationship, during the days of His flesh, of the Father and the Son, and also the eternal relationship prior to the incarnation or indeed the creation. In the same Gospel the personality of the Spirit is clearly revealed. When the Lord Jesus Christ was publicly manifested at the river Jordan following His baptism, the Father’s voice was heard and the Spirit descended upon the Son in the form of a dove (Matt. 3). This follows the prophetic declaration in Isaiah 42:2: “Behold my servant whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth. I (the Father) have put my Spirit upon Him (the Son).” Paul testifies thus: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all” (2Cor. 13:14). Peter commences: “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1Peter 1:2). John completes the witnesses in the book of Revelation: “Grace be unto you and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before His throne; and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the Kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:4, 5). There is the plural “Us” of the Hebrew Divine name “Elohim”—“and God said, let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26); the plural “Us” of Jehovah: “And the LORD said ... let us go down” (Gen. 11:7); and the plural “Us” of “Adonahy:” “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8). There is the thrice “holy” cry of Isaiah 6:3 and Rev. 4:8: “Holy, holy, holy:” Personality, individuality, equality, and yet unity. It is a wondrous truth—“not confounding the Persons nor dividing the essence.” The Spirit is God (Acts 5:3, 4). The natural and the moral attributes are revealed of each holy Person. For the purpose of man’s redemption and sanctification there is a beautiful harmony and yet a distinctive work, for the Father has His own things (Acts 1:8, Mark 13:32). The Son took on Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of sinful flesh and died the death of the cross (Phil. 2:7, 8), yet it is the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and sanctifies (John 15:26; 1Cor. 6:11). And so we could continue both in Old and New Testaments to prove the blessed yet mysterious truth of the Trinity in the holy and ever blessed Godhead.
It is time for us to come, in our studies, to John’s Gospel, and to look afresh at this most interesting Gospel in the light of three tribes, Dan, Asher and Naphtali, in connection with the beryl, onyx and jasper stones.
Dan means “Judge.” Now that God will be the judge of all the earth is obvious right from Genesis. But how will He judge? That is the question that John will answer for us. In John 3:17, we read that “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” The word for “condemn” here is “krino,” which elsewhere in the New Testament means “judge.” See also the word in vv. 18 and 19 of the chapter. The Saviour is down here, winning men for God, in a world of darkness (ch. 3), a world of dryness (ch. 4) and in a world of destitution (ch. 5). But as a result of His movements down here, as the man Who told the Samaritan woman all she did (4:29) and the only one Who could help the impotent man (5:7), the Jews seek to kill Him (5:18). The Lord then speaks to them publicly. His absolute equality with the Father, and yet His place here as the subject man are the theme of His discourse. So we read that “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son,” 5:22. Why is judgment entrusted to Him? Because, says v. 27, He is the Son of Man. As Son of God He raises the dead. As Son of Man He judges. The Man they have refused to be their Saviour will judge them. God gives man every opportunity. He does not judge as God—no, rather, He lets judgment be in the hands of One Who knows man absolutely, because He Himself is Man—the Man of God’s own counsels. The believer will never come into judgment, 5:24. The One Who judges absolutely right, 5:30.
As Son of Man He judges. We are reminded of Daniel 7:13. Daniel’s name would have been a help to him amidst the turmoil of the nations and empires that he lived through—God is judge. The character of Gentile rule is seen in the 7th chapter to be that of the wild beast. The “little horn,” the Man of Sin, speaks great things, and he is claiming a universal dominion. But the One Who will have it is different it is the Son of Man Who comes with the clouds of heaven, and Who is given the kingdom that shall not be destroyed. That One speaks in the fifth of John. When Daniel sets his heart to understand, and fasts for three full weeks by the river Hiddekel (Tigris), he sees a man, whose body was like a beryl—Dan. 10:6. When Daniel sees this man, his comeliness is turned to corruption he is the one who will tell Daniel of what is noted in the Scripture of truth concerning the nation in the last days, going through the time of Tribulation. Whether this is the Lord, or not, we may not be prepared to say, but that the beryl is marked out in connection with the tribe of Dan seems entirely fitting when we consider the body of this one. Behind the word beryl lies the meaning “to break, or subdue.” How fitting in a chapter which tells of movement in the angelic sphere, having to do with the government of this world.
The beryl occurs elsewhere in the Old Testament, notably in Ezekiel 1:16 where we read of the wheels of the throne of God. What a throne is this! It proclaims the thought of judgment as it moves through the earth. The wheels may indicate to us the movement of the seasons through time— the wheels reach up so high that “they were dreadful,” says Ezekiel 1:18; he is not gifted to see them in their entirety. The throne of God moves through the times and generations of men, and we do not discern the full measure of what is happening—but the colour of the beryl will remind us that there is firm judgment going on, undiscerned though it may be, and the end to be reached is the glory. So the Bride can say of her beloved, “His hands are as gold rings, set with the beryl,” Song. 5:14. What is gold speaks of what is divine in character: those hands are capable of moving with the speed of the wheels in Ezekiel, but that is not the point here: the point is, what they hold for God, what they do hold, they hold in perfect righteousness: it is the character of the judge who has these hands. Listen to what He says—“I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand,” John 10:28. That hand! Everything is entrusted into it, John 3:35, and believers are kept securely in it, as we learn from 10:28, with which compare 17:12. No believer on the Lord Jesus can ever be lost. These hands are marked by perfect competence to rule and judge, and they hold you. The writer has heard believers say that it is possible for them to take themselves out of the Lord’s -hand. The statement only reveals conceit: how can we dictate to Him about a work that He has done?
It is the Son of God, Who is the Son of Man, the universal judge, Who walks through the pages of this Gospel. The only One qualified to judge speaks to the woman in the Temple, in 8:10 and 11, and says “Neither do I condemn (katakrino) thee.” He is the true judge, but in the character of universal Saviour. Note the references to His judgment in 8:15, 16, 26, 50, in 9:39, in 12:31, 47 and 48, and see how the Spirit carries on this work—16:8, 11. As Judge, He is linked with the face of the eagle in Ezekiel.
To us “upon whom the ends of the ages are come” the future political situation is presented in a series of moving panoramic pictures, as also in statements, numerous and diversified in style and character. The seer in vision, and the prophet in word and symbol, have made us fully acquainted with the future. If, as we firmly believe, the days of the Church on earth are numbered, the moment of her triumph at hand, the greater shame to us that the scrolls of the prophets are as yet unread, and the visions of the seer at Patmos regarded as a mysterious riddle.
Here are a few of the prophetic portions, which we commend for the reading and study of our friends. Do not shrink from the delightful and easy task of having read to you, or reading yourself, these precious parts of the inspired Word, on the ground that you are illiterate or have not the mind to understand. There is no real difficulty whatever. Are you willing to learn? Do not set yourself up as a prophet and dabble about “times and seasons.” Be more willing to be taught than to teach. Be patient, wait, and do not jump at hasty conclusions.
The Lord's Great Prophetic Discourse—Suppose we first listen to the Lord’s great prophetic sermon, fully recorded in Matthew 24 and 25. This discourse—delivered on the mount to which the Lord will return in delivering power on behalf of Israel (Zech. 14)—is divided into three separate sections. The first section is wholly occupied with Jewish scenes and circumstances, and shews the Lord’s coming to Palestine: chap. 24:1-44. The second part discloses the general state of things in Christendom, or the professing Church, and the Second Advent in connection therewith: chap. 24:45 to 25:30. The third section reveals the millenial and eternal results to the nations consequent on the return of the Son of man in power and glory. The nations dealt with in blessing or judgment are those to whom the (future) gospel of the kingdom will be preached: chap. 25:31-46. First, then, we have the Lord’s coming in reference to the Jews; second, His coming to deal with Christendom; third, His coming to the nations—one coming in its bearing on three distinct parties, viz., the Jews, the professing Church, and the nations.
The Revelation—The “Revelation”—the only prophetic book of the New Testament—next claims attention. Here the veil is rolled aside (such is the meaning of the word “Apocalypse” or “Revelation”) and the future, in glory and judgment, of heaven, earth, and the lake of fire, is laid open to view. The reader will find the key to the study of the book in chap. i. 19. The Old and New Testament saints are witnessed in heaven in chaps, iv. and v. Then follows the course of prophetic events which relate to earth and its inhabitants, not to heaven or the dwellers there. From chap. 6. to 19:11, the events described by the prophet and seer of the lonely Isle of Patmos have their place and fulfilment (with one or two exceptions) between the translation of the saints to heaven—the subject of revelation, not of prophecy (1Thess. 4:15-17)—and their subsequent return to glory with the Lord, to set up the kingdom in power on the earth (Rev. xix. 14). How this consideration simplifies the study of these prophecies! Then the millennial reign of a thousand years and the general features of the eternal state occupy chaps, 20—22:5.
The Last Twelve Chapters of Ezekiel—Now turn to the prophecy of Ezekiel, the last twelve chapters of whose book positively teem with prophetic details of exceeding interest. These millennial scenes and circumstances, which circle round Israel and enlarged Palestine, are not described in the lofty style of Isaiah, nor in the weeping strains of Jeremiah, nor in the homely language and symbols of Amos, nevertheless the future is unfolded with such precision and fullness of detail that the attempt to divert the obvious application from Israel’s future temple, modified Mosiac ritual, her greatly increased land—covering an area of about 300,000 square miles—the orderly location of the tribes from west to east, and other geographical and moral features, is to do violence to human language. The reader may be helped by a brief table of contents. In chap, 37, the national restoration of Israel is announced; the union of the two long-separated houses of Ephraim (the ten tribes) and Judah (the two tribes); the one undivided nation of Israel securely settled in her land under the reign of a lineal descendant of David; the people saved and sanctified, and God’s tabernacle in the midst—their glory and centre of gathering. In chaps, 38. we have, fully described, the last attack of Gog (Russia) upon restored Israel, then dwelling in unwalled towns and villages, Jehovah being her glory and defence. Plunder is the bait which lures them on to their destruction (chap, 38:11,12). Ah! little do they dream that Jehovah is a wall of fire round about His people. The mountains of Israel become the scene of judgment to the countless hosts; their fury is checked, and but a sixth is spared (chap, 39:2-5) to carry home to their respective lands the tidings that Jehovah, God of Israel, has miraculously bared His arm in judgment, and gained Him a victory unparalleled in history. Russia, too, and the lands of Jewish hatred and persecution, will be visited in direct divine judgment (ver. 6). The implements of war will supply firewood for seven years (ver. 9) and the spoil of the nations go to swell the accumulated treasures gathered in the land of Emmanuel (ver. 10), for “the wealth of all the nations round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel in great abundance” (Zech. 14:14). An extensive valley, situated east of the Dead Sea, will be devoted as a huge grave for Gog and his mighty host (ver. 11), which will give employment to the house of Israel for seven months (ver. 12). The city of the dead will be named Hamonah, i.e., the multitude (ver. 16). In chapters 40-42. the construction and measurement of the fifth or millennial temple are accurately given. This vast structure—probably a mile in extent—is to form a centre of gathering and of prayer for all peoples (Isa. 56:6,7; Micah 4:1,2). The Lord Himself will build it (Zech. 6:12,13), others being privileged to assist in the holy work (ver. 15). In chap, 43. the glory of the God of Israel, which many centuries before had departed from the house and left it a prey to the Chaldeans (chaps, 10, 11.), returns, and enters the temple. The glory radiates the earth, but its home and centre are in the holy house. Then the altar of acceptance is carefully measured, for the sacrifices of Israel, also those of saved Gentiles, are to be offered thereon (Isa. 60:7; 56:6,7). The ordinances of the altar are appointed, consisting of burnt offerings and sin offerings, which are offered daily for seven days; on the eighth day and afterwards, burnt offerings and peace offerings are offered by priests of the seed of Zadok. In chaps, 44-46. we have the duties and place of both priests and prince assigned them. The prince will be Christ’s vicegerent on the throne of Israel—a lineal descendant of the royal house of David. Chap. 45:22, besides other considerations, would negative the thought of the prince being Christ personally. In chaps, 47, and 48. the land—then immensely enlarged, from the Nile to the Euphrates—is portioned out amongst the tribes, not in irregular portions, as under Joshua, but in regular, carefully measured parts across the face of the country, from east to west. Jerusalem, with its magnificent temple, beautiful and costly beyond all telling, will occupy the space measured for the purpose—of about 50 miles— between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. What a mass of interesting details is furnished us in those dozen chapters! What a delightful and fruitful field of study!
Several times in his epistles the apostle Paul stresses the fact that the Lord Jesus gave Himself for us. Let us look at six of these references, two in Galatians, two in Ephesians, and two in the Pastoral epistles.
1. Galatians 1:4 and 2:20
The first of these verses tells us the purpose of the Lord Jesus is giving Himself for us, and second His motive in so doing.
The purpose was to deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. We live in an age which is under the dominion of Satan, who is the ‘god of this age’ (2Cor. 4:4). But we have been delivered from the power of darkness, and transferred into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love (Col. 1:13). We believers are those upon whom the end of the ages have come (1Cor. 10:11). While we live in this present age, we have tasted the powers of the age to come (Hebrews 6:5). This deliverance belongs to us because our Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins, because it was our sin which prevented us from pleasing God.
But why did He do it? What was His motive? Paul answers this question in the memorable words of Galatians 2:20: “the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me.” Note the individual aspect which is so prominent here. The words ‘I’ and ‘me’ occur more than a dozen times in the immediate context. I, personally, am loved by the Lord Jesus: He died for me: I must live for Him.
2. Ephesians 5:2 and 25
The first of these verses looks back to the cross as the fulfilment of the Old Testament sacrifices, and the second looks forward to the completion of Christ’s purposes for His Church. Both passages use the example of Christ as an example for us to follow in our way of living.
In Ephesians 5:2 Paul exhorts us to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.’ The last phrase is one which occurs often in the Old Testament, especially in the opening chapters of Leviticus (e.g. Leviticus 1:9, 13, 17; 2:2, 9, 12 etc.). The self-giving of the Lord Jesus was the one great final and complete sacrifice for our sins. We too, as John reminds us, must love our brethren in the same kind of way (1John 3:16).
The apostle’s words in Ephesians 5:25 are part of his instructions to husbands, who are to love their own wives as ‘Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her ... that He might present the Church to Himself glorious . . .’ Here is the forward look. The day is coming when the church will be gathered together with Christ, a glorious church: each member will have a glorified body, like that of the body of the risen Lord Jesus Himself. With this hope in us, we must purify ourselves—by hearing the Word of God, and obeying it!
3. 1Timothy 2:5 and Titus 2:14
The first of these verses refer to the ‘Man, Christ Jesus.’ The Greek word for ‘man’ here is ‘anthropos,’ the normal word for a human being. But the second verse refers to ‘our great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus.’ Both verses tell us that He gave Himself for us. The One Who died on Calvary, Christ Jesus, is truly Man and truly God.
1Timothy 2:5 tells us that He gave Himself a ransom for all. The word ‘antilutron’ means the price paid to redeem a slave. Man had rebelled against God, and not paid the debt of obedience owed to Him. The Man Christ Jesus paid the price—Himself—and set us free. As Paul reminded the believers at Corinth, we have been bought with a price.
Titus 2:14, like Ephesians 5:25, looks forward. Christ gave Himself to redeem us from all unrighteousness, and purify for Himself a peculiar people. The word ‘peculiar’ here does not mean ‘odd’ or ‘queer,’ though some may think this of us, but rather a people who belong particularly to Him, a people for His own possession. One of our outward characteristics should be that we are ‘zealous of good works,’ keen to do the kind of things that the Lord wants us to do, out of love for Him and for each other.
May the wonderful truth that Christ loved us and gave Himself for us daily inspire us by His grace to love Him in return, and give ourselves day by day to live for Him.
Thirteen centuries before Christ the Israelites were delivered from Egyptian slavery by the display of Divine power. This is recorded in Exodus chapters 12-15. It has been estimated that some 2½ million people came out of Egypt on the night of Exodus 12.
God then led them, after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, into the wilderness of Sinai. There He manifested His presence, sustained them by manna from Heaven and water from the rock. In the wilderness they had no resources of food or clothing, no maps to guide them on their journey. They were alone with God in the desert and He never failed them. When they stood on the borders of the promised land Joshua declared “not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord thy God spake concerning you.” (Josh. 23:14).
After they had travelled for 2 months the people halted and encamped before Mount Sinai a barren lonely spot in the Arabian desert. They remained here for nearly a year. This was a momentous period in Israel’s history. Graham Scroggie remarks it was probably “the most important year in all history.”
Four great events took place as the people waited at Mount Sinai :
God revealed Himself in His awesome majesty, even Moses was terrified at the sight which met his gaze (Heb. 12:21). The people were learning that the God who had delivered them from Egypt’s bondage was a Holy God. “Righteousness and judgment were the habitation of His throne” (Ps. 97:2).
Israel was constituted a nation. If they would obey God’s voice and keep His covenant, they would be a peculiar treasure unto Him—a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. From henceforth they were to be the people of God. (Lev. 26:12).
God gave them the law. Therein was unfolded His will whereby man’s responsibilities to God and his duties to his fellow man were set forth.
The Tabernacle with its ordinances of Divine service were set forth. Moses was forty days and forty nights on the Mount receiving from God the pattern of the Tabernacle. It was to be a sanctuary, that He may dwell among His people. (Ex. 25:8). The people had experienced redemption from Egypt’s bondage, but they were as yet unlearned in Divine things. For centuries God enshrined His thoughts in outward forms and ceremonies and the Jewish ceremonial became the greatest religious order this world has even seen until the new covenant was introduced. (Heb. 8:8). Hence the difficulties experienced by the Hebrew believers to leave behind the old order known as Judaism, and to follow the path of faith. In the days of the Tabernacle the people lived in the age of promise whereas we live in the age of fulfilment. The service of the Tabernacle was anticipatory of Christ and His work which fulfilled all types and introduced a more perfect order. For over 50 years the Tabernacle was the centre of Israel’s national, domestic and religious life. In these early days, God taught His redeemed people His estimate of sin, His standard of holiness, His way of approach and His way of acceptable worship and Divine service.
“Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” This was God’s purpose in the giving of the Tabernacle. (Ex. 29:45). The Divine presence is the greatest blessing that can be enjoyed by man. It was the distinctive character of the nation of Israel—the living God in their midst with them and for them has been borne out throughout their history and will be fulfilled in prophecy.
Next came the call for materials. “Bring me an offering” said the Lord—every man, not a selected few and in the right spirit “willingly with his heart.” They were to bring the best of their material possessions, Precious Stones, Olive Oil and Spices, Purple, Blue, Scarlet, Fine Linen, Gold, Silver, Bronze and Animal Skins.
The response was overwhelming. (Ex. 25). So great was the material given that Moses had to restrain the people for there was sufficient and indeed too much. This was the giving of a grateful willing hearted people unto the Lord.
The plan of the Tabernacle was not left to human imagination, all design and measurements were prescribed by divine command and Moses was strictly enjoined to make all things according to the pattern shown to him on the mount. (Heb. 8:5).
The whole nation was aroused to activity, every man, women and all the rulers combined their efforts to prepare the sanctuary of God. It has been estimated that about 6-9 months was required for preparatory work. Each one had a sense of personal involvement but it appears that two men were selected to oversee the work of construction—BEZALEEL of the tribe of Judah and AHOLIAB of the tribe of Dan. We note that they were called by name, filled with the Spirit and enabled for this work. Herein lies a principle which runs through all Scripture. God calls His servants to do His work and fits them for their task. What is God’s call to us? (cf. 1Cor. 4:17). It must have been a wonderful day in the experience of the Israelites when the work was finished and the Tabernacle reared up in the midst of the camp. Then a cloud covered the Tent and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.
THE CAMP OF ISRAEL
The layout of the camp provides an example of divine order. The whole encampment must have presented a majestic sight; it was 12 miles in circumference and over two million people, redeemed from Egypt’s bondage were grouped around the Tabernacle. Each tribe had its appointed place and their communal life was regulated by divine command.
Four encampments are detailed in Numbers ch. 2 and they are set out as follows:
EAST SIDE—Judah with Issachar and Zebulun.
SOUTH SIDE—Reuben with Simeon and Gad.
WEST SIDE—Ephraim with Manasseh and Benjamin.
NORTH SIDE—Dan with Asher and Naphtali.
One tribe, the tribe of Levi were set apart for the care of the Tabernacle and the Priesthood. They were to pitch their tents around the court of the Tabernacle and each of the three sons of Levi were given a special assignment. Numbers ch. 3 details their place, responsibility and duties when the camp moved forward through the wilderness at the command of Jehovah (Num. 10). Their respective ‘charge’ was as follows.
WEST SIDE—GERSHONITES (vv. 23-25). Responsible for the tent coverings, curtains of the door, the gate, the court and the cords.
SOUTH SIDE—KOHATH (vv. 29-31). Responsible for the vessels and service of the sanctuary.
NORTH SIDE—MERARI (vv. 35-36). Responsible for the boards, bars, pillars and sockets.
EAST SIDE—MOSES, AARON AND HIS SONS (v. 38). Keeping the charge of the sanctuary.
God, however, required fitness for His service and before taking up their duties the Levites were cleansed, and presented before the Lord. (Num. 8:5-7).
There must be separation from everything that savours of Judaism (v. 12, 13). Our privilege of association with Christ in reproach is a test of loyalty. We have the alluring prospect of a heavenly destiny in realization shortly (v. 14).
RESPONSIBILITY OF PRIESTS v. 15-17. All believers are holy priests who enter the sanctuary of God to worship (1 Peter 2:5). The precious exercise of praise to God continually is not limited to one gathering, but a daily joyful ascription of glory to God. The praise of “our lips” are a sensitive spiritual barometer of the condition of the heart. Manward there should be benefaction “doing good” is always pleasurable to God. Words of praise and works of power are acceptable to God. Sacrifice to God is priestly work, submission to godly guides is a mark of spirituality. Remember them (v. 7), recognise them (v. 17) and respect them (v. 24).
SINCERITY IN LIVING v. 18-21. Fellowship in prayer is requested by the writer that he may be restored to them soon.
He prays that the blessed work of grace in their lives may be perfected. He prays that their troubled hearts may have peace, they need the God of power to cheer their trembling souls. The Great Shepherd helps our tendency to wander. His care restores. His shed blood guarantees our everlasting safety. God can perfectly equip us for daily living. He can mend broken lives and bring us into a condition of soul to be usable. He desires that we do His will and all is executed through our Lord Jesus.
What a doxology—“to Whom be glory for ever and ever Amen.”
Our God is the God of Peace, of Power, of Provision, Who planned the everlasting Covenant (v. 20). A God of Perfection and of Purpose who accomplishes all through our goodness and grace. In that day our glorious Lord will be worthy of every sceptre of sovereignty, every garland of glory, every wreath of worthiness and every trophy of triumph.
His mediation and redemption secures all for God and His saints. This praise will be without intermission, without end.
The book closed with salutations, giving us exhortation (v. 22), information (v. 23), and salutation (v. 24). This grace; gladdens the heart; refreshes the soul; assures the mind; covers all the saints everywhere, every day and can be enjoyed today. Amen.
V. 8“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit,” Paul tells the Colossians to look out for the false teachers he has been hinting at in the epistle. Note the R.V. translation, ‘Take heed lest there shall be any one,’ as though to suggest the proximity of a man who teaches thus, possibly in their midst—one of their own number. Then the apostle tells how such men may be recognised. Three types of gnostic teachers are described,
Philosophers (vv. 8-15),
Judaisers (vv. 16-17),
Mystics (vv. 18-19).
The first type of which he warns is one who would carry them off as spoil, like a slave-raider, and put again into bondage those who had once been delivered from the darkness of paganism (1:13). “after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” Paul shows its origin, man-made, not the mystery of God. It is an empty fraud; its nature was that of the elementary religious principles of the pagan world (Gal. 4:3, 9). It was all so different from what the apostle had been setting before them (1:3—2:3), and which he proceeds further to explain.
V. 9 “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” In this sentence Paul succinctly gathers together the truth about the Godhead of Christ, and all its implications. In Christ the Godhead dwells in all its fullness. This does not mean merely some Divine attributes, but the essential Being of God dwells in Him, permanently and unchangeably. Thus the Godhead is not, as the Gnostics imagined, made up of a number of spiritual emanations. All the pleroma, all the fullness of Deity, dwelt in Christ, as in God. What God was, Christ was, is, and evermore will be. The fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ, in bodily fashion, in His bodily manifestation, that is, when He became incarnate— both when on earth, and now in heaven, exalted far above all. This was expressed by John in his Gospel (1:14 R.V.m.)—‘the Word (possessing all the fullness of Deity (v. 1), became flesh, and tabernacled among us.’ He, the only-begotten Son, manifested this pleroma to men (1:18), by His works, and by His teachings.
Let us search the Scriptures, which testify of Christ (John 5:39), that we might find in them the fullness of grace and truth, as seen in Christ alone. Let us not be misled by vain philosophy. Let our minds be filled with the scriptures, and our hearts with Christ. Our needs will be met, not by persuasive words of the wisdom of men, but in the power of God, resident in Christ.
V. 10 “And ye are complete in Him,” Possibly this may be translated, ‘And ye are in Him, having been filled.’ Compare the R.V., ‘And in Him ye are made full.’ Anything you need of the fullness of God you already have. Does this refer to the Holy Spirit, ‘shed abundantly on us by Jesus Christ our Saviour’ (Tit. 3:6)? Ye are in Christ, having been filled, that is, by reason of your association with Christ, and your incorporation into Him. He is the Filler, and He has made us full (Eph. 1:23). ‘And from His fullness have we all received, grace upon grace’ (John 1:16 R.S.V.). We have received the grace of salvation (Eph. 2:8), and thereafter whatever grace of which we have need, “which is the Head of all principality and power:” Paul would exhort his readers to glory ‘in the fullness of Him who filleth all in all’ (Eph. 1:23), and not be led astray into seeking the help of angelic beings, inferior to Christ. Paul designates these as principalities and powers, referring to angels, whom the Gnostics imagined as ministering to the saints, by acting as mediators between God and men. Christ is the Head of all principality and power, by reason of His resurrection from the dead, and His superior position at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. Not only does ‘Head’ indicate here the superiority of Christ, but also His power to energise and direct both angels and men. As the physical head controls and nourishes the body, so does Christ minister to the growth of the Church (Eph. 4:16), without any mediators.
Much better then for the saint to have dealings with the uncreated Head, rather than with inferior creatures. More worthy is He to be worshipped than subject angels. How much do these false teachers of the 1st Century resemble the Roman Catholic teachers of the 20th Century, in their desire for mariolatry, and the mediation of saints between men and God!
V. 11 “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands,” The apostle now shows them their true condition, because ‘in Christ.’ When at conversion they believed in Christ Jesus (1:4) they got a new standing They were circumcised, but of a such higher grade even than that of the Abrahamic covenant. The believer’s is the true circumcision (Phil. 3:3). Paul shows us three distinctions between these two circumcisions—
It was a different sort of circumcision; it was not made with hards, that is, something that characterised the Jews’ outward circumcision; it was not the work of man; he had no part in it; it was not after the tradition of men (v. 8). “in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh”
The effect of this circumcision was different from that of Abraham’s; it was not merely the excision of a portion of the flesh, as a ritual token, but ‘the putting off of the body of the flesh’ (R.V.), that is, of the whole body of fleshly desires. This is the true spiritual circumcision, “by the circumcision of Christ:”
This indicates that Christ is the ‘Author and Perfecter of our faith’ (Heb. 12:2), where His death and resurrection are set before us. The circumcision of Christ is the cutting off of Christ at Calvary. Faith in Him as the crucified and risen Saviour brings us into the good of this spiritual circumcision. This exposition of the circumcision of Christ, as applying to His death, is in keeping with the subsequent teaching of vv. 12-15.
V. 12 “Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him” The believer’s state, called circumcision in v. 11, is here seen as comparable to Water Baptism, after the figure set forth in Rom. 6:2-5. There it indicates that baptism was a confession on the part of the believer, that by faith he had died with Christ; by faith he sought to be buried with Him—baptised into association with His death; and that by faith he has been raised with Him, to walk in newness of life, as Christ did. “through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead” The circumcision of v. 11 is made good to the believer by faith—faith in the effectual working of God. As God literally raised Christ from the dead, so does He in spirit raise the believer, a confession he makes as he is baptised into association with Christ, being put into, and raised out of the watery tomb. Paul seems here to be dealing in a similar manner with the regenerate Jew and Gentile alike, as in the parallel epistle (Eph. 1:19—2:5).
V. 13 “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh,” Paul here describes the Colossions, as they had lived in their unregenerate days (Eph. 2:1-2). In the sight of God they were dead, as they had walked, (a) in trespasses (R.V.)—their actions, swerving aside in folly, and (b) in the uncircumcision of their flesh not so much the outward uncircumcision that differentiated them from the Jews, but rather the old, unclean, natural, fleshly desires which characterised their minds and caused their trespasses. Thus we see in this passage three relationships of man to circumcision, (1) the Jews—a circumcision made by hands (v. 11), (2) the Gentiles—uncircumcised, physically and morally (v. 13), (3) the believers—circumcised in the circumcision of Christ (v. 11). “hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses‘Quickened with Christ’ means to be made alive with Christ. This is that eternal life which the believer received when as a sinner, dead through trespasses, he came to Christ in faith. God gave him this life, which he shares with Christ (John 3:15 R.V.). It is life in Christ (Col. 3:4)—the life of Christ, the receipt of which he confessed in baptism. As a result of this faith also, all his trespasses had been forgiven. God forgave him; God quickened him.
Compare the Revised Version here, ‘having forgiven us all our trespasses.’ The word ‘us’ includes all believers, not the Colossians merely, but all born-again ones.
Note the recurring use of the prefixed preposition, ‘with,’ which establishes the believer’s relations with Christ, (a) Dead with Christ, (v. 20)—this is the believer’s association by faith with Christ on Calvary, ‘I have been crucified with Christ, (Gal. 2:20 R.V.; (b) Buried with Christ, (v. 12) —as He was buried in the tomb at Calvary, so has the believer been buried in water baptism; (c) Risen with Christ, (v. 12)—as Christ was raised by God out of Joseph’s tomb, so the believer, by faith in the working of God, sees himself in type as being raised with Christ out of the watery tomb; (d) Quickened with Christ, (v. 13)—as the resurrection of Christ showed that He had satisfactorily dealt with sin, laid on Him on the Cross, so the believer knows that in Christ his sins are forgiven, and he has been made to live in Christ, and with Him.
V. 14 “Blotting out the handwriting or ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us,” The ‘handwriting’ was a term used for a bond of indebtedness, which was signed by the debtor—something I promise to do (Philemon 19). The forgiveness of sins is here metaphorically described as Christ, by His work on Calvary, cancelling a bond— smearing out what was written against us, whether it was the Decalogue decrees, written with the finger of God in the case of the Israelites, or the words of Jehovah to which Israel had subscribed (Ex. 24:3), or whether it was the law written on the hearts of the Gentiles (Rom. 2:15), to which their conscience bore witness. Note the ‘us’ in this verse, including both Jew and Gentile. Both were concerned with ordinances (vv. 14, 20). Neither of these could men keep; this bond was against us; we could not keep the decrees; they were contrary to us; they hindered us.
Or, it may be that this handwriting was that which was written in the books of the works of the wicked dead (Rev. 20:12). “and took it out of the way, nailing it to the Cross;” Is Paul here concerned with blackmail? Did the Gnostics present the bond found in the Law, and compel Christians to keep its decrees (v. 16)? Note the Revised Version here, ‘And He (Christ) hath taken it out of the way.’ Christ has obliterated forever the ordinances of the Law in the bond (v. 17). He took it, lit., from the midst of the believers, and keeps us from being hindered in our Christian pathway. Christ did this when He was nailed to the Cross. Metaphorically He nailed the bond of ordinances to the Cross, by making it of no effect.
V. 15 “And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly” Here is a further metaphorical picture of the work of Calvary, namely, the putting off from Himself of a garment. Compare 3:9, the only other occurrence of this word in the New Testament. Thus He dealt with His spiritual opponents. Christ had been opposed during His sojourn on earth by principalities and powers, here referring to supernatural evil spirits. This was seen for example, in His temptation by Satan (Matt. 4:1); by Peter, energised by Satan (Matt. 16:23); at Gethsemane, in His agony (Luke 22:44). All these He had resisted completely. At Calvary was the final assault. There He completely stripped Himself of all the onslaughts of His spiritual foes. On Calvary He boldly and confidently repulsed all His enemies, publicly demonstrating His superiority over them. These include the spiritual enemies of God’s people to-day (Eph. 6:12). “triumphing over them in it” Another metaphor Paul uses of Christ’s work on Calvary is that of a Roman triumphal procession. In this ‘triumph’ the defeated foes of the victorious general were led in the procession, chained to his chariot. This Christ did on the Cross, with His foes—those supernatural beings that opposed Him. Thus the shameful experience of Christ on Calvary became, as it were, His triumphal chariot.
Warnings such as these (vv. 8-15) are necessary for believers to-day, when men of apparent gift so cleverly set before their audiences, or their readers in Christian periodicals, philosophical arguments that find no foundation in the scriptures. Satan still has false prophets poised so that, if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect (Matt. 24:24). Let us take heed, lest the seeming wisdom of clever men is only vain deceit. Let us mistrust suggestions, for which no, ‘What saith the Scripture, can be found (Gal. 4:30).
Saul resumes his evil course; and the incident of David and his men, hiding in a cave by the sheepfolds when Saul enters to rest and sleeps, is told. God’s man, indeed, now God’s king, rises high above the sordid, the selfish, the purely mundane, and looks on Saul’s prostrate form with Godly compassion and reverence. “He is the LORD’S anointed; no, he shall not be slain.” NO? Why? 600 whys! we think, in utter astonishment. “He takes off the hem of his robe,” and David’s heart smites him; this was an affront to the King, v. 5. Spiritual sensitiveness is evident here. David’s loyalty, devoid of all enmity, is fully proven in v. 6—my master the LORD’S anointed. Saul is seen to leave the cave; again vv. 4 and 7 show how perilous was his position there. David’s words to Saul outside the Cave, vv. 8-15, are truly heart moving; eye for eye, tooth for tooth, as Ex. 21:24.25? No, not this day; A soft answer turneth away wrath. Prov. 15:1. Saul is overwhelmed “he wept.” “My son David” ... thou hast rewarded me good” ... “I evil.” So in David by the Spirit is anticipated by 1,000 years our Lord’s teaching in Matt. 5:44 “Ifa man find his enemy will he let him go well away?” ... “I know that thou shalt surely be King, and that the Kingdom of Israel shall be established in thy hand” vv. 19-20. “Solemnly promise me ... not to destroy my name out of my father’s house,” (so near to resulting from his own evil deeds) and David promises, v. 22, Saul the suppliant—how remarkable. Better to have put off the crown, laid down the sword, and turned again to husbandry; it is written—“a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise,” Psalm 51:17. “He saveth such as be of a contrite spirit,” Psalm 34:18.
Verse 1: “And Samuel died,” here was a good and great man, a true servant of God, he made an outstanding impression on the national life of God’s people Israel; and he is given a standing of great distinction in Jer. 15:1. “They
gathered together and lamented him’ and buried him in his house at Ramah. The remainder of the chapter records the events involving David, Nabal and Abigail. And here a perilous situation arose that might well have stained David’s hands with much innocent blood. Holy Spirit endowed men are not immune from carnal reactions betimes. The self chosen task of the protector of Nabal’s flocks, David had undertaken, was so outraged by Nabal’s churlishness and selfishness that dire threats were afoot to requite his unashamed insults. “But ... the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God,” James 1:20. Abigail, discerning the danger, hastens to redress the wrong, and meets David with an offering of appeasement, and more—with words of wisdom and womanly intelligence. The sequence—Nabal dies under Divine judgement, and Abigail counts it an honour to be David’s wife. Verse 44 exposes Saul’s lack of moral integrity; Michal, David’s rightful wife, was given to Phalti.