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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Fundamental Questions of the Christian Life # 4

Fundamental Questions of the Christian Life # 4

(b) The Monarchical Aspect

The monarchy runs from the First Book of Samuel to the end of the Second Book of Chronicles. The supreme factor in the monarchy was that of glory: God's glory manifested, enjoyed and displayed in the people of His grace, - for, as we have seen, they are indeed that. Now, because they are such, they are to be the people of His glory. The throne is the symbol of ascendency, of power, authority, dominion. It was intended to be the expression of a 'glorious high throne' set in the heavens (Jere. 17:12).

Now, as we considered Israel in themselves, so in this connection we have to consider the father and the son in whom the monarchy came to its peak of glory and power - David and Solomon. What shall we say about them?

Consider David. Who is David? What does he think and say about himself, about his past, his present? We are told that David went in and sat before the Lord and said: "Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house...?" (1 Chron. 17:16). The Lord said to David: "I took thee ... from following the sheep" (vs. 7). David - a man of humble and despised beginning, of little account in the eyes of his own brothers, and of less account in his own eyes. David - a man whose faults and weaknesses are written in large letters and not hidden by God. Things which we gladly would cover, and which we wish were not in the Bible - acts of murder, treachery, passion - the Spirit of God has had written and preserved for all time. This is not the story of a man who is outstanding for his perfection and moral excellencies. Indeed, there are good things about David, there are wonderful things about David; but God has given this other side. He is a man, and a man compassed by all the weaknesses and passions of humanity; falling into the deep, deep mire of sin - terrible sin; crying out of the mire for deliverance, and eventually praising God that he has been taken from the pit, the horrible pit. But he had been in it.

Then consider Solomon. Think of his beginning, the handicap of his birth, the sin in which he was born, the iniquity in which he was shapen. Have you never felt a shock reading the eleventh chapter of the First Book of the Kings? Here is the man for whom God had done everything: the man whom God had endued and endowed with wisdom above all men, with riches and honor and power beyond all precedent; standing out, as he did in those days of his glory, head and shoulders above everyone else by Divine blessing. And yet, with all that God had done, his real nature was revealed, and in that terrible chapter: "Now king Solomon loved many strange women." There begins the story of decline and downfall, the awful tragedy of a man going down into the much and the mire of human iniquity, leading directly to the division of the kingdom and the terrible line of tragedy in the monarchy, issuing eventually in the exile. That is Solomon. It seems almost unthinkable that such a man should have such a downfall.

And yet God knew all that about Solomon before ever He gave him a first blessing. God knew His man; God knew all that could happen and would happen. What are you dealing with in David and Solomon? Ah, you are dealing with men who were ordinary, common stuff, coming to the peak of power and glory - why? - because of the grace of God. And why did God do it? Why did He give Solomon, as the Scripture says, wisdom and riches and glory and power beyond any man that had ever been before him or should come after him (1 Kings 3:12, 13: ;10:23, 24)? Why did He make the glory of Solomon fabulous? He has become a proverb. If you want to speak of wisdom, riches and glory, you mention the name 'Solomon'. Even the Lord Himself did that. He spoke of "Solomon in all his glory" (Matt. 6:29). Why did God go out of His way to do all that with, and for, David and Solomon?

The answer is found in the New Testament, quite clearly and definitely. Read the passage in the New Testament where David and Solomon are linked with the Lord Jesus. God always had His Son in view. In David and Solomon God was as it were throwing upon the screen a symbolic presentation of the kingdom of His Son, with all the glory and the blessing that would come to His people through grace by Jesus Christ. That is the explanation of the period of the monarchy. It has no meaning otherwise. By means of these people God is drawing upon the canvas of history the great truths concerning His Son. He portrays first, in the priesthood, the great truth of redeeming grace; everything is provided to bring a people into His presence in unclouded fellowship. Then, in the monarchy, He draws the picture of what grace will lead to: it leads to glory through Christ Jesus.

(c) The Prophetical Aspect

The third sub-section, the prophetical, falls into two periods: that before the captivity and that after the captivity. Now the prophetic ministry was intended to represent the full mind of God as to His Son and His people, and through them to the nations. The prophets were the bulwark against the incorrigible downgrade tendency of the people of God. It is always there, this downgrade tendency, even in the Lord's people, and the prophets were the bulwark against that tendency. They either encouraged or combated priests and kings in relation to this matter, and in so doing they stood for the Divine meaning both in the priesthood and in kingship: that is, holiness, incorruptibility, righteousness and truth. But they were oppressed by the hopelessness of their own immediate times, and so spoke much of a coming day, and a coming Person. The day of that Person was the strength, the hope, and the inspiration of the prophets. For them salvation and glory were in the coming One.

When Jesus put this question to His disciples 'Who do you say that I am?' - they gave answers from public opinion which brought forward the prophetic hope; but to Him this was insufficient. He was the answer to that hope, and so He pressed them for their answer in order to see whether they had arrived at that point.

They had been with Him for some three very full years, in which time they had sen His works, heard His words, known Him in person, in the flesh. The time is finished, and there away up in the North, as He turns His face towards Jerusalem (to be the scene of that last moments of His life here on earth) He probes, He probes with this question: "Who do men say that I the Son of man am?" (Matt. 16:13). Getting a variety of answers as to what men were saying, He brings the question straight home. "Who do you say that I am?" He is asking, 'What does it all amount to, for you?' After all, what does it amount to? You have heard it all, you have seen it all, you have been in touch with it all: now, what does it amount to? What is your apprehension of Me? What is your conclusion? How much have you really seen, after all?'

Now, although Peter gave an answer which in itself satisfied the Lord Jesus, it was a transient, fleeting illumination, for so soon afterwards the man who said it denied his Lord. From the Gospels we are led to one sad conclusion: that, although they had companied with Him in close association, heard all that He had to say and seen all that He had to do, though they had listened to Him and watched Him, they had not really seen Him. Are you thinking, 'That is a terrible thing to say!?' Ah, but there is all the evidence and proof of it. This was not the only time that He exposed their failure to recognize. Just look what happens afterwards, after He has gone and He comes back and visits them here and there, and speaks to them. See their profound and utter ignorance. They had not seen. They knew their Bibles - they knew Moses, they knew the Psalms, they knew the prophets - but they had not seen Him. That is the thing that He makes perfectly clear. And - this is what I am coming to - because they had not really seen, disaster overtook their lives as disciples. That is why they all forsook Him and fled; that is why the leader among them denied Him thrice, passionately and vehemently; that is why they are found,after the Cross, scattered and disillusioned and hopeless. They had not really apprehended Him.

I come back then to our main question: the fundamental importance of an adequate apprehension and knowledge of Christ, as born in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We could sum up by saying that the Bible has but one object from beginning to end, and that is to reveal the mind of God concerning man, with a view to bringing glory to God in man's eternal good. But the one means of that revelation is God's Son. He not only brings God's mind to us - He is God's mind for us. He is not only the Word as an utterance - He is the Word as a Person. Therefore the whole Bible is comprehended and governed by Christ. He answers the one purpose of it all - past, present, future and eternally.Christ is central, Christ is supreme, Christ is universal, Christ is dominant in all. The Christian life  will be greater or smaller according to our spiritual apprehension and knowledge of Christ, through what Paul call 'having the eyes of our hearts enlightened' (Eph. 1:18). Christ is the sum of all things; and the kind of Christians we are and the measure of His fullness to which we shall attain will be determined exclusively by our knowledge of Him.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5)

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