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“And thou shall call his name JESUS” (Matthew 1:21).

Soon it will be the time for our Christmas programs and celebrations. We will not hold “mass” as the name “Christmas” originally meant in the Romish church. We will use the word uncritically and put new wine in the old bottles; we will celebrate the great mystery of godliness. God is manifested in the flesh, and after the suffering of death was taken up in glory!

Literally, this command to call the child of Mary by the name Jesus, was given to Joseph in a dream at night by the angel of the Lord. Many men and husbands have been confronted with profound and difficult problems which disturb their hearts deeply. The one problem which disturbs a righteous man more than any, would be to be married or betrothed to a faithless wife. It touches the most sacred of all relationships between men—the marriage-tie! Unfaithfulness in this relationship reflects the deeper unfaithfulness toward God as our covenant God. A marriage-breaker is a covenant-breaker and a desecrater of all that is holy. Such we expect from men and women who are profane; who do not distinguish between what is sacred and what is polluted. Such was the problem of Joseph who had betrothed to himself Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The plain fact was that Mary was to have a child, and presently she would be “great with child” (Luke 2:5). Joseph knew that he was not the father of Mary’s child which she carried under her heart. There was only one alternative left, as far as Joseph could reason, and that was that Mary had been unfaithful and had played the harlot, or at least she was guilty of adultery. Joseph was not a man that believed the worst, being subject to morbid suspicions. He loved Mary very much and it pained him, therefore, the more deeply for her sake. He was a just man. He had not known Mary in pre-marital relationship. Mary was, therefore, not that kind of maiden either. As far as Joseph knew she was a virgin, who had never known a man. He also knew that she was a sinner who had need of confessing her sins and to be covered by the blood of sprinkling.

Now his confidence is shattered as far as Mary’s marital integrity was concerned. She was to have a child. Since the world began, no women ever gave birth to a child without the “will of man.” Joseph’s soul was troubled till deep in his slumbering hours at night. He is in need of help and mercy from the Lord. Mary, too, must be protected…and her child! On the pages of history, Jesus must not be known as an illegitimate bastard, nor Mary an adulteress. Joseph was to be the God-appointed “father” of his Son, who is called “Immanuel—God with us!” All must stand forth in spotless beauty of faithfulness, honor and glory. God must intervene to interpret from his own Word of promise what had occurred in Nazareth’s fairest maiden, most blessed among women. Not only must Joseph’s confidence be restored, but it must be brought to that high level of faith in which he will serve the counsel of God willingly. He must, as an act of faith, take Mary to wife fearless of all consequences. He must say: “I believe the Lord’s word.” His faith and confession must be the counterpart of Mary’s resigned faith which answered the angel in Nazareth, “Be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). In that united faith these two, Joseph and Mary, find each other, and they marry in the Lord.

Joseph has a fatherly duty to perform. He must “name” Mary’s child. God had selected the name for his Son in the flesh. The angel had said to Mary, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31). Now the angel says to Joseph that he is to perform that sacred task. He is to circumcise that son on the eighth day. We read, “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcision of the child, he was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:24).

Now for Joseph, this was to be obedience of faith, nothing less. He was to believe that Mary’s condition of being with child was the fulfillment of the word of the prophets, spoken to a very wicked and disobedient king in Israel, Ahab by name. This king was in dire straits at the time that Isaiah spoke this word concerning the “virgin who would be with child” in David’s royal line. Rezin, king of Damascus, and Pekah, king of Samaria, were confederate kings, who had a concerted effort to dethrone the sons of David from the throne in Jerusalem, and to place another on this throne. This would be to nullify the word of Nathan, the prophet to David, that there should not lack a son on David’s throne from David’s loins. These machinations of the wicked the Lord himself would bring to naught. The Lord would fulfill his own word to David by the wonder birth of his only begotten Son from a virgin. It was the “sign” of the virgin which was given to an unbelieving king. The true Israelites clung to this prophetic word concerning the birth of Immanuel, God with us. Joseph was not hearing a strange text recited to him by the angel in his dream at night. It was a word which was well-known and which was the sure word of prophecy, which shines as a light in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star arise in the hearts of the waiting people of God.

These people were waiting for the Redeemer to deliver them from their sins. He looked for the redeemer to come out of Zion. They looked for the fulfillment of the Word which says, “For unto us a child is born, for unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his Name shall be Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” What Israel was waiting for, more than watchmen for the morning light, was now being realized. A child is to be born, a son is to be given, and thou shalt call his name Jesus!

This one and this one only shall save his people from their sins. He will save his “people,” the congregation of God. He will come to save all his people from their sins, both in the Old and New Testaments. Yes, he will save them from their “sins.” He will stand in the midst of the multitude of his people and take all their sins upon himself as the perfect sacrifice. He “shall save” them from their sins. He will fulfill all righteousness.

Take Mary to be thy wife, Joseph. She is not guilty of adultery, but she will be the mother of the Son of God. The Son of God will be born from a woman—seed of the woman is he. In him will all the seed be blessed. For if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

A very rich young Israelite came running to Jesus. We read that Jesus loved this young man. Every word which he spoke to him was infinite love in the form of instruction and correction.

Strange as it may sound, this young man has a troubled soul, a troubled and accusing conscience. He did not yet find rest for his soul. And so he comes running to Jesus, and the question is a very necessary one.

Listen to it, will you my dear young reader?

He asks: “good master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Matthew 19:16Mark 10:17 and Luke 18:18 all record these words. These words must be of extreme importance. The fact is, that that is the question which filled the heart of the great Martin Luther after he became a Monk in the cloister at Erfurt. He went here to find peace of soul in becoming thus, by his efforts, holy enough to be accepted of the holy and righteous and good God. He tried to do this in the way of works. He walked the road of “penance,” “contrition,” “confession,” “absolution.” But he found no forgiveness from God. He did not hear Jesus say “Thy sins have been forgiven thee” (Mark 2:5). He met an angry God, whom he could not really love and adore.

And thus it was with this young man who came to Jesus. Yes, thus it is with every one of us until we rest in the blessed grace of the free gift of the forgiveness of our sins.

This rich young man must find rest for his soul. He must learn that he will not merit, but that he will inherit eternal life. Eternal life is for “heirs” of the promise. And so he must learn to look at all his good works as so much loss and dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. To bring this young man to his spiritual senses, and to the old tried paths, Jesus recites to him the second table of the Law. He recites Commandments 5-9. Thou shalt not commit any sin. Be perfect!

As this young man read this law he said: all these things have I observed from my youth! I have done all this, “Master!” Oh Jesus loved this young man. He reaches out to give him the inheritance of eternal life: faith in Jesus Christ! He shows him in a very pointed and pedagogical way that he does not understand what observing of the law is. He fails to understand that the law is spiritual, holy and good. So he says: one thing thou lackest. Go sell all that thou hast and give it to the poor in love, and come follow me, taking up thy cross for the gospel’s sake, for my sake.

This is a very disappointing an­swer for our sinful flesh!

The young man went away sorrowful. He had been rebuked by the law of God as to its spiritual nature. He had been told in this answer of Jesus what it means that there is only one who is good, that is, God. Let God be true and every man a liar! And this answer of Jesus to the rich young self-righteous man had drawn blood from the disciples of Jesus. Who then can be saved? Who then can inherit eternal life?

No one! There is none that doeth good, no not one! There is none that seeketh after God! God looked down from heaven to see if there were any that understood. And there was none! There is none!

The camel must pass through the eye of the needle! That is easier than for a rich man to inherit eternal life and enter into the kingdom of God.

Luther learned this very profoundly. He saw this in himself and in all his fellow men. His entering into the cloister-life at Erfurt afforded no help; it deepened his problem! Until….

Yes, until he heard the gospel-call: come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28) Then the heavy burden of his sins and guilt was taken from his back. He learned that it is tempting God to try to do what none of the fathers in the Old Testament were even able to do. ( Acts 15) Christ took Luther’s burden. He gave him a new yoke to bear, and a light burden. He gave Luther his prepared righteousness without works of law which he performed. Luther heard the gospel of the glory of the blessed God. He heard the message that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, the lost, the guilty, the filthy sinners, yea godless sinners, who were enemies.

The just shall live by faith!

That is the miracle of grace. Yes, the camel passes through the eye of a needle. A man is born from above. With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible. This is the mystery which the believing saints of all ages experienced, and the angels, which hover over the mercy-seat, wonderingly adore, and seek to look into.

How shall these things be, since I know not a man?

This shall be the wonder of the Incarnation: the Holy Ghost shall come upon you…. Even Elisabeth, who was barren is made alive. For with God, all things are possible!

In the dead bones of the church which seemed to lie dead in Sacerdotal error, God stirred with his Spirit. He stirred up one man: no he stirred up the hearts of all the elect in the Sixteenth Century, and gave them to bewail their sins before God’s face, but now to seek their all, not in an attempted life of good works of merit where they could say “all these things have I kept from my youth.” Perish the thought! Now they come to the blessed “rest” of soul of the justified-sanctified believer, who confesses: I am righteous before God and heir of everlasting life! I am an heir-child of God! Yes, my conscience accuses me that I have kept none of God’s commandments, I have transgressed them all, yea, even now I am still inclined to all evil, I have but a small beginning of the new obedience. But, the blessed rest! God deals with me as if I had never sinned, yea, as if I have kept all of his commandments, since I receive the benefit of his justifying grace with a believing heart!

The Reformation wonder of the sixteenth century was not something new. It was not something which Luther discovered and which was a novel gospel for a Calvin and the reformers. It was simply a return to the call of Jeremiah 6:16: “Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls”!

And then there were ever those of whom it is said that when they heard this message, responded: “We will walk therein.” Luther joined the throng of believers before him. And multitudes have found this way of the Lord, coming to Jesus, our peace. And they sang of this “rest” from pulpits, it was heralded from the housetops, it was written in confessions of the believers, it became once more the clarion call of the gospel preaching, and the keys of the kingdom of heaven opened the doors for every believer unto life, and shut the very doors for unbelievers.

Blessed rest for the weary! Streams of water for the thirsty, the balm of Gilead for all our wounds.

Yes, the camel goes through the eye of the needle. This is no challenge for a Houdini to master. It is the power and wisdom of God!

Such is the very heart of our blessed gospel. It is the pearl of great price. This gospel of grace is entrusted to us as churches. It is entrusted to the minister each Sunday, and to the teachers in our schools, and to the professors in our seminary.

The Reformation is lived over each day and in every life of every believer. He comes from the dead center of “all these things have I done from my youth,” to the cry, Good master what must I do to inherit eternal life? And then, by grace he sees the cross, the merits of Christ, delivered from his sins and raised up again for his justification. And he believes with the heart and confesses with the mouth unto salvation. And so this word is not far from us, it is nigh in our hearts. And then we live reformation life; life out of God!

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  Gal. 6:2

“If there be therefore any consolation (exhortation) in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the  Spirit, of any bowels and mercies; fulfill ye my joy that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”  Phil. 2:1, 2

We have now arrived unto our concluding essay on the fascinating theme:  sympathy-empathy.  As we ponder this deeply, spiritual psychological perfection in God through His Son in the church we are deeply aware that we have by no means exhaustively written.  We have merely pointed out what we consider the basic teachings of Scripture on this matter.  We trust that our readers have noticed we are attempting to trace the sympathy which is present in the hearts of the justified sanctified saints to Christ the Head of the Church and thus to the fountain of life, as we sing our Psalter #94:

“The fountain of eternal life, Is found alone with thee

And in the brightness of Thy light, We clearly light shall see.”

We trust that we have satisfied the request of the Beacon Lights’ staff in having given enough food for reflective thought on this great theme.  It can be further discussed and digested in our churches, societies and homes.  Yes, even in our High Schools.

Hence, we now conclude this short series on a more practical experiential level.

You will have observed I trust, that we captioned this article with two texts from the New Testament Scriptures, to wit, Galatians 6:2 and Philippians 2:1, 2.  In these the Holy Spirit causes Paul as the master builder to place the truth of Christian sympathy firmly and exactly on the Chief Cornerstone, Christ Jesus.  What is the a-b-c in our Christian conduct is that we fulfill the law of Christ!  Take your Bible and read such passages as Matt. 7:12-14; Matt. 22:37-40; John 13:33-35; I John 4:16-21.  In all these passages we see the deep bedded, rock bottom principle of Christian sympathy, yea, empathy for the brother or sister in Christ.

Before we proceed to elicit the relevant instruction from these passages we ought to notice that the terms sympathy and empathy are very closely related in meaning.  They are synonym, are they not?  But we ought also to notice that there is the term antipathy.

Concerning these terms just a few words are in order.  All these terms are of Greek derivation.  In fact they all have in them the term “patheo” to feel, to touch, and in the passive voice to be affected, suffer.  The Greek prepositions “sun” and “em” and “anti” show attitude.  Hence:  sympathy is to suffer, to feel with and empathy to feel in and antipathy to feel against with the intent to oppose or even supplant.

Now in our subject we ought to notice that these Scripture passages deal also with our sinful flesh, which is always anti the work of the Spirit in our hearts (Gal. 5:16, 17) against the Spirit; in fact, it is down against, as is evident from the Greek proposition “kata.”  The flesh lusts against the Spirit!  It is exactly at this point that we need to be exhorted unto the godly walk of Christian sympathy:  to bear each other’s burdens.

There are two things which I would point out to you dear reader.  The first is that we are each to be concerned with our “neighbor” as Jesus points out so rebukingly in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:33:  “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was:  and when he saw him he had compassion (bowels of mercy) on him.”  He did not know this neighbor, but he knew whose neighbor he was!

The second matter which we must take to heart is that although Paul does not designate any particular kind of burden, he does speak of these as being experiences in the life of the fellow saint which is a heavy weight upon the soul of our brother or sister, which indicates that he is in need of our assistance.  It calls for the very best in us, extreme effort on our part, self denial which oozed from our reaching love (I Peter 1:22).  Is this not the deep compassion of Christ as Jesus expresses this in Matt. 11:28-30?  And is such not the implication of Psalm 37:1-11?  Here we are to take up our light cross and follow Jesus, as the Cross-bearer touched with our sinful and awful burden of sin.

Besides, I would point out to you that these manifold burdens of the brother are put in a certain class as the burdens which God in His providential love sends to this brother as he does also to us.  The definite article (ta baree) is very meaningful.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating, it is said.  We are not simply to assist the brother, but we are to make the brother’s quota of burdens our responsibility.

Let us pursue this just a bit.  Let us notice that our bearing of the burdens of the brother is to be a total concern.  It must be a sympathy whereby we too are touched with the feeling of the brother’s weaknesses as he on bended knee seeks to cope with his burdens, be it the physical, mental, psychological or spiritual.  For love of the brother is a spiritual debt.  It is what Paul enjoins in Rom. 13:8:  “Owe no man anything, but to love one another!”  Yes, he that loveth another has fulfilled the law!!  This fulfilling the law is in this case the law of Christ.  It is the law which Christ came to fulfill by His Spirit in our hearts.  It is the law of the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2) which has made us free from the law of sin and death.  Hallelujah, what a liberty!

When Paul writes the fourfold “if” in Phil. 2:1 he is writing about this law of Christ as fulfilled in our heart by the Spirit.  See II Cor. 3:1-3.  If I can appeal to this newness of Christ in you, written not with ink on tables of stone, but written with the Spirit of the living God, then fulfill my joy in that ye be likeminded, all setting your spiritual affections and conscious spiritual endeavors to pay the one debt to your brother, which you pay in the coin of love and still ever owe.  O, blessed obligation of love.  A love debt which will be such that Christ’s law will be our endless blessedness and joy in heaven forever!!

Now if there be that law in your heart, Philippian saints, in which hearts God has begun a good work, then there will be love unbounding.  Yes, that will be the fellowship which the Spirit of Christ has wrought in your hearts, and there will be bowels of mercies.

Without mentioning the term “empathy” a term which the Bible does not employ in sixty six books of the Holy Book, here we see an empathy unlike any other.  Here we in love understand perfectly the heartaches, the sorrows, the disappointments, the pitfalls and the great sins of the saints for we have been there.  Daily we experience them.  And we are not on the outside with the wicked world full of hatred and antipathy toward the struggling saints, but we make, under God, their needs our care.

Here we see the image of God restored in the unborn children of God.  It is an infallible evidence that we are indeed Christ’s disciples.  And all men shall see that we are such.  Our sympathy-empathy is the new commandments of Christ in our heart.

“For in that he himself suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” Heb. 2:18.

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all parts tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”  Heb. 4:15

In our first article we learned that God is the fountain and standard of all sympathy in heaven and on earth.  He is such in His elective love for His people.  It is a very unique and particular compassion of bowels of merciful loving kindness!  It is higher than heaven and deeper than hell, as well as matchless and measureless.  Never can it be comprehended as a glorious virtue of God by us.  We believe with the heart.  We take God at His word!

We will in this installment attempt to learn that this great compassion of God to us is ours in our great high priest in heaven.  Is his NAME not JESUS?  Does this name not mean JEHOVAH saves His people from their sins?

It is a pivotal and basic confession of our faith that the Babe in Bethlehem, lying in a manger, was the eternal Son of God in human flesh!  Have you noticed carefully that in Ques. 29 of the Heidelberg Catechism it is asked, “Why is the Son of God called Jesus” and not why did Mary call her baby boy “Jesus”?  For the angel explained to the shepherds “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  This Jesus was more than “that man of Galilee,” the mere sentimentally sympathetic man.  Here we deal with “God manifested in flesh…preached in the world, taken up in glory” (I Tim. 3:16).  Of this there can be no doubt in the Church of God, which is the pillar and ground of the truth!

There is great instruction for us concerning the sympathy of Jesus, yea, of His ability to succor, to come to us to help in deepest empathy of love.  And this ability Jesus has not simply as an understanding individual among men, but He has this ability as our great High Priest in the temple behind the veil, where He even lived to pray, to intercede for us.

Jesus, our high priest “walked in our shoes.”  No, He did not walk in the experiences merely of all mankind, but He walked in the peculiar temptations which are the lot of God’s people upon whom the Spirit of God rests.  He walked in the theater where there is all the suffering of this present time.  We are assured that all this suffering is not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18).

It was human suffering by a Divine person, by God Himself in our flesh.  This was suffering by the person of the Son in the days of His flesh.  In this suffering He was tempted.  When we inquire most minutely into this compassionate suffering of temptation by JESUS, we learn that in its deepest essence, this was the compassion (suffering with) that mercy which was manifested within the most holy place on the mercy-seat upon the Ark of the Testimony.  It was God meeting us in our sin, guilt and temptations and weaknesses.

There is great instruction for us in the text which we quoted from Heb. 2:18.  There we are told that Jesus, the great High Priest, the captain of our salvation is exceeding able to reach down to our level of temptations.  Our temptations are all connected with sin, with stumbling like that of Peter and David in their darkest hours (II Sam. 11:1ff, and Matt. 26:69-75).  O, awful hours of temptations of the best of the saints.  May we say that Jesus was tempted just as these saints were, and as we are, so that He is able to help us, succor, lift us from the miry morass of sinful lust and set us at liberty with a free and good conscience once again?  I believe that such is the implication and teaching of Heb. 2:17, 18.  Did not Jesus often show fathomless compassion for sinners of the deepest dye?  Did he not eat and drink with publicans and sinners right over the protests of Pharisees and Scribes of His day (Luke 15:1ff; Matt. 11:16-19)?

What a sensitive compassion and empathy is Jesus’ to be sure!

Is it not a fine touch in the KJV translation of Heb. 4:15 where they translate the Greek verb “sympatheesai” (to suffer with) with that matchless:  able to be touched with our infirmities.  Notice that “infirmities” is in the plural.  Many, many are the temptations of but one saint.  O, the manifold temptations of the numberless throng who have their raiment washed in the blood of the Lamb!

Here we have revealed the tender care of the Shepherd of Israel for each bleating sheep, far and near.  High as the heavens and wide as the ocean is the love of our Savior.  What Divine depths of sympathy – empathy.  Small wonder that the Spirit writes through Paul in Ephesians 3:14ff, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.”

In deepest reverence we take off the shoes from our feet and we worship and adore the great compassion of God in JESUS, our High Priest and apostle!

Notice; that this Jesus is made like unto us, his brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.  Yes, in the terrible outcry “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” there is the tempted Savior, tempted as not man, or angel in heaven or hell ever was or shall be!

Here we see the horrible blasphemy of a human “Passionspiel”!  What human mortal ever was thus tempted suffering the agonies of hell for His people?!

But now we take one hard look at who this JESUS is, do we not?  And we learn from the Bible that He is the priest according to the order of Melchizedek, who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him Who was able to save Him from death…though He were a Son, learned He obedience by the things He suffered!  Heb. 5:6-10

He is the Jesus Who came to save His people from their sins, the sympathizing Shepherd of Israel, God and man in one Person.  He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him!  We were saved that we should love as we are loved, and also be touched with the feeling of the infirmities of all the fellow saints in Christ Jesus.

God willing, we shall study that mystery of godliness in our next installment.

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth those that fear Him” Psalm 103:13.

 

Forward:

It is upon the friendly invitation of the Staff of Beacon Lights that I undertake to write a few thoughts on the subject of Christian sympathy-empathy.  I am deeply grateful for this singular privilege to write a few thoughts for the hearts of the readers of this magazine.  It is also, of course, a great responsibility which requires some painstaking searching of the Scriptures on this worthwhile subject.  It touches the lives of all of us.

It is nearly the semi-centennial year of the publication of our little Young People’s publication.  Think of it, people who are seventy years old now were the young people who began the publication of Beacon Lights.  It was the tender mercies of God that made this possible and a reality.  God raised up faithful and trustworthy men and women throughout these years.  Great is and was God’s faithfulness in tender mercies, which are new each morning.

May our paper continue to be a “beacon light” on a candlestick, serving to let the light of the Scriptures shine as a light upon our path and a guide for our youthful, and not so youthful feet.  Such is our earnest prayer.

******

The subject “sympathy” is indeed as interesting as it is important.  It requires a bit of loving sympathy of Christ in our hearts even to discuss the subject in an inspiring and deifying manner.  It is also true that one must have real Christian empathy in our hearts to understand that in this entire question, we must know how to fulfill the law of Christ.  The Bible states this so very simply:  bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).

What comes to mind are the very solemn words uttered by Christ as recorded in Matthew 25:34ff, “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was an hungered and ye gave me meat:  I was thirsty and ye gave me drink:  I was a stranger and ye took me in…And the king shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me….”

Here is a living expression of Christian empathy.  Such was the keynote of the exhortation to Israel concerning their calling to befriend the “strangers” in their midst, as well as the fatherless and widows (Deut. 24:19, 20, 21).  Israel had walked in the shoes of such strangers in the land of Egypt for 400 years!  They could have sympathetic-empathy in their hearts for the needy and the helpless!

At the same time in Israel’s deliverance there is the Divine covenantal-sympathy of Jehovah for His people.  We read in Exodus 3:7 loving, sympathetic words of Jehovah: “And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters:  for I know their sorrows.”

Yes, He came to succor them.  “As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.”

These words, taken from Psalm 103:13 are deeply profound words of truth; they are filled with Divine mysteries of His sovereign love and tender compassion.  Let me say this very reverently.  There was deep pain in the heart of God to see His beloved children languish and suffer under the heel of cruel Pharaoh in relentlessly persecuting His beloved people, who are the apple of His eye!  When He says “I know their sorrows” He tells Moses of the length and breadth, the height and depth of a love which is past all human understanding (Eph. 3:17ff).

What creature, be he angel, Seraphim and Cherubim, or men in all their contemplations, can fathom the ocean of God’s empathy?  We shall see more of this when we study the great high priests, who is ours’ who is not such that he cannot be touched in his heart with the feelings of our frailties and infirmities (Heb. 4:15, 16).

So let us simply in childlike faith listen to God pouring out His heart to Israel in the prophetic promissory Scriptures.  In Isaiah we hear God pouring forth in clear and unmistakable language, yea “in human tongue” his matchless concern for Israel, His church.  We read in Isaiah 41: 13, 14: “For I the LORD thy God will hold (strengthen) thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.  Fear not thou worm, Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”

Here is condescending sympathy.  Here is reassuring promise of mercies, which will redeem Israel from all her sins.  Israel can now cast all her fears away.  The great Redeemer has spoken.  He will surely redeem Israel at the Cross of Calvary as he once brought Israel out of Egypt with His mighty arm.  Hence, fear not thou worm, Jacob-Israel.  I will come down from heaven at the appointed time.  There I will be your Savior.  I shall have Paul an erstwhile persecutor to write the faithful words in II Cor. 5:19-21: “…To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.  Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in God’s stead be ye reconciled to God.  For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

Here is Divine condescending sympathetic love rooted in eternal justice of God.  Mercy and truth kiss each other.  God is for us a righteous God in all His tender love at Calvary.  God made perfect His strength and power in our weakness there.  Yes, He assures Jacob, who is but as a lowly worm, crawling in the dust, saying fear not!

We shall do well to ponder these words with believing hearts.

The entire world of unbelievers also speaks of the notion of “sympathy.”  But they think not the thought of God, but the thoughts of man.  Thus did Peter when he rebuked Jesus for speaking of the necessity that He would die for them in Jerusalem.  The entire world yearns for sympathy, but it is mere human empathy which motivates them!  God is not in all their thoughts.  They are also in this regard walking in horrible darkness and sin; they do not know God in His sympathy, and do not have the faintest notion of the fathomless depths of God’s understanding of the objects of His sovereign love.  This love makes for a divine empathy which there is none greater!  We shall pursue these thoughts still a bit more in depth when we consider the great love, Jesus.

But the import of the great sympathetic love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, we will attempt to show from the Scriptures in our next installment in Beacon Lights.  In the meanwhile I ask the thoughtful reader to reflect on such propositions as:

1.  That the Biblical concept of the sympathetic-empathetic love is a most spiritual one.  The natural man does not understand this great eternal loving attitude of God.  He rather dreams and talks about a love of God apart from Christ, for all men, His is the notion of FATHERHOOD of God for all men, which is, of course, nothing but humanism.

2.  That implied in God’s everlasting, unchangeable sympathy is the truth of God’s eternal election.  God will never and has never cast away His people whom He foreknew (Rom. 11:2).  Such was the assuring word of Samuel to Israel of old (I Sam. 12:20).  And God Himself assures Elijah in Israel’s darkest hour of His elective faithfulness and pity for those who fear Him (I Kings 19:18; Rom. 11:4).

Till next time then.

Neither yield ye your members as instruments [weapons] of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments [weapons] of righteousness to God.  Rom. 6:13

 

It was with pleasure that we accepted the invitation to write a short series of essays on the general subject of what might be called: spiritual sensitiveness, or sensitivity.

The matter to which we shall address ourselves is to the fine spiritual taste of every Christian, man, woman or child, to wit, every reborn, justified and sanctified child of God as he must fight the battle of faith against sin and Satan.

No, we are not speaking here of and to some worldly and unbelieving moralists, who too have an ethic, a sense of right and wrong, the good and the bad. On the contrary we are speaking of Christian people, young and old, who have been baptized into Christ and into all His benefits merited on the Cross and sealed unto us in His resurrection. Yes, we are speaking of and to those who have received from the Lord the earnest of the Spirit of Christ.

Such is our point of departure in these essays.

We make it a point to state this at the very beginning.

We must clearly understand that we are Christians. The Bible never admonishes us to become Christians, to make such a zealous effort. Only a good tree brings forth good fruit, and an evil tree brings forth evil fruit. By the fruit ye shall know the tree, says Jesus. (Matt. 7:16-20; 12:33; Luke 6:43, 44). It must be manifested in our good works that these works are the fruit of the Spirit of Christ in us, the fruits of our efficacious calling and election.

Permit us to state it clearly that we are not called Christians because we perform good works. On the contrary we do good works of gratitude, which are acceptable to God, because we are Christians, the people, who have the anointing of the Holy One. Good works which are well-pleasing to God are only those which proceed from a true faith, and are done according to the commandments of God, and which are to the glory of God’s grace. No, we are not Christians simply because we read our Bible, attend church twice on Sunday, go to catechism, and are enrolled in a Christian School. We must do all these works because we are Christians, who are partakers of Christ by faith and share in Christ’s anointing of the Spirit.

That is the starting-point of all admonitions in the Bible to the members of the church, you and me. Just think that the Bible tells us that the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us. (I Peter 4:14) It is the Spirit of Pentecost, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, so that we are not reprobate, but we are those in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells. We are temples of the Holy Spirit both in body and in soul. Also our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. (I Cor. 6:12-20) Yes, the church is the habitation of God in the Spirit. (Eph. 2:19-22) And we are one of the many members of the body of Christ. (I Cor. 12:13 ff.)

In this church as Christians we are office-bearers. It is the office of all believers: prophets, priests and kings! Perhaps we might properly designate these as: head, heart and hand. This is not at all like the “4 H Club” designation only now a kind of “3 H Club”. No, we are office-bearers in Christ, Who is the Chief Prophet, the only High Priest and the Eternal King. We should bear in mind that in this office we should be diligently and holily occupied as the angels are in heaven, whoever behold our Father’s face!

Our precious Heidelberg Catechism in explaining the name “Christ” speaks of the threefold office of Christ. Corresponding to this office of Christ, and resting upon it, is what the Catechism designates as our office in Christ as Christians.

Let us take particular notice of this for just a moment.

First of all, our being a prophet in Christ’s anointing makes us confessors of our personal, living relationship to Christ, the chief Prophet. As chief prophet, Christ reveals to us the secret counsel of God concerning our redemption. Now this word of the Gospel is within us by faith. We confess that Christ went into the depths of hell for us, and that He now sits as our prophet at the right hand of God. When we confess the truth in Jesus and our living relationship to Christ as branches in the true Vine, then we prophecy, we confess Christ before men. And we must do this in pure doctrine as well as in a godly walk which is based upon this doctrine and which is according to it. This is a solemn and awful and yet glorious reality. Hear Jesus teach: He that confesses with the mouth and believes with the heart, that God raised Jesus from the dead shall be saved. (Rom. 10:9) Did not Jesus, while on earth say, “Everyone therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32, 33)

Yes, it is either- or: false, Christ- denying prophet, or true prophet who confesses Christ before me with a good confession.

Secondly, we are also priests in Christ, the great and only High Priest. He has given his body and soul on the accursed tree for us on the Altar of God. We could quote legions of texts to sustain this. We merely draw attention to Isaiah 53:5 “. . .he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him: and with his stripes we are healed.” (I Peter 2:24-25) Now we too are Christians in this high Priest; we are partakers of his sufferings, and so we in thankfulness in the Holy Spirit by faith present ourselves a living sacrifice of praise to God. Thus, we are in the world, yet not of the world, who are all false priests, in the temple of idols with all its filth and debauchery and spiritual as well as physical fornication.

However, we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light to declare God’s praises as Prophet-priests.

Finally, we are also kings. Christ has so had dominion of sin and death in His death and crucifixion and in His resurrection power, that He is Lord of lords and King of kings. In sharing in His anointing, we too are kings. We thus fight against Satan and all sin with a free and good conscience in this life, and thus afterwards to reign with Christ over all things. Such is the teaching of the Heidelberg Catechism. We read in Rom. 5:17, “for if, by the trespass of one, death reigned through one, much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through one, even Jesus Christ.’’

As Christians we are not interested merely to cleanse the outside of the cup, but we pray, wash me, make me pure “within”, cleanse oh cleanse me from my sin, do we not. When we take serious note of this, it means that we desire to be prophet-priests-kings of God, and thus stand antithetically over against the three-fold enemy, Satan, the world and our own flesh which do not cease to assault us, fight against us, a new man in Christ. So we stand with the antithesis within us. There is the battle-line in the Christian. He has a battle which is wholly different from the battle of the moralist; it is not a matter of improvement on the old, but it is transformation of the mind. All things have become new for us; also the battle is a different battle. It is a battle of the renewed, inward man against sin!

It is the battle of the spiritual man, who has the mind of Christ, as prophet, priest and king!

In this battle our weapons are the “members’’ of our body. Our eyes, ears, hands, feet, tongue, yea, all of our physical body. And these “members” must not be placed in the service of our sinful flesh. They must not be weapons to fight the devil’s cause, but they must be weapons to tight the good fight of faith over against the cause of the devil.

We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling!

We shall do so in the same measure that we are deeply conscious that it is God Who is energizing in us to will and to do in this life and death struggle. We must bear in mind the words of Scripture: “and the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it.” I Thess 5:23, 24.

Taste and see that the LORD Is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him” Ps. 34:8

If so be that ye have tasted that the LORD is good. I Pet. 2:3

 

Taste is a gift of God to man and beast. Each has his own taste. The animals only have physical taste. Man has both a physical and a spiritual taste. Fallen sinful man only has a bad, sinful taste. He cannot taste that the LORD is good. God is distasteful to him. The reborn child of God has a new taste. He has spiritual taste-buds. He is a new creation also in his tasting of the things that differ. He has received a new power to discern.

How are your taste-buds, my youthful friend? Does your taste allow you to approve of any and everything that is put in your mouth? You do not differentiate between the good and the bad food, the bitter and the sweet? Is everything bitter-sweet and sweet- bitter for you? Or is your taste choosy, yes, even hyper-sensitively so?

We use the word “taste” in many different senses in our daily conversation. We categorize and classify people by their taste. We say: his conversation was not in good taste, or she does not dress in good taste. Then taste refers to good or bad spiritual judgment or conduct. Those who conduct themselves in good taste have certain mores or morals, which they live up to, if they are but natural people. Such taste is then acceptable to society without the raising of the eyelids. But this does not yet mean that their taste is spiritually good because it proceeds from a good heart, true faith and a pure conscience.

Permit us one further observation. When we say this food tastes good, we may mean that there is objectively a good taste in the food. Why do apples taste different than peaches, why honey than vinegar? Is it perhaps so that to one honey tastes like vinegar, and to the other vinegar tastes like honey: So that, when one expresses a judgment about food, this is merely a subjective opinion. He should say: it tastes like honey to me. He should not say this honey tastes like good honey ought to taste. There is no objective standard for honey, nor for vinegar, nor for wine. The man who tasted the wine which Jesus made in Cana merely thought that the best wine had been served last. There is no such thing as good or bad wine at all? Or must we say and hold that God put a certain taste in honey, in wine, in vinegar. When Jesus tasted the vinegar-wine, he recognized that it was wine which would deaden physical pain. It was wine and not water. Yes, there is a difference between the bitter water Marah (Exodus 15:23) and the water after it had been made sweet. “Marah” was no mere mirage in the desert.

Yes, taste is in the food, whether it be a good taste or a bad taste. In the real sense taste is not in our tongue; it is with the tongue that we have the sense of taste. Our sense organs place us in a real world which we experience by hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching.

God is real as Creator God!

His creation is real as the expression of the Logos in all things.

Yes, heaven is real and hell is real! Be not deceived!

We wrote two texts above this essay. They are different in viewpoint. In Psalm 34:8 there is a glad exhortation for the church to taste and see that the LORD (Jehovah) is good. In I Peter 2:3 the truth of grace in the hearts of the saints, young and old, is stated as being a present reality in their experiential lives. “If so be that ye have tasted. …” And then it is stated as being the reason why these newborn babes should hunger for the pure milk of the word. They have tasted in this preaching that the Lord is good, and that he is full of kind compassion. They are pilgrims and strangers because they are born again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto a lively hope laid away for them in heaven, uncorruptible, undefilable and that fadeth not away.

Yes, they have tasted that “Jehovah-saves” is God. They were not merely redeemed at Calvary, but they were made alive in Christ, and as newborn babes they had tasted that the Lord is good! And it is fitting for newborn children to drink the reasonable, undefiled milk. This milk has a new “logic” in it. It is the logic of the Cross, resurrection and the hope of glory. It does not have in it the unreasonableness of sin. And so it is expected of children, who have experienced grace to conduct themselves accordingly under the preaching of the Word, in Catechism, Bible Societies and in the Christian School! This holds for young and old. All are “reborn children”. And this we shall remain even in heaven.

In the Old Testament the revealed goodness of the LORD came in the form of God’s great protective love and power and deliverance from the enemies round about Israel. A good case in point is the great deliverance of Elisha at Dothan. Elisha had been surrounded that night by the Syrian armies, who came to take him captive because he was the Lord’s prophet. But upon Elisha’s prayer, God opened the eyes of his servant, to see that they were surrounded by a far greater and more powerful Ally, Jehovah God. The city was surrounded by the Lord. We read “. . . and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha”. Elisha here tasted that Jehovah is good with a protective and saving goodness! It did not require an army of angels to defend and protect Jerusalem in the days of king Hezekiah. We read in II Kings 19:35, “For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake and for David’s sake, And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses”.

Thus it was in God’s miraculous salvation in the time of the Psalmist. Writes he “. . . this poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD (Jesus) encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivered them.” Small wonder that he adds .the glad outcry, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Psalm 34:6-8).

On the New Testament level we see this in a very much greater degree. For the Angel of the Lord’s presence has come. He came as the Angel of the Covenant; He established the New Testament in His blood; He is powerfully revealed to be the Son of God by the resurrection out of the dead. Here too we cry out and say: O taste and see that the Lord Jesus is good. He is helpful in every hour of need. He says, “Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the ages.” Amen

Now if you have tasted that the Lord Jesus is good, and you hear His loving voice say: come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, then you will conduct yourselves very properly toward the pure milk of the word. You will come, you will drink the sure mercies of David. The gospel tastes good. It is a sweet savor to those who are saved. Nor does it lose its savor when preached to those who perish. There are those who perish who have tasted. The Gospel tastes good because our Savior “tasted death” which was of such a nature that the first “taste” made his soul cringe; he was sorrowful unto death. O, the exceeding sorrow which that first taste caused to Jesus’ human soul. Yes, he tasted death that we should never taste death unto eternity. Sometimes, from a natural point of view, the unbelievers taste the heavenly gift, and were even enlightened by the testimony of the Spirit that this is “good”; yea, they tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come — yet they never put off all malice and all guile and hypocrisies, and envies and all evil speakings, so as to grow in spiritual stature, to become matured men and women of God. The milk which they drank never became a part and parcel of their very being, so that they became more and more bone of Christ’s bone, and flesh of His flesh in that holy mystical union of covenant fellowship with the ever blessed God!

No, sugar is sweet, and salt is salty if it has not lost its savor. Taste is in the food, in the milk of the Word. The word never loses its savor unless it is corrupted by adding that which is not milk. It is very important that ministers, teachers, elders keep this in mind. Not every sermon tastes good. There are bad sermons of lying preachers. The sermons will all be burned as so much hay and stubble. There are also poor sermons, which are not based on careful exegesis. Here the Scriptures are sometimes poorly divided. These don’t always taste like the pure milk of the Word. However, when we are very hungry and thirsty for the comfort of the Word we drink every savory morsel, do we not?

May our disappointment at not drinking the pure milk of the Word never be because we have not put off the sins which prevent us from drinking. This raises a question: how do you go to church; what kind of listeners are you and I? Are we such that we have tasted that the Lord is good, and that nothing less or more do we desire than to hear this word with believing ears? We were more than just tasters? We were also eaters, drinkers? We come and heed the call “O all ye that thirst come to the waters” (Is. 55:1).

Then you receive the sure mercies of David, the Better “David”, who is the Christ of God, glorified at God’s right hand.

Do you pray for your minister, teacher, elders, parents that they may feed you with the living Bread, yea, with the pure milk of the Word? You go to church in a very prayerful mood and attitude.

Blessed is he who puts his trust in the LORD while he listens to the Lord speaking in the Gospel! He shall be satisfied, as the poor are satisfied with bread. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing!

“He that hath an ear to hear let him hear that the Spirit saith unto the churches.” [Rev. 2:7; 2:11; 2:17;2:29; 3:6; 3:13; 3:22]

The gift of hearing is from God.

It is a marvelous gift not only to hear sounds, but also to be able to interpret them, and to be able to comprehend the meaning of sounds. God has not only made sounds but he has also made distinctive sounds. We believe that there is such a thing as objective sound in the world, just as there are objective objects which the light rays bring upon the lens of our eyes.

Lights and sounds are not merely subjective in our eyes and in our ears. If this were not true the entire world would be one terrible confused delusion. There would be no revelation from God in creation. The creatures would not be “a most elegant book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are so many characters leading us to contemplate the invisible things of God, namely His power and divinity, as the apostle Paul saith, Rom. 1:20” (Art. II of the Belgic Confession).

If the sounds of God’s creation were not objective, heaven would not be heaven and hell would not be hell; there would be neither objective reality about us, nor would there be reality to the subjective testimony of man’s conscience.

But now there is a depth of arresting grandeur in the words of Him Who walks between the seven candlesticks: he that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches!

The Bible can, therefore, speak of an attentive ear. We must pay attention. It is a debt which we owe to God in the new obedience of faith and love. The disobedient will not hearken, will not be attentive. Sometimes there are parents who are like the foolish father, who would not send his boy to school because he had to pay attention. Perhaps, in all seriousness, this is a very hard debt to pay, unless we love to hear the thing which are said. When the Gospel was preached by Jesus concerning the kingdom of heaven, those who paid attention were those who had a great spiritual need to be fulfilled. They needed to hear concerning the free-grace of God of the forgiveness of sins. And Jesus preached very powerful sermons; He authoritatively preached: come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest! What a message of hope and life! Rest for weary souls! Jesus preached the old and tried way to publicans and sinners!

Do we not read: and there were drawing near to him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him”? Luke 15:1) The hearts of these sinners, by nature unwilling and unable to hear, were made very willing by the Lord Himself. Do we not read “and a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, was hearing, of whom the Lord opened the (her) heart to attend to the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14).

Lydia belonged to those who had an ear to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Such hearing is indicative of spiritual sensitivity.

It is an attentive ear. A gift from God’s grace to the deaf sinner. When Jesus was on earth: the blind received their sight and the deaf were made to hear. Such a hearing ear, a gift of divine grace, we need.

Then we go to church as covenant young people, and we are like the tender youth Samuel in the Tabernacle, who hearing God call to him in the night said: Speak LORD, for thy servant heareth. (I Sam. 3:3-10)

Such who have hearing ears, are taught of God Himself.

When God says in His Decalogue: I am the LORD thy God, Who hath brought you forth from the Egypt of sin, death and hell, from the cruel bondage of death and the grave, do you then also say: I am thy child Father, and we all are Thy children and people, we shall not have other gods before Thee? For when the minister reads the Law on Sunday morning in the divine worship service, and he reads, “Honor thy father and thy mother, that it may go well with thee and thou mayest live long upon the earth” do you pay attention to these words, and reflect upon them and seek to know the implication of these words for yourself and for your spiritual peers? Have you ever taken the Psalter in hand and read attentively, what we read in Question and Answer 104?

There are young people who stand at the death-bed of their father and of their mother. They speak of their thoughtful father, their loving mother, but they never really honored them. They did not obey them in the Lord Jesus. They did not say: Those parents represented the authority of Christ my Lord and my God in my life; hence, their sorrow was only natural. They could not say: I bless the memory of my parents because they never cease to warn and instruct me, neither did they spare the rod to treat me like one would treat a bastard child.

When one has such a wise ear, one has also a reasonable ear. We read “a wise man will hear and will increase learning” (Ps. 1:5). To be a wise man, one tries words. A wise man will be willing to be taught. Jesus says in John 6:45, 46 some very instructive words: “It is written in the prophets, and they shall all be taught of God.” This is a spiritual hearing of the Word. Isaiah predicted some very wonderful blessings: he spoke in glowing terms of the greatness of the children of God in the New Covenant composed of Sarah’s Freeborn Sons. Writes Isaiah in lofty strains, “And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.” Of this Jesus speaks in John 6:45, “everyone that hath heard and hath learned of the Father cometh unto me.”

You learn of the Father from our Lord Jesus Christ!

Then you are coming unto Christ, as did the above mentioned publicans and sinners; yes, then you come unto Him because the heavenly Father has drawn you powerfully in irresistible love. Did not Jesus say to the unbelieving Jews of His day, “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day”. When one is hearing, he knows that he has received, from God the Father, hearing ears. It is given unto him to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, while those who reject the things heard in the Gospel-preaching were not given to know these mysteries!

When we have attentive ears, yea, willing ears, it is because we receive from God grace to observe in ourselves with spiritual joy, the infallible fruits of election pointed out in God’s word. (Canons of Dordt, First Head of Doctrine, Art. 12) Yes, thus we make our calling and election sure! (II Pet. 1:10)

The other side of the coin is what we read in Isaiah 48:8, “Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened, for I knew that thou wouldest deal treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.” Only those whose ears are opened in sovereign grace have ears to hear. These are given the opened, the pierced ears of Christ. This is the hearing of the new man in Christ Jesus into whom we have been ingrafted in sovereign grace.

You go to church, do you not? Do you know that faith cometh through the hearing, and hearing comes by the Word! Not all who heard the very clearly spoken word of the prophet Isaiah believed the things heard. They did not all believe. It seemed to the Christ, in Isaiah 53:1, that nearly no one believed. No man believed “the report”, hearing they heard and did not hear. The more they heard, the less they believed. Yet, faith cometh by truly hearing the Gospel-preaching, and the report comes by the preached words of God (Rom. 10:17).

Catechism time is here again. Society meetings are a weekly experience. We have just heard the Word at the Young People’s Convention. Now be honest: what was the great attraction for you at the Convention? The instruction from the Word of God? If so this means that you really have basically ceased listening to the alluring words which come to you from the world, Satan and from your own sinful flesh.

Yes, the Lord Jesus says: he that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.

To these hearers is given the victory of faith. They overcome the world. And theirs is a reward of grace for works of grace.

  1. They are given to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Rev. 2:7)
  2. They shall not be hurt with second death; they shall not be cast into Hell with the false prophets and with the beast. Yea, they will be given a crown of life, the victor’s laurel! (Rev. 2:10, 11)
  3. It shall be given them to eat of the hidden manna, and will be given a white stone, and in the stone a new name, which no man knoweth saving he who receiveth it (Rev. 2:17).
  4. They shall be given power over the nations. . .to rule with a rod of iron. . .they will be given the morning star (Rev. 2:26-28).
  5. Their name shall not be blotted out of the book of life, but Christ their Saviour shall confess their names before the very angels in heaven (Rev. 3:5).
  6. They will be made a pillar in the temple of Christ’s God, and they shall go out no more; yes, Christ will write upon them the “name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and I will write upon him my new name” (Rev. 3:12).
  7. They will be given to sit with Christ in His throne, even as He overcame, and is now set down with His Father in His throne (Rev. 3:21).

Behold, then, the sevenfold laurel- crown which is set before you to hear the Word of God unto salvation and to reach out for the victor crown, the goal unto which you have been called.

We must not assume the false notion that we have already attained. There is but one thing to do. In the words of the Holy Spirit through Paul we say: I count not that I have already attained, to have fully apprehended that for which I have been apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching out unto those things which are before I press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!

 “He that planteth the ear shall he not hear? He that formed the eye shall He not see?”

Psalm 94:9

Our prayer should daily be “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy word”. (Ps. 119: 18)

I assume that you have more than once considered with awe and holy wonderment what a masterful creation of God your physical eye is. It is not the least of the members of our bodies which God has made fearfully and wonderfully.

We ought to stop and reflect on the many ways in which we in our daily speech say different things about our eyes. Do we not speak of beautiful eyes of a Rachel in distinction from Leah who was not so attractive, whereas she was tender eyed and was not beautiful and well favored. (Gen. 29:16) We speak of appealing eyes, downcast eyes, uplifted eyes, tearful eyes, pleading eyes, mocking and reproachful eyes, searching eyes, hopeful eyes. Yes, our eyes are perhaps the most beautiful part of our face. When we die, we have breaking eyes. The last rays of the light of the sun have been then reflected in these eyes. They are then not merely dimmed by reason of old age, but they are like shattered mirrors which cannot be repaired.

And to think that the Lord who made the eye could and did make our eye because God is a seeing God. Yes, He that formed the eye shall He not see? It was really because of these all seeing and penetrating eyes of God into the very conscience of Adam and Eve which caused them to hide in the garden. We read of God’s eyes as well as those of the glorified Christ that they are like “flames of fire” (Rev. 1:14: 2:18). God is too pure of eyes to behold evil and He cannot look on perverseness when evil men persecute the righteous (Hab. 1:13).

He that formed the eye, shall He also in his vision. It must be the not see? All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do: there is no creature that is not manifest in His sight. (Heb. 4:13). For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and His ear is open to their cry.  And God looks in his servants to find them faithful.

The Bible speaks of a good, single eye, and of an evil eye.

The good eye is also called the single eye by Jesus Himself, and this single eye is connected with a pure heart. Out of the heart are the issues of life. This good heart loves that which is pure and good and noble, and directs the eyes to that which is good. On the other hand, an evil eye is connected with an evil heart. That which comes forth from an evil eye defiles the whole man. We have but to think of the evil eye of “the woman”, later called Eve, who being tempted by Satan, the Old Serpent, in her heart, looked upon the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Thus through the evil eye of lust the flood-gates of wickedness corrupted Adam and in him the entire human race (Rom. 5:12).

This brings us to the point of the sanctified use of our eyes.

Yes, this refers to our eyes in the life of true faith and of conversion.

Our eyes should ever be upon the Lord. The Lord’s eyes should ever catch our eyes and bring us to attention. We are to be attentive to the Lord’s ways —also with our eyes. Here it will no longer be true that the eye is not satisfied by seeing. The eyes of the ungodly unbelievers are not satisfied. Nothing that he sees satisfies his soul in which God has placed eternity. Man cannot rest save that he rests in God – also in his vision. It must be the everlasting Visio Dei! Apart from seeing God in all things man is caught up in the vanity of vanities. His eyes must then be satisfied with the nameless emptiness of life, and the deep void in his heart must be filled with the dregs of life. These dregs are the dregs of the cup of God’s wrath upon all life. Not so it is with those whose eyes are lifted up to the LORD in earnest expectation.

Such saints live in the hope of one day seeing God.

They have received eyes to see, just as they have received ears to hear.

Now Satan, the world and our own flesh do not cease to assault us. They are our incessant and mortal enemies as long as we are in this flesh. And ever Satan would tempt us to sin. And we need daily and fervently to pray: lead me not into temptation. We need to be spiritually sensitive to distinguish that which is good from that which is evil and sinful. Paul does not say for nought in Phil. 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report (gracious); if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, these things consider.”

Consider this each moment of the day and of the night.

Then we say with Job “I have made covenant with mine eyes, how then should I look upon a virgin?” (Job 31:1). However, the saints all stumble and fall and then later to weep bitterly in heartfelt sorrow. O awful hour of temptation for David, when upon arising from his bed at eventide, and walking upon the roof of his house, he saw a woman bathing, Bathsheba, a woman very beautiful to look upon. There he fell and a dagger was thrust through his heart. It was the law of sin in David’s members, warring against the law of his mind and bringing him into subjection. (Rom. 7:22).

Tell me my youthful friend, yea also more elderly friend, have you made a covenant with your eyes!?

Do you, do I take seriously the Word of God in I John 2:15-17? You have meditated on the words “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him’’, and then you read on and pondered prayerfully the words “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the vainglory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world’’?

Lust of the eyes the Scriptures speak of. These are really identical with lust of the flesh. They are closely associated with the vainglory of our biological life. You like to buy a new car? Your car dealer, if he is a man of the “lust of the flesh”, will try to allure you to buy the car with the association of scantily clad girls. The whole world of advertising is permeated with this lust of the eye. And they need an eye-catcher. They know what makes the lustful eye click! It is called the psychology of advertising. It appeals to the evil eye of natural man, and to the evil eye of the flesh of God’s people in which there dwells no good thing.

But this is not the bottom-line in the born again child of God, who is converted from sin, called from darkness into God’s marvelous light. He has a delight in the law of God after the inward man. He has died unto sin, all sin. He hates sin and loves God. He hopes to one day see God face to face. And John tells us that everyone who has this hope to see God purified himself as God is pure. And this purifying is a life-long struggle. And it requires constant prayer for the gift of the sanctifying Spirit of Christ in our hearts.

Such is the spiritually sensitive Christian!

What do you read by way of magazines? Yesterday, while at the church watering newly planted bushes, my companion picked up a pornographic magazine. I have the reason of love to believe that this could not have been thrown under the trees by any member of our church, whether older or younger. It was promptly destroyed as being unfit for the single eye! Do we do that too in avoiding the evil theater, the filthy pictures whether in an outdoor theater, or on the pictures shown on the television. Do we feast our eyes on lustful magazines? Surely, these things do not belong to what the Bible calls: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, etc. do they?

Shall He that formed the eye not see, and behold and try even our thoughts and the secrets within?

One day we do hope to see God face to face in the face of Jesus Christ. It is then that we will have our glorified bodies. And our eye shall be then as pure as the eyes of Jesus who was holy, harmless, undefiled and separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.

Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.

Let us sing in sincerity of heart,

“When I in righteousness at last, Thy glorious face shall see. To view the glories that abide, then, then I shall be satisfied.”

Psalter No. 32.

“Neither yield ye your members as instruments [weapons] of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments [weapons] of righteousness to God.” Rom. 6:13

It was with pleasure that we accepted the invitation to write a short series of essays on the general subject of what might be called: spiritual sensitiveness, or sensitivity.

The matter to which we shall address ourselves is to the fine spiritual taste of every Christian, man, woman or child, to wit, every reborn, justified and sanctified child of God as he must fight the battle of faith against sin and Satan.

No, we are not speaking here of and to some worldly and unbelieving moralists. who too have an ethic, a sense of right and wrong, the good and the bad. On the contrary we are speaking of Christian people, young and old, who have been baptized into Christ and into all His benefits merited on the Cross and sealed unto us in His resurrection. Yes, we are speaking of and to those who have received from the Lord the earnest of the Spirit of Christ.

Such is our point of departure in these essays.

We make it a point to state this at the very beginning.

We must clearly understand that we are Christians. The Bible never admonishes us to become Christians, to make such a zealous effort. Only a good tree brings forth good fruit, and an evil tree brings forth evil fruit. By the fruit ye shall know the tree, says Jesus. (Matt. 7: 16-20; 12:33; Luke 6:43, 44). It must be manifested in our good works that these works are the fruit of the Spirit of Christ in us, the fruits of our efficacious calling and election.

Permit us to state it clearly that we are not called Christians because we perform good works. On the contrary we do good works of gratitude, which are acceptable to God, because we are Christians, the people, who have the anointing of the Holy One. Good works which are well-pleasing to God are only those which proceed from a true faith, and are done according to the commandments of God, and which are to the glory of God’s grace. No, we are not Christians simply because we read our Bible, attend church twice on Sunday, go to catechism, and are enrolled in a Christian School. We must do all these works because we are Christians, who are partakers of Christ by faith and share in Christ’s anointing of the Spirit.

That is the starting-point of all admonitions in the Bible to the members of the church, you and me. Just think that the Bible tells us that the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us. (I Peter 4:14) It is the Spirit of Pentecost, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, so that we are not reprobate, but we are those in whom the Spirit of Christ dwells.  We are temples of the Holy Spirit both in body and in soul.  Also, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  (I Cor. 6:12-20). Yes, the church is the habitation of God in the Spirit.  (Eph. 2: 19-22).  And we are one of the many members of the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13 ff).

In this church as Christians we are office-bearers.  It is the office of all believers: prophets, priests and kings!  Perhaps we might properly designate these as: head, heart and hand.  This is not at all like the “4H Club” designation only now a kind of “3H Club”.  No, we are office-bearers in Christ, Who is the Chief Prophet, the only High Priest and the Eternal King.  We should bear in mind that in this office we should be diligently and holily occupied as the angels are in heaven, whoever behold our Father’s face!

Our precious Heidelberg Catechism in explaining the name “Christ” speaks of the threefold office of Christ.  Corresponding to this office of Christ, and resting upon it, is what the Catechism designates as our office in Christ as Christians.

Let us take particular notice of this for just a moment.

First of all, our being a prophet in Christ’s anointing makes us confessors of our personal, living relationship to Christ, the chief Prophet.  As chief prophet, Christ reveals to us the secret counsel of God concerning our redemption.  Now this word of the Gospel is within us by faith.  We confess that Christ went into the depths of hell for us, and that He now sits as our prophet at the right hand of God.  When we confess the truth in Jesus and our living relationship to Christ as branches in the true Vine, then we prophecy, we confess Christ before men.  And we must do this in pure doctrine as well as in a godly walk which is based upon this doctrine and which is according to it.  This is a solemn and awful and yet glorious reality.  Here Jesus teach:  He that confesses with the mouth and believes with the heart, that God raised Jesus from the dead shall be saved (Rom 10:9).  Did not Jesus, while on earth say, “Everyone therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father who is in heaven.  But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.”  (Matt 10: 32, 33).

Yes, it is either – or:  false, Christ-denying prophet, or true prophet who confesses Christ before me with a good confession.

Secondly, we are also priests in Christ, the great and only High Priest.  He has given his body and soul on the accursed tree for us on the Altar of God.  We could quote legions of texts to sustain this.  We merely draw attention to Isaiah 53:5 “… he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him: and with his stripes we are healed.”  (I Peter 2:24-25).  Now we too are Christians in this high Priest: we are partakers of his sufferings, and so we in thankfulness in the Holy Spirit by faith present ourselves a living sacrifice of praise to God.  Thus we are in the world, yet not of the world, who are all false priests, in the temple of idols with all its filth and debauchery and spiritual as well as physical fornication.

However, we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light to declare God’s praises as Prophet-priests.

Finally, we are also kings. Christ has so had dominion of sin and death in His death and crucifixion and in His resurrection power, that He is Lord of lords and King of kings. In sharing in His anointing, we too are kings. We thus fight against Satan and all sin with a free and good conscience in this life, and thus afterwards to reign with Christ over all things. Such is the teaching of the Heidelberg Catechism. We read in Rom. 5:17, “for if, by the trespass of one, death reigned through one, much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through one, even Jesus Christ.”

As Christians we are not interested merely to cleanse the outside of the cup, but we pray, wash me, make me pure “within”, cleanse oh cleanse me from my sin, do we not. When we take serious note of this, it means that we desire to be prophet-priests-kings of God, and thus stand antithetically over against the three-fold enemy, Satan, the world and our own flesh which do not cease to assault us, fight against us, a new man in Christ. So we stand with the antithesis within us. There is the battle-line in the Christian. He has a battle which is wholly different from the battle of the moralist; it is not a matter of improvement on the old, but it is transformation of the mind. All things have become new for us; also the battle is a different battle. It is a battle of the renewed, inward man against sin!

It is the battle of the spiritual man, who has the mind of Christ, as prophet, priest and king!

In this battle our weapons are the “members” of our body. Our eyes, ears, hands, feet, tongue, yea, all of our physical body. And these “members” must not be placed in the service of our sinful flesh. They must not be weapons to fight the devil’s cause, but they must be weapons to fight the good fight of faith over against the cause of the devil.

We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling!

We shall do so in the same measure that we are deeply conscious that it is God Who is energizing in us to will and to do in this life and death struggle. We must bear in mind the words of Scripture: “and the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it.” I Thess 5:23, 24.

The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

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This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

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Author Interview: “Through Many Dangers”

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