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BRANDING FOR BEAUTY
VOLUNTARY BLINDNESS FOR VITAL DELIGHT
THE HAPPY NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN TEACHING
OF THE BIBLE, CONCERNING THE PASSION BEYOND PITY, OF GOD
THE MAJESTY OF TRUTH
What majesty resides in the Bible!
What delight is there in its pages,
through its profundity, sharpness, crispness as in a perfect focus,
its savour of death to the dying, of life to the living,
its nobility of conception and its practicalities of performance:
for it is the word of God,
and in it is to be found record of the work of God.
In Isaiah 3, after the rich appeals of Isaiah 1 and the vast panorama of coming majesty when sin past, the Lord brings judgment and beauty back to this earth, sited in Isaiah 2, comes some caustic commentary on human folly. Its practicality is intense, its hope does not languish.
Thus in the midst of this, comes this reassurance: "Say to the righteous, that it will be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings." As Isaiah 4:6 with 32:1ff. are quick to assert, it is because the LORD is a refuge and a rock, a shadow from heat, a tabernacle indeed for man in whose merciful borders salvation is to be found, as 53 particularises in predictive detail concerning the Messiah, that ANYTHING can be seeded, for fruit. It is of the Lord's mercies, as Lamentations 3 has it, that we are not consumed.
Within that, however, there is that wonderful recognition of the use of talents, not for the MOST done by anyone, but for the responsibility shown in using the LEAST or the most, the one or the other scrupulously, conscientiously and faithfully.
While, then, Isaiah 3 has this reminder of the massif of the Lord's goodness, it nevertheless is strong in condemnation of frivolity, folly and heartless insagacity (a term that needs to be invented here, for emphasis), a sort of wingless bird situation, where given much, many trifle away their opportunities in vanity and superficiality. Indeed, to read Isaiah 3 is like an exposé on an expensive beauty parlour, where efforts are made to bring to scraggy post-maidenly meat, the savour of splendour.
However, even into the midst of lightness, judgment is to come, says the prophet, and in particular, there will be a stripping of all this pretension. Spiritually induced in this case, it is spiritually condemned.
In fact, we read, there will be "branding instead of beauty"!
What a phrase is that! Where there had been delicate eye shadow, and five beauty oils teeming on madam's beauteous visage, now there will be BRANDING! Slavery to indulgence is now replaced by genuine slavery to enemies, as defeat comes over the careless nation, the frittering city, and ground-level travail comes to the flitting flight of the doomed.
This, it is the reward to folly, where scope for vital delight in the Lord, as offered in Isaiah 1:18 and 4:6, in 34 and 53, in 26 and 6-61, being devalued, comes to be replaced by the gruesome impact of judgment. It is just judgment; for the fruit of their doings is what they eat. Their seed they sow, the trees arise, they bear fruit, some like the ginko, are foul and their stench offends; but of this, they have taken care, and of this, they eat.
Having voluntarily forsaken sight, despising the spiritual ground of the life of mankind, they become spiritual ignoramuses, not knowing even their own meaning, their destiny or their hearts. Ignorant of God, they become oafs of obscurity, denizens of the depths of darkness, calling that life, which is ambient death. You see this expressed succinctly in Ephesians 4:17ff., for the word of God indeed presents first bud and then bloom, in the move from Old Testament to the New, but it is one stock.
To see this in context, we have below Ephesians 4:17-32 (colour added for didactic purposes).
"This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord,
that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk,
in the futility of their mind,
having their understanding darkened,
being alienated from the life of God,
because of the ignorance that is in them,
because of the blindness of their heart;
who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness,
to work all uncleanness with greediness."
There is found the divinely inspired review of fallen man. Then comes the equally inspired specification for redeemed man; for the Bible is no less emphatic and dramatic about what man OUGHT to be and CAN be made to be, than about what he is, and should at once cease to be. This unworkable world is merely one exhibition of the fate of what refuses this necessary, freely dowered and divinely provided change.
"But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:
that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man
which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,
and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
and that you put on the new man
which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
"Therefore, putting away lying,
Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.
Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,
nor give place to the devil.
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you,
with all malice.
"And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
just as God in Christ forgave you."
This is the fruit of God's doings, when they are received ; and here arrives what happens when the seed of God is planted through faith, in the heart of man. Formalistic substitutes are vanity, like that of the women of Israel, depicted in Isaiah 3, and produce only absurd, wispy imitations of the divine splendour, which would inhabit man. It is this divine gift which would mould him to be indeed restored to the image of God, grant to all such, the adoption as children. It is to this that believing and receiving man is appointed in mercy, forsaking which he so often becomes a double derelict, disadorning the earth like a tempest, destructive like a tornado. To insist on sin is one bad thing; to insist on its non-atonement is the breaking of the tortured bone!
In Isaiah 5, the Lord protests, viewing Israel as a vineyard, the prototype of divine provision for redemption. Israel however, despite the elaborate gifts and constructions to make that vineyard, has misused it. Thus the fertility appointed has changed to become a desolation, the wonder of the productions to come, are confounded as failure.
What MORE could I have done for My vineyard, the Lord protests! Such is rehearsed for us, in Isaiah 5.
It is necessary to realise, and that acutely, that the fatherly and motherly, indeed even through Christ the brotherly feelings which inhabit the human breast )cf. Hebrews 2, Psalm 103, Matthew 23:37), are derived from the love of God and are diverse expressions of it. The Father longs for the development, the mother for the comfort, the brother for valour and vigour to arise in his peers: and such is even the human trend when love is gleaming in the light of truth, like a divine arrow drawing the eyes of beholders in delight, at its height and wonder.
God so LOVES us that this is the panoply of grace, the cover and the strength available. How gross the repudiation for the sake of shame, of such love, such redemption, such regeneration indeed, as this which the Lord, in His goodness, offers to man. There is no more excuse for modern man than for that besotted phase which gripped like gripe, much of the history of ancient Israel. It is all one in this.
Today, we see these things in a most unusual mode, as we trace the words of Isaiah in that very next chapter, Ch. 6, and see the representations of the words of the prophet, in the New Testament, thus unfolding the love and exposing the very heart of the mercy of God. This is consistent in both Testaments, in all ages, and its final development in Christ is the foundation granted in "the fulness of times" as Galatians puts it. That, to be precise, came about the year A.D. 30, as Daniel predicted it from half a millenium before it happened: and it was nothing less than the vicarious death of Jesus Christ*1.
It is truly amusing to see the sloppy and slovenly social custom of implicitly deriding this phrase, fulness of times, by using it to indicate ironically SOME time or other, not soon! In fact, it is a precision work unmatched in history, from word to deed, in arithmetic accuracy, like a chronological bull's eye; and none can reject its logic, for none but God has such power to oversee millions of events, any one of which could alter a long range prophecy, let alone one of this unique majesty and ingredients: and He alone has done it.
Performance-wise, He has no equal; nor yet in love. What then of this 'fulness of times' contempt ? It is like making derisory remarks about the beauty of one's wife, when all the world can see, but her blind husband, that hers is the best beauty of all! When, and ONLY when the time specified by Daniel is fulfilled, CAN and DOES come the Messiah so that as Daniel puts it, "there is nothing for Him." Some might want us to make this or that of this magnificent declaratory and predictive statement from Daniel; but this is what it says. Filled with grace as so often shown in Isaiah 2, 7, 9, 11, 32, 49-55, 60-61, Psalm 72, Zechariah 4, 6, yet His self-giving leaves NOTHING for Himself.
There are times when to say more, is to communicate less! The ineffable peace which He provides (Philippians 4, Isaiah 26), is the re-orientation dynamic which brings man by immense and intense sacrifice, to the very heart of the living God, purified, pardoned and provisioned, as if by a lake without limit, surrounded by beauty without dimming, light effusive and profuse, yet crisp and clean, in the midst of the beauties of divine holiness. It was not easy to gain; but it is gained; and when it is given, it is never lost (Romans 5:1-11, I Thessalonians 5:1-10), so that godly fear becomes also delightful devotion to One most worthy. This is emphasised penetratingly in Revelation 5, in its praises and responses.
He has given all, cut off as a sacrificial offering indeed, abhorred by the nation (Isaiah 49:7), and from this world this is a provision for Him, having expended and expanded all His lovingkindness and His gift even of Himself as a sin offering for those who receive Him on earth (as in Isaiah 53:3-6), despised, mutilated, scorned and scoffed at, He reserves NOTHING, is given NOTHING, is set at nought as a nothing! He was despised and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was esteemed smitten by God, when in fact, He was being smitten in just judgment for men, vicariously.
What then ? Derelict with our sin, even that of all who would even come to Him for remission, He gains nothing, but gives all, in vicarious atonement such as Isaiah had specified with such enormous clarity hundreds of years before Daniel spoke (that is, moving from the eighth century B.C. to the 6th.).
Again, there is no excuse for not being ready, or withholding admiration. God has both spoken and acted. To react is not enough; it is response that is required, and reception; not deception but deliverance is the need for man. It is then that ineffable peace comes to the heart wholly yielded to His truth, devoted to His faithfulness, delighted in His mercy, in which He also delights.
Let us then consider the application of Isaiah 6, in its outreach into judgmental severity, and in application in the New Testament. In this way, and so led, we can ponder what it is, from its context in Isaiah1-5, in particular, that is shown to us concerning the nature of God.
In a little, indeed, in Isaiah 7 and 9, the prophet is moved to the virgin birth and to the glory of the incarnation and the rule to come, specified more fully in Isaiah 11*2.
These later things are available for those who would like the view the subsequent as well as the prior context to Isaiah 6; and indeed, there is to be found in those chapters to come, an anointing with grace of prodigious proportions, for God never fails, and continues to the end, immutable, illimitable, sovereign in love and a loving sovereign. If He does not, on the one hand, force; yet He does not, on the other, forget! (cf. Hebrews 13:5-14, Joshua 1, Psalm 71:17ff., Ezekiel 36:22ff.).
For now, however, we move to this fascinating chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah, and the Lord's use of it in the New Testament, as we seek and find wisdom from the word of God. Our concern thus passes to:
Matthew 13 with John 12, each citing from Isaiah 6.
THE WARNING AND THE WISDOM
I THE APPEAL
In Jeremiah 4:14 and 13:27, we find two tremendous appeals from the very heart of God, which can be translated to any time, for God so loved the WORLD that He gave: but what He gave, needs to be received. Like petrol in the car, you can often tell it quite simply, by the way it goes.
“O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness,
That you may be saved. How long will your evil thoughts lodge within you ?”
The other appeal is this one:
Having noted that He has seen their various erratic longings for what is mere lust, God declares: “Woe to you, Jerusalem, will you not be made clean ? for how long … still “
The AV puts it beautifully: ”Will you not be made clean ? When once will it be ?”*3
II THE SIGNIFICANCE of MATTHEW 13 and JOHN 12
How great is the danger to those who delude themselves into religious posturings without grace! Thus Christ put it in this way (Matthew 13:14-15):
“Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
and seeing, you will see and not perceive:
for the hearts of this people have grown dull,
their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.”
In John 12, much later, when Christ by then had wrought many marvels and thoroughly shown Himself to be the Messiah, there was a vast resistance on the part of those who vehemently, but with never a victory in word or deed, opposed Him (cf. Luke 11:52). Here John is led to declare, again with reference to Isaiah 6 which is in the base for these words,
“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their heats and turn, so that I should heal them.”
How fascinating! In Isaiah 6, it is the LORD who hardens their hearts, closes their eyes in an act of eventual judgment on their endless seeming murmuring and controverting, means of simply disobeying. So it is in John 12. However in Matthew, Christ declares that it is they who have closed their own eyes.
Sometimes there are two sides to a thing, and here it is so. Man insolently and often vehemently or passionately refuses to obey, and it becomes habitual, though the words of the lips may be ‘near’ enough (cf. Isaiah 29:13). They eventually may ‘sear’ their ‘conscience’ as ‘with a hot iron’ (I Timothy 4:2). God does not “always strive”, Isaiah 57:15-16 tells us, for the spirit of man, being limited, would fail before Him. Thus the wilful closing of the eyes can lead to the judgmental closing, the polluted products, inveterate, can foreclose on freedom, and the voluntary rejection can become involuntary, until there is no more hope, for they have trodden underfoot the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:29), their relationship to God involving less of reality than of a mere form or ceremony, never touching their souls or liberating their lives, as they continue immune to truth, voluble misfits.
III THE SETTING
In Isaiah 1-5, on the way to the Ch. 6 where this warning is given, numerous indeed and heart-searching are the divine challenges. Thus in Ch. 1, we hear these words (v.6):
“Why should you be stricken again ? you will revolt more and more.
The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints."
The again comes the challenge (1:18):
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil, learn to do good;
seek justice, rebuke the oppressor,
defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
Indeed, in pleading graciousness, the Lord appeals deeply, and tenderly:
“ ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD.
‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’ ”
On and on the challenge, opportunity and call comes, till Ch. 6. Here Isaiah is found, ready to serve, and His lips in vision are touched as with a hot coal from the altar, so that his sin is purged, and it is then that he is given the message which is applied in the New Testament.
Thus Christ, through His Spirit the author of these words in Isaiah 6:9-10, ones referred to in both Matthew’s Gospel and that of John, interpreting His own message in its setting in Isaiah, sees and says that it is BECAUSE of these rejected appeals that the eyes are at length closed, not only by man, but by God, and He being present, urges them NOT to shut their eyes. That is the beginning as you see in Isaiah 1-5, and this is the end. Do not REACH this end! That is the point. Therefore come straight and clean, clear and contrite to Him at the first!
IV THE URGENCY – DO NOT WAIT FOR THE URGE!
Now we come to the urgency of HEEDING the Lord, and attending operationally to HIS PLEADING, for it is not for nought, but for life that He seeks us; and His love toward man, as in Titus Chs. 2-4, His kindness, mercy and grace needs to be received covenantally and completely. It is this which the Lord’s Supper SYMBOLISES, but what it symbolises, each must ACTUALLY RECEIVE for himself or herself.
"Woe to you, O Jerusalem!
Will you not be made clean ?
When shall it once be ?"
There you here see from the Lord:
a divine yearning, as from a mother.
a fatherly caution, crisp with realistic concern.
interrogation, as from a surgeon, foreseeing inoperable lung cancer,
and speaking to an uncontrolled tobacco addict.
an implicit attestation of long continued abuse.
To this writer, this is one of the most poignant of the verses of the Book of the Lord! (Isaiah 34:16). There you see the cry of the heart of the Lord, WHEN ONCE will it be! Delay, procrastination is mere pittance when a fortune of favour is required from the Lord’s mercy, given only where it may be received, not as supplement or increment. Let us then first release all sin before the bar of divine justice, and abandoning it, find from Him, that delightful word in Isaiah:
“Come, and let us reason together,
though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
How devout is divine grace, and it needs simply to be received, not with formal hope, or intention, but in an entire submission of will, hope, ideal, idea, life and destiny to His hands, so that He comes not as mere adviser, but Saviour and Lord, in practice and in reality for each of us (Luke 6:46, John 14:21-23).
His will, do it; for this is the necessary result of salvation (Matthew 7:21),
needing power, use it (Philippians 4:13):
and great then is your blessedness in Him.
It is the short-circuit of this blessedness through half-heartedness, explicitly rejected in Luke 14:27ff., as entirely irrelevant to grace, which is as welcome as the Black Death, and the product of death where life is not present. You CANNOT be an athlete by boozing, or snoozing. You CANNOT become a fine mathematician by drinking milk-shakes all day, and engaging in drug-taking all night. There are things which do not go together, like tartans, like love and hatred, like beauty and ugliness, or wisdom and folly.
THE WONDER AND THE WORK OF GRACE
It is true, gloriously true, that the smoking flax He does not quench (Isaiah 42), and the bruised reed He does not break. Weakness is NOT the criterion; and error is not the sudden death exclusion notice. David fell badly, but he did not live like that. So did Peter, almost comically indeed, but it was no comedy to live it, and to be given that great depth of character which came to that apostle, as he strove and grew into what Christ had foreseen, praying that his faith should not fail, as he watched the climax before the fall, and knew of the arising from it, which would so bless the people of the Lord (Luke 22:31-34).
It is thus also true that a great fall is not in itself an exclusion notice.
These grand and glorious testimonies to true love, the source and original of it all, in Christ, the EXACT definitive expression of God (Hebrews 1), even the infinite God, are just as true as the fact, no less emphatically presented in the word of God, that Bible of truth, that formal fraud, and solemn high arrogances in the name of religion are exempt from pity. That is, where the presumptuous pre-eminence of man and his own thoughts, idolatries and formalistic dysfunctions, play acting and prejudice, where these are on parade, and parade themselves, they are assuredly dismissed in disgrace. The work of God is not play-acting or presumption, but a humble and a contrite spirit, that one should believe in Him, and so act on that faith; for we all act on what we believe (John 6:29, Isaiah 66:2, Psalm 51).
like Peter, we here and there make a tremendous mess,
like Paul, we become too full of self-confidence (as revealed in one part of his
like Hezekiah (Isaiah 38), grow too bold in our successes,
then there is discipline indeed.
We do not fail to notice it, any more than did David, when Nathan the prophet confronted him, and God gave to that king, three choices as to his coming discipline! These are eminent people in spiritual things; but each fell in this or that, only to be corrected. Discipline is not distaste but a cleansing comportable with charity and clarity, truth and righteousness.
That, it is different both to dismissal (John 10:9,27-28), impossible for the children of God, and sloppiness. Fallacy is not in failing to be perfect, for none is without sin, though its sovereignty is blessedly removed from the living of the people of God: but in failing to believe!
IF you believe, then the impossible, as granted by the word of God, becomes possible (Mark 11:23ff.), and the incredible simply happens, as required in the sight of the Lord for the fulfilment of His purposes and the composure of His love in its wisdom and oversight.
Unbelief, what is it like ? It is in a way like having an explosive blast at hand when seeking to re move 10,000 tons of earth in a day. It would be laughable with 100 labourers, admittedly; but when the explosive is available, it is nearly routine that the thing will GO! Wonder becomes like the onset of Spring, and just as patience needs its Winter (I Peter 1:6ff., 4:12ff.), so exuberant joy accompanies the meeting with God in His way (Isaiah 64:5, I Peter 1:8).
Such is the victory which is ... by FAITH, and such is the love which enables it, with mercy and lovingkindness, where faith is present, leading of necessity to pardon, for it embraces it, and to power, for it finds the way*4, with grace. This follows, for it is the spirit of the life granted, eternal life where love is the air, and grace the fragrance of the garden, where mercy is the mountain range and compassion the lake in its depth.
THE SUBLIME AND UNIQUE HARMONY OF
THE BEAUTIFUL, THE GOOD, THE NOBLE AND THE TRUE
God is like that. He is not like it sometimes or somewhere. This is the divine nature, the divine love, that would have ALL to repent, that would have ALL in heaven or on earth to be reconciled; and that when one is found, is altogether delighted, even the angels in heaven rejoicing (Colossians 1:19ff., I TImothy 2:1ff., Luke 15:7).
That He knew who would be His is nothing to do with the fact that He has so loved, as if to short-circuit the joy. With God, time is an invention, our time: things are known as they are before they become, for known to God are all His works before the foundation of the world, and His people are chosen in Christ before the world even peeped over its first sunrise to behold its extent (Ephesians 1:4, Acts 15:18, Revelation 13:8).
It is not WHEN He chooses, but HOW that matters! And WHAT He chooses is this, that He so LOVE the world that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. It is thus NOT His purpose in coming, to judge the world, as He states in John 3, but that it should be saved. It is thus contrary to His grace that it is not all saved, for many grieve God (Acts 7:51-52, Jeremiah 5); but it is according to His love that He prostitutes nothing: and where His love is found, even in His sublime and pre-history knowledge, to have no place, it gains none.
Great is His sorrow (Luke 19:42ff., Jeremiah 9, Jeremiah 48:36, 51:9, Hosea 7:1); but justice is no more aborted than is love, and in God is all harmony in all things beyond all things. To participate in this is beyond all dreams, past all comfort, beyond all marvels: to be a child of this loving, merciful and just God is childhood in eternity, in Christ as a brother who is eternal in status, before that eternal Father from whom is an ineffable and illimitable peace. With Him for ever is purity with maturity for His people as created beings, and this coincident with participation in the very family of God Himself, as redeemed through Christ and from the beginning of our spiritual rebirth, sealed as adopted by His Spirit (Ephesians 1:15-16).
Thus does love give to man meaning as a being in God's image. In Him, his liberty is not undefined, but definitive of life. Before the love of God, his responsibility intense, and even his vulnerability to death, so far from being an abortion of that meaning, is its fulfilment; for death is the insistence on the reality and price of sin and only in realism is meaning secure. Nothing of the pride of the thoughts of men can alter death; for one may be quite sure, if they could, they would. Only God can conquer what man has earned, death and separation; and in death and separation (Isaiah 48:16, Psalm 22:1), He did it.
However the blasted bargain of sin is this, and strong are its illusory representations from Eden onwards! The deceit of it is this: that in exchange for a blessed eternity with God Himself, and as an alternative option, one may aspire to gain a knowledge of good and evil with which one may brandish one's egotism in the presence of God, as an equal, and co-ordinator with Him, or even in advanced case of this pathology, without Him! This sitting on the sun, leads but to ashes; and those so deluded find, as they always have found, the grit of disgrace as a result, not the flights of nobility and wonder.
That man in the love of God is faced not with his own limitations as to 'choosing' God, something which Christ denies to be the case for smitten man (John 15), as does Paul (Romans 9), and as is shown by the apostle John (1:10ff.), but instead with the divine foreknowledge, is the Biblical perspective. This makes it clear that it is nothing to be earned, this grace of God: it is like a pressure from a generous tap, and its own merit is the criterion.
Indeed it is all but ironic, that the greater one's imaginary contribution to heaven, as a part of the price of getting there, the more sure is the absence for such presumption. It is BY GRACE through faith (Ephesians 2), and this whole thing, says the Greek, it is not of oneself. Thus, where it is not all of grace, then (Romans 10), it is of works, lest grace be merely a discredited verbal distortion. It is a gift, and if the use of one's own gifts is even for a moment taken as a contribution, then it is no more of grace, but to that extent needed, of works, of exploits, whether of contrition or penance! That is more than useless: it is fatal! It is an insult to God and an unrealism that swoons at its own imaginary graces!
Thus man is not the determinant, but God, so that the gifts to man do not amount to the place in grace. It is ALL of grace, lest any man should boast (Romans 3); for assuredly if any of our own work had even a place in securing salvation, then there would be a critical opportunity for boasting. Where a straw makes the difference, how great is the place of the straw! How much could it be used as a topic for boasting, which achieved, even with much help, such a critical difference.
This precious fuss of arrogance, it is in principle excluded, not in mere degree.
Thus freedom has meaning, and limitation is not the determinant, but God; and this, it is not in some unscriptural mystery, but in love, as thus it is that He predestines. Moreover, as to that, even this predestination is first based on His foreknowledge (Romans 8:29ff.); and as to that again, it is not of what we are to do, and its evaluation, but in the very mind of God. In love, He is disposed toward each, and receiving what comes in contrition, receptive of grace as HE knows it, before dawn ever touched the mountains, or sunset ever commented in colour, on the passing of time, He has granted His grace to His own. The love fills the universe (Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2:1ff.); judgment follows it like a garbage contractor, over the felling of trees.
Indeed, love, freedom, responsibility, peace, truth, grace, kindness, valour, virtue, all have meaning, facets of the jewel of created life, Without Jesus the Christ, they have neither objectivity, harmony nor ultimate reality. Without Him, indeed, creation would not have been wrought (Isaiah 51:16 with 49:2, Colossians 1:15, John 1:1-3). Because He as God is the Saviour, sent for it (Isaiah 48:16, Zechariah 2:8, 3:9, John 3:16-19), being it, therefore what He gives, Himself, is both divine as befits man the creature, and human, as needed for man the sinner, to atone. Because love had this plan, and wisdom its execution, therefore the universe was made, freedom was made, man was made, test was made, and grace availing and prevailing, leapt to find man, receiving as many as it reached, reaching as many as its illimitable scope touched. Past all created time, God has seen who are His, past all the comparative deficiencies of this or that sin, and in truth as He knows it.
By Him, truth is categorically exposed, in practical action explicit, nobility has its centre, sacrifice its point, love its zenith, freedom its basis, while faith has both its income and its issue, its outcome. Sin being atoned for as many as find Him, its release offered to all: there is nothing to obscure the reality or its realisation.
God being the arbiter and in love His passion, moving with the motivation of purity, there is nothing required of man, to be made to stand by grace. Different gifts and opportunities neither smash the sovereignty of God, nor elevate one above another, when only grace is concerned, bereft of human works, just us the surface of a pure lake, is swept free of scum. The scum but obscures, but God sees the depths, past the differentials of sin's dynamics and the psychic tics of fallen man.
Divine majesty being total, there is error neither in judgment, nor in salvation, nor can any deceive God, nor entreat Him by erratic charm: He knows. In Christ, all is unveiled, the waterfall of grace, the sacrifice of love, the sovereignty of salvation as to Gospel and as to its application; and it is a kindly sovereignty, which having given all, receives all who come, rejecting none mysteriously, knowing all, calling all, forcing none, waiting on no psychic moment, but in control of all history.
THIS is then the condemnation, that light has come into the world IN CHRIST JESUS, self-explanatory, self-revelatory, final and utter in demonstrating God Himself; and where this manifest truth is before God by man rejected, that in itself is statedly the condemnation (John 3:15-19,34). It is not other. To imagine is not to invent God or His will or ways. It is this which is stated and re-stated (Ezekiel 33:11, Jeremiah 5, Luke 19:42ff.). The desolation of the Cross at Calvary is an historical depiction of the grief of God at man's unrepentant arrogance, and unillustrious pretensions. It is not however in vain, and many are those thus saved, so delivered and so snatched from the dopey dismalness of delusions.
THAT God acts as He will is sure; and that this is HOW He acts and in what frame of reference, is equally sure. That is PART of His sovereign majesty. He has given all, and receives where all is received. God is giver, and it is on this basis alone that He may be known, not on some mottled network of battling prattlers and self-glorifying doers (Romans 3:23-27). In giving salvation, in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17-21), He gives no mere gift, but inordinate grace, to bring us to His very face, not as some enriched with more natural powers, but as being in His image, first utterly derelict before HIS standards, and then graciously restored, and indeed, now adopted. GIFT is the criterion of love; GRACE is the deposition of wisdom, and DIVINE OPERATION is the assurance of truth! Thus is all fulfilled, nothing omitted, and the full orbed glory of God shown in His dealings with man. ALL means, all has meaning: even the devices of the devil, even the depths of sin, even the excavations of grace, and especially, the love of God which inducing responsibility in defence of freedom, deletes superiority in the face of grace.
In this salvation, Christ Himself, indeed, there dwells the fulness of the Godhead in bodily form (Colossians 2:8-9), and by Him are to be found unsearchable riches, as becomes by incarnation, the only begotten of the Father, whose goings are from and to eternity.
Beauty is His, and He gives it (Psalm 96); but where beauty is dismissed, there is only branding left, the mark of absconding from life, destiny desirable for man, from truth and from reality.
The branding is but the historical evidence of judgment, as the beauty of holiness is the eternal blessing of the loving God (Isaiah 33 gives a survey of its intent and portent):
"Your eyes will see the King in His beauty;
They will see the land that is very far off.
"Your heart will meditate on terror:
'Where is the scribe?
Where is he who weighs?
Where is he who counts the towers?'
"You will not see a fierce people,
A people of obscure speech, beyond perception,
Of a stammering tongue that you cannot understand.
"Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts;
Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet home,
A tabernacle that will not be taken down;
Not one of its stakes will ever be removed,
Nor will any of its cords be broken.
"But there the majestic Lord will be for us
A place of broad rivers and streams,
In which no galley with oars will sail,
Nor majestic ships pass by
(For the Lord is our Judge,
The Lord is our Lawgiver,
The Lord is our King;
He will save us);
"Your tackle is loosed,
They could not strengthen their mast,
They could not spread the sail.
Then the prey of great plunder is divided;
The lame take the prey.
"And the inhabitant will not say, "I am sick";
The people who dwell in it will be forgiven their iniquity."
If even in symbol and prelude this way is glorious, consider the actuality, when literary photography becomes literal reality, when earthly things yield to heavenly direct, when the blessed peace, the nearness to the infinite God, the wonder of it all become actual; and when the millenium itself is past, consider that new heavens and new earth (Isaiah 65, II Peter 3, Revelation 20), in which righteousness dwells. Assuredly, this world and its works will be burnt up, with its inequity, its presumption and its gracelessness. What else! To let it linger is merely to extend the fashion of grief, and to enable the folly of blindness, wilfully extended, with hearts never rescinding their sin, but amending now this, or that, only to sin the more. It is well that it will be past at last. It was wonderful that it came at the first, that many might know God, freely.
God is very great, and to rise to His thoughts is the work of His grace, the illumination of His mercy, the lifting of His power, the deposit of His kindness; and it is not for nothing that Paul refers to those who are His, as "sitting in heavenly places" (Ephesians 1-2): for what is to come is already in principle present, for the Principal is in residence in the hearts of His own, already.
When the test is over, the truth remains; and there is nothing like it, for it is He, Himself!
*1 See Highway of Holiness Ch. 4.
*2 See With Heart and Soul... Ch. 4.
*3 This verse is treated in detail in Bible Translations No. 21A. It is highly germane to our present topic! It is also present in Ch. 2 above, in its own application.
THE PASSION FOR SOULS OF THE LORD:
NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS
BUT KNOWING WELL WHO ARE HIS OWN
Let us then for much interest in seeing further what God DOES reveal, the case of Jeremiah 13:27. First, let us cite from Bible Translations (9), concerning this text.
Let us look then for a moment at Jeremiah 13:27. Confronting the innate sin that dominated in the array of rebellious hearts of that day, that thus DID have dominion over these to whom the prophet speaks, Jeremiah from the Lord makes this declaration, and asks this question:
"Woe to you, O Jerusalem! Will you not be made clean ?
When shall it once be ?"
To this writer, this is one of the most poignant of the verses of the Book of the Lord! There you see
1) a divine yearning, as from a mother.
2) a fatherly caution, crisp with realistic concern.
3) an interrogation, as from a surgeon, foreseeing inoperable lung cancer,
and speaking to an uncontrolled tobacco addict.
4) an implicit attestation of long continued abuse.
Being clean is NOT a matter of drawing near with the lips while the heart is afar off (Isaiah 29:13); it is a matter of WASH and BE CLEAN! (Isaiah 1:16, I John 1). When you respond, you obey, and when you confess in due faith, you are covered. Cleansed and covered you are accorded authority to become the children of God, and these, as His, have the paternal authority always at hand, for their welfare and as adopted, for their confirmation.
What then do we find in all of this ?
Operationally, when you are first so cleansed, you are also regenerated, and when you are regenerated, you are fundamentally changed, and when Christ lives in you, the carnal nature, at war with God, though still a trial and source for Satan, is NOT in control. The washing of regeneration (Titus 3:3-7) is followed by the washing of each working day. The one creates a new relationship with the Father of all, and His Redeemer. The other exhibits its dynamic warranty, and its working of its power. Not for nothing does Deity so yearn; and not in nothing is its culmination to be found!
As a child of God, we see from Matthew 7:21ff., you DO the will of God, though it be ever so poorly. You are His and as Lord He is not a mere verbal ascription, but the living God dominating and dynamising, directing and correcting you. You are HIS: and nothing can change either that or the testimony of the change (Romans 8:30ff.); for it is known from of old, and sustained for ever (John 10:27-28, Ephesians 1:11). God knows YOU and He leads you in His presence (Galatians 5), so that you are indeed LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, as Paul declares in Romans 8:16, in the very context of morality and divergence from the old life.
Is God then blind to who you are ?
and is He who brought you to the birth, not in order that you be not born, but as borne by Him to this place, not to bring you to the light of day as a child of God ?
and if a child of God, do you act as if your old genes were still operational and it is not a regeneration at all (I John 3:9) ?
Can you leave them behind, your new spiritual genes, evidence of birth and its necessary concomitant ? No more can you do this, than be perfect; but God, HE KNOWS the difference between imaginary perfection and ravaging impurity, between temporary setback, as in sickness, and the morbidity of necrosis (John 6:70). Implanted, these your new genes, the actualisation of the birth, are inseparable as in ordinary life. Indeed, if you are and become a child of God, you may stumble, and need correction, training and help from your Father; but is to stumble to fail, or to learn to be lost (Hosea 11:1ff.) ? rather is it growth in the domain of vitality, the Lord the presence, the word the witness.
Let those, says Paul, who are the Lord's, depart from iniquity. Why ? The reason given for such departure is this: "for the Lord KNOWS who are His" (II Timothy 2:19, blocks added). Departure from iniquity is not unakin to keeping the commandments! Nor is it grievous, to wash, and to love and to relate to your Father when your whole nature is so changed that HE IS your Father, by adoption through Jesus Christ.
In this way, confronted with such a challenge to understanding, we are kept on our toes, forced to examine ourselves and all the evidence, the very fundamental principles profuse in the word of God, lest we should somnolently allow ourselves to stray.
Thus, as above, we first see the ingredients of emotion and longing, their quality and nature, in Jeremiah 13:27, and then relate these to the case of actual conversion, noting the extreme divergence between the two. It is however the LONGING, the DIVINE eager and assiduous seeking with all the heart, as in Ezekiel 33:11, Luke 19:42ff., Colossians 1:19ff., Hosea 7:1, Jeremiah 51:9, 49:30-33). As to Jeremiah 13:27, this is a word which is inescapably poignant, powerfully arresting and the thrust is dramatically apexed in this passage.
Before we proceed further, its full intent may become even clearer when we look at its translation.
Thus the Hebrew is saying this:
Will you not be made clean ? How long ... yet ?
The portent in English, considering the pathos in the ellipsis, is this:
Will you not be made clean ? How long is it that you have already been in this condition of denial, and how long will you proceed, thus polluted, and yet unwilling to have it changed!
Is it still the same with you ?
The time dimension may indeed be twofold, past and present, but what is clear is this, that it is a long time, and that its continued duration is being challenged with a poignancy second to none.
Again, the intent may be phrased slightly differently (as when seeing facets of a jewel):
Not clean, is that your will ?
Does it come to this ? Consider, how long has it been so ? Is your case still the same ?
Further, and at more length, we might seek to interpret it:
there is a throb, and this seems to be it: NOT CLEAN, HOW LONG, STILL!
How long has it been ?
Is it still the same ?
Verbalising the thrust further, we find this impact:
Do you still decline to be made clean ?
After how long a time does this persist ?
Do you procrastinate still further ?
In the light of this, what of the AV translation at the end of this verse:
WHEN SHALL IT ONCE BE ?
To the mind of this writer, that rendering is almost a work of genius. It is a very bold idiomatic seeking for equivalence, but it seems to touch the strings of the heart at exactly the right place for the context. If it ever so slightly oversteps in the positive direction, nevertheless, the intense thrust of the feeling seems to hang precisely there.
You DECLINE cleaning, and for long how has this been so, and for what time to come is it to be - for HOW LONG ... and is it to be STILL the same ? Thus comes the haunting question, and here lies the divine entreaty, reproof, analysis, plea and arrest... This means that there is a divine pressure, placed upon man, to look at the continuation, by rebellion, of what resists to its own devastation, the most intense desire of the divine Lord, who exhibits a deploring with intense pathos of the same. It is as in Proverbs 1, where there is such an entreaty, so lovingly assembled, but with the rejection, there follows the indictment which is the measure in judgment of the love and mercy's pleading and presentation. That is WHY it was so urgent!
What then do we find in such instances ? This is not at all a sovereignly inflicted blindness by the power of a mysterious God. NOTHING could be CLEARER! He desires what He does not find, but is unwilling to perform any operation which would frustrate the very nature of creation of man, that is, in the image of God, and simply overthrow the relevance of human will in a remake which would bypass the entire issue, and thus by violence over will, make God responsible for human evil, all being dependent on Himself! Instead, the blindness comes when the entreaties, multiplied for so long (as in Hosea 12:10, as in II Chronicles 36), proceed "till there was no remedy."
Such is not the word of God amplitude of His yearning, its outreach beyond limitation, however its payment is restricted in the end; nor does it anywhere suggest any such thing, rather presenting in all but innumerable cases, just this poignancy of patience, this research of heart, this intensification of desire (as in Jeremiah 17, where despite the settled fate of the city, the Lord still pleads and offers an escape: He who knows all, but has a heart of truth and which is settled forever).
It is a pleading and an exhorting which we find to a decadent and disordered will, such that were it not, at least in the all-penetrating knowledge of God, vitally responsible despite His willingness and indeed passionate and most intense desire to save, His word would be a casuistry, His solemnity farce, His concern superficial and the ambit of His speech hideously awry.
It is of course NOT the Lord of whom this can be said, but rather might it apply in some degree, to those who manhandle, quite literally, the word of God and snuff out clear statements, categorical and repeated utterances and the entire impetus and dynamic of expressed and explicit divine love of no small or marginal intent, but rather seeking for SALVATION. When it is they or the Lord whose word must be challenged, one infinitely prefers to challenge the sons of men to the Son of God! His IS the truth, and it has no shadow of turning or variability. He is what He is, and always tells the truth which endures forever.
Of course He knows who are his (II Timothy 2:19); but this does not alter His heart.
It is nothing less than salvation that He seeks, concerning which He delivers His charge, His challenge and His lament; and no hidden agenda disturbs or denies the purity of His utterance, who is light and in whom is no darkness t all (Deuteronomy 32:1-4, I John 1:5).
When at such a time, the hardness before Him who sees all, in those who always resist (as Stephen put it in Acts 8), the Holy Spirit, comes historically to be in the realm of the unforgivable (for there is a limit to the striving, lest the spirit of man should fail before the Lord, Isaiah 57:15 - man is a limited being), then indeed His judicial assessment and assertion alike can flow into its blighting force (Matthew 13, Isaiah 6). Then what was foreknown, is duly implemented and shown.
With these general preliminaries in what has been often enough the topic in PQ, in this or that aspect, we turn now to the Deuteronomy 29:29 verse, seeking to find the lurking place for a straightforward contradiction of what IS revealed, from the domain of what is 'hidden', and to remove it. This being a 'foul', interpretation by contradiction, the matter has to be disallowed. However, the domain needs investigation and now is the time for this.
EXCURSION ON VICTORY
INCLUDING THAT OVER LEGALISM AND ANTIMNOMIANISM
As to that victory, it is important to remain rational in relating to revelation.
The LAW as an operational fixture, filled with symbol for the coming of the Messiah, to be fulfilled in Him (and then finished - Matthew 5:17-20), but not by any means empty of straight morality for all men for all time, was a specialised medium! It was to prepare the hearts of mankind, via Israel, to the realities of sin, its depth, scope and breadth, and to show its 'exceeding sinfulness'. This you see in Romans 7:13 in context.
"Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not!
But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good,
so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful."
So sinful was the heart of unredeemed Saul of Tarsus, that the very sound of the command not to covet, induced coveting, so that the good become minister to evil, thus showing once and for all the destitution of purity and the ability of self-appointed lust.
As to the law, however, its rigour was ultimately therapeutic, its breadth clarificatory of the diseases of sin, while its insistence was not only to remove apathy and complacency, but to induce realism about such a disease, such a pathological crisis as sin constitutes.
When therefore Christ fulfilled certain features of the law, they became inoperative; but the rest remained. Not a jot or tittle is to fail till all is fulfilled (Matthew 5:17ff.); and indeed, Jesus Christ intimated that He did not come to destroy the law but that it might be fuflilled, before proceeding to indicate the scrupulous severity with which it, as truth, applied. So beautiful is its truth that following and teaching it makes the least great, while the contrary, the greatest least.
The entire incubus of its paraphernalia, in its temple, sacrificial and symbolic meanings relative to Christ's coming and sacrifice, were thus dismissed, not because inadequate, but because HE was adequate to perform in substance, what these things showed in symbol, as Hebrews 8-10 makes so insistently clear.
This then does not mean that you re-write the mind of God in its expression, because Christ has died and risen. Man does not cease to be man, nor sin to be sin, nor God to be God; nor does righteousness to be righteous, nor obedience to be just and loyalty true, because of this.
Two opposite errors often arise, which make victory more pallid than it ought to be, for the Christian. On the one hand, a trend to legalism can insist and persist, and you see a good example of its atmosphere in Galatians 2:11-16. Thus Peter, in this case, began to eat with Jews only when James' emissaries arrived, apparently lest their rigour of atmosphere, with long association with Jewish ways, might be offended if he continued to eat with the Gentiles, as had become his custom (presumably since the day of Acts 10).
Wrong! thundered Paul. If you are going to rebuild all the symbolism of the law, then the liberty in Christ will make of Him a minister for sin, someone who enables us to sin in peace! Far is this from the truth!
In this camp, it is always necessary to make it very clear that there NEVER was a time in the whole of the history of this fallen race when works brought salvation. The law was to show this impossibility; for its tenor was so strict that none could conform to it. As a way to live it was formally perfect, but operationally oppressive (Acts 15:10). Always it was a question of GOD's righteousness and HIS only, as in Psalm 71:16, and sacrifice was a make-up most dramatically indicating and illustrating this point.
The law did of course show the necessity of sacrifice, and thus the pith of Galatians 6:14:
God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ
by whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world!
That sacrificial system with its various ways and days was part of the symbolism; and its pageantry was preparatory for Calvary and Golgotha, dismissive not of the necessity, but of the need to do more to meet what Christ then and in that time perfected, once for all. It was then, as shown in Hebrews 9:12ff., that eternal redemption was made once in history, for all time, as Hebrews there indicates so dramatically and emphatically.
This incubus, this restoration syndrome for what is past, or this misuse of what it was in any case, this legalism: it is a horrid waste of time, a woeful contempt for the Cross.
On the other hand, there is the attitude that now we can do as we please. To be sure, in some metaphorical or even symbolic sense, this might be true; but it assumes an absolute perfection in the redeemed which in this world, is not to be found. Not that we have already attained ... says Paul in Philippians 3:12ff., or are already complete, but we press on to the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus.
There is none who does not sin, says Solomon; and Paul labours the point in Romans 2-3, to reach even the most obstinate ear.
This however, as a form of perfectionism, is as loose as legalism. It trusts in its own state, status and works, like that. It is internal and not external, but its deviation is parallel.
Such a thought of utter freedom because of utter purity of heart and entire dependence in faith on the Lord in all things and at all times, it is a stimulus to the heart to be complete, indeed; but it is not the path of practical action. We SHOULD want with this perfection of holiness, but in the meantime we MUST follow the design specifications of God, and not allow ourselves a liberty which is indulgence, complacency and slippery sloppiness, disguised as piety.
Thus when God in Exodus 20 makes it clear that there is a day of rest, BECAUSE we were made in His image and this was the creative mode which HE employed (a reference to three things, in fact, one, to His nature, two to His nature of creation, and thirdly to our derivative nature and constitution as composed BY Him), nothing will alter this on this earth! It is the case, it is the ground for the command, and it is a one in seven specification. It is not future in concept, but past, not symbolic but substantial.
This is how we are, were made and the One in whose image we were made; and this is a creation mandate, not dependent on sin, but construction. You DO it. It is apt and it is godly.
Since Christ, at Calvary with all its blessed preliminaries of purity and grace, courage and strength, humility and power, bore sin, the sacrificial mode is gone; but the constitutional remains. Since Christ also, in that way, performed the greatest work of God, crucifixion with the resultant resurrection of that same body to authenticate His holiness and certify our salvation (I Corinthians 15:1-4, Romans 1:1-4), then the day on which we now rest, short of lèse-majesté against HIM, is that very day, the first day of the re-creation week, the first day of paid-up redemption, the first day on which rest returned to their beleaguered hearts (cf. Biblical Blessings Chs. 12 , 9, Appendix News, Appendix II, Barbs... 13, Things Old and New Ch. 8, News 51; What is the Chaff to the Wheat Ch. 1).
HE is our rest and in Him we rest, and this COULD not come until He arose, to their excited and drastic condition; and when He did and showed it, then they rested. It is this which in history, is the history also of the heart, which can rest only in Him. Having come, He perfected rest in having paid and showing it! in being alive and present, and proving it, in providing for us in this phase, and showing it then. This, for all our time in this earth, was thus to be commemorated as the greatest work of God, besides which all else palled, both in significance, sacrifice and memorial tribute.
NOT to see this and do it, not with legalistic precision as if to impress, far less with effort to secure salvation, which is not bought by works of ANY kind by US, but of EVERY kind by HIM (Romans 3:23ff., Ephesians 2) is to slight His majesty, His truth and His creation principles alike. It is a sad spectacle of implicit indifference.
It is indeed good that He does not crush the bruised reed! Alas, we all have the danger of becoming superficial; but all have the need to exhort one another daily, as the case may require.
Moreover, it is similar sloppiness to ignore the need to place the covenantal seal on infants. NEVER did it save anyone (Jeremiah 9:23), nor was there ever the slightest suggestion that it would. All of that twaddle is mere talk, vaporous word, a pathology exposed in which those who went about to establish their own righteousness would excel (Romans 10). Never were they congratulated on that, as any ultimate resource for redemption. Conformity was good, spirituality was necessary.
The covenantal seal as in Colossians 2:11-13, is a testimony before God and man of faith within the parents, who will have not only all their pots and pans holy as in Zechariah, but their children similarly surrounded by express grace, by virtue of the covenant made not with adults as atoms, but people who have children.
To ignore this expression of the mind and the principles of the living and immutable God is like imagining that because we now have aeroplanes, you can drive through people's fields. The things are disparate. The COVENANT IN HIS BLOOD is after all, the New Covenant, and it replaces the Old one with the pictures of the New as to come, in its former use of animal blood! God is the same; His mind is the same; His attitude to man is the same; His word does not change, and only fulfilment removes its applicability to the creation for which He specifies it.
No more could blood appear in any sacrament, be it the Lord's Supper (cf. SMR pp. 1146ff.) or baptism; and since it does appear in circumcision, in the act and in the sacrifice (Luke 2:22ff.), it was removed.
Thus, that aspect was fulfilled, and moreover, it would even collide with the sacrifice of Christ, were it not so. Hence the new brand was baptism. Its scope did not alter any more than did the one day in seven scope for rest. It is God who portrays His own principles, and we keep them, not as the mode of salvation, not as a lingering legalism, but as moral people with ears and eyes to hear and see what these principles are. We do not change things, as only He can do. It is, after all, HIS word that we consider!
Aeroplanes are an advance on cars, but they still need gas. That is their mode of operation. If it were to be other, it would be indicated in any reasonably thorough handbook; but rather are we told of the salvation for the Philippians gaoler and his house (Acts 16) - a salvation which is family broad in its conception, even though as always, in sacramental cases, it was not in itself salvation, but its symbolic depiction. It neither did nor could institute it for the young, whether or not they were present in the 'household' - the term for the coverage, since Abraham.
Only in its index in symbol, did it speak of this. It DID however mean that it was a saved household, in the normative and normal household sense of that term, with the children sanctified in the normal mode (I Corinthians 7:14). It shone like a star before the sight of God, if the thing was worked in sincerity, where belief had feet and devotion had hands, where the word of God ruled and His own purposes were not philosophised away, but simply accepted with the full meaning, limitation and connotation so long given. We need no smoke of smouldering candles, but the flame of His word, alight, alive and sure!
It is plain that some evolutionary magic has mythologically invaded into the minds of some, as if God grew up, or did not know for ever all that was to be, or spoke to defective humans, now much more advanced, so that He changed His mind or His ways. In fact, however, He has always said precisely what He means, and if at times, He has made concessions for practicalities, He never denies the principles, or changes them, no, not to the jot and tittle.
The love of God is holy (John 14:21-23), and the grace of God is good (Romans 6). He needs to be followed, not instructed. It is we who must be willing to learn, for learning of Him who is meek and lowly in heart, is better than mountain climbing!