LXX. March/April 1987 No. 2
the hope and resurrection of the
dead I am called in question..." Acts 23:6
the Apostle Paul stood before the Jewish Sanhedrin he pointed out the true
basis of Christian orthodoxy -- the doctrine of the resurrection of the
dead. Men have eagerly accepted the hope of a future life rather than
accept that of a resurrection of
the dead. It has been easier for average professing Christians to accept
the teachings of the ancient Greeks, of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, or of Hindu mythology than it has been for them to believe the real
teachings of Christ upon the subject.
woman once remarked that she knew that she had an immortal soul because
she had often felt it move within her. Such a firm credulity is impossible
ego is flattered to think that within each heart there bums a spark of
immortal fire. People like to think that their life will continue after
death because of some good within them (by of birth or because of some
great lifetime accomplishment). Some even find it humiliating to
accept the idea that after their death they are dependent upon the good
will of God and his power for a life after death.
spite of these false hopes the resurrection teaching is the essence of
Christian faith. As its founder stood at Lazarus' tomb, he intimated the
final result of God's plan for man and his purpose in dying on behalf of
and Martha had sent word to Jesus of Lazarus' sickness, but Jesus had
deliberately delayed his return to Bethany in answer to their plea for
assistance. When Jesus arrived, the evidence of Lazarus' death had
become apparent. Corruption and decay had set in. Mary and Martha
greeted Jesus; their words, "... Lord,
if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died" (John 11:21),
mingled grief and faith and reproach. Jesus replied to Martha,
"... Thy brother shall rise
again" (John 11:23).
If she had only the belief of the majority of professing Christians she
might have said something like, "But Lord, is he not alive and
happy now in heaven?" Being better instructed, what she said was,
"... I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last
day" (John 11:24).
now had an opportunity to declare himself. Albeit with tears and agony
of heart, the words which Jesus spoke rolled forth like peals of thunder
from his lips. Here he laid forth the fundamentals of faith, "... the
substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb.
answer to Martha's confession of faith, Jesus said:
am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were
dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall
never die ... Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou
shouldest see the glory of God? ... Father, I thank thee that thou hast
heard me ... Take away the stone! ... Lazarus come forth" (John
that was dead came forth! With the removal of the stone from the tomb
and the loosing of its prisoner, the stone is also removed from every
believing heart, fears vanish, tears are dried, hope gilds the future,
and joyful anticipation replaces grief and fear.
The Glory of God
Glory is a reflex action. It is created in the minds
of others by the excellence of the one who is glorified. God's greatest
glory among men shall always be his power to restore life to the dead. As
man's greatest need is life, to him the most glorious being is the one who
has the power to give life. Jesus, standing before the tomb of Lazarus,
associates his awakening with the glory of God. In harmony with this we
read that Christ Jesus was also "... raised
up from the dead by the glory of the Father" (Rom. 6:4). "And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall
see it together..." (Isa. 40:5). What an assurance of a
general resurrection! This glory is an inherent trait of the Holy City
which shall come to earth (Rev. 21:2), "...having
the glory of God..." (Rev. 21:11).
The Three Resurrections
Three different resurrections are spoken of in the
New Testament: the first resurrection (Rev. 20:5,6); . better
resurrection for the Ancient Worthies (Heb. 11:35); the general
resurrection, in which "... all
that are in the graves ... shall come forth..." (John 5:28).
In reverse order these might be compared as good,
better, and best.
"Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first
resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be
priests of God and of Christ, and they shall reign with him a thousand
years" (Re . 20:6, RSV).
This "first" resurrection is so superior
and desirable that Paul declares that he sacrificed his every earthly
interest and possession. He was eager to share the death and sufferings of
Christ in order that he might know "... the
fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by
any means [he]might attain unto the (out-) resurrection of the dead" (Phil. 3:10,11). The apostle uses a
prefix in connection with the word meaning "resurrection." his
prefix means "out," but is nowhere else used. Thus, he
differentiates between the "first" resurrection (which he was
seeking) and the general resurrection.
The Greek word summorphos,
which means "to make like" or "jointly form,"
appears two other times in the New Testament. It means a "bringing
into the close resemblance," or "is entity." Paul uses this
word to describe his longing to be joined in Jesus' death.
For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait
for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of
our humiliation that it may be conformed ["into a conformity"
to the body of
his glory ... " (Phil. 3:20, ASV).
This is a restatement of the thought so often
borrowed from his pen that if we be dead with him we shall also live with
him and if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death we
shall also be raised in the likeness of his resurrection (Rom. 6:5; 2
Tim. 2:11). The third use of this word is,
"And we know that to them that love God all
things work together for good, even to them that are called according to
his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the
firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:28, ASV, author's italics).
Here is Paul's complete thought: He desired to
participate in Christ's suffering so that through them he might be conformed
to the character of Jesus, just as he had been made perfect through the
things which he had suffered (Heb. 2:10). Paul sought conformity in Jesus'
death so that he might also share in the likeness of Jesus' resurrection
-- the "first" and glorious resurrection.
Such a transcendent ambition is no mere interest.
It is a passion, a compulsion. It is to such as share his feelings
that he discusses the subject of the "first" resurrection. "But
some will say, How are the dead raised? and with what manner of body do
they come?" (1 Cor. 15:35, ASV). If these questions were written
with reference to the general resurrection the answers would be
comparatively simple. How are the dead raised? By the power of their
Creator -- and only fools say there is no God (Ps. 14:1). With what manner
of body do they come? With a human body. Mankind, in general, die as
men; there is no change in the grave; in the resurrection they shall come
forth unchanged in the essential elements of their personalities -- their
human minds, bodies, connections, and surroundings. They will know
themselves as human beings; they could not know them-selves otherwise.
The butterfly bears no apparent relationship to the
caterpillar, but the connection is vital -- the butterfly proceeds from
the caterpillar's egg. Of the new creation it is said "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should
be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1:18). Such are
begotten again, "... not of
corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth
and abideth forever" (1 Pet.
1:23). But, "... as many as
received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God..." (John 1:12).
The caterpillar's egg does not come from a lowly
worm. It originates with a creature of the air, of the sunshine and of
flowers. Nor does the New Creation result from any human begetting. The
New Creation is begotten by the Spirit of God, but it is first found in
human form, in a "body of humiliation" (Phil. 3:21, ASV), and is
figuratively hidden in a "worm of the dust." Isaiah aptly
described this aspect of Jesus' life saying, "... he
hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him there is no beauty
that we should desire him" (Isa. 53:2). He was "... despised and rejected of men..." (Isa. 53:3) as are his followers.
Caterpillars are voracious eaters. Their appetites
are often exclusive -- to the leaves of a single variety of tree; and so
feeding, they grow at an astonishing rate. The new creature also has an
insatiable appetite: for the Word of God. Jesus said:
"... Man shall not live by bread alone, but by
every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4) ... The
words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life (John
6:63). I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat
of this bread he hall live forever ... Except ye eat a flesh of the Son
of man, and drink his blood ye have no life in you (John 6:51,53). Blessed
are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be
filled." (Matt. 5:6).
And finally Peter's words, "As newborn babes, long or the spiritual milk ... that ye may
grow thereby ..." (1 Pet. 2:2). This is no ordinary appetite to
which Peter refer.. This is a passion that will not be denied -- if the
coming imago -- or
"image" -- is to be fully developed.
The caterpillar does not eat to sustain the life of
the caterpillar. It is absorbing the nutrients necessary to create the
future butterfly. Nor is it to preserve his human life that the believer
eats the flesh and drinks the blood of Jesus Christ (John 6:53). He is
absorbing spiritual materials from which the spirit being will eventually
be born in the "first" resurrection.
The Third Stage
Another stage remains before the butterfly emerges as
the imago. It enters the
pupa or chrysalis stage. It forms a shell around itself and to all
appearances it dies. There is no evidence of life. In fact, during this
time the pupa has no individual life. It seems controlled by a sort of
collective, creative mind of the species, because when it comes forth it
is no longer just a worm. It is no a creature of another world; no longer
ugly and repugnant.
The new creature in Christ Jesus must also pass
through a chrysalis stage.
Come my people, enter thou
into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were
for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast ... Lord thou
wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us
... Arise and sing, ye that dwell in the dust: for thy dew is as the dew
of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. (Isa. 26:20,12,19)
Apply this language to the butterfly. How uniquely it
fits. The worm dwelt in the dust, but it is destined to awake and sing --
to rejoice as a butterfly. Its dew or juices come from herbs, but this Hebrew
word also means light and prosperity, suggesting that the juices of the
worm furnish the life fluids of the butterfly, a creature of light and
Looking next at the antitype: "chambers" are
identified with death (Prov. 7:27). The psalmist prophesies concerning
God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he
judgeth among the gods ... I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are
children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of
the princes. (Ps. 82:1,6,7)
In a mystic sense the Christian weaves his own
chamber of death. Figuratively, he enters his chamber, or chrysalis, when
he consecrates himself to God, to follow his Master even unto death.
Thereafter he is considered dead. And increasingly, he is cut off
(mentally) from his surroundings. It is the holy Spirit which works in
him -- transforming him from a creature suited to this earth to a
creature suited to live in the heavenlies. "Ye
are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). Figuratively,
the feeding stage (worm) and the transforming (chrysalis) proceed
simultaneously. Like the worm's transformation the process is not
voluntary in the sense that the results are accomplished by the work of
the Christian believer. A higher mind, a superior, spiritual law works
in us, just as a higher racial law works in the chrysalis to create the
butterfly and to teach it to fly.
Just as every stage of the butterfly's life
contributes to the final imago, so every
stage of the Christian's life contributes to the final "image"
of Christ. The transformation is completed in the first resurrection. That
is the final operation of the creative Spirit of God on behalf of the
Christian. "And the God of all
grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have
suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, establish, strengthen
you" (I Pet. 5:10) -- beyond the suffering.
earth shall cast forth her dead." The word here translated
"dead" is rephaim meaning
"shades," or "spirit beings." As the earth cast forth
or released Jesus as a spirit being, so shall it cast forth those who
follow the Lamb withersoever he goes. "When
Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him
be manifested in glory" (Col. 3:4, ASV).
These rephaim are
not all that Isaiah declares the earth will release "... the
earth also shall disclose her blood: and shall no more cover her
slain" (Isa. 26:21);
that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth
..." (John 5:28,29). These are references to the general
The Great Example
only example of the first resurrection that has yet been manifested to man
is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The description recorded of the
risen Christ is meager, but two facts concerning his resurrection
appearances stand out:
It was "this same Jesus" in
personality and character, who died and rose again.
The risen Christ was a very different being, in bodily powers and conditions,
than the one who died.
impress the first fact upon his disciples' minds he appeared in complete
possession of human attributes saying, "...A spirit
hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have" (Luke 24:39). Yet a
few minutes later, he fulfilled his own definition of one who was born
of the spirit (John 3:8) by disappearing from sight. He came and went
without regard for time, space, or the obstructions of human walls and
locked doors. He ascended into heaven without wings or mechanical aid. The
apostles realized the completeness of the metamorphosis, for they declare:
"... we have known Christ after
the flesh, yet now we know him no more" (2 Cor. 5:16) He became
the King, eternal, immortal, invisible (1 Tim. 1:17).
we ever considered the change to which we have committed ourselves? The
cold darkness of interstellar space and the absence of physical comforts
and associations are not attractive surroundings for the natural mind to
contemplate. It is indeed a far and strange country to which we journey.
if we are well acquainted with this same Jesus and remember that he went
before us, we will remember that his Father (whom he loved as a man and
to whom he longed to return) is also our Father. He loves us because we
have loved his Son and believe on him. Our faith will transcend our fears
and we shall gladly enter into our chambers. The first resurrection's
transition from the fleshly to the spirit conditions will be as strange
and marvelous as that of the worm to the butterfly. But it will also be
just as natural, perfect, and altogether happy.
thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will set
thy stones in fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I
will make thy pinnacles of rubies, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all
thy border of precious s ones. And all thy children shall be taught of
Jehovah; and great shall be he peace of thy children. In righteousness
shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression, for thou
shalt not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near thee" (Isa.
Song of Solomon 6:3
The Bible is an extraordinary love story, one with
which no human story compares. It contains the story of God's love for
our race. Originally, we were created in his likeness, but by Adam's
disobedience we fell under God's just condemnation. What a blend of
heavenly parental emotion is conveyed in the Bible narrative. God so
loved the world, while we were yet sinners, that he gave his only begotten
son to be our redeemer, that he might restore us again to divine favor.
Only after we have been reconciled to him can we fulfill his creative
This view of God, of his character and plans for man,
is different from that which once terrorized many Christians. There was a
time when many viewed God as almighty in power and knowledge, but
destitute of love and sympathy. There was a time when many considered that
God once sat in the councils of eternity, before the creation of the earth
or of our race, and there planned our creation and everlasting destiny.
Many supposed that God deliberately placed the race under such unfavorable
conditions that only a comparative handful would attain to a life of bliss
-- either in this life or in that to come. Such also considered that
because the majority of men would be steeped in sin, God decided that such
should never end their miserable existence. Oh, how horrible, how
revolting this logic is, even to the human mind. And yet it is such logic
which mistakenly teaches that God shall consign millions to an eternity of
God Is Truly Love
What a relief it has been to awaken to a better
knowledge of God and of his Word. What a relief it has been to recognize
that the teachings of the Dark Ages are no more than a horrible nightmare
-- as unreal as they were cruel and unjust -- as unscriptural as they
were contrary to the conception of reasonable minds. Surely these false
teachings do not agree with the harmony of God's character: his love,
wisdom, justice, and power.
Just as human parents have occasionally used the
caricatures found in nursery rhymes to obtain from their children a
frightened form of obedience, man has attempted to secure this same
obedience from other men on behalf of God. But, the ghosts and goblins of
infancy faded from our physical memory and we began to take note of such
deceptions and by whom they were practiced. Similarly, God's spiritual
children have learned the truth about such "terrors of the Lord"
-- which, however severe, have been distorted by theologians who hoped
to exercise a restraining effect upon evil. We learn in the Scriptures
that their fear toward God is taught by men (Isa. 29:13), not by divine
It is a relief to know the love of God. He is not
just willing to save to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25). He is also able to
save all who put their trust in him! Not only so, God is so willing to
save that he made provision for every human being to come to a clear
knowledge of his grace and a full opportunity to attain eternal life
through Christ Jesus: by obeying God.
We do well to reflect upon the figurative
"pit" from which Jehovah lifted us when he placed our feet. upon
the Rock, Christ Jesus. We are blessed in remembering his mercy, by
which he anointed our eyes to see wonderful things in his Word. By
bringing us out of darkness and into his marvelous light (I Pet. 2:9) we
have been able to brush away superstitions, misunderstanding, and
mistranslation. These errors have long clouded both his Word and his
children's perception of their great Father of lights, from whom every
good and perfect gift proceeds (James 1:17).
Individuals Chosen To Be the Bride of Christ
Our theme text deals with another part of this great
love story. Our Father did more than merely provide redemption for our
race through Christ Jesus. He honored and glorified our Redeemer as a reward
for those things which he endured for the sake of obedience to the Father
(Phil. 2:8-11). Additionally, he arranged to select a bride and joint heir
for his son, our Lord Jesus. No one individual was so chosen; but rather a
group of individuals. By comparison to all the humans in the world this
group, which is called the "elect" (Col. 3:12) or the
"church" (Col. 1:18), is only a little flock (Luke 12:32). These
are now in the process of selection and perfection. When their number is
complete they will become "... the
Bride, the Lamb's wife" (Rev. 21:9).
None of man's love stories will ever compare with the
story of Christ and how he gave his life for his church. Jesus redeemed
"her" with his own life. These who are to be rewarded by God
with an excellent glory are invited to share in his cross, in his
sufferings, and in his death. If they are prove faithful, they are also to
be received into glory with him, are to share his love and in his throne
and the Father's favor. Our readers are familiar with the details of
this arrangement, and we will not review them now.
Our text briefly makes two basic points: I am my
beloved's; my beloved is mine.
Who Are the Beloved's?
No one enters this company unawares. Consequently, no
heathen philosopher or any who have lived and died without a personal
knowledge of their personal Savior can ever become members of this elect
church. All who become members are able to say "I am my
beloved's." Manifestly, many Christian church members will not have
a part in this company because only a few can truly say that they are his
beloved. This union with the Beloved (Christ) implies that justification
through repentance and faith in the precious blood had already taken
A Covenant People
It is implied that those who call their Savior
their "Beloved" have not only heard of Christ but have also made
a definite and positive compact with him. This commitment to be his in
every thought, word, and deed becomes the believer's marriage vow or
covenant -- if he will accept us and be our bridegroom.
As long as evil prevails in this world and as long as
the god of this world blinds the minds of most men, none will approach our
Lord Jesus unless the Father draws them (John 6:44). At this time, the
Father is not drawing all men. His work is intentionally limited to this
elect class. The work of drawing the world will be accomplished during the
Messianic Age. Then Christ and his glorified church shall be God's agents.
They will fill the whole earth with the knowledge of the truth. The power
of truth has the power to attract. When it reaches the heart (our center
of human understanding), its effect is to attract man to it. Yet, it is
also true that this drawing power may be resisted: not only in the present
age, but also in the age to come (Acts 3:23).
Only a few are now being drawn to Christ because only
a few know the truth. Consequently, many do not see the opportunity of
accepting the Bridegroom and of becoming one with him. Some, however, do
accept. To them belongs the privilege of sealing the covenant between
themselves and the Lord through the grace which binds them.
A Privileged Few
Have you accepted the invitation to give yourself to
the Lord (Prov. 23:26; Rom. 12:1)? It is proper that each answer this
question individually. Those who answer "yes" are to be accepted
as members of his bride, if they continue faithful. And those who answer
"yes" may also be assured of the second part of our text: "my beloved is mine." We may consciously decide to
continue in this attitude throughout our life. And if we are faithful
(Rev. 2:10) we have the assurance that we will be with our Lord in the
resurrection, that we will be like him and will share in his glory and in
his throne (Rev. 3:21).
Consider the Implications
My beloved is mine! What do those words imply? The
Scriptures declare that, "He
who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son has not life" (1
John 5:12, RSV). Here is a promise of eternal life. All things are to
become theirs, and this we know on the authority of the Apostle Paul. "Whether ... things present, or things to come; all are yours; and
ye are Christ's and Christ is God's" (1 Cor. 3:22,23). We
have been relieved to know that our sins were forgiven by grace through
the merit of Jesus' blood. How much more are we encouraged by knowing
that we have been united with the Son
of the King of the universe -- the same son in whom the Father is
well pleased -- the same son whom God has made his sole associate in the
glory and dominion of the universe.
We may enjoy many of these blessings now. Surely,
there are some which are reserved for the future: the glory and the honor.
But we are already enjoying the care of our Bridegroom! He protects us. He
provides for us. He comforts us now, while we abide in this human tabernacle.
And why? So that as we pass through the valley of the shadow of death we
need fear no evil (Ps. 23:4). Yes, he is with us. His rod and his staff
are our comfort.
Those who live up to the words: "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine" have another
promise belonging to this life. The Master says to them, "... lo,
I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matt. 28:20,
RSV). He is especially near to his own at the end of the age. He promised
to reveal himself to his faithful in special ways, even before she is
changed and beholds him in his glory.
To These Belong the Promises "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises
..." (2 Pet. 1:4). It is the privilege of these
"engaged" ones to apply the promises to themselves, to accept
the offerings and tokens of our Lord's love for them, undeserved as it may
be. These may hear him say, I will deliver you in six troubles, and in the
seventh I will not forsake you (Job 5:19). His grace is sufficient for us
(2 Cor. 12:9). He invites us to call upon him in the day of trouble that
he might deliver us (Ps. 50:15). He is so careful over his own that we
have the assurance that all things work together for the good of those who
love God, and are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).
These promises were summed up by the poet:
What peace, what quietness of spirit, what strength
to endure hardness lies behind these assurances of our Bridegroom. We
are our beloved's and his is ours. Such confidence has allowed his
faithful ones to endure dark experiences. Their endurance has surprised
the world. They have entered the fiery furnace, but the world has not
recognized that the Son of God was with them just as he was with the three
Hebrew youths (Dan. 3:25). These have endured as seeing him who is
invisible (Heb. 11:27).
The world does not know this invisible Friend. They
are unacquainted with the heavenly Bridegroom. They do not know his
sustaining grace during their trials. They are greatly to be pitied because
they bear their burdens alone. But the Lord's people may lay their burdens
at the feet of him who said, "Come
unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you
rest" (Matt. 11:28).
The world's case is sad indeed. But, how much worse
it is for those who have once loved him, who have once experienced his
care, and who have wandered off -- having lost their first love? These
have forgotten that they were purged from their sins. They become deaf to
the promises of God: those pertaining to this life and to the life to
come (2 Cor. 4:17,18). They battle for things which last for a moment.
These are in a worse condition than the world because the apostle declares
that it would have been better for them had they never known he way than,
after knowing it, to turn their backs upon the knowledge delivered to them
(2 Pet. 2:21).
Let those who have named the name of Christ abide in
him. Let each, individually, continue in faith, in love, in zeal,
walking in his footsteps. Thus they shall make their calling and election
sure (2 Pet. 1:10).
- C.T. Russell
"He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
Then are they glad because they are quiet; so he bringeth them unto their
desired haven." - Psalm 107:29-30
Speed seems to be the keynote of the twentieth
century. We are able to crowd as much into a single day as our grandparents
could accomplish in an entire week. This condition is possible because of
the rate of commercial travel and automation. We are easily caught up in
this swirl of activity and may become so busy -- even in Christian
activities -- as to leave no room for Christ. The reminder to pause, :o
rest, to listen is sometimes as necessary for us as is the stop sign which
we find at every railroad crossing. That ominous "STOP," which
safeguards lives, has a spiritual equivalent in the life of the Christian.
I Stand At The Door And Knock Jesus often knocks for
admission to our lives. But we may not always hear that knock above the
clamor of our daily lives. There is so much to think about, so much to do!
We become preoccupied. And when his friendly rap is heard upon the door we
may feel more irritation at the interruption than joy at the opportunity.
Yes, there is much to do, places to go, with such a carefully arranged
timetable that we have but a few minutes to spare. Oh, if we must have
visitors let them come on our schedule -- when we are prepared for them.
Not many will go to the door with joyous expectancy, hoping to find at
the door some long time friend in whose company we can relax, listen,
and be refreshed, one who is always welcome and for whose sake all chores
are gladly abandoned.
Yet, Jesus is such a visitor. "If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and
eat with him and he with me" (Rev. 3:20, NIV).
Jesus taught us that food for our spirit is more
important than a busy schedule which provides no time for rest. We need
time to sit with him and listen to what he has to say. The busy Marthas,
rushing around on various errands, feeling the strain of their
self-imposed schedules, are admirable people. Yes, the world would be lost
without them. The quiet Mary like individuals may give the world its
beauty, but the world needs its Marthas to translate the spiritual visions
of the few Marys into reality.
We are by nature mixed personalities, full of
curiosity and varying interests, and we need those "knocks" at
the doors of our mind in order to learn when we should be busy, and when
to be quiet -- to rest and take in new strength. That is the purpose of
the rest and it is the reason for our Master's knock on the door.
It is during the most hectic of days that Jesus
knocks. When we are behind schedule before we have even started, or when
any delay seems contrived to undo all that we have accomplished, it is
then that we hear the Master's gentle knock. We may protest that we are
too busy. We have no time to stop. Our own business may be completely
unselfish, but the Lord says: "I have spread the meal, cease your
labors. Come and sup with me and I with you."
A hearty response to that gracious call is its own
reward. The door that shuts out the crowded days, that calls a halt to its
own business, also shuts in "... the
peace of God, which transcends all understanding... " (Phil.
How refreshing is that short rest! A brief pause
gives us quiet thought, a reassessment of our situation, a reappraisal of
our liabilities and assets, the reassurance of the promise: "
... My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).
A few minutes alone in the presence of the Lord
will change the tenor of the day. From frenzied haste to calm leisured
action, from snapping strain to sunny ease, the day rolls out unwrinkled,
successful, and satisfying. We have supped with him and he with us. The
brief visit has been invigorating, an intercourse with the Unseen Guest.
The Apostle John records an interesting incident in
Jesus' post-Resurrection ministry (John 21:1-13). Jesus' appearances
to his followers had become less frequent. Weary of waiting, the active
Peter decided to go fishing. Ready to follow his lead, the other disciples
went along with him. They fished all night but caught nothing. But when
morning came a strange stood on the shore calling: "Children, have
you any meat?"
This was a common practice. A hungry traveler,
would not hesitate to hail a fishing boat in the hopes of getting a fish
from which to make himself a roadside meal. From the distance, the
stranger could barely be seen, and his salutation was a common one.
Unaware of his identity, they sent one word back across the gray waters,
No one bothered to explain. Nor did they apologize or
their lack of food. Neither could they hide the disappointment which
these cold, wet, tired, and hungry men must have felt. Their blunt,
disgruntled and unfriendly answer carried across the waves to the
stranger. But, oh what an answer returned to them. Did Peter and John
glance one at the other, each asking the unspoken question? For the answer
that reached them was simple: "Cast the net on the right side of the
ship, and you shall find."
How often have Jesus' followers toiled too hard and
too long in the wrong place. At length, many have admitted that they have
achieved no Thing. So also these disciples. It was no longer their time
or place to fish for scaly creatures. The Master had called the away
from such pursuits. He bid them wait until they received his new
commission: to become fishers of men. But the men had grown tired of
waiting. Content in their wisdom, they set about doing something --
returning to their profitless past. But Jesus knew their heart. He did not
rebuke them. Instead, with infinite love he ministered to them in the
way that only he could. They had nothing for him, but he had plenty for
They had learned well their earlier lessons of
obedience. They cast the net as instructed and found it so full that they
could hardly pull it to the shore.
Oh, what a scene that must have been, with the early
morning sun shedding its first beams on that quiet coast! Peter grabbed
his fisherman's coat and dove into the sea, hastily stroking towards the
shore. He forgot all but his desire to reach the feet of his Lord. The
others slowly pulled the heavy net and it's catch toward the beach. And
what do they see when they first arrive on land? Those tired eyes are met
by the sight of fish and bread cooking on a cheery fire by the shore. The
Master had made them a meal, but so that it would not be a one sided
affair, he bids them bring their share of fish to the fire.
Single-handedly, Peter (now infused with strength and
revitalized by the presence of the Master) hauls the full net onto the
land. They count the fish and marvel that the net was not torn by the
sheer weight of their catch.
The Master waits for them. There is no reprimand. He
asks no questions. He offers only an invitation: "Come and
dine." Now quiet, they gather around him, each busy with his own
thoughts. He gives fish and bread to each man. What would we give to have
been there, to have shared in that meal, prepared and served by the risen
Savior in continuation of his ministry to men?
The privilege is still ours. Even today he calls
across the noise of our busy hours, when tired, frustrated, and empty, we
occupy our time with the busy getting and doing which adds little or
nothing to the spiritual treasure we bear in these earthly bodies. "
'Tis not thy work the Master wants, but thee." "It
will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he
comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to service, will have
them recline at the table and will come and wait on them" (Luke
He has prepared a feast for us. He invites us to take
time to eat with him, to rest with him in sweet and holy fellowship.
None can rest with him without bearing the evidences of his heavenly
companionship. In our homes, in our meetings, at the places of our
business, in our social contacts, there remains that touch of grace which
we have received of him. To be with him often, to admire him, to love him,
to be served and sustained by him is to be transformed into his likeness
little by little. It is to receive from him a radiant sanity as well as
the power of a fuller, richer ministry.
Ye Can Do Nothing
With Christ in the boat the storm becomes a calm.
With Christ on the shore his counsel filled the net. With his spirit
within the inner chamber of the heart each day becomes a triumph.
Courage crowds out care. Glorified common sense
directs our actions, trims the tasks and slows down our hurried pace. The
love which empties itself in service dominates all human contacts. Courtesy,
kindness, compassion, and sympathy; calm strength which lifts life's
load with ease, which takes in its stride its numerous changes -- these
are some of the outer evidences of our inner rest with him who said: "Take my yoke upon you ... my yoke is easy and my burden is
light" (Matt. 11: 29,30, NIV).
How much we need that pause, that rest, That converse
with the Unseen Guest.
from F.A. Shuttleworth, Scotland
The Annual Meeting of the Pastoral Bible Institute,
Inc. will be held (D.V.) on June 6, 1987. Reports will be rendered and
matters discussed concerning the activities of the Institute. There will
also be an election of Directors t3 serve during the coming fiscal year.
We remind members that they may nominate brethren
whom they wi to elect as directors. The Institute's affairs are committed
to seven brethren electA from among the Institute's membership. Those now
We, your brethren, report that a Christian spirit
dwells among us and we believe that the Lord has blessed our association
in this ministry. We would gladly continue in this service, but recognize
that our reelection is not essential: selfishness, even in the Lords
service, is not appropriate. We would see tie Word of the Lord proclaimed
with the greatest efficiency and it is always possible that those involved
with the intricacies of any work may not see opportunities that are
apparent to others. Changes in office can be beneficial and we are ready
to stand cheerfully aside if the membership feels that others are better
fitted for this service.
Pray about this. If the Lord leads you to nominate
other brethren, forward their names and addresses (with their consent) to
this office before April 3, 1987 The list of nominees will be published in
the May-June issue of the HERALD for the prayerful consideration of the
membership prior to the meeting.
About Our Contributors:
It continues to be our policy to list the names of
contributing authors where that is possible. Sometimes it is not possible.
Authors may request that their article be run without attribution. Other
pieces are reused after such a lengthy period of time that their origin is
not known Still other articles are the result of extensive collaboration.
When authorship is not attributed we suggest that
readers accept the thoughts presented for their evident value. Such
articles are not intended as position statements on the part of the
Institute. In those cases where the material represents a position of the
Institute such will be clearly stated in the body of the article.
"Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with
the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of
sincerity and truth." - 1 Corinthians 5: 8
The Memorial Supper of our Lord celebrated once a
year, on its anniversary, by many of our readers, was instituted by Jesus
on the night in which he was betrayed. It is symbolic of what may be
regarded as a preliminary course -- "that part of a meal served at
one time, with its accompaniments" -- of the great feast that the
Father promises to provide for "all
people." Special food is supplied for this course, for specially
Some may desire to partake whom others may think are
not of those for whom the Memorial is particularly intended; but they
are welcome at the Table, in accordance with the laws of hospitality so
emphasized by the Lord in his Word. None may rightfully designate who may
partake or who may not, except by the invitation extended in the Lord's
own words. It is for each participant to judge his own heart and need. "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and
drink of that cup..." (1 Cor. 11:28).
The symbols of the supper represent, by the bread,
the counsel and example of Jesus -- his body broken by three and a half
years of arduous sacrificial service; and by the cup of wine, his death as
the Redeemer of all mankind; "... to
be testified in due time..." (1 Tim. 2:6). He himself said:
"The bread of
God is he which cometh down out of heaven, and giveth life unto the world
... I am the bread of life ... This is the will of my Father, that every
one that beholdeth the Son, and believeth on him, should have eternal
life; and I will raise him up at the last day ... The words that I have
spoken unto you are spirit, and are life" (John 6:33,35,40,63).
Similarly, of the cup Jesus said: "This
is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many ..." (Mark
14:24). Thus these symbols represent the death of the Lord Jesus, which we
memorialize "till he come"
(1 Cor. 11:26) in power and glory to bless all the nations of the earth in
accordance with God's oathbound covenant with Abraham, as expounded by the
Apostle Paul (Gen. 22:18; Rom. 4:13; Gal. 3:16, 29).
Some latitude of understanding is permitted by
variations in the four accounts of the institution of the Memorial Supper-those
of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul. Matthew's and Mark's accounts quote the
Lord as saying when he served the cup: "This
is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many." Luke
says he said: "for you," and mentions two cups, one served
during and one after the Supper. Paul's account (1 Cor. 11:23-26)
omits any designation "for many" or "for you." His
explanation of the significance of the emblems in the preceding chapter (10:14-17),
owing to the breadth of meaning of several of the Greek words he uses, may
be taken to indicate either a sharing of the benefits symbolized in the
loaf and the cup or a personal participation in what they symbolize
-- a common union of the blood of Christ, a common union of the Body of
more information about how these seeming variations between the gospels
may be harmonized, see Edersheim's The Temple: Its Ministry
and Services. -- Editorial Committee.]
Perhaps this variation in the accounts is intended,
under the direction of the holy Spirit, to permit those who realize a mystic
unity with their Head, in sacrifice and suffering and in present and
future service, to see in the emblems a reminder of this relationship.
Certainly such a view tends to add to the solemnity and impressiveness
of the celebration.
On the other hand, those who feel that this claim
would be presumptuous on their part, yet who would "...follow the Lamb withersoever he goeth..." need suffer
no loss of benefit. Holders of both views recognize the all sufficiency of
the sacrifice of their Lord, and their paramount indebtedness to him. "Let
each man be fully persuaded in his own mind..." and let each
respect the others' convictions. "Christ
our Passover hath been slain for us."
One of the most important lessons of his Memorial
celebration, as emphasized by St. Paul (1 Cor. 10:17; 11:19-21, 27-30) is the unity of the body -- of those
who partake. A lack of heart unity with other believers vitiates the
significance and value of the observance to the one cherishing a partisan
or sectarian attitude.
- H.E. Hollister
"For as often as ye eat this Bread and drink this Cup, ye do show
the Lord's death till He come."
According to our usual method of reckoning, the
Memorial celebration this year should be held after sundown, Sunday, April
This, according to the Jewish calendar, is the 14th
of Nisan, and the appropriate time for the brethren to meet "in
remembrance" of the Lamb who was slain.
"This do in remembrance of Me."
"What is that in thine hand?" - Exodus
Moses had been commissioned by God to deliver his
brethren from Egypt's bondage. As he stood before the Lord, Moses asked
God why he had been the one chosen (Exod. 4:1). Moses knew the task which
lay ahead and viewed himself as impotent to undertake it. Why? Because he
thought that he would be unable to convince the people of his divine
Knowing Moses' hesitance, God drew his attention to
the walking staff (or "rod") which lay in Moses' hand. God
showed Moses that this rod was all that he would need, since Divine power
could be manifested through it. What Moses already possessed (if used as
God directed) would accomplish the defeat of Pharaoh and enable him to
liberate his burdened brethren.
Using this simple rod as an instrument of God great
things were accomplished. God can do great things with any tool or vessel
given over to him for use. With his rod Moses performed miracles before
the king of Egypt, lifted it over the waters of the Red Sea to make a
pathway for Israel's hosts, and at the desert rock used it to bring forth
refreshing water to quench their thirst.
Later, a rod was used to demonstrate God's approval
of Aaron as a priest. By it God stamped his service with the divine
blessing. When this rod's temporary use had ended, it was laid up in the
Ark within the Most Holy as a perpetual memorial of God's beneficent
Both of these rods were simple tools at the time they
were called to God's service. Both performed great tasks. Both were used
according to his word.
Today, God asks of us, "What is that in thine hand?" We too are called to serve
his cause and his people, however feeble our abilities may seem. The Word
clearly says: "... it is required
in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (I Cor. 4:2). We are
also to be diligent in using the opportunities we have, for "... the
night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4). Another text
implies a similar thought: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might..." (Eccl. 9:10). There are no vacations in the Lord's service to those who
recognize the force of these Scriptures; neither need there be idleness so
long as we have the strength to act or a heart and mind disposed to pray
for one another.
What Can I Do?
The question is asked, "Where is there a place
for me in the Lord's service? I cannot preach the Word; my life is filled
with obligations that limit my time and means. What can I do but stand
idle while others serve in more worthwhile ways?"
This attitude illustrates a misunderstanding, a
failure in interpreting the words, do with thy might what thy hands find
to do? The words imply that we should search for something to do. They
cannot mean a careless sitting down to complain about our enforced
idleness. They cannot mean a waiting for something to be thrust into empty
hands. "... he that seeketh
findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Luke
If we are ready to be used in little things Luke
16:10), to use what we already possess, God will show how e may spread his
Word and lend a helping hand to others along life's upward way. If thus
used, we may be like the rods of Moses and Aaron. God will reveal how he
can be glorified through our service. He is able to make our
"rods" bud, blossom, and . fruit in a continual remembrance of
Kind words never die; acts of love are registered in
heaven, and the words of Jesus are still wonderfully, blessedly true:
"... Inasmuch as ye have done
it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto
me" (Matt. 5:40).
Listen for the question that God may ask of u: "What
is that in thine hand?" By wanting to please him, by faithfully
answering this question from God, we may some glad day hear the Lord say:
"… thou hast been faithful
over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou
into the joy of thy lord" (Matt. 25:21). In line with this
thought the Scriptures show that the greatest of privileges are easily
overlooked in the affairs of life.
It was so of Mary. She poured out her fragrant
ointment upon her Lord. But her act of love seemed secondary to what
others considered important. For, "... there
're some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why as this
waste of the ointment made" (Mark 14:4)? There is always
something in our hands. Are we looking, as did Mary, for some opportunity
to serve with whatever we have? The ease with which we can neglect such
opportunities to act is brought home to us in Jesus' words: "... Inasmuch as ye did it not t' one of the least of these, ye did it not to
me" (Matt. 25:45).
The context of this verse reveals that those to whom
Jesus spoke will yet be truly surprised. He says the, will ask, When did
we see the Lord so near and waiting to be served? This is an important
point to remember lest we also miss the disguise which the Lord assumes
for a purpose. Even now we note the presence of the Lord in the age ending
times; he is unmistakably present in those little ones yet found in the
earth. Above our other privileges, none can compare with that if being
true Barnabas characters, comforters of the brethren.
Jesus' law and exemplary love demand that we be alert
to support the weak (Acts 20:35) and not to please ourselves (Rom. 15:1).
This is not the world's ideal, for they are interested in the strength.
But we see that such service rates high in the Lord's estimation. To him,
our greatest opportunity is that of laying down life itself for the
brethren (John 15:13), of bearing one another's burdens, and so
fulfilling the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). This word includes us. We may be
poor. We may be only a minor feature in God's grand scheme of things.
Nevertheless, the word remains: this is how we know love "... because
he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the
is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is: for he
shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots
by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be
green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall
cease from yielding fruit." - Jeremiah 17:7-8
Trees are often used in Scripture to picture nations,
peoples, and individuals. To refresh our minds we will note just a few:
"... Appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to
give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment
of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of
righteousness [people of God], the planting of the Lord, that he might be
glorified" (Isa. 61:3).
And all the trees of the field [all the people of the
world], shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree [the
proud and haughty nation], have exalted the low tree [the humble nation],
have dried up the green tree [the nation of Israel once vigorous], and
have made the dry tree to flourish [prophetic of his favor returning to
Israel]: I the Lord have spoken and have done it (Ezek. 17:24).
For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with
peace: the mountains [kingdoms] and the hills [smaller nations] shall
break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field
[people of the world] shall clap their hands (Isa. 55:12).
Let the field [the world] be joyful, and all that is
therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice (Ps. 96:12).
We turn our attention to our Master's words:
"... Behold the fig tree, and
all the trees" (Luke 21:29). In view of the rebirth of the state
of Israel, we here find a particularly modern statement. He urges us to
observe what transpires in Israel, and we now see that she is rising --
coming up. But Jesus tells us not to end our observations at the nation of
Israel. We are to observe "... all
As we look at "all
the trees," the gentile nations we ask ourselves, What is
happening? They are declining, their favor by God is ending.
Man Worship In Israel
Remember Gideon's record: his victories; how Israel
attributed their victories to Gideon instead of to the God of Israel (who
had used Gideon as his instrument). This provides us an example of man
worship. Israel decided to make Gideon their ruler. The Scriptures record
their words, and Gideon's reply:
Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou
over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also; for thou hast
delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will
not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule
... (Judges 8:22,23).
Gideon was a great man and servant of God! Had he
been prone to arrogance, pride, or vanity, what an opportunity this would
have been for him. He had planned and achieved an outstanding victory. The
praises of the multitude rang in his ears. And now they would come to make
him ruler, to make him the founder of a royal dynasty, to start a royal
line with him and afterward his son and his son's son after him through
successive generations. Gideon wanted nothing to do with it. His reply
was sure and certain.
In today's political scene there are men who refuse
to be candidates for office, but in refusing, they usually express reservations.
The people respond politically to those reservations. They say: "He
is subject to draft," which is what the politician expects them to
do -- to draft him as their one indispensable man. Gideon gave Israel no
loopholes. He offered them no chance to draft him at a later date.
Have you ever heard a rejection speech? Have you ever
heard a presidential candidate reject a convention nomination? No. Men
make speeches of acceptance; often written far in advance because they
anticipate the nomination. The nominee may even pretend to be
preoccupied, having meetings scheduled a thousand miles away. But, he will
wait for the call to come. And perhaps with an airplane standing by to
whisk him to the convention, he will hurry to accept the nomination as
quickly as possible.
Gideon was offered the highest position on the
earth: rulership over God's typical kingdom Flushed with victory, Gideon
rose to give a speech. Surely this too would be a speech of acceptance!
Gideon was different. His was a speech of rejection. Nothing like it
had been done before. He rejected their offer and made the people a better
nomination: "And Gideon said
unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you:
The Lord shall rule over you."
What loyalty on the part of Gideon! His reason for
rejection was that the Lord alone was entitled to the rulership. The Lord
had given Gideon's forces the victory. Alone, Gideon knew that he would
have gone down in defeat. He was an instrument in the hand of God. So
Gideon returned to private life and for forty years Israel listened to his
advice. While Gideon lived, Israel dwelt in peace and quietness and
Years passed. Gideon was gathered to his fathers and
the scene quickly changed. Man worship once again arose in Israel, but
this time someone aided and encouraged it. The offer was made to Abimelech,
who, while a son of Gideon, is a different personality than his father.
His father was good faithful, and wise; Abimelech was evil. He induced
his brothers to aid him. When they had done so, he gathered a gang of
criminals who murdered all but one of his brothers, eliminating all
who might oppose him in the future. Abimelech was proclaimed ruler of
Israel (cf. Judges 9). Let us turn our attention to Abimelech's brother
Jotham, the one who escaped.
Jotham was Gideon's youngest son. Only he cherished
his father's memory; only he stood for the altars of his father and the
temple of his God in the face of danger. Jotham limbed Mt. Gerizim and
with ringing voice he rebuked Israel with a parable.
Before turning to the parable let us note one of the
admonitions found in Paul's second Epistle to Timothy (2 Tim. 3:16, 17):
All scripture is given by inspiration, and is
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished
unto all good works.
These words include the parable of Jotham. Its
application was not only for those of the past, nor only for those of the
future. The words speak to us.
Parable Of The Trees
We read the parable:
"And when they told it to Jotham, he went and
stood in the top of Mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and
said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Schechem, that God may hearken
unto you. The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and
they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said
unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and
man, and go to be promoted over the trees? And the trees said to the fig
tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them,
Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted
over the trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou and reign
over us. And the vine said unto them, should I leave my wine, which
cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said all
the trees unto the bramble, Come thou and reign over us. And the bramble
said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and
put your trust in my shadow; and if not, let fire come out of the bramble
and devour the cedars of Lebanon." - (Judges 9:7-15)
The trees of the forest wanted a ruler. First, they
turned to trees that bore fruit. They asked the olive tree, and note the
answer they received: "Shall I
leave my fatness, and go to be promoted over the trees?" The
trees then turned to the fig and the vine. When they were asked, they gave
practically the same answer. Their reason for not ruling over the other
trees is the same: namely, that their hands were full. They were busy;
they had enough to do with the service the Lord gave them.
A follower of Christ will find that he too has much
to do to keep his heart and life right and to fulfill the duties and
privileges the Lord has given him. Such find that there is no time to rule
over his fellow servants. Each ecclesia has enough to do in taking care of
its own affairs, without attempting to dictate the affairs of another
ecclesia. Applying this parable spiritually, to the church, we see its
Who Will Rule God's People?
Which trees were asked to rule? They were trees which
were already serving the people. These trees had entered upon their
service without orders from any other tree.
The olive tree, first to refuse rulership, provides
oil which is highly valued. It is healing, soothing, and possesses medicinal
properties that are renown in the Word of God and among mankind. What a
beautiful picture of the holy Spirit and its operation in the mind and
heart of the new creature. The holy Spirit illuminates the mind and
tenderizes the heart. The child of God who is filled with this oil of the
holy Spirit is the last to desire to rule over God's heritage. Such are
meek and humble -- no traces of pride, arrogance, or self-importance mark
Dictators do not arise because of humility.
Humility is not part of their character. Dictators, whether political or
religious, are either the spawn of ambitious intolerance or of
financial or spiritual depression.
The fig tree is next to refuse rulership over the
trees. No one in Palestine need be reminded of its luscious fruit. Figs
are nourishing, sweet, and wholesome -- a fruit of great nutritious value.
The fig tree says: "I am busy
bearing sweet fruit and should I forsake my sweetness, the bearing of such
good fruit, for the purpose of becoming ruler over the rest of the
Is this a lesson for God's children today? The fig
tree realized that fruit bearing would cease the day it started to rule
over other trees. The two could not go together. No matter how sweet the
beginning might be, such sweetness would not last in the ruling process;
it would be replaced by a different spirit. In the hands of men, whips
contain no sweetness; though the bud might have a sweet taste, yet bitter
would be the flower.
It is a duty and privilege of the child of God to
develop the fruits and graces of the spirit! How lovely are those who do
so! Ambition to shine or to rule over their brethren is not found among
such dear ones. Were such an ambition to arise in the heart of such an
one, all fruit bearing would cease. All sweetness would be lost; that
sweetness which is so pleasing and honoring to the Lord, so refreshing to
God's children, and which even worldly people are quick to recognize.
The trees turn to the vine. How beautiful is the
reputation of the vine in this world. Yet it is still more beautiful in
spiritual symbology. Need we dwell on the juice of the grape, how it has
cheered and comforted the heart of man, bringing nourishment to his body
in times of sickness, even when other foods were abhorred. What shall
we say of the spiritual significance of the juice of the grape. It is
inherent to the growth of the new creature from the hour of begettal to
the moment of birth. It is essential, too, in the course of mankind from
the day of resurrection to the attainment of restitution. The juice of
the grape pictures the blood of Christ, the great and essential truth of
the Ransom. From this central truth radiate all other truths of the
How did the vine reply to the trees? "The
vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man,
and go to be promoted over the trees?"
Notice the course chosen by the trees in their search
for a ruler. They began by going to the best of the trees. They recognized
those qualities at were worthy of praise. They reasoned that if they could
induce such a tree to take headship, all would go well. They did not
realize that for any one of those to trees to comply with their request
would can apostasy from the work that God had given them to do.
Applying the Parable
In church history, from Pentecost on, there have been
those who were not content with Jesus' headship. These have reached for
an arm of flesh. It has been easy for such to satisfy their longing. In
many instances their motives have been honest. Men have looked for those
whom they felt would be best qualified for such a position.
They might find another who seems filled with the
holy Spirit, like the oil of the olive tree. They believe that one with
such a sweet spirit of lave and zeal would be the best equipped to
exercise rulership in the church. This brother is approached with a
request that he assume headship over them. Like the olive tree, he says:
"Brethren, I am too busy with things that honor God to attempt to
rule his people. I have enough to do in learning to rule myself, and in
the service in which the Lord has placed me."
Another brother evidences growth in the fruits and
graces of the spirit. He is offered rulership, but he also refuses. He,
too, is occupied in developing the fruits and graces of the Spirit. He has
no time to busybody in the affairs of his fellow servants.
These well meaning but mistaken ones continue their
quest. They find a brother who might be pictured by the vine of the
parable. He delights in upholding the ransom sacrifice before people and
in standing firm on fundamental truths. They say, here is the one to
rule over us. What a wonderful grasp he has of the Scriptures! He is the
one we want. So they ask this brother to rule over them. Again they meet
refusal. Such an one would have a large measure of the Lord's spirit as
well as strength in fundamental truths. He is also doing his utmost to
cultivate the fruits and graces of the Spirit. This brother is well
balanced. In his refusal he might even quote the words of Paul: "I have
planted and Apollos watered, but God giveth the increase." There
is no uncertainty in his refusal. He does not encourage their man
worship. He plainly tells them that his time is filled with doing good
unto all men especially unto those of the household of faith, and with
making his own calling and election sure. He will probably tell them that
he that ruleth over his own spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.
A Last Resort
Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come
thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth
ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and
if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon
The bramble is elected to rule the trees. This is a
fitting picture of an ambitious man or organization. Review the history
of the Gospel Age church. Self seeking men have often risen to lordship
over God's heritage! Those men pictured by the bramble seize what a
consecrated man would not think of aspiring to: a position that rightfully
belongs to our Lord alone.
Who have these men been? Men devoid of the spirit
of Christ, devoid of loyalty to Christ, devoid of brotherhood with other
followers of Christ. These, instead of shedding forth spiritual pollen
to assist others in their spiritual growth, have brought about the worship
of men, organizationalism, corruption, apostasy, and spiritual disaster.
Such is the result of the rule of man among the people of God.
They Trust In A Shadow
The bramble gives a speech of acceptance. Note the
words: "If in truth ye anoint
me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow." Here
is a frankness and candor that one very rarely hears. It is rarer still in
a speech of acceptance. The bramble tells the trees that if they wish him
to be king over them, they must put their trust in his shadow. They must
let him make all the arrangements.
At least the trees are told in advance what it is
that they are going to have to put their trust in -- a shadow. Have you
ever heard such a thing? If only the antitypical brambles of this Gospel
Age been as frank in telling their prospective religious subjects what
they could expect. Had they known, the people of God would have been saved
from many bitter trials and disappointments, from bitter illusions and
still more bitter disillusions.
In the rulership of man among the people of God many
put their trust in a shadow. They do not sit in the sunshine of heavenly
favor and approval, in the light of the one who sent his Son into the
world to dispel the shadows of error and man worship. Instead, they sit in
the shadow of heavenly disapproval. Those who usurp rulership and lordship
may know the Word of God. They may use the Word to point to their own
importance. These lack that motivating love which influences every child
of God. They lack the most important accomplishment in the life of every
true child of God -- the development of those fruits and graces of the
spirit without which no man shall see God. Such are unfit for any service
Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that
take counsel but not of me, and that cover with a covering but not of my
sprit, that they may add sin to sin. That walk to go down into Egypt, and
rave not asked at my mouth, to strengthen themselves in the strength of
Pharaoh and to trust in the shadow of Egypt. Therefore shall the strength
of Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your
confusion (Isa. 30:1-3).
Isaiah records how God's people turned away from the
worship of God. Refusing to counsel with him, the only one entitled to
their worship, they put their trust in a shadow, the shadow of Egypt.
The psalmist compares the life of the wicked to a
shadow. A shadow is formed when anything comes between us and the sun. Let
the child of God permit no object, no idol, no man or men, to come
between himself and God. Neither let anyone place us in the shadow. Turn
aside from everything that would come between us and the sunshine of
God's love, between us and that liberty that belongs to the sons of God,
between us and the sweet smile of God's favor and approval; for he is the
Judge; he alone renders the final decision. He alone is worthy of all
worship and praise.
Rule Or Ruin
Note the frankness of the bramble. He not only tells
the trees that they must put their trust in his shadow, but also, that if
they fail to do this he will set fire to the trees -- in other words, he
will either rule them or ruin then.
Why has such a spirit been accepted among the Lord's
people? Because the spirit of worldliness has entered. They have permitted
themselves to be lulled to sleep. They have been content to leave matters
to their leaders, they have let them think and decide for them. Thus, ecclesiasticism
has crept in. They have forgotten that "eternal vigilance is the
price of liberty."
Jotham's parable had a literal fulfillment in a
short time. We will not discuss it at this time other than to say that
it was a time of strife, treachery, and bloodshed, ending with the death
of Abimelech. But, the parable was not recorded merely for our knowledge
of the history of this ancient period. All this is available from singular
Jotham's course was a contrast to that of his
brothers. He did not join the conflict. He came out from it. Jotham fled
to a place by the name of Beer. Beer was a well. He dwelt by the well and
drank from it. What a beautiful picture of the child of God who flees all
striving for authority, taking refuge in the Word of God which is his
sole authority. The Word of God is his well of salvation. Dwelling there,
he drinks from that fountain.
Holding The Head
There would be no message in this parable for the
church today if all danger were past. It behooves us to watch and pray. If
we are overtaken, it will be because we have not been alert. Satan will
assure that there are always brambles at hand. Jesus is our Head. We are
brethren. We recognize his headship by doing his will, by avoiding the
shadow of human usurpers, by remembering that dictation is not fellowship,
nor is it cooperation. Let us stand fast in the liberty wherewith Jesus
hath made us free. May we let no shadow come between us and our true head,
and let us recognize that all such shadows are but the spirit of the
Why is the spirit of human rule so abhorrent to
God. Why should God's people be so jealous of human intrusion into a place
of authority and rulership among them? Simply, because in every case it is
displacing the authority of Christ Jesus the head. It is as though the
hand or the foot were to serve notice to the head that from henceforth it
will take the governing position over the rest of the body. For any man or
organization to do this, to rule and control God's people, is a usurpation
of the position of Christ.
Let no man beguile you of your reward, in a
voluntary humility and worshipping of angels [or of messengers, human
leaders], intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly
puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, from which all
the Body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit
together, increaseth with the increase of God. (Col. 2:18,19)
What a beautiful statement, not of organization,
but of an organism. As the human body is an organism, so it is in the
glorious Body of Christ. May we love and cherish that body of which Jesus
is the Head and all we are members.
The trees spoke in Jotham's days; the trees have been
speaking throughout the Gospel Age; and those trees still speak today!
- H.V. Warren