Archives for the month of: April, 2013

Joseph

Gen. 37 – 47.

He “that was separated from his brethren.”

BT vol. 18 p. 17 etc.

For judging the history of Joseph to be typical or allegorical, like that of Hagar and Ishmael and a thousand others in scripture, we have clear warrant of the Holy Ghost. See Acts 7. But without this warrant, the use which in the New Testament is made of the Old Testament narratives, might authorise us to look for some mystery or “hidden wisdom,” in none of them so strongly marked as this.

I propose now simply to follow out the series of events in this history, as given us in these chapters, briefly unfolding what I judge to be their mystical or hidden meaning. May the Lord, in such sweet and heavenly labours, both enlarge and control our minds!

Genesis 37 — This chapter gives us the first part or section in the history.

Joseph here signalises himself as the righteous or separated one, and as such provokes the enmity of his wicked brethren. The light makes manifest the deeds of darkness, and the darkness hates it, as Joseph’s Lord was afterwards hated of the world, for He testified that its deeds were evil. And this enmity is only further moved by tokens of the divine favour which are put upon the righteous one. Joseph was a younger son, no way entitled according to the flesh to distinguished favour; yet the Lord marks him out as the appointed heir of blessing and glory, and Joseph speaks of the goodness he had found, and of the high purposes of God concerning him. But his brethren did not care for any divine purpose which interfered with their pride. He might be the one that was to receive the kingdom, but they said, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” As Cain had slain his brother Abel because his own works were evil and his brother’s righteous, so it is now. Joseph’s brethren envy him; and again when in the field together, like another Cain, they take counsel together whether to slay him, to cast him into the pit, or sell him to strangers. And they do sell him for twenty pieces of silver. And they who could thus trespass against their innocent brother’s life, easily deem it a light thing to wound their aged father’s heart. “This have we found,” said they of Joseph’s coat which they sent to Jacob besmeared with blood: “know now whether it be thy son’s coat. or no.” And thus was their offence of high and double bearing — they sinned against their aged father, and their righteous unoffending brother.

In all this we have the stiff-necked and uncircumcised Israel betraying and murdering the just one. His father had sent Joseph to his brethren to enquire after their welfare. But it was not as the bearer of kind tidings that they saw him or received him, but “behold this dreamer cometh.” “Come therefore and let us slay him.” So afterward toward the Greater than Joseph; it was not as the minister of grace and messenger of love, but as the envied Heir of the vineyard that they looked on Him with malicious heart, and said, “come let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours.” His love was refused, and for envy His brethren delivered Him unto death. For His love they were His adversaries. There might be one in the counsel who would plead for the prisoner, as Reuben did, who would not consent to the counsel and deed of them (Luke 23: 51, John 7: 51); but this could prevail nothing. Thirst for blood may yield to covetousness, but the evil heart, in some of its desires against the righteous one, must have its way. For thirty pieces of silver they sold Him to strangers. They crucified Him that was the Father’s elect One, and all His delight. “They pleased not God, and were contrary to all men;” they sinned against God and their brother.

Genesis 38 — This chapter gives us the second part in the history.

The spirit of revelation here interrupts the course of Joseph’s history, in order to give us a view of his brethren during Joseph’s separation from them. And what is the view we get of them here? Just filling up the measure of their sins, making terms with the uncircumcised, and defiling the holy seed.

And so it is now. The holy seed has mingled itself with the seed of men, and all in Israel is corruption and uncleanness. They have profaned the covenant of their fathers’ as Judah here does; and the Lord has been a witness between them, and the wife of their youth. Judah dealt treacherously and profaned the holiness of the Lord, marrying the daughter of a strange god. He wrought lewdness with many, and the holy flesh passed from him. (Jer. 11: 15.) So Israel has played the harlot with many lovers, and is now, while Jesus is separated from them, filling up the measure of their sins.

But while the Spirit of God thus for a moment raises the veil, and we see the abominations that are now done in Israel, we are given also to catch the faint glimpse of distant blessing. Judah is brought to know and confess his sin; the pledges of his full abomination are produced and owned by him in the spirit of a repentant one; and then “mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” Pharez comes forth, and he is the second Jacob, the supplanter, who, in spite of fleshly title in his elder brother, gets the birthright. The kingdom suffers violence at his hand, and he takes it by force. And from this Pharez comes the true Inheritor of the blessing, the righteous Supplanter of every usurper, the one that shall prevail, and whose kingdom shall stand for ever. (Matt. 1: 3.)

Genesis 39 – 41 — These chapters together form the third part in the history.

Here we see Joseph filling up the measure of his sorrow, while his brethren are filling up the measure of their sins. He in exile preserves his purity and separation to God, like a Nazarite purer than snow and whiter than milk, while they at home are defiling the covenant. God is with him, and man against him. He takes his place in the cloud of witnesses, suffering for righteousness’ sake. For conscience toward God he endures grief, suffering wrongfully. But the Lord is still with him. God shows that His covenant was with him, and that in him all the families of the earth should be blessed; for Potiphar first, and then the keeper of the prison, were made to prove this in their own persons. The archers are sorely grieving him, and shooting at him; but his bow abides in strength, and the arms of his hands are made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob. He may be persecuted of men, but God will not forsake him, but give him favour in the sight of strangers in spite of all the dishonour and humiliation to which the wickedness of his kindred and others may reduce him. And all this “affliction of Joseph” is made the discipline of God, Who loved him; for as we read, “the word of God tried him” (Ps. 105: 19). This tribulation under the divine hand was made to work patience, and by it the crown was brightening for him.

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By; J. G. Bellet

 

In earlier parts of the book of Genesis, I have already traced two distinct histories — that of the antediluvian saints, or the times from Adam to Enoch; and that of Noah and of those who followed him, down to the scattering of the nations.

The first of these histories occupies Gen. 1 – 5, the second, Gen. 6 – 11.

In the chapter which follows — Gen. 12 — the story of Abraham begins, and is continued down to Gen. 25. This forms the third portion or section of the book of Genesis, and presents to us a new era in the ways of God. And in all this, I am sure, there is beautiful moral order, and an unfolding of the dispensational wisdom of God. For in these things the heavens and the earth are made, by turns, to take up the wondrous tale of that wisdom, and to rehearse divine mysteries — such mysteries as, “in the fulness of time,” will be accomplished, when, as we know, He shall gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth. Eph. 1: 10.

Adam in innocency was a man of the earth. He had to enjoy it, knowing it all as his, but knowing nothing as his beside. But when he was sent out of Eden, he became a stranger in the earth. He received no commission to improve or furnish it. He had simply to till the ground for a living, and the translation of Enoch tells us, that the destiny and inheritance of that earliest household of God was heavenly.*

*The family of Cain was the contradiction of this, in those antediluvian days. They tilled the ground for something more than livelihood. Their tillage led to the culture and advancement of the world as a system of gain and pleasure. And thus were the two families distinguished — the one was formed by faith, or by obedience to the revelation of God; the other by the despite of it, as the world is to this day.

In Noah, however, in process of time. the purpose of God is different. Noah is a man of the earth again. He leaves the ark in a character very different from that in which Adam had left the garden. Noah left the ark under commission to keep the world in order, as judge and ruler. It was not strangership on it, but citizenship in it, and government of it, that was now again the divine thought. But a second apostasy was witnessed in the midst of Noah’s descendants. In process of time, they affected independency in the earth, casting off the fear of God, and seeking to do for themselves without Him, as Adam had (seeking to be as God) in the garden of old.

Abraham, upon all this, finds grace in the eyes of the Lord. He is called out from this apostate scene; and, as we might expect, from this alternate telling of heavenly and earthly mysteries, after Noah the man of the earth, Abraham is called to be a heavenly man.

The Lord said to him, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house.” This was the character of the call of Abraham. It was not a call from moral pollution, or from idolatry or the like; it was a call from the associations of nature and of the earth. There were idols to be left, I doubt not. See Joshua 24: 2, 3. But it was not the leaving of them that constituted the nature of the call. Yet Abraham, touching the earth, was to be like Adam outside the garden. He leaves Ur of the Chaldees, as Adam left Eden. He received no commission to cultivate the land of Canaan for the Lord, or to conquer and govern the people there. The arrangements of the world were left just as they were. Abraham had nothing to say to the nations through which he passed on his way to Canaan; and when he reached that land, he found the Canaanite there, and there he left him as he found him.

Government had been set up in Noah, and nations had been organized; as natural relationships had been instituted at the beginning, or in Adam. But Abraham is called from all this. God Himself is received by faith; and the things of nature which Adam might have conveyed to him, or the things of government which Noah might have secured to him, are left behind.*

*In their day, Abraham’s seed, or the nation of Israel, are again an earthly people; and they exhibit the very opposite of all this. They smite the nations of Canaan; and instead of being called from kindred and country, they are called to all such things; men, women, children, and even cattle (for not a hoof was to be left behind), journeyed from Egypt to Canaan — from a land of strangers to their own inheritance.

In our patriarch, then, we see the election and the call of God. He was of the corrupt, departed family of man, without a single claim on God. But sovereign grace (in the virtue of which all the redeemed, according to eternal counsel, stand) had made him its object; and under such grace he is, in due time, manifested as a chosen one, and is called of God to be a heavenly stranger in the world. Scripture speaks of him as the father of all them that believe. Rom. 4. We may, therefore, expect to find the life of faith exhibited in him; and so we do find it, as this little book designs to show.

But in this “life of faith” we do not merely look for the principle of dependence on God, or of confidence in Him, though that may be the thought immediately suggested by such words. It signifies much more. It is a life of large and various energies; for according to God, or Scripture, faith is that principle in the soul which not only trusts Him and believes Him; it is also that which apprehends His way, acts in concert with His principles and purposes, receives His promises, enjoys His favour, does His bidding, looks for His kingdom, in His strength gains victories, and by Hs light walks in light; and thus it is ever, though variously, exhibiting a life according to Him, or formed by communion with Him.

All this is strongly marked for our observation.

Heb. 11 shows us all this — the life of faith in its vast diversity of exercise and action. Accordingly, we shall find, in the life of Abraham, occasions where confidence in God was the virtue exercised; occasions, too, where strength was put forth and conflict endured; and again, where surrender of rights and submission to wrongs were the virtues. And the life of faith is beautiful in its variety; for this variety is but the changeful glowing of the same mind, the mind of Christ, in the saint.

But again. We are not to understand that we get nothing else than this light and power of faith in the believer or saint. Perfectness in this variety of the life of faith is not to be found save in Him who is set before us as “the Author and Finisher of faith,” and whose way, from beginning to end, and in every incident of it, was the great exemplar of this life in full unsullied brightness. Still, however, the life of Abraham, or of David, or of Joseph, or of Paul, is to be called the life of faith; for it was the life of those in whom that principle was, though betraying again and again, and that too in different ways, the pravity of nature, the workings of unbelief, and the counsels of a heart prone to converse with flesh and blood, and to take the way of a revolted world.

This life of faith our Abraham entered upon with beautiful simplicity and earnestness. “He went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan he came.” He went out, not knowing whither he went. He took God for his security and his portion; and, as another has said, “it is in this that the Spirit of God rests, as characteristic of his approved faith; for, by separation from the world, on the ground of implicit confidence in God, he lost everything, and got nothing but the word of God.”

We do not like such conditions. The heart resents them; but the renewed mind approves them, and justifies God in them. The sufferings of Christ are first, and then the glories. 1 Peter 1: 11. Job was nearer his good thing in God, when he lay in ashes amid the potsherds, than when he was happy in his nest. Israel did not descend Mount Lebanon, and enter Canaan after a fruitful journey, through a land of cities and villages, and corn and wine, and rivers and vineyards; but they paced it slowly, through one desert after another. And so Abraham was called out from all, to go he knew not whither; but this he knew, that it was God who had called him. And this was faith’s beginning. “He went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan he came.”

He came, however, rather to sojourn than to dwell there. He moves from place to place, and in every place it is but a tent he pitches. He had been told by the God of glory, that the land should be shown him. He should have it in his seed for ever, but in his own person he was but to see it. And, accordingly, we find him surveying it carefully, but not occupying any of it. For this was the right answer of such a promise. He looked on the land, because the promise was that it should be shown him. He went first to Sichem and to the plain of Moreh; from thence, southward, to the neighbourhood of Bethel and Ai. But he was a man of the tent, and of the tent only, wherever he went. The Canaanite was then in the land, and he was the occupier of the soil; and Abraham did not dispute with him for a foot’s breadth of it. He surveyed it, and had such possession of it as faith and hope imparted; but he sought no personal, present inheritance there. The promise lived in his heart, and the promise was his measure as well as his joy. Gen. 12.

Quickly, however, another man in our Abraham is before us; for, like all of us, beloved, he was a man of nature, as he was a man of God; and there is none perfect in the life of faith, as we said before, but the Master Himself. Famine touches the land into which the call of God had brought him. A strange surprise this may well be thought to have been. But faith would have been equal to it. Faith in Paul was equal to a like surprise. Called into Macedonia by the voice of God, a prison awaited him. But Paul stands the shock, though Abraham falls before it. Paul and his companion sing hymns in the prison in Macedonia; but Abraham practises a lie, seeking help from the famine of Canaan in another land, of which his call under the God of glory had made no mention whatever.

Such things have been, and still are, found among the saints. There are “Little Faith” and “Great Heart” among the elect, as well as flesh and spirit — nature and the new mind in each of them. But this we may know: that if nature rule us, nature will expose us. Even the man of the earth, Pharaoh of Egypt, puts Abraham to shame; and his journey, instead of being onward in the witness of his tent and in the joy of his altar, was that of a wearied foot, because it was that of a rebuking heart. He has to “do his first works,” to retrace his steps, and regain his standing — sorrowful works at all times. He has to leave “by-path meadow” for the King’s highway again, betaking himself back from Egypt to the place between Ai and Bethel, where he had raised his altar at the first.

What say we to this, beloved? The flocks got in Egypt accompany him home. The glitter of the gold and the silver — the offerings of a land that lay beyond where the God of glory had called him — adorn and set off his return. All this is so indeed. But what say we to all this? again I ask. Is the bleating and the lowing of such flocks and herds in our ears like the soft music of an approving conscience? or this glittering wealth like the brightness of the divine presence which was now lost to Abraham? I am bold to answer for Abraham, though I may not for myself, that his spirit knew the difference. The wearied heart was but feebly relieved by all that he brought with him from the land of Egypt, or out of the house of Pharaoh. Sure I am of this. It could not but be so with such a man. “He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul,” must have been his experience; and his action in the scene which immediately succeeds, as I judge, tells us something of this.

Lot, his younger brother, or his brother’s son, who had come with him out of Ur into Canaan, now becomes the occasion of trial to Abraham, as the famine had lately been. But faith in Abraham triumphs, I may say, to admiration. The very style in which he gives this trial its answer seems to say, that he will return fourfold to the life of faith for that which nature had so lately, as it were, taken away from it. The herdmen of the two brothers, the elder and the younger, cannot feed their flocks together. They must separate. This was the occasion of trial which had now arisen. But “let Lot choose,” is Abraham’s language. In a fine sense, he will act on the divine oracle, “the elder shall serve the younger.” Lot may choose, and leave Abraham what portion he please. The well-watered plains may be his; Abraham can trust the Lord of the country, though he lose them. He may have to dig wells instead of findingthem; but it is better to dig for them in the strength of God, than to find them in the way of covetousness; better, as it were, to wait for them in Canaan, than to go after them again down to Egypt. Gen. 13.

The Moral Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ

J G Bellett.

Introduction.

It is the Moral Glory, or, as we speak, the character of the Lord Jesus, on which I meditate in these pages. All went up to God as a sacrifice of sweet savour. Every expression of Himself in every measure, however small, and in whatever relationship it was rendered, was incense. In His Person (but surely there only) man was reconciled to God. In Him God recovered His complacency in man, and that too with unspeakable gain; for in Jesus, man is more to God than He would have been in an eternity of Adam innocency.

But in this Meditation on the Moral Glory of the Lord Jesus, it is most surely but a small part of that wondrous subject I affect to have reached. I may give occasion to fruitful thoughts in the souls of others, and that will be good.

The Lord’s Person I assume — God and man in one Christ. His Work I also assume; that suffering service, or blood-shedding, accomplished on the Cross, whereby reconciliation is perfected, and wherein it is preached for the acceptance and joy of faith.

A Short Meditation on the Moral Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“And when any will offer a meat-offering, his offering shall be of fine flour, and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon; and he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests; and he shall take thereout his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.” — Lev. 2: 1, 2.

The glories of the Lord Jesus are threefold — personal, official, and moral. His personal glory He veiled, save where faith discovered it, or an occasion demanded it. His official glory He veiled likewise; He did not walk through the land as either the Divine Son from the bosom of the Father, or as the authoritative Son of David. Such glories were commonly hid, as He passed on in the circumstances of life day by day. But His moral glory could not be hid. He could not be less than perfect in every thing —  it belonged to Him, it was Himself. From its intense excellency, it was too bright for the eye of man; and man was under constant exposure and rebuke from it. But there it shone, whether man could bear it or not. It now illuminates every page of the four evangelists, as it once did every path which the Lord himself trod on this path of ours.

It has been said of the Lord — “His humanity was perfectly natural in its development.” This is very beautiful and true. Luke 2: 52 would verify this. There was nothing of unnatural progress in Him: all was orderly increase. His wisdom kept pace with His stature, or age. He was the child first, then the man. By-and-by, as a man (God’s Man in the world), He will testify of the world that its works are evil, and be hated by it; but as a child (a child after God’s heart, as 1 may say), He will be subject to His parents, and under the law, and as one perfect. In such conditions He grew in favour with God and man.

But though there was progress in Him, as we thus see, there was no cloud, or perversion, or mistake; in this He distinguished Himself from all. His mother pondered things in her heart; but cloud and indistinctness, nay, darkness itself, beset her mind, and the Lord had to say to her, “How is it that ye sought Me?” But with Him, progress was but one form of moral beauty — His growth was orderly and was seasonable; and, I may add, that as “His humanity was perfectly natural in its development,” so was His character entirely human in its expressions: all that displayed it was common to man, as I may say.

He was the tree planted by the rivers of waters  that bringeth forth his fruit in his season (Psalm 1); and all things are only beautiful in their season. The moral glory of the child Jesus “shines in its season and generation; and when He becomes a man, the same glory only gets other seasonable expressions. He knew when to own the claims of His mother, when she made them; when to resist them, though she made them; when to recognize them unsought (Luke 2: 51; Luke 8: 21; John 19: 27). And, as we afterwards track Him, He knew Gethsemane in season, or according to its character; and the Holy Mount in its season, winter and summer, to His spirit. He knew the well of Sychar, and the road which led Him to Jerusalem for the last time. He trod each path, or filled each spot, in that mind that was according to the character it bore under God’s eye. And so on occasions which called for still more energy. If it be the defilement of His Father’s house, He will let zeal consume Him; if it be His own wrong at the hand of some Samaritan villagers, He will suffer it, and pass on.

And all was perfect in its combinations, as well as in its season. He wept as He was reaching the grave of Lazarus, though He knew that He carried life for the dead. He who had just said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” wept. Divine power would leave human sympathies free to take their full course.

And it is assemblage, or combination of virtues, which forms moral glory. He knew, as the apostle speaks, “how to abound and how to be abased;” how to use moments of prosperity, so to call them, and also times of depression. For, in His passage through life, He was introduced to each of these.

Thus, He was introduced for a moment to His glory; and a very bright moment it was. I allude to the transfiguration. He was high in His honours there. As the sun, the source of all brightness, there He shone; and such eminent ones as Moses and Elias are there, taking of His glory from Him, and in it shining with Him. But as He descended the hill, He charged those who had been with Him, “the eye-witnesses of His majesty,” not to speak of it. And when the people, on His reaching the foot of the hill, ran to salute Him (Mark 9: 15), —  His person still reflecting, I believe, though faintly, the glory which it had lately borne, — He does not linger among them to receive their homage, but at once addresses Himself to His common service; for He knew “how to abound.” He was not exalted by His prosperity. He sought not a place among men, but emptied Himself, made Himself of no reputation, quickly veiled the glory that He might be the servant; the girded, not the arrayed One.

And it was thus with Him a second time, after He had become the risen Jesus, as we may see in John 20. He is there in the midst of His disciples, in such a glorious character as man had never borne or witnessed, and never could. He is there as the Conqueror of death, and the Spoiler of the grave. But He is not there — though in such glories — to receive the congratulations of His people, as we speak, and as one naturally would, who was finding Himself returned to the bosom of friends and kinsfolk, after toil, and danger, and victory. Not that He was indifferent to sympathy: He sought it in season, and felt the want of it when He did not get it. But He is now, risen from the dead, in the midst of His disciples, rather as a visitor for a day, than as in a triumph. He is rather teaching them their interest, and not displaying His own, in the great things which had just been accomplished.

This was using a victory indeed, as Abraham knew how to use his victory over the confederate kings, a harder thing, as some have said, than to gain it. This, again, was knowing “how to abound,” how “to be full.”

J. G. Bellet

http://goatfortheoldgoat.com/

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