After the exhortation of chapter 1, for rulers and people to consider their ways, they had responded by obedience to the “voice of the Lord their God”—an implied prior disobedience—and “the words of Haggai.”
“And the people did fear before the Lord.”
The Lord’s reassurance followed, “I am with you.”
The spirits of prince, priest and people had been stirred, and they rose up to do the work of the House of the Lord of hosts.
Now, in chapter two, just a month later, on the occasion of the Feast of Tabernacles the word of the Lord came again, reminding them of what His House had been in the days of its greater glory, and of what it was at that moment. Again the message embraces prince, priest and people-each dependent upon the other, “Be strong ... AND WORK ... for I am with you.” This was God’s ancient promise at the time of their redemption; His Spirit was always there, despite everything.
This work they were called upon to do for His House had a bearing upon the glorious future of Israel and the glory filled the House yet to be.
“Yet a little while” (quoted in Hebrews 12:26-27)—a reminder to the Christian believer of the word of Hebrews 10:37, “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.”
V. 7 is generally considered to be a Messianic character and content, but the words should possibly be translated as “the precious things of all the nations shall come”— i.e. as offerings.
Peace will come with the latter House—Peace and Glory.
The message to the Christian believer is “Look now and see if today’s ‘temple’ is as glorious as in the days of yore.” The answer to this is, WORK for the night is coming when no man can work, for there is a Temple being built which will indeed be a Temple of Glory.” (1Cor. 3:9-17).
“Be strong ... fear not ... My Spirit remains with you.”
Between Haggai’s fourth message and his fifth message intervenes Zechariah’s call to the nation to repent (Zech. 1:2-6)—“Turn ye unto Me.”
As we have said, there are many believers today who take a retrospective view of the Church and ask, “Who is left among us that remember the first glory?”—thinking more particularly of the Assemblies. Perhaps a little more introspection like that of Zerubbabel and Joshua would lead to more work—edifying work. Let us beware, however, of the wood, the hay and the stubble; fearing the coming manifestation. (1 Cor. 3).
“Turn ye unto Me ... and I will turn unto you.”
DEFILED WORKMANSHIP (2:10-19).
Work had begun on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month (1:15); now, on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month—just ninety days later—it became necessary to remind the builders of the word of God in the Law of Moses—Leviticus 6:27. The flesh of the sacrifice hallowed those who touched it. Contrariwise, Numbers 19:13, “Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the Lord.”
“So is this people.” They, their work, their offerings were unclean.
The law of the red heifer and the water of separation is seen in Antitype in Hebrews 9:13-14, “If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works (see 6:1) to serve the living God?”
Israel was defiling the Temple by their dead works and their neglect of the Temple.
“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it ... if any man defile (destroy) the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. Let no man deceive himself.” (1Cor. 3; Romans 14-15).
A defiled work is fruitless.
Yet there must have been a turning to God, for He says, “From this day I will bless you.”
THE CHOSEN SERVANT (2:20-23).
Of these verses a late twentieth century commentator wrote, “It appears unnecessary to find a literal fulfilment of the predictions of the overthrow of the world powers ‘everyone by the sword of his brother’ as of the utterance repeated from v. 6, “I will shake the heavens and the earth’ ... Nothing, in fact, can be extracted from these passages beyond a dim presage of the heathen kingdoms being pervaded by the moral influence of the Christian Church.” We wonder what this commentator would say today, when heavens and earth are being shaken—quite literally, and kingdoms are failing by the hands of those who greet each other as brothers?
Haggai is no exception to the rule that where there is reprimand or rebuke there is also promise. The life of Zerubbabel descendant of David would continue, and our Lord would be a direct lineal descendant. From the line of this prince of the house of Judah would come He Who would be the chief corner stone of a building ‘fitly framed together’ which would grow ‘into a holy temple in the Lord: in Whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
Thus with the promise of the Servant of the Lord, taken and chosen, the prophet leaves the pages of prophecy; his own work for the Lord accomplished.
This thought is in each of the references above. What welcome promise they offer and how uplifting in days when discouragement and dissatisfaction are more in evidence than joy.
These promises were given for realisation during the period of the Lord’s absence. We can therefore, and should, earnestly seek to claim and prove them in our own lives.
John 15:11 begins with the words, “These things have I spoken unto you.” The means of realising fullness of joy has been made known in the previous verses. They speak of fruitfullness as being the Father’s desire and the means of His being glorified. We cannot produce it ourselves but He will do so as we abide in Christ. This teaches a constant appropriation of Christ, John 6:57. The Lord Jesus said, “I live by the Father,” and then added, “so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.” To live upon Christ and thus abide (continue, dwell, remain) in Him, is not an occasional exercise but an habitual one. This is how the Lord lived and if we seek to imitate Him He says that by bearing fruit we shall become His disciples, John 15:8.
The Lord spoke also of abiding in His love (John 15:9) and tells us what is needful if this is to be true. It is a life of obedience to His words but we note they are “My commandments.” The blessed result of this obedient life is that, “ye shall abide in My love.” As He walked here and kept His Father’s commandments, He also abode in the Father’s love (John 15:10). The sole purpose for which the Lord came down from heaven was to do the will of Him that sent Him and in this He found His joy.
If we then would know fullness of joy, it will be found in obedience to the Lord. The disobedient child, in satisfying his own desires, loses the joy of the one who abides in His love. The obedient life may seem narrow and somewhat lonely, but it is in this walk that a believer knows nearness of heart to Christ and joy that is full.
John 16:24 gives us the second means of knowing fullness of joy. It comes from the blessedness of receiving from the Father, as we pray. In John chapters 14 to 16, the Lord uses the words, “In My Name,” seven times. If my reader will find and meditate upon them, it will be seen that the Lord is showing how much His Name avails while He is with the Father. There is nothing too much to bring to the Father in prayer. The Lord used the words, “whatsoever” and “anything” in John 14:13-14 and promises “He will give it you” 16:23. The Lord was about to leave them and His people were to have this great comfort, that His Name could be used with the Father. In one sense the scope of prayer was to be limitless, “whatsoever ye shall ask,” in another, it was confined to what may truly be asked “In My Name.” It must be for His sake and in keeping with all that for which His Name speaks. If we receive not, it may be because we ask amiss (James 4:3).
When our petitions and motives are such that His Name and all that it speaks as to His person, can be reverently used as our plea, we shall receive, that our joy may be full. Our prayers may only reflect personal desires, asked to avoid failure and difficulties, or to gratify our wishes and may disregard the fact that the Father may take us through experiences we would avoid, so that our exercises in them yield profit to us and fruitfullness for God. When we pray with true guidance, according to His will, in His Name and in faith, what joy it is, to receive from the Father. Some speak as though they get everything they ask, everything being made agreeable to their wishes, but this is often the testimony from a passing experience only. We should avoid any glorying as though we are regarded by the Father more favourably than others. A life of prayer is a deep exercise, spiritual discernment and subjection to God’s will are not learnt in a superficial experience but answered prayer gives a joy that is full.
John 17:13. In His prayer the Lord desires that, as He comes to the Father, His own, who are left down here, might be filled full with His joy. He had kept them while with them on earth (v. 12). Now He was going to the Father and would be there for them. “I pray for them” He had said (v. 9). In abiding in Him, living to bring forth fruit for God, pleading His Name before the Father and in knowing He is in the presence of God as our Great High Priest, we can bear the world’s hostility (v. 14) and yet know fullness of joy.
Our next reference is 1John 1:4 “And these things write we unto you that your joy may be full.” John writes first of “the Word of Life,” with the Father and then manifested. He then writes of the fellowship of life that we have with the Father and with His Son. There can be no greater joy or higher experience than to live in that holy fellowship. This is where our joy may be full. It requires that walking in the light as He is in the light (1:7), we confess known sins (1:9), and avoid deliberate sin (2:1), that we keep His commandments (2:3) and walk as He walked (2:6) in the unbroken joy of fellowship with the Father, what loss and folly it is to lose the realised joy of this fellowship, this nearness of heart, this blessing of fruitfulness, for the indulgence of sinful desire and a walk in darkness, even as a passing thing. To rise each day, to commune with the Father, to follow our daily pursuit “in the light” and at close of day to bring our desires and needs, and those of others, to the Father, “in His Name” is a manner of life that yields fullness of joy.
2John 12 is our last verse. John writes to the Elect Lady and her children of speaking “face to face, that our joy may be full.” This is the joy of fellowship where believers who walk in truth (v. 4) and who love one another after His commandment (vs. 5-6), meet together. Oh that we knew more of this joy. We share the same Life but a walk in truth and love is needful to the fellowship and resultant joy. How easy it is to be ungracious in ways and hurtful by speech and thereby empty the joy from our meetings! How shallow is the joy when fellowship is attempted while truth is not honoured? Fellowship and division cannot be reconciled.
The verses to which we have referred all show how readily every believer may know fullness of joy. It is not a matter of mood or circumstance not of persuading ones self to be happy but is the outcome of an obedient life, of the joy of answered prayers, of knowing that the Lord is with the Father on our behalf and of walking in a way that maintains unbroken fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.
Let us all, whether young believers or older ones, deeply desire and seek to experience these things while we wait for the Lord to come again.
Peter had two burdens in writing his second epistle, both of them in terms of what the Lord could do: first “the deliverance of the godly out of temptation” and secondly “keeping the unrighteous under punishment unto ... . judgement.” 2Peter 2:9 R.V. He was moved to speak in a prophetic mode of things that were going to happen in the future, namely the appearance of false teachers, 2:1; the initial success of their allurings, 2:2; but their eventual swift judgement, 2:1; 3:7.
While warning of these evil men and their attacks Peter gives his readers ample means of defence against them. Like so many of his Old Testament counterparts, although the things they prophesied certainly would come to pass, any one generation that was willing to listen to the warnings could escape them in their day.
There are three principal ways of escape outlined by Peter
1:10 If ye do these things, i.e. adding, ye shall never stumble.
1:19 The word of prophecy ... whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a lamp shining in a squalid place, R.V. margin.
3:11 Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be—looking.
i.e. Adding, Reading, Looking.
Adding. Peter’s ministry is essentially one of reminding, 2Peter 1:12, 13, 15; 3:1, 2. In chapter one he reminds them of what God had given to thefn:
Verse 1 Each one had obtained an equally precious faith.
Verse 3 His divine power had granted all things that pertain to—relate to, are necessary for—life and godliness.
Verse 4 He hath granted unto us His precious and exceedingly great promises ... having escaped from ... corruption.
God thus dealt with their past, provided for their present and promised a great prospect. Peter then reminds them of their responsibility to give in the light of what God has given.
They were to give diligence, i.e. to hasten to do, to exert oneself. This diligence was to be directed into specific tasks; all involving adding.
They were not to add faith, for this God had given, but were to add to, or in, their faith, and neither were they dependent on their own energies or resources for the material to add for His divine power had already granted unto them all the things that were necessary for life and godliness. However, like a house builder, having had his materials delivered to the site, the believer must get to work and build the house! He must build with God’s materials, 1Cor. 3:11-16, and in God’s power, Phil. 2:13.
Virtue, that frame of mind from which comes good works. Knowledge, Self Control, Patience, Godliness, Love of the brethren and Love; these are sevenfold graces that should characterise our profession of faith. Their possession and abundance lead to the certain promise that we will not be idle or unfruitful. Their lack spells spiritual disaster: blindness, short-sightedness and spiritual amnesia, 1:9.
“Wherefore brethren give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure,” i.e. sure for you not for God, who if He elects is certainly sure! “For if ye do these things, i.e. diligently add, ye shall never stumble.
Peter was a man who had stumbled, Matt. 26:31-35, and had learned his lesson the hard way. He wants us to learn in a less painful way. For those who are faithful in this matter there is a special welcome home! 1:11.
Reading. If adding assures the readers of their spiritual fitness to prepare for the coming battle, then reading sharpens their spiritual intelligence. The scriptures, with special reference to prophecies, should be heeded, 1:19, because
they shine as a lamp in a dark place, cf. Psalm 119:105, making them indispensible in dark days,
they originate from the moving of the Holy Spirit in their writers and are not private interpretations of God’s messages to men. They are thus effective weapons in the fight against false doctrine, Eph. 6:17. The inspired writings of Paul were going to be misused by the false teachers, they were going to take the difficult passages and twist or torture them and like some poor victim of the rack, they were going to make them say what they wanted. This is the mark of the false teacher: he cannot refute the plain teaching of scripture so has to twist the difficult passages to try to make them support his arguments
they forewarn, 3:17, and thus forearm the readers.
There are no spiritual situations that the believer has been left unaware of, then or now. The scriptures are our complete answer to today’s difficulties, 2Tim. 3:16.
It seems unfortunate that what Peter prophesied about, as Paul had before him, Jude reports some years later to have started to happen, cf. 2Peter 2:1; with Jude 4. Perhaps Peter’s readers had not read carefully enough, if they had, they might have been delivered in that test.
Looking. The false teachers denied the Lord and His coming. Their denial was one of convenience, so that they could live as they liked, “walking after their own lusts.” Their lives deserved judgement and destruction, 3:7, so they wanted to shut out any thought of His coming and they mocked such ideas, 3:3.
The believer on the other hand is at least looking for such things, 3:14, and better should be earnestly desiring them, 3:12. Looking for these things in the future should have its effect in the present. Peter exclaims “what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness!” “What manner” Vine tells us, originally meant “from what country” and later “of what sort.” The implication is clear; if we are looking for a day “in which dwelleth righteousness,” then we should live now as if we were living then.
Thus we have the threefold illustration of how the Lord is able to deliver us from temptation, whether it be error in doctrine or in living. Let us be careful to—
Which of us has not sung lustily, “A brand from the burning He rescued me.” The deep sense of guilt, the genuine appreciation of mercy and the never-to-be-forgotten favour, that linked us indissolubly with Christ, are once more assessed with the result that we love to sing of the rescue and the Rescuer.
The vivid imagery of the consuming fire and the tinder-dry wood are more than likely drawn from Amos 4:11, Zech. 3 and Jude 23. These passages, however, are looking at the restoration, rather than the initialisation, of relationship with God. In point of fact, if we were to use current phraseology, they relate to the restoration of the backslidden and not to the salvation of sinners. Without denying to the poet the necessary choice of language, we must be careful not to allow our interpretation of the Holy Scriptures to be unduly influenced by poetic expressions, which are not “words ... which the Holy Spirit teacheth” (1Cor. 2:13). Only from within the Word of God are our impressions certain to be divinely given.
It is hardly surprising that some dear saints of God found themselves out of touch with “the only Master and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4) in the days of Jude. The early signs of apostasy were to be seen by the spiritually perceptive, if not by all who truly belonged to Christ. On every hand facts of the faith once for all delivered to the saints were being denied by the apostates and defended by the faithful. No truth was too dear, no dignitary too high to escape the maligning tongues of the false, and no passion was too base, no sin too grave, no practice too corrupt to be excused by them. In the waves of convulsion that came with every fresh onslaught it was hardly surprising that some Christians were swept away temporarily, losing for a time the firm rock of the faith.
It was not enough that spiritual perspicacity note that the dread features of apostasy were present, there must be identified speedily, identified both the true and the false. The apostate may pasturise himself (Jude 12 lit.) as Ezekiel’s faithless shepherds (Ezek. 34) but those under-shepherds, who know the Good and Chief Shepherd, must be discerning in their judgement and urgent in their efforts to recover His sheep.
The description Jude gives for the guidance of those, who would seek to recover the erring brother, is obscured in the A.V. rendering. Jude gives three pointers in verses 22, 23.
And some convict when they contend :
others save, pulling them out of the fire :
others pity with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.
The use by Jude of the word “save” would persuade any evangelically minded Christian that initial salvation of soul cannot be in view—salvation of life is the prospect for the restored backslider.
In the view of the present writer Jude’s threefold description of the backslider is based on Zechariah 3. Jude is recalling Joshua the High Priest, silent, clad in filthy garments, described as a brand from the fire. In Zechariah’s interpretation no doubt Joshua was representative of the nation, being their high priest, but in Jude’s application Joshua was reminiscent of the backslidden saint, for whom Jude cared.
Joshua had been seen silenced before the Accuser (alas! not silent as the Sinless One was, “a sheep before His shearers dumb He opened not His mouth,” Isa. 53:7). So Jude looked to the silencing of those caught up in the contentions of apostasy. Their mouths must be stopped before recovery could begin. False doctrine easily imbibed is not readily abandoned. Let all beware!
Joshua was shamefully dressed when Zechariah saw him. Those garments of beauty and glory, that distinguished the High Priest of Israel, had been defiled in the most disgusting of ways. How different Joshua was from the Coming One who was morally what His garments became on the Holy Mount, “white as the light;” “shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them;” “white and glistening!” “As habits or clothes are to the body, so are actions to the real man,” concluded Jude. The cause of the defilement was “the flesh,” perhaps through impure moral practices. The recovery to be wrought would cause a revulsion to such sin, not just in the backslider, but also in the compassionate shepherd; otherwise his soul was likely to be engulfed in the defilement.
Joshua was certainly a brand out of the fire. The fires of persecution had been kindled for many a long year, consuming the very cedars of Lebanon. All that was left after years of exile was a brand. Would God treat Israel as a brand to be plucked out of the fire? Joshua certainly was not able to meet the consuming fire on behalf of his people and to endure its burnings, as One did for us at Calvary. He needed One to pluck him from the fire. Equally Jude’s backslider needed plucking from the fires of testing Once again it seemed as if the enemy had “sent the sanctuary into the fire” (Psalm 74:7, lit.) and “the carved wood” was in danger.
The fires of apostasy still burn brightly even today. Whether we realise it or not, there are many in Christendom feeding those flames. Betimes many who love the Lord find themselves engulfed in those flames. Jude would expect us to know such, to care enough to act and to pluck them as brands from the burning.
Almost every child of God has at one time or another sung saintly Francis Havergal’s hymn of consecration—
“Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee!”
Take my life has been echoed by many hearts and they have come to the realisation of all the power and joy of full consecration. We are reminded in Colossians chapter 3, verses 3 and 4, “For ye are dead and you life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.” The Lord Jesus said “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
The Apostle Paul declared “For me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21). Again in Galatians “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
May our lives be wholly dedicated completely to the Lord’s service. If we do the yielding the Lord will do the keeping. (Jude 24).
“Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.”
Consecration means all our time—the moments of our little life under His control. In moments of trial, temptation, joy and sorrow we may be in touch with the Lord for:
“Moment by moment, I’m kept in His love.
Moment by moment, I’ve life from above.”
In Isaiah 26 we read that “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee” (Isaiah 26:3) and my days then surely, they will be filled with praise. “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psa. 90:12).
“Take my hands that they may move
At the impulse of Thy love.”
What a challenge to a loyal and happy service in the Lord! The Lord said to Moses: “What is in thine hand?” (Exodus 4:3). It was only a rod, and Moses little thought what power would be displayed by the Lord when He took the rod in His hand. Our Lord reminds us: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might .”
May we know the gentleness of our Lord Jesus in the touch of our hands, and also may our hands be made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob. May our hands move at the impulse of His love that we might minister to others in our daily lives.
“Take my feet that they may be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.”
“How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things.” (Isaiah 52:7). The Apostle Paul declares “And how shall they preach except they be sent.” (Romans 10:15).
The Lord sends each of us to be messengers, and may our feet be willing to carry messages for Him. To walk with the Lord following His steps until we walk with Him in white. In our pathway here the Lord Jesus has promised to keep the feet of His saints (2Sam. 2:8).
“Take my heart; it is Thine own.
It shall be Thy royal throne.”
It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace. (Heb. 13:9). We find in Psalm 112:7 “His heart is fixed trusting in the Lord.” And again in Psalm 51 the psalmist prays: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (v. 10).
May the Lord graciously incline our hearts that He may have the first place.
“Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet Thy treasure-store.”
The words of the Lord Jesus come to us as a challenge in our day and generation. “Lovest thou me?”
May we exclaim with Peter: “Yea Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee” (John 21:17).
The Lord requires the response of our affection for Him who first loved us and gave Himself for us.
“Take myself and let me be
Ever, only, all for Thee.”
This is surely that which the Lord is worthy of, because “We are not our own, but we are bought with a price, even with the precious blood of Christ” (1Cor. 6:19-20).
Dividing the Holy place from the Most Holy was the vail. This was a curtain of blue, purple, scarlet and fine linen richly embroidered with cherubims and hung from four golden pillars which rested upon sockets of silver. The pillars carried no capitals.
Within the vail stood the Ark of the Covenant and Mercy Seat and entrance through the vail was solemnly guarded. The vail marked the great separation which prevailed because of sin and could only be entered by Aaron, the high priest, once a year, on the day of atonement (Lev. 16, Heb. 9:9-18).
The vail speaks of our Lord’s flesh (Heb. 10:20) and through Him the smitten One, the way into God’s presence has been opened by “a new and living way.” This remarkable event took place at the death of Christ when the hand of God rent the vail of the Temple from the top to bottom (Matt. 27:51). The way into God’s presence is now open to every believer to approach boldly to the throne of God.
“No more vail! God bids me enter
By the new and living way.
Now in trembling hope I venture
Boldly I His call obey.
There with Him, my God, I meet
God upon the Mercy Seat.”
THE ARK OF THE COVENANT (Ex. 25:10-22).
The Ark was an oblong chest of acacia wood overlaid with pure gold, measuring 3¾ft. long, 2¼ ft. wide and stood 2¼ ft. high. A crown of gold surrounded the top and a lid of pure gold represented the Mercy Seat.
At each end of the Mercy Seat there was a cherubim carved out of pure gold, symbolising divine power and justice. Within the ark was placed the two tables of the covenant, the golden pot of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded (Ex. 32 and 33, Num. 17:10, Ex. 25:16, Deut. 10:5, Heb. 9:4 and 5).
The ark has been described as the “central symbolic vessel of the Old Testament divine service” (Sauer). It was a unique vessel and viewed as most sacred because it was God’s throne in the midst of Israel. “Here I will meet with thee and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat.” Here God’s voice was heard, His commands given and His will made known. The ark was also the divine centre for the hosts of Israel and symbolised God’s presence and power. On certain occasions, it went before the people and guided them as they moved forward (Num. 10:32). God’s power was also manifested as the ark approached the waters of Jordan (Josh. 3:15-17) and at the capture of Jericho (Josh. 6:4-5). It was the only vessel of the Tabernacle carried into Solomon’s Temple (1Kings 8).
In this vessel we have the highest expression of the Person of Christ. His manifold perfections and glory are set forth and the work of atonement accomplished. The contents of the ark were a reminder of failure on the part of the people. They broke His law (Ps. 78:10), they despised the manna (Num. 11:6), and rebelled against the priesthood (Num. 16). In God’s presence however, there was One person, the Son of God, which came down from heaven to meet the needs of His people (John 6). In contrast to a changing and imperfect priesthood, Christ hath an “unchangeable priesthood” (Heb. 4:14, 7:24-28).
The MERCY SEAT which formed the lid of the ark was where atonement was effected once every year. The annual Day of Atonement was regarded as the most solemn day of the year in Israel. The impressive ritual is recorded in Lev. 16 in great detail, but for our purpose we note the activities connected with the Mercy Seat.
all activities of the nation were virtually brought to a standstill and a spirit of contrition marked the whole congregation, as the sins of the nation were dealt with before God.
The High Priest would divest himself of his garments of glory and beauty and put on “holy linen attire” and entered ‘alone’ the Holiest. He would carry a censer of live coals from the golden altar and in his hands sweet incense which was placed on the burning coals. Immediately a cloud of incense covered the mercy seat. The high priest brought in the blood of the sin offering, both for himself and the people.
With his finger the high priest sprinkled the blood (the solemn witness of death) once on the mercy seat and seven times before it. The blood therefore was presented to God on His throne and the holy claims of a righteous God were fully met.
Finally the high priest came and laid his hands on the Scapegoat and confessed over it all the sins and iniquities of the children of Israel. The goat was then led into the wilderness and let go. The sins laid upon it were no more to be remembered for another year.
The epistle to the Hebrews contrasts the old order of sacrifices to the new covenant which was brought about by the advent of Christ. The constant repetition of the sacrifices under the law could not make the comers thereunto perfect, because there was a remembrance of sins year by year (Heb. 10:1-4). But Christ has now appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:26). This was final for Christ by His own blood entered once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Heb. 9:12). There is now no more offering for sin and the way into God’s presence is open and we can come boldly into His presence because sin has been purged, the conscience is cleansed and the sacrifice is perfect.
V. 10 “And have put on the new man” Instead, the believer has resolved to live a new sort of life, following the example of Christ Himself (Rom. 6:4). He has put on the new man, in that he has decided that new habits must henceforth characterise his nature, and not the things that are after the flesh (2Cor. 5:16-17).
“which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him A different Greek word is the basis of the word rendered here by ‘renewed,’ from that translated ‘new’ in the earlier part of the verse; yet both are used of the same man. The Greek word used in the first part of the verse has reference to time, and tells of one whose life has recently been changed, whilst ‘renewed’ refers to a different quality of life, usually an improvement. Thus the newly born-again man is continually being changed by a gradual filling with the full-knowledge of God, an approach to the likeness of the image of God, in which God created him at the first, in all his pristine perfection (Gen. 1:26). This renewal is the work of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5), and is the thorough knowledge of God’s will, not the faulty knowledge of the Gnostics (see note on 1:10).
V. 11 “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free:” In the spiritual sphere about which Paul is writing—the sphere of the regenerate man, the apostle sees all believers as one, without distinctions created by reason of worldly origins or attainments.
Paul does not consider as of any importance their national privileges (Greek or Jew); nor their religious observances (circumcision or its absence); nor their inability to speak Greek, whether living in the Roman Empire (Barbarian), or outside the dominion of Rome (Scythian); nor their social caste (bond nor free). With Paul there are no distinctions as to nationally, covenant, culture, or slavery in the new creation.
“but Christ is all, and in all.” The apostle announces, by way of contrast the true position of the believer relative to Christ. All these conditions he has just mentioned were opposed to the new life in Christ. The one thing that really mattered was their relation to Christ. They are ‘the saints and faithful brethren in Christ’ (1:2); they had been ‘translated into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love.’
Let us believers to-day not boast of any superiority over one another, whether it be a question of colour or race, or of better education, or of possessing greater wealth. Let us ever remember that we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).
To believers Christ is all that is necessary for their faith, to lead them to salvation (1:14)—the fullness of Deity (1:15), the fullness of creational power (1:17), the Headship of the Church (1:18), the One in whom all fullness permanently dwells in bodily manifestation (2:9).
Moreover, Christ is in all. He occupies the pre-eminent position in creation, and in the new creation. In all things He has the pre-eminence (1:18). He is in all who believe.
Thus we see manifest the two great divisions of the epistle—(1) ‘Christ is all,’ the summary of 1:15—3:4. He is all that matters to the believer. (2) ‘Christ is in all’ the summary of 3:5—4:18.V. 12 “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved” Having exhorted the Colossian believers to do away with the customs and sinful tendencies of the old pagan life before conversion (vv. 5, 8), Paul now instructs them in a positive way what should replace these habits.
Christ now dwells in their hearts by faith; they have been chosen by God (1Thess. 1:4) as His own people, the especial object of His love; they have been called to produce the fruit of holiness in their lives (Rom. 6:22). Note the order here—election (before the foundation of the world, Eph. 1:4); holy (sanctified in Christ Jesus, 1Cor. 1:2); beloved (as beloved children, Eph. 5:1 R.V.).
Thus the apostle shows them how to clothe themselves with befitting habits—those which characterised Christ, whose they are, and Whom they serve.
“bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;” bowels of mercies—bowels are lit., the upper viscera, more especially the heart, the seat of the affections, here the inward desires, as R.V., ‘a heart of compassion,’ towards others; kindness— the desire to be useful to another; humbleness of mind—a lowly conception of oneself; meekness—one whose strength is channelled into usefulness towards others (a meaning derived from the taming of a wild animal); longsuffering—lit., long-mindedness, no hasty retaliation. These qualities were seen in Christ (Phil. 1:8, Eph. 2:7, Matt. 11:29, 1Tim. 1:16).
V. 13 “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any;” The apostle calls on the believers to put up with, to have patience with the failings or weaknesses of one another, and to show the grace of forgiveness, to forgive them frankly (Luke 7:42). If any cause for a complaint arises between them, let grace be the arbiter in restoring the status quo (1Pet. 4:10).
“even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” As Christ (or, ‘as the Lord,’ R.V.) had forgiven their trespasses (2:13-14), they should follow His example, and forgive their brethren, as set forth in Luke 7:41-50.
This epistle, without introduction or superscription, brings us into the presence of God that we may hear the voice of “His Son.” It presents contrasts rather than comparisons; its theme being that the Son of God, Founder of Christianity precedes, exceeds and supersedes all. The key to the epistle may be found in the words of chapter 10:9 “He taketh away the first that He may establish the second.”
We are made intelligent as to His glories as the Son of God; ch. 1. He is associated with the throne of God and everything He touches takes character from Him, the unchanging Christ. He is the Son of Man; chapter 2. As Apostle and Leader ch. 3, 4. He is the Rest Giver ch. 4 and Great High Priest ch. 5-7. Minister in the Sanctuary ch. 8, 9. The glory of His atoning work ch. 10, seen as Author and Finisher of faith ch. 11, 12 and as the Great Shepherd of the Sheep ch. 13.
The thought of the Lord’s stability stands majestic above the best of the Old Covenant. Created works, whether in heaven, or on earth, will perish ch. 1:10; but He remains unchanged and unchanging “The Same” 1:12.
HIS UNDIMINISHED POWER 1 .10.
He is creation’s unchanging God and universal sovereign Lord v. 10; Psalm 102:22-27. The self-existing “I am” of almighty Lordship became the “I am” of abject loneliness Psa. 102:6. Note the five “I am’s” in this psalm.
He is the everlasting Being who brought everything that is visible into existence, the One who is the creator and upholder of all things by the Word of His power 1:3. The “worlds” is ages, referring to the plan and arrangement of the various dispensations through which the created world has passed, is passing and will pass.
In chapter 1 verses 11 and 12 the creation’s transience is contrasted with the Creator’s perpetuity. Creation will change. He cannot change, He never fails, for the peerless Lord Jesus is changeless and endless. In His incomparable glory He is much “better” than the angels. In His Divine nature, they worship Him v. 5, 6; in His Kingly nature, they obey Him v. 7-9; in His creative nature, they respond to Him v. 10-12; in His exalted nature, they serve Him v. 13, 14.
The immutability of His Person gives character to all He does as the Omnipotent sustainer of all things.
HIS UNSULLIED PURITY 7:27.
His personal characteristics never change since He ever lives. There was absolute harmony existing between His unblemished character and unblameable conduct. His raiment remains undefiled, and His reputation remains undamaged. He is “holy” towards God in the sense of reverence. It is a moral feature, holiness of character, qualities such as godly fear, 5:5.
“Harmless” in His disposition towards men. He was “guileless,” entirely free from all malice; His spotless character.
“Undefiled” — in Himself. Unstained, unsullied in His personal character. No moral impurity or defilement ever marked this lovely Man thus fitting Him for a heavenly priesthood.
“Separated from sinners” permanently in His life and ministry at God’s right hand. Lifted out from among men and withdrawn from them. A historical occurrence which introduced an abiding state. God’s vindication of His sinlessness. “Higher than the heavens,” “removed out of the earthly sphere and elevated into communion with God where nothing intervenes between the face of God and Him.” 4:10; 9:24. A. B. Davidson.
HIS UNTRANSFERABLE PRIESTHOOD 5:5,6; 7:25-28
His priesthood has a value beyond all price, and a virtue above all that is precious for He continues in the power of an endless life.
He is before nature, before time, and above space, superior in sovereignty, and sufficient in sympathy. “Time will fail me” 11:32 to speak of Him Immutability, who is glorious in majesty at the right hand of power 8:1. The High Priest is tender, was tempted and is sinless 4:15, a helpful priest 4:16. An appointed and compassionate priest 5:1-2; a royal priest 5:6. He has entered within the veil 6:19, 20. He is able, saving, interceding, holy, undefiled and an exalted priest 7:25, 26. He is an enthroned high priest 8:1, and a minister of the sanctuary 8:2. He made propitiation for sins 2:17; 7:27; offered one atoning sacrifice 10:12, and perfected the sanctified. He is the Mediator of the new covenant 7:22. He has made available to us eternal salvation, eternal redemption and eternal inheritance 5:9; 9; 12:15.
We can trust His unwearied watchfullness, His untiring faithfullness and His unceasing helpfullness in every time of need. This Priest could not have had a predecessor and most certainly can never have a successor. “A priest forever.” His life is endless, His Priesthood is changeless, His intercession is ceaseless.
HIS UNLIMITED PROVISION 4:14; 13:20.
We are assured of daily help because of His personal excellence 4:14; and His personal experience v. 15. Priesthood has reference to believers and has in view our temptations. As Priest He sustains and His ministry is preventative in character, against us committing sin.
As “Son of God” has all the resources of Deity, power and provision. The name “Jesus” tells us of His humanity, nearness, oneness and sympathy. His greatness is inferred in His passing through the heavens He is exalted and victorious having ascended to the right hand of God. He was thoroughly tested by temptation, remained sinlessly perfect, and is sympathetically understanding in His help. This help is available as we “keep on drawing near,” for we have spiritual freedom to approach God. Mercy is the quality of the High Priest 2:17; and grace as that of God.
We need mercy because of our sins and grace because of our weakness. The guarantee that all our need will be supplied is His resurrection and Shepherd character 13:20. This choice expression “that great Shepherd” assures us of care and comfort. As the good Shepherd we see His sufficiency as a sustainer Heb. 13:20; and as chief Shepherd His supremacy as a sovereign 1Pet. 5:4. He has triumphed over death, and the Devil 2:14; and now sways the sceptre of sovereign supremacy in God’s presence 1:8, 14.
His care in the provision made for Israel on their journeys would remind us of abundant provision for us Psa. 78:52, 53; Psa. 79:13; 80:1.
HIS UNFAILING PRESENCE 13:5, 6.
The sin of our day is “covetousness,” the need of the hour is contentment. “The best tent in which to dwell is content.” This is a virtue we need to cultivate in this age of materialism. This is based upon the covenant relationship between God and His people, and His faithfulness and goodness.
His verse of assurance “I will never leave thee” brings us into a right relation to earthly things. He never withdraws the sustaining hand of help. The promise is an adaptation of several passages Gen. 28:15; Deut. 31:6; Josh. 1:5; Isa. 41:17; and verse 6 is taken from Psa. 118:6. Here is the promise of His personal and perpetual presence. I will not at any time, for any cause, leave thee or forsake thee. My aid and my help shall be continuous. The presence of the constant Christ means stability, for He is eternally fresh and fragrantly faithful.
“The Lord is my helper” brings consolation; “I will not fear” is holy boldness and confidence in God. May the doxology of v. 20, 21 be our response in adoration and worship. Amen.