G Bruce Grant
Numbers 12: 1-13
2 Peter 1: 5-9
1 Samuel 6: 10-12 (to ‘left’)
Genesis 47: 31 (from ‘And’)
What I have in mind is maturity in manhood. The Lord Jesus was always mature; there was perfection at every stage with Him. When He was at the Jordan in full maturity of manhood, the heavens opened upon Him and the Father said, “Thou art my beloved son, in thee I have found my delight”, Mark 1: 11. The apostle in chapter 4 of Ephesians says, “until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at the full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ; in order that we may be no longer babes, tossed and carried about by every wind of that teaching which is in the sleight of men, in unprincipled cunning with a view to systematized error”, v 13, 14. Ministry from Christ on high has in mind that “we all arrive … at the full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ”. It is as though we are arriving at it together: “we all arrive”. That is God’s mind for us and His intention: “we may be no longer babes”; “babes” is a right idea as far as it goes, but not in the Corinthian way, 1 Cor 3: 1. Paul speaks of babes in a slightly reproachful way to the Corinthians. God’s mind for us is Christ, the Standard, His Ideal.
The young here might say, ‘Well, this is for older persons’. No, it is for everyone. Whatever stage we are at in our histories, we can be marked by maturity. If you think of the little maid who was taken captive in a foreign country, how she must have felt! Just imagine it, you young persons, if you were taken from your family and your country and were captive! How she must have felt! But she was not complaining. She said to her mistress, “Oh, would that my lord were before the prophet that is in Samaria! then he would cure him of his leprosy”, 2 Kings 5: 3. That was maturity in a little girl. She was not bitter because of her circumstances; it was not only that she knew that the prophet could do it, but her feelings and soul entered into it: “Oh, would that my lord were before the prophet that is in Samaria! then he would cure him of his leprosy”. She was in no doubt about it. She brought the glad tidings to her mistress, and her mistress passed it on to her lord. There was maturity; she felt responsible in that situation because she had light that the others did not have.
Think of Paul’s sister’s son, Acts 23 17-21. The chiliarch took him “by the hand”; he must have been fairly young, but he also acted responsibly in that situation. He heard there was a plot against Paul; forty Jews had taken an oath that they would not eat or drink until they killed him. He heard that, and told Paul about it; then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this youth to the chiliarch, for he has something to report to him. He therefore, having taken him with him, led him to the chiliarch. … And the chiliarch having taken him by the hand, and having gone apart in private, inquired, What is it that thou hast to report to me? And he said, The Jews have agreed …” and so on. Then the young lad said to him, “Do not thou then be persuaded by them”. Think of a young boy saying that to a chiliarch! He was taking responsibility, and he was used for the preservation of Paul, another young person used in the testimony; so, young persons, this is for you.
Miriam was used also, for the preservation of Moses. Think of how great Moses became, but she was there at that point and no-one else could be used, and she was used to preserve him, Exod 2: 7!
These three young persons are mentioned as acting in a mature way. They felt responsible and acted rightly. It is open to you to act maturely even though you are young in years. The Lord took up the apostles; they were all young men and what maturity came out in them in the setting up of Christianity. Young men, it is for you also to act in a mature way. The flesh is never mature; it is always immature. Maturity involves the moral features of Christ taken on by us, and it is open to every one of us, brothers and sisters, to act in a mature way. What pleasure divine Persons must have!
David is another one who acted maturely. When Saul and Jonathan were slain on Mount Gilboa, you get the song of the bow, but David does not handle that matter in relation to how it affected himself. He felt how it affected God, and there is maturity in David: Tell it not in Gath, carry not the tidings in the streets of Ashkelon;
Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,
Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph”
2 Sam 1: 20.
It is how things affected the testimony, not how things affected him personally; there is maturity.
In Numbers 12 Moses is being spoken against, but you see maturity in him. He was marked by meekness. There are three features of maturity here I would like to speak about: meekness, faithfulness and his interceding, praying, for Miriam. Now, the Lord Jesus is the Model: “I am meek and lowly in heart”, Matt 11: 29. Think of it! How great He was in His Person, and that Person was here, and yet He says, “I am meek and lowly in heart”. That is the King, the One who is to reign, but He is “meek and lowly in heart”. You see His lowliness in how He served. Lowliness is often related to how we serve, in the attitude of our mind. You see the lowliness of the Lord in how He served and washed the disciples’ feet; that was a lowly service. You see meekness in the Lord in how He suffered. What meekness shone in the Lord Jesus when He was in suffering! You see meekness in Moses here when he was spoken against, but that is a mature, moral feature because it is not the way the flesh would react. Whatever circumstance you are in, including one of suffering, meekness is the answer, meekness and prayer. Moses was not naturally meek; none of us is. Naturally we love to try and justify ourselves, stand up for ourselves, our rights, prove ourselves right. That is what we all are naturally. But Moses did not say a word; he was marked by meekness. We learn meekness from the Lord Jesus; He is the perfect example of it. What made Moses meek? Moses was forty years in the wilderness. What experience he must have had in the wilderness for forty years, experience with God, learning what he was in himself! As you have to do with God, you learn what you are in yourself, and that helps towards meekness, helps towards meekness in relation to others. Paul says, “Brethren, if even a man be taken in some fault, ye who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted”, Gal 6: 1. We had mention in the reading, “But I myself, Paul, entreat you by the meekness and gentleness of the Christ” (2 Cor 10: 1), and that was in Paul’s militant ministry; “in meekness setting right those who oppose”, 2 Tim 2: 25. How effective the spirit of meekness in persons is! It is a mature feature, not a natural, fleshly feature. Moses was much in the presence of God, on the mountain forty days, and again forty days, and he had access to God’s presence; how great God is! He is everywhere, knows everything, all-powerful, almighty, the supreme Object of worship. He is so great! In the presence of God you realise how small you are; there we learn meekness.
So Miriam was made leprous. How attractive it is that Moses prayed for her; although she was the one who was not right he prayed for her! There is maturity in manhood in the power he had with God to bring in healing, and he was also faithful. The Spirit of God’s comment about Moses was, “But the man Moses was very meek, above all men that were upon the face of the earth”. Jehovah’s comment was, “he is faithful in all my house”. What another necessary feature, faithfulness. The first part of the word for faithful is “faith” so there must be a link with faith in being faithful. Faith is light in the soul from God, and faithfulness is that you are true to that light. You are true to what you have learned of God, your knowledge of God, the light you have. So Moses got the light of the tabernacle system and he was faithful in relation to it. Everything was made according to the pattern, without deviation. When they made the molten calf, Aaron got involved in it as he did here, Exod 32: 2-4. Moses was faithful to God in that setting, and we can all be marked by faithfulness. It is not something in the way of gift; it is a feature of manhood according to God. Now what Moses did was “took the tent, and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the Tent of meeting. And it came to pass that every one who sought Jehovah went out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp”, Exod 33: 7. Moses did what was right in God’s sight. He was not told to do this but he knew the rightness of it. He pitched the tent “outside the camp, far from the camp”. “And it came to pass, when Moses entered into the tent, the pillar of cloud descended, and stood at the entrance of the tent, and Jehovah talked with Moses” (Exod 33: 9), God came in and confirmed what Moses did, giving him the sense of His presence. He pitched the tent “outside the camp”. Moses went into the camp and we know there were prophets in the camp and some said they were prophesying. Moses said, “would that all Jehovah’s people were prophets” (Num 11: 29); and there is no indication that the manna ceased to fall around the camp. I think there is something in that for us. I have spoken to one or two who have had experience that I have not had, in going to other Christian companies, and what they noticed was that there was some food there, but also there was great error. I think the manna fell round the camp; God did not withdraw that. Finding there is food in another Christian company does not mean it is the place for you. The place for you, dear believer-friend, is “outside the camp”. I think there is a lesson in it. We are very thankful the Lord is good to all His people, but Moses had a sense of God’s presence as he took the stand outside what was displeasing to God: there was faithfulness.
I read in Peter because I think this is maturity again. It says “in your faith have also virtue”. It is one thing added to another, and another feature added to it. It is like putting sugar in liquid, it sweetens it; it is blended together. That is the thought here: “in your faith have also virtue”, and every believer has faith. Light in the soul from God is faith, but as you have that light, it is similar to what I have been saying about faithfulness, and you have to be true to that light. “Virtue” might be a difficult word to explain, but I am thinking it is moral courage, and that is needed. You have light from God as to what is pleasing to Him and you have moral courage to abide by that, and be regulated by it. And it also says, “in virtue knowledge”; that would be the knowledge of God. How important that is, the knowledge of the truth, the knowledge of what is pleasing to the Lord! In your moral courage you are to have knowledge also. And “in knowledge temperance”: that is, you are regulated. You do not just do as you please, a free man to do your own will. You are marked by temperance, that is self-control. The fruit of the Spirit includes “self-control”; and “meekness”, which we were speaking about, Gal 5: 23.
“In temperance, endurance”; how important “endurance” is, just patiently going on with what is right. As you have light from God, you have faith. You appreciate how God has made Himself known, and you therefore have the truth which has been made known in Christ, and you go on and on with endurance, and that includes endurance in relation to others, patience with others. You might find the pathway difficult, but you continue. “In endurance godliness”: piety and godliness, you might say, are different words for the same thing, but I think that if you use that word, it must mean being like God, godliness. So you are marked by features of endurance and godliness. You take on the character of God Himself, “godliness”. You relate things to God; you bring Him into matters. You are thankful towards God, have a right attitude towards Him in reverence, but you are marked by the features of God Himself. What features mark God; how you have learned God in mercy, grace, goodness, long-suffering.
“In godliness brotherly love”, how attractive “brotherly love” is. There is a sweetness about that that is very encouraging, “brotherly love”. That means you can support one another, encourage one another. You can see there is a distinction between brotherly love and love. You cannot link brotherly love with God Himself, but “God is love”, 1 John 4: 8. I think when Peter says “in brotherly love love”, love underlies right brotherly love. “God is love” must underlie brotherly love because brotherly love, while it is sweet and very precious, can lead to the possibility of being attracted more to one than another. Now, that is not true brotherly love, and it is also possible to consider your brother in brotherly love more than God, but love underlying that prevents that, because if there is something a brother is going on with that is not right or he is diverted for the moment, it would not be brotherly love just to ignore that; so love as seen in God Himself underlies true brotherly love. “For these things existing and abounding in you make you to be neither idle nor unfruitful as regards the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”. I thought these things all blended together is maturity in manhood; not just one feature, but taking account of different features and adding one to another.
Then I read in 1 Samuel 6; it is a very affecting scripture. There were these milch kine, and they had young, and the calves were shut up at home. How they must have felt that! The instincts of these milch kine would be to be with the young and care for them but they went against their natural instincts. I thought that was another feature of maturity. “And the kine went straight forward on the way to Beth-shemesh; they went by the one high way, lowing as they went”. I feel at the present time there are many, all of us, but some more than others, “lowing” as they go. They feel very much the present situation in the testimony, very much what we may be passing through in households and individually, and they are “lowing” as they go. They are feeling in their spirits, but yet they go. We can do nothing else but go on in this pathway for the will of God. That is what these milch kine were doing. They must have felt it so much; it was absolutely unnatural for them to leave their young. That is why they were “lowing as they went”, and that is a feature of the present testimony, persons going on with what is right, what they know is right, but they are “lowing” as they go. How that must cause pleasure to divine Persons! It would remind them of the Lord Jesus. What He felt in His spirit, in His pathway, but He went straight forward; He did not turn to the right or to the left! If you turn to the right or to the left, you do not know where it may lead. Go straight forward in what you believe to be the path of God’s will for you, and you will receive blessing. There will be something for God in it as there was at the end of this, but these are right instincts related to the work of God in our souls. The work of God knows what is right and immediately links on with it. We as believers have intuition which is a further thought than instinct. Intelligence is linked with it. We have the knowledge of the truth and we have intuition as well. You know what is pleasing to the Lord, and you go on whatever cost there might be to yourself.
I read in Genesis. Jacob had an up and down life; he was a supplanter: that is what his name means, Gen 25: 26. But God was working with him all the time, and what an end he had! This is his end: “And Israel worshipped on the bed’s head”. He looked at his life in relation to God. He says, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God that shepherded me all my life long to this day”, chap 48: 15. Jacob is a good example of the ways of God with a man, and that is the same with us all; God’s ways enter into our lives. Jacob was looking at his life in that light here: “The God that shepherded me all my life long to this day, the Angel that redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads”, v 15, 16. There is Jacob ending his life here as a blesser. He blessed Joseph, and he said, “the Angel that redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads”. He is a blesser and he is a worshipper. Jacob had passed through much; he had disappointments; how his sons tested him! What a thing to do to their father, to say that Joseph had been slain! Yet the best years of his life are these seventeen years when he had Joseph again. But one thing that impressed me here is there is no bitterness in Jacob’s spirit: he is a worshipper! He worshipped God. He ends up worshipping the One that shepherded him all his life long. What an end in a man’s life, and it is not just to be at the end of our lives. The great preservative for all of us is to have a worshipful spirit, to have God before us. Whatever you pass through, have the Lord Jesus before you! God is over all that He passes us through; how much discipline there is and sorrow and suffering! But the Lord says to the woman in John 4 - the woman is speaking about worship - “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship. Jesus says to her, Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when ye shall neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what; we worship what we know, for salvation is of the Jews”, v 20-22. The Lord linked salvation with worship, and it is a saving thing to be a worshipper, that you are occupied with Someone outside of yourself, not occupied with how things affect yourself. There was no bitterness with Jacob at all. What a life he had had with God, but he ends a worshipper! Worship is a reverence in your spirit towards God; what glory attaches to a person that is a worshipper. That is what God would delight to see in a man, in a woman, in a believer, that they are occupied with Him worshipfully; His blessedness is before them. What a God He is! We get on very well on Lord’s day morning, but the spirit of worship is so important, that in your spirit you have God before you. I believe this is a mature feature in Jacob that he ended his life as a worshipper.
Well, may the Lord encourage us in these things.
29th November 2014