Chapter 3

 •  35 min. read  •  grade level: 7
What a moment it must have been when the Lord stilled the wind on the Lake of Galilee! It must have been wondrous and beautiful to witness it; as it would be now, had we but hearts sensible of the glories of Christ, to think of it. People may talk of the necessary course of principles, of laws of nature, and of the course of things; but surely it is the first law of nature to obey its Creator. And here, in the twinkling of an eye, the Sea of Galilee felt the presence and answered the word of Him, who at His pleasure transfigures the course of nature or by a touch unhinges it all (Mark 4).
This was Jesus—Jehovah. This was the God whom Jordan and the Red Sea had, of old, obeyed: “What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back? ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams, and ye little hills, like lambs? Tremble thou earth, at the presence of the Lord.” The answer lies there, whether we listen to the voice of the Red Sea in the days of Exodus or to the Sea of Galilee in the times of the gospel. The presence of God tells the secret: “He spake, and it was done.”
We read that when the sun and the moon stood still in the midst of heaven, the Lord hearkened to the voice of a man. Joshua spoke to the Lord then, and the Lord fought for Israel. And the occasion was full of wonder. The Holy Spirit, who records it, gives it that character. “Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man.” But Jesus acts at once, and from Himself, and no wonder is made of it. All the amazement that is felt comes from the unprepared, unbelieving hearts of the disciples, who knew not the glory of the God of Israel. But under His teaching who takes of the things that are Christ’s to show them to us, we, beloved, should the better understand it, discerning it alike, whether at the divided Red Sea or at the Jordan that was “driven back” or on the stilled Lake of Galilee.
But there is more of Jesus at the Red Sea than the dividing of its waters. The cloud which appeared to Israel as soon as they had been redeemed by the blood in Egypt, and which accompanied them through the wilderness, was the guide of the camp. But it was also the veil or the covering of the glory. In the midst of Israel, such was that beautiful mystery. Commonly it was a hidden glory; at times manifested, but always there; the guide and companion of Israel, but their God also. He who dwelt between the cherubim went along the desert before Ephraim, and Benjamin, and Manasseh (Psa. 80).
The glory abode in the cloud for Israel’s use, but was in the holy place also; and thus, while conducting the camp in its veiled or humbled form, it assumed the divine honors of the sanctuary.
And such was Jesus, “God manifest in the flesh,” commonly veiled under “the form of a servant,” always without robbery, equal with God in the faith and worship of His saints, and at times shining forth in divine grace and authority.
Now, just as they were approaching the Red Sea, Israel had to be sheltered. The cloud does this mercy for them. It comes between the Egyptians and the camp and is darkness to the one and light to the other, so that the one came not near the other all the night; and then, in the morning, the Lord looked to the host of Egypt through the pillar of cloud and troubled the host of Egypt. And so, on an occasion kindred with this at the Red Sea, Jesus acts as the cloud and the glory. He comes between His disciples and their pursuers: “If therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way.” He shelters them with His presence as of old. And He looks through the cloud, and again, as of old, troubles the host of the enemy: “Jesus saith unto them, I am He. As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward and fell to the ground.” He did but look out, and His arm was found not to be shortened. With like ease and authority, the God of Israel does His proper acts at the Red Sea, and Jesus the same in the garden of Gethsemane (Ex. 14; John 18). The gods of Egypt worshiped Him at the Red sea, the gods of Rome worshiped Him in Gethsemane, and when brought again the second time into the world, it shall be said, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
But further: In the progress of their history, Israel had to be rebuked as well as to be sheltered; to be disciplined as well as to be redeemed. This we see as we leave the Red Sea and enter the wilderness. But the same glory, hid within the cloud, will do this divine work for them as it did the other. In the day of the manna, in the day of the spies, in the matter of Korah, at the water of Meribah, Israel provokes the holiness of the Lord, and the glory is seen in the cloud, witnessing the divine resentment (Ex. 16; Num. 14; 16; 20).
And just so, Jesus again, when grieved—as the Glory in the cloud was—at the hardness of heart or unbelief of the disciples, He gives some token, some expression, of His divine power with words of rebuke. As on that occasion I have referred to, on the Lake of Tiberias, for there He said to the disciples, “Why are ye so fearful?” as well as to the winds and the waves, “Peace, be still.” And so again and again, when the disciples betray ignorant and unbelieving thoughts of Him, as, for instance, to Philip on one distinguished occasion, He says, in the grief and resentment of the Glory in the cloud, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?” (John 14:99Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? (John 14:9)).
Surely here also was the same mystery. Was not the Lord here again shining through the veil for the confounding of the disobedience or unbelief of Israel? This was the glory seen in the cloud, as in the day of the manna or kindred cases already referred to. Very exact is the corresponding of these forms of divine power. The cloud was the ordinary thing; the glory within was now and again manifested but was always there. The guide and companion of the camp was the Lord of the camp. And is not all this Jesus in a mystery? The glory was the God of Israel (Ezek. 43:4; 44:24And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east. (Ezekiel 43:4)
2Then said the Lord unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut. (Ezekiel 44:2)
), and Jesus of Nazareth was the God of Israel, or the glory (Isa. 6:11In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. (Isaiah 6:1); John 12:4141These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. (John 12:41)). The Nazarene veiled a light, or manifested in flesh a glory, which, in its proper fullness, “no man can approach unto” (1 Tim. 6:1616Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:16)).
Moses beautifully refused glory, but Jesus hid it. “Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (Heb. 11:2424By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; (Hebrews 11:24)). And a lovely victory over the world that was. We like to wear our honors, to make the most of what we are, and even to take more than we are entitled to, if men will make mistakes in our favor. But Moses humbled himself in the Egyptian palace; and that was a beautiful victory of faith over the course and spirit of the world. But Jesus did more. It is true, He had not servants and courtiers to teach, for He was a stranger to palaces. But the villagers of Nazareth adopted Him as “the carpenter’s son,” and He would have it so. The Glory of glories, the Lord of angels, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the God of heaven, was hid under that common report, and there He lay without an answer to it.
It is the gracious office of the Holy Spirit in Hebrews to open the sources of this great mystery. The grace of God would fain exercise or indulge itself—precious as such a thought is—and the praise of Him “for whom are all things, and by whom are all things,” demanded the mystery, so to speak (vss. 9-10). These things are told us there. These are the rich fountains whence the great purpose and transaction flow; that transaction, that unspeakable mystery of redemption through the humiliation of the Son of God, which is to give its character to eternity. Divine grace sought to gratify itself, and divine glory would be displayed to perfection. All issues from such springs. Flesh and blood was taken up by the Sanctifier; death was undergone; like temptations with the brethren, apart from sin, were endured; relationships to God, experiences in Himself, and sympathies with the saints, were borne and known; the life of faith on earth, with its prayers and tears, to Him that was able to save from death; life of intercession in heaven; all fitness to be both a sacrifice and a priest accomplished; ability to succor, and worthiness to demise, as well as resurrection, ascension, present expectancy, and a coming Kingdom and glories—all these find their springs and sources there.
The Son of God took His place in connection with all this. He was dependent, obedient, believing, hopeful, sorrowful, suffering, despised, crucified, buried; everything which the great eternal plan made necessary to Him. He emptied Himself for all this, but all that He did was infinitely worthy of His person. The word at the beginning, “Let there be light: and there was light,” was not more worthy of Him than were the prayers and supplications “with strong crying and tears” in the days of His flesh. He could never have been allied with anything unworthy of Godhead, though found, abundantly and at all personal cost, in conditions and circumstances into which our guilt and His grace, in putting it away, brought Him.
The Person in the manger was the same as on the cross. It was “God  ... manifest in the flesh.” And in the full sense of that glory, we can but speak of His humbling of Himself from the earliest to the latest moment of that wondrous journey. Led of God, the wise men of the East worshipped “the young Child” at Bethlehem. Simeon, I may say, worshipped Him at an earlier moment in the temple; and strangely, which nothing can account for but the light of the Holy Spirit who then filled him, he blesses the mother and not the child. He had the child in his arms, and naturally he would, on such an occasion, have given the infant his blessing. But he does not. For he had that Child in his arms, not as a feeble infant whom he would commend to God’s care, but as God’s Salvation. In that glorious character, in the hour of nature’s perfect feebleness, he held Him up, and gloried in Him. “The less is blessed of the better.” It was not for Simeon to bless Jesus, though without wrong or robbery he would bless Mary.
Anna, the prophetess, receives Him in like spirit. And earlier still, while yet unborn, He was worshipped, I may say, by the leaping of the child in the womb of Elizabeth at the salutation of Mary. As also, ere He was conceived, the angel Gabriel owns Him as the God of Israel, before whose face the son of Zacharias was to go; and then also Zacharias, in the Holy Spirit, owns Him as the Lord whose people Israel was and as “the Dayspring from on high.”
Self-emptying obedience, subjection of a kind quite its own, is, therefore, to be seen in every stage and action of such a One. And what was that course of service in the esteem of Him to whom it was rendered? As the born One, the circumcised One, the baptized and anointed One, the serving, sorrowing, and crucified One, and then as the then One, He has passed here on earth under the eye of God. In the secrecy of the Virgin’s womb, in the solitudes of Nazareth, in the activities and services of all the cities and villages of Israel, in the deep self-sacrifice of the cross, and then in the new bloom of resurrection, has “this wondrous Man” been seen and delighted in of God —perfect, untainted, recalling the divine delight in man more than when of old he was made in God’s image, and more than annulling all the divine repentings of old, that man had been made on the earth.
His person lent a glory to all His course of service and obedience, which rendered it of unutterable value. Nor is it merely that His person made all that service and obedience voluntary. There is something far more than its being thus voluntary. There is that in it which the Person (“ My Fellow, saith the Lord of hosts”) imparts: and who can weigh or measure that? We know this full well among ourselves. I mean in kind. The higher in dignity, in personal dignity, the one who serves us is, the higher the value of the service rises in our thoughts. And justly so; because more has been engaged for us, more has been devoted to us, then when the servant was an inferior; more has the heart instinctively learned, that our advantage was indeed sought, or our wishes and desires made an object. We do not forget the Person in the service. We cannot. And so in this dear mystery we are meditating on, the service and obedience of Jesus were perfect; infinitely, unmixedly worthy of all acceptance.
But beyond that, beyond the quality of the fruit, there was the Person who yielded it; and this, as we said, imparted to it a value and a glory that are unutterable. The same value rested on the services of His life, which afterward gave character to His death. It was His person which gave all its virtues to His death or sacrifice; and it was His person which gave its peculiar glory to all He did in His course of self-humbling obedience. And the complacency of God in the one was as perfect as His judicial acceptance of the other. Some symbol (like that of the rent veil) is seen by faith uttering that complacency and full delight of God over every passing act in the life of Jesus.* Would that we had eyes to see and ears to hear that as we pass on through the ways of Jesus from the manger to the tree! But so it was, whether seen or not by us. Complacency of God beyond all thought to conceive rested on all He did and all He was throughout His life of obedience. As another has said, “Divine wisdom is the way of our recovery by Jesus Christ, ‘God manifest in the flesh,’ designed to glorify a state of obedience. He would render it incomparably more amiable, desirable, and excellent, than ever it could have appeared to have been in the obedience of all the angels in heaven and men on the earth, had they continued therein, in that His own eternal Son entered into a state of obedience, and took upon Him the form or condition of a Servant unto God.”
(*I speak of the rent veil as the symbol of divine acceptance. No living obedience of Christ could have rent it; only His death.)
These are strengthening thoughts about the ways of Jesus. These ways of service and subjection to God are to get their own peculiar character, and in our sight. Obedience has been glorified in His person, and shown in all its ineffable beauty and desirableness; so that we are not merely to say that the complacency of God in Him was ever maintained in its fullness, but that it passes beyond all created thought. “The form of a servant” was a reality, just as much as “the form of God” in Him; as truly an assumed reality, as the other was an essential, intrinsic reality. And being such, His ways were those of a servant; just as, being the Son, His glories and prerogatives were those of God. He prayed; He continued whole nights in prayer. He lived by faith, the perfect pattern of a believer, as we read of Him: “The Leader and Completer of faith.” In sorrow, He made God His refuge. In the presence of enemies, He committed Himself to Him who judged righteously. He did not do His own will, perfect as that will was, but the will of Him who sent Him. In these and in all kindred ways was “the form of a servant” found and proved and read and known to perfection. It is seen to have been a great and living reality. The life of this Servant was the life of faith from beginning to end.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, we are taught to consider Jesus as “the Apostle and High-Priest of our profession,” and also as “the Leader and Completer of faith” (chap. 3:1; 12:2-3). As the one, He is set before us for the relief of our consciences and the succor of our times of temptation; as the other, for the encouragement of our hearts in the like life of faith. As “the Apostle and High-Priest of our profession,” He is alone; as “the Leader and Completer of faith,” He is connected with a great cloud of witnesses. As the one, He is for us; as the other, He is Wore us. But even when before us, as in the fight and life of faith, there is some distinctness; for the Holy Spirit calls on us to look at this “Leader and Completer of faith” in a way in which He does not speak touching any other. He speaks of our being compassed about with them but calls on us to be looking to Him.
And further, it was the “contradiction of sinners against Himself” that formed the life of trial and of faith in Jesus; and those are peculiar words. Others like Him, in the fight of faith, had cruel mockings and scourgings, the edge of the sword, the caves of the earth, tortures, bonds, and imprisonments, and all from the enmity of man. But their conflict in the midst of such things is not thus spoken of. It is not called the “contradiction of sinners against themselves.” There is a force and elevation in such words that suit only the life of faith, which Jesus led and contended in.
How perfect are these minuter paths of the Spirit’s wisdom in the Word! Psalm 16 gives us Jesus in this life of faith. There the Son of God is One in whom “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” as in Hebrews 12:2-32Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. (Hebrews 12:2‑3). He enjoys the present portion of a priestly man. He sets the Lord always before Him, and knows that as He is at His right hand, He shall not be moved. He looks also for the pleasures at the right hand, and for the joy of the presence of God, in other regions.
Psalm 116 is the end of His life of faith in resurrection, joy, and praise; and the apostle, in “the same spirit of faith,” can look to share like resurrection-joy with his divine Lord and Forerunner (2 Cor. 4:13- 1413We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; 14Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. (2 Corinthians 4:13‑14)).
“I will put My trust in Him,” may be said to have been the language of the life of Jesus. But His faith was gold, pure gold, nothing but gold. When tried by the furnace, it comes out the same mass as it had gone in, for there was no dross. Saints have commonly to be set to rights by the furnace. Some impatience or selfishness or murmur has to be reduced or silenced, as in Psalm 73 and 77. Job was overcome: trouble touched him, and he fainted, though often he had strengthened the weak hands and upheld by his word them that were falling. “The stoutest are struck off their legs,” as an old writer says. Peter sleeps in the garden, and in the judgment-hall tells lies and swears to them; but there has been One whom the furnace, heated seven times, proved to be precious beyond expression.
Read Luke 22: See this One in that great chapter; see Jesus there in the hour of the trial of faith. He is first in company with the sorrow that was awaiting Him, then with His disciples, then with the Father, and then with His enemies: and mark it all, beloved. How unutterably perfect all is!—this faith in its unalloyed preciousness when tried in the fire! But all the life of Jesus was the life and obedience of faith. In one light of it, it was most surely the life of the Son of God in “the form of a servant,” humbling Himself even unto death, though “in the form of God,” and though He “thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” But in another, it was the life of faith: “I will put My trust in Him,” “I have set the Lord always before Me: because He is at My right hand, I shall not be moved.” These are His breathings, and we celebrate Him, after our own way, in His life of faith, and sing together of Him—
“Faithful amidst unfaithfulness,
Mid darkness only light,
Thou didst Thy Father’s name confess,
And in His will delight.”
And all this precious life of faith was answered by the care and keeping of God. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” The faith of Him who was serving on earth was perfect, and the answer of Him who dwelt in the heavens was perfect (Psa. 91).
The care which watched over Him was unceasing from the womb to the grave. So had it been of old declared by His Spirit in the prophets: “I was cast upon Thee from the womb, Thou art My God from My mother’s belly.” “Thou didst make Me hope [or, Thou keptest Me in safety] when I was upon My mother’s breasts.” It was unwearied throughout. “Thou maintainest My lot.” “My flesh also shall rest in hope. For Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption”
(Psa. 22:1616For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. (Psalm 22:16)) This help, and care, and watchfulness, in one aspect of His history, was everything to Him. It watched over Him that very night in which the angel warned Joseph to flee into Egypt. It was the Father’s unspeakable joy to exercise the diligence of that hour. He who kept that Israel could not slumber then.
But all this, instead of being inconsistent with the full divine rights of His person, gets its special character from them. The glory of this relationship, and of the joy and complacency which attended it, is gone, if the Person be not vindicated and honored. Such was the Person, that His entrance into the relationship was an act of self-emptying. Instead of beginning a course of subjection, either at the flight into Egypt or at the manger at Bethlehem, He had taken “the form of a servant” in counsel before the world began; and, as fruit thereof, He was “found in fashion as a man.” And all His doings and services were the ways of this self-emptied One: all of them from the earliest to the last. For He was as truly “God manifest in the flesh” when on the journey to Egypt in His mother’s arms, as when in Gethsemane in the glory and power of His person, the enemy coming to eat up His flesh stumbled and fell. He was as simply Emmanuel as an Infant in Bethlehem, as He is now at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens.* All was humbling of Himself, from the womb to the cross. I forget His person or who He was if I doubt that. But in another light of the glorious mystery, we are to see the relationship, and the tender, perfect care and help which, according to it, the Father was ever rendering Him. But these things are only like the various lights or characters in which the different evangelists present the Lord, as we are generally acquainted with. He was the Object of the Father’s care, and yet Jehovah’s Fellow; and we may look at His path in the chastened light with which that divine care and watchfulness invest it, as we may gaze at it in that brightest light and most excellent glory in which His rights and honors as the Son of God present it to us. If He had this relationship to the care of God, assumed as it was according to eternal counsels, so had all creatures, earthly and heavenly, angelic and human, throughout the universe, the same relationship to Him.
(I do not mean that on the occasion of the journey to Egypt “the young Child” exercised mind or will. That would be precision beyond the way of Scripture. But that act, like all from Bethlehem to Calvary, has the one character of self-humbling obedience in it.)
By reason of such various truth as this, He could say, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up;” and yet the Holy Spirit could say of Him, that the God of peace brought Him again from the dead (John 2:1919Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. (John 2:19); Heb. 13:2020Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, (Hebrews 13:20)). His enemies who sought His life fell before Him at a word; and yet, so did His perfect faith acknowledge God’s perfect care and guardianship that He could say, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels?” (John 18:5, 65They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. 6As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. (John 18:5‑6); Matt. 26:5353Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:53)). He could, with a touch, heal the ear of the servant, nay, restore it when cut off, when just at the same time He would have His own brows bleed under the crown of thorns (Luke 22:5151And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him. (Luke 22:51); Mark 15:17-1917And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, 18And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! 19And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. (Mark 15:17‑19)). In the perfection of His place as the emptied One, He would ask for sympathy and say, “Could ye not watch with Me one hour?” and shortly after, in a moment of still greater gloom in one sense, He could be above the pity of the daughters of Jerusalem, and honor by the promise of Paradise the faith of a dying malefactor (Matt. 26:4040And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? (Matthew 26:40); Luke 23:28,42,4328But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. (Luke 23:28)
42And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:42‑43)
). For in brightness He shines, even in the deepest moment of His humiliation: and let sinners know that it is not the compassion of men His cross seeks, but their faith; that it does not ask them in human kindliness to feel that hour, but in faith of their hearts and to the full peace of their consciences to be blessed by that hour; not to pity the cross, but to lean on it, and to know, that though accomplished in weakness, it is the very pillar which is to sustain the creation of God forever.
In such different but consistent forms, we read the life of the Son of God in flesh. Is the one the less real because the other is true? The tears of Jesus over Jerusalem were as real as though there was nothing in His heart but the sorrow of an ill-requited Lord and Savior over a rebellious, unbelieving people. And yet His joy in the full purpose of divine wisdom and grace was just the same unmixed, undivided reality. The “Woe unto thee, Chorazin!” and then the “I thank Thee, O Father,” were equally living and true affections in the soul of Jesus (Matt. 11). There was no want of full reality in either; and so “the form of a servant,” with all its perfect results, and “the form of God,” in all its proper glories, were, in the like way, real and living mysteries in the one Person.
And may we not, at times, turn aside to gaze more intently at His person, while we are tracing either the acts of His life or the secrets of His love and truth? It is a part of the obedience of faith to do so. “The fear of the Lord is clean,” but there is a fear that is not altogether clean, having some spirit of bondage and unbelief in it. The refusal to turn and look at such great sights as these may be such. I grant the “mystery,” and that the mystery is “great.” So was it a great and mysterious sight which Moses turned to look at; but with unshod feet he might still look and listen. Had he not done so, he would have gone away unblessed. But he listened till he discovered that the “I AM” was in the bush; and further, that “the God of Abraham” was there also. A strange spot for such glory to enshrine itself! But so it was. In a burning bramble-bush, the Lord God Almighty was found (Ex. 3).
And supposing I go to Calvary and look there on the smitten “Shepherd,” whom shall I discover, if I have an opened eye, but the Fellow of the Lord of hosts? (Zech. 13). And if I go into the midst of the rabble which surrounded Pilate’s judgment-hall at Jerusalem, whom shall I find there, even in the One spit upon and buffeted and derided, but Him who of old dried up the Red Sea and covered the Egyptian heavens with sackcloth? (Isa. 1:33The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. (Isaiah 1:3)).
And I ask, “When I have so looked, and by the light of the Spirit in the prophets made these discoveries, am I quickly to retire?” If I had bowels, I might ask, “Where can I go for richer refreshment of spirit?” If my faith discover, in the grieved and insulted Jesus amid the men of Herod and the officer of the Romans, the God who did His wonders of old in the land of Ham, am I not to linger on that mount of God, and Moses-like to turn aside and look and listen? I cannot treat the sight as too great for me. I do not believe such would be the mind of the Spirit. Liberty of thought, while I stay at the mount, shall be rebuked if it transgress; but to linger there is not transgression, but worship. I speak, the Lord knows, of principles, not of experiences. The exercises of the heart there are dull and cold indeed; and the sorrow is (if one may speak for others), not that we spend too much thought over the mystery of the Person of the Son of God, but that we retire to other objects too quickly.
That Person will be “the eternal wonder and ornament of the creation of God.” Some may own, in general, the manhood and the Godhead in that Person. But we are also to own the full, unsullied glory of each of these. Neither the soul or moral man, nor the temple of the body, is to be profaned. The whole Man is to be vindicated and honored. And though the relationship in which Jesus stood to God, the care which that induced, and the obedience which that involved, may well be another great sight for us to turn aside to look at, still we shall fail to see it aright and to eye it in its glory if we forget in anywise the person of Him who sustained it.
(One of the martyrs in the days of Queen Mary wrote thus from his prison: “He hath made all, bought all, and dearly paid for all: with His own immaculate body hath He discharged your bodies from sin, death, and hell, and with His most precious blood paid your ransom and full price once for all and forever.”)
The divine reasoning in the Epistle to the Hebrews, among other things, evinces this: that the efficacy of the priesthood of Christ depends entirely on His person. Read the first seven chapters: what a writing it is! In our Priest we must find a man; one capable of succoring the brethren, from having been tempted like them. So that we must see our High-Priest passing into the heavens from amid the sufferings and sorrows of the scene here. Most surely so. But in our Priest we must find the Son also, because in none other partaker of flesh and blood was there “the power of an endless life.” And, accordingly, Melchisedec represents the person as well as the virtues, dignities, rights, and authorities of the true Priest of God; as we read of him: “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually” (Heb. 7:1-31For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 2To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; 3Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. (Hebrews 7:1‑3)).
And what a sight does all this give us of “the High-Priest of our profession”! He came down from heaven in the full, personal glory of the Son; and in the due time He went up to heaven, bearing the virtue of His sacrifice for sin and those compassions which succor saints. Faith acquaints itself with this whole path of Jesus. It owns in Him the Son while He tabernacled in the flesh among us; and when His course of humiliation and suffering had ended here, faith owns the once rejected and crucified Man glorified in the heavens—the one Person: God manifested in the flesh here, Man hid in the glory there. As we read of Him and of His blessed, wondrous path: “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim. 3:1616And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)).*
(* He was, indeed, very Man and very God in one Person. All depends on this “great mystery.” The death of the cross would be nothing without it, as all would be nothing without that death.)
In “the form of God,” He was God indeed; in “the form of a servant,” He was a Servant indeed. He “thought it not robbery to be equal with God”; exercising all the divine rights, and using all the divine treasures and resources with full authority; and yet making Himself of no reputation, emptying Himself, and being obedient. This tells the secret. All that appears in the history is interpreted by the mystery. It is as the glory in the cloud again. The companion of the camp, in all its afflictions afflicted, was the Lord of the camp. The glory which traversed the desert in company with the wanderings of Israel, was the Glory which dwelt between the cherubim in the holy of holies.
But the further words of this scripture (Phil. 2) invite me onward for a little still.
“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him” (vs. 9). We are only in new wonders when we read these words. For what, we may ask, could exalt Him? Ere He entered upon His course of sufferings and of glories, He was in Himself infinitely great and blessed. Nothing could personally exalt Him, being, as He was, “the Son.” His glory was divine. It was unspeakable and infinite. No other honors could ever increase His personal glory. But still we see Him traversing a path which conducts Him to honor and glory still.
Strange and excellent mystery! And—more strange and more excellent, as we may say—these new and acquired glories are, in some sense, the dearest with Him. Scripture entitles us thus to speak, as it does to speak of many things of His grace, which the heart would never have conceived. And yet, with all this—to compare divine things with human, as is the way of the Spirit’s instruction—what I now speak of is known among men. Let the highest by birth among us, let a prince, the son of a king, go forth and acquire dignities: his acquired dignities, though they cannot raise him personally, will be his dearest distinctions and form the choicest materials of his history in the esteem of others. Such a thing as that is instinctively understood among us. And so is it (in the unspeakably precious mystery of Christ) with the Son of God. According to eternal counsels, He has gone forth to battle; and the honors He has acquired, the victories He has won or is still to win, will be His joy for eternity. They are to form the light in which He will be known, and the characters in which He will be celebrated forever; though personally, He dwells in a light which no man can approach unto. And this He prizes: “Jehovah-jireh,” “Jehovah-rophi,” “Jehovah-shalom,” “Jehovah-tsidkenu,” and “Jehovah-nissi” are all acquired honors. And how are these chief with Him in the unspeakable ways of boundless grace! In Exodus 3, He communicates His personal name to Moses, saying out of the bush, “I AM THAT I AM.” But then He communicates His acquired name also, calling Himself “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”; and to this second, this acquired name, He adds, “This is My Name forever, and this is My memorial unto all generations:” words which deeply tell us how He prized that glory which He had acquired in His doings for sinners. As also in the tabernacle, or temple, where His name was recorded, it was His acquired and not His personal name that was written and read there. The mysteries of that house did not speak of His essential omnipotence, omniscience, or eternity, or like glories, but of One in whom mercy rejoiced against judgment, and who had found out a way whereby to bring His banished ones home to Him.
Surely these are witnesses of what price in His sight is His name gained in service for us. But “God is love” may account for it all. There the secret is told. If the manifestations are excellent and marvelous, the hidden springs which are opened in Himself give us to know it all.
We are to know Him as “made under the law,” as surely as we know Him in His personal glory, far above all law. All His life was the life of the obedient One. And so, though God over all, the Jehovah of Israel, and the Creator of the ends of the earth, He was the Man Christ Jesus. He was Jesus of Nazareth, anointed of the Holy Spirit, who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil: for God was with Him. In these lights we see Him, and in these lights we read His varied, wondrous history. He imparted the Holy Spirit and yet was anointed with the Holy Spirit.
The Son came forth to take part of flesh and blood.
So had the way and the grace of the eternal counsel run; so had our necessities required it. He was found “in fashion as a man.” He was exercised in a life of entire dependence on God and accomplished a death, which (among other virtues) was in full subjection to Him. This was His covenant place, and in such place He acted and suffered to perfection; and thence came the services and the afflictions, the cries and the tears, the labors and the sorrows, of the Son of Man on earth.
But still more; even now that He is in heaven, it is, in a great sense, the same life still. A promise awaited Him there, and that promise He received and lives on to this hour: “Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool,” was said to Him as He ascended; and in the faith and hope of that word He took His seat in heaven, “sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool” (Heb. 1:1010And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: (Hebrews 1:10)). Here was hope answering promise, and this found in the heart of Jesus as He ascended and sat down in heaven, just as He was the believing One, and the hoping One, and the obedient One, and the serving One, when on this earth of ours.
And further still in His onward ways of glory, will He not continue to be subject? Every tongue is to confess Him Lord; but is not this to be “to the glory of God the Father”? And when the Kingdom is given up, is it not still written, “Then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all”? And as subject thus to Him who puts all things under Him, so in the same regions of coming glory will it be His gracious delight to serve His saints; as we read: “He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” And again, “He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (1 Cor. 15; Luke 12; Rev. 7).