Psalm 118: 27
I will possibly read some other scriptures later but I was thinking, beloved friends and brethren, of the thought of committal and sacrifice, particularly as it relates to us as individuals. We have spoken much in the reading as to our households, the need for control and rule and headship. I was thinking of two things:
– First, that what we offer, what we
sacrifice, should be irrevocable –
“bind the sacrifice with cords”;
so you do not take it off the altar:
it is irrevocable.
– And, secondly, I was thinking
that in Christianity there should
be something of the spirit of excess;
so it says, “up to the horns of the altar”.
The divine intent, and my simple desire, would be to occupy each of our hearts with the Lord Jesus. This would be the purpose in ministry, I think, to draw the saints, draw each of our hearts, to Him. I suppose as we think of the altar we think of Him; typically the altar speaks to us of Christ. We can read of the pattern given to Moses: the altar, the altar of burnt offering, the brazen altar. How it would speak to our hearts of the Lord Jesus and the way He was prepared to suffer, the way He was prepared to go the whole way, the way He was irrevocably bound to the will and to the pleasure of His God and Father: “bind the sacrifice with cords”. Think of the way that the Lord Jesus moved in devotion to the will of the Father: unswerving devotion, unswerving obedience. We spoke about the enemy being a defeated foe, and we sometimes say he was defeated at the cross, but I wonder if he was defeated in Gethsemane. He realised, I think, at that point that he was defeated when - as we understand - he brought all his armour, all his weapons, all his forces, all his agencies to bear on the Lord Jesus. He had tried already in the wilderness with all the temptations, all those things that you and I are so susceptible to: the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, the lust of the eyes. He uses these things because there is something in each of us that answers to them, but he found nothing in the Lord Jesus but perfect subjection, submission, obedience to the will of His God and Father, and to the words of scripture - “It is written”, Matt 4: 4. The Lord Jesus said three times, “It is written”. Think of that, perfect manhood; and then we are taught that, in Gethsemane, the devil came back. It says he “departed from him for a time”, Luke 4: 13. He came back in Gethsemane to seek to deflect the Lord Jesus from following the will of the Father, but I think it has been said that, at that very moment, the thought of His victory rose in the heart of Christ, JT vol 3 p453. He could say those words: “but then, not my will, but thine be done”, Luke 22: 42. I think the enemy realised at that point that he was defeated. It did not stop him continuing his attack, using the hatred of man and the malice of man and all his forces against Him to take Him to the cross, but Jesus went that way as bound, bound with cords, the sacrifice bound with cords of love, I suppose. We read of that, “bands of a man, with cords of love”, Hos 11: 4: seen perfectly in the Lord Jesus Himself; and it says, “up to the horns of the altar”. Jesus went all the way.
I suppose in His life here what was seen was excess in every way. John says, “of his fulness we all have received, and grace upon grace”, chap 1: 16. He could have just said “grace”, but it is “grace upon grace”, as it has been said like the waves in the ocean, never ending, JT vol 85 p90. What excess was seen in the life of the Lord Jesus, and then as He went to Calvary. He went all the way. The apostle says, “obedient even unto death”, Phil 2: 8. He did not stop there: it says, “and that the death of the cross”: I think that is “up to the horns of the altar”. What power there was with the Lord Jesus as He moved into death. The psalmist says, “What ailed thee, thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou turnedst back?”, Ps 114: 5. The horns of the altar speak to us of power, the power there was in that blessed Man to fulfil and complete the whole will of God. We have spoken of His almighty power, what was needed to complete and fulfil the will of God, and it was done in perfection by the Lord Jesus, and as I have said, the sacrifice was bound. We can read in the Old Testament of Abraham and Isaac; it says, “he bound Isaac”, Gen 22: 9; he bound him and laid him on the wood. There was no resistance. In that sense, Jesus did not need to be bound physically, although they did bind Him, and they led Him out. Think of that; they led Him out to the cross, held there, not only by the nails, but by His love for you and His love for me. I trust each of us knows something of the love of Jesus in that way. Paul says, “the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me”, Gal 2: 20. “Jehovah is God”; think of that, the Lord Jehovah is God. The Lord Jesus is the Son of God in His Person, “over all, God blessed forever” (Rom 9: 5), and yet He became a Man; He came into the very creation that His hands had made in order that He might die on Calvary’s cross for you and for me. The blood was put on the horns, was it not? The blood was put on the horns of the altar when the sacrifice was made. What wonderful incense arose at Calvary for God Himself. It says, “Jehovah smelled the sweet odour”, when Noah sacrificed, Gen 8: 21. Think of God smelling: it is an active thought, not just that He smelt it but He smelled; what wonderful savour there was to the blessed God Himself as Jesus, even as having been forsaken, cried those words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, Matt 27: 46. I think we see the spirit of sacrifice and the spirit of committal fully, indeed to excess, in the Lord Jesus Himself.
I thought to read of the Hebrew bondman: may we turn to Exodus 21? The law had been given, and Israel in the flesh was incapable of keeping the law; and immediately we get “the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy a Hebrew bondman, six years shall he serve; and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in alone, he shall go out alone: if he had a wife, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. But if the bondman shall say distinctly,” (that is, “bind the sacrifice with cords”) “I love my master, my wife, and my children, I will not go free; then his master shall bring him before the judges, and shall bring him to the door, or to the door-post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl” (that is, “up to the horns of the altar”), v 2-6. Think of the excess seen in the Lord Jesus: “his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall be his bondman for ever”. He became “obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross”. And He is still serving, He is still serving in love, serving you, serving me on high, our great High Priest. What wonderful perfection, what wonderful support we see in the intercessory service of the Lord Jesus on high. It says, “and he hath given us light”. What light there is in the Christian’s soul as he comes to accept Jesus as Saviour. We realise the way He has gone for us in love, love to His God and Father, ascending love I think it has been spoken of; then horizontal love - his wife; and down-stooping love - the children “which God has given me”, Heb 2: 13. His love endures to the end, ‘Christ never gives up the service’, one has said, ‘for He never gives up the love’, JND Collected Writings vol 27 p189. Think of the perfection of the Lord Jesus. Might it touch our hearts, beloved brethren, to commit ourselves to Him, make that sacrifice, as it were to bind it with cords irrevocably, and to “bind it up to the horns of the altar”, so that in our pathway here there is something seen, perhaps of what marked the Lord Jesus when He was here. It can only be love for Him: only that can be the lever, the only motive in our souls to go this way, to follow Him, follow in His steps. We mentioned in the reading, that he was One “who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth”; who, “when suffering, threatened not; but gave Himself over into the hands of him who judges righteously; who himself bore our sins in his body on the tree”, 1 Pet 2: 22-24. What a Man He is, a Man who was prepared to sacrifice Himself, give Himself over irrevocably to the will of His God and Father, even though it meant suffering and death. Now how about you and how about me?
We have read about the Hebrew bondman, typically the Lord Jesus who went that way not on His own account but for others, but I thought about Ruth, and her wonderful committal in chapter 1. It says of Ruth and Orpah, “they lifted up their voice and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clave to her”, v 14. Ruth bound the sacrifice with cords; she clave to Naomi. Naturally there was nothing attractive about Naomi I suppose, a poor widow woman. She speaks of having gone out full and she says, “the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and Jehovah has brought me home again empty”, Ruth 1: 20-21. She had, I think, a sense in her soul that, “Jehovah is God, and He hath given us light”; she heard that He had visited His people to give them bread (v 6), and she was going back; and she tells her daughters-in-law to go back to Moab. ’Go back to a life of ease, do not commit yourself to me, I have got nothing for you’, she said. Outwardly that is so amongst the people of God; they have got nothing for you naturally, they have no paths of glory, which in any case lead only to the grave, but there is nothing outwardly to attract our hearts into the testimony, only love for the Lord Jesus. And it says, “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law”, and she went back. There was a certain affection with Orpah. What a challenge that is; we might love the Lord Jesus but do we love Him enough to cleave? “Ruth”, it says, “clave to her”. She clave to what she saw in Naomi of the people of God, and she said “thy people shall be my people”, think of that, “thy God my God; where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried”, v 16-17. I think that was excess on the part of Ruth, “up to the horns of the altar”. We know the history of Ruth, we know what blessing came in; she committed herself irrevocably to Naomi, when she went back to the land of Israel, went back to Bethlehem; and Ruth found the mighty man of wealth. I wonder if we have all found the Lord Jesus as a Mighty Man of wealth. Beloved brethren, if we commit ourselves to the pathway of His will, commit ourselves in that sense to the local assembly, we will soon find the Mighty Man of wealth; we will find all the joy that we spoke about in the previous meeting, like the jailor who rejoiced with all his house, Acts 16: 34. We find in Boaz typically the Lord Jesus, the Mighty Man of wealth. There will be no lack; there will be no misgivings, no regrets. How often we have regrets, but as the poem says -
What has stript the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty,
But the sight of peerless worth.
Ruth saw that in Naomi. You might say, ’Well, how did she see it?’. It was God’s work, no doubt. It says “when she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, she left off speaking to her”, v 18. Might we all be steadfastly minded, to go along with the testimony as it might be publicly in widowhood in Christ’s absence, and in rejection and reproach; yet the end is to find the Mighty Man of wealth, another Husband, One that will care for us, look after us, give us all that we need, both in the testimony and in the day to come. Well, how challenging these things are.
I thought about Jonathan, perhaps a little negatively, but we have the contrast with David in 1 Samuel 20. Saul was intent on killing David, and Jonathan said to David, ‘Well, I will find out if it is really true: you go and hide by the rock and I will come and shoot arrows’. Verse 35 says, “And it came to pass in the morning that Jonathan went out into the field, to the place agreed on with David, and a little lad with him. And he said to his lad, Run, find now the arrows which I shoot. The lad ran, and he shot the arrow beyond him.” When the lad came to the place Jonathan cried after the lad, “Is not the arrow away beyond thee?”. I think it was beyond Jonathan: he was not able for it. He loved David, as Orpah love Naomi I suppose; there was a certain affection for David, real affection. How well David spoke of him, “Thy love to me was wonderful, passing women’s love” (2 Sam 1: 26), and yet he did not go the whole way. He did not bind the sacrifice with cords, he did not go up to the horns of the altar, he fell short. It says, “Jonathan went into the city” (v 42); he went back to Saul. As we know, he fell with Saul on the mountains of Gilboa (1 Sam 31: 8), a desolate end for Jonathan, yet one who was typically a true believer, who truly loved the Lord. Then it goes on, “The lad went, and David arose from the side of the south”, v 41. That would remind us again of the Lord Jesus - “grace upon grace”, favourable conditions today for the testimony. It says “they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded”, v 41. Think of that, “David exceeded”. That would be the excess, the love of the Lord Jesus; how great it is, greater than any love that we could ever speak of or contemplate. Paul says, “to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge”, Eph 3: 19. I suppose that is the recompense, committing oneself irrevocably to the testimony and to the local assembly. It says, “David exceeded”. Think of the preciousness of that, how the Lord Jesus excels in everything: He excels in devotion, He excels in obedience, He excels in subjection, He excels in love, He excels in power and glory and honour that will be seen in a day to come. One of the Psalmists says, “Jehovah … how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”, Ps 8: 1. What a day that will be, when “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea”, Hab 2: 14. Wonderful excess then of righteousness and equity as He rules and takes up His rights which have long been denied. Well, it is for you and me to commit ourselves to Him in the testimony as I have said, to “bind the sacrifice with cords” irrevocably, “up to the horns of the altar”. It might call for certain loss naturally but I think if we have real affection for the Lord Jesus it will not exactly be a sacrifice. Mr Darby says a man would not count it a sacrifice to give up dross, (Collected Writings vol 16 p239); Paul says, “I … count them to be filth, that I may gain Christ”, Phil 3: 8. Think of that. If we have that sight of the Lord Jesus, that sight of peerless worth, the perfection of all that He is for us and to us, and with us, I think it will not exactly be a difficult matter, although it will involve perhaps sorrowful exercises. We have to deal with what we are naturally, and according to the flesh, but I think if we have that sight, that glimpse of the Lord Jesus and His love, we will be prepared for all that it involves irrevocably to be bound in that way to Him and to go in for what is excess.
Now, I come to the New Testament and, in Romans 12 Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the compassions of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your intelligent service”, v 1. Think of that. It has been said that once the body is placed on the altar you do not take it back; you bind it there in that sense, bind it there with cords, cords of love, as I said, no doubt seen perfectly in the Lord Jesus, but then what else would induce us to do this but love for Him and the compassions of God? All that Paul spoke of in chapter 8; chapters 9, 10 and 11 really being a parenthesis. “I am persuaded” he says, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”, Rom 8: 38-39. Once your faith and trust is in the Lord Jesus you are bound to Him. We sing that, do we not?
He drew me with the cords of love,
And thus He bound me to Him.
So it is two-sided in that way. We might commit ourselves irrevocably to the Lord Jesus; perhaps we fail, and we try to take it back again. That is not the thought. I think on God’s side, on the side of the Lord Jesus, we have something absolutely final, irrevocable, when we put our faith and trust in Him. We are bound to Him in that way, bound to Him forever. He will never give us up, the sheep, “those thou hast given me”, John 17: 12. He says, “no one shall seize them out of my hand”, John 10: 28, and He says in another place, “I have not lost one of them”, John 18: 9. Think of that; once you are in the hand of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, the Mighty Man of wealth, you will never be let go. What a comfort that is! We might be weak, feeble and failing. Paul says, “present your bodies a living sacrifice”. The altar, I think, speaks of surrender: we have to surrender ourselves to Him. There is an old hymn -
All to Jesus I surrender.
Well, what a test it is, but I think a brother said if we do not surrender then we lose the light. He has given us light; if we do not surrender we will lose the light. A solemn thing that is; so surrender, present your body, present my body, “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your intelligent service”. It might involve exercise; perhaps my body is not holy and acceptable, but the Spirit would no doubt work with me, as we lay hold of the objective thought, and then the Spirit would work in our souls and in our bodies that they might be holy and acceptable to God. “Put to death therefore your members” (Col 3: 5); “If, by the Spirit, ye put to death”, the apostle says, Rom 8: 13. Think of that: it is severe and yet it results in something for God. Then he says, “be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God”, Rom 12: 2. How testing these things are! Then he goes on in the chapter and the thought of excess comes in, if we read down the list of things that he says, he always adds something: “he that teaches, in teaching; he that exhorts, in exhortation; he that gives, in simplicity; he that leads, with diligence, he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness”, v 7, 8. Mr Coates says (vol 33 p88) that there may be many of these things we are not able to do, but we can show mercy with cheerfulness. Think of that: what does the Lord say to that lawyer who says, “He that showed him mercy”, Luke 10: 37? He says, “Go, and do thou likewise”. What excess was seen with the good Samaritan as he took up that poor, wounded man. “As to brotherly love, kindly affectioned towards one another: … as to diligent zealousness, not slothful … As regards hope, rejoicing”, v 10-12. The thought of excess comes in in all these exhortations of the beloved apostle. I think it was seen in the apostle himself. He says to the Corinthians, ’If ye love me less, I will love you the more’: what a spirit that was, the spirit of Christ. If we forget Him, He does not forget us; if we love Him less, He loves us still: how precious these things are, and seen worked out in a man of like passions to ourselves, one that not only paid his own debts, but paid those of others also. Paul says to Philemon, “If he have wronged thee anything ... put this to my account” (v 18), I will pay it. Can we do that to one another, beloved brethren; can we pay one another’s debts? Think of that woman in 2 Kings 4; she had the pot of oil, and the vessels were filled; and the prophet says to her, “Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy sons on the rest”, v 1-7. She paid all her debts and lived on the rest. I suppose that will be Israel’s portion, in a sense; but in Christianity there is to be the excess: we are to pay one another’s debts. We are not only to have our own debts cleared and pay them, and be set up in righteousness, as Paul says in chapter 8: “that the righteous requirement of the law should be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to flesh but according to Spirit”, v 4. But there is to be the excess, paying our own debts and paying others’ also. It was seen in Paul; he took up the cause of one and another. Think of how he speaks of Onesimus, the slave that ran away; he says, “above a bondman, a beloved brother”, Philemon 16. How precious to think of one another in that way - beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord. We have the Spirit given - a wonderful gift given - that we might enjoy these things and take them up. Take them up not in our own strength but in the strength of the blessed Holy Spirit. Even the Lord Jesus, here as Man, moved and acted in the power of the Spirit. It speaks of casting out demons by the finger - or the Spirit - of God, Luke 11: 20. He did not assume to do it in His own strength. He could have done so of course: it says even the demons believe and tremble. They called out, “Thou art the Son of God” in one place and another (Luke 4: 41); but Jesus, as a lowly and dependent Man, took up the service in the power and strength of the Spirit: He said, “If I by the Spirit of God cast out demons”, Matt 12: 28. Think of that - a perfect, lowly, subject Man! How much more, beloved brethren, should you and I take up these things in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Well, these are simple thoughts I had, brought to me as I contemplated that verse in Psalm 118. “Jehovah is God” - how great He is, God of the universe, One that made all things. “Without him not one thing received being that has received being”, John 1: 3. That is you and me: everything in the universe received its being through the Lord Jesus, the One who is God. It says, “he has given us light”; so we have been given light and it is our responsibility to answer to it. How much light we have, how privileged we are. So it says, “Bind the sacrifice with cords” - irrevocably - “up to the horns of the altar”. Surrender to the Lord Jesus
All to Jesus I surrender.
May it be the portion of us all; may the Spirit help us. May God bless the word.
23rd February 2013