Heaven: Thy Dwelling-Place

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(As Known in the Old Testament.)
Few of us know the extent to which prejudice acts, at the present moment, upon our own minds, to hinder us in our progress in truth. There is the prejudice of the old nature against the truth, which nothing but divine power and grace can subdue; but, besides this, there is the prejudice of " our present views," which may be the furniture of education, or the results of the opinion common to the day we live in. In this last case, much might be done by us toward obtaining liberty. Let a man, for instance, just take for granted that he is master of a subject, and he will judge all he reads upon it according to his own thoughts of it; but let him grant that he has to study the subject anew, and he will then search the scriptures to see, not only whether the things he has heard or received upon a given subject are so or not, but he will search the blessed book in hopes to have his own views, however correct they may be, enlarged, according to the measure of the Divine standard of truth. And O how poor, and how feeble, is the measure which the best taught of us has yet received, when that measure is seen in the light and presence of the eternal fullness which is at the fountain-source!
To present one prejudice, which is common and hurtfully injurious, I might name notions current about heaven.
We have heard of heaven (blessed, blessed place!) from the cradle; but what do we know of it as taught y the word of the Lord? Men talk of heaven as though ay one, every one, could go there, and without a passport too-as though man had originally been created for heaven, and not for earth-as though it were not written, " the heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's; but the earth hath He given to the children of men" (Psa. 115:1616The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's: but the earth hath he given to the children of men. (Psalm 115:16)). Again, it is quietly assumed that heaven was the subject of revelation, from Gen. 1:11In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1); and that every one knows all about it. And what, really, has been the result, but that many a Christian now-a-days knows as little of heaven, as it was possible for a godly patriarch or a godly Jew to have known about it.
Aaron-what could he have told us about the temple of Solomon? Naught; but he knew all about the tabernacle, for that was revealed to him, and stood before him; his privilege and his responsibility were therein. Solomon-what could he have told about the true tabernacle, which the Lord has pitched, and not man (He-brews)? Naught; but about the temple, much every way. Could Saul, the persecutor-could the Hebrews, as such-have written the Epistle to the Hebrews? No. It and such truth was new truth, not given till Paul's day -truth in which our privileges and. responsibilities are hidden. Do we know these things as taught by Paul, etc.?
To what extent was "heaven" written about in the Old Testament? To what extent did Old Testament saints participate in the light which New Testament scripture gives to us upon heaven, and that which pertains to heaven?
Such is the subject which I would place before my reader, as being at present before my own mind, to inquire upon from scripture.
I turn at once to the book and its testimony.
In Gen. 1 we read, that " in the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth; and called the firmament (in the which the lights of the sun and moon were set) heaven; and that the fowl of the heaven (or air) were part of His creation." These passages precede our being introduced into the paradise of Eden-a scene in which the first Adam, a living soul, was placed in a garden, with everything in it calculated to minister to his delight and joy-a scene where the Lord God was not always manifestly revealed, but an occasional visit-ant. It was not the place of His residence, nor the place of residence of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, the paradise of God.
I turn now to places which point to heaven in a higher sense.
In the expression, "possessor of heaven and earth," we get nothing more than was known, perhaps before, or might be supposed to have been known. If the rendering of "the most high God" is to be changed to " El of the (place) above," we do get an intimation, certainly, that God is " of the heavens." I do not say that it is so, but it may be so; and then the intimation of a place more connected with God than the heavens and earth of this world, was made sooner than it has been generally supposed was the case. But even then there is here no opening of the place, heaven, as the residence of God, any more than in other passages to which we shall shortly come; no call thence or there-unto; no title to us to enter it; no communication to us of its hopes, blessings, and powers.
2. Chapter 21:17: " The angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is."
Chapter 22:11,12: "And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him."
And ver. 15: He " called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore," etc.
I notice these passages as being cases in which a call came out of heaven, in some sense or other. The first was to Hagar, about her apparently dying boy, Ishmael; the second and the third were to Abraham, about Isaac, and about the reward for his own surrender of him up to God. Neither of them open to us (so far as I see) that which is above the clouds; both bring before us the character of Him, in one way or the other, who always acts worthily of Himself, whether He be carrying out a plan for earth, or a plan for heaven itself.
3. Chapter 24:2,3,7: " And Abraham said to his eldest servant of his house... I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell. The Lord God of heaven, which took me from my father's house. He shall send His angel before thee."
This citation is important. Abraham binds his servant by an oath before the God of the heaven and of the earth; but he speaks of Him only as " the Lord God of heaven," when his own call was in question. Abraham had a double blessing, as father of the faithful: First, his personal call was from idolatry unto God, the living God; Secondly, he became a sort of head of the channel of testimony, God's testimony, upon earth. The first recognized father, " of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever, Amen" (Rom. 9:55Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans 9:5)), the adoption and the glory and the covenants were his. The first clearly tangible argument in proof of resurrection, the resurrection of the body, that is on record, is found in Abraham's history (compare Gen. 15:13,15,6-813And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; (Genesis 15:13)
15And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. (Genesis 15:15)
6And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. 7And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. 8And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? (Genesis 15:6‑8)
, and Acts 7:3,53And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee. (Acts 7:3)
5And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. (Acts 7:5)
). Abraham's faith refers to God as the God of heaven; and in the New Testament, where the Spirit of Christ is reviewing Abraham's course (called to go out into a place which he should afterward receive for an inheritance, he obeyed-went out, not knowing whither—sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country; dwelling in tabernacles, as heir of the promise), He adds (light which is not found in the Old Testament), that the city which he looked for is one which hath foundations, whose " builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:1010For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 11:10)).
And again, He speaks of a class thus: " These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth." And then adds His explanation of their conduct -not necessarily what they understood in their own minds, but that which He saw to be in the spirit and faith which governed them" They that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.... But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city."
There are things of which, if we would be well taught in scripture, we must discern the difference; e. g. faith in an individual believer laying hold of a promise of God, and God's estimate of the value of that faith; again, faith and the object on which faith acts are distinguishable; so again, while there is a connection between the least promise God has given, and the fullness of the glory of His Christ before Him, there is also a gradual development of light, from the beginning of man's history after the fall, down to the time of life and immortality being brought to light by the gospel, which must not be forgotten (compare, also, Deut. 3:24; 4:36, 3924O Lord God, thou hast begun to show thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might? (Deuteronomy 3:24)
36Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he showed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire. (Deuteronomy 4:36)
39Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else. (Deuteronomy 4:39)
). In John 17 all that the Lord said to His Father about the disciples, was truth itself; but it was truth according to the estimate of them made by Him, who saw them in the light of His Father's love, and not according to their feelings, thoughts, and experience. There is a great principle involved in his.
4. Gen. 28:1212And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. (Genesis 28:12): " And he (Jacob) dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac," etc.
This was a dream: it presented heaven opened; the Lord God of the patriarchs in heaven, and His messengers ascending and descending by the ladder. The ladder descended to El Bethel, in the land. There the heavens will meet the earth during the millennial glory, the new Jerusalem being let down from heaven toward Jerusalem upon the earth (Isa. 4:5,65And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. 6And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain. (Isaiah 4:5‑6)); and El Bethel falls within " the holy oblation" of that day's division of the land, and not far from the new site of the temple (Ezek. 48.8-20). The God who had planned such a glory to come (John 1:5151And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (John 1:51)), would surely care for all the needs of the pilgrims to whom He revealed it-needs, alas! oft, like Jacob's, the fruit of evil, and of walking carelessly at a distance from God-needs, alas! too, which absorbed a larger place in his mind than the glory he had seen-needs about which he was for driving a bargain with the God of glory, instead of receiving the glory of God, the manifestation of which to him clearly proved that all his needs would be cared for.
5. Deut. 10.14: " Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord's thy God, the earth also."
This introduces to us plainly a new thought. There are not only the earth and the heaven, but also " the heaven of heavens."
The expression is remarkable, and recurs, as in 1 Kings 8.27, where Solomon says, in his prayer: " But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have builded" (and 2 Chron. 6:1818But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built! (2 Chronicles 6:18)). See also the same expression, 2 Chron. 11:66He built even Bethlehem, and Etam, and Tekoa, (2 Chronicles 11:6) (5), in Solomon's message to Huram.
Nehemiah also uses the same expression (9:6): " Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens."
I only remark here, 1st, that this is a truth distinct from the truth of the heavens; and, 2ndly, that the place spoken of is not explained, or any details of it given to us. To see the outside of the palace of the King of kings, and to know the inside or the glory which pertains to Him as such, are very different things.
This doubtless will lead the mind back to Jacob's dream, and the fulfillment which is yet to come, according to John 1:5151And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (John 1:51). Other passages also come to the mind, such as: " But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord" (Num. 14.21; comp. Psa. 72:1919And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen. (Psalm 72:19). See also Isa. 4:2-52In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. 3And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: 4When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. 5And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. (Isaiah 4:2‑5); the last eight chapters of Ezekiel; Hab. 2:1414For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14), etc.).
This is part of the appeal to be made by Israel when come in unto the land which the Lord his God should give him, with the offering of the basket of first-fruits. It is the more to be remarked upon as being found in the book of Deuteronomy, which book contains the ex-position of the divine principles by the which Israel could and shall inherit the land; viz., the principles connected with the obedience of faith, when they could not inherit it upon the principle of their own obedience, energy, and doings.
" This commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldst say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it."
Honey shut up in the hive was here, but honey shut up in the dark. One of the dark sayings, full as a mine of crystals, all ready to sparkle and reflect the light when it should be brought in, but unintelligible by the human mind till the light was brought. Read the citation again, and set it in contrast with that version of it which Paul gave (Rom. 10). He (Paul) takes it as the precious setting of gold prepared for three most brilliant gems he had to fix. These were the three brilliants: "to bring Christ down from above;" "to bring Christ again from the dead;" and "the word of faith which we preach."
9. " The Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath" (Josh. 2.11; comp. 2 Chron. 20:66And said, O Lord God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee? (2 Chronicles 20:6)). A strong strength-giving thought and truth to oppose to all and to every difficulty!
In Josh. 2:1111And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. (Joshua 2:11) it is found in the mouth of Rahab, the poor harlot of Jericho, and is part of her confession to the spies she was hiding. O what an energetic thing is faith! and how intelligent a one, too. A poor harlot in the doomed city of Jericho, spite of the fog resting on it, could see by faith whereabouts the living God was, and what He was about to do; yea, weigh up, try it, the chances of the day, and see how to give up all, and to throw herself upon her country's enemy, that she might save all.
The second reference is from the prayer of Jehoshaphat to the Lord against Ammon and Moab; and the Lord hearkened and heard, and gave a great victory, without any battle, to Judah, Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat.
There are Divine names which are above failure; blessed to know them, and to find that the waters flow forth when we use them, wherever we may be, and however fallen from our proper place and standing: such is that title-The God of Heaven.
10. In the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8), we find Solomon spreading forth his hands towards heaven (ver. 22), and repeatedly referring to God as the God of heaven. This is much to be noticed, because it shows that faith did not limit God to His then manifestation of His testimony; but, if it could not pierce the clouds to see what lay inside, it knew WHO was there, even He whose glory the heaven and heaven of heavens could not contain; and knew how, also, to set the present blessing down here in the presence of that higher glory, and how to use that higher glory as an aid for man failing in his portion down here. Let us see this:-
Ver. 27: "Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have builded. Yet have respect unto the prayer of Thy servant, and to his supplication... that Thine eyes may be open towards this house night and day, even toward the place of which Thou past said, My name shall be there; that Thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which Thy servant shall make toward this place... and to the supplication of Thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling-place; and when thou hearest, forgive."
Thus does Solomon place the house he had built in the presence of heaven. What lay inside of heaven he knew not; who was there he did know, even He who was Creator and Upholder of all things, and the God of Israel, Judge and Governor of the whole earth. And then, " Hear Thou in heaven" is reiterated in various connections as to the Israelite honoring the house built: as ver. 32, for confirming an oath; ver. 34, for the rendering confession and prayer efficacious in a day of judgment; so ver. 35, 36, 39; so ver. 43, for the rendering acceptable the prayer of a stranger not an Israelite; for Israel. in the day of battle, ver. 45, and for the day of captivity, ver. 49. Compare 2 Chron. 6:13, 21, 23, 25-27, 30, 33, 35, 3913For Solomon had made a brazen scaffold, of five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court: and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven, (2 Chronicles 6:13)
21Hearken therefore unto the supplications of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, which they shall make toward this place: hear thou from thy dwelling place, even from heaven; and when thou hearest, forgive. (2 Chronicles 6:21)
23Then hear thou from heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, by requiting the wicked, by recompensing his way upon his own head; and by justifying the righteous, by giving him according to his righteousness. (2 Chronicles 6:23)
25Then hear thou from the heavens, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest to them and to their fathers. 26When the heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; yet if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou dost afflict them; 27Then hear thou from heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, when thou hast taught them the good way, wherein they should walk; and send rain upon thy land, which thou hast given unto thy people for an inheritance. (2 Chronicles 6:25‑27)
30Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men:) (2 Chronicles 6:30)
33Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for; that all people of the earth may know thy name, and fear thee, as doth thy people Israel, and may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name. (2 Chronicles 6:33)
35Then hear thou from the heavens their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause. (2 Chronicles 6:35)
39Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee. (2 Chronicles 6:39)
These passages are deeply interesting, but they show only, as has been said, that heaven was recognized as the dwelling-place of Him who had set up a testimony upon earth, and could uphold it. They do not show heaven opened, nor the glory of the Heavenly One displayed as such. Comp. 2 Chron. 30:27; 32:2027Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven. (2 Chronicles 30:27)
20And for this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven. (2 Chronicles 32:20)
11. In the next passage one saw a man going up into heaven.
" And it came to pass as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more" (2 Kings 2:1111And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. (2 Kings 2:11)).
What a different thing is Christ seen ascending (in Acts 1) till a cloud received Him out of their sight, from Christ looking down from heaven upon Stephen, showing to him, and sustaining him by, His glory and sympathy.
These wheels, the last glimpse of which was caught as they entered heaven, carried off from the prophet his head; and he himself had to turn back to service upon earth and amid trial.
12. The next passage I will cite is 2 Chron. 36.23: " Thus saith Cyrus, King of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord God of heaven given me; and He hath charged me to build Him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people? The Lord his God be with him, and let him go up" (see, also Ezra 1:22Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. (Ezra 1:2)). Darius, likewise (Ezra, 6:9,10), and so, also, Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:12,21,23,2312Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time. (Ezra 7:12)
21And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily, (Ezra 7:21)
23Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons? (Ezra 7:23)
23Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons? (Ezra 7:23)
). And faith in Ezra recognized, and avowed before all, that God Was the God of heaven, and that they were His servants, though cast in judgment for sin out of His heritage upon earth (chap. 5:11, 12). And it was blessed indeed, when all that could be broken up down here was indeed broken up, yet to find that they could look to the gate of heaven, calling upon Him they knew who was known to be inside it; and though they saw Him not, yet could they be assured of His help. Very blessed! though how short of that which we are called to enjoy, according to the epistle of Paul to the Hebrews; for we have heaven opened upon us, and the blessings of Him who in His own home is more than Creator, Up- holder Judge of all, and Head of government for the earth, 'for to us He is revealed as Father and God of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Such was Nehemiah's conduct when seeking help from God. And (chap. when alarmed at the king's rebuke to him, he says, " So I prayed to the God of heaven, and I said to the king; and so (ver. 20) he refuses the help of the strangers of the God of heaven, whose servant He was, to aid in building, etc.
Surely the God-of-Israel's faithful servants ought not, then, to have had to speak of him as the God of heaven. Nothing but sin and its judgments hindered their being able to say, " God that dwelleth between the Cherubim. But if man's sin had driven Him thence from among them to the distance, if He had retired to His place to consider and see the end, there He was in heaven, and there He would in grace hear the cry of the needy.
14. Job says (chap. 16:19), " My witness is in heaven, and my record is on high."
Eliphaz, also (chap. 22:12, 14), recognizes God as being in heaven, and walking in the circuit of heaven.
I note these passages the rather because they point out a time preceding Israel's Exodus, and therefore preceding the existence of the tabernacle. They come, too, from a quarter in which man is seen, not only without a written standard of truth, but apparently little possessed of the promises, such as even a Noah, an Abraham, etc., had.
15. Nowhere do we find a recognition of faith more distinct, that however man down here may have failed, and that God may not be displayed here on earth, yet that He may be found in heaven, than in the Psalms. But observe, it is only the outside of heaven that met faith's vision as God's hiding-place when retired from among man on account of man's sin. And the titles by which He is hailed throughout the book are limited to the revelations made of God to the earth-" Elohim," "Jehovah," "my King," etc.; but never once is there the curtain drawn aside, so as to show either that which is in heaven, or the titles of glory, relationship, affection, and office proper to that place.
8:1: " Thou hast set Thy glory above the heavens."
11:4: " The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in the heavens." 14:2: " He looked down from heaven" (compare 33:13).
20:6: " He will hear from His holy heaven."
36:5: " Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens."
50:6: " The heavens shall declare His righteousness" (a most deeply-interesting Psalm).
53:2: " God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did under-stand, that did seek God."
57:3: " He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up."
" Be Thou exalted above the heavens;... let Thy glory be above all the earth" (ver. 5,11).
73:25: " Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee."
Such is the remnant's feeling when weaned, and taught to hang on God, the God of Israel.
76:8, 9: Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth."
So shall it be sung in Judah and in Israel, when God's tabernacle is again in Salem, and His dwelling-place once more in Zion.
80:14 "Return, we beseech Thee, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine."
Such a prayer will yet arise from the land of promise, when its inhabitants shall seek the Lord under the pres-sure of sorrow, given in Psa. 79; and it will be followed by praise, as in Psa. 85.
85:10, 11: " Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven."
89:2, 5: " I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; with my mouth will I make known Thy faith-fullness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up forever: Thy faithfulness shalt Thou establish in the very heavens (ver. 2). " The heavens shall praise Thy wonders, O Lord" (ver. 5).
This Psalm, which closes one of the chapters into which, in Hebrew, the book of Psalms is divided, gives a wondrous explanation of Israel's hope, its springs of blessing.
102:19: " From heaven did the Lord behold the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner," etc.
The verses 25-27, as applied, in Heb. 1.10, 12, to Christ, are the key to this most blessed portion of divine writ.
103:19: " The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens; His kingdom ruleth over all."
Poor David found it for himself, as we see in his hour of awful failure, in which he learned the substance of this Psalm-how that mercy could triumph over David's self (2 Sam. 23.1-7), as well as it had previously enabled him to triumph over all his circumstances (2 Sam. 22).
115:3: " Our God is in the heavens."
This is Israel's answer to the heathen challenge, " Where is now your God?" Mark, also, especially, ver. 6 of this Psalm: " The heaven, the heavens for the Lord: but the earth hath He given to the children of men," as it might be well rendered.
119:89: " Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in the heavens."
A principle of immense moment at all times, because it involves much that is connected with Him who is the Word; and to the Jew, amid infidelity and scorning, it will be found to be all hiS strength.
123:1: " O Thou that dwellest in the heavens!"
When the soul is exceedingly filled with contempt, scorning, and pride, how blessed so to look up!
136:6: "O give thanks unto the God of heaven; for His mercy endureth forever!"
This is the last verse of that most remarkable Psalm, every verse of which ends with " His mercy endureth forever!" It is a song of Israel restored, telling all its mercies, and that in the day, too, in which it will be its joy and glory to know that earthly glory is subordinate to heavenly; and that Christ, the Messiah, has, as Son of Man, a church, His bride, in heaven, even when, as King of Israel, the land shall be called Beulah, married to Jehovah.
139:8: " If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there."
This Psalm contains a mystery; but Jehovah everywhere, and knowing all things, is part of its blessed burden.
Let my reader quietly read over each of the Psalms quoted; the light thrown by the contexts on the citations will repay the trouble well.
The personal individuality of the Wisdom spoken of here utterly forbids intelligence to explain it by wisdom as an attribute. It is evidently, from John 1.1-5, the Son, who was in the beginning with God-the Maker of the heavens and earth Himself.
Prov. 30:44Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell? (Proverbs 30:4): " Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in His fists? Who hath bound the 'waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His SON'S name, if thou canst tell?"
This ascending up into heaven, and this descending, must lead our minds, if taught in Rom. 10 and Eph. 4:8-108Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4:8‑10), to something more than the heavens and earth which now are, and shall be destroyed by fire; and so, I think, must that query, to a Jewish mind so puzzling, " What is His name, and what is His son's name, if thou canst tell?"
Eccl. 5:22Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. (Ecclesiastes 5:2): " Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few."
This book gives very much instruction as to the insufficiency of earth to afford satisfaction to the human heart. It points on (I cannot doubt it) to the time yet to come, when, if Israel will have all blessing on the earth that nature can enjoy, the earth will yet be directly under the government of Heaven itself. The Heavenly Man, and His heavenly human associates, are to have the habitable world to come in subjection, and to rule it under God.
Life and immortality were brought to light by the gospel-OUR gospel. Till it came, while creation and providence spake plainly of the Eternal Power and Godhead, and the government of God upon earth showed His holiness and righteousness, and in types, sundry and various-from Abel's accepted lamb, down to all the types and shadows given in the tabernacle and temple-grace was presented; still, life and immortality were not presented in a way that men could understand them. Neither could man understand the grace and mercy which were needed and supposed in God making to Himself sons and daughters for the Father's house in heaven, communicating to them at the same time the divine nature, and making them to be heirs of God, and coheirs with Christ-as a body, the dwelling-place of the Holy Ghost; and every member in particular, a member of the body of the Lord Jesus, a member of that body of which He now in glory is the avowed Head. Yet there, in Old Testament times, the heaven, the dwelling-place of God, was; and it was an eternal truth that He was Judge of man's actions here below, though man might not like it, or understand God's hidden plans, or the reality of his own fall and destiny.
We turn now briefly to the testimony of the prophets.
Isa. 14:12-1412How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isaiah 14:12‑14): " How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!... Thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the height of the clouds; I will be like the Most High."
As the prophet and the man of God oft spake words the import of which was beyond the reach of their own ken (1 Peter 1.10-12), led thereunto and therein by the Spirit of God, who knew things to come; so, on the other hand, we oft find the children of wrath, the servants of Satan, saying things altogether beyond the measure of human intelligence. This may explain this portion in measure, and the correspondence between it and the portions found in Dan. 11:4545And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him. (Daniel 11:45), and 2 Thess. 2. Satan knows his own mind and objects well enough to express them through a rebel prince's actions, and God knows enough of the heart and of Satan to read aloud those thoughts according to the real drift and tendency of them.
Such is the pleading of a remnant in the latter day, amid inconsistencies which oblige it to add, " Doubtless Thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer: Thy name is from everlasting."
In the same context we find the reply: blessings immeasurable fill chap. 65; and then chap. 66:1: " The heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?" After which follows the arraignment of wickedness on the earth.
19. In Jeremiah, one expression is very remarkable among the idolatrous of his day, who " would make cakes and burn incense unto the queen of heaven" (see 7:18; 44:17, 18, 19).
In chap. 3:41, of his Lamentations, he says: " Let us lift up our heart... unto God in the heavens;" and (ver. 50) till the Lord... behold from heaven." Poor fellow, he had that refuge like us, if all around was dark: yet he could not see the details as we do of what is inside of heaven.
20. In Ezekiel, we find once, and it is the only place, I think, which occurs in the Old Testament, the expression-" The heavens were opened" (chap. 1:1). It is connected with the departure of the glory from the temple.
21. Daniel, when with his companions (chap. 2:18), when alone (ver. 19); and when before Nebuchadnezzar (vers. 28, 37, 44), recognizes God as the " God of heaven."
Blessed comfort to him, who was a living witness, in his own experience, that Israel was become the tail, and had ceased to be the head by reason of unfaithfulness! Yet how blessedly does this Nazarite-soul walk with God as the unseen yet, by him, honored God of heaven; and he reaped honor from God as he yielded honor to Him.
He speaks also of a " Holy One coming down from heaven " (chap. 4:13, 23), as having been seen by Nebuchadnezzar. " Of the heavens reigning," being a truth that Nebuchadnezzar must learn (chap. 4:26).
It may be remarked, that it was a voice from heaven that pronounced Nebuchadnezzar's sentence (ver. 31), and not till he (Nebuchadnezzar) lifted up his eyes unto heaven did his understanding return to him (ver. 35), and he sought to honor the God of heaven (ver. 37).
Daniel charges Belshazzar with having lifted himself up against the Lord of heaven (chap. v. 23), and speaks of the vessels brought from Jerusalem as the vessels of the house of the Lord of Heaven.
Still heaven is not seen opened, nor the blessings and glories of it revealed.
Yet afterward (in chap. vii.) we do get, in the visions of Daniel, something more definitely connected with a scene in heaven, we get " the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him " (ver. 13).
Let the passage be read carefully:-
" I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."
Observe the evil is put down by the Ancient of Days, and then the Son of Man receives from Him, is invested by Him, the Ancient of Days, with a kingdom. He, the Son of Man, is seen upon the cloud; He is not seen before the Ancient of Days; all that is said is, " they brought Him near before Him."
heaven: and the tribes of the earth shall mourn and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory," etc. Compare also chap. 25:31, and part of the Lord's testimony to the high priest (26:64): " Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."
Jonah 1:99And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. (Jonah 1:9): " And he [Jonah] said unto them [the shipmaster and mariners], I am an Hebrew: and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which has made the sea and the dry land."
How humbling the sequel: " Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this?" They feared the Lord apparently more than His unfaithful servant and messenger.
It would have been easy to have classified the passages just given, according to a system more or less correct. But as I write upon the principle of "inquiry," and not of "teaching," I prefer to leave the testimony, just as it is; and to allow it to produce its own, or God's own, effect upon the conscience of each reader.
In conclusion, I would only add a few words by way of contrast between what was in olden time revealed, and what is revealed now unto us.
There is but one God, and He is the God of heaven; that is clear: but in Old Testament times He stood in certain positions in which He revealed a limited measure of His glory-that which pertained to the position in which for the time being He was working. It might be a creating, or in providence, or as setting Himself to govern a people who were upon earth. While He always acted worthily of Himself, it was, alas! in proportion as man in his subordinate position failed, that, the manifested glory of God being hidden, man was forced to look to the heavens to which God had retired.
There is not found, then, in the Old Testament, the God of heaven in all the fullness of His moral glory, yet, as a Man, come to see whether earth would welcome Him; there is not there found this same blessed Heavenly Man gone back into heaven-and when made Lord of all, calling from the heavens, by the preached word, and sending down the Spirit, and setting the door of heaven open upon His people that they might see by faith, and know that all heaven was theirs, and all the details of its blessedness, whether as to worship or government, position or inheritance. The sympathies of the heart of the Eternal God of heaven pouring out, through and from the heart of the Son of Man, the Lord of Glory in heaven, down to a suffering people in this world, is not presented in the Old Testament. The truth, amazing truth! that God, the God of heaven, with all that He is, and all that He has is ours, who believe in the Lord Jesus,- perfect Divine affection in a perfectly human heart,-all this, and more is found now in the heavenly calling, and in the mystery of which we are partakers. For God is now revealing Himself according to what He is and has as the God of heaven, the Father of the only Begotten Son, and heaven is opened upon us, as also the Father's heart is opened to us.
At some future time I may attempt to enter upon these things as taught in the heavenly calling and the mystery; at present I prefer commending to my readers the perusal of a paper entitled " Heaven, Vol. V., art. v. p. 58, of the Present Testimony, and commending them and it to God and the word of His grace. May they prove all things, and hold fast that which is truth!