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The INTIMATE and the ULTIMATE
SIX INTIMATE ANSWERS TO ULTIMATE QUESTIONS
from the Word of God
CHRIST THE CREATOR,
THE CELESTIAL REGALITY:
LOOK! HE COMES
We have looked at the marvellous ACTION of the Lord and His attraction who, being lifted up on the Cross, and as deity indeed (John 8:24,58), will draw all men to Himself. Here is the WORD which was with the Father, who was God and is (Philippians 2 cf. The Bright Light and the Uncomprehending Darkness Ch. 10 with Ch. 9). We have seen something both of His power and His love. Now we looks at some underlying issues and issuances: that is, things that matter and things that result.
A number of questions presented in the Bible, with their biblical answers, will thus be surveyed in this Chapter. The Holy Spirit is not only like a river which carries, urges and applies the washing gained through the sacrificial blood of Christ. He also intimates truth that never perishes, being even called that, the Spirit of Truth (John 16:7-14). In the Bible it is in the form of inscripturation (II Timothy 3:16, I Peter 1:110ff., II Peter 1:19ff.). He also inhabits the people of the Lord (II Corinthians 3:17ff., Colossians 1:27), to illuminate concerning the once for all delivered faith given to the saints, and to lead in the work of the Lord.
To this word, and the questions it both has to ask and to answer, we then turn.
1 Who are These
Arrayed in White Robes and Where did they Come From ?
2 What profit
is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul ?
3 My people
love to have it so, but what will you do in the end of it ?
why are you weeping ? Whom are you seeking ?
5 Who is this
who pledged His heart to approach Me ?
6 Is Ephraim My
dear son ?
1 THE ESCAPE CLAUSE
WHO ARE THESE ?
Soldiers of Christ the Citadel
The scene here is in heaven. It is revealed in Revelation 7.
On earth, the last wrongs have led to last rites, and many are in heaven, arrayed in the white of those whose souls were not made a road for other feet, but a highway for God. They did not bow to the evil one, nor make of evil things a nest.
The mark of the beast, that anti-christian, godless and religious masquerading of fraud in spiritual matters, that governmental spirit of intimidation and blasphemy, putting man for God and serving the wrong god, this, they have shunned. Moreover, the testimony of their lips has prevailed, even if need be, to the point of death (Revelation 12:11). They were divided by a spiritual abyss from the clutching unholiness of hell, though its flames often enough sought to envelop them (cf. Luke 16:19ff.). If later it became evident, this abyss, even then, the very gates of hell could not prevail against them, warriors in His Church, citizens in Him, the Citadel, even Jesus the Christ, alive from the dead and intensively operative on this earth.
They were utterly apart (cf. II Corinthians 6:14ff., I Corinthians 5-6). From those who seek to envelop them in follies in false churches, even these, they have sought to be separate; for if the falsifications of Christ are any index to the horrors of hypocrisy, then they are not there. Indeed, as Paul says, if the degree of separation required when so-called 'brothers' conjoin with evil speech and ways were applied to ALL people, then you would have to go out of this world ijn order to practice it! But it applies only to false brethren (I Corinthians 5:11).
We do not separate from the sinners who need Christ, but from the contortionists and distortionists who pervert His truth, change His deity or re-order His commands, who disregard His solemnities or associate in spiritual things with those who do these things (Romans 16:17), for the commands are very clear.
These, they have, now in this thing, now in that, have kept themselves free of false associations of the heart, the spirit and the body (I Corinthians 6:9). Sinners as are all, yet their hearts have not yielded to the other way, which knows no discipline to deity, no obedience to command, except at some spontaneous or preferred option. If they began to fall, He kept them up; if their feet were sliding, His arm raised them above the slough of despond; and if their heads were tempted to self-uplifted folly, their own or that of another, they were brought back to earth by the light and perhaps the discipline of the Lord. Soldiers of that Citadel, the Lord Jesus Christ, they have endured.
There then they are, clad in white garments, with the palm branches signifying victory in their hands (Revelation 7:9m I John 5:4). They are in two Christian segments, depending on origin, but in one multitude of the saved, because of the same basis, one a symbolic reference to Jewish Christians, the other to those of the Gentiles, a number beyond computation as they looked on it.
John is asked who they are, these in white robes, and refers the question back. They are those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, he is told.
To do this, clearly a number of preliminaries had to come. First they had to realise they were not clean, then they had to realise that the blood of Christ makes clean and wash, while finally, being led by faith in Him, they were assured they would be clean, for only God can know the heart of man.
They came from the great tribulation which Christ predicted in Matthew 24 for the End of the Age, and now in heaven they form a corps of Christians, inveterate in faith, those found fearless in enterprise - who in the end had acted without respect to earthly cost! Before God's throne, they serve Him, shepherded by the Lamb, leading them to fountains of fresh, living water. They form part of the bride as the Marriage Feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19). This raises the question to every reader/listener: Have you washed for dinner!
THE LOSS CLAUSE
WHAT PROFIT ?
That raises a connected question.
What does a person want to pay for the loss of soul, or what would solace what
is lost, since it is not intact to savour the gain, such as it may be! If you
lose yourself, what is the point of what ELSE you get! God or this world ?
Is it God or one's own will ?
the word of God or the desires of one's heart ?
trust in God or in oneself ?
is it the sacred self or the
redeemed sinner ?
Which is it to be ? No answer to Christ is the answer to all else, for if you read Proverbs 1 and read on to Proverbs 3, you find a deliciously rich offer which, when rejected, not taken up, led to a resolutely vigorous disdain from the Lord. Remember this too, regarding that exposition in Proverbs, that God offered that if they turned to Him in faith, then He would pour out of His Spirit and MAKE His words KNOWN to them. He undertook to be counsellor and teacher, loving friend and glorious Father.
That, it is one reason why you must never call (in any spiritual sense) any man on earth father, since ONE is your Father, even Christ. As I am currently having the inestimable privilege of dealing with some from another nations, seeking the Lord of glory, it is apparent how wise it was to refuse to be called 'father', pleasant in a sense of bonding though it might have been, because THEN we may ALL seek OUR Father for the wisdom and the results needed to please Him. Then oneself is not disposed to get in the way.
But what of the challenge of Proverbs to find in God the wisdom and the commands and the authority and the rest and the respite and the truth and to follow Him ?
To ignore what is deemed a necessity is to reject it. There is nothing in between: so let God be God and accept ALL He declares, or simply note that you are a rebel, and nothing in the kingdom of heaven relates. Then you can compute your loss in that melt-down which makes the present financial one look like a mere gambit.
Don't have it said of you, that you have 'disdained all My counsel' (Proverbs 1:25), or that you would have "none of My rebuke". Rebuke ? Is it not good when driving in the wrong direction if someone has the kindness and the heart to correct you! Is it not the more so if your 'highway' (cf. Matthew 7:15ff.), leads to a pit, cleverly disguised, which suddenly opens up, being lightly covered by a light framework, woven over the abyss ?
THE SEARCHING QUESTION
WHAT WILL YOU DO IN THE END ?
Jeremiah exposes the corruption. We are used to it. For example in Afghanistan, it appears that poor farmers in a poor area grow poppies for profit and find it hard to make a living otherwise. But what makes it far worse is this, that terrorists threaten murder if they do NOT, and bomb and use violence. The forces that fight the terrorists are hard put to do the fighting, and according to an article in The Australian (Thursday, November 27, 2008), many officials, government people, police are themselves corrupt or addicts or both! What will you do in the end ?
The Islamic religion has been founded with violence from the outset, with Muhammad taking Mecca by force and dealing with it by martial power. It is always the danger where force is endemic, that it will be used, as he used it often enough, to raid and pillage. This religion is strong in that land, and the insistences of purity are not sufficiently strong. The impasse is profound: a force, talking much of its Islamic faith, is subverting, killing, insisting on the making of drugs or providing the means for it, profiting immensely financially from it, and terrorising by violence. What is this supposed to prove! If another nation tries to sort it out, where does this end ? There is only one transformation available, Jesus Christ, and if this is bypassed for cultural expediency, then there is no answer. Force meets force, and horror merges with sadness. It did so likewise some months ago at Mumbai, indirect attack on Israel adding to the vehement violence, evil spreading like the deadly seeds of the fields of the Taliban-pushed poppies.
Whatever led them to experience such horror ? It as sin. Zephaniah 1 refers to those guilty of that ugly spiritual decadence as being 'settled on their lees', spiritual tramps rather than pilgrims, disenchanted formalists, abandoned activists, void of faith, dead of heart. Heavy exposure of the radioactivity of desolation awaits them; no more is there protection for provocation, nor pretence of life to those in the spiritual mortuary. Now much of the world follows them in confrontation with God. Except they repent, none would follow them where they go, void of saving faith, if not vicious in granting to others, exit from this life on earth, not by favour, but by force!
As to Jeremiah's day, there had been a shocking subterfuge. Instead of waiting on God (indeed they became rather blasé about it as you see in Zephaniah), it came to the point that many in the nominally godly nation, were saying: Neither good nor evil will the Lord do.
"The great day of the LORD is near," the prophet continues, "it is near and hastens quickly." So in that day judgment that would ruin the work of centuries and require an ardent rebuilding centuries later, was lodged. It is similar in Malachi when a worse result was in view, with the advent of the day of the Lord, the Messiah Himself (Malachi 3:1ff., 4:1ff.). You weary God, said the prophet. In what way ? asked those concerned.
"In that you say, 'Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD,
and He delights in them," or
"where is the God of justice ?"
There is the dissident drift, the unctuous sardonism, the morally ruined worldliness that looks over itself, that knows nothing of the Lord, and finds a weariness in the issue, the incipient cynic, the knowledgeable this-worldly sophisticate, whose heart is stone.
That comes just before the advent of Him of whom it is said,
"Who can endure the day of His coming ?" (3:2), but later it is final,
"For behold the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble..."
There are beginnings for which there only one end, judgment.
Thus we read this in Jeremiah 5:32:
"The prophets prophesy falsely
and the priests bear rule by their own power;
and My people love to have it so.
"But what will you do in the end ?"
Some prophesied peace when evil was about to strike, but all prophesied ONE THING: and that was what the Lord did NOT speak! (Jeremiah 23:21). Indeed, He declared:
"I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran."
In other words, Islam is not the only religion which has suffered from false prophets, those not showing evidence of being sent by God Himself, in train of His words and works. Judah also suffered, though it was not so founded. Here in Judah were false prophets, just like so many false ministers today, changing the Gospel as in the Melbourne case noted, changing the Lord (cf. II Corinthians 11), and altering the word of God as in the moral issues which have racked many dying churches.
As they spoke amiss, and profited, so religious functionaries can now live by such follies (as in II Peter 2). The people find this neat ... but what will you do in the end, when all fraud is exposed, and that which uses the name of the Lord for its cavils, the most inveterately evil receives its come-uppance (Luke 11:52-54). Such changers treat Christ as prey, rather than pray to Him! What happened to fallen Jerusalem is what will happen to the frauds which act as churches.
In the end, judgment comes, and when it does, it is well to have repented of ALL evil, all injustice, injury to truth, and to have washed your robes in the blood of the Lamb and MADE THEM CLEAN. Indeed, it is as the Lord invited through Malachi: "Return to Me and I will return to you" (3:7). Mercy is like a flood, but the desert scorns it (Zephaniah 2:3, 3:1). He invites, but they would not, and the desert grows.
And when they will not, what will they do in the end! It is only when they DO return, to seek the Lord in meekness, that the end of evil is transmuted to the beginning of blessing, in the regeneration that starts in the heart and moves on to that of all things (Acts 3:19ff.). It is not for this world that this is the finale, for the world itself has its own finale, with all who love it in incomparable shame (Daniel 12:1ff., Matthew 24:35). It in Christ only that the glory of the Lord is to be found, and the anyone in Him, remains with Him. Outside is the burden of shame.
Take Mary Magdalene. She was not so good in the beginning, being a woman taken by evil; but in the end, having found the Lord, there was no end. Eternal life is like that.
WHY WEEP ?
WHOM SEEK ?
Why are you weeping ? This is the question of solace ? The speaker notices the case, gives attention, enquires: it is personal, delicate, clear. Then it was to Mary Magdalene whom even in death, overcome in resurrection, Christ by no means forsook. But now, what sadness does anyone have ? what burdens, what cries come from the heart ? WHY ? Ultimately, it is a PERSON whom members of this race lack in their profound and sustained sorrows.
Whom are you seeking ? It was the Lord whom she had been seeking at the tomb.
He who is sought: it is God Himself. If you weep when you have God, you are, should it continue to mould you, like a sunbeam that forgot itself and became a mud pool! But when God is with you, there is ground for rejoicing. See then if you are His, that you do, habitually rejoice (I Thess. 5). If you are on your way to a vast estate which you inherit, and you have trials on the way, do you yet lament and spend your time desolate! Even the more is this clearly a contradiction when on the way you have such company as Christ, by His Spirit, with your spirit! WALK then in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). If you pass through a valley of weeping, blessed then are you if you make it a spring.
Thus instead of allowing yourself the indulgence of becoming lachrymose, though you may weep for a time, you let the surroundings of wateriness rather lead you to a spring (Psalm 84) and find the rain that falls bring beautiful inlays of pools into the green pastures. Ready to drink, you are supplied. Thus equipped, turning sorrow to solace by seeking the Lord (as Paul did - II Corinthians 1) you have this said of you: "They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion." YOU don't have to do the earth works, but when you so seek Him with a longing, trusting heart, tears turn to springs, the moistures to pools, and the way to direct, personal interview with Christ (John 14:21-23).
We have been surveying six crucial questions,
and having completed the first four,
find two remain.
These focus the work of the Messiah, who like an express train, arrived, but in His case, not to deposit passengers, but to give life, to die; and then breaching death and hammering to death, mortality, He brought immortality to light in His own person. It was not like an algebraic sum, but like an experiment conducted under stringent conditions, and He rose despite everything that power and deception, deceit and murder could do. He DEMONSTRATED in a way none can overthrow or rationally minimise, the vast domain of death, the sentence on sin, the rupture of righteousness where sin being not covered, its doom must follow. God is like that. He is so pure that UNLESS your own impurities are COVERED, by His vicarious death, then you cannot fit into heaven any more than unrefined metal can be used for a car. It is like that.
The extent of His pure and holy wonder is so great that to attempt something just of your own, or even partly of your own (cf. John 1:12) is an enormity; but once found, He is all in all, the complete cover, friend and fashioner of life from within (II Corinthians 3:17-18), moving by His Spirit to accomplish wonderful things, wholly reliable, not ignoring sin, correcting, intimating wisdom, giving course to the life He so wonderfully made, indeed so expressly that the very commands even for our physical constitution are readable, in each nucleated cell in our bodies. Since there are billions of these, even in the brain alone, and each has information for about 1000 encyclopedic volumes inscribed into it in code, and all this information is synthetically unified to the extent that overall action is for ONE outcome, one man at a time, then are in information style in one body, billions of times 1000 encyclopedic volumes.
It is in principle the same, to be sure, but it is IN INFORMATION FORMAT. It imparts orders, directs series and sequences, has ground plans for organic wholes through minute operations subordinate architecturally to such an outcome, the prescription of wisdom, multiplied like the stars in one body!
But ONE BODY was crucial for the redemption of an illicit outcome, the sin of the human race. If it did not cover all, because many reject it, it was sufficient for all, adapted to all, as the RPCES, the American Church to which this author transferred his ministry in 1967 from the fallen PC of NZ, was pleased to declare and bind in its Synod meeting of the same year.
This body, this one body, that of the Saviour through incarnation in a virgin birth (cf. SMR pp. 770ff.), it was to exhibit both the power and the love of God, as the Second Person of the Trinity came to do His work (as in Isaiah 48:16). It was to die and breach death. When was that death to be ?
Predicted to happen at around 30 A.D. as specified by Daniel 9, it came on time. He will return, this time not by a scheduled time*1, for it is hidden for prudence and to catch the unwary and the wayward (Matthew 24); but by a scheduled series of events. The door is open, and the trumpeters are near to sounding.
As it was in His first coming, everything was ready, and now it is nearly so again: it is prepared for that moment when He is prepared to act, and act He will (Acts 1:7ff., Revelation 1:7ff., Isaiah 64:4)., though this time it will surprise when it happens, despite all His warnings (Luke 21, I Thessalonians 5:1ff.)
It will not however be the work of an actor, but of God in His awesome majesty, who having done all, requires this of all, to receive it and Him, that the ransom offered on the Cross, be paid to the accounts in need (and none is not - II Corinthians 5:17-21)! As we await His return*1, let us ponder then further the deep and intimate questions in our series, and take the last two, which indeed encompass this same Jesus and this same Lord (Acts 1:7ff.), who in turn encompasses us spiritually who are His (cf. Romans 8:29ff.), both from eternity and in time (cf. II Timothy 1:9ff.). It is He who calls those who are not yet His, with those who are, to that same necessary repentance in that crucial New Covenant, for which it is a required prelude (cf. Luke 13:1ff.).
He ? It is necessary to realise something of the infinite spiritual savour of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. To this we now turn.
5 THE PARADIGM OF DEVOTION who is this ?
Here in Jeremiah 30:21 we have part of that amazingly brilliant and beautifully comforting pair of chapters, 30-31. First came the announcement of the Messiah to come as King (30:9) , then of the beautiful governor from their own midst who will rule (30:21), then the sadness of the weeping for young children in these arenas of time (31:15), a national sadness, next arrived the sensational account of the woman to encircle, encompass a man, a new thing in the world (31:22). Finally, dashing onto the silent screen we find the outcome, the New Covenant then to come, but which has now arrived with the Messiah Himself, Jesus Christ (31:31). That was the collection of tableaux, developing like a flower opening, or an oak with seasonal pictures of its beauties.
Thus it builds from the Messiah to His coming from among their very own midst, to rule (having been born in Bethlehem as in Micah 5), on to the calamities from surging murders, which concentrate like a mad rebellion of crusty, worldly power at His coming (cf. Revelation 12:4), to the virgin birth (entirely new and therefore not parthenogenesis). Here it is the Fatherhood of God, which brings the virgin to this incarnation, as in Isaiah 7-9, so that He is "the mighty God" (cf. Isaiah 7:14, 8:8, 10:21, Micah 5:1-3), though on earth as a servant (Isaiah 42, 52), indeed receives power and honour, assuming His Messianic place, in the end, "on the throne of David," to bring blessing to all nations; and it is He who proceeds in everlasting glory and dominion (Isaiah 9:7, 49:5, Psalm 102:15-22, Phil. 2:8-10, Ephesians 1:10), one God with the Father and the Spirit (Isaiah 48:16).
So does the glory of it flourish into the New Covenant, which results as in Isaiah 53, from the shedding of His blood as He expiated the sin to be unloaded upon Him, the Lamb of God, in death, or as Zechariah 3:9-10 puts it, the engraving on Him as the stone, which clears the iniquity in one day.
At the Governor from themselves phase, the question is asked: WHO IS THIS WHO PLEDGED HIS HEART TO APPROACH ME! (30:21). In other words, here is an Old Testament parallel to Christ's question to His disciples, Who do you say that I am ? (Matthew 16) ?
Peter answers the question only because the Father gave it to him so to recognise Christ as the Son of the living God, a fact which Christ notes (Matthew 16:17). Thus the Rock*2 was identified, as in I Corinthians 10:4. “THAT ROCK was Christ!” Again, it is as in II Samuel 22:32. God, David declares is his strength and power, and thus he asks, ”WHO is God, except the LORD, and who is a rock, EXCEPT OUR GOD!” Indeed in Isaiah 44:8, we are told that "there is no other Rock. I know not one!" The speaker ? God in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
To contest this identification, you have to conceive yourself wiser than God. Peter, the name meaning stone, failed at once in seeking to have Christ avoid the Cross, after this!(Matthew 16:22-23), but being corrected could be used with the rest as fitting. The word used by Christ to designate the Rock on which the Church was built was a different one than that of Peter's name, one meaning rock, a living mass. The Rock, it is a different thing to stone, the stone that moved!
This ? IT WAS THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION: WHO IS JESUS ? HE is the ROCK as seen by FAITH as happened with Peter. It is on that, Christ founded His Church: that is, on Himself, Lord, realised as the Son of God and resurrected, unable to be defeated because God incarnate, the only Saviour, the Lord of the Old Testament expressed in human form: it is on this the Church is built.
Who is this who pledged His heart to approach the Lord ? It is this King, the Messiah, the Governor, the One to bring in the New Covenant as in Jeremiah 31, the next Chapter: it is the Lord, strong and mighty, as in Psalm 24:8ff..
"Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory."
On this identification BY FAITH (so that you act on it), all depends. It is foundational to the entire Church. If you do not give to Christ this place, you are no part of His Church. If someone else takes it, he is no part of the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ is therefore founded on Him, pledged, crucified, risen, and on no other, be it individual or regime (cf. Psalm 40, Matthew 26:39). He did not come to be bypassed, but to be found. He CANNOT be surpassed. He is found by faith, attested by fact, viewed through repentance, coming soon to reign (Luke 24:26, Acts 1:7ff., I Thessalonians 1). The world wriggles, but Christ remains.
The Lord seeks, even those who have erred exceedingly, for He DELIGHTS in mercy (cf. Micah 7:19ff. with Sinners Only ).
6 THE CALL OF THE HEART Is Not Ephraim My dear son ?
Here in this very same pair of delightful, Messianic chapters, we find the Lord, even while showing the judgments to come, showing the way for repentance, since here is the Lord available, the King coming, the Governor from their own midst. Is not this what is needed by Israel ? If the END to which they are moving is horrific, yet the BEND which their knees need to know, before this same God, their Rock, this is going to come, must come, and is the only way home for Israel.
God shows His heart-warming and delightful, kindly fatherly love for the straying people, designated by the name of a major tribe, Ephraim as if a single person. First we see the long last repentance come to heart for many in that land (31:18-19).
"I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself:
‘You have chastised me, and I was chastised, like an untrained bull;
Restore me, and I will return, for You are the Lord my God.
Surely, after my turning, I repented; and after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh;
I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated, because I bore the reproach of my youth.’
Then the love of God is poured out in such a tender mercy, that it is an eternal beauty to hear it. The love there shown is as toward all the world, even those who were not of Israel, but are to be born of Israel's God, to whom they will in large measure, indeed, soon return (Zechariah 12:1-13:1, Ezekiel 36ff., Romans 11:25ff.).
"Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child?
For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still;
Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him,
says the Lord."
Here then is the final question.
Will you come to the Lord, surrendered in faith, to trust Him utterly ? With repentant heart you may come and seek the Rock, to love Him and His word, and in Him, find strength and pardon and power and peace. It is to be found nowhere else; God is no one else! He is to be worshipped in spirit and truth, not by bits and fits, but by a living faith.
In Jeremiah 31, there is a further beautiful and enlightening feature. Just before 31:22, the virgin birth prophecy, and immediately after the 31:20 endearing challenge to and concerning Ephraim at which we have just looked, there is a fascinating transition. God in 31:21 invites, indeed commands the people to set up sign-posts, to make landmarks, to set their heart towards the highway (cf. Isaiah 35:8, the highway of holiness).
Thus after the endearment is the cost crisis. There is action to take. There is orientation to gain, and there are sign-posts to follow. We are reminded of Christ speaking in John 5:39-40. They searched the scriptures, He said, thinking in them to find eternal life, but they WOULD NOT COME TO HIM, to gain it. It was thus like a sign-post, the scripture, but like a prescription not followed, wholly useless in itself. Right ? Of course. Useful ? undoubtedly. Correct ? Precisely. It is FOR THAT VERY REASON that NOT following it to the ONE of whom it speaks resembles someone without a sign-post, too dead to think; or one with a sign-post, too neurotic to act. It is the Lord Himself who gives life.
However here the Lord through Jeremiah declares this: SET UP the SIGN POSTS AND, yes there is a second point, TURN BACK. In this case, you must ACT on what the sign says. Be oriented but also activated! It is indeed a ‘backsliding daughter’ to whom the Lord speaks, however great the endearment. But eternal life is not in word only, but in deed. TURN BACK! He cries. How LONG will you ‘gad about’! He exclaims. Then comes this remarkable word “FOR”.
For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still. That is what He declares.
A reason is given amidst these cries. Why should the backslider turn back ? It is because there is a way prepared for doing so. What is to be gained in so acting ? It is what God has given which is to be gained. What then is this ? It is the ONE whom the woman encompasses, the one of crucial manhood to come, envisaged here however as still in the womb. It is HE who is to be found. Who then is He ? It is the Lord (as in Isaiah 7, and 9:1-7), the “mighty God” who through THIS BABE when so grown, will rule a Kingdom never to end, which will continually increase! How beautiful is the transition, and how intense these findings fitted so artistically and powerfully together in Jeremiah!
In Jeremiah 31, following this, He speaks next of the fact that as He cast down because of sin, so in view of these Messianic marvels, so consistently and persistently announced in Jeremiah 30-31 (as in 23:5), He will build. More than a country, He will build, indeed He will INAUGURATE a NEW COVENANT. You could flatten astronomy, He declares, more readily than remove one particle of this new thing, for “from the least of them to the greatest of them” what ? It is this: “They shall all know Me!” As in Jeremiah 9:23 puts it, concerning this saving knowledge of the Lord, the only Saviour (Isaiah 43:10-11): “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
“ ‘Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches:
‘But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
‘That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,’ says the LORD.”
Thus from Israel will come a remnant (as in Isaiah 11:11); and the Lord as man, He will rule (Isaiah 11:1ff.), and with what wonder of wisdom, knowledge and power, beauty and holiness, concern and solicitude, rigour and righteousness, till the blackened face of sin becomes as exposed by light as a pit by the morning dawn, one yawing before one's feet.
It is the Messiah as Governor, Lord and King, it comes despite the horrendous multitude of children slain by Herod, in the slaughter of the innocents, as it is called, traced in Jeremiah 31:15. It comes through the virgin who encompasses in human format in her womb (31:22), the Christ, that new thing that enters thus this world, the incarnation. It comes amidst enduring endearment (31:20) despite the catastrophes from sin; and it comes with the cry to RETURN, HEED the sign, be oriented and seek the original, the only, the Lord God, through His incarnate Ruler and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Yes, this New Covenant comes (31:31ff. cf. Hebrews 8:7ff.), and through whom ? WHO IS THIS WHO PLEDGES HIS HEART ? you recall this from Jeremiah 30:21 ? Let us answer that. It comes through Him who sanctified Himself because of the brethren, for whom He died (John 17:19). But what is His prayer there ? In John 17:17 we find out. “Sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth.” Of whom does He speak, but of His own! “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
Thus we find
in this, Christ both the hospital and the Ultimate Regality. Here however it is
far better than plastic surgery; for it is wrought by the penetration of
light , of healing, of help, of holiness, an enlivening of the spirit, awakening
of the mind and a banishment of the entire ugliness of self-interest and the
varied idols which may ruminate, chosen to ruin, which do not rule except in
unrulines of spirit and rottenness of heart (cf. Isaiah 64, Matthew 12:43ff.).
As to what the Lord provides in gifts and calling, these may be discursive, but not self-proclamatory by the fruits of divine labour, wrought to reach man in one coherent, co-ordinated and conclusive, all-embracive mission of which many are the parts (Ephesians 1:22, I Corinthians 12:11,27).
Let us then one and all hear the call, set up the sign-posts and FOLLOW THEM to Him. If any be not yet His, then let it be in repentance that Christ is called on, so to find His salvation in this New Covenant in His own blood. Is it too hard to repent ?
Is it not enough to live in stolen equipment as if your own, what you neither did nor could make, but God only, even in His wisdom only, for wisdom is no floating orphan of the seas! Is it not sufficient to decline in spirit from Him who gives you the very spirit to think and imagine and choose, the commands to integrate your intelligence and facilitate its applications, in a world of laws that are legislated for operational reality, and work by synthetic composition!
It is not therefore time if not yet His, to repent and believe and receive the wisdom of God and the power, even Jesus Christ, God incarnate (I Corinthians 1:24).
Indeed, the sign is already set, for His day has now come, and even at the time of ripeness extraordinary! Therefore, let His word reign supreme in our hearts BECAUSE IT IS HIS! Let our hearts themselves be entirely His, receptacles through cleansing for His habitation (cf. John 14:21-23).
Let worry depart in its dissipating mistrust, and let courage soar in spiritual places (Ephesians 2:6). As to those already His, let us be sanctified wholly in mind spirit and body (I Thessalonians 5), and while not perfect, constantly seek to be so (Matthew 5:48). Even that term there does not mean sinless, but COMPLETE and brought to the fulfilment to completion of what is intended for us, like sculptures with the finishing touches, not the tarnishing breakages. Let us avoid WILFUL sin just as we turn from driving on the wrong side of the road, or diving into sulphuric acid.
Sin is a cruel ruler and a fool creator. Sanctification IN CHRIST is a kind contribution, by the power of His Spirit and the operation of His word. Be then thankful and rest in His redemption, be active in His directions and be calm in His favour; and rejoice, for there is nothing lacking in Him, whose pity is profound and whose peace is as deep.
See SMR Chs. 8 - 9, esp. the former, and Answers to Questions Ch. 5; for indeed, awaiting His return is like watching the clock, when midnight is near, when darkness is intense, but when light is scheduled in one mighty incandescent, to draw to itself the children of the Lord, as the Lord sends for them.
See for example SMR pp. 98-99, 533, 540, 584ff., 628-630, 702, 722, 887ff., 901ff., 921ff., 969ff., 1056-1072.