Ecclesiastes 5: 15
2 Corinthians 4: 17
1 Peter 3: 4
You might think the scripture in Ecclesiastes is an unusual one to read at a ministry meeting but we had it this morning in our household reading. It, of course, carries with it a sober reminder that death brings to an end everything that is of nature and material. Paul, in writing to Timothy, says, “For we have brought nothing into the world: it is manifest that neither can we carry anything out”, 1 Tim 6: 7. But it occurred to me, as the day proceeded, that morally and spiritually, the believer does carry something out of this world, and I thought these two scriptures in some sense illustrate that: first, “an eternal weight of glory”, and then what has been formed in a believer’s spirit, described in 1 Peter as “the incorruptible ornament of a meek and quiet spirit”. What is incorruptible will go over into eternity. The believer has that assurance as “being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible”, 1 Pet 1: 23. That is what we are.
Our brother has referred to what is substantial as seen in a believer’s life. God looks for that, and it comes out early in the Scriptures, even in relation to creation. There is a remarkable passage in Genesis 2 where Moses, in reciting the history of creation, says that God created the heavens and the earth, “and every shrub of the field before it was in the earth”. That is, the potential of every shrub of the field was in the divine mind. Then it goes on to say, “and every herb of the field before it grew”, v 4, 5. God made it before it grew, an extraordinary thing, suggesting that He had in mind, even in relation to the creation, the formation and development of something substantial for His pleasure and for His glory. So we sang in our hymn,
As Thine Thou didst foreknow us
From all eternity;
“Because whom he has foreknown, he has also predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son”, Rom 8: 29. God, in eternity past, was looking forward, in His wonderful foreknowledge of each of us, to our response to the overtures of divine grace, having in mind that, as formed in the divine nature, we might for all eternity be “conformed to the image of his Son”. How very wonderful that is! So also, in relation to the assembly, as the psalm brings that out, “Thine eyes did see my unformed substance, and in thy book all my members” - not ’are written’ but - “were written”, Ps 139: 16. God was anticipating the wonderful vessel which would emerge substantially through the death of Christ. How blessed to think of all that entering into God’s mind as He looked down through the dispensations to a day when there would be a great revenue for His own glory and for His pleasure.
This scripture in Corinthians speaks about an eternal weight of glory: “For our momentary and light affliction works for us in surpassing measure an eternal weight of glory”. The sorrows and afflictions of the present time are not for nought. God weighs in the divine balances all the griefs and all the trials through which His people pass, and what emerges is something glorious, an eternal weight of glory. What is wrought out in time becomes morally substantial in our souls and is carried forward into eternity. The eternal weight of glory will doubtless enter into the fabric of the holy city. It comes “down out of the heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband”, Rev 21: 2. How fine to be assured that what is wrought out substantially in the souls of the saints in time will be expressed eternally in the holy city. Interestingly, the greater house in Solomon’s temple was boarded with cypress wood but it was overlaid with fine gold, and Scripture adds that delightful touch, that it was the gold of Parvaim, 2 Chron 3: 5, 6. There was something distinctive and special about the gold, as the product of divine workmanship. Then it says “the weight of the nails was fifty shekels of gold”, v 9. You think of each saint contributing to the establishment of God’s house in that wonderful way. What delight to heaven to fasten in these nails. We thought last night in the prayer meeting of the “nail in a sure place”, Isa 22: 23. Surely that refers to our Lord Jesus Christ, the One who has accomplished everything for His God and Father’s pleasure. But the emphasis in 2 Chronicles is on the weight and quality of the nails, blessed tribute to God’s own work in the saints. What a comfort it is that our momentary and light affliction produces such an outcome. The second epistle to the Corinthians gives us some insight into what Paul himself endured. In chapter 4, he says “seeing no apparent issue, but our way not entirely shut up; persecuted, but not abandoned; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body”, v 8-10. Then in chapter 6, he writes, “in much endurance, in afflictions, in necessities, in straits, in stripes, in prisons, in riots, in labours, in watchings, in fastings, in pureness, in knowledge, in longsuffering”, v 4-6. These things entered into the life of the great apostle; yet he characterises it all as “our momentary and light affliction works for us in surpassing measure an eternal weight of glory”. In Daniel’s time, the king was weighed in the balances and found wanting (chap 5: 27) - sharp contrast to an eternal weight of glory! Everything through which we pass is weighed in the divine scales, and what there will be found is an eternal weight of glory, which will be for God’s eternal pleasure. So we have this treasure in earthen vessels. These earthen vessels, of course, will one day perish and yet, within them, there is something very valuable. How fine that within these frail, mortal bodies a formative work is proceeding to produce this treasure, which will be for God’s glory eternally.
The epistle to the Colossians gives us some insight into how this treasure is acquired. It says: “bearing fruit in every good work, and growing by the true knowledge of God”, chap 1: 10. But then too, “seek the things which are above, where the Christ is”, and “have your mind on the things that are above”, Col 3: 1, 2. All these things enter into a believer’s life and the outcome is the production of treasure. It requires application, and developing our links with divine Persons. It requires studying the holy Scriptures. There is a great need for young people to acquire an intimate knowledge of the Bible because Satan can use the Scriptures for his own ends. He may misquote them, or give them an inflection which is not quite accurate. So Proverbs says in relation to wisdom, “they that seek me early shall find me”, chap 8: 17. “Durable wealth” is also hers, v 18. There is ”the knowledge that cometh of reflection”, v 12. Then there is the promise “that I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasuries”, v 21. How good to think of the wisdom of God, filling our spiritual treasuries; so that there is this treasure in earthen vessels. Though the earthen vessel will disintegrate in the dissolution of the mortal body, the treasure in it will go through to eternity as forming part of the eternal weight of glory. In Solomon’s temple there were precious stones, 1 Chron 29: 2. These reflect, no doubt, the special handiwork of the Lord Jesus in an individual, formed in time, each one radiating a feature of His glory and shining as a precious stone in God’s house.
We feel deeply the many sorrows and griefs which beset the people of God, but how very encouraging that whatever the exercises we are caused to pass through, they will eventuate, as part of “an eternal weight of glory”.
In Peter it says, “but the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible ornament of a meek and quiet spirit”. How easily our spirits are ruffled. Naaman “went away in a rage”, 2 Kings 5: 12. It would be a terrible affront to the Spirit of God if any brother or sister went away in a rage, or became enraged. We have the Spirit of God to help us exercise self-control. Then, too, as having Christ as “the hidden man of the heart”, we would be helped in our spirits. The spirit of a believer is a very precious thing. Of course, it was distinctive and unique in the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus was His own spirit, and yet as in Manhood, He was really Man, see JT vol 48 p183. On the cross He committed His spirit - that spirit so precious - to the Father, Luke 23: 48. He died. He actually went into death. His body was placed in the grave. ‘His spirit was Himself, but as Man and without His body, He went to paradise, and so opened up the place for man; the saved thief would be with Him there’ (JT vol 17: p13): “To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise”, v 43. These things bring out our adoration in the contemplation of the greatness of our Lord Jesus. We, of course, receive our spirits from God and our spirit returns to God. Ecclesiastes says, “Who knoweth the spirit of the children of men? Doth it go upwards? and the spirit of the beasts, doth it go downwards to the earth?”, chap 3: 21. Our spirits are what we really are. God forms the spirit. Zechariah tells us that that God “formeth the spirit of man within him”, chap 12: 1. God has to do with our spirits. Our spirit is, as it were, our identity. The new birth changes it, but it is still my identity. So Caleb was a man of “another spirit”, Num 14: 24. He will be readily identifiable in a coming day! There he was at the end of his pathway saying, “I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still this day strong”, Josh 14: 10, 11. What an eternal weight of glory Caleb would have acquired when you think of his life and his faithfulness to God. With Joshua, he brought back a true report of the land. A wonderful warrior he clearly was but, too, he was a man acquainted with the land. His strength to continue all these years was no doubt maintained from his experience of the land. Christ typically was for him the Man of the heart. His life was where Christ is. He had his eyes on the things which are above. And what did he ask for? He asked for “this mountain”, v 12. He was given Hebron. Hebron was built before Zoan in Egypt: he was looking beyond this world, Num 13: 22. These are the characteristics and interests of a man of a different spirit, and what is formed spiritually as a result goes through. Then one thinks of Stephen and how he followed in the steps of his Lord. As his breath was departing and these wicked men were casting stones so cruelly, he says, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”, Acts 7: 60. That was a man of another spirit, a man who had imbibed the spirit of his Master. Such a spirit will shine as an ornament and as a precious stone in the coming day, as God displays what in His sight “is of great price”. With what happy acceptance the Lord Jesus would receive that precious spirit. There it is in His custody until that great day when the dead in Christ shall rise to meet Him in the air. He could say, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”. Could we all say that? It is very testing thing. Are our spirits such that they could be received at any moment, with entire satisfaction by the Lord Jesus Himself?
These are things that go through. Naked we came into the world, naked, materially and naturally, men will go out from it. But for the believer, there is something very precious that is carried over into eternity: an eternal weight of glory, born of the afflictions and sorrows through which he passes on the wilderness journey; and then, too, this precious reference to the spirit, “the incorruptible ornament of a meek and quiet spirit”. It will shine eternally. It will shine in the holy city like a precious jewel.
May we be encouraged by these things for His Name’s sake.
23rd October 2012