The Captives Returned to Jerusalem*

Nehemiah 1‑4  •  1.3 hr. read  •  grade level: 9
Nehemiah 1-4.
IT is after an interval of twelve years from the time of Ezra's action, that Nehemiah appears. He was a captive still in Babylon (or Persia, the same thing, in principle), while Ezra was doing good service to the Lord at Jerusalem. But, connected as he was with the palace of the Persian King, he may not have been free to take part with the movement or revival, in Ezra's day-or, it may be, he was not then quickened by the Spirit, so as to do so.
He represents a fresh revival; and all is in increased weakness. He is not a prince of the house of David, like Zerubbabel, nor a priest of the family of Aaron, like Ezra. He is, as we speak, a layman; cup-bearer to' the king.
There is something, however, in all this, that magnifies the grace that was in him. The burdens of his brethren have power to detach him from the Persian palace, as they had once separated Moses from the Egyptian. No miracle distinguishes these days of returned captives, but there are many witnesses of fine moral energy among them.
Eza had been a scribe, as well as a priest.. He was a meditative, worshipping student of God's word; for he found the springs and the guide of his energy in that word. Nehemiah was not that. He was a practical man, a man in the business of every day life, amid the circumstances and relations which make up human history. But he was of an earnest spirit, like Ezra, and he took what he heard, as Ezra had taken what he read, and dealt with it in the presence of God.
He had heard of the desolations of Jerusalem, and he weeps over them before God; as Ezra had seen the sins of Jerusalem, and wept over them before God. But here, we may ask, how was it that these desolations had not-moved Ezra? He was all this -time at. Jerusalem, while Nehemiah was in the Persian palace, and could only hear of them by occasional reports. Was it that the energy had declined in Ezra? and that he himself now needed to be revived, though some years since he had been the instrument for reviving others? Such thing things are, and have been. Peter led his brethren on, in acts 1:1212Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. (Acts 1:12); but he had need to be pulled up, corrected, and led on, him self, in Gal. 2 A younger Paul reanimates his elder brother Peter who had been serving the Lord, for years, while he was blaspheming him. And here, it would seem, a younger Nehemiah, a layman too, has to revive the venerable scribe who had crossed over to Jerusalem to serve God there, years and years before him.
If it were not this, it may spew us, that the Lord has one business for one servant, another for another; one purpose by this revival, another by that. Zerubbabel had looked to the Temple, Ezra to the reformation of the religion; and Nehemiah is now raised up to look to the city-walls, and the civil condition of Jerusalem. It may have been thus, for such things, again I say, are and have been. Of old, there was the Gershonite, the Merarite, and the Kohathite service. And it has been surely thus, in a series of revivals, century after century, in the course of Christendom, since the Reformation, which was a kind of return from Babylon.
I say not, in which of these ways, we are to account for Ezra apparently remaining unmoved, though the ruined walls of the city were before his eyes day after day for years. He is, however, honorable, highly so, in the recollections of the people of God, as Nehemiah is.
Nehemiah was a simple man, of very earnest affections. His book gives us, I may say, the only piece of autobiography, which we get' in Scripture. It is this dear man of God. writing his own history, in the simple style that suits truth-telling. He lets us learn, how he turned to God again and again, in the spirit of a trustful, confiding child, as he went on with his work. His style reminds me of a word which I met, I believe, in some old wilier, "let Christ be second to every thought." That is, let the soul quickly turn to the Lord in the midst of occupations, be habitually before Him, not, however, by effort, or watching, but by an easy, happy, natural exercise of soul.
And together with this exercise of his spirit towards God, Nehemiah's heart was alive to his brethren. In deep affection, and in that eloquence that comes fresh from the heart and its suggestions, he calls Jerusalem, " the city of his fathers' sepulchers." And all this presents to us a very attractive person. •We love him, and do not grudge him his virtues, or envy him because of his excellencies. We trace him with affectionate admiration.
The exercise of his spirit ere he got his royal Master's leave to visit Jerusalem, is very beautiful. From the month Chisleu to the month Nisan, that is, from the third to the seventh month, he was mourning before God on account of the city. At length, he comes before the king, and leave is given him, and a time is set him, to take his journey and pay his visit-a captain and horsemen are also appointed to guide and guard him on the road. He had been much alone in all this. Revivals commonly begin with some individual, and when he reaches Jerusalem, he is still, at first, alone. By night he inspects the city walls, acquainting himself with the nature of the work that now lay before him. He proves what he is about to publish. Very right-it is the way of Spirit-led servants. " We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen." Nor is he a patron, but yokefellow, a fellow-laborer, like Paul, or like Paul's divine Master, who, while he was Lord of the harvest, served in the harvest-field also.
And, indeed, these are always the forms after which the Spirit prepares the servants of Christ They prove what they teach, and they labor in the principle of service and not of patronage. They are not lords of the heritage, but ensamples of the flock; they affect no dominion over the faith, but they are helpers of the joy.
Then, as we go on to chapter iii, and look at his companions in the work, we see much to instruct us, and much that tells us of- our own day and our own circumstances.
All are a working people together-the nobles and the common folk. The service of God's city had put them all on a level. The rich are made low, the poor are exalted, a beautiful sight in its time and place. Then, some are distinguished. Baruch the son of Zabbai works "earnestly," ver. 20, the " daughters" of Shallum work with their father, ver. 12, some of the priests "sanctified" their work in their part of the city-walls, while others of them worked after a common manner, ver. 22, 28. And painful to have to add to all this, the nobles of the Tekoites worked not all, ver. 5.
There have always been such distinctions as these, and there are the same abundantly in this our day. In raising the Tabernacle in the wilderness in fighting the battles of Canaan, in accompanying David in the days of his exile, as here in the building of the wall of Jerusalem, and afterward among the yokefellows of St. Paul, we see these distinctions. And surely, like the daughters of Shallum, or like the wife of Aquila, females in this our day are doing good work in the Gospel, and in the service of Jerusalem. But we may remember, and it has its profit to do so, every man shall receive his own reward according to his own work (1 Cor. 3); though we have also to remember, that the Lord weighs the quality as well as the quantity of what is rendered to Him (Matt. 20:1-161For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. 2And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. 5Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. 6And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? 7They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. 8So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. 9And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. 11And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, 12Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. 13But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? 14Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. 15Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? 16So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. (Matthew 20:1‑16))
Thus we may surely be instructed in the details of this sweet story. As we pass through chap. 4. we find the builders have become fighters as well as builders. Their work is continued in the face of enemies, and in spite of `.cruel mockings," as the 11th of Hebrews speaks. And in this combination of the sword and the trowel, we see the symbols of our own calling. There is that which we have to withstand, and there is that which we have to cultivate. We are to cherish and advance, like builders, what is of the Spirit in us; we are to resist and mortify what is of the flesh. We are builders and fighters.
As to the enemies, they are the same Samaritans as at the first. The Zerubbabel generation of them was represented in Rehum and Shimshai, or in Tatnai and Shethar-boznai; and now, the generation of them in this day of Nehemiah, is represented in Sanballat and Tobiah. They were not heathen men, but a seed of corruption, who might appear to be the circumcision in the eyes of flesh and blood. And by this time, they seem to have become more corrupt, for Edomites, Arabians, Philistines, and Ammonites appear to be joined with them, or to have become one with them.
And still more serious, and more for our personal, immediate warning, we see a company of Jews dwelling near these Samaritans. And they were in the secrets of the Samaritans (ver. 12)-a bad symptom. They were borderers. They may remind us of Lot in Sodom, and of Obadiah in the court of Ahab. Surely they were not Samaritans-they were Jews, and had some love and care for their serving, toiling brethren in Jerusalem. But they dwelt near the Samaritans, and were in their secrets. Again I say, a bad moral symptom. They were, I presume, some of the old stock, left behind in the land, in the day when Judah was taken captive. They had never shared in the revival virtues of the days of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Their scent was in them-they had not been emptied from vessel to vessel, as Jeremiah speaks of Moab (Jer. 48).
Different from such, widely different, was the trumpeter, whom Nehemiah here sets close to his own person-for if these Jews were in the secret of the Samaritans, this trumpeter was in the secret of God. That is what the holders and blowers of trumpets always represent-whether we see them as priests, doing their occasional and varied work in Num. 10; or their annual work on the first day of the seventh month, as in Lev. 23; or as gifted ministers in God's assembly, teaching and exhorting, according to 1 Cor. 12:8,98For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; (1 Corinthians 12:8‑9).
Humbling to some of us to trace these beauties in the
:servants of Christ,, in the Nehemiahs, and in the trumpeters on the walls of the city I
There are combinations in Nehemiah which distinguish themselves very strikingly. In chap. 5., we see him in his private virtues; as in preceding chapters, we have seen him in public energies. He surrenders his personal rights as governor, that he may be simply and fully the servant of God and His people. This may remind us of St. Paul, in 1 Cor. 9, for there, the apostle will not act upon his rights and privileges as an apostle, as here Nehemiah is doing the same as the Tirshatha, or Governor of Judea, under the Persian throne.
This is beautiful. How it spews the kindred operations of the Spirit of God in the elect, though separated so far from each other as Nehemiah and Paul!
We have, however, a warning, as well as an example, in. this chapter.
The Jews, who had now been long in Jerusalem, were oppressing one another. Nehemiah tells them, that their brethren, still away among the Gentiles, were doing far better than this. They were redeeming one another, while here, in the very heart of the land, their own land, they were selling one another.
This is solemn; and we may listen to this, and be warned. It tells us, that those who had taken a right position, were behaving worse than those who were still in a wrong one. The Jews at Jerusalem were in a better ecclesiastical condition, while their brethren, still in Babylon, were in a purer moral condition.
Is not this a warning? It is another illustration of what we often see ourselves; but it is a solemn and humbling warning.
But that we are to go back to Babylon, leaving Jerusalem; but we are surely to learn, that the mere occupation of a right position will not be a security. We may be beguiled into moral relaxation through satisfaction in our ecclesiastical accuracies. This is a very natural deceit. " The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord are these," may be the language of a people on the very eve of God's judgment. There may be the tything of mint, and rue, and anise, and withal the forgetting of the weightier matters of righteousness, goodness, and truth.
But this chapter also gives us another of those combinations which shine in the character of Nehemiah. It enables us to say, that while there was beautiful simplicity in him, there was likewise decided independency. His simplicity was such, that, like a child, he turns back and home to God, while treading one path of service after another; and yet, there was that independency and absoluteness about him, that led him to begin always as from himself, in the fear and presence of God. As here, he tells us, that upon hearing of those oppressions of brethren by brethren, he took counsel with himself, ere he acted (ver. 7). And, indeed, all his previous actions bespeak the like independency. He was Christ's freeman, and not the servant of man; simple in God's presence; independent before his fellow-creatures.
These are fine combinations, greatly setting off the character of this dear, honored, man of God.
In chap. 6., we see him again in conflict, but it is in personal, single-handed fight; not, as in chap. 4., marshalling others, putting the sword in one of their hands, and the trowel in the other, but fighting himself, single-handed, and alone, face to face with the wiles of his enemies. He is put through different temptations, in the progress of this chapter. Generally we see him a single-hearted man, whose body, therefore, is " full of light." He detects the enemy, and is safe; But besides this, there are certain special securities, which it is very profitable to consider for a moment.
1. He pleads the importance of the work he was about (ver. 3.)
2. He pleads the dignity of his own person (ver. 11.)
These are fine arguments for any saint of God to use, in the face of the tempter. I think I see the Lord Himself using them, and teaching us' to use them also.
In Mark 3 His mother and His brethren came to Him, and they seem to have a design to withdraw Him from what He was doing, to themselves; just as. Nehemiah's enemies are seeking to do with him in this chap.. But the Lord pleads the importance of what He was then about, in the face of this attempt, or in answer to the claims which flesh and blood had upon Him. He was teaching His disciples and the multitude; getting the light and word and truth of God into them. And the fruit of such a work as this He solemnly lets us know was far beyond the value of all connections with Him in the flesh; and the claims of God's word, which He was then ministering, far more weighty than those of nature.
And in like manner, He teaches His servants to know the dignity of their work. He tells them, while at it, " not to salute any man by the way," nor to stop to bid farewell to them that are at home; or to tarry even for the burial of a father (Luke, 9. 10.)
But again. In Luke, 13., the Pharisees try to bring Him into the fear of man, as Shemaiah seeks to do with. Nehemiah in this same chapter (ver. 10). But the Lord at once rises into the sense of His dignity, the dignity of His person, and lets the Pharisees know that He was at His own disposal, could walk as long as He pleased, and end His journey when He pleased; that the purposes of Herod were vain, save as He allowed them to take their way. And so, in John 11, when His disciples would have kept Him from going into Judea, where so lately His life had been in danger, He again rises, in like manner, in the sense of the One that He was, in the consciousness of personal dignity, and answers them as from that elevation (see verses 9-11).
And the Holy Ghost, by the apostle, in 1 Cor. 6, would impart courage and strength to the saints, from a like sense of the elevation and honors that belonged to them. " Know ye not," says Paul to the Corinthians, " that we shall judge angels;" and again, "Ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price.' " Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost."
There is something very fine in all this. These are weapons of war indeed, weapons of divine, heavenly metal. To gain victories with such, is Christian con—quest indeed-when temptations can be met and withstood by the soul carrying the sense of the importance of the work to which. God has set us, and the dignity of the person which God has made us. Would that we could take down and use those weapons, as well as admire them as they thus hang up before us in the armory. of God. It is easy, however, to inspect and justify the fitness of an instrument to do its appointed work, and all the time be feeble and unskillful in using it, and doing such appointed work by it 
Here we read, " Now the city was large and great, but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded" (ver. 4.) Having therefore built the walls, Nehemiah takes in hand to people the city. For the walls would be nothing, save as the defense of a peopled place within them.
This purpose, therefore, we find in his heart, at the opening of chap. 7.-and accordingly he acquaints himself with the returned captives, and reads the catalog and the account of them, as they had been in the days of Zerubbabel, which would be a guide to his present object.
8.- 10.
However, ere he pursue this purpose, and take on him to people the city, he turns aside for a while to consider the people themselves. And this gives us his action in chap. 8.- 10., which may be called a parenthetic action-for in chap. 11., he resumes the purpose which he had conceived in chap. 12; that is, the purpose of peopling the city.
This gives a peculiar character and a special interest Nehemiah looks at them personally, looks at their souls, at their moral condition, and would fain quicken Or sanctify them, ere he settles them in their places.
This action begins on the first day of the seventh: month-a distinguished day in the calendar of Israel, the feast of Trumpets, a day of Revival after a long season of interruption when all was barren or dead in the land: And this action, thus begun, is continued in successive stages, down to the close of chap. 10.; thus, as I observed already, giving chap. 8.- 10. a distinct place in the book of Nehemiah, and the character of a parenthesis.
We must, therefore, look at these chapters a little particularly.
This distinguished day, the first day of the seventh month, demanded, according to the ordinance touching it, a holy convocation and a blowing of trumpets-for it was the symbol, as I have said, of a time of Revival after. a long season of death and barrenness (see Lev. 23:22-2522And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God. 23And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 24Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. 25Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. (Leviticus 23:22‑25)). This ordinance was observed here in Neh. There was a convocation of the people. But there was something additional. The Book of the Law was read in the audience of the people, and explained to them. And at this the people wept-properly so, for this is the. business of the application of the law to a sinner, to convict him, and make him cry out, " 0 wretched man that I am!" But their Teachers, on this occasion, at once restrain their tears, because that day was " holy to the Lord." It was a time of joy, such as the blowing of trumpets, and the new moon then beginning again to walk in the light of the sun, would signify. The people were, therefore, told to let the joy of the Lord be their strength, to be merry themselves and to send portions to others.
All this was beautifully in concert with the day, in the ordinances touching it. The thing that was additional, or unprescribed by Lev. 23, that is, the reading of the law, was by all this made to give a richer, fuller tone to the day itself in its proper, prescribed character. The added thing was in no collision, whatever with the; ordained thing-that which was voluntary was no violation of that which was prescribed.
And here I would say, this is just what we might expect in a day of Revival. At such -a-time, the word of God must be thoroughly honored. It must be the standard. But there will be, necessarily I' would say, such new or added things as the character of the time, under the Spirit of God, would suggest. But these new things, whatever they be, will not offend against the word of God. And such is the scene here.
But the word of God being opened, is kept open. It was a day, as we speak, of " an open Bible." Precious mercy! And this open Book, having yielded one piece of instruction, telling them of the rights of the first day of the seventh month, now yields them further instruction, telling them about eight other days of that same month, or about the Feast of Tabernacles.' And the people, already in the spirit of obedient listeners to the word of God, are still kept in it. They learn about that eight day feast, and they keep it; in such sort, too, as had not been witnessed for centuries.
This was, in like manner, beautiful. But again, we notice something additional.
In chap. 9. we see the congregation. of the children of Israel in humiliation, going through a solemn service of confession; and then, in chap. 10., entering into a covenant of obedience to God, and of the observance of His ordinances. But nothing of all this had been prescribed. We find no mention of such a thing in the law of Moses. Lev. 23 had not required this to wait upon or follow the Feast of Tabernacles.
Here, however again we have to notice something. This solemnity did not take place till the twenty fourth day of this month; and then the time of the Feast of Tabernacles had ended-for that ended on the twenty-third. And this, again I say, was very beautiful. The congregation would not, by their act of humiliation and confession, soil the Feast, or prevent its purpose. That Feast was the most joyous time in the Jewish year. It celebrated the ingathering, or " harvest-home," as we speak. It was the foreshadowing of the days of glory or, of the kingdom. It shall have all its demands answered in full tale and measure. The twenty-third day, the last day, that great day of the Feast, shall pass, ere the language of humiliation and the voice of penitential sorrow be heard. But then, the ordinance of God admitting-it, the people may hold, as we again speak, " a prayer-meeting."
This was likewise voluntary or additional, as I have said-not appointed by Scripture, but suggested, under the Spirit of God, by the time and the circumstances which marked this present revival under Nehemiah. Confession was the due language of a people who stood, at that moment, the representative of a long-revolted, disobedient, and guilty nation.
" Ceasing to do evil," however, is to be followed by " learning to do well." It is very right, if we have been doing wrong, to begin with confession of the wrong, ere we set ourselves to do the right. But to do the right thing is a due attendant on the confession of the wrong thing. And all this moral comeliness we see here, as we pass from the ninth to the tenth chapter.
The nobles, and all the people together, meet as " brethren," in separation from the people of the land (see 10. 28), and seal a covenant to keep the laws of God. It is pleasant to see here, as also when they were building the wall in chap. 3., how rank and station lost itself in common brotherhood. " Let the rich rejoice in that he is made low and the poor in that he is exalted, for the fashion of this world passeth away." And what they now covenant and seek to do, has still something additional or unprescribed in it. They pledge themselves to observe all the commandments of the Lord, His statutes and His judgments; not to make marriages with other people; not to profane the Sabbath; to bring in their first fruits, their first-born, and their firstlings, and the tithes of their ground; and all this is according to the word of the Lord. But they also make ordinances for themselves, to be chargeable yearly in the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of God; and they cast lots, to bring wood for the altar of God, at appointed seasons.
All this is still in sweet and wondrous harmony with the whole of their actions in this day of happy revival. The word of God is, again and again, and throughout, honored in all its demands; but added things are seen in their services and activities; such as the fresh energy and grace of a Revival-Season would suggest, and the. Spirit would warrant.
Here this parenthetic action, as I have called it, ends. It is beautiful from first to last. The people are conducted through a gracious process. They are exercised according to truth, by the Spirit. They are convicted and then relieved. Then they have a lesson about coming joys in days of glory. And thus instructed as to their rich interest in the grace of God, they can look at themselves, not as in fear and in a spirit of bondage, but for due brokenness of heart and with a purpose to serve God for the future, And all this may call to mind that utterance or experience provided by the Holy Ghost for repentant Israel in the last days: " Surely after that I was turned, I repented, and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh. I was ashamed, yea even con- founded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth" (Jer. 31).
11.- 13.
These chapters witness the people still earnest and obedient. The day of revival continues. The freshness of its morning has, in no measure, faded, though we here reach a later hour of the day.
The 11th chapter opens with a grievous mark of Jerusalem's degradation. She is a witness against herself, that she is not as the Lord will have her in the days of coming glory. She is not " desired," rather indeed " forsaken." People are not flocking to her. She cannot look round her, as she will in the days of the Kingdom, and wonder at the multitude of her children. It is not, as yet, the boast of others, that they have been born in her; nor are they owning that all their fresh springs are in her. She has not as yet to say, that the place is too strait for her, for the multitude of those who fill her. These surely are not her condition here in this chapter. She is debtor to any one who will consent or condescend to dwell in her.
What a witness of degradation! what a sign indeed; that restoration was not glory! Jerusalem is still trodden down; the times of the Gentiles are still unfulfilled. Surely the daughter of Zion has not arisen, and shaken herself from the dust, and put on her strength and her beautiful garments.
Still, she must be inhabited; she must have her citizens within her. The land must have its people, for Messiah is soon to walk among them; the city must have its inhabitants, for her King is soon to be offered to her. Therefore is the return from Babylon, and therefore is the peopling of Jerusalem.
And again, as we see in chap. 12. she has her wall.
Right, that, having a wall, that wall should be dedicated. Public festivity had been often celebrated on such like occasions; at the carriage of the ark in the days of David; at the dedication of the Temple in the days of Solomon; at the foundation of the second house in the time of Zerubbabel; and again, when that second house was finished, this was so. And now, in this day, this day of Nehemiah, the people again rejoice at the dedication of the wall which was now finished, and was encompassing the city.
But while this is so, and all is right so far and after this manner, yet what, I, ask, is this wall? What, I further ask, but another witness of Jerusalem's degradation? In her coming days of strength and beauty, when she is the city of the Kingdom, the metropolis of the world, the sanctuary and the palace of the great divine King of Israel and of the earth, " salvation " shall be her wall. God will then appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks. The Lord Himself, like her mountains, shall stand round about her. Her walls shall be called. Salvation, and her gates Praise. The voice of the Spirit in 'Zachariah, the echo of which could scarcely at this time have died away, had uttered this fine oracle:" Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls-for the multitude of men and cattle therein—for I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her" (Zech. 2:4-64And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: 5For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her. 6Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the Lord. (Zechariah 2:4‑6)).
How infinite the difference! Jerusalem under the eye of Nehemiah bearing the marks of her shame: Jerusalem, as we read of her in the prophets, the witness of the highest destiny in honor and excellency in the earth! How must such a man have felt, because of all this! And yet he serves earnestly, undauntedly, patiently! Great moral dignity shines in this- a fine spirit of self-devotement expresses itself. He works, and works nobly, though beset with foreign enmities, and encompassed with domestic degradation! Such a servant of Christ, St. Paul appears to he in 2 Timothy; and such Nehemiah in this book of his.
And this we ought to be ourselves. The Christendom that we see around us is as far from the Church that we read of in the Epistles, as the Jerusalem which Nehemiah looked on was unlike the Jerusalem which he read of in the Prophets. But he served in the midst of her-and so should we in the face and in the heart of Christendom. For the spirit of service measures not the scene of the service, but the will of the master.
All this, however, tells the character of the moment.. Israel is restored, her land peopled, her city inhabited again but this is not the Kingdom. The children of Israel are to be put to the proving and the clearing of themselves still, and the day of grace, of salvation, and of glory, the promised day of the Kingdom, is still distant. But faith has to be exercised, and obedience has to learn and practice its lessons.
Accordingly, on entering chap. 13., we find the Book of God still open among the people. For surely a day of revival is the day of " an open Bible," as we speak. But it is a new lesson they have now to learn. They are growing in knowledge, in acquaintance with divine principles. It is quite another page of the Book which they have now turned over. Scripture, as yet, had its " comfort" for them—now it is to have its " patience." As yet it had " piped " to them, now it is about to." mourn" to them..The joy of the Feast of Trumpets,. and the still richer joy of the Feast of Tabernacles, had been made known to them, and they had obediently responded. They had " danced " to that piping. But now, they were to be exercised painfully by the Book. They read " that the Moabite and the Ammonite were not to come into the congregation of the Lord for -ever."
This was terrible. All, as yet, had' been eminently social. Not only in their joy as on the Feast days, but in their act of confession, they had been together.
Strangers " had been removed, but the " the mixed multitude" do not seem to have been looked after and detected. But now, at the bidding of the word found in Deut. 23, this severe cutting off must be performed; as at the bidding of Lev. 23, the joy of the Tabernacles had been already celebrated.
But this was the more fitted- to test the spirit of obedience in this good day of revival. And the congregation do stand it, and answer the demand of the word of God very blessedly. For we read, " it came to pass, when they heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude." This was obedience, indeed, doing what scripture prescribed—doing the lessons of the Word, teach they what service or duty they may, or call to what sacrifices they may. Iniquity, however, is now found to be in high places, higher, it would seem, than the people could reach. But it must be reached even there; for, a day of awakening, and of fresh power from God, must be a day of obedience. All this time an Ammonite had been in the house of the Lord. This exceeded. Not merely was he, like the mixed multitude, in the congregation, but in the house; and that, too, by the practices of the high priest himself.
Nehemiah was not at Jerusalem just at this time. But on his return, he acts on this abomination thus found in high places, as the people themselves had already acted, in their measure, upon the mixed multitude. For Deut. 23 shall be heard, though the highest functionary in the church will have to be rebuked. Eliashib is nobody to Nehemiah, when Moses speaks-for the one has God's authority with him, the other is to have it over him. A word of admonition to Christendom, if Christendom had ears to hear, that Christendom. that has set its own Eliashib above Moses, its own officers above the scripture. But such an one was not this faithful man. With him, " Moses' seat" was supreme. Scripture judges every man, while it itself is to be judged of no man. Neither high priest in Israel, nor assumption of antiquity and succession, nor of any other kind in Christendom, however attractive, are to set aside one jot or tittle of it. The Book, speaking from God, as it does, at all times, and addressing itself to all condilions, must be supreme.
The scripture cannot be broken,"-therefore it is not to be gainsayed. God will fulfill it; we are to observe it.
All this which we thus find in Nehemiah, and the Congregation in this closing day of the Old Testament, may well arrest the thoughts of the saints in this day of Ours.
We have seen marks of degradation in Jerusalem in the 11th and 12th chapters-we see them still in the lath. The sabbath was profaned there, and alliances with the daughters of the uncircumcised were still found there. This is more than degradation in circumstances; it is moral degradation; it is abomination. The restoration from captivity, and the re-peopling of the city; have not entitled it to be saluted, as it is to be in coming kingdom days, with that voice which the Spirit has prepared from the lips of an admiring, gazing world, " the Lord bless thee, 0 habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness " (Jer. 31:2323Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness. (Jeremiah 31:23))..'
But in spite of all this, again I say, we see Nehemiah serving. And this is a very fine sight. I need not say, how to perfection, the divine Master of all servants was a pattern of this in His day of service. But there is great moral dignity in this, let us find samples of it in whom we may.
'The Congregation, too, keeping the Book still open, is an edifying sight, a sight for us very specially to look at. They were not " partial in the law." They exhibit a people who would fain have no " neglected texts," nor "unturned pages," in the Book of God. Not a sound of it was to be lost upon the ear, as though it was heard in the distance. But who of us, I ask, is up to them in this? How prone we are to choose our lesson, rather than " to live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Is it not so? I may love the page which reads me a word on the Feast of Tabernacles in its joy, and delight myself in the sound of the trumpets in the day of the new moon of the seventh month. But the word that would wash me for purification, and separate me from unwarranted alliances, has another relationship to me, and addresses me in other accents. I do not choose that lesson. It is a page of the Book I am not disposed to open. I am tempted to say with the Roman governor, " Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will call for thee." The house may be too social, the heart may be too much at ease, to discipline itself by such ordinances as Deut. 23:33An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever: (Deuteronomy 23:3).
Indeed, indeed, we may say, all this scripture, these' books of the returned captives, this Ezra and this Nehemiah, are worthy of the deep attention and full admiration of our souls. How aid the Spirit of God work in the' elect in those days, how does Be, by what He has recorded of them, instruct us in these days!
And beside, as we have also seen, those times of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, were times of Revival. Such times had been known before in Israel, as with Samuel, David, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Isaiah. And such have been known again and again, in the progress of Christendom. And a re-quickening season may take a shape but little expected by us, and perhaps without a perfect precedent. It is the property of life, to put on at times, some exuberant features, to work outside and beyond its ordinary rules and measures. It is more like itself when it acts thus. For life is a thing of freedom, and has inbred force in it. But, at the same time, we are to judge every expression of it by the Word of God. " To the law and to the testimony." If a thing stand not that test, it is not the overflowing of life, however ecstatic or exuberant it may be; it is to be disclaimed with all its fascinations.
" To him that bath shall more be given." Obedience to one lesson is the sure and safe road to the discovery of another. " If any man will do his will, he shall know the doctrine.". There is a temptation to hold back, lest the lessons we have yet to learn shall prove distasteful: " He that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow.” There is, therefore, disposedness or temptation to stop short. But this is disobedience, as well as the breaking of a word read and understood. To shut the book, through fear of what it might teach us, is plainly and surely, disobedience.
Hebrews. 13:5,6.
In ver. 4, our writer speaks of marriage; its honorableness; its duties and its uses; so guarding the Christian as to this great relationship, and teaching him how to. guard himself in reference to it. In ver. 5, he begins by guarding us amid the cares A this life. Our walk is to be without trust in riches, content with such things as we have. How this can be-and the why of it-is that He has said, "1 will never leave thee, nor forsake." The Lord's presence with us down here may well suffice to make us " content" and " without trust in riches." Ver. 11. seems to allude to some such state of things as does James 5.1-5;, a time of great difficulty when man's hand is against his fellow. But, what then? Surely the presence of the Lord with any one, in such days, has more in it to make free from care and content than have the trials of those days power to give anxiety.
It may be, to many a poor man, "hard to get any work; harder still to get a fair price for work: and hardest of all to get paid for work done"; hut the Lord's presence is 'better than life; and the heart can be satisfied with it.
There is great force, too, in the way the statement is made.
" Himself has said, No; never will I leave thee; never, no, never will I forsake thee." Observe how emphatic it is Himself has said, thee the individual, not you, merely, in a mass; and then the repetition of the negatives, "no; never"-" never; no, never." Clearly, he would have us to know that there is one thought which neither has, nor ever can have, any place in His mind: that of forgetting His people down here. And observe, it is Himself with His people down here. Not only has God given to us all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and assured us, too, of heavenly glory and blessing when the wilderness is passed; but, more than this, He is with us to conduct us Himself right though it. Israel's hard circumstances in the wilderness only gave to God the occasion of showing Himself and His grace and power as being with them. There are two things to be noticed here-His presence and our faith in it. (See also Ex. 17:77And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not? (Exodus 17:7); Hag. 2:55According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. (Haggai 2:5)). He is with us, always and unto the end. But, if we know not how to put our " Amen" to this, surely we shall not be established (Isa. 7:99And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established. (Isaiah 7:9)).
Look upon trials in the darkness of your own shadow, and they will seem black. Look upon them in the light of the presence of the Lord with you and then they will shine. Truly, as we go along we find that the relative bearing of things to us is according as we regard them in faith or with the eye; in grace or in nature. It is God or my own poor, fallen self, that characterize.; my path to me as I go along.
" NO; NEVER will I leave thee; NEVER, NO, NEVER Will I forsake thee," is the Lord's banner for His saint; banner that floats over every circumstance.
Revelation. 12
IT is constantly God's way throughout Scripture, and especially in the Apocalypse, to unfold His ways to us under the form of visions. It is thus that some of the most important truths are revealed, and it is of all modes of representation the most powerful.
Truths, under symbolic forms and personifications, are presented to the eye of faith, and thereby are we taught hot only the bearing and relation of those truths thus symbolized to all other things; but also, the exact proportion and relation which the parts and elements of the scene bear to one another, and that according to the estimate of God and not of man.
Who then can 14-;t the importance of the divine mode of instruction?
It was thus that Ezekiel was shown the judgment of God and His glory, in relation to Jerusalem, as well as the ultimate bringing in of millennial blessing. It was thus that Daniel was made to perceive and comprehend what was God's estimate of the kingdoms of the earth, Jew and Gentile, throughout thousands of years; it was thus that Peter, Paul, and John were instructed in many of the deepest counsels of God. Those revealed to the latter are largely developed in this book, under the form of visions, embodying a wide range of truth relative to 'Israel, the nations, and (at the conclusion) the Church, and what we find unfolded to us in the vision of Chapter 12 is one of the most prominent in that portion of the counsel of God which relates to the earth; that is to say, that which is connected with His earthly people; 'and with regard to which the earth is the scene of action; in fact, it is that from which all other such counsels emanate, the center round which they revolve, the pivot which sustains them: for what does this vision reveal to us? what is its aim and object? Is it not Christ the center of God's earthly counsels on the one hand, and the object of Satan's rage and antagonism on the other?
It is not a heavenly Christ, in His relation to the Church, that we have here. That, or rather her association with Him in this central position, is given ewe where; but in this vision He is seen in His character of Messiah, and in His relation to the Jewish people, from whom He springs as to His earthly association.
In fact, the whole scene is essentially Jewish, and does not extend to His connection with man universally. He, the man-child, is born of, for, and in relation to the woman; and though the facts herein represented are a striking fulfillment of the sentence which God pronounced on the serpent with reference to the woman's seed, " It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel," it is more an accomplishment of it in connection with Israel than with man in the broad sense of the family of Adam. With the Jewish, rather than with the human, seed.
The symbols under which this is represented are most powerful. Let us examine them.
The first object which John sees is a "great wonder," which appears " in heaven." The scene is an earthly one, yet it is mapped out to the eye of the prophet as in heaven, and why so? Because it is to be revealed to him as it stands in the mind and purpose of God; he must not see it as on earth, i. e., in man's view and estimate, for in that case a very different aspect would have been presented,-the whole character of the scene would have been changed; but it is shown to him in heaven, in God's holy perfect estimate and mind, and the colors of the picture are dark or bright in their moral hearing as He sees them, and not as a human unspiritualized eye would regard them.
The scene, then, is laid in heaven, but what does the prophet behold? "A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her' head a crown of twelve stars." This striking figure presents to us Judah, the royal tribe, and is one in full keeping with the symbolism of scripture, for the nation of Israel in connection with the Lord is continually represented to us thus, not (it is true) elsewhere in this investiture, but the simile of a woman is made use of to represent the earthly bride as well as the heavenly. Here, however, it is Christ's humanity, or rather His incarnate connection with Israel that is to be developed; and, consequently, it is in a maternal and not in a bridal character that she appears. She is presented, not as that which He 'draws into relation with Himself, but as that from which He springs. And from whence did he spring? Was it not from Judah, the royal tribe, here typified by this glorious woman? That she represents Judah exclusively, and not the whole nation, we shall see proved as we proceed further in the detail of the chapter, where we shall find her in scenes in which no part of the nation except Judah will move in the last days.
But ere we proceed further, it will be interesting to note the figures of glory and dignity with which she is invested; symbols very frequently made use of in scripture in Jewish connection, and which would seem to bear a double signification here.
In the first place, the sun, moon, and stars, as the three orders of the heavenly bodies, and comprising " the host of heaven" (Deut. 4:1919And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven. (Deuteronomy 4:19)) are in their individual attributes, the expression of light and glory; and, in their relation to the system which they form, of the stability of God's will and counsel by which they are upheld. Conferring and reflecting light, they are a very fit symbolic investiture for that royal house which in God's mind is the center of earthly glory and blessing, and which will confer on the earth that light which she reflects from her Lord and King. Thus, also, the sun which clothes her may, in another aspect, be regarded as Christ himself. He the " Sun of Righteousness" is indeed her true glory and covering, her " sun and shield," and in this aspect, the earthly glory which is but a reflection of Him, is "under her feet," while the stars form her crown. The number of these stars is significant, and would lead us to think that the symbol conveys more than (as has been stated above) a part of the glory necessary to the woman's position. The number 12 is that of the tribes which actually form the crown of Judah, and in. God's mind adorn it thus gloriously. The crown designates her as royal; that which forms the crown declares of what her royalty consists.
Many passages of scripture might be adduced to corroborate the signification here given to these symbols, which seem to be peculiarly linked with the throne of David. In Psa. 89:36,3736His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. 37It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah. (Psalm 89:36‑37), they are used to designate the stability of that throne:-" His seed shall endure forever, and His throne as the sun before me. It shall be established forever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in Heaven." In Canticles, where Judah (there it is Bridal. Judah) is spoken of, she appears in the king's eyes "Fair as the moon, clear as the sun."
In Gen. 37, when Joseph dreams, and dreams in intelligent communion with the mind of God, the whole nation, of which Jacob's family was the nucleus, is prefigured by these heavenly bodies; the sun, moon, and eleven stars typifying the nation in obeisance to him in his anticipative and Christ-like exaltation, consequent on his humiliation. So far, then, we can understand the bearing of these symbols, and also how truly the scene is in heaven, i. e., in God's estimate. He always views this woman as thus mantled and clothed, although His manifested favor to her, her regal rights and her earthly glory, have waned since the days of Solomon, and totally disappeared to human sight; but to her shall it yet be said, " Arise, shine, for thy light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee." How truly do these words describe her as she here appears to John! What she once was, and still more will yet be to man's eye, and what she always is to the eye of God. But her intermediate history is also to be set forth for our instruction, so verse 2 continues, " And she, being with child; cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered." In her is the seed, the hope of the nation, but not yet brought forth. This verse describes the condition of the godly part of the nation from the time of its earliest existence to the first coming of Christ-the Messiah.. It was in throes of travail, as it were, yearning for " that holy thing" which was to be born, On which all hopes centered. And beautiful is it to notice from the very commencement of Scripture history, this pulse of the elect nation (if we may so say) ever beating, as evidenced by the throbs of it, which we meet with here and there, from time to time, as we trace its history onward; one which gained strength from the moment when it was first quickened into life by God's pronouncing those significant words to Abraham, " In Isaac shall thy seed be called." It beat in the heart of every godly mother in Israel, and produced that remarkable desire to be the channel of the fulfillment of the promise which was So strong in the Sarahs, the Rebekahs, the Rachels, the Hannahs, the Ruths, the Marys; the Elizabeths. Isaiah gave expression to this natural throb when, in anticipation, he bursts forth, " For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given" (see Isa. 9:66For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)). And as the time of the realization of these hopes drew nigh, it beat louder and more distinctly, though the circle in which it was found became more and more contracted; the greater part of the nation having, through ungodliness and unfaithfulness, fallen off from the line of God's promise, and its true hopes, so that at last it was concentrated in that little remnant which " waited for the consolation of Israel." Strong. and clear did this pulse beat in the Simeons, the Annas, the Zachariahs, who, indeed, "travailed" in expectation of this desire of their hearts, which broke forth in accents of joy when the birth from the manger pointed on to the resurrection-birth from the tomb-communicating the glad tidings to all who looked for " redemption in Israel." As truly, if not so intelligently, did it linger in the hearts of the shepherds, who, on the announcement of the angelic host, gave vent to a gladness which evinced what had been the hope of their souls, a hope which, more or less intelligently, had buoyed up every godly Jewish heart, and which the very magi of the East felt the influence of, when, guided by the star, they came from distant lands in search of the new-born king, who personally was nothing to them.
Bat before the consummation arrived, during this period of expectation and travail, another" wonder " is introduced on the scene; and in relation also to that object towards which all eyes were turned. " And there appeared another wonder in heaven, and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his head " (ver. 3). " In heaven" also in the mind of God is this " other wonder " seen of the Prophet. In that mind and estimate, however fair its form on the earth, it is a Dragon, " that old Serpent the Devil" here seen as embodying the perfection of Gentile power and evil. Seven heads and ten horns are seen on the Beast of chap. 13. And 17. the heads designating seven kings in its successive, and the horns ten kings in contemporary power; the former showing the course and progress from beginning to end; the latter, the last form which it assumes (see chap. 17. 10-13). Now these seven heads succeeding one another during the whole period of the Beast's existence, are evidently those who acted a prominent part with reference to the Holy Land, that land which is ever in God's mind the center of earthly blessing, and in relation to which He judges all the kingdoms of the earth. By both scriptural and historical evidence we find that there were seven, and seven only, viz.: Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander, Antiochus the Great, Antiochus Epiphanes, Caesar, and lastly Antichrist, who is the "seventh and also the eighth." Thus we find that this Beast had its existence from the time that Gentile power was first vested in Nebuchadnezzar; and also, that it will revive, and, before this existence terminates, that it will wear the form of ten kingdoms, ruled by kings subordinate to itself. So much for the Beast of chap. xiii. and xvii; but why, it may be asked, are these heads and horns seen on the dragon? what" connection have they with him? The answer is solemn and teaches us that it is he (the dragon) who really wields Gentile power, the origin of which is here seen as diabolical; the human aspect of it being given elsewhere. Embodying the very essence and spirit of the Beast, we find in figure here, a fact which chap. 13. 2. relates in language " and the dragon gave him his power and his seat, and great authority." The heads are crowned, because the whole period of their actual rule is contemplated; God's eye ranging over that mighty lapse of time in a moment, and gathering up (as it were) all the activities and exponents of its evil rule, in order to present to us under this powerful symbol of a sevenheaded-ten-horned dragon, not only the power itself, but also its origin and animus.
Verse 4. The Dragon, seeing the royal woman in this state of expectancy travailing to bring. forth that wondrous child and king who was to bruise his head and take away his dominion, stands " ready to devour it as soon as it is born," and in the strength of this malice with which he is animated, he assails the whole line from whence the expected one should spring. " His tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth." The faithful are very frequently spoken of in Scripture under the similitude of stars, we read in Dan. 8:1010And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. (Daniel 8:10), of the little horn that it " cast down some of the host, and of the STARS [the faithful ones] to the ground " again, " they shall shine as the stars," etc. So, in this vision, Satan is presented as acting with his own evil power upon the stars, that faithful portion of the royal seed who kept up the hope and faith of the nation. This verse comprises in a few words the whole • tale of his wiles, his rage, and his malice against the holy seed, the godly ones, which may be traced as a vein running throughout the Old Testament. Various were his ways and means; but if we examine the Lord's genealogy, we shall find that from Judah downwards there is some flaw or escape, as it were, in all the individuals through whom the royal seed was borne onwards, and this increasing as the time drew on. How far he succeeded in drawing so many of the stars to the earth, that is 'in alluring them morally from their high estate, the books of Kings and Chronicles fully unfold.
From David onwards most of the kings of Judah were servants of God, but all without exception fell in one manner or another under temptation.
David we know was not proof against it; Solomon turned to idols;
Asa made a league with Benhadad;
Jehoshaphat joined with Ahab and Ahaziah;
Joash at first faithful, became idolatrous;
Amaziah " did right in the sight of the Lord," but his heart was not perfect;
Uzziah also, but his heart was lifted up, and he offered incense in the temple;
Jotham walked with the Lord, but did not throw down the high places;
Josiah fell in battle for not heeding the word of the Lord through Pharaoh Necho. But above all did the dragon succeed with
Hezekiah; therefore to him is the sentence pronounced that the " crown, was to be profaned and cast to the ground." Strikingly does that blotted page in Hezekiah's history illustrate the success of the dragon's allurements on these stars of heaven. He had walked before God in rectitude during all the previous part of his reign, but when the Babylonian ambassadors were sent to congratulate him on his recovery, his heart was lifted up and he made a display of those treasures, which were only given him for God's glory. Who impelled him to this but the Dragon, who doubtless knew well what would result from his falling from that high place of witness for God, to the vain glory and flattery of the world? " Therefore" (says Isaiah), " behold the days come that all that is in thine house, and that thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon, nothing shall be left, saith the Lord " (2 Kings 20) and Hezekiah must admit that the " word of the Lord is good."
So far was the Dragon successful when these predictions took place, and the utterance of the royal woman at this epoch must have been that so finely expressed by David in Psa. 89:38,39,4438But thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wroth with thine anointed. 39Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant: thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground. (Psalm 89:38‑39)
44Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down to the ground. (Psalm 89:44)
. " But thou hast cast off' and abhorred, thou hast been wrath with thine anointed. Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant, thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground. Thou hast made his glory to cease and cast his throne down to the ground."
But then the TRUE " anointed" had not yet come. She still travailed in expectancy of this long looked-for child whom the Dragon now stands ready to devour. This attitude is one which Satan constantly bore towards Judah in her royal and holy character. He was the animus of Saul in his deadly and determined hostility against the life of David who was to found the kingdom, and the hair-breadth escapes which he experienced evince how inveterate was Satan's desire to destroy him. Another remarkable instance of this we find in 2 Chron. 22 when Athaliah destroys all the seed royal; all but one, Joash, who was concealed in the house of God for six years. Who but the Dragon prompted her to this? and who but God could have thwarted the attempt thus? On that single life depended (speaking as to the necessity of God's counsels preserving their thread and consistency throughout) not only the preservation of David's throne, but the ultimate bruising of the serpent's head, and the salvation of the world, for from him the Messiah, the woman's seed, the bruiser of Satan was to spring. Again, we find the Dragon in this attitude towards the woman in the person of Herod, who on the report of the birth of the king of the Jews, sent forth in exceeding wrath to slay all the children of Bethlehern.
But however implacable the Dragon's enmity, he could not succeed, either by means of Saul, Athaliah or Herod; his last effort against Him was on the cross, but his apparent triumph there was the rather his most dire defeat, and in the due course of God's counsels, this wondrous child is born from the tomb;-brought forth in resurrection. " And she brought forth a man-child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and the child was caught away to God and to his throne."
We cannot doubt, though the interpretation 'of this figure may include the actual birth of the Lord, that the truth primarily intended to be revealed here is His resurrection; for then was it that He having put away sin, was presented as the Messiah, and then did God say unto Him, " Thou art my Son-this day have I begotten thee." It is in resurrection that he is presented to the nation as " both Lord and Christ," the fruit of David's loins according to the flesh; raised up to sit on David's throne. How fitly is such an event represented in vision by the resurrection-birth of the man-child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron, but who is caught away to God and to His throne, the Heavens receiving Him till the restitution of all things... The life of Christ on earth, His rejection and death is not contemplated here, though silently. implied by the intimation that the Dragon stood ready to devour Him, which of course includes the whole course of His enmity from first to last; but we have only a child born and caught away. No doubt it was His actual birth, that the dragon watched in malice, as he had the royal line from the 'commencement, but it is from the tomb more emphatically than from the manger, that the royal woman brings Him forth and the heavens receiving Him, as well as His ultimate rule of all nations is consequent on this. This rule and exaltation is not entered on in the chapter before us, the catching away of the child being merely introduced to meet the enmity of the Dragon towards Him; but, in the clause which reveals His destiny, viz. as the ruler of all nations, we have a link to that which other scriptures so fully develop. For instance, in. Psa. 2 the sequel of this scene is finely set forth,. The kings of the earth and the rulers, impelled by the Dragon, had set themselves against this " man-child" the. Lord's anointed, but Jehovah had set Him on Zion-had declared the decree, and anticipatively given Him the heathen for an inheritance. The Apostle Paul, quoting this Psalm in Acts 13, sets forth the doctrine of this 5th verse of our chapter in other words, for he declares the glad tidings " how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God has fulfilled the same unto us, their children, in that He bath raised up Jesus again; as it is written,...Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee, and as concerning that he raised Him up from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise: I will give you the sure mercies of David." Here was the fulfillment of the promise for which the nation had yearned, the man-child brought forth; but, on account of the Dragon's rage, caught away.
This 5th verse concludes the first division of the chapter, the first phase of the vision; and the succeeding One passes rapidly onward, and presents to us a scene still future; the whole of the present dispensation, that time which elapses between the heavens reception of the woman's offspring, and her own re-appearance on the scene-7-during the last week of Jewish history coming between, and being silently passed over. The reason of this omission is evident; the vision relates solely to the woman and her child; therefore, that period during which she is lost sight of on earth, and He is hid in the heavens, has no reference to it, but relates to another branch of God's counsels, the church, the dispensation grace which is not treated of here. We must, therefore, pass on in spirit to that period which the Apocalypse specially unfolds, viz: the last week of Daniel, which is very fitly entered on in unbroken succession with the previous phase of the vision; for although ages elapse between the two, it succeeds in strict moral order and identity, and is consequent thereon.
Here then (verse 6) we find this same woman; she who had appeared in such glorious investiture, now is a fugitive (morally fugitive) character-fleeing into the wilderness for the significant period of 1260 days, " where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there "-i. e. during the first half of the week. That this event is moral separation and not actual flight from persecution is plain, because there is no active persecution or enmity during this period to flee from. The rage of the Dragon had been against the child; He, being caught away, and the object of his malice removed, he is in no hostile attitude towards the woman as yet. We find also from other parts that these 1260 days-this first half of the week, will be days of deception and allurement, and not of violence or persecution. From the deceptive and ensnaring condition of things, the woman,—-the godly remnant of Judah which now comprises the royal tribe-withdraws herself morally; and is sustained by God in this honorable moral separation. She is in spirit in the wilderness even as the Lord declared when speaking of this day by the mouth of Hosea. "I will allure her and bring her into: the wilderness, and speak comfortably -to her;" eta. Dissociated from the guilty condition of things around her, even as the heavenly saints are now, or ought to be; she truly " revives there the days of her youth," and finds her vineyards from thence, and the " door of her hope," for in the power of that separation, she is borne through that terrible period when the waters of judgment deluge the earth, and is reserved for millennial blessing and rule, when she shall know her Lord as " lshi,” and be betrothed unto him in " righteousness, judgment, loving-kindness, and mercies."
But to return to verse 6, which only treats of the first half week of moral separation. This is her position on earth, and while such is the case with her, verse 7 goes on to tell us how it is with her old enemy the Dragon.... A wondrous scene is being enacted with regard to him. There is war in heaven. Michael (that great prince which standeth up for the children of the Jewish people) and his angels war with the Dragon and his angels, and the result is that the latter is cast out, and his place is found no more in heaven.
That great fact which the Lord Jesus saw in anticipation, when He says: " I saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven " now takes place. He (the Prince of the power of the air) who hitherto has had access to the heavenly places, is found there no more, his power from henceforth is confined to the earth, and is all the more terrible therein from its concentration, He is the ".star called wormwood," who in chap. 8. 11, falls on the rivers and fountains of waters, and who in chap. 9. opens the bottomless pit and lets forth its contents. We are not told at what precise period during the first half of the week this event takes place, but it must be during the first 1260 days, for it is the action of the star that had previously fallen, which in chap. 9. commences the last half, by opening the bottomless pit. And what is the mind and spirit of heaven with regard to this transition? ver. 10-13 tells us, " A loud voice," swelled no doubt by that of all the heavenly saints, falls on the Prophet's ears to let him know what is heaven's estimate of that terrible moment. " Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accuseth them before our God day and night, and they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore, rejoice, ye heavens, and y e that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the Devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth he bath but a short time."
This utterance must not be regarded as one immediately consequent on the fall of the Dragon, or at least confined to that moment, for the victory of the martyrs who had not then Plaid down their lives is celebrated therein. It is more a continuous expression of the mind of heaven with reference to this event-extending throughout the remainder of the week; the heavenly saints give expression to their estimate of the joy of heaven and the woe for earth by the transition of the Dragon, and the honor and victory of their brethren who were to suffer thereby.
Suffer indeed they would, but the cry of " woe" is not for them, but for the inhabiters of the earth, " those whose rest and dwelling-place being there, are emphatically dwellers" therein. And well may the cry be " woe" for them who dwelt where all His power was now concentrated. This is the " woe," the three-fold "woe" which is consequent on the fall of the star Wormwood; in chap. 8. 13, which is the same event as the language of chap. 7., expresses as the Dragon cast out of heaven. These three woes are the contents of the three last.: trumpets-four having been sounded during the first half of the week, and the last three during the latter half, the fifth ushering in the devil's concentrated and exasperated power, and with the sixth and seventh heralding " Woe woe, woe." Ver. 13 verifies the prediction with regard to the woman which brought forth the man-child, for the great action of the Dragon on finding himself cast to the earth is to persecute her. The child is beyond his reach, but she, the godly portion of the tribe, is not; for her moral flight or separation only exposed her the more to his malice; and mark! it is still as the mother of the child that his rage is exhibited against her. Mere, however, God interposes and provides her with means (symbolically " the wings of a great eagle"), which expresses rapidity of flight, and she actually, not morally as before, but actually flies into the wilderness for time, times and half 'a time (three years and a-half) from the face of the serpent." This is what we read of in Matt. 24:1616Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: (Matthew 24:16), where the Lord, addressing the disciples, as in moral identity with the holy remnant of the latter day, says-" Then let them which be in Judea flee unto tile mountains," etc. This was to be on the setting up of the abominations at the commencement of the last half week of Daniel, which was to be marked by " great tribulation such as had not been from the beginning of the world." The woman, however, escapes, she is part of the company which we find sealed for preservation in chap. 7.; in fact the 12,000 from the tribe of Judah; and is borne away from the scene of the Dragon's activity to be nourished for time, times and half a time.
This winds up the week as to her, but ver. 15 retro- grades a. little, as to the narrative, and tells us the action of the serpent when the woman was out of his reach. This is his final effort against her-he casts "out of his mouth water as of a flood that he might cause her to 'be carried away by the flood"-doubtless raises up a people to pursue her, but again God interposes miraculously on her behalf, "and the earth helped the woman, and swallowed up the flood which the Dragon cast out of his mouth." These pursuers are destroyed by earthquake, possibly that which we read of in Zech. 14:4,54And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. 5And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:4‑5), at the Lord's coming. " And his feet shall stand on that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof, toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley, and half the mountain shall remove toward the north and half toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal, yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah; and the Lord my God shall come, and all the stints with. thee."
In the above passage we learn, that on the eve of the Lord's coming there will be an earthquake, which will form a valley through which the believing remnant will flee from their foes. In Rev. 12:16 we have seen an earthquake also, the effect of which is to swallow up the flood or pursuers which the Dragon had impelled after the remnant, Both occur at the very end of the week, and if the earthquake be identical, it may answer the double purpose of destroying the woman's enemies, and forming a passage for her escape. In Zechariah, the Lord appears on the scene just as the remnant are fleeing; appears for their. deliverance. In Rev. 12 the vision does not extend to this last, so the precise time of the earthquake cannot be fixed, but they appear very similar. At any rate in both instances the earth helps the woman, or the remnant.
" And the Dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." This passage must not be regarded as continuous in occurrence to the previous verses, which relate the Dragon's final effort against the woman, and wind up the week; ver 17, recurring to that period, thus wound up, only designs to show us how he bore himself towards those individuals who were not in the place of preservation and concealment with the woman. She was in the wilderness, they, still exposed to the Dragon's fury, and with them he makes war. They were " the remnant of her seed," a second company of martyrs who suffered later in the last half of the week, even as the witnesses and the first company (the souls under the altar of chap. vi.) were martyred in the middle of it. " They are those who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Faithful to this testimony, they lay down their lives and enter into heavenly glory, while the woman is preserved for the earth and forms the crowning portion of that company, the 144,000, which is extracted, not only from Judah, but from, every tribe, and enter into earthly blessing and joy. She is the royal part of that company, and the whole nation will be gathered unto her: or at least the elect remnant in each tribe, the 12,000 sealed ones, will together form that redeemed people, that holy nation who will form the kingdom during the millennial age, Judah, this royal woman, no longer in a fugitive suffering character, but as she appears first to the eye of the prophet adorned with her crown of twelve stars, swaying the realm of earthly glory, and clothed with Him the " Sun of righteousness" from whom she derives all her glory and royalty, and (whom having long yearned in expectation for) she now owns His sway and finds herself lost in Him.
In recapitulation we may add that these last' verses 14-17, disclose to us what takes place during the last half of the week. Not in consecutive order by any means, but merely in the light of cause and effect. The woman out of the Dragon's reach, he makes war with the remnant of her seed, and also makes a final effort against her. The former, God allows, and gives the honor of martyrdom to one portion of His own, designed for heavenly glory; the latter, He prevents by miraculous interposition, in order to rescue another portion for the earthly glory designed for them. Neither of these glories are entered on here, but the week is fully wound up, the period of the woman's concealed security in the wilderness having run out, but the Dragon is not yet destroyed, and the man-child is on the throne, ready to be revealed.
The object of the vision being attained, it closes. That object is, as we have seen, to show forth in strong colors, by means of these powerful symbols, not the revelation of Christ-the man-child-but His origin, earthly relations-destiny—and Satan's enmity to Him in His royal, Jewish, Messianic character. He and the Dragon are the two objective features in the vision, all the rest hang upon these, and serve to illustrate them. True, the woman appears to be the most prominent personage, but it is her maternal relation to this royal child that gives her the prominence. It is against Him that the Dragon's rage is excited; the " stars of heaven" are only objects of interest to this evil one, because of their connection with Him;-the woman, because she travailed to bring Him forth. He, who was to supplant the Dragon's rule and dominion-the child, being caught away, the serpent and the woman do not come in contact again until the former is cast out of heaven and finds his power confined to the earth, and that for a short time. Then, it is true, he assails her, and the remnant of her seed as the only remaining witness for the object of His hatred and fear.
This scene is one of most comprehensive range, embracing the whole period of the woman's existence from the time of her investiture by 'God with earthly, glory, authority, and rule, until the verge of that moment when her root and offspring-this royal child, on which all her heart and hopes were centered, shall merge her in His own person, and actually take that rule which His birth from the tomb entitled Him to, as ".both Lord and Christ."
In conclusion, we may add, is it not plain that the woman must symbolize the royal tribe, and not the nation as a whole?
She retains her identity and personality, throughout all the shifting scenes of this vision, and bears a prominant part in that closing week, which the nation, as a whole, will have nothing to do with. The house of Israel will still be lost to human sight and prophetic action, while the House of Judah-this woman, will be on the scene-separating herself morally, assailed by the Dragon, fleeing, escaping, and not till after the three years and a-half (during which she is nourished in, concealment) have expired, will the rest of the nation, the ten tribes, be brought back. Before this last takes place, the man-child, the offspring of this royal woman, born in resurrection, received into the heavens for a season, will have come forth from the throne, for her deliverance, for the destruction of that power so inimical, to her; and the resumption to Himself of those royal rights, which He had in grace derived from, though in divine right conferred on, the house of David.
Ignorant as I am-" I know the mind of God better than I know my own mind:"
No. 11
SAINTS lose much blessing by not seeing the different force of the expressions " the Spirit of God," and " the Spirit of the Anointed Man" (i.e. the Christ). It is not, of course, that there are two Holy Ghosts, but the one Holy Spirit (as man says the third person in the blessed Trinity) acts, at one time in connection with one part of truth, and at another time in connection with another part of truth; and He, as the animating power and principle of all truth, knows how to turn truth so that all its blessed phases and connections should appear, and should, by us, be the better apprehended and reflected.
It was the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:22And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:2)) who moved upon the face of the waters in creation. It was the Spirit of God (Ex. 31:22See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: (Exodus 31:2)) which gave power and skill to those that prepared the tabernacle. So " GOD anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with him" (Acts 10:3838How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Acts 10:38)), etc.
In all these cases, the blessing comes forth direct from God and manifests His power, wisdom, and goodness. But the power, as flowing from the divine being, from God Himself, has not, when I think of it, the same perfect address to my renewed heart and mind, as has that which comes to me from the Anointed Man.
As rests for the heart and mind of a believer, the statement of Acts 1:88But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8), differs much from that of Acts 2:31-3331He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 32This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. (Acts 2:31‑33). In the one, the sure promise "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you"; in the other, the declaration that the power (so referred to and now given) was a power which Jesus, the Nazarene, had (as the Anointed Man owned in heaven), in resurrection received of the Father, and Himself, therefore, shed forth that which they saw and heard. In the former passage, I get God, even the Father, sending down the Holy Ghost; in the latter, my heart and mind find much more; for the Nazarene, a man in heaven, passed through death, is the fountain, in the divine glory, whence it flows to me.
There should result much solemnity of spirit from the having directly to do with God, and God having to do directly with us at all times. It is a very solemnizing truth. Without weakening its force, however, I may state, what I believe to be true, viz. that if the revelation to us had been only of a communication of the Spirit of God to us, and of our being under His hand, we must then, necessarily, have got into and been kept under the mazy state in which most Christians' minds actually are; and they are so, just because instead of their knowing the Spirit as He has been revealed to them as the Spirit of the Anointed Man, who is in divine glory, they only know him as the Spirit of God. God has been pleased to reveal Himself fully, and only fully, as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. If I know Him at all; it is in Jesus Christ, and the measure in which my knowledge of God is true, and correct, and full, is according to the measure in which my knowledge is of Him, Jesus Christ;
Now, when the Holy Ghost acts, in salvation, what does He but reveal the Anointed Man, Jesus the Lord, to the soul. And in teaching us, and instructing us, and in' leading us on, it is just in the same way that He acts; He reveals " the truth" in the Anointed Man, Jesus the Lord, to us. If led by the Spirit of God, my heart, my mind, my whole being has to do with that which my renewed heart and mind can right well apprehend-the Anointed Man, Jesus the Lord, now upon the throne of God and the Father.
If, instead of being turned to Him, because I know it is the Spirit of Him (the anointed, though now divinely glorified Man) that is teaching me,—teaching molding,
guiding, me, by means of what is shown to me in Him (in which case I shall think and speak of Him as the Spirit of the Christ), I think and speak of Him only as the Spirit of God (which certainly He is, yea He is God the Spirit), I shall find the effect upon my own mind, and soul, and life, by a certain want of clearness in everything.
The subject is of all importance, for it is inseparable both from the way in which God has been pleased to reveal Himself, and from the way in which lie has redeemed us to Himself.
Attention to this will open much blessed fullness of truth in chap. 8. of the Epistle to the Romans.
When conviction of sin is made little account of by the Evangelist, it is a bad sign for him; for it shows that he neither apprehends the message which he professes to carry, nor the ways of Him whose message it is. When God reveals His mercy and compassion to a soul by the revelation of Christ in it, there are certainly before the soul two things; first, God's object of delight (that is, His Christ); and secondly, the self to whom Christ is revealed-the soul, the very contrast of Him. Its state, when so found, is one which the God that delights in Christ must loathe. and does loathe, though being compassionate and showing. mercy to the individual soul, He then and there, by the revelation of Christ to it, pledges Himself to its deliverance.
I do not admit that a soul must be brought to despair before it can know peace, or that it must be brought to despair before it can know settled peace (both of which are taught by some); but that a soul knows mercy and compassion in God, or the meaning of the work of Christ who has never tasted self-loathing and self-abhorrence, I certainly do hold. Mercy has certainly to be measured, not only as having its heights in God, but also its depths in us that are saved. And most surely the contrast of what Christ is morally, and myself must produce self-loathing and abhorrence.
When I was in the flesh my conscience was hard, and I had no consciousness of sin present with me. I was under guilt. When grace revealed Christ to me, my conscience might, at once, become perfect, fit for God's presence in the holiest, through the blood; but then, guiltless, I became conscious of sin in every way.
The ways of the Lord in grace are not known td him that makes little account of conviction. For if the whole work, from first to last, of salvation is of the Lord, yet His way of applying it is such as to give to the saved one his full place individually: he is to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling, just because it is God that worketh in him both to will and to do of His own good pleasure. By making us know what we are and loathe it, He, in His ways of grace, permits us to identify ourselves with Him against ourselves, as also against the world and Satan.
The would-be Evangelist, who makes light of conviction of sin, may find himself a good maker of stony-ground hearers; but he will find that the fruit-bearer is the man that has had convictions, deep and many, and has them, still onward to the end.