•  3.7 hr. read  •  grade level: 7
“Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.”
This may surely be said, upon the reading of this deeply affecting story. Said, too, with peculiar fitness and fullness of truth, as though the thought of the Christian poet had been suggested by the tale of the inspired historian. The frown was specially dark and lowering, the smile behind it brilliantly beaming and happy. The veil was very thick, but the glory within very bright. The boastings of the Lord in His servant were above the noise of all the water-floods.
“The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower.”
This may as surely be the motto for the story also. For let us wait only for a little, and the fruit of the travail will be precious beyond all expectation. Very bitter indeed was the bud, but very sweet indeed was the flower. It had to ripen under the pruning of the sprigs and the taking away of the branches (Isa. 18:55For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches. (Isaiah 18:5)), but it tells, in the end, the skill and patience of its divine husbandman. I would, however, rather trace some of the principles of this beautiful book, than at the beginning more largely anticipate the moral of it.
Resurrection, called by the Lord “the power of God,” or, at least, one of the ways of that power (Matt. 22:2929Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. (Matthew 22:29)), has been made known, through different witnesses, and in various manners, from the very beginning. And connected as it is with redemption, the great principle of God’s way and the secret of His purposes, it must have been so.
It was intimated in the creation of the beautiful scene around us, for the world itself was called forth from the grave of the deep. The material was without form, and darkness was upon the face of it, but light was commanded to shine out of darkness, and beauty and order were caused to arise. (See Hebrews 11:33Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. (Hebrews 11:3).)
It declared itself in the formation of Eve. Then again in the earliest promise about the bruised Seed of the woman. It was kept in memory in Seth given in the place of Abel whom Cain slew; and then again in the line of the fathers before the flood. But still more illustriously was it published in Noah. “Everything in the earth shall die,” says the Lord to him, “but with thee will I establish my covenant,” in this way disclosing the secret that the earth was to be established according to the purpose of God, as in resurrection, stability, and beauty.
So, after these earlier fathers, Abraham was to have both a family and an inheritance on the same principle. He and his generations after him were taught resurrection in the mystery of the barren woman keeping house. The covenant blessing was linked with the risen family. Ishmael may get possessions, and promises too, but the covenant was with Isaac.
And more marvelously still, not to pause longer over other witnesses of it, we see resurrection in the blessed history of “the Word made flesh.” We might indeed have forejudged that it would have been otherwise. For in Christ, flesh was without taint. Here was a holy thing. But even of such we have now to say, “Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.” Christ known by us now is Christ in resurrection. And this is enough to let us know assuredly, that resurrection is the principle of all the divine action, and the secret of the covenant. (All orders of His creatures in all places of His dominions witness Him as the living God; but in the history of redeemed sinners He is witnessed as the living God in victory. This is His glory; and resurrection should be prized by us as the display of it. The sepulcher with the grave-clothes lying in order, and the napkin which had been about the head, are the trophies of such victory (John 20:6-76Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, 7And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. (John 20:6‑7)). The history of redeemed sinners celebrates Him this way. To hesitate about resurrection is to betray ignorance of God, and of the power that is His. (Read about it in Matthew 22:2929Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. (Matthew 22:29) and1 Cor. 15:3434Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. (1 Corinthians 15:34).) )
Faith in Resurrection
But resurrection has also been, from the beginning, an article of the faith of God’s people; and, being such, it was also the lesson they had to learn and to practice, the principle of their life; because the principle of a divine dispensation is ever the rule and character of the saints’ conduct. The purchase and occupation of the burying field at Machpelah, tell us that the Genesis—fathers had learned the lesson. Moses learned and practiced it, when he chose affliction with the people of God, having respect to the recompense of the reward. David was in the power of it, when he made the covenant, or resurrection—promise, all his salvation and all his desire, though his house, his present house, was not to grow (2 Sam. 23). The whole nation of Israel were taught it, again and again, by their prophets, and by-and-by they will learn it, and then witness it to the whole world, the dry bones living again, the winter-beaten teil tree flourishing again; for “what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” The Lord Jesus, “the Author and Finisher of faith,” in His day, I need not say, practiced this lesson to all perfection. And each of us, His saints and people, is set down to it every day, that we “may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.”
By the life of faith the elders obtained a good report. And so the saints in every age. For “without faith it is impossible to please Him”; that faith which trusts Him as a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, which respects the unseen and the future. They, of whom the world was not worthy, practiced the life of faith, the life of dead and risen people (Heb. 11). Stephen before the council tells us the same. Abraham, Joseph, and Moses, in his account, were great witnesses of this same life; and he himself, at that moment, after the pattern of his master, Jesus, was exhibiting the strength and virtues of it, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and apprehending, through the same Spirit, the brightest joys and glories of it (Acts 7).
Learning Resurrection Power
Now, I believe that the leading purpose of the Book of Job is to exhibit this. It is the story of an elect one, in early patriarchal days, a child of resurrection, set down to learn the lesson of resurrection. His celebrated confession tells us that resurrection was understood by him as a doctrine, while the whole story tells us that he had still to know the power of it in his soul. It was an article of his faith, but not the principle of his life.
And a sore lesson it was to him, hard indeed to learn and digest. He did not like (and which of us does like?) to take the sentence of death into himself, that he might not trust in himself, or in his circumstances in life, or his condition by nature, but in God who raises the dead. “I shall die in my nest,” was his thought and his hope. But he was to see his nest rifled of all with which nature had filled it, and with which circumstances had adorned it.
Such is, I believe, the leading purpose of the Spirit of God in this Book. This honored and cherished saint had to learn the power of the calling of all the elect, practically and personally, the life of faith, or the lesson of resurrection. And it may be a consolation for us, beloved, who know ourselves to be little among them, to read, in the records which we have of them, that all have not been equally apt and bright scholars in that school, and that all, in different measures, have failed in it, as well as made attainments in it.
How unworthily of it, for instance, did Abraham behave, how little like a dead and risen man, a man of faith, when he denied his wife to the Egyptian, and yet how beautifully did he carry himself, as such, when he surrendered the choice of the land to his younger kinsman. And even our own Apostle, the aptest scholar in the school, the constant witness of this calling to others, and the energetic disciple of the power of it in his own soul, in a moment when the fear of man brought with it a snare, makes this very doctrine the covert of a guileful thought (Acts 23:66But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. (Acts 23:6)).
Encouragements and consolations visit the soul from all this. Happy is it to know, that our present lesson, as those who are dead, and whose life is hid with Christ in God, has been the lesson of the elect from the beginning—that on many a bright and hallowed occasion they practiced that lesson to the glory of their Lord, that at times they found it hard, and at times failed in it. This tale of the soul is well understood by us. Only we, living in New Testament times, are set down to learn the same lesson in the still ampler page, and after the clearer method, in which it is now taught us in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Difference Between Righteous and Devoted
There is some difference, let me observe, nay, I would say, distance, between a righteous and a devoted man. No saint is a devoted one, who has not been practicing this lesson of which I have been speaking. The measure of his devotedness may be said to be according to his attainment in it, according to the energy he is exercising as a man dead and risen with Christ. At the beginning of this history, Job was a righteous man. He was spoken well of again and again, in the very face of his accuser. But he was not a devoted man. The whisper of his heart, as I noticed before, was this, “I shall die in my nest.” Accepted he was, as a sinner who knew his living and triumphant Redeemer, godly and upright beyond his fellows, but notwithstanding, as to the power that wrought in his soul, he was not a dead and risen man.
Such also, I might add, was Agur in the book of Proverbs. He was godly, and of a lowly, self-judging spirit. He makes a good confession of human blindness and pravity, of the unsearchable glories of God, the purity and preciousness of His word, and of the security of all who trust in Him (Prov. 30:1919The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid. (Proverbs 30:19)). He was a man of God, and walked in a good spirit. But he was not a devoted man. He did not know how to abound and how to suffer need. He dreaded poverty lest he should steal, and riches lest he should deny God. He was not prepared for changes. Neither was Job. But Paul was. He had surrendered himself to Christ, as they had not. According to the power that wrought in his soul, Paul was a dead and risen man. He was ready to be “emptied from vessel to vessel.” He was instructed both to be full and to be hungry. He could do all things through Christ strengthening him. (See that devoted man, that dead and risen man, in the closing chapters of Acts 20-28.) He is in the midst of a weeping company of brethren at Miletus, and in the bosom of a loving Christian household at Tire. But were those, the greenest spots on earth to a saint, where if anywhere, the foot of the mystic ladder is felt to rest, and the fond heart lingers and says, Let us make tabernacles here, able to detain him? No. Even there, the dear, devoted Apostle carried a heart thoroughly surrendered to Christ. “What mean ye,” says he, “to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” He would not be kept. And on from here he goes, along the coast of Syria up to Jerusalem, and then for two long years, apart from brethren, in perils by sea and land, under insults and wrongs, a single heart and devoted affection bearing him through all.
True Holiness
A good conscience alone is not up to all this. Mere righteousness will not take such a journey. There must be that singleness of eye to Christ, that principle of devotedness, which reckons upon death and resurrection with Jesus. Job was righteous, but he was not prepared for such shifting scenery as this. He loved the green spot and the feathered nest. Changes come, and changes are too much for him. But God, in the love with which He loved him, as his heavenly Father, puts him to school, to learn the lesson of a child of resurrection, to be a partaker of “His holiness,” the holiness not merely of a right or pure-minded man, but the holiness that suits the call of God, the holiness of a dead and risen man, one of the pilgrim family, one of God’s strangers in the world (Heb. 12:9-109Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. (Hebrews 12:9‑10)).
Job was chastened to be partaker of such a holiness as this. Not that trials and troubles, like his, are essential to the learning of this lesson. A very common method it is, indeed, with our heavenly Father, in His wisdom. But Paul set himself daily to practice that lesson, without the instructions of griefs and losses in either body or estate (Phil. 3). In the fervent laborings of the spirit within, he exercised himself in it every day. And so should we. We are to dread the Laodicean state, satisfaction with present condition or attainment. The Laodicean was not a Pharisee, or a self-righteous man of religion. He was a professor, it may be, of very correct notions and judgments, but in a spirit of self-complacency, he did not cherish increasing freshness and vigor in the ways of the Lord.
No Object Here on Earth
Arise, depart; for this is not your rest, says the Spirit by the prophet. And why? Why is it not to be our rest? “It is polluted,” he adds. He does not say it is sorrowful, it is disappointing, it is unsatisfying, but it is polluted. The quickened soul is to gather from the moral and not from the circumstances of the scene here, its reasons for cherishing within it the power of Christ’s resurrection. The dove outside the ark did not fear the snare of the fowler, but found no rest for the sole of her foot on the unpurged ground.
It is humbling to sit down and delineate what has been so poorly reached in personal power. But “a beauteous light” may be seen “from far,” and as such, some of us notice and hail the virtues of the risen life.
A dead and risen man will have neither his springs nor his objects here. His principles of action will be found in Christ, and his expectations in the coming kingdom. He is taken out of all the advantages and adornings of the flesh into the righteousness of God, and then, livingly and practically, is struggling up the hill, having, in spirit, left the low level of the world, abating the force of nature, and the fascination of nature’s circumstances, and taking the affections from things on earth to give them to those which are with Christ above. He has lost himself, but he has won Christ. He has taken leave of the course of the world which goes its rounds on the plain beneath, and is ascending after Jesus.
He lets the world know that it could never provide him with his object. In the midst of its kingdoms and delights he is a stranger still. And virtues and qualities of heart he practices that are of like divine excellence. He can, like his Master, hide the glory to which God has appointed him, and be nothing in the present scene. Abraham did not tell every Canaanite whom he chanced to meet, that he was the heir of the country. In the ears of the children of Heth he said, “I am a stranger and a sojourner with you.” He was content to be, and (what is still harder) to be thought to be, a homeless, houseless man. So David, another of the dead and risen family, when hunted and driven by the evil thing then in power, though the oil of Samuel was upon him, God’s own consecration to the throne, he did not publish it. That was the secret and the joy of faith. But he did not publish it. He did not traffic with it among men—he did not talk of himself in connection with that which the world could value. He was rather, in his own reckoning before men, no better than “a dead dog” or “a flea.”
Job Content With Circumstances
Oh, precious faith! Oh, holy and triumphant faith! But this was an elevation which Job had to reach. He was not, according to the power which wrought in his soul, of this generation. Not that his condition in life made him proud, or self-indulgent, or indifferent to others. But he valued his condition. With what eloquence does he describe it (Job 29). The minuteness with which he remembers it tells us with what fondness he had embraced it. The eloquence with which he describes it (and nothing can exceed that) betrays with what fervor of heart he had lingered over it, in the day of its bloom and beauty. He loved his condition and circumstances in life, his place, his character, his estimation, his dignities and praise among men. Godly he was, truly and admirably so. There was none like him in the earth. But his place in the earth was important to him. He was largely ready to communicate and to serve, but he communicated and served as a patron or a benefactor. And he desired continuance. “I shall multiply my days as the sand,” was his calculation. Consequently the great end of his trial, and the purpose of recording it. For this book gives us the story of a saint in patriarchal days, or rather, the story of his trials, trials through which he was to learn the common lesson, according to the common calling, that we are a dead and risen people. Job came, I believe, before Abraham, but he did not come before this lesson; for it had been taught, as we have seen, from the beginning; Adam and Abel, and the line of Seth through Enoch and Noah, had already practiced it. And Job, after them, is set down to the same lesson, only engraven in somewhat deeper and darker lines.
Job Learning Through Trial
Such, generally, I believe, was Job, and such his history. A solitary saint he was; at least, not linked with dispensational arrangements, or with the peculiar covenanted family, and before the call of God was manifested in the person of Abraham. This, however, adds exceeding value to the Book. For it is a witness of the religion of God’s people in the most detached and independent condition. Time and place do not connect him with the ecclesiastical order or course of things at all. But still, the faith of the elect of God was his faith, their truths his truths, their calling his calling, their hopes his hopes. We have Adam, and Seth, and Noah, and Shem, and Job, and Abraham, Moses, Prophets, Apostles, and ourselves, until the number of the elect is accomplished, learning the joy and the song of redemption. As we sometimes sing together,
“Then shall countless myriads, wearing
Robes made white in Jesus’ blood,
Palms (like rested pilgrims) bearing,
Stand around the throne of God.
These, redeemed from every nation,
Shall in triumph bless His Name;
Every voice shall cry,
‘Salvation To our God and to the Lamb.’”
Not only, however, the substance or materials, but the very style of the Book is in the analogy of the whole inspired volume. It does not teach doctrines formally, after the method of a science; it rather assumes them, or lets them publish themselves incidentally. Even in the epistles this is the common way. The great revelation of doctrines made there comes out, more commonly, in the way of either enforcing results, or in answer to inquiries, or in defense of truth against gainsayers or corrupters. So in this book doctrines are assumed, or delivered incidentally; the more direct object, as I have suggested, being this—to exhibit a soul set to learn, through trials and sorrows, the common lesson, the power of our calling, that our hopes are neither in the world, nor from the flesh, but in living scenes, with Jesus, beyond all that is here.
Common Troubles
And deeply affecting as a narrative of trying and sorrowing events it surely is, for the events themselves are deeply touching. But they are all ordinary, or such as are “common to man.” Robbers carry off his oxen and asses. Lightning destroys his flocks. A high wind blows down his house, and kills his children. And, at last, a sore disease breaks out on his body from head to foot.
Each of these might have happened to his ungodly neighbor, as well as to him. In the mere matter of these afflictions, there was nothing that distinguished him as a child of God. They were not the sufferings of righteousness from the hand of man, the sufferings of a martyr. They were such as were “common to man.” But still they were all under the exactest inspection and admeasurement of his heavenly Father, all in the way of appointment and of discipline flowing from heavenly interests, and divine relationships. And all, too, the result of great transactions in heaven. For Satan had been there, accusing Job, and the Lord had been boasting of him; and the Lord had licensed Satan to go against Job, with a quiver full of arrows, but had appointed him his measure and rule.
And this is very comforting. For many a child of God is troubled, in the day of affliction, with the thought that his trial is commonplace, and no witness at all that he is not “as other men.” But such trouble is mistaken. In the shape or material of the affliction, the believer may be just in company with other men, it is true. The same storm on the distant sea, or the same disease at home, may have bereaved them alike; but faith takes account of the relationship with God, and of the interest which all that concerns a poor saint awakens in heaven.
Great Participants in the Divine Figure
In the wisdom of God, in the construction of this beautiful story (true as I know it to be in every incident that it records), it is made to introduce all the great actors in the divine mystery, and to reveal the great truths which form the common faith of the elect.
This is much to be prized; for this declares the perfect harmony of all, even the most distant and independent, portions of the oracles of God. Accordingly, we see engaged in the action of this book the angels who minister to the divine pleasure; Satan the great adversary; the elect sinner whose faith is cast into the furnace; his brethren in the faith; the minister of God in the energy of the Holy Spirit; and the Lord God Himself.
These are the actors in the wondrous scenery of this book; so that while the action itself is simply the trial of a saint, it is so constructed as to bring forth all these great agents and energies, the very same with which our souls are conversant to this hour, occupied, also, in the ways and places which the whole of Scripture assigns to them. And it is a matter of the richest interest to our souls to trace this.
The Angels
So the angels or “sons of God” are here seen for a moment or two, but exactly in the place and action which the general consent of all Scripture gives them. They are in attendance on the Lord in heaven, as those who had been forth, and were ready again to go forth, in the service of His good pleasure. For the whole Word thus bears witness to them. They are “ministering spirits,” “ministers of His that do His pleasure.” They are His hosts on high, and the Lord Himself is among them. Gabriel stands in His presence. The seraphim attend His throne, and they are winged, either to veil their faces and their feet before the divine majesty, or to fly, like the wind, to execute the divine commands. All this is told of the angels throughout Scripture, and here the heavens are opened for a moment, and all this is seen and heard.
So as to Satan. This book is in strictest analogy with the whole volume. “Messengers of Satan” go forth from the presence of God, as well as Gabriel and the hosts. “Lying spirits” as well as “ministering spirits” take their journey and their commission from there. He goes about, says an apostle, seeking whom he may devour; as here, he says of himself, that he had been up and down, and to and fro, in the earth. Another apostle tells us, that he, with his principalities and powers, is in heavenly places; and here we find him among the sons of God, in the presence of God. And again; he desired to have all the apostles, that he might sift them as wheat, put them to the proof of what they were; and so here as to Job. Satan is elsewhere called “the accuser of the brethren,” and here he is heard as such. He is the tormentor of this servant of God, as Scripture generally presents him; but, as Scripture also testifies, his action is under the limitations and sovereignty of God. Jesus, God manifest in the flesh, as He walked in the land of Israel, gave him his measure (Mark 5); and so Elohim from the throne does here, and the eye of the Seer and the voice of the Prophet assign him also exactly this place and action. Read about it in 1 Kings 22 and Zechariah 3. (The children of light should reckon upon the attempts of the powers of darkness against them. A sudden moment of conflict should not therefore surprise us. For we are set to be the scene or theater of their defeat by Christ. “It is our illumination” that exposes us. That is its proper natural operation. The more we are in the light, I may say, the more exposed we are. It was Adam’s creature-beauty, Job’s memorial with God, and the Apostle’s attachment to Christ that laid them open to Satan.)
But let me add, that a “messenger of Satan” may be sent forth from the presence of God upon either the flesh or the heart of man. An evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, and a lying spirit came upon the prophets of Ahab. (See 1 Sam. 16; 1 Kings 22). The Lord was beginning solemn acts of judgment, and therefore, these messengers of Satan were sent forth upon the heart of those who were righteously under judgment. But other messengers of Satan reach only the body or circumstances, as in the case of Paul and of our patriarch. And this is discipline merely, and not judgment.
A Common School
These analogies are as strict and literal as they can be. And further—for it is edifying to trace this still—we find the patriarch in one school with the distant apostle of the Gentiles—so richly does one Spirit breathe through the whole volume. We are in the last chapters of 2 Corinthians, when reading the first chapters of the book of Job! We have the “thorn in the flesh,” “the messenger of Satan,” in both Job and Paul.
Bitter Controversy With Friends
Then, as to Job and his friends, or the elect one whose faith is cast into the furnace, and his brethren in the faith. A very principal part of this patriarchal story is made up, as we commonly know, of the controversies that arose between them. Bitter and heated they were, in something more than the ordinary measure. But such things are still, and have been in every age.
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were friends and brethren indeed, though they proved to be but “miserable comforters.” They came to Job when all had deserted him, children mocking him, young men pushing away his feet, his kinsfolk failing him, his inward friends forgetting him, his servants giving him no answer, and his wife refusing him, though he entreated for their children’s sake. They were true-hearted friends, who said that they would go and comfort their afflicted brother. And they did go; and they sat with him in his place of ashes and potsherds for seven days.
But they fell out by the way. Sad to tell it, but so it was; not strange to tell it, for so has it ever been, and so is it still. So early as the times of Abraham’s herdmen and Lot’s herdmen, this stands on record. Joseph had to say to his brethren, “See that ye fall not out by the way.” Moses knew the trial of the camp even beyond that of the wilderness, as he went from Egypt to the Jordan. It was of His own that Jesus in His day had to say, How long shall I be with you and suffer you? And Paul counted “the care of all the churches” the heaviest thing that came upon him.
Variety of temper, different measures of attainment, the quality of the light and the form of the kingdom in us, if I may so express it, will occasion collision and trial, even where there is nothing morally wrong. But from whatever cause it is, so is it still, and so has it been from the days of Job and his friends, that we form a great part of each other’s trial. The Lord sits over it all, refining His silver and purifying His gold, but still so it is, that we help to heat each other’s furnace for the trial of faith.
Wrong Emphasis
Nothing, perhaps, has been a more common source of this falling out by the way, than the holding of favorite religious opinions, or an undue, dis-proportioned estimation of certain doctrines or points of truth. And this was the case here. Job prized certain points of truth, and his friends had their favorites also. But each “knew but in part,” and darkened the perfect counsels of God. And by reason of this, they fell out by the way. Job, sorely afflicted by stroke upon stroke, insisted on it, that God acted arbitrarily; and having a right to do as He pleased, did so. His friends would have it, that God dealt retributively, and that therefore His way with Job convicted Job of some unconfessed iniquity. Their doctrines also very much savored of human thoughts; they were not refined from the lees of man’s religiousness. They drew much from the traditions of the elders, and from their own experiences and observations. They accredited that false though favorite axiom in the morals of the world, that “honesty is the best policy.” “Who ever perished, being innocent? Or where were the righteous cut off?” is the challenge which their religion published. “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. But He is of one mind, and who can turn Him?” is the counsel of his heart. They insinuate that if all were told, nothing would be too bad for him; and he reproaches them, in the contempt and bitterness of a wounded spirit, and an insulted character. “No doubt ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.”
Such was the strife of words, the bickering and debate, among them; as sad a sample of falling out by the way as has ever been known, I may say, among brethren.
Elihu’s Light From God
Elihu, in whom was a “manifestation of the Spirit,” at length enters the scene, bringing the light of God to make manifest these forms of darkness. He had listened to the discourses and controversies of these brethren, but in modesty and reserve, as became his years, in the presence of ancient men, he had before then held his peace. He waited until a multitude of days, which should know wisdom, and speak of understanding, had delivered sentence of truth. But now he speaks. The stirrings of the Spirit constrain him. He is silent while it is a question between himself and them, but he does not dare surrender the rights of the Spirit in him. He cannot respect any man’s person now. In Job’s day, God chose the weak thing, as He has done ever since. Elihu was but a youth. Timothy was the same. But the ancient men had failed. The stone of help lies in another stripling of Bethlehem. For, from beginning to end it must be known, that the good that is done upon the earth, He does Himself. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” Eliphaz and his companions shall not have it to say, “We have found out wisdom”; for “God thrusteth him down, not man,” said Elihu of Job.
Job was to be rebuked. He had argued the arbitrariness of the divine hand in dealing with man, and, accounting for his present sufferings in that way, he was so far “righteous in his own eyes.” Elihu shows that this was not so; that all was the holy discipline of One who, knowing the end from the beginning, ever counsels the best for His people. Nor will he, like the others, draw either from himself, or from the elders or fathers. He will not, in the way of human religiousness, bow to any names or traditions, however venerated, but, led of the Spirit, press on in the path where the light of God shines.
Elihu will not join in laying to Job’s charge what his conscience truthfully resisted. But he will tell Job that the thoughts of conscience are not to rule his judgment, or dictate his speeches; that he should rather have allowed the divine wisdom in all this sore discipline, than concluded on the divine arbitrariness in it, just because conscience was clear. He tells Job this should have been his word—“Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more: that which I see not, teach Thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.”
“A mighty maze,” philosophy will say, “but not without a plan.” “God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain,” a Christian poet will say. And a true and beautiful thought that is. But inspired wisdom counsels and teaches this way— “Although thou sayest thou shalt not see Him, yet judgment is before Him; therefore trust thou in Him” (Job 35:1414Although thou sayest thou shalt not see him, yet judgment is before him; therefore trust thou in him. (Job 35:14)). For we are to know that purposes of wisdom and goodness rule every event, though another day has so to declare it. “Judgment” is ever “before Him,” as Elihu says. And God is to be justified in the thoughts of His children now, as He will be in the face of heaven and earth by-and-by (Matt. 11:1919The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. (Matthew 11:19); Psa. 51:44Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. (Psalm 51:4). Psa. 50:44He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. (Psalm 50:4)).
Job’s Soul Begins to Bow
Such a one was Elihu. And it is a circumstance full of meaning and of moral beauty, that Job does not answer him, as he had the others. Elihu invited him to speak if he would. But he had a moral sense, a conscience in the Holy Spirit, that witnessed to the authority with which this minister of the Spirit spoke. Very precious this is. How often, how common, among the saints, is this! Yes, and even beyond their borders, at times, the like authority is felt. How often has the presence of a holy man controlled the ungodly. The multitudes in the villages of Israel, after this manner, owned the Lord at times. They “were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them, as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” And the want of this is painful. Have we not often, beloved, been grieved to see the heart and understanding of others unmoved by that which has come to our own souls with all the authority of truth, and in the freshness of the divine unction? But Job gives us not this pain. And a man very dear to the saints he is, as he was to the blessed Lord who was afflicting him like this. Elihu had spoken to him in the Spirit, and his soul bowed to the authority of his word. He could not treat Elihu as he had treated Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. He may not be as yet humbled, but he cannot be angry; he may not as yet make confession, but he will not reply. The Spirit of God in the ministry of His servant had entered the scene and Job will at least be silent. (The knowledge of truth alone will never ensure happy or profitable ministry. If we draw merely from our stores or possessions of knowledge, we shall find ourselves confounded. The freshness of the Spirit in us, and the exercise of our gift under Him, at the time of ministry, are also needful.)
The Voice of God
The Lord, however, is He that teacheth to profit. There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God that worketh all in all. Paul plants, and Apollos waters, but it is God that giveth the increase. And, in analogy with these truths, the action of this beautiful book proceeds. The voice of God from the whirlwind makes the testimony of the gifted minister effectual to the conscience and heart of Job. In a series of challenges as to natural things, that voice, mighty and yet gracious, addresses him. It has been said, by those competent to entertain such inquiries that nothing in the whole compass of language can equal, much less surpass, the inimitable grandeur and sublimity of this address. And we can all see that it does that which it belongs to divine power to do—the complainant is humbled. “I know that Thou canst do everything.” He confesses to Him whose mighty hand could exalt him in due time, and, after he had suffered awhile, was well able to strengthen, settle, and establish him (1 Peter 5).
Learning God’s Rights
It was not the lesson of a sinner which Job had to learn. He knew already the grace of God. It was the lesson of a saint he needed to be taught, or taught more perfectly. It is for this, therefore, that the Lord seats Himself in the whirlwind. Had Job then, and for the first time, to learn the lesson of a sinner, the Lord would rather have addressed him in “the still small voice,” the tone which suits grace, and in which it seeks and delights to be heard. But Job was already a saved sinner. He knew already the grace, but had as yet to be taught the rights, of God. And therefore the voice from the whirlwind. For the saint has to count on such apparent roughness as the sinner never gets. John was left in prison, when every sickness and disease among the people was attended to. The Lord, in His walks of mercy and of usefulness to all who needed Him, may often have passed near the prison doors, but He did not open them, as He could have done, though He was, all the while, giving sight to the blind, and hearing to the deaf. Was it that John was loved the less? No. Among them that were born of woman there was none like him. And was it that Job was loved the less, because he was addressed out of the whirlwind? No. There was none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man. But already knowing the grace of God, he was now to learn and own His rights. And he does learn them, and confesses them. And he confesses them, and bows to them, before the pressure of the mighty hand was removed, and while as yet it was heavy upon him. That is much to be observed, much to be prized. For that is a beautiful witness, that Job had learned the lesson indeed, learned it spiritually, learned it in the grace and energy of divine teaching. It is easy and common to own the good of a chastisement when it is over, and then to say, I would not have been without it. That is not above the reach of nature. But while the burden is still borne, to vindicate and bless the hand that lays it on, that is something more. While as yet he lay in the place of ashes and potsherds, and sore boils tormented his body from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, Job said, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer Thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.”
Such was the moral, and such the issue, of this simple but important action. A lesson had to be taught a child of God. Human wisdom, and religion too, sets itself to teach it, but betrays its own weakness and dishonor. A minister of the Spirit, in the light of the Lord, rebukes the thought of man, exposing the wise and the scribe and the disputer of this world, and applying the principles of the truth of God. And the power of Him who works all in all seals the instruction. Human and divine energies are thus displayed in the places and characters which belong to them, the one abased, and the other magnified.
The Place of the Book of Job in Scripture
Such are the actors in the scene of this wondrous book—angels, Satan, the tried saint, and his brethren, the minister of God in the energy of the Spirit, and the Lord Himself. They hold the place, and do the deeds, which, as we have now seen, all Scripture assigns them respectively.
This book, as I observed before, is an independent book. The most so, I may add, of any in the inspired volume. In the progress of revelation it intimates nothing before it, nor does any other part of that revelation find it necessary to it. Job’s history is not linked with that of the people of God, nor does it advance, in any way, the manifestation of the purposes of God. But stranger and foreigner as it is, it speaks exactly the same language. The same Spirit breathes here the same light shines here. And this is so, not only in the ease of those who are introduced as actors in the scenes, but also in the truths and doctrines assumed or asserted. The corruption of nature as found in the seed of Adam—the value of a sacrifice as a propitiation with God—a coming day of judgment—resurrection and life—these are among the common thoughts here. But more beautiful and striking than all is the knowledge it takes of the person and duty of the Kinsman, a mystery well known in Scripture, and, throughout Scripture, largely though silently referred to, when too commonly not perceived—a mystery which shadows all the great truths that are characteristic of the work of our redemption.
Nourished and Cherished
This subject is too great to be fully considered here, even had I the grace and light to do so. But it is so happy a one, and suggested by our patriarch’s well-known confession of his faith, that I cannot altogether pass it by.
Our apostle says, “No man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it.” A necessary way of nature is here assumed, and assumed with approval, by the Spirit of God. That regard to one’s self which each one of us is ready enough to render, is divinely sanctioned. And then, on this very principle of nature, the apostle goes on to put the Lord’s nurture of the Church. “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church; for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.” Christ is declared to act towards us on this instinctive verdict of nature that a man is to love his own body. The Holy Spirit, through the apostle, would let our hearts embrace this joy that the force of this first law of nature is felt by Christ towards us, and the duty it imposes is owned by Him. So that if I can understand my love for myself, I may understand Christ’s love to me. The duty I owe myself is acknowledged by my Lord as due by Him to me. He can but nourish and cherish me, as I would nourish and cherish myself.
Can any thought, I ask, respecting the place into which the love of the Son of God has brought Him surpass this? Can the imagination form the idea of a more intense and devoted affection? Impossible. If it could, Christ would embody it, and His Spirit would reveal it, for His love “passeth knowledge.” But it cannot.
But though this may be the most marvelous expression of this love, yet there is another of the same character. There is another duty owed on the like claims of nature, which in like manner has been adopted and acknowledged by the Lord—the duty of kindred or natural relations.
Our Kinsman Before God
The Lord, the Son of God, became our Kinsman. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same.” And He became this Kinsman that He might do for the children the duties and services of a Kinsman. And what these duties are, and how the Lord has answered and discharged them, we are told in Scripture.
One principal duty was, to ransom a brother or his inheritance, if such or either had been sold.
Now such a sold or forfeited condition is ours by nature, under the ruins of Adam. Forfeiture of everything is the simple idea that holds our natural condition in the just light. We have forfeited life, and with it all things, by the breach of those terms on which we held life, and with it all things. We have incurred the debt of death. “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” Adam did eat, and this law demanded death. We sold ourselves under that sentence, and to that penalty, and were debtors to die the death. But our Kinsman has paid the price. Jesus died. He has counted out the money to the uttermost farthing. In the language of the law, eye has gone for eye, life for life, blood for blood. We have not been redeemed by corruptible things as silver and gold, but by the precious blood of Christ. The value of that blood was well tried. The blood of bulls and of goats was not rich enough. It would not do, it could not do. But “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God,” tells us that He was satisfied who exacted, and could not but exact, the full ransom or redemption-price.
And now we and our inheritance stand repurchased by our Kinsman.
This is the very principal in the great services of Christ for us. It is largely noticed and foreshadowed by the law (Lev. 25), but it was understood from the beginning. For sacrifice or vicarious offering proceeded on this principle. And that was made known upon the entrance of sin, or act of forfeiture. The coat of skin which covered Adam bore witness that he stood in the value of a ransom, that the virtue of One who had met the demand of God against him was now upon him.
But this is full of blessing—that the great mystery of the Kinsman or Redeemer was known (published by the Lord, and believed by the sinner) before the law had shadowed it, or prophets proclaimed it. (The same Hebrew word signifies kinsman, redeemer, and avenger.)
Our Kinsman Against Our Enemy
Another of these duties was this—to rescue or deliver a brother taken captive.
In the previous case of ransom or repurchase, the Kinsman had to deal with a rightful claimant, and to answer his demands. His brother or his brother’s inheritance had been sold, and had to be repurchased at a price well and justly ascertained, according to the law of estimations. But this duty of rescuing or delivering a brother is different. Here the Kinsman has to do with a stranger or a foe; and by counterforce, or the strength of a stronger arm, to perform this service.
But this, also, is our natural condition, our state under the ruins of the fall. And this character of Kinsman-service, the Son of God, partaker of our flesh and blood, renders us.
In this, however, His dealing is with our enemy. In the previous case of repurchase He dealt with God, answering His righteous demands for us: here, He answers the enemy for us. For while it is true that we had, through disobedience, incurred the debt of death, the forfeiture of life and all things, so as to need a ransom, it is also true that we had suffered wrong at the hand of the Serpent, out of the results of which, in bondage or captivity to the powers of darkness and corruption, our Redeemer or Kinsman delivers us.
It was in this action that the Lord, in the days of His flesh, went through the cities and villages of Israel. As the stronger man He had then entered the strong man’s house, spoiling his goods, and unloosing his prisoners. And He will finish such work, and perfect His way as the Kinsman-deliverer, when He, as the plague of death and hell’s destruction, rescues His sleeping saints. Then will take place the redemption of the purchased possession. (See Eph. 1:1414Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:14).)
And again I may say, Happy is it to know that this way of Christ, this work of our great Kinsman, was also known in patriarchal days. When Abraham heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, and brought again his brother Lot and his goods (Gen. 14). Five kings may fight with four in the vale of Siddim, the potsherds of the earth may strive with their fellows; all this, in one sense, is no concern of the heavenly stranger, though his tent may be pitched in the neighborhood. But the way of Christ, which becomes the principle of conduct to His people, is everything to him—and that way must have been then known, the service of the Kinsman-deliverer must have been then quite understood among the elect household, for as soon as Abraham hears of Lot, he is all action in a moment, and goes forth for the rescue of his captured brother.
A kindred duty with this was, to avenge the blood of a murdered brother, or relative.
This duty was recognized by the law, and kept in memory all through the times of the nation. The ordinance touching the cities of refuge was a relief against the abuse of it; and the famous parable of the woman of Tekoah assumed the fact, that the whole system in Israel took knowledge of it.
But, like the others, it was older than the law and the prophets. Notices of Christ and His ways and His doings for us were the earliest manifestations of the mind of God. Happy for our hearts to know this; And, accordingly, this Kinsman-duty had been prescribed in very early days. When the sword was committed to Noah, it was published. “At the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” But it was understood as a divine principle even before then. Cain trembled before this law, which, as his words intimate, must have then been known everywhere (Gen. 4:1414Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. (Genesis 4:14)). It was, indeed, a part of the very first promise. “It shall bruise thy head” announced it. For that sentence told the Serpent, that man’s Kinsman, the Woman’s Seed, would avenge on him the wrongs done by him upon the family. And this duty Christ will perform when He casts the old Serpent, “which is the Devil and Satan,” with death and hell, into the lake of fire. (The Kinsman delivering and the Kinsman avenging deals with an enemy or a wrong-doer, and not, as in the case of repurchasing, with a righteous claimant. There is, however, this difference: in the case of delivering, the Kinsman only rescues his brother or relative out of the hand of the enemy; in the case of avenging, he visits the blood of his brother or relative upon the head of the enemy. Christ will deliver us from the hand of death at the beginning of the kingdom (1 Cor. 15:5454So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:54)), He will avenge us upon the head of death at the close of the kingdom according to 1 Corinthians 15:2626The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:26).)
Kinsman From the Beginning
Such are among the duties which a Kinsman, according to the mind and reckoning of the Lord, owed, and such is the glorious performance of them by our great Kinsman. And wondrous is it to be entitled to write of Him like this! Wondrous that the necessary and instinctive dictates of nature are suggested by the Holy Spirit as the ground, warrant, and character of the love of Christ to the saints! That, as I said before, whatever nature tells me I owe myself, that Christ tells me He owes me; and now, I may add, whatever nature tells me my kindred owe me, that also Christ tells me He owes me. And again I ask, Can any thought respecting the place into which the love of the Son of God has brought Him, surpass this? Can the imagination form the idea of a more intense and devoted affection?
The Son of God became our Kinsman for the very end of performing all these Kinsman-services for us. Hebrews 2, I believe, tells us that. And these duties and services embody all the great materials in the mystery of redemption. And, as we have now seen, they have been made known from the beginning. Jesus did not wait until the law presented Him, in its shadows or swaddling-clothes, to the faith and joy of poor sinners. The law afterward gave the things concerning Him a tabernacle, but those things had been made known from the beginning. The fourth day, in the course of creation, brought forth the Sun, which then became the tabernacle of the light, but the light had been abroad through the scene, the light had been shining, from the earliest moment of the first day. Jesus was known in the garden of Eden, and borne on the breath of the very first promise. And cheering this is to our spirits—happy to track these notices of the common faith, these thoughts and truths of God and His covenant, all along the line of the ages, linking the most distant hearts of the elect in the fellowship of one joy, and giving them one song forever and ever.
Among the saints of the earlier days, our Job knew Him in this great character of Kinsman or Redeemer. As rescuing him from the power of death, or from captivity to the grave and corruption, Job celebrates Him. It is a scripture well known, and much delighted in by the saints. And well may it be so. All that ushers it forth to our hearing, and all that sustains and accompanies it while we listen to it, give it an uncommon character.
Knowing the Redeemer
“Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! that they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”
What an apprehension of Christ in both His person and His work is here! It is the faith and hope of our Gospel. Job knew he had a Redeemer, a Redeemer then living, and thereafter to stand upon the earth manifested in flesh, and that this Redeemer would achieve for him a glorious victory over the power of death, and strength of corruption. And all this fine apprehension of Christ is accompanied with the simplest appropriating faith.
“Whom I shall see for myself,” says Job, “and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.” This is the confidence of Paul. This is the liberty that is befitting the full revelation of the grace of God. Paul and Job, in like spirit, knew the glorious redemption, and knew it for themselves. “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
And what fervency is this with which the Holy Spirit enables the patriarch to set his seal to all this precious confession of his faith! Job would have all men know, and every generation of them, he would publish it far and wide, he would tell it out without a fear that he should ever have to cancel a letter of it, he would engrave it for eternity and have it leaded in the rock, that he knew his Redeemer!
God’s Doings for Us
What “light of the Lord” was this in which the Patriarch walked! “O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” Job walked there long before the house of Jacob, or the prophets of Israel, knew of it. The light was abroad, and the Spirit led the elect into it, from the beginning. And this occasion, recorded in Job 19, was a moment when that light beamed brightly in Job’s soul. His face did not then, like Stephen’s, shine as an angel’s in the presence of his accusers. He had not, in that way, put on the garments of a child of resurrection, but his spirit within was in the regions and liberty and triumph of such a one.
This visitation, in the energy of the Holy Spirit, drawing forth this blessed utterance from the heart of the patriarch, was the bow in the cloud for a moment. It shared the path of Job’s spirit with the grief and heaviness that it knew so well—as Jeremiah’s vision by night, and the Mount of Transfiguration, broke the dreary way of the weeping prophet, and of the adorable “Man of sorrows” (Jer. 31:2626Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me. (Jeremiah 31:26); Matt. 17:22And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. (Matthew 17:2)). It was the Spirit’s power. The poor sufferer was made to look away from God’s dealings with him to His doings for him. For there is a difference. The one calls the soul into exercise, and often are too unwieldy, beyond the management of our hearts. Very generally they need an interpreter. The other takes the soul into entire liberty. They are so plain that a child may read them. They bear their own meaning on their forehead. They need no interpreter. God’s providences, or His dealings with us, are often perplexing, as well as tenderly afflicting. God’s grace in the Gospel, or His doings for us, are such as cannot either puzzle the thoughts or grieve the heart. They bear their own witness, and tell a tale of devoted, everlasting love, such as it is impossible to mistake.
And these are the things we have to do with, every day.
If we are oppressed or fatigued by the current course of circumstances, finding them weighty, dark, and intricate, it is our privilege, and our duty too, to pass over, in spirit and in thought, to that calm and sunny atmosphere in which the Gospel, or God’s doings for us, ever invest the soul.
All this may be seen in Job. That loved and honored saint is generally seen grappling with God’s dealings with him. The hand of God had gone out upon all his interests and enjoyments. Loss of fortune, children, and health, had come, by sore surprise, upon him, and he persists, in the heat and resentment of nature, to keep all this before his mind. But in a moment of the Spirit’s power he is made to look away from all this, to turn from God’s dealings with him to God’s doings for him; and then he triumphs. Then he can contemplate more than the boils on his body, even the worms destroying it; but all is light and triumph. Then, in the face of all enemies, he can sit and sing in spirit, “If God be for me, who can be against me?” (Rom. 8).
Truly blessed is this. The tempter would lead us to judge of God by the dark shadings of many a passage of our history here. But the Spirit would have us acquaint ourselves with Him in the beauteous light of the Gospel, the glory that shines in the face of Jesus Christ; and there is light there and no darkness at all—no shadows which have to be chased away, no dimness that needs to be interpreted.
But this rather by the way—I have already traced certain combinations between this earliest and most independent portion of the book of God and all other parts of it, whether near or distant. And very establishing to the heart this is. But such combinations or harmonies may be traced still further—in the scenes of action, as well as in the actors in the scenes.
The “World” and the “World to Come”
There are also “this present evil world,” and “the world to come.” At the opening of the action the scene is laid in this present evil world. It is but domestic, but all the features of the great world are seen in it. For each family circle, like every heart, is a little world. Indulgence and the love of enjoyment appear in the children, and something of the common “enmity against God” in the wife of our patriarch. Then, again, there are natural calamities, as from wind and fire and disease; and there are relative calamities, as from the hand of our neighbor or fellow-men, as Sabeans and Chaldeans. And all this is the various casualty of life and human circumstance to this hour. There is stroke upon stroke, messenger after messenger, turning over every page of the history. It is but human life then instead of now, but the same life in its losses, crosses, and sore contradictions. There is a little reality, a little of the “friend in need” who “is a friend indeed,” but there is a great deal of scorn and desertion in the hour of calamity, still so well known in the world. Job has three friends who sit with him among his ashes and potsherds, but all beside see him afar off. Is not all this “the present evil world” drawn to the life?
But at the close of the action, the scene is laid in “the world to come,” God’s world and not man’s, the world which His energies are to form, and His principles are to fill. It is the time of refreshing and restitution. In Job 42, we are, in spirit, in the millennium. The Holy Spirit gives us this account of it. “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord,” are the words which introduce His allusion to “the patience of Job,” and to “the end of the Lord.” The husbandman toils in hope, and gets his fruit in harvest, or in resurrection. And so did Job endure, until, at last, he that sowed reaped. The 42nd chapter is the harvest of the husbandman (James 5:7-117Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. 10Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 11Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (James 5:7‑11)).
The Language of Repentance
And happy, I may say, is this further witness to the value which a spirit of confession and repentance has with our God, beloved. As it is written, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit”; and again, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins.” For I doubt not, that it was to Job’s few words of confession and repentance that the Lord referred when He turned to the friends and told them, that they had not spoken of Him the thing that was right, like His servant Job. They had not made confession at the end, as he had done. And let us cherish this assurance. There are comfort and strength in it. The language of repentance prevails. “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself,” says Jehovah—and then came the divine compassion: “Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still.” Or, as we may learn from Hosea, words of confession and repentance from Israel, in the latter day, mightily prevail with God. “O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously.” “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely,” is the divine answer, with a rich and beautiful chapter of promises.
Flourishing Again
The consolation of this! The tale it tells us of grace, unwearied, long-suffering grace! And accordingly Job flourishes again. The Lord is as the dew to him. He grows as the lily, his branches spread, his beauty is as the olive tree, his scent as Lebanon. In “the end of the Lord” he is seen as “in the regeneration,” or day of the kingdom, and even others dwell under his shadow, reviving as the corn, and growing as the vine. Read about it in Hosea 14. (I do not regard Job so much as a type, but rather as a sample. His calling was the common calling, as a dead and risen man. Every saint, now gathering for heavenly glory, is such. Israel in the latter day will be as such, and the whole system of the millennial age. The Lord Jesus holds all things, and exercises His offices, as the One that was dead and is alive again. But I judge it to be more fitting to speak of Job as a sample of the common calling, than as a type. I could not, however, object to the expression, were it used by others.)
Job learned his lesson through sufferings. The Lord, I may say, did the same. Hebrews 2, 4, 5. He was made perfect for His high functions in that way. Christ’s compassions could not have been priestly, until He became a man, partaker of the flesh and blood of the children, and suffered as such. And Job’s history may be read as the expression or foreshadowing of all this.
So Israel. They will be as a people who, having destroyed themselves, have found their help in God. Hosea presents them in that character. Their language in Hosea 14 is the language of such a people. And Job’s history may be regarded as the expression or foreshadowing of this also. He revives, he grows again as the lily, and his branches spread, at the end, as Israel and Israel’s branches will, according to their prophet. So that we may speak of Job as a type. But I still feel and judge it to be more fitting, to present him as a sample of us all, in the common faith, as dead and risen with Christ.
Full Trust in God
Such was our Patriarch in “the end of the Lord.” Another witness he is that the burning bush is never consumed, because of the good-will of Him who dwells in it. It may be Israel in Egypt, or in Babylon, the children in the furnace, or the prophet in the den. It may be a poor elect Gadarene, beset with a legion, or the patriarch, the sport of wind and fire and bodily disease, of Chaldeans and Sabeans too, the power and messengers of Satan let out upon him, still the burning bush is unconsumed for the goodwill of Him who dwells in it. “We had the sentence of death in ourselves,” says the apostle, as speaking in the name of them all, “that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead.”
Such a one was our Patriarch. And such a one he had learned himself to be. In the school of God he had now learned his calling, as in the experience of his own soul. But a great lesson it is. A great difference, I am full sure, between having God in the midst of our circumstances, and God as Himself the first and great circumstance. The first was Job’s way at the beginning. He would not have been without God. He owned Him, and gave Him an altar in the family scene. But he had not said to Him, Thou shalt choose our inheritance for us. He had not, as Abram did afterward, come out from circumstances with God, trusting Him to surround him with His own circumstances. The power to do this cries, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” For such was the utterance of a saint when his soul had come forth from the tempest and temptation of seeing himself second to the wicked in the conditions and circumstances of life here (Psa. 73).
The Great Secret of Job
What a voice this truth has for us! Some may listen to it for comfort, others of us of feebler faith for warning. The world and pride and selfishness form the circumstances out of which the call of God summons us; and religion, in a sense, may have brought God into them; but faith, in its simplicity, forms the other, and God has not to be brought into them, for He is there from the beginning, the great Framer or Artificer of them all.
One repeats this truth, for it is, as I judge, the great secret of this Book. Our Job at the end learned the power of the call of God. And this, I may say, imparts a just and spiritual bearing to all he now does, as well as invests his whole estate with the beauty and stability of millennial days.
Prophet, Priest and King
He was, at the beginning, as a prophet, priest, and king, and so is he again, at the end. But he is so after a new order, exercising his different functions more according to the mind of God. As a prophet, he had, at the beginning, too confidently assumed to be the interpreter of God and His ways; but now he says, “I will demand of Thee, and declare Thou unto me.” He will be a disciple of the Lord, before he teaches others; he will have his ear opened, before his tongue is loosed (Isa. 50:44The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. (Isaiah 50:4)). Such is the purifying of his prophetic ministry. He will know nothing, save as he learns it from God. His doctrine is not his now. As a priest, at the beginning, he had stepped in between God and his children, to heal probable or dreaded breaches. But he does not seem to wash his own clothes, while sprinkling the purifying water on others (Num. 19:2121And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them, that he that sprinkleth the water of separation shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of separation shall be unclean until even. (Numbers 19:21)). He wanted to remember that he himself was also in the body, temptable like the weakest (Gal. 6:11Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)). But now he is accepted himself (Job 42:99So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the Lord commanded them: the Lord also accepted Job. (Job 42:9); Ezek. 14:14,2014Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God. (Ezekiel 14:14)
20Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness. (Ezekiel 14:20)
). As a king, his honors now come after his afflictions, his glories after his sufferings; and also after he prayed for his friends, is his captivity turned. He exercises grace, before he is again entrusted with power—all this being according to the great originals. “Ye are they which have continued with Me in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto Me.”
In these ways, he is prophet, priest, and king, after a new order, and all is refined in the furnace, like gold tried in the fire.
Full Deliverance
And he is the father of a family again, a family also, as I may again say, of a new order—nothing has to be corrected among them, but all is in happy, holy fellowship, the heart of the father turned to the children, and the heart of the children to their father. At the beginning he had to watch their ways, and provide for the evil they might have committed. But at the end there is nothing of this; their father has only to see them with admiration and delight. They awakened fear at first, but now contentment.
And further, in this beautiful millennial or resurrection scene, which thus closes this story, the stormy wind is hushed, and the lightning of the thunder strikes no more. In this day of a second Noah, such as Job was (the lord of a new world), the waters which once “prevailed” are now “assuaged.” And the Chaldeans and Sabeans no longer spoil the spoil, and prey the prey. There is “no adversary nor evil occurrent,” no “Canaanite in the house of the Lord” now. Nothing hurts or destroys in all the holy mountain. The Lord delivers His people from those who served themselves of them.
All this is pledged and pictured for us here. And what may be said to be of still deeper value to us, the great enemy himself, the ready and wishful agent of all the mischief and sorrow that had come in, is gone likewise. At the beginning he is in the action, exercising himself as an accuser in heaven, and as a tormentor on earth. And it is for the comfort of the tried saint, that the hand of both God and the enemy are engaged in his trial; the enemy (as here with our patriarch) seeking to cast his crown to the ground and to cast his fair memorial with God in the dust, the Lord purposing (and performing it) to brighten that crown, and still further to bless the heir of those dignities and joys. It is a comfort to the saint, in the day of trial, to remember this. But, at the end, the enemy is gone. The purpose, in the wisdom of God, for which he had been used, is answered, and he is gone. The discipline of Job had ceased as in his destruction.
Satan Confounded
Satan had understood Job. He knew the workings of that corrupt nature, which his own lie had formed in the garden of Eden. He had said, “Doth Job fear God for naught? Hast not Thou made an hedge about him?...Touch all that he hath, and he will curse Thee to Thy face....Skin for skin; yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.” And serious and terrible is the thought, beloved, that he knows us so thoroughly, and understands the springs of thought and will within us. But though he understands Job well, he did not understand God. The counsels of grace are above him. And by reason of this, he has been always, in the history of this world, defeating himself, while thinking that he was getting advantage of us; for he has to meet God in the very thing he does, and the purposes he plans, against us. When he interfered with Adam in the garden, he encountered God to his confusion, and the promise to Adam announced his own doom. When he provoked David to number the people, Ornan’s threshing- floor was disclosed, and the spot where mercy rejoiced against judgment becomes the place of the temple. When he sifted the Apostles as wheat, he was answered by the prayer of Jesus, and, instead of faith failing, brethren were strengthened. And, above all, when he touched Jesus on the cross, the very death he inflicted was his own perfect and accomplished ruin. So, in every trouble which he brings on any of us, he finds, or is to find, sooner or later, that he has met the mighty God, and not the feeble saint. He entered Job’s nest that he might spoil it, and leave it driven and wasted. He came into another garden then. But God was there as well as his servant Job, and in the end Satan is confounded.
So is it with the saints and their enemy. They shall take the kingdom, and in the kingdom Satan shall have no place. Out of the trials which he had raised around them and against them, they come forth to wear their crowns, and sing their songs. And, instead of his appearing again “among the sons of God,” the mighty angel shall lay hold on him, and cast him into the bottomless pit. (It has been observed by another, that Satan is always defeated. This thought seems to get the most striking confirmations from Scripture, beyond the cases mentioned above.)
He in the instrument, the willing instrument, of destroying the flesh; but that destruction ends in the saving of the spirit (1 Cor. 5:55To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1 Corinthians 5:5)). He receives, gladly receives, one that is judicially delivered over to him; but all that ends in such a one learning not to blaspheme (1 Tim. 1:2020Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:20)). He sends forth his messengers as thorns in the flesh, delighting to do so, as being bent on mischief, having been “a murderer from the beginning”; but this still works good, for the servant of Christ is thereby kept from undue exaltation (2 Cor. 12:77And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. (2 Corinthians 12:7)).
These are illustrious exhibitions of the devil being always defeated. Because they show this—that he lends himself directly to his own overthrow. His own weapon is turned against himself. The one whom he assails is, by the very assault, given strength or virtue against him.
Happy assurance! our great adversary is never victorious! It is the pricks he kicks against.
Man Glorified in Heaven
This is full of blessing—and this is millennial blessing, shadowed here in this beautiful story. But there is more. There will be no question in the millennial heavens about the saints, as there was about Adam in the garden, and about Job in the beginning of this book. The tree of knowledge tested the creature whom God had just made. But in the age of the resurrection, in the heavens where Job and all the children of the resurrection will be, there will be no such test. There will be no question about man. There will be silence in heaven as to man, for the great Kinsman has answered all questions, and man is glorified there.
An Undistracted Unchanging God
Such are the changes which have arisen, before we leave this divine, inspired story. Has not the trial of faith been precious, as Peter speaks, when we can talk of such changes? The enemy is gone. His ministers, or messengers, the wind and the fire, the Chaldeans and Sabeans, take their commission no more. Job, too, has changed his mind, and made his confession to God—his friends have changed their mind, and humbled themselves to him. But there is One who abides the same. He has no step to retrace, no word to recall, no deed of His hand, or counsel of His heart, to alter or repent of. Other scriptures tell of Him, that He is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever,” and that with Him there “is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” And this precious tale about Him and His doings so illustrates and exhibits Him.
There is never entire calmness, or the absence of all haste and distraction, where we are not conscious that our strength is equal to our business, whatever it may be. Nor is there, when we are not equally conscious of integrity or righteousness in that business. The consciousness of both righteousness and strength is needed in order to fit the hand to do a deed, or the foot to take a step, with entire ease.
Now we know that this ease marks all the ways and operations of God. He is ever at work (to speak after the manner of men) in the full possession of this undistractedness of which we are speaking. We might judge this from the necessary glory of His godhead. But the ways of Jesus on earth always exhibited this, and He, as we know, was God manifest in the flesh. And this ease and calmness, in which all the operations of God proceed, tell us, that though they may to us appear strange and even willful, as Job thought them, yet is He able to interpret them every one, so as to be justified in His sayings, and clear when He is judged. And this is happy. “The bud may have a bitter taste,” and “blind unbelief is sure to err.” These things are so.
But “God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.” We know how our Job was tried—deeply, variously, and, as might be thought, wantonly, needlessly; for he walked in the fear of God, and in the service of his generation. But “the end of the Lord” is more than vindication. It is display. The trial is found to be unto praise and honor and glory. The light of the coming day, rebuke what it may, will have only to set off and reflect the excellency of Him with whom we have to do.
From Fear to Favor
So have we lingered, for a little, over these bright notices of millennial days, “the days of heaven upon earth,” which shine at the close of this lovely as well as serious and instructive tale of patriarchal times. But there is more.
At the beginning, Job held all his blessings with reserve and suspicion. He was not in safety, nor at rest, nor in quiet; yet trouble came. “The thing which I greatly feared is come upon me,” says he, “and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.” It must needs be so. The instability with which departure from God has affected every possession and every profit here makes this necessary. But, at the end, there are no “fears within,” any more than Chaldeans or “fightings without.” No shadow crosses the settled sunshine that rests on all around him, or the calm light which fills all within.
And further—his kinsfolk and acquaintance, at the end, seek him again. They ought, indeed, never to have deserted him. For we deceive ourselves if we think that we must be right if we grieve those whom God is disciplining. This is often very far indeed from being the case. The Lord said in Zechariah, “I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.” So also is Isaiah 47:66I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst show them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke. (Isaiah 47:6)—and so Obadiah 10-1410For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever. 11In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them. 12But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress. 13Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity; 14Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress. (Obadiah 10‑14), to the same effect. We are more commonly, perhaps, in God’s mind, and act as the living vessels of the Spirit, when soothing such. And sure I am it was so in Job’s case. Had his former friends known God’s way, they would have dealt very differently with him. They would not have left him. The very fact that “the hand of God” had touched him, as he so deeply expresses it, would have been the occasion of “pity,” as he further says, from his friends.
However, as part of the bright sunshine that gladdens his estate at the end, his kinsfolk and acquaintance again seek him. And they do so to congratulate as well as to compassionate him. And if they talk to him of past griefs, it is but to heighten his present joy—as Israel afterward, in their triumphant feast of tabernacles, might make booths and sit under them, in grateful remembrance of wilderness-days.
Full Restoration
All these are happy reverses, and the latter end of our patriarch is twice as good as his beginning. But among all the gladdening anticipations which shine in the latter page of this history, there is none which more captivates the heart than the reconciliation. The patriarch and his brethren, as the narrative largely tells us, and as we well know, had sadly fallen out by the way, as they walked along the high road of “this present evil world”; but as soon as they enter “the age to come,” the strife of tongues and stir of war are heard and seen no more.
This is truly welcome to the heart. For what joy will it be to be delivered of selfishness and pride, and many other workings of an ungenerous and perverted nature. How are the pleasures of the heart spoiled by such robbers continually! What a thing a page of history is! What a record of the agitations of envy and ambition and revenge! Is it not misery so to see men “hateful, and hating one another,” and then to remember that we are still alive and active in the midst of the same elements? But another thing is in our prospect; and it is the way of the wisdom and grace of God again and again, in the progress of His Word, as here in the 42nd chapter of Job, to give us a mystic picture of it. Then man, as deceived by Satan, shall give place; and man, as anointed by God, shall prevail. Then shall be known the joy of getting out of such darkness into such light, of beholding the Sun again, after centuries of midnight gloom.
We know from Scripture that great physical virtue will attend this coming kingdom. As prophets sing, the wilderness “shall rejoice and blossom as the rose”—the lame shall leap as the hart, the tongue of the dumb shall sing, the cow and the bear shall feed together, and the wolf shall lie down with the kid. Nature in all its order shall own the presence of the Lord. The floods shall clap their hands, the trees of the wood shall rejoice, before Him. As creation has already felt the bondage of corruption, it shall then feel the liberty of glory.
It will be as though dormant sensibilities had all been suddenly awakened. It will be as the sweeping of an exquisite instrument with a master hand. It will be the same creation, but under new authority, new influences. Let but the sons of God be manifested, and the whole system shall spring into new conditions and consciousness.
And so man, when the powers of that coming age take him up as their subject. Let but the passage be made from this present evil world into the world to come, and new principles will at once gild and furnish the scene, and give moral enjoyments (which are the richest of all) to all personal and social life.
New Creation
This will be the touching of an instrument of still finer workmanship. The system around the vegetable and animal world is susceptible of such forms of beauty and of order as may make it all the vivid, happy reflection of divine goodness and wisdom; but in the renewed mind of man there lie latent powers and affections of nothing less than the divinest texture. In its present condition it has to struggle with nature and to suffer sore let and hindrance from the flesh. It is oppressed and encumbered by a gross atmosphere. But it has capabilities of acting, judging, and feeling of the highest order. And let but the due influences reach it in power, those sensibilities and faculties will be all awakened, and forms of moral beauty throughout all personal and social life will show themselves. What a hope for the spirit tried in conflict with the flesh! It will be the same “new creature” that now is: only in other conditions. Not oppressed and clouded, but, as it were, breathing its native air.
Scripture gives us many a witness of such moral virtue and enjoyment in the millennial age. It is one of the most delightful occupations of the mind of Christ in us, to hear these witnesses, in their mystic language, deliver their testimony.
Godly Order and Fellowship
The Father of Israel and the Gentiles are seen together, for a moment, in Genesis 21. And their communion was a sample of the holy, happy intercourse of Israel and the nations, in the coming days of the kingdom. Questions which before had divided and disturbed them are now all settled. The well of water, which had been the occasion of strife, is now a witness of the oath or covenant. All pure social affections adorn this communion of Abraham and Abimelech; and they part under pledged and plighted friendship. Abraham’s grove, in principle, makes the desert to bloom, and his altar makes the earth a sanctuary; but his way with Abimelech, and Abimelech’s with him, give that bright moment its dearest and highest character.
For there are no enjoyments like moral enjoyments, no pleasures like those of the heart.
So in Exodus 18. The heavenly and the earthly families are seen together, under the type of Jethro and the ransomed tribes, at the mount of God. And all is full of moral beauty. And yet the materials which make up the scene had been, in other and earlier days, very differently minded towards each other. Moses and Zipporah had parted in anger, the last time they had met, and the congregation had been murmuring again and again. But now the mount of God has influences for them, and from the highest to the least, from Jethro down to the most distant parts of the camp, all is in the power of godly order, subjection, and fellowship.
Then again, that generation that lived in the closing days of David and in the early days of Solomon exhibit the same. They had been numbering each other to the sword, in the wood of Ephraim, but the sword is turned into a plowshare now. The days of Solomon were, typically or in spirit, millennial days, and sweet and surprising virtue attends them. Instead of going forth again to the field of battle, they sit, every man with his neighbor, under the vine and under the fig-tree. “Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry.”
Are not these moral transfigurations? And how blessed they are! Pass but the border. Leave man’s day for the Lord’s day. Breathe the air of the Mount of God—and all this moral renovation, with its countless springs and streams of social felicity, shall be tasted, ever fresh and ever pure.’Tis but a little while and all this shall be. The same brethren, who may now be a trial to one another, like our Job and his friends, shall then heighten and enlarge each other’s joy. And in the earthly places, “Ephraim shall not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim.” Pride and selfishness shall have ceased to depreciate, as they do now, with all their companion lusts and wickednesses, the pleasures of the heart.
This patriarchal story, on which we have now been meditating, more ancient than, and as illustrious as, any of these inspired records, gives us a like sample of millennial days. Job and his three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, are the same Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, the same persons. And they are no longer contending, but united brethren. They have ascended the mount at the end; and there lies all the difference. And barren indeed our hearts must be of every gracious affection, and dead to all godly emotions, if we hail not such a prospect.
He who by His blood did long ago break down all partition walls, and who is now, by His Spirit, giving believers common access to the Father, will by-and-by, with His own hand, join the stick of Ephraim and the stick of Judah, and make them one there (Ezek. 37:1616Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: (Ezekiel 37:16)). His Israel on the earth shall see “eye to eye,” for the light and the joy of Zion’s salvation shall be passed, with holy speed, from the messengers on the mountains to the watchmen of the city, and from them to the people, and from the people to the nations (Isaiah 52:79)—and, among the heavenly people, the children of the resurrection, like Job and his friends, “that which is in part shall be done away, and that which is perfect shall come.”
The Song of Solomon
“Will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee.”
This was the devout breathing of the king of Israel (the penman, too, of this little book to which we are now proposing, in the Lord’s grace, to introduce ourselves), when the glory had come to fill the house which he had builded.
But so it was. The Son of God, Jehovah’s Fellow, He that was with God and was God, was manifest in flesh, and conversed with us here. He dwelt with men on the earth. He tabernacled among us. He was Jesus. We knew Him as such. He was a Man, and a Friend, and a Master, and a Companion. He invited confidence. He sought sympathy and imparted it. And, as a Man, we know Him still—as truly a Man amid the brightest glories of heaven now, as once He was a Man amid the ruins and sorrows of earth—as able, through sympathy, to understand the sufferings of His saints still, as when He walked the streets and highways here, bearing our griefs and carrying our sicknesses.
And what will He be even forever? Still Jesus Christ. Dominion of all things will be His as a Man. The scene may change the second time, from the present temple in heaven to the kingdom of glory, as at first it changed from the cities and villages here to the temple on high, but it is “the Man Christ Jesus” who passes from scene to scene. Precious mystery! Manhood having been once taken up, will never be given up. A temple has been found for the glory, a vessel for the blessing, a person for the manifestation, an instrument for the exercise of power and government, suited to the counsels of divine wisdom and to the purposes of divine goodness.
Man Brought Near God
From the beginning of His ways, and throughout them, the Lord God has been evidencing His purpose to bring His creature man very near to Him. The expression of this has been different, but still constant.
In patriarchal days the intimacy was personal. He walked in the midst of the human family, personally appearing to His elect; not so much employing either prophets or angels, but having to do with the action Himself.
In the times of Israel, He was not so much in “the human guise” as before. He was rather in mystic dress. But still He was near them. The Lord in the burning bush, the glory in the cloud, the armed captain by Jericho, speak this nearness. The God of Israel seen on the sapphire throne, the glory filling the temple courts, or seated between the cherubim, tell the same. And the promises, “I will set My tabernacle among you, and I will walk among you,” and “Mine eyes and Mine heart shall be there perpetually,” alike witness this desired and purposed fellowship.
Then, in the progress of the ages, the assumption of manhood is a witness, I may say, that speaks for itself; and the ways of God manifest in the flesh agree with that. Jesus “came eating and drinking.” And still the same, after He had become the risen Man. He had not then, it is true, one lodging and repast with His disciples, as once He had. He did not then, as before, go in and out among them. They were not to know Him “after the flesh,” as in earlier days. But still there was full intimacy. There was many a note of conscious authority about Him, it is most true. He speaks of all power in heaven and in earth being His. He opens their understandings. He pronounces peace upon them on new and authoritative grounds, He imparts the Holy Spirit, as the Head of the new creation. He blessed, as Priest of the temple, the only Priest. All this He does, as risen from the dead, with conscious power; but, with all this, He owns intimacy, loving, personal intimacy, as near and dear as ever, if not more so. He eats and drinks with them, as once He did. He calls them “brethren,” as He had not done before His resurrection. He speaks of having one God and Father with them, as He had not done then. Though with all authority He sends them forth to work, yet does He still work with them—Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20. And though He was at that time paying them only an occasional visit, a visit now and then, as He pleased, during forty days (Acts 1:33To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: (Acts 1:3)), yet He intimates, by a little action, that, by-and-by, all such distance and separation will be over, and they should “follow” Him to His place, risen and glorified with Himself (John 21:19-2319This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. 20Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 21Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? 22Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. 23Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? (John 21:19‑23)).
Present and Future Intimacy
Is not all this intimacy still? Desired and enjoyed intimacy on the part of our “everlasting Lover”? And as to this present dispensation, the same is provided for and maintained, though in a different way. The Holy Spirit has come. The Spirit of truth is in us. Our bodies are nothing less than His living temples or dwelling-places, while the Son has, mystically, borne us to heaven in and with Himself (Eph. 2:66And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 2:6)). Surely no form of fellowship which we have contemplated is more deep and intimate than this. If, personally, the Lord God was with the patriarchs, and would take a calf and a cake in the love of hospitality—if, in the sight of the whole congregation, He would let the glory fill the temple courts in the joy of its new-found habitation—if, in “the Man Christ Jesus,” the Lord God would walk with us, and share our seasons of rest and labor and refreshment, talking at a well with one elect sinner, or letting another press His bosom at supper, and ask Him about the secrets that were in that bosom in this present day. He has us, in the thoughts and affections of His own heart, up in heaven with Himself, and the Holy Spirit is here with us, in the midst of the thoughts and affections of our hearts.
Is this, I ask, intimacy of a feebler nature? Is this a retracing of His way back into His own perfections and sufficiency, or amid the glories and principalities of angels? Is this reserve, as men speak? Is this withdrawing Himself, or repenting of former intimacy with man, as though He had been disappointed and put off? “Adam, where art thou?” was His voice. But has Adam’s retreat forced the Lord back? Let this one Witness, this Witness of our times, this indwelling Spirit, leading us in company with Himself after this manner, tell us. All His present way is only a richer pursuit of that purpose which broke forth, in infant form, in the days of Genesis.
And what shall we say of this intimacy in still future days? Redeemed men take the place of cherubic nearness to the throne. The living creatures and the crowned elders are there, and the angels do but surround them as well as the throne. The Lamb’s wife, the holy Jerusalem, bears the glory in her bosom. The Tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them.
Holy Acceptance of Divine Nearness
But if all this is so, as it surely is, a holy inquiry arises, How are we to entertain this? In what spirit, and after what manner, are we to act on the truth of this gracious purpose of God? We are to admit and believe it in all the simplicity in which it is revealed. This is our first duty. We are by no means to refuse the thought of this divine nearness. Did John, I ask, refuse to lie on His Lord’s bosom, or excuse himself for doing so? No. Neither are we, through mistaken humility, to question whether we have rightly interpreted the many scriptures which declare this truth. We are to use the privileges it confers.
But with this use of its privileges we are to honor its claims. For this presence of God is a pure as well as a cheerful element. Of old, the shoes were to be taken from the feet, when that presence was entered, to express the sense of holiness which became it. But that was all. Neither Moses nor Joshua were required to withdraw; only to tread softly. They were welcomed and encouraged, while instructed in the holiness of such intimacy.
So in the Song of Solomon. The soul makes its boast of its Lord’s love. It does not refuse to listen to the tenderest expressions of it, nor to recite His well-known desire towards her; but in everything, there is owned and felt unworthiness. There is the breathing of the purest though most intimate thoughts— an affection quickly sensitive of the putting slight on such wondrous condescensions of divine love, and diligence in nourishing in the soul the answer due to them. And in this way, this little book gives very clear witness to the truth of God’s intimacy with man, and to the manner in which it should be entertained by us. And in doing this it introduces us to a great divine mystery, which, in like manner, gets its early and constant illustration in the book of God—a mystery which must now hold our thoughts for a little. I mean that of the Bride and the Bridegroom.
A Suffering Bridegroom
The Church is called “the Lamb’s wife.” But this title has its meaning. “The Lamb” is a figure or a description of the Son of God which tells us of the sorrows He endured for us. The soul well understands this; and therefore this title, “the Lamb’s wife,” tells us that it is by His sufferings the Lord has made her His own; that He valued her so as to give up all for her. And from the beginning He has been publishing this precious gospel truth.
Before Adam received Eve he was cast into a deep sleep, and out of his side was taken a rib, of which was formed that one that was afterward presented to him as his wife. This witnesses the mystery I have mentioned. Adam was humbled and Adam suffered (I mean, of course, only in the symbol or mystery), before he received Eve; all this casting beforehand the shadow of the humiliation and suffering of the true Adam, in acquiring His Eve for Himself.
So Jacob afterward. He had to sustain the burden and heat of a long and toilsome day, before he could possess himself of Rachel. The law of her people, the law of her country, and the oppressive exactions of the covetous Laban, had put him on these terms. He had to endure the constant consuming of sun and moon, to toil night and day, and have his exile lengthened out, or go without his Rachel.
Joseph, before he got his Asenath, was separated from his brethren.
The same thing we see in Moses. He too was separated from his brethren. And still more, he earned Zipporah. He rescued her from oppression, then opened the well to her and her flock, and then her father owned his claim to her hand. So with his second wife. He had to take her at the expense of his good name with his own kindred; she was a black Ethiopian, and did not suit the thoughts of his brother and sister. But he bore the reproach, and married the Ethiopian.
In each of these marriages (typical as well as real) we see the character of the Bridegroom—we see the Lord Jesus Christ possessing Himself of His Bride at some personal cost. Whether it be humiliation and suffering, as in Adam, toil and weariness and conflict, as in Jacob, separation and dreary loneliness, as in Joseph, or mere reproach, as doing a thing unworthy of him, as in Moses, still it is, in principle, a suffering Bridegroom that we see.
And I might notice Boaz, another type of the same. He was a mighty man of wealth, but he pleads the cause of a poor gleaner in his fields; he allows her approaches and her suit, and takes her to him to wife. He is not ashamed to make a destitute stranger, who but a day before depended on the bounty of his hand, the companion of his wealth and honor, and the builder of his house and name among the tribes of Israel. And so the marriage of Boaz tells out the same mystery, that the Bridegroom of the Church is the One who had before been humbled to redeem her, and make her His own.
Not only, however, in types and illustrations is this great truth set forth, but in the plain teaching of Scripture also. It is said, that Christ loved the Church, then gave Himself for it, then sanctified it by the washing of the Word—and all this, that He might present it worthily to Himself as His Bride (Eph. 5). Here, doctrinally, or in the way of plain teaching, we have the Lamb the Bridegroom; for before He takes the Church He gives Himself for her. He takes to wife the one whom He had afore purchased with blood.
Bearing the Reproach
In Old Testament Scriptures, the same thing is taught, as between the Lord and Jerusalem, which is, in principle, the same as Christ and the Church.
Therefore, in Isaiah it is said, “Thy Maker is thy Husband, thy Redeemer”—the whole passage showing Jerusalem taken up by the Lord in simple loving-kindness, He owning one that, like the Ethiopian or like Ruth, might be a reproach to Him (Isa. 54).
So Jeremiah represents the Lord in the very same grace, taking Jerusalem even after she had proved herself unfaithful, and been legally and judicially put away (Jer. 3).
Hosea is made the representative of the same (Hosea 1-3). He buys his wife (Hosea 3:22So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley: (Hosea 3:2)), he washes and cleanses her, as well as bears the reproach of espousing one in herself so worthless and lost.
So in the striking picture of Ezekiel. Jerusalem is looked at in her loathsome, offensive degradation; but when not one eye pitied, the Lord not only took compassion on, but quickened, washed, clothed, anointed, beautified, and endowed her, and did not stop until He had taken her to Himself (Ezek. 16).
This is the way it is in the teachings or voices of the prophets, as in the early types and shadows; both and all telling out the mystery, that the Lamb is the Bridegroom, that the One who at the end seats her in the companionship of His glory, had before redeemed her by His blood, washed and purified her by His Word and Spirit, suffered reproach for her (Luke 19:77And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. (Luke 19:7)), and gone down to her in her ruin, before He could take her up to His estate and honor.
Pre-eminent Love
This is the mystery of the divine Bridegroom. All human tales or fables fall short of this, let the imagination that wrought them up be as fervent as it may. This is the mystery of a love that passes knowledge between Christ and the Church. She must love Him for the service He has shown her; He must love her for the cost she has put Him to. She will find herself forever by the side of One who so loved her as to die for her. He will see one by His side who so engaged Him that He was willing to go through with His affection, though the cost of loving her would take (to speak after the manner of men) all that He was worth. He cannot but prize her supremely, and so she Him. This is the only difference that may be observed—that His love was proved before she became His, for He had beforehand counted the cost of loving her—her love, later and more backward, and only in the second place, began on her knowing His love for her. For Christ, as the Bridegroom (as in everything else, whether of grace or glory, Colossians 1), is to have “the pre-eminence.” In the character of His love He entirely outshines the love of the bride, and leaves hers, as it were, no love at all, by reason of the love that excells.
But having thus looked at the Bridegroom, I would, in like manner, see the Bride for a moment or two. But I must limit myself, and will, therefore, only trace her as reflected in the book of Genesis.
The Bride in Eve
Eve is, of course, the earliest type. In her we see the personal characteristics of the bride: she is formed by the Lord for Adam. Adam’s joy in a helpmeet was what the Lord proposed to Himself when He began to form Eve. He had respect to Adam’s need and joy in this work. And when Adam receives Eve from the hand of the Lord, his words express his satisfaction in her, vindicating the Lord’s workmanship, that His hand had accomplished the design which His love had undertaken. Eve was fitted to Adam. This was her full personal beauty. He owned her bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh.
All in her was attractiveness. She entirely answered the expectations, and satisfied the heart, of him for whom she had been formed. He took her and clave to her (Gen. 2); and this, we know, is a type of Christ and the Church (Eph. 5).
The Mother in Sarah
Sarah is the next distinguished female in that book; and she is a mystic person also. But it is not the Bride whom she expresses, but the Mother. So that I will not particularly notice her. For Abraham is “the father of all them that believe”—and Sarah is “the free woman” or, in an allegory, “the mother of us all” (Gal. 4), linked with the family of God in the place of the mother, rather than with the Lord as His Bride. So that I pass her by.
The Bride in Rebecca
Rebecca comes next in this holy line, and in her we have the Bride again, as in Eve. But great and blessed truths connected with the Bride are told in Rebecca. She is separated from Isaac. He is far away, and has never seen her. But Rebecca is the father’s choice, and Eliezer’s care, until Isaac receives her. Isaac longed for her. That is shown by his going forth in solitariness to meditate at eventide. But beyond the sense of this loneliness, we do not see Isaac doing or suffering anything for her. The council about the wife is taken between Abraham and Eliezer. They settle the whole plan. And Eliezer, in beautiful, self-denying service, goes on toil and travel to secure this elect Bride for Isaac.
And he does secure her. And he prepares her for him. He not only separates her from her kindred and her father’s house, but conducts her across the desert; on the way, doubtless, telling her many a tale of him whose she was so soon to be—until at length he gives her safely into Isaac’s hand, and Isaac, like Adam, is comforted in his Bride.
This is a beautiful light in which to look at the Bride; the one who is brought home to her lord from the distant land, having been the object of the father’s choice, and of the servant’s care. This is a mystery. And in it we get the Lord receiving His Bride at the hand of the Father and of the Holy Spirit, chosen for Him, and given to Him, He having nothing to do but to take her at their hand, and to find in her, as Isaac found in Rebecca, the relief of his solitariness, the inmate of his tent, and the companion of all his joys.
The Bride in Rachel
Rachel, next in order, shows herself to us. And in her we get the Bride again, though in a different character. Here we find the one who was to own and enjoy her, traveling and toiling for her. And this is just as true, in the mystery, as the other. For, in one sense, Christ has only to receive His Bride at the hand of the Father and the Holy Spirit, the gift of the one and the workmanship of the other— but, in another sense, He has Himself gone into the distant land, and (as I have already been observing on the Bridegroom) labored and been put to reproach and wrong for her. In all this, Jacob sets forth the true Bridegroom. The Lord Jesus personally has borne the heat of the day all alone. He had not where to lay His head, like Jacob—absent from His Father’s house, and the place of His inheritance—wronged again and again in a world which, like Laban and his house, ever seeks its own; and yet, enduring all this, and willing to endure all this, for the love that He had to her whom His eye had rested on; as Jacob’s seven years of service seemed to him but as a few days, because of his love for Rachel.
This is as striking a picture of the truth as we have yet seen; here the same mystery of the Bride is still published to us, though still in a distinct part of it. In Eve, we had her full personal fitness for her Lord—in Rebecca we had her as the object of the Father’s election and the Spirit’s care, in order to give her to Christ—in Rachel, we see her as the prize, whom the Lord sets before His own eye, for the sake of which He will give Himself to exile and toil and wrongs. As reflected in Isaac, He has nothing to do for her; as reflected in Jacob, He has everything to do for her.
The Bride in Asenath
Asenath closes these wonders. She is the woman of the fourth generation of the Patriarchs. There is the Sarah of Abraham, the Rebecca of Isaac, the Rachel of Jacob, and the Asenath of Joseph. She now in her turn takes up the same mystic tale. She was a Gentile, and in no way, like the rest, connected in the flesh with Joseph. The enmity of his brethren had cast Joseph among her people. And he is honored there, and with these strange and Gentile honors gets a Gentile bride and family; and in the bosom of this unexpected joy he is willing to forget, for a season, his father’s house, and to account himself fruitful or happy though among strangers.
This, in its season, is as full of meaning as any of our previous pages in this tale of the Bride. For here we get the Bride in her Gentile, heavenly character. Here we are told a great secret; that this same personage, whose beauty and personal characteristics we saw in Eve, whose election by the Father and conduct under the hand of the Spirit we saw in Rebecca, and whose purchase for Himself by the personal toil and sorrow of Christ we saw in Rachel, is a Gentile, a Stranger, one brought into union with the Lord, after His own kindred in the flesh had refused Him.
The Delight of Christ in His Saints
All this speaks clearly in the ear of the scribe that is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven; he traces the mystery of the Bride in all this, and listens to Eve, to Rebecca, to Rachel, and to Asenath telling out separate parts of it. And how does all this witness to us the delight which Christ takes in His saints! It is not merely that He has saved them by His blood, but they are His crown and His joy, His glory and His delight. His own love and workmanship have been displayed in us, more highly than in any scene of His power. And this joy of Christ in His saints is strongly expressed in each of these cases. We love Him for the sorrows He has endured, and He loves us who prize His love like that (John 14:2121He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (John 14:21)). And if these affections are not understood as passing between Christ and the saint, if we do not, without reserve, allow this satisfaction in each other, our souls will not enter into much of that communion which the Scripture provides for. The Song of Solomon will not be understood, if we do not allow and entertain the thought of Christ’s delight in the saints, with the same certainty that we allow the thought of His having purchased and sanctified them by His blood.
Various Forms of Love
But this communion must spring from intelligence of the soul, or it will be mere natural fervor. When Ruth sought the feet of Boaz, and did not again go to the gleaning-field, it was because Naomi had been instructing her further about him. Her soul had passed through the light of Naomi’s words, and, after being taught, she desires more intimate fellowship with him than she had yet enjoyed. She seeks himself. The gleaning-field, where she was less than his handmaids, is deserted, and the place of a suitor for himself is assumed. She cannot call herself less than one of his handmaids any longer. She seeks a kinsman’s love, for she knows him to be a kinsman. And this is truly blessed.
Love, or desire towards another, takes different forms in the heart. There is the love of pity, the love of gratitude, and the love of complacency. The love of pity regards its object in some sort as below it, and is full of tenderness. The love of gratitude, on the contrary, regards its object as above it, and is full of humility. The love of complacency does not necessarily look either above or below, but simply at its object, and is full of admiration. But, in addition to this, there is the love of kindred. It has its foundation in nature, and so it is called “natural affection.” And this love of kindred has a glory which is peculiarly its own. It warrants the deepest intimacies. There is no settling of one’s self for the other’s presence. There is full ease in going out and coming in. Expressions of love are not deemed intrusive—no, they are sanctioned as being due and comely. The heart knows its right to indulge itself over its object, and that, too, without check or shame. This is the glory of this affection. The love of pity, of gratitude, or of complacency, must act decorously, and in proper form. But the love of kindred, the love of those who dwell in one house, and whom nature or the hand of God has bound together, feels its right to gratify itself, and is not fearful of being rebuked. See, for instance, Song of Solomon 8:11O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! when I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be despised. (Song of Solomon 8:1). This is its distinguishing boast. Nothing admits this but itself. This is, in a full and deep sense, “personal affection.”
Parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives (and I might add, friends), know this. They know their title to indulge, without scorn or rebuke, in the warmest expressions of their mutual love. And it is the richest feast of the heart. The love of pity has its enjoyment, and so have the love of gratitude and the love of complacency; but they do not, in themselves and alone, warrant these personal fervors. Personally, their objects may be below, above, or at a distance, and should be approached with a due respect to all their rights. But not so with our kindred, because it is their persons and not their qualities or conditions, that form the ground of our love. We may deal with them without apology or reserve. In such cases it is himself that the heart embraces. It is not his sorrows, his favors, or his excellencies, but it is himself, which this affection handles and converses with.
Interest in Himself
We may receive a benefit from a person, and be assured of a hearty welcome to it, and yet feel ourselves ill at ease in his presence. Nothing is more common than this. Gratitude is awakened in the heart very deeply, and yet reserve and uneasiness are felt. It calls for something beyond our assurance of his goodwill, and of our full welcome to his service, to make us at ease in the presence of a benefactor. And this something, I believe, is the discovery that we have an interest in himself, as well as in his ability to serve us.
This delineates, as I judge, the experience of the poor woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5). She knew the Lord’s ability to relieve her sorrow, and her hearty welcome to avail herself of it. She, therefore, comes and takes the virtue out of Him without reserve. But she comes behind Him. This expresses her state of mind. She knows her welcome to His service, but nothing more. But the Lord trains her heart for more. He lets her know that she is interested in Himself, as well as in His power to oblige her. He calls her “daughter.” He owns kindred or relationship with her. This was the communication which alone was equal to remove her fears and trembling. Her rich and mighty patron is her kinsman. This is what her heart needed to know. Without this, in the spirit of her mind, she would have been still “behind” Him. But this gives her ease. “Go in peace” may then be said, as well as “Be whole of thy plague.” She need not be reserved. Christ does not deal with her as a patron or benefactor (Luke 22:2525And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. (Luke 22:25)). She has an interest in Himself as well as in His power to bless her. And so as to the Song of Solomon. It is the love which warrants personal intimacy (after this manner of the nearest and dearest relationships) that breathes in this lovely book. The age of the union has not yet arrived. But it is the time of betrothal, and we are His delight. Nay, it was so before worlds were (Prov. 8).
Believing His Love
Do we believe this? Does it make us happy? We are, naturally, suspicious of any offer to make us happy in God. Because our moral sense, our natural conscience, tells us of our having lost all right even to His ordinary blessings. The mere moral sense will therefore be quick to stand to it, and question all overtures of peace from heaven, and be ready to challenge their reality. But here comes the vigor of the spiritual mind, or the energy of faith. Faith gainsays these conclusions of nature. It refuses at times to think according to the moral sense of nature, as it refuses at times to act according to the relative claims of nature. In their place, the dictates of the moral sense and the claims of nature are sacred—as we read, “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair it is a shame unto him?” But still they are not supreme. If God put in His claim, or make His revelation, the relations of nature and the moral sense of nature are to withdraw their authority. “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” And in the revelation of God, faith reads our abundant title to be near to Him and happy with Him, though natural conscience and our sense of the fitness of things would have it otherwise. Faith feeds where the moral sensibilities of the natural mind would count it presuming even to tread.
I ask, then, Do we ponder, without reserve or suspicion, the thought of such love towards us in the heart of Jesus as this book suggests? Does it make us happy? We owe the love of children to God as our Father, the love of redeemed ones to God as our Saviour, the love of disciples to Jesus as our Master and Lord. But what is the love that we owe for this way of Christ’s heart to us? How are we to meet it in a way worthy of it? This book, I believe, tells us. But this conducts the soul into the holiest. And what grief, and shame, and trouble of heart arise, when we reflect how little we are there, and how many tales against us all this is ever telling!
The Attributes of the Bridegroom
The Song of Solomon does not give us the ways of filial affection, or of the affection due to a benefactor. But they give us, I believe, the actings of the love of espousals, in both Christ’s heart and ours. The joy of hearing the Bridegroom’s voice, I may say, is fulfilled here in the heart of the saint, as it was in the soul of the Baptist. And what, I would ask, are the attributes of a commanding affection like this? What do we find the power of it to be, when it seats itself in us?
As to service, it makes it welcome. To say that service for the object of this affection is “perfect freedom” is far too cold. It makes service infinitely grateful, even though it calls for self-denial or weariness. And it can render its offering without caring for any eye or heart to approve it, but that of the one whom it has made its object. It cares not that others should be able to esteem its ways. It has all the desired fruit of its service, if its object approve it, and give but its presence at the end of it. As to society, this affection wants none but that of its object. If there is no weariness felt in service, as we have been saying, so is there no irksomeness known in solitude. All that is cared for is the presence of that one who commands the heart. There is no sense of solitude, if that one alone is present; there is no sense of satiety, though that one be always present. As to authority in the soul, it holds its place, I need not say, unrivaled. It is the man of the heart. It breaks the bands and cuts the cords of other desires. It makes us undervalue all things but the one. It may take other things up, but this is only by the way. It is ever glancing at its own thing, even if others are for a time in the foreground. It looks through the lattices at it. Other things are esteemed according to their connection with it. And it will control the wrong and cultivate the right tendencies of the heart; for occasions which might wound vanity or gratify pride are not valued or pursued, while we retain it; and yet to approve ourselves there, we will nerve the heart and the hand to great and generous ways.
The Supreme Place in the Heart
What intensity is here! And what purity also! It refreshes the soul to think that we have been created susceptible of such affections. But the warning of another is in season. “Wherever a passion has these properties, or any of them, conspicuous in it, it cannot, but by being consecrated to God, avoid becoming injurious to Him and to itself. The very nobility of it entitles Him to it.” But the same one tells us that we should seek, not to annihilate, but to transfigure it. He says, “I would not have it swallowed up by death, the common fate, but be ennobled by a destiny like that of Enoch and Elias, who, having ceased to converse with mortals, died not, but were translated to heaven.”
It is good for us to listen to this. The heart has been made deeply susceptible of this affection, and Christ is the offered object of it. He proposes Himself to it. He claims the supreme place in our hearts. “He that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me.” Whatever passion of the soul is moved, it is God’s right to have the highest exercise of it towards Himself. It has not treated Him as God if it has not rendered this to Him. If each of the passions of our souls do not give Him there richest and largest offerings, it is not a worshipping passion.
This we may readily grant, needing, however, increase of grace ourselves to be worshippers on such a score. In the language of another; “as, among the Jews, there were odoriferous unguents, which it was neither unusual nor unlawful to use themselves or bestow upon their friends, but also a peculiar composition of a precious ointment, which God having reserved for His own service, the perfuming of others with it was sacrilege, so there are regulated degrees of love which we may harbor for others, but there is too a certain peculiar strain of love which belongs unto God” (Ex. 30:34-3834And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: 35And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: 36And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy. 37And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord. 38Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people. (Exodus 30:34‑38)). It is, I may add, idolatry when bestowed on a creature, but it is worship when rendered to Him.
The Heart Clinging to Christ
This may sound a solemn truth, but it is a happy one. Is it not blessed to know that our Lord claims our hearts and their affections? Have any of us, beloved, read “the first and great commandment” without, at least, sometimes rejoicing in the grace that would make such a demand upon us? Mark 12:3030And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. (Mark 12:30). Is it nothing to us that God Himself values our love, that He says to us, “My son, give Me thine heart”? The wise virgins delighted in such truth. Many had gone out with them, professing the common expectation. The foolish had lamps. They took their place in the common profession. But the wise counted the cost of the Bridegroom’s absence, and the hope of His return. In the spirit of their minds they had said that, let His delay be long or short, they must still wait, for that nothing could satisfy them but His presence. The night of His absence might be long or short—they could not tell—they would not undertake to say. It might be, as to its length, a summer night, or a winter night. But their hearts deeply owned this—that nothing could close, nothing could turn that shadow of death into the morning, but the restored presence of the Bridegroom. On this their souls were fixed. And therefore, they took vessels of oil, as well as lamps. They prepared for a night season, they counted on a darksome time, until Jesus returned. The expectation of their heart so supremely pointed to Him, that nothing could change hope to fruition but His presence; they must be expecting, expecting, and still expecting, until then. “Hope to the end” they purposed to do, for the grace that was to be brought to them at the revelation of Jesus Christ. It was a worshipping hope.
The early freshness faded, I doubt not. This may sustain us who are so conscious of the dullness and stupidity of our hearts. The brightness of that moment when the lamp was first lit is dimmed. “While the Bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” But the reality of supreme delight in Christ, and desire after Him, had not departed. The vessels were still at the side of the slumbering virgins. The oil had not to be bought, but only to be used afresh.
How does all this, as in a parable, tell of the heart cleaving to Jesus! And our Song of Solomon expresses the same. And our own poets have sung of this love, as well as these mystic songs of the King of Israel:
“Jesus has all my powers possess’d,
My hopes, my fears, my joys,
He, the dear Sovereign of my breast
Shall still command my voice.
Some of the fairest choirs above
Shall flock around my song,
With joy to hear the name they love
Sound from a mortal’s tongue.”
The Power of Affection
The Church receives such breathings as not beyond the measure or the melody of the soul. And we want these affections to make us happy, and to set us free. It is a divine method of delivering us from the tyranny of carnal or worldly desires. It is the Spirit’s way of spoiling other attractions of their power to seduce and fill the heart, and of lifting the soul above the frettings of low anxieties. Look at the commanding power of such affection in the poor sinner in Luke 7. Working in her heart as it did, she was deaf to the reproaches and blind to the splendors of the Pharisee and his entertainment. She knew only her Object. The feast and the guests were all lost upon her. This was the power of affection in her. And what was the value of it to Christ? Nothing that it dictated or did passed His notice. He appeared to be silent, and but the passive Receiver of her offerings; but He had noted them all. The tears, and the kiss, and the ointment, and all, had been noted in the book of His remembrance, and they are read from there, when the time for the opening of that book had come.
And look at the same in Mary at the sepulcher. She sees the angels. And they were dazzling, beautiful in their generation, and wondrous to the eye of flesh and blood. But what was all splendor to her then? The dead body of her Lord was her object, the fond image of her heart, and even heavenly glories can be passed by in the pursuit of it. So with David of old. His soul was full of joy in the Lord. He will dance before the ark, he would “play before the Lord”; and if such were shame, he purposed to be viler still. As with Zacchaeus too, not a king like David, but a mere citizen of Jericho (for the Spirit links rich and poor, high and low, gentle and simple, as we speak, in one affection), he would press through the crowd, and without seeming to give the strangeness of the deed a thought, climb into a sycamore tree in pursuit of the desire which then commanded his heart.
Would that this, beloved, were more shed abroad in our hearts! How should we learn to entertain Christ, as this passion entertains or embalms its object! And what a heaven it will be, when He is ours in this way, feeding this fire in our souls, and giving us to know, in Himself and in His beauties, this seraph love without chill forever and ever!
Would that our hearts were longing for Him! This is what we find breathed in the Song of Solomon. It is not filial love or grateful love that would ever send this message, Tell him that “I am sick of love.” It is more than that. Such is not the language of those affections, but such is the language of the Song of Solomon. And therefore, we cannot say less of this book, than that it is, after a mystic manner, the utterances of Christ and of a living, espoused soul—all springing from the faith which gives the soul the happy assurance of acceptance and favor with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Allegorical Poems
As to the structure of it as a composition, I doubt not, for a moment, the correctness of those who treat it as “a collection of distinct idylls or little poems perfectly detached and separate from each other, with no other connection than what they derive from a common subject, the peculiarities of the style of a common author, and perhaps some unity of design in the mystic sense, which they are intended to bear.” The spiritual senses of the saints are to be exercised in discerning the beginnings and endings of these different canticles or little songs, and in interpreting the holy mysteries they express. Different light, and different enjoyment in doing it, may surely be expected among us. But that these songs or little poems are allegories, we will none of us doubt. The intercourses of an espoused pair are the imagery; the love of Christ and the saint, the mystic sense. And warranted, I am sure, are the suggestions of another on this subject, “that there are those manifestations of His love, and those affections kindled in the heart towards the person of the Son of God, which may well borrow their allusions from the tenderest and most powerful affection which subsists among men.” “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.” “So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty.” “Thou shalt abide for me many days... thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.” “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church.” These and kindred passages, with many typical histories in Scripture, and some ordinances of the law, all warrant this thought, as well as the character of the Spirit’s inworking at times in the souls of the saints.
The divine authority of this book has never been questioned in any way worthy of the least regard from those who walk simply in the light of God, refusing man and his thoughts and his wisdom. “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?” It was ever reverenced by the Jews as a part of the oracles of God, and in that character, we may assure ourselves, received the sanction of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit in the Apostles. No one should pause for a moment to admit its value to the soul of the saint. “We may,” as has been well said, “form but a guess concerning some of its beauties, but, in the hands of a Christian, it is invested with a brighter luster than they could have discerned, who read it in the days of Solomon. For though, in regard to the exterior imagery of the allegories, some of their beauties may be lost, the hidden mystic sense is brought more to light, and manifested with fuller assurance to the believer under the Gospel dispensation. “For I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them.’”
Communion Based on Acceptance
There is no inquiry into the fact or the ground or the nature of our acceptance with God, in this book. Such questions and inquiries are settled beforehand. The communion is upon the settlement of them all, as I have already noticed. Acceptance with God is known. It is delight in Christ, occupation with Himself, which we get here. It is not the finding of Him out, nor is it the confession of sins. The communion is a sinner’s communion, most surely—but it is of a consciously pardoned, accepted, and loved sinner. And when any sorrow or repentance is felt or owned, it is not for any blot or open transgression, but for some spiritual backsliding, some momentary coldness, some infirmity in maintaining or cultivating the soul’s due fervor. This is much to be observed. Nothing gross, or even open, in conduct—nothing established as a habit is detected here—nothing that a soul that had not been already in simple and earnest fellowship with Jesus would have been apprehensive of. It is only a present, temporary slothfulness of heart. The very repentance and confession is of such a nature as intimates the fine tone of the soul that could feel and make it. The contact or touch is so tender, that the very perception of it speaks the delicacy of the organ which met it and resented it.
Joy of the Lord as Our Strength
But what an element is this! Oh, how coarse, beloved, are our sensibilities compared with all this. Our poor souls are rarely here; they are often engaged in doing first works again, in grieving over the advantages which our lusts have taken of us, the surprisals which the heat of wrong tempers has wrought, and such like things. But all such occupation of the soul keeps us below this pure and spiritual delight in Christ, this sickness of love, this breathing on the mountains of myrrh, and this dressing and keeping of the garden of spices, here so blessedly presented. Surely it is but little of this we know. Is God our exceeding joy? Is it in the chambers of the King, in thoughts of glory, we walk? Is our spikenard greeting our Lord, and are our souls able to call Him nothing less than our “Beloved”? It were well indeed if such affections as these were filling and commanding our hearts. Then should we have weapons of sure victory with which to meet our enemies, and to beat down the intrusive desires and thoughts that defile us so often. In the figurative style of another we may say: “As when, in a clear morning, the rising sun vouchsafes to visit us, the bright stars which did adorn our hemisphere, as well as those dark shades which did benight it, vanish.” Lust could not with any power come against a soul occupied with this. This “joy of the Lord” would indeed be our “strength.” For what a dwelling-place opens here for faith to enter! What a banqueting-house for the soul! How far distant from fear and clouds of conscience such regions lie! The land of the turtle is this, the garden of all pleasant fruits.
But where is the precious faith to enter it and walk there? We need to cry for largeness of heart in the bowels of Christ Jesus. It is of influence on the whole soul to be occupied with such affections. It strengthens and sanctifies—for all questions of our standing are anticipated, and our energy in meeting temptation is increased, and through this the liberty and purity of the soul are secured. For how can the thought of condemnation or the temptation to defilement be entertained, when the believer is seeking to reach more into the light and joy of such communion as this? Does it not lead him into more than a mere escape from a spirit of bondage, or from practical evil? Is it not the divine method of making him more than a conqueror?
The Moral of the Book
As expressing such communion as this, this book of the Song of Songs may suit any saint. Not, however, that I mean, that we may necessarily follow one path of experience, and go from one stage therein to another. But according to the soul’s enlarging knowledge of Jesus, so will, of course, be its enlarging experience. And there ought to be progress—as we read, “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” And as the different relations in which the Lord stands to us are apprehended and embraced by the soul, corresponding experiences will arise, for experience is our entrance into the power of these relations. And the Song of Solomon I judge to be the utterances of the soul at one point of this journey, from the first quickening to the full and final enjoyment. It is not the experience of Rebecca when first awakened to leave Mesopotamia, nor of Ruth, when first made ready, in Moab, to take the God of Naomi as her God, nor as afterward a gleaner in the field—it is the exercise of Rebecca’s heart, while on the way to Isaac, listening to the tales of her gracious and wise conductor, and of Ruth at the feet of Boaz, as the suitor of his hand and name.
This is the general moral of the book. But this being so, I can the more admire the perfectness of the Spirit in making this a short book. It is of too intimate a character to have been much spread out. It lies within. It is the recesses of the Temple. It was called by the Jews the “holy of holies.” And that was the smallest place, as well as the most retired. It expressed the deepest character of communion with God. There was one communion at the brazen altar or the brazen laver in the courts—another in the holy place, at the table, the candlestick, and the altar—and another in the presence of the Lord Himself, in the holiest. And of this character of communion is that which the Song of Solomon expresses. It may be that the soul cannot at all times enter into it. Ruth would not have been prepared for laying herself at the feet of Boaz when she entered his field as a gleaner. The teaching she got from Naomi was needed to bring her into the threshing-floor.
Advance in Intimacy
And this little book seems to open with the soul expressing all this. It opens with strong and fervent desire toward Himself; reaching forth to apprehend Him in some more intimate manner than had been previously understood. It is as though the saint had been conscious of being in a lower condition than would now satisfy. For at times the soul rests itself simply on the firm ground of doctrines; such as “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” It is the simple and sure power of such truth that alone answers, at times, the need of the soul. But again, at times, the ground under our feet, as believers, is understood and rested on, and it is the Lord Himself that the soul desires. And such is its condition here. “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth.” She had been keeping the vineyards—attending to things abroad, but now was learning that her own vineyard had been neglected; and the deeper things of personal fellowship are longed for. The saint is leaving Martha’s and taking Mary’s place, longing to feed under His own eye and from His own hand, and not another’s. And at the close, the soul appears to know that it had become a keeper of its own vineyard. At the beginning there had been the grief that the vineyards of others had been kept, but that her own had been neglected (Song of Sol. 1:66Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept. (Song of Solomon 1:6)); but now, it is conscious of being more at home, more about its own vineyard; as though it had left the Martha place, busy about many things, and assumed the Mary place, at the feet of Jesus in personal communion (Song of Sol. 8:1212My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred. (Song of Solomon 8:12)).
This is the advance, the conscious, happy advance, which the soul makes through these exercises. It has reached a higher order of communion with the Lord, and it desires that this may continue until Jesus returns.
The very style of the writing, too, is just that which suits the heart under the power of a commanding affection. “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth”—like Mary Magdalene to the supposed gardener—“If thou have borne Him hence”—both meaning Christ, but neither naming Him. For “the heart had been before taken up with the thoughts of Him, and to this relative these thoughts were the antecedent—that good matter which the heart was inditing. For they that are full of Christ themselves are ready to think that others should be so too.” Or, it is as the language of the Apostle, who means the day of glory and of the kingdom without naming it, when he says, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day”; and again, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.”
Truth and Love are Joined
So is it, in the very style and manner of the renewed mind, eyeing, as it does, both the Lord Himself and the glory. And blessed are these affections. The truth or the doctrine of the gospel is no cold, rigid system. Surely our souls must know this. It is at times laid down in propositions, taking the form of an argument, deducing conclusions from adequate and proved premises. But still the gospel calls for the warmest affections, and abundantly provides for them. Even the Song of Solomon itself never passes beyond the strict bounds of the gospel. It never exceeds that measure which the strictest rules of evangelic truth would prescribe. So that we should interpret these little songs or idylls in the light of the didactic Scriptures, as we may profitably read those Scriptures in the warmth of the Song of Solomon. The Apostle says, “I have espoused you to one Husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” This assumes all that is in the Song of Solomon. And in this way, the gospel, in its strictest meaning, will account for all that is in Solomon’s Song. The latter delineates those affections which well suit such truths and revelations as the former teaches or delivers. But this being so important, as I judge, I desire to instance it in a few particulars.
The Gospel and the Song of Solomon
In these idylls, the Lord looks on the saint as altogether lovely. And so in His eyes is the believer. A sinner in himself, he has, by faith, taken on him the beauty of Christ. He is “in Him.” He has “the righteousness of God” upon him. He is “accepted in the Beloved.” Faith alone gives him all this comeliness. He has been baptized into Christ, and put on Christ. This is the beauty of the believer; and he is lovely in Christ’s eye, as the Song of Solomon again and again expresses.
Indeed in this form of beauty there can be no spot. For it is Christ Himself that the believer is arrayed with. The very “best robe” in the Father’s house is on him. It is a spotless beauty he shines in. The doctrine of the gospel teaches us this, and here Christ utters His delight in it; such harmonies are there between the gospels and the Song of Solomon.
But further. In the mystery of Christ and the believer, Christ has a mountain of myrrh to which He here invites the believer to turn his steps—and Paul exhorts us, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth.” The believer mounts those hills with Jesus as here invited, and as in the Gospel exhorted. His conversation is in heaven. In Christ he sits in heavenly places. And he savors of the myrrh and the frankincense which are there.
Again, the Lord delights in the graces of His saint. He rests, with the love of complacency, in the believer who walks in the Spirit before Him (John 15:1010If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. (John 15:10)). She is an enclosed garden under His eye, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. As we read, the Spirit is in him, a well of water springing up into everlasting life. He has the savor of the spices, and the flowings of the living water, in himself, and the fragrancy and freshness of these gladden his Lord anew. This is the teaching of the gospel, and this is the language of Christ in the Song of Solomon. He delights in what is in us through the Spirit, as well as in what is on us through faith. He has His joy in the places of communion with His elect here, as in the heaven to which He has ascended.
This is largely told us in Scripture. “Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people and thy father’s house; so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty; for He is thy Lord, and worship thou Him” (Psa. 45:10-1110Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; 11So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him. (Psalm 45:10‑11)). Here is something beyond imputed beauty. For here we learn the grace in her which kindles His desire. She has forgotten her own people and her father’s house, so the King desires her. And she owns Him as Lord, and worships Him. She will render Him affection and homage. And all of this suited and attractive grace was shown in Rebecca. She left all for Isaac. She forgot her own people and her father’s house, and came across an unknown desert in company with a stranger, in the singleness and devotedness of an undivided heart. And on reaching him for whom she had consented to all this, she lights from her beast, and veils herself. She puts on the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. She arrays herself in shame-facedness and sobriety. She loves, and yet bows. And so Isaac desires her. And so is the Church to be subject to Christ, and yet love Him with virgin love. Read about it in Ephesians 5 and 2 Corinthians 11:22For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2). (Affection begets confidence. Rebecca committed herself to Eliezer, never asking her father or brother for an escort. So the more singly we love Jesus, the more confidently will our souls trust Him and His supplies for us alone, without confidence in the flesh or anything else.)
And in the Song of Solomon we find the Spirit of Christ inviting His saint into the liberty of this present time, into the atmosphere of a house where the cry of adoption is heard. All the darker and colder age is passed. All that dispensation which kept the soul in bondage and fear is over. The voice of the turtle is heard; the voice of that perfect love which casts out fear. “The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth,” says John, as though he had the Song of Solomon in mind. The saint should now arise, taking his place as the loved and the fair one, being in the full consciousness of personal unspottedness and beauty, through grace, and of his Lord’s perfect favor and delight. He should come away from “the spirit of fear,” and pass over into the spirit of love and of power “and of a sound mind.” For all in the dispensation is gladdening. The flowers appear on the earth, and the singing of birds is heard. All is promise, all pledge, and earnest, and seal, and unction.
And again, if the betrothed one of the Song of Solomon says, “While the King sitteth at His table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof,” the disciple in the gospel does this (John 12:33Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. (John 12:3)).
Moral Principles
The great moral principles of truth are also strictly and fully understood here, though under very delicate and spiritual illustrations. James says, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” In this book we read, “By night upon my bed I sought Him whom my soul loveth; I sought Him, but I found Him not.” The great moral principle, that there is a seeking which does not find, is equally owned in each of these scriptures; but the one has a much more delicate exhibition of it than the other. Jesus is here sought on the bed, that is, in some listlessness of mind. The bed may be the place of meditation (Psalm 63; Isa. 26), but not of seeking, which demands action. And therefore the seeker on the bed, the listless, drowsy inquirer after the Lord, will not, until he passes through discipline, as here (Song of Sol. 3: 1-5), find Him.
Christ’s Satisfaction
If Christ again and again express His deep satisfaction in her, through this book, what have we less than this in the strict teaching of Scripture? Did He not find, at the beginning, that His “delights were with the sons of men”? And at the end, when He sees of the travail of His soul for us, will He not be “satisfied”? (Prov. 8; Isa. 53). If the sinner is content with Him, so is He equally with the sinner. The woman at the well, it is true, forgot her water-pot for Him; but He forgot His thirst for her, and that was greater. And then, in like enjoyment of spirit, He said, on the very same occasion, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of.” John 4.
From the first to the latest moment of our Christian history, our power to refresh the mind of our Lord is deeply and fully owned in Scripture. Our earliest confidence in Him as sinners sets Him at once at a feast (as we have just seen, John 4:3232But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. (John 4:32)), there to make merry with his friends (Luke 15:99And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. (Luke 15:9)); for angels rejoice. The recovery of a wanderer has like joy for Him. Read the utterance of the divine affection over repentant Ephraim, in Jeremiah 31:2020Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:20). And what under the eye, and to the heart of our Lord, are the comely walk of the saints, and their goings in the sanctuary? Is not “a meek and quiet spirit” in God’s sight “of great price”? Does not the pure behavior of the believer please Him, convey complacency or delight to the divine mind? (1 Thess. 4:11Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. (1 Thessalonians 4:1)). And how is such complacency in us witnessed again and again by the promise that He will manifest Himself to us, and make His abode with us! (John 14).
Does not all this make good the suggestions of this book? And so, in the gospels as well as in the Song of Solomon, is not Christ borne away in the chariots of Amminadib, the chariots of His willing people? Where, I ask, did the report of the seventy bear Him? (Luke 10:17-1817And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. 18And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. (Luke 10:17‑18)). Where did the desire of the Greeks translate Him? (John 12:21-2321The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. 22Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. 23And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. (John 12:21‑23)). And the faith of the Gentile soldier could, for a moment, hold His spirit in delight and admiration, and then bear Him onward to the glory, when the East and the West shall send home the children of the kingdom with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. (See Matt. 8:8-118The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 9For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 10When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 11And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:8‑11).)
Grieved or Refreshed
But the affection which can be gratified this way may be wounded. These are among the properties of love. You may grieve as well as refresh the loving heart. And so it is with our Lord, both in the Song of Solomon and in the gospels; as we read also in the Epistles, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”
And again. The betrothed one here knows that the heavens (symbolized by hills and mountains) have received her Beloved. But she knows also that though He is at home there, like a roe or a young hart upon its native hills, yet that He delights in communion with her, and visits her, desirously looking through the lattices. And further still; she knows that her duty it is to watch against intrusion and disturbance, as the keepers of a vineyard would watch against the young foxes. And I ask, Is not all this the truth, the enjoyment, and the practical energy, again and again recognized and enforced in the teaching of the Gospel? We know that the heavens have received Jesus until “the times of refreshing.” We know that He makes His present abode with the saint, and manifests Himself to him, as He does not unto the world. And we know that there is to be energy and watchfulness that we “walk in the spirit,” and not “in the flesh,” if we would taste and enjoy these manifestations of His name to our souls.
Labor to Produce Fruit
So, still further, there is a garden, in this book, under the tillage of the north wind and the south wind, that it may yield its fruits and its spices to the Lord. And does not the severer style of the New Testament abundantly admit the idea? The Father Himself is the Husbandman of a vine which He digs about and dungs; and the saint is as a field that drinketh in the rain from heaven, to yield herbs meet for Him by whom it is dressed. (See John 15; Heb. 6.)
In the imagery here we have Christ as a Suitor at the door, asking of the one He loves admission from “the drops of the night”; and in the New Testament we have Him standing and knocking at the reluctant heart, desiring that entertainment which revived and zealous affection would surely provide Him (Rev. 3:2020Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)). And well for us, beloved, if our lukewarm Laodiceanism do but depart, like the drowsiness of this dear one in this lovely mystic song (Song of Sol. 5:2-162I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. 3I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them? 4My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him. 5I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock. 6I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer. 7The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me. 8I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love. 9What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us? 10My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. 11His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. 12His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. 13His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh. 14His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. 15His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. 16His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. (Song of Solomon 5:2‑16)).
The Consciously Loved Saint
And I know not that the constant self-congratulation of the espoused one in this book is a whit beyond that of Paul. She can always talk of her Beloved being hers, and say moreover, “I am my Beloved’s, and His desire is towards me.” But he can also always, in spirit, sing (let the toil and wear of life be what they may), “The life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” And that is the language of Paul, happy in the assurance of Christ’s devoted love to him. (It is commonly interpreted as though Paul, in Galatians 2:2020I 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), were expressing his devotedness to his Master. But this is not so. This robs the verse of its exquisite glory. He is rather speaking of the joy of his soul in the knowledge of what a devoted and glorious Lover he had.)
If, I may also say, in the imagery of this book, the loved saint can say, “I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste,” the plainer style of an epistle is not less fervent. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Surely the heart is equally in possession of an Object which it knows is fitted to answer all its desires.
Tender With the Growing
And further still. We have, in the actions of this book, souls in different elevations, the betrothed one, and “the daughters of Jerusalem.” How much is that known among themselves, and contemplated in the illustrations and teachings of the New Testament! All are not fully formed—not fully in the measure of the stature, so to express it. “We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts.” All are not alike in the liberty of the dispensation. Such draw out the sympathy of the saint established in the grace of God, and solicitous care, and prayer, and inquiry of the Lord, are made about such, as here. (See Song of Sol. 8:88We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for? (Song of Solomon 8:8).)
Indeed, I know not that anything can be more in the harmonies of the Spirit, in the combined and glowing lights of the gospel, than the utterance of the betrothed one in this short passage (Song of Sol. 8:8-108We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for? 9If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar. 10I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favor. (Song of Solomon 8:8‑10)). The actings of her soul, both towards others and towards the Lord, are the Spirit’s sweetest and choicest workmanship. She has respect to “the infirmity of the weak,” desiring for them strength and edifying in the fuller measure of Christ, and yet all the time owning full oneness and relationship with them in Him, while she rejoices in her own certain, happy assurance, and the fullness of her growth, even to an ecstasy, that her breasts were like towers! And because of that, knowing her Lord’s favor towards her, and delight in her. And sure we may be, that all this is purely and richly the way of a believing, renewed soul. Full adoption of the weak, with desires for their larger liberty and assurance, and yet certainty of personal standing in the most undimmed joy of entire assurance, with perfect persuasion that all this liberty and confidence were thoroughly to the heart and mind of Jesus.
Nothing can be more perfect, I believe, than all this in the harmonies and lights of a spiritual mind, according to the strictest sense of evangelic truth.
Refreshed by an Arousing Love
So again and again, in the gospel history, we find Jesus led to forget His sorrows when beholding faith in a sinner. He found there, as I have already stated, the refreshment of His spirit. He found a transient forgetting of His sorrows among the Samaritans, from the centurion, from Zacchaeus, and from the spikenard and fellowship of Mary. He seeks the same here. He comes to His espoused one, that He might find, in fellowship with her, some other and far different thing than that rejection and refusal which He was ever meeting in the world. And is it not also so, that if the saint is sluggish and careless, the faithful kindred in Christ will help the discipline? If Jesus say, “Could ye not watch with Me one hour?” Paul will say, “Quit you like men, be strong.” So in the action of this book. Jesus leaves a memorial of the soul’s drowsiness on “the hole of the door,” that the conscience may take alarm; and the watchman of the city smite her, and the keepers of the walls draw the veil from her face (Song of Sol. 5).
The harmonies of the “one Spirit” are heard in all this. And so, in the course of these little songs, I discern the way of the Lord toward a repentant, recovered soul. (See Song of Sol. 6: 4-13.) She had just refused to open her door to Him, but, through discipline, had been brought to fervent communion with Him again (Song of Sol. 5:2-6:32I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. 3I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them? 4My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him. 5I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock. 6I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer. 7The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me. 8I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love. 9What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us? 10My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. 11His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. 12His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. 13His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh. 14His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. 15His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. 16His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. 1Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee. 2My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. 3I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies. (Song of Solomon 5:2‑6:3)). And now His eye and His heart are full of her again. He looks on her as beautiful as ever. She is His “undefiled,” and nothing less; no upbraidings pass His lips. Her motion towards Him is comely and graceful in His esteem. And He lets her know that her repentance had given Him pleasant and wondrous refreshment. As soon as she was made willing (Psalm 110:22The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. (Psalm 110:2)), He got into a chariot to bear Him away speedily and joyously to her (Song of Sol. 6:1212Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib. (Song of Solomon 6:12), margin). She may be a wonder to herself, she may take a place unworthy of any notice (vs. 13); but the Lord and angels rejoice over her. As we know in the gospels, the ninety and nine just ones can be left for the one prodigal; the angels in heaven rejoice; the house makes merry; the friends of the beloved triumph over the returned Shulamite. She is like the returned Jacob: the Mahanaim, the hosts of God, salute them both, wait at the threshold of the land or of the house, to do their Lord’s pleasure toward them, and express His welcome and concern for them. Read about it in Genesis 32:11And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. (Genesis 32:1) and Song of Solomon 6:1313Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies. (Song of Solomon 6:13). (Another once observed to me, that in the Song of Solomon, the Beloved expresses directly to herself the beauties He discerns in her; the betrothed one never does this, but recites His beauties in the ears of others; and further observed, that there was great moral propriety in this, something quite according to the dictate of a delicate affection.)
Longing for Full Communion
And what is the longing here but that the day should break? And what is the longing of the same soul in the words of the Gospel? “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly,”—so largely and so exactly do the teachings and the breathings of the New Testament, in these and kindred ways, measure the affections of the heart in this book? Christ dwells in the heart by faith. Christ lies all night between the breasts. (See Eph. 3:1717That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, (Ephesians 3:17); Song of Sol. 1:1313A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts. (Song of Solomon 1:13)). And has not the saint attuned his heart over Jesus in language of like fervor, such as we all use without shame?
“How tedious and tasteless the hours
When Jesus no longer I see,
Sweet prospects, sweet birds, and sweet flowers,
Have lost all their sweetness for me.
The midsummer sun shines but dim,
The fields strive in vain to look gay,
But when I am happy in Him,
December’s as pleasant as May.
His name yields the richest perfume,
And sweeter than music His voice,
His presence disperses my gloom,
And makes all within me rejoice.
I should, were He always so nigh,
Have nothing to wish or to fear,
No mortal so happy as I,
My summer would last the whole year.”
Further Similarities to the New Testament
These are among the seals set upon this beautiful portion of God’s Word by the spiritual mind of the believer, and also by kindred truths and principles found in other scriptures. And it has been happily said, that “if there is no express allusion to this book in the New Testament, the same allegory, as portraying the same truth, evidently appears to have been familiar to the minds of the writers of it, and to the minds also of the people whom they addressed. Not more abruptly does John the Baptist, for instance, refer to our Lord as ‘the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world,’ as being the character of the Messiah which all would know and understand, than he does to the same blessed person in the character of the Bridegroom of the Church—‘he that hath the Bride is the Bridegroom.’”
Preparation Time
And is it not seasonable, in these days of growing irreligiousness and worldliness, to warn one another, beloved, to keep our minds incorrupt in the simplicity that is in Christ? In the preparation-season, which the present age is, and which the Song of Solomon contemplates, Eve was getting ready, under the forming hand of God, for Adam, and for Adam only. Adam slept for Eve, and Eve was made for Adam. So with Christ and the Church. He slept in death for us, and we are preparing, under the Holy Spirit, for Him. “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” As he says also in another place, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again till Christ be formed in you,” Christ, and Christ only, Christ in His precious sufficiency for a sinner, in answer to the Hagar or Galatian thought of “days, and months, and times, and years,” that other gospel which yet is not another.
But this is assailed. The gospel, in its claim on the sinner to give his undivided confidence to Christ, has been abroad on the lips of a thousand witnesses, to the gladdening of thousands of souls. The enemy has watched and hated this. Working in the scene in which he goes “to and fro” and “up and down” (Job 1: 7), he is busy to seduce the heart from this gospel. And is not his success far beyond the measure of the fears of any of us? The religion of fleshly confidences or of ordinances is to this hour among us. It admits of worldliness; and worldliness is, at this same hour, flourishing in company with it. There is the erection of temples for worship, and of palaces for the worshippers; stricter care to observe, in its season, due attendance in the sanctuary, together with unparalleled skill and energy and enterprise in advancing the indulgence and elegance of human life, so as to make the world a desirable and safe place to live in—a place where religion may now be seen to be observed and honored.
This is all seductive from the principle of faith— this is corruption of the mind from the simplicity that is in Christ. The gospel addresses itself to man, not only as a guilty but as a religious creature. It finds him under the power of superstition or religiousness, as well as of sin. It is as natural for man to refuse to go into the judgment-hall for fear that he should be defiled, as it is, in very enmity to God, to cry out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” And the gospel gets as stern a refusal from the religious man as from the lustful man. As the Divine Teacher tells us, the harlot goes into the kingdom before the Pharisee.
Valuing His Blessing
Religious vanities are deeply playing their part in our day, and fascinating many souls. What answer, beloved, do you and I give them? Is Jesus so precious that no allurement has power? Is the virgin purity of the mind still kept? And as chaste ones are we still betrothed to Christ only? Like the newly-formed Eve, are we in our place of earliest, freshest presentation to our Lord? Or have we, apart from His side, opened our ear to the serpent?
The kingdom of heaven is as a supper, a royal, joyous feast got ready for sinners, that they might taste and see that the Lord is good, and that blessed is the man that trusteth in Him. It does not put God in the place of a receiver, for man to bring Him His due; but it puts Him in the place of a giver, and man is called to value His blessing. But the question is, Who listens, with desirous heart to the bidding? Who wears “the wedding garment”? Who prizes Christ? Who triumphs in His salvation? Who longs for the day of His espousals?
John had this garment on him, knowing, as he did, the joy of being the Bridegroom’s friend. It was flowing at liberty on Mary’s shoulders, as she sat at her Lord’s feet and heard His words. Paul tucked it tight about him when he said, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The eunuch had just put it on as “he went his way rejoicing” in the faith of the name of Jesus. Every sinner adorns himself with it the moment his heart values Christ. And what joy is it to know like this that when we put on Christ it is not “sackcloth” we put on, nor is it “the spirit of heaviness” we enter into, but “a wedding garment” has clothed us, and with “the garment of praise” we array our spirits!
Have we thus learned “the kingdom of heaven”? Have we, in spirit, entered it as a banqueting-hall where both magnificence and joy welcome us? Are we, consciously, guests at the marriage of a King’s Son? Have we learned the mysteries of the faith? Have we gazed at them? Has the musing over them kindled a fire in the heart to burn up the chaff of worldly rudiments? Paul had this element in his soul as he traveled through Greece. And how did the glow of these mysteries address itself to “the princes of the world” there? It consumed them all. “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?” Precious ardor of the Spirit! What a pile was fired in this way in the famed cities of the learned and the wise! And how were all the thoughts of men thrown as rubbish into it!
And how did he treat the rudiments of the religious world? He bore the same fervent sense of Christ with him into their regions, to test what chaff and dross were there. In Galatia he found much of it; but he spared none of it. Though an angel from heaven gather such rubbish; though Peter himself help in the work; though the Galatians, who once would have plucked out their eyes for him, be enticed, nothing should stand before the heat of the Spirit that bore him onward. “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?....Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you.”
Could he do less? Could he carry Jesus in his heart, and calmly stand and measure his light with the lights of Greece, or God’s great ordinance with man’s traditions?
It is to make much of Christ we want, beloved— much of Himself, and His glorious achievements for sinners. We want simplicity in that sense of the word—the breathings of a soul content with Him, and the peace of a conscience forever at rest in His sufficiency. “What think ye of Christ?” is the test, as a dear hymn well-known among us has it
“Some call Him a Saviour, in word,
But mix their own works with His plan,
And hope He His help will afford,
When they have done all that they can.
If doing prove rather too light
(A little they own they may fail),
They purpose to make up full weight
By casting His name in the scale.
“Some style Him the pearl of great price,
And say He’s the fountain of joys,
Yet feed upon folly and vice,
And cleave to the world and its toys—
Like Judas, the Saviour they kiss,
And, while they salute Him, betray—
Ah, what will profession like this
Avail in His terrible day!
“If asked what of Jesus I think,
Though all my best thoughts are but poor,
I say, He’s my meat and my drink,
My life, and my strength, and my store;
My Shepherd, my Husband, my Friend,
My Saviour from sin and from thrall,
My hope from beginning to end,
My portion, my Lord, and my all.”
One Sufficient Object
May these thoughts and affections be ours. They are the sweet witness of the one faith, the one Lord, the one Spirit (Eph. 4), for they express the leading, ruling mind of the Song of Solomon. There the soul in kindred affection has but one object, but that one is enough. It is satisfied, and never for a moment looks for a second. It has the “Beloved,” and cares for nothing else. If it grieves, it is over the want of capacity to enjoy Him. It seeks for nothing but Jesus, lamenting only that it is not more fully and altogether with Him. And this is the experience we have to desire—to find in the Lord a satisfying object, a cure for the wanderings of the poor heart, which, until it fixes on Him, will go about and still say, “Who will show us any good?” “The labor of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.”
“That unsatisfiedness with transitory fruitions which men deplore as the unhappiness of their nature is indeed the privilege of it.” Just indeed, and truly to be prized, is such a sentiment. For this thirsting gain, this spending of “labor for that which satisfieth not,” casts the heart on Jesus. As this has ever been, so is it now. The building of palaces, the planting of vineyards, the getting of singing-men and singing-women, the multiplying of the delights of the children of men, all these efforts and travails of the heart take their course and have their way still (Eccl. 2). But Jesus revealed to the heart, as in this book, commands these thoughts and purposes away. It speaks the language of the blessed Lord Himself; and the experience in it is the experience of the poor woman who was able to leave her pitcher at the well—“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst... but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Heaven and Earth
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The scene of the divine handiwork was twofold; and, accordingly, “in the dispensation of the fullness of times,” God will display Himself again, both in heaven and on earth.
I would begin my meditation on this divine subject with Genesis 1-47, which presents, I judge, a beautiful view of the Lord acting, by turns, as in heaven and on earth, until, at the close, we find them together in a way typical of what their connection and yet distinctness will be in that coming dispensation of the fullness of times. May our meditations be always submitted to His truth and Spirit, and conducted in the temper of worshippers.
Genesis 1-2
It was only of the earth that Adam was made lord. The garden was his residence, and he was to replenish and subdue the earth. This was the limitation of his inheritance and of his enjoyments. He knew of heaven only as he saw it above him, and by its lights dividing his day and his night. But he had no thoughts which linked him, personally, with it.
Genesis 3
Genesis 4-5
Such was his changed condition. To cling to the earth now as one’s delight and portion was to act in bold defiance of the Lord of judgment. And such was the spirit of Cain and his family. He thought the earth good enough for God, and desired nothing better for himself. He gave God the fruit of it, and built a city for himself on the face of it, furnishing it with desirable things of all sorts, unmoved by the thought of the blood with which his own hand had stained it, and of the presence of the Lord, on whom he had turned his back. But such was not Adam, or Abel, or Seth, or that line of worshippers who “call on the name of the Lord.” They have in the earth only a burying-place. But grace having provided a remedy for them as sinners, and righteousness having separated them from a cursed earth, they believe in the remedy, and seek no place or memorial in the earth, and the Lord gives them a higher and a richer inheritance, even in heaven with Himself, as signified in the translation of Enoch.
Genesis 6-9
But though the Lord is thus removing the scene of His counsels and the hopes of His elect from earth, to heaven, yet the earth is not given up. It is, we know, destined to rejoice, by-and-by, in the liberty of the glory; or, as I have already quoted, in “the dispensation of the fullness of times” (Eph. 1:910). And, accordingly, this purpose the Lord will at times rehearse and illustrate, as He does now, in due season, in the history of Noah.
The heavenly family, as we have just seen, only died both to and in the earth. They could speak, it is true, both of its coming judgment and blessing. Enoch foretold of the one, and Lamech of the other (Jude 1414And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, (Jude 14); Gen. 5:2929And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed. (Genesis 5:29)). But they were, neither of them, in the scenes they thus talked about. But Noah, who comes after them, is a man of the earth again. In his day the earth reappears as the scene of divine care and delight. God has communion with man upon it again. It has passed through the judgment of the water, and God makes a covenant with it, has the prophet, priest, and king upon it, providing for its continuance and godly government. Noah’s connection with it was quite unlike that of either Cain or Seth. He did not, like the former, fill it and enjoy it in defiance of God; nor did he, like the latter, take merely a burying-place in it; but he enjoyed the whole of it under the Lord. The Lord sanctioned his inheritance of it, his dominion over it, and his delight in it.
Genesis 10-11
So the earth, in its turn, again takes up the wondrous tale, and is the care and object of the Lord. But again it becomes corrupt before Him. Noah himself, like Adam, begins this sad history, and the builders of Babel, like another family of Cain, perfect the apostasy, seeking to fill the earth with themselves independently of God. They were mighty hunters before the Lord. They scoured the face of the earth, as though they asked, in infidel pride, “Where is the God of judgment?”
Genesis 12-36
This, however, was not allowed. Another judgment comes upon them. They are scattered, and the whole human social order is awfully broken up. But Abram is called out to find his fellowship with God, apart from the world. His family dwelt in Mesopotamia beyond the Euphrates. He came from the stock of Shem, but was a worshipper of idols, as all the nations were. But sovereign grace distinguishes him, and the God of glory calls him forth from kindred, from home, and from country.
It is a call, however, that does not interfere with the order of the earth, or government among the nations. He is called to be a stranger, and not a rival of “the powers,” or a new-modeled governor of any people. He walks with God as the God of glory—a higher character than that of the one by whom “the powers that be are ordained.” He is a pilgrim and stranger on earth, and walks as a heavenly man. He has promise that his seed and inheritance in the earth shall become linked together by-and-by; but he, with Isaac and Jacob, dwell in tents all their days, and a tent life is that of a stranger here, of one that is not at home and at rest.
Here, then, we have a heavenly people again— heavenly in the character of their walk, and heavenly, like Enoch or Lamech, in their intelligence about the earth’s future history, and the promise to their seed of inheritance in it in due season. But we have still deeper and fuller mysteries in the history of him who comes after them.
Genesis 37-47
Through the wickedness of his brethren, as we all know, for it is a favorite story, Joseph is estranged from the scene of the promised and covenanted inheritance, and becomes first a sufferer, and then a husband, a father, and a governor, in the midst of a distant people; until at last his brethren, who once hated him, and the inhabitants of the earth, are fed and ruled by him in grace and wisdom.
Nothing can be more expressive than all this. It is a striking exhibition of the great result purposed of God “in the dispensation of the fullness of times.” Joseph is cast among the Gentiles; and there, after sorrow and bondage, becomes the exalted one, and the head and father of a family with such joy, that his heart for a season can afford to forget his kindred in the flesh. This surely is Christ in heaven now, exalted after His sorrows, and with Him the Church taken from among the Gentiles, made His companion and joy during the season of His estrangement from Israel. But in process of time Joseph is made the depository and the dispenser of the world’s resources; his brethren, as well as all beside, become dependent on him; he feeds them and rules them according to his pleasure. And this as surely is Christ, as He will be in the earth by-and-by, with Israel brought to repentance and seated in the fairest portion of the earth, and with all the nations under His scepter, when He will order them according to His wisdom, feed them out of His stores, and resettle them in their inheritance in peace and righteousness.
Surely the heavens and the earth are, in type, here seen, as they will really be in “the dispensation of the fullness of times,” when all things, both in heaven and on earth, shall be gathered together in Christ. Surely this is a rehearsal of the great result, and the heavens and the earth tell out together the mystery of God!
And I cannot but observe the willing, unmurmuring subjection which the Egyptians yield to Joseph. He moves them here and there, and settles them as he likes, but all is welcome to them; and so, in the days of the kingdom, the whole world will be ready to say, Jesus has done all things well. What blessedness! Subjection to Jesus, but willing and glad subjection! His scepter getting its approval and its welcome from all over whom it waves and asserts its power!
And again I observe that all this power of Joseph is held in full consent of Pharaoh’s supremacy. The people, and the cattle, and the lands, are all bought by Joseph for Pharaoh. It is Pharaoh’s kingdom still, though under Joseph’s administration—as in the kingdom of which this is the type, every tongue shall confess Jesus Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
These features give clear expression and character to the picture. But there is one other touch (the touch of a master’s hand, I would reverently say) in this picture which is not inferior in meaning or in beauty to any. I mean, that in all this settlement of the earth, Asenath and the children get no portion. They are not seen; there is no mention of them even. Jacob may get Goshen; but Asenath, Ephraim, and Manasseh, nothing. Is it that the wife and children were loved less, and the father and brethren more? Nay, that cannot be. But Asenath and the children are heavenly, and have their portion, the rather in and with him who is the lord and dispenser of all this, and they cannot mingle in the interests and arrangements of the earth. Even Goshen, the fairest and fattest of the land, is unworthy of them. They are the family of the lord himself. They share the home, and the presence, and the closest endearments of him who is the happy and honored head of all this scene of glory.
Is not this the great result, in miniature or in type? Have we not in all this that promised “dispensation of the fullness of times,” when God will gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth? Are not the heavens and the earth here seen and heard together in their millennial order? I surely judge that they are. “Known unto God are all His works, from the beginning of the world.”
Israel’s Earthly Place
But as we go on in the course of the divine dispensations, earthly and heavenly scenes and purposes still unfold themselves. Israel, in their turn, and after these scenes in the book of Genesis, become the witness of God, and an earthly people. A portion of the world is sanctified for God’s possession and dwelling-place again. As the deluge had purified the whole of it for the divine power and presence in Noah’s day, so the sword of Joshua now purifies a portion of it for the same divine power and presence in Israel. God has His sanctuary and His throne in the land of Canaan. He is worshipped in Jerusalem, and there His law is dispensed. The glory is again in the earth. As Lord of the earth, the God of Israel keeps court and rule on the earth again. But all is corrupted again, Canaan was defiled by the apostasy of Israel, as the Noah—earth had been defiled by the tower of Babel. Ezekiel, who was set as a watchman in the day of this apostasy, sees therefore the glory on its way from Jerusalem to heaven. It does not seek any other spot on earth, but, being disturbed at Jerusalem by the defilements there, it retreats to heaven (Ezek. 11).
The Glory’s Movement
Up to this day of Ezekiel the glory had communicated with Israel in power. It was a glory, or divine presence, that had judged Egypt, guided the camp through the desert, smitten the nations of Canaan, divided their land among the tribes, and then seated itself in the temple and on the throne at Jerusalem. All this was the glory in power. But, as we have seen, Israel had now forfeited it, and it returns to heaven. But it had another character in which to show itself. This same glory, or the divine presence, God Himself, returns veiled in the person of Jesus; in whom, as a rejected Galilean, or carpenter’s son, having not where to lay His head, worse off in the world than the birds or the foxes, it went about in the land of Israel in fullest grace, healing, preaching, toiling, watching; poor, yet enriching others; thirsty and hungry, yet feeding thousands, and in everything as simply and surely declaring itself to be the glory, as it did when it divided the waters of Jordan, or threw down the walls of Jericho. Only it was the glory in its grace now, as it had been the glory in its power then. In this form, however, Israel, or the earth, forfeited it also, though it did not leave the earth in the same way. Of old, when rejected in its power, it left the earth, of itself, in righteous anger resenting the affront done to its majesty, and withdrawing itself in judgment (Ezek. 1-11); but now, being rejected in its grace, it is at last rather sent away than withdraws itself. But still, whether we see the glory in power or in grace, the earth has forfeited it, and it is now hid in the heavens. (See Acts 7:5555But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, (Acts 7:55).)
This is the history of the glory since Ezekiel 11 to the ascension of Jesus. And it is again where the prophet of God saw it going in that chapter, that is, in heaven. Only it is now gathering the fullness of the Gentiles there, receiving to itself the “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling.” The Holy Spirit has come forth to tell us here of the glory there, to form us into association with its own wondrous history, or to make its portion our portion.
Such is the place, and such the action, of the glory now.
The Glory Returns
But there is another stage in its history still. Ezekiel sees it return to the very spot from where it set out (Ezek. 43). It had never sought any other place on earth. If Zion is unprepared for Jesus, the earth must lose Him, for of Zion alone has He said, “This is my rest forever.” But the glory does return, as we see in that chapter of Ezekiel. And then will arise that system commonly known by the name of “the millennium,” when Jesus will become the center, the true ladder which Jacob saw, the sustainer of all things in heaven and on earth, reconciling all by His blood, and then gathering all in Himself to spread His glories over all. (See Isaiah 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)).
In this way the two parts of the future kingdom, the heavenly and the earthly, have been pledged again and again from the beginning; one witness after another, called forth in the dispensations, has, as we have seen, been telling of His counsels; and the millennium will be the owning of these pledges, and the accomplishment of the promises of these heavenly and earthly witnesses.
Interaction of Heaven and Earth
It has been grateful to my own soul to think of the intercourse of heaven with earth, in the progress of this varied and wondrous history. I mean in the visions, or the dreams, or the angelic visits, which at times the people of God have enjoyed. The audiences of divine oracles are of this character also. All these show that the heavens had access to the earth, and had but to pass through a thin veil to meet or reach it.
While the earth was undefiled, the Lord God walked in the garden. And afterward, though He was in some sense estranged from earth, yet He was ever ready to visit it in the behalf of His elect, as in the histories of Abraham, Joshua, Gideon, and others. The ladder which Jacob saw, with its top in heaven and its foot on the earth; the passing and repassing of Moses in and out between the Lord and the people; the elders going up and seeing the God of Israel; Solomon’s ascent from his own house up to the house of the Lord, these are notices of intercourse between the heavens and the earth in the days of the kingdom. So that bright and memorable hour, when Jesus was transfigured, in company with Moses and Elias, in the sight of Peter, James, and John. So the occasional appearances of Christ to His disciples after He had risen. And so the vision of the descending and ascending sheet. The heavenly things at such moments unfold themselves to the eye of man, and give sweet notice of their nearness to us. We do not as yet perceive this nearness, for the glory is not yet in its millennial place over the city of the Jews; but faith reads these notices of this nearness, and understands them (Isa. 4). Faith, in Elisha, knew that the Lord of hosts was nigh, and he prayed that his servant might have his eye opened to see that the mountains around him were filled with the chariots and horses of heaven; and in the millennial kingdom all this will be to sight. The heavenly glory, or glory of the golden city, will shine over the Jerusalem of the land of Israel. On all her habitations it will be a covering. The ladder will be erected, with its head in the heavens and its foot on the earth; the same blessed Lord will be the center of all things; and, as in the different parts of one temple, the services of praise and joy will be celebrated, every tongue confessing Jesus Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Moral Happiness
The pure moral happiness that will be enjoyed by reason of this intercourse, is also sweetly pictured in different types and prophecies. As at the meeting of Jethro and Moses, of Solomon and the Queen of the South; as in Isaiah 60, or on the holy Mount, or in the holy Jerusalem. What right affections do we find in all these intercourses! What pure social pleasures are, as I have said, pictured before us! At the mount of God how naturally Moses at once takes the place of the inferior, and Aaron too; and how gracefully Jethro, representing the heavenly man, fills the duties and wears the honors of their superior! And with what joy of heart, and praise on his lips, does he listen to the tale of God’s mercies to Israel! In the Queen of the South, what unenvious and ungrudging generosity of soul we witness, and in Solomon what readiness to make her happy! He tells her all that was in her heart, and more besides, filling her with such light and joy, that, it is said, there was no more spirit in her; and she returns home, not to envy his greatness, but to spread the report of it. From Isaiah 60 we learn how gladly will all the nations, in the day of the kingdom, wait on Jerusalem with their treasures. Even like the flight of doves to their windows will be the willing-hearted journeys of the dromedaries of Midian, or the voyages of the ships of Tarshish, with their treasures and their spoils, to nourish the joy and glory of Zion. They will delight to do her honor, and all will be with the glow and fervency of a free-will offering. As afterward, in the case of Peter on the holy Mount; when he awoke to the sight and sense of the heavenly glory, such joy filled his soul as, at once, and by its own necessity, expelled all selfishness from his heart. It was not Peter properly who spoke, but the virtue of the place, the spirit of the scene. He was, as in the twinkling of an eye, so filled with the air and breath of heaven, that he was ready to labor and let other men enter into his labors. “Master, it is good for us to be here,” said he; “let us make three tabernacles, one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” And again, in the holy Jerusalem, what is the commerce there between the families of God? All that is most blessedly of the same great and generous character. The kings bring their glory and honor up to the light of the city, counting it their place and their joy to do her honor, not lightly approaching her, but, as owning her holy dignity, bringing only their glory and their honor up to her. And she dispenses her treasures with the same gracefulness. The leaves of her tree, the light of her glory, the streams of her living river, are all at the welcome disposal of the nations.
All these shadowy expressions of the social delights of millennial days will be deeply prized by us, if we love the exercise of pure, unselfish affections.
Heaven Come Down to Earth
But in this intercourse it is the heavens that will visit the earth, and not the earth the heavens— the people of the one will come down to the other, but not the contrary—the people of the earth will only have to receive and welcome the visitants from heaven.
The kingdom of nature, as we may call it, exhibits this. For the earth gives nothing to heaven, but receives from it; as the sunshine and the rain come down to bless the earth, but the earth adds nothing in return. (The saints of the present age, being heavenly in their calling, should be heavenly also in the spirit of their mind, and consciously, in all their tastes and desires, only as strangers, and not at home, in the earth; a people, as another once said, not as looking up from earth to heaven, but as looking down from heaven to earth.)
Veiling the Glory
But in this coming intercourse of the heavens and the earth, when the people of the heavens go up and down the mystic or millennial ladder, I have thought that Scripture leads us to judge that there will be change of raiment, or a certain veiling of their proper glory, when they come down, and have communion with the earth beneath them and under them.
The expression of this we get in the Lord’s appearances after He rose from the dead. For then He could assume any veil which suited the business He had to do, whether that of the gardener to Mary, that of a traveling companion to the two going to Emmaus, or that of a courteous stranger on the banks of the lake to the fishermen. In such appearances He could not be seen in heaven; but He could veil Himself like this when the business He had in hand to do on the earth required it. As of old, Moses was the unveiled Moses in the presence of God, but the veiled Moses in the sight of Aaron and the congregation. One suit of raiment was fitted to heaven, another to earth. And as also, in the case of the priests, they had such apparel as became them when they were within, and they had another dress wherein to appear without. They suited themselves differently to the presence of God and the people. (See Lev. 6:1111And he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place. (Leviticus 6:11); Lev. 16:4,23-244He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on. (Leviticus 16:4)
23And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there: 24And he shall wash his flesh with water in the holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people. (Leviticus 16:23‑24)
; Ezek. 42:1414When the priests enter therein, then shall they not go out of the holy place into the utter court, but there they shall lay their garments wherein they minister; for they are holy; and shall put on other garments, and shall approach to those things which are for the people. (Ezekiel 42:14); Ezek. 14:1919Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast: (Ezekiel 14:19).)
And, besides, we see this changeful appearance of the Son of God in old times. He had various suits wherein to show Himself, and wherein to veil the brighter glory which was fit only to the higher regions. He was in a burning bush at Horeb, in a cloudy chariot through the wilderness, and as an armed soldier under the walls of Jericho (Joshua 5:1313And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? (Joshua 5:13)). The business of the kingdom, the concerns of the earth, called Him here; and He appeared in a way suited to the business He had to do. And all these are notices of the change of raiment, in which those who are to govern “the world to come,” and to do the matters of the kingdom on earth, may wait on their ministry here, and then return to appear again unveiled in their more proper heavenly places.
Unique Joys and Glories
But in addition to this doctrine of heavenly and earthly places and peoples, in the days of the coming glory, and in addition to the truth of there being blessed and wondrous intercourse between them, as I have been shortly stating, we might meditate on some of the joys and glories peculiar to each of them.
To rise and meet the Lord in the air is the hope which is the most immediately upon the heart of the believer. Then the going with Him to the mansions in the Father’s house. As He says, “I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” And that house will give exercise to all those family affections which the heart so well understands. The Father will be there, and the Firstborn among many brethren, and the many brethren themselves. And to extend these relationships, and awaken affections to the full, there will be the marriage there, and the now espoused or betrothed Church will become the bride of the Lamb (Rev. 19).
There are scenes of glory also, and occasions of other joy, accompanying this. In those heavens there will be the “Holy Jerusalem,” the dwelling of the saints as a royal priestly people, the place of government and of worship. And there will be the Tree of Life, and the River of Life, and the Light, and the Throne of God and the Lamb. And the saints will be there as harpers, not having cymbals and timbrels of merely human skill, fitted to raise the joys of earth (Psa. 98), but having “harps of God,” instruments of divine workmanship, fitted to awaken melody worthy of heaven itself. And the enthroned elders will be there, casting their crowns before the throne, and the angels delighting to ascribe all power and authority to the Lamb that was slain. (Another once observed, that the moment of highest rapture in heaven is not when the saints wear their crowns, but when they cast them down before the throne as seen in Revelation 4:1010The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, (Revelation 4:10)).
And throughout all this there will be nothing to trouble or to hinder. As on earth, in those days, “nothing will hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain,” so, in the heavens, there will be no entrance to anything defiling. There can be no enemies, for they have been judged; no serpent, for he has been trodden under foot. There will be no weariness of heart, no coldness or dullness of soul, no fainting of spirit; but the servants will serve without fault, and night and day there will be the happy worship, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.”
This heaven too will be one scene of God’s own rest or sabbath; and the saints, in their measure tasting the same refreshing, will dwell in that rest in bodies fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body. They shall be like Him in His glory, seeing Him as He is. They shall shine “as the sun” in the kingdom of their Father. In mind, body, and estate they will be conformed to the Beloved. And there will be the seeing or understanding of all the precious revelation of God, not as through a glass, darkly, but as face to face, knowing even as we are known. And there will be the white stone; the hidden manna; the morning star; the white robes, wherein to stand before the throne of God; the white garments, wherein to walk with the Lord through the dominions; and the white raiment, wherein to sit on their own thrones (Rev. 2-3). All these will be ours then.
The Future for Heavenly Saints
But this leads to a scripture which is very fruitful in notices of heavenly joy and glory. I mean Revelation 2 and 3. The promises there made will be found, I believe, to unroll before us, in holy and exact order, the things which await the saints of the heavens in those coming days.
“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
Those outside shall have the leaves of this same tree for healing (Rev. 22), but the saints of the heavens shall have more—the very fruit of the tree itself, gathered, as it were, immediately from it, where it grows in the midst of God’s own garden; not the fruit brought to them, but gathered by their own hands off the very tree. Strong intimation of the freshness, the constant freshness, of that life which is theirs. As Jesus says (and what can pass beyond such words?), “Because I live, ye shall live also.” Here, in this promise to Ephesus, is the tree of life partaken of immediately by the heavenly saints. For this is their portion, to receive life from the very fountains and roots themselves and there also to feed and to nourish it.
“Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”
This is something beyond what had been said to Ephesus. Life was regarded as imparted in its richest form to Ephesus; but here we see it gained by Smyrna. For Smyrna was sorely tried. Some were cast into prison, and all of them were in tribulation. They were to suffer many things, but they are promised, on being faithful unto death, a crown of life. As James in like manner speaks, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” Here the crown of life is promised to them who endure trial. And this is beautiful in its season. The Lord delights to own the faith of His saints; and if they have shown that they loved not their life in this world unto death, it shall be as though they had gained it in the world to come. Life shall be a crown to them there, as the glorious reward of their not having cared for it here.
“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”
We have another source of joy disclosed here. Life is possessed, and that abundantly and honorably, as we saw, at Ephesus and Smyrna; but there is here the promise of another joy—the sense of the Lord’s personal favor and affection; communion with Him of such kind as is known only by hearts closely knit together in those delights and remembrances with which a stranger could not intermeddle. This is here spoken of to the faithful remnant in Pergamos. They had held His faith in the midst of difficulties, and clung to His name; and this should be rewarded with that which is ever most precious—tokens of personal affection, waking the delightful sense and assurance that the heart of the Lord is knit to their heart. He will kiss the saint “with the kisses of His mouth”; or, in the midst of it all, give that pledge which shall speak it. It is the hidden manna which is here fed upon; and the stone here received has a name on it, which none know but he who receives it. This, as another has said, expresses individual affection. It is not public joy, but delight in the conscious possession of the Lord’s love. How blessed a character of joy in the coming days is this! Life possessed in abundance and in honor we have already seen at Ephesus and Smyrna; but here at Pergamos, we advance to another possession—not glory in any form of it as yet, but the blessed certainty and consciousness of the Lord’s personal affection.
“He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers, even as I received of My Father, and I will give him the morning star.”
Here we reach public scenes, scenes of power and glory. This is not merely life, though enjoyed never so blessedly, nor simple personal affection and individual joy, but here is something displayed in honor and strength abroad; here are power and glory in the first character in which the glories of the saints are destined hereafter to be unfolded; that is in their being the companions of the Lord in the day when He comes forth to make His enemies His footstool; or, according to the decree of the second psalm, to break them with a rod of iron, to dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. This will be His power just as He takes the kingdom. This will be His ridding out all that would have been inconsistent with the kingdom. This will be the girding of the sword upon the thigh, like David, before the throne is ascended, like Solomon (Psa. 45). It will be the Rider’s action, before the reign of the thousand years begins (Rev. 19). And in that exercise of power, and display of glory, the saints (as we are here instructed and promised) shall be with Him. This is blessed in its place, and given to us in due season; for, after the life, and the personal, hidden joy, the public glories begin to be ushered forth.
“They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy....He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.”
This is a stage onward in the scenes of glory. The vengeance has been taken, the sword of Him who sits on the white horse has done its righteous service, the vessels of the potter have been broken, and the kingdom has come. Jesus here promises to His faithful ones that He will confess them before His Father and His angels. This is not redeeming them from judgment, or saying their souls (as we speak), but publicly owning them before the assembled dignities of the kingdom. He promises them that they shall walk with Him in white, for they are worthy. That hand which now in grace washes their feet, will then take hold of them in holy, happy intimacy, and own full companionship with them in the realms of glory. They shall walk with Him.
What a character of joy is this! To be publicly owned, as before (as we read of Pergamos) privately and personally caressed. In how many ways does the Spirit of God trace the coming joy of the saints! The life, the love, the glory, that are reserved for them; the tree of life, and its crown too; the white stone, carrying to the deepest senses of the heart the pledge of love; and then companionship with the King of glory in His walks abroad through His bright and happy dominions. But even more than this the same Spirit has still to tell.
“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from My God: and I will write upon him My new name.”
We have just seen the heir of the kingdom as the companion of the Lord of the kingdom, abroad in the light of the glory, walking there in white with Him, owned before the Father and before the angels. Here the promise is, that the faithful one, shall have his place in the system of glory itself, that he shall be of that glorious order of kings and priests who shall then form the character of the scene, each of them being a pillar in the temple, and each enrolled as of the city. High and holy dignities! Each of the faithful ones filling his place in the temple and the city, a needed member of that royal priesthood then established in their holy government in the heavens, where the New Jerusalem abides and shines. What honor is put on them here! Owned abroad in companionship with the Lord, walking through the rich and wide scene of glory; and also owned within, as bearing, each in himself, a part of the glory, every vessel needed to the full expression of the light of the New Jerusalem, and formed as the vital part of the fullness of Him who is to fill all in all! A king and a priest, each of them occupying his several rank and station in the temple and the city, the Salem of the true Melchisedec. What a place of dignity! Surely love delights to show what it can do, and will do. If we had but hearts to prize these things, chiefly because of their telling us of this love which has thus counseled for us! For what higher, happier thought can we have, even of glory itself, than that it is the manner in which love lets us know what it will do for its elect one. Poor, poor heart that moves so little at these things, while the mind stirs the conception of them!
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.”
Here the highest point of glory is reached. This is the bright and sunny elevation up to which this passage through the joys and honors of the kingdom has conducted us. Here the faithful one enters into the joy of his Lord, sharing His throne; not only owned by Him abroad, and established with Him within, walking in white with Him, or fixed as a needed and honored portion of the great system of royal priesthood, but with Him seated in the supreme place.
These pledges and promises may now end. They have told of blessedness indeed.
Glory Revealed in the Saints
Exceeding great things have surely passed before us in this wondrous scripture, Revelation 2 and 3. The tree and crown of life—the white stone—the morning star—the walking abroad with Jesus through the realms—residence in the temple and city—a place on the throne itself! Surely, if Jesus Himself is prized, then will all this be welcomed by us. And then, as we are further told, the joy of dispensing to the earth the streams of that living river, and the leaves of that living tree, which rises and grows in our heavens (Rev. 22); with access, moreover, to the ladder which lies between the upper and lower regions, in order, as I have been already observing, to do the business of the kingdom, in conscious royal dignity, and full priestly holiness.
The glory also shall be revealed in us, each saint shall bear it or be a vessel of it, and each of them shall be a child of light and a child of the day, and each a son of glory, glorified together with Christ, so as to join with Him in shedding light, beyond that of the sun or the moon, upon the creation beneath, that the present earnest expectation of that creation may be satisfied in the then manifestation of the sons of God.
“And they shall see His face, and His name shall be in their foreheads.” They shall be intimately near Him, speaking face to face, as a man speaks to his friend, without fear or suspicion, for their title shall be signed and sealed as with His own hand. He will have appropriated them to Himself; and this they shall know, because His name shall be on them. And there, as within all veils, they will walk in their heavenly temple, and look on their Lord, and love, and wonder.
All Will be Right Then
And to all this, we may add, that everything will be according to our mind, as we speak; all will be right in our eyes; all will equally and entirely please us, and be just as we would have it. This we see in the book of Revelation, in the progress of which the heavenly family, wherever they are seen or heard, are always found in the fullest concord with the action that is going on. In Revelation 4, the throne is getting itself ready for judgment— lightnings, thunders, and voices proceeding from it; but the elders and the living creatures have their doxologies to the name of the Lord God Almighty, who sits and orders all. In Revelation 5, the Lamb takes the book, and they again rejoice, taking their harps to celebrate Him, and to make merry at the prospect which this sight opens to them. In Revelation 11, the seventh angel announces judgment, but they have only to fall on their faces, and worship, and give thanks. In Revelation 12, the war in heaven and its issue is just as they would have it; and with a loud voice they publish “Salvation!” In Revelation 15, God’s works and ways, all things of His counsel or His strength, form the theme of their song. And in Revelation 19, the judgment of the woman who corrupted the earth calls forth again and again the hallelujah of the glorified family. So all, from beginning to end, is equally and altogether right in their eyes; all is exactly as they would have it. They as loudly triumph in the Kinsman Avenger (Rev. 19), as they do in the Kinsman Redeemer (Rev. 5). Everything is to them beautiful in its season. The marriage of the Lamb, and the judgment of the great whore, are equally and entirely according to their mind.
Nothing is Fully Right Now
Different, far different indeed, from what is now felt by the believer. As far as he is spiritual, nothing is fully right around him here. And this is only increasingly so, as the world gets fuller of its own inventions, and increases with the increase of man. And a judgment this affords as to the state of our affections. For we may ask ourselves, How are we moved by the present advance in the improvements of the world? Are we congratulating ourselves and the age upon them, or are they sickening to our hearts? This may be a touch-stone of the condition of our souls, whether indeed Christ is our object or not. The great tower in the plains of Shinar would have been the boast of a Nimrod, but Abram would have turned from it to weep. Just as the merchants of the earth bewail that which the heavens rejoice over (Rev. 18).
Is Christ Our Object?
And this is the great inquiry for us now—Is Christ the object of our hearts—the One that we long for? For that He will be ours, and near us and with us forever, will be the highest point in all our rich happiness in this future heaven which we have been looking at. Provision for the heart is always the dearest thought we can entertain. As with Adam at the beginning. He was put into the possession of a goodly estate, which carried with it all that could gratify the sense. There were the trees and the fruits of that garden, pleasant to the eye and to the palate. The desire of the one and of the other, and of all the senses and faculties of man, might be holily indulged, for the tree of knowledge had not been then eaten. The Lord God was in the supreme place, the creature was not then worshipped and served more than the Creator, and all the senses might righteously take their enjoyments, and the divine Planter of Eden had provided for them (Gen. 2:99And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9)). Yea, and more than this. Adam received dominion from the same hand. The natural—nay, the divine—delight in power and dignity was provided for this way; for as the Lord God in the upper world called the stars by their names, thus owning them, so did He give Adam on the earth to call the cattle and the fowl by their names, taking headship of them in that way. And in this way he was set in the midst of these divine provisions for his eye, his ear, his tastes, and his desire of dignity. But the heart was as yet unfed. The day of his coronation was not the day of his espousals. And the Lord God knows him. He knows the creature whom in His love and perfections He had formed. It is not good, says He, that he should be alone, I will make him an help meet for him. And Adam receives Eve from the same hand which had given him Eden with its fruits, and dominion in the earth. And then it is that his lips are opened. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh,” says Adam, expressing his deep satisfaction, and that he now needed no more. Eden could not, with all its delights for the senses, nor could his vast and unrivaled dominion abroad, as “monarch of all he surveyed,” do what Eve did for him. She unsealed his lips with a confession that now he was satisfied. And so with us in possessing Jesus, above all glory, in our heavenly Eden, forever.
Attracted From Earthly to Heavenly
These, and the like notices of heaven scattered through the Word, it is blessed to take up and ponder. And, as one has said, “The Holy Spirit, who is called the earnest of our inheritance, acts upon these notices, and makes them living to our souls.” And it is these notices and attractions which make us, in a divine sense, strangers and pilgrims here. Abraham, it has been observed, became a stranger in the earth, not from any sorrow or pressure in Mesopotamia, for we read of none such, but because “the God of glory” had spoken in the language of “promise” to him. He was drawn out from kindred and home and country by something before him, and not urged or driven out by anything behind. This was heavenly stranger-ship here.
Is it like that, beloved, or are we desiring that it may be like that, with our souls? Are we pondering the prospect, and following out the distant glimpses of it, with fixed and interested hearts? These are the present questions for the stirring and guiding of our souls. The search will lead to humbling and rebuke, but it will be an excellent oil.
Necessary to Him
And, as if to give us full ease of heart in the enjoyment of this our future heaven, the Lord has taught us to know that we are in some sense wanted there, however unimportant we may deem ourselves. For each is to be a vessel of the glory, as we have already said; of larger or smaller quantity it may be, but still each is a needed vessel in that house of glory. We commonly think how necessary the Lord is to us. True indeed. We shall celebrate the fact that we owe everything to Him throughout eternity. But it is also a truth (to the praise of the riches of grace it is spoken) that we are necessary to Him. “The woman is the glory of the man.” Not in the same way, surely. He is necessary to us for life as well as for joy, for salvation as well as for glory; but we are important, of course, only to His joy and glory; as it is written, “That we should be to the praise of His glory”; and again, “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:77That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7)).
The Lord God consulted for Adam’s joy when He purposed in Himself to form Eve. Eve, we may know full well, was abundantly happy in Adam; but still the concern of the Lord was about Adam being happy in Eve. So it is even now in the dispensation of the gospel. The true Adam is still consulted for. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son.” And so will it be still in the dispensation or age of the glory. It is called “the marriage of the Lamb”— not, as once observed to me, the marriage of the Church or of the Lamb’s wife, but of the Lamb, as though the Lamb were the One chiefly interested in that joy.
And so it is. The Church will have her joy in Christ, but Christ will have His greater joy in the Church. The strongest pulse of gladness that is to beat for eternity will be in the bosom of the Lord over His ransomed Bride. In all things He is to have the preeminence; and, as in all things, so in this—that His joy in her will be greater than hers in Him.
The Heart Prepared for Heaven
And all the foreknown to that end, and none less than all, will form the Eve of that Adam, and be the Bride or the Woman destined thus to be the Man’s joy and glory. All here are now “fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth,” and no less then will the all be demanded. Oh, how the Lord not only prepares the heaven, but in this way prepares the heart for it, that we may enjoy it with entire ease, seeing ourselves a needed portion of the holy furniture of the place! As Joseph would comfort his brethren by telling them that it was God who had sent him into Egypt before them, that life might be preserved by a great deliverance. Their wicked hands had done it, it is true; but God’s purpose had done it also, and it is this He would have them now think of, and not the other. For this is the way of love; and “God is love.” Love will not only spread the feast, but do what it can to let it be tasted with all confidence and joy of heart. Love will make the guests sit at the table, give them a plentiful board, and ease while enjoying it.
Can we, beloved, read these notices of the heaven that is to be ours by-and-by, and forever, and, as we read, wish our hearts joy that it is so? Can we count ourselves happy, having such prospects as these? As the miser can bear the scorn of the world without, in the thought of his treasures at home, can we in the hope of this joy of heaven live above the earth and its promises?
The “Air” of Heaven
Such things, however, as these, excellent as they are, have something still further with them. The air of a place is more important to us than its scenery. If we can get both, of course the better; but if we can have but one, the good air will be surely preferred.
Now, heaven, I may say, will have both. It will be filled with a moral element or atmosphere, as well as furnished with glories; and the former (I speak as a man) will be more in the account of our joy than the latter.
I have found it well at times to ponder this, and to learn something of that moral element that is to be the air of heaven. Scriptures which I have already noticed test and prove the purity of that air. The millennial atmosphere both in heaven and on earth will indeed be ever fresh, laden with balmy fragrance. If we are now wearied with our own selfishness, and with the tempers of “hateful and hating” human-nature, we must long for a change of air, such as the land of the glory is said to know, the land of the voice of the turtle. If the brightness of those regions, or the scenery of the place, have its attraction (and what heart can conceive it?), what must be the atmosphere of it to our happy souls, where social life, through all its relations, as between heaven and earth, and as between Jerusalem, the land of Israel, and the most distant islands, moves and kindles continually with the most generous and delicate affections.
It is not that nature will be triumphed over merely;—nature will not be there; at least, not in the heavens which we are approaching. We shall not have to speak of saints carrying themselves towards each other in a good spirit. Such security is well in its place, and while we sojourn in our “vile bodies.” But there the element itself will be good. The fervent currents of pure and happy minds, flowing from each to all, will form it.
The moral dignity and beauty, the various and yet consistent perfections that will animate us then, will all be bright and lovely before the divine mind. God shall survey the work of His fingers through the different spheres of glory, and rest with delight in it.
It is a thought much to be cherished, that our eternal ways will thus be the divine delight, and more than make up to God (I speak again after the manner of men) for the grief which, by us and in us, His Spirit is now so continually put to.
Such will be the moral enjoyments in the realms of glory; no small part of that banquet at which the Lord will seat His guests, when He comes forth and girds Himself to wait upon them (Luke 12:3737Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. (Luke 12:37)). We may be but little able to comprehend the glory itself, but we can appreciate these moral characteristics of the heaven we are reaching.
While still here, in the conflicts of flesh and spirit, we are, in some sense, under the guardianship of conscience, that principle which judges of “good and evil.” But conscience will not keep heaven in order. Our passions and our righteousness will there be one. Little do we now advance in a heavenly direction by the gracious current of affections. But what bliss, when the very energy which bears us speedily will also bear us rightly onward—when the very gale which fills the sails will regulate the rudder; the passion that engages and delights the soul being the very rule and measure of all that is worthy of the presence of God!
May we cherish in our souls these notices of heaven! Faint is their impression; humblingly indeed do some of us know this; but we may entertain them, and bid them welcome, grieved that our welcome is not more warm and affectionate.
The Earth’s Future
But the earth is still remembered, and kept in store for great purposes yet to be accomplished. The rainbow was, of old, as we know, made the pledge of this. It is a token of the covenant between God and all the earth, and every living thing upon it. The Lord says, that when the cloud comes, the bow shall be with it—when the portent of judgment lowers, the sign of peace shall shine. And, as we see to this day, the earth has not been again destroyed. It may not be the residence of the glory, as it once was, and as it will be again, but still it is preserved, according to the promise of the rainbow. And Scripture is diligent and exact to show us, that in every variety of the divine procedure, this promise has been, is, and will be remembered.
So it was surely remembered all the time the Lord had His seat in Zion; for then the Lord made the earth His habitation. But when the throne of the Lord leaves Zion, and the holiest of holies loses the glory, because the earthly people had, by their sin, disturbed its rest, and all returns to heaven (Ezek. 1-11), we see the throne and the glory carrying the rainbow with them. That is, though the earth was then stripped of glory; though Jerusalem, the throne of the Lord, was then for a season laid on heaps, and put under the foot of the Gentiles; still the Lord would be mindful of the earth, and make it the object of His faithful care, according to His promise. And so we see the glory, though it leave the earth, bearing with it the remembrance of the earth: the rainbow accompanies it to heaven; this telling us, that though the Lord leave the earth as the scene of His power and praise for a time, He has it still in recollection before Him. Accordingly, when the heaven is opened to our vision in Revelation 4 we see the faithful bow encompassing the throne there. How blessed this is! The Lord in the heavens is still mindful of the earth. He has thrown the very pledge of its security around His throne on high, so, that though the earth see not that throne, and is no longer the place of that throne, that throne sees the earth and remembers it, and longs, as it were, for its natural footstool.
Security of the Earth
This shows us the security of the earth during this heavenly dispensation through which we are now passing. The Lord is now gathering a people for heaven. It is true, He is not filling the earth with glory yet, but gathering an elect family out from it, to have communion with Himself in heaven; but still He is mindful of His promise. He looks on the bow, and preserves the earth, keeps the seed-time and the harvest, the cold and the heat, the day and the night, the summer and the winter, in their stated rounds and seasons (Gen. 9).
How simple all this is. When the throne went first from earth to heaven, we saw it bearing along with it the recollection of the earth; and now in its place in the heavens we see it still clasping to its breast and encircling across its brow this fond and loved token of the earth’s blessing (Ezek. 1; Rev. 4).
But there is still more. For let the Lord come down in the judgments that are by-and-by to visit the earth, we shall find Him as fully mindful of His promise not to destroy it, as now He is, or has been before this. This we see in Revelation 10. The mighty angel, the angel of judgment, comes down; and he is clothed with a cloud, the fearful vessel of wrath, and token of judgment; as was said at the beginning, “When I bring a cloud over the earth.” But even then the rainbow is with Him; as it was added, “The bow shall be seen in the cloud.” It is not simply with a cloud He comes down, but with the cloud and the bow accompanying it (See Gen. 9:1414And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: (Genesis 9:14); Rev. 10:11And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: (Revelation 10:1)). As much as to tell us, that at the very end He remembers His word, and will debate with judgment. He will say to it, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.” The cloud is to descend, it is true; the judgment must come, the vials of wrath must be poured out; but it is only to judge those who corrupt or destroy the earth, and not to destroy the earth itself; for the mighty angel, as we see from this scripture, who comes down “clothed with a cloud,” has also “a rainbow upon his head.” And the cloud, as it executes its commission, and pours out its water or its judgments again, must stay itself in obedience to the bow that is to measure and control it. The present course of things may cease, as in the days of Noah, but the bow shines in the eye of the Lord. His promise lives in His heart, and the earth shall be the happy scene and witness of its rich fulfillment.
Thus, then, we see that even the judgment itself shall not touch the ancient promise to the earth. It is still beloved for Noah’s sake, of whom it was said, “This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed” (Gen. 5:2929And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed. (Genesis 5:29)). That is, for His blessed sake whom Noah typified; and we need not say, beloved, who He is. Therefore it survives the judgment, it stands the shock of the descent of this mighty angel, though clothed with a cloud, planting his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, and crying aloud as when a lion roars.
Preserved to be Glorified
And what is it reserved for? For even more than the rainbow had promised it. For this is the way of God. He takes up His pledges, and is faithful abundantly, doing more exceedingly than He had spoken. And so is it in this case of the earth. It is not only preserved, with its seed-time and its harvest, its day and its night, but it is brought into the “liberty of the glory of the sons of God.” This is more than had been pledged to it. The holy city descends out of heaven, to take its connection with the earth; and, shining in due sphere above it, forth from its bosom it sends the leaves of its living tree, the streams of its living water, and the rays of its indwelling glory, to beautify and to refresh the earth and its creatures below (Rev. 21-22). The rainbow need not now appear, for the cloud is gone. The bow would do well enough while there was the cloud, the promise and the pledge might comfort, while there was place for judgment, or for fear of evil; but now judgment is over.\ The cloud is scattered, and the bow has therefore no place. But the holy city descends out of heaven from God, to do more, much more, than merely to redeem the divine pledge. For it is glorifying, and not merely preserving, the creation. It shall then rejoice in the presence of the Lord, when He cometh to govern the earth.
Delivered Creation
Would not time fail to tell of all the types and prophecies of the earth’s blessing in the days of the kingdom? The trees and the fields and the floods, in their order, will then rejoice before the Lord. The creation itself shall be delivered into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. Psalm 8, with many a kindred voice, proclaims it. The voice of every creature on earth, under the earth, and in the sea, heard in vision by the prophet, anticipates it (Rev. 5). And the promised day, when “the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose,” when “the leopard shall lie down with the kid,” and when “the heavens shall hear the earth, and the earth shall hear the corn and the wine and the oil,” will realize it (Isa. 35; Hos. 2).
The Nations Praise
And the nations, we know, will fill their place in this approaching system of glory. They will turn their swords into plowshares; and instead of learning wax, they will learn the ways of the Lord, and walk in His paths. At the appointed season they will wait, each with his offering, on the King in Zion, holding their high and joyous feast in the presence of His greatness there. Then from the uttermost parts of the earth shall be heard songs to the Righteous One. And then shall the call of the prophet be answered by the willing hearts of all the people: “Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory unto the Lord, and declare His praise in the islands.”
Rejoicing Israel
Israel then shall dwell safely—“every man under his vine and under his fig tree.” They shall be “all righteous”; they shall be all united; they shall call every man his neighbor. “Ephraim shall not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim.” The two mystic sticks shall become one in the prophet’s hand. They shall be “one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel.” And, as in the shadowy days of Solomon, it shall then be said, “Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and making merry.” Their merriment, too, shall be holy. It shall be the joy of a sanctuary. “They shall abundantly utter the memory of Thy great goodness, and shall sing of Thy righteousness.... They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom, and talk of Thy power.” Within themselves, towards the nations around, and under the God of their fathers, the God of their covenant, all shall be blessing with Israel. For the Lord God says this, “They shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant....I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And the heathen shall known that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezek. 37).
Jerusalem’s Special Place
All this tells the tale of millennial joys on the earth. But in this system of earthly glory, beyond the creation itself, the nations, and Israel, there is a spot still more illustrious, an object distinguished in the midst of even joys and dignities like these. I mean Jerusalem.
And I have before now asked myself, Why is it that Jerusalem is made so much of in Scripture? Why is it that “the Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob”?
It was His court—the place of His presence both as the God and the King of Israel. His palace and His sanctuary were there. The administrations of His laws and the ordinances of His worship were there. The thrones of judgment, the testimony of Israel, and the eucharistic service of His name, were all known there (Psa. 122). It was the place where Jehovah had recorded His name, and where the glory dwelt, the symbol of His presence.
It was His home. The whole land was the Lord’s domain; but Jerusalem was the mansion-house, the family dwelling. The children were placed out here and there through the tribes and divisions of the land, which was the family estate, but Jerusalem was the family mansion. It was the father’s house, the common home, where, at stated holy days, the children met, according to the common way of the affection of kindred.
This, I believe, was Jerusalem’s first attraction in the eye and to the heart of the Lord of Israel. He sought and He found a home at Jerusalem, saying, “This is My rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” And He left it, when sin had defiled it, with all the hesitation and lingering which disappointed affection so well understands (Ezek. 8-11).
Jerusalem’s Future Blessing
Jerusalem was all this—the house of the Father, the palace of the King, and the temple of the God of Israel. For Israel were His children, His people, and His worshippers, and the affections of a Father’s heart, and the joys and honors of the Lord and King, found their object and their sphere at Jerusalem. And this is more than enough to account to us for her high distinction. And all this is she to be again. It will be the palace, the temple, and the family mansion again. It will be the place of prayer for all nations. It will be the seat of legislation, worship, judgment, and government. It will be the fountain, too, of the virtues of the new covenant, from where the living waters will flow, to make her, in those days, the mystic mother of the family (Psa. 87). And the glory of the heavens will shine on her from above, doing for her the service of sun and moon, while she is lifted up and exposed, that she may bask in the full light of it, and dwell under it as her native air (Isa. 4:55And 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 4:5); Isa. 60:11Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. (Isaiah 60:1); Zech. 14:1010All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's winepresses. (Zechariah 14:10)).
And she shall be the bride of the Lord of the earth, and the queen in the day of His power. He will clothe her with ornaments as such, rejoice over her, impart His name to her, and have her so honored and cherished by the whole world, as to treat despite of her as indignity done to Himself (Psa. 45; Isa. 60; Jer. 33; Ezek. 48; Zeph. 3).
The Lord and Jerusalem
All this may well account for the place which Jerusalem holds in the thoughts of the Spirit. His prophets, those who spoke as they were moved by Him, address her again and again as the bride, the queen, and the mother, in the days of the approaching glory. But what shall we say of Him, who has thus decked her with all beauty and dignity, and given her such relationship to Himself? Is it not wondrous and happy to see the circle of human sympathies seating itself in the divine mind? Is friendship only human? How can I say so, when I see Jesus and the disciple whom He loved walking in company? Are the affections of kindred merely human? How can I say so, when I think of Christ and the Church, and a thousand witnesses from Scripture? Is the heart’s fond delight in home a divine as well as a human joy? How can I doubt it, when I see the Lord and Jerusalem? Surely the divine mind is the seat of all the pure and righteous sensibilities of the heart, and “the Man Christ Jesus” tells me so. The Lord God of Israel has known, and will know again, the affection that lingers around the homestead of many a family recollection and joy.
Such will be Jerusalem, and such the earth itself, the nations, and Israel, in the promised days of the presence and power of the Lord. Faintly traced by the hand, more feebly responded to by the heart. But “yet true,” though “surpassing fable.”
The Earth Cleansed
All Scripture, however, shows us that such joy cannot be had on earth, or in the circumstances and history of the world, in their present state, nor until the earth is made the scene of righteousness; and such it is not to be, until the Lord have ridded it of all that offends, and all that does iniquity. The sword of judgment must go before the throne of glory. The earth must be cleared of its corruptions, before it can be a garden of holy, divine delights again.
The gospel is not producing a happy world, or spreading out a garden of Eden. It proposes no such thing, but to take out of the world a people, a heavenly people, for Christ. But the presence of the Lord will make a happy world by-and-by, when that presence can righteously return to it.
The close of the Psalms shows us this. Beautiful close! All praise—untiring, satisfying fruit of lips uttering the joy of a filled heart, and owning the undivided glory of the Blessed One! But this had been preceded by the sorrows of the righteous in an evil world, and then the judgment of that world. For that book gives the cries of the righteous in an evil world, the joys of the Spirit in the midst of that evil, the varied exercises of the soul by the way, and the end of the righteous in the joy of praise. All, however, forbids the heart from entertaining the thought of joy in the earth until the judgment has cleansed it; the rest is to be prepared for Solomon by the sword of David.
No Rest Now
The proper thought of this will keep the heart from being tossed by disappointments, and take it off from the expectation of any progress to rest and stability for the world, or in it, until the Lord has executed judgment. Our joy now is to be in Himself, in spirit, in the thought of His love, and the sense of His peace, helped onward, day by day, in the hope of full and righteous joy with Him, when the wicked have gone from the scene forever.
How sensitively does the Lord’s mind recede from the thought of joy in the earth, when the people were wondering at all things that He did! Turning to His disciples He said, “Let these sayings sink down into, your ears; for the Son of Man shall be delivered into the hands of men.” But this, I may say, was only a sample of all His mind, as He looked to the earth in its present condition. It was ever in His thoughts connected with trial.
Psalm 75 strikingly utters this. There Messiah looks on the earth as all dissolved and disordered, about to drink the cup of judgment at God’s righteous hand. For the present He expected nothing from it. But then, after the exhausting of that cup, He does look on it as the scene of joy and praise and exaltation of righteousness, He Himself bearing up its pillars, and leading its songs.
Ripening for Judgment
I feel it, however, to be a very solemn truth, that God is allowing man, giving him space and time, to ripen his iniquity, that the judgment may fall upon him in the height of his pride, and crush the system which he is raising in its point of greatest pretension and advancement. It is surely a solemn truth. But even in such a purpose, as in all others, “Wisdom is justified of all her children.” The believer may be awed by such a fact in the divine dealings with man, but he approves it, understands it to be a fitting thing, that man should be allowed to produce the fully ripened fruit of his own departure from God, to present it and survey it in the pride of his heart, and then receive his righteous answer to all his boasted and enjoyed apostasy, from the signal judgment of God. The iniquity, of the Amorites was to be full, before justice should overtake it. The Lord bore with Babel until the cry of it went up to Him. Nebuchadnezzar had built “great Babylon,” as he gloried, by the might of his power, and for the honor of his majesty, when he was driven from his high estate; Haman was full when God emptied him even to the dregs. And the great man of the earth, at the last, shall come to his end, just as he has planted the tabernacles of his palaces in the glorious holy mountain.
It is solemn; but it is as wisdom would have it, and as faith deeply approves it. God is justified in His sayings, and overcomes when He is judged.
All Things Gathered Together in Christ
Happy I desire to find this meditation. Where there is much conflict of thought and judgment among the saints, it is grateful to the soul to turn to subjects of common interest and delight; and when the scene around is getting full of man’s inventions and man’s importance, it is well to look to those regions of light and purity, where God, supreme and all-sufficient, will gather together all things, in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth. Regions of light and purity indeed, where all will tell of intimacy or nearness, and yet of the full sense of the position of the Creator and the creature, the Sanctifier and the sanctified. In many a delightful page of God’s Word is this brightly reflected. The Lord dwelt in the midst of the camp of Israel while at rest, and, as it took its journey, went along with it, whether by night or by day, whether the road lay right onward, or turned back to the mountain or the sea. But still He was God, the Lord of the camp.
How does all that commend itself to our souls! We bow to this. We rejoice to know that He dwells in a light that no man can approach unto, and yet that He has walked through the cities and villages of earth; that He is One whom no man hath seen, nor can see, and yet that none less than the One who is in His bosom has declared Him to us, been in the midst of us, our Kinsman in the flesh, as well as Jehovah’s Fellow.
His supreme authority, as Lord, is infinite; His distance and holiness, as God, are infinite. And yet He is “Head over all things to the Church,” and God Himself is “for us.” At the very moment of His commanding Moses and Joshua to take their shoes from their feet, because of His presence, He was manifesting Himself to them in symbols or characters significant of the deepest sympathy, and of the most devoted service (Ex. 3; Josh. 5).
But enough. I will not pursue these thoughts any further. Yet in the days of increasing gloom and perplexity, like the present, the soul is sent to the sure hiding-place of safety more, or to the sunny Pisgah heights of hope and observation. It gets the more accustomed to meditate on the strength of those foundations which God has put under our feet—the intimacy of that communion into which He has even now introduced our hearts—and the brightness of those prospects which He has set before our eyes.
Heart in the Glory
I only ask, beloved, Are we pressing, in desire, after this portion? Are we unsatisfied with all in comparison with it? Are we refusing to form any purpose, or to entertain any prospect, short of this? In Psalm 84, the heart of the worshipper is still on the way, unsatisfied, though he has “pools,” and “rain,” and “strength” of the Lord, until he reaches Zion. In Psalm 90 all which the man of God sees is the vanity of human life and the “return” of the Lord. He does not anticipate changes and improvements in the condition of things, but looks to being “made glad” and of being “satisfied” at the “return” of Christ.
Is this our mind? I again ask. Are we still prisoners of hope, refusing to let anything chance the expectant attitude of the soul? The Holy Spirit is given to us, not to change that, but to strengthen it. His very presence does but nourish present dissatisfaction of heart, and the longings of hope and desire. He causes the saint to “abound in hope,” and gives breadth and compass to the cry, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Spirit of truth, the other Comforter, as He is, He does not show Himself for the Bridegroom, nor propose to make His refreshings “the marriage supper of the Lamb.” The energy of hope, the desirings of the soul after our still unmanifested Lord, only speak the Spirit’s presence in us the more clearly and blessedly. It is His very design and workmanship. He draws us forth to hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
And is He, beloved, our object? The heart well knows the power of that which is its object. Do we make Jesus such? Do we find, in ourselves, anything of that sickness of hope of which we read in Scripture? And are we able to say, “When He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?
May the Spirit shed abroad more and more, in the heart of each of us, these and the like affections. And to Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, be glory and dominion forever! Amen.
Bride of the Lamb! awake, awake
Why sleep for sorrow now?
The hope of glory, Christ, is thine,
A child of glory thou.
Thy spirit through the lonely night,
From earthly joy apart,
Hath sigh’d for One that’s far away,
The Bridegroom of thy heart.
But see, the night is waning fast,
The breaking morn is near,
And Jesus comes with voice of love,
Thy drooping heart to cheer.
He comes; for, oh, His yearning heart
No more can bear delay,
To scenes of full, unmingled joy
To call His Bride away.
This earth, the scene of all His woe,
A homeless wild to thee,
Full soon upon His heav’nly throne,
Its rightful King shall see.
Thou too shalt reign, He will not wear
His crown of joy alone,
And earth His royal Bride shall see
Beside Him on the throne.
Then weep no more,’tis all thine own,
His crown, His joy divine,
And sweeter far than all beside,
He, He Himself is thine.
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