David C Brown
Ephesians 2: 1-6
Psalm 74: 1, 10-17
1 Samuel 10: 6, 7
Genesis 45: 5-8 (… “but God”)
These seem to me very powerful words: “but God”. These are only a few of the samples of the way in which the phrase comes in in the Scriptures. We see different circumstances, different needs, different tests, different views; and then we see that there is another view, not ours, not something we can do anything about: “but God”.
How thankful we can be that the gospel would come out for us, and look at us in our need and our desperation, as seen in the first verses of Ephesians 2. Without it there is no hope; we need to look back on our history and appreciate just what there was, or what there was not, in ourselves. The apostle looks at the Gentile first, then the Jew; he looks at their circumstances and in every case sees the same hopeless and helpless condition. We need to be kept aware of that; apart from God, away from Him, there is no response, not a spark of life towards God. We can be thankful, as we read in these verses, having thought of the state of deadness and offensiveness, that God has intervened and the gospel comes in in that powerful phrase to us as far from God, “but God”. He has come in; how blessedly He has come in, not simply to meet a need. How thankful we are that He has met a need; there is a need of life, a need that there should be something responding to God. But I wonder if we ever find in the Scripture that God merely meets a need. You look at the gospels and you see the activities of the Lord Jesus and you see persons with needs, and you see that He meets the need; how thankful we are for that. Does He ever merely meet the need? If He raises Jairus’s daughter, He does not simply meet her need: “he commanded something to eat to be given to her”, Luke 8: 55. Before that, the woman with the flux of blood: He does not merely meet her need but He brings her in to the family, addresses her as “daughter”, brings her to confession, Luke 8: 47, 48. Or the man before that, he is not merely relieved of the pressure of the demons within but he is “clothed and sensible, at the feet of Jesus”, v 35. If blessing comes in, if God comes, He does not merely meet a need. How blessed it is that we can have all our experiences as having come to Him.
“But God” does not simply mean that God is going to come in to meet the need of man in his desperation, but He gives more: look at what more He gives: the riches, and the fulness, and the blessings. I am not minded to go into much detail of this today but just to look at that phrase, “but God”. How is He coming in? He is coming in as One who is “rich in mercy”, who “because of his great love wherewith he loved us, (we too being dead in offences,) has quickened us with the Christ”. That would be you and me, dead in offences and sins; it would be fine that He would quicken us, that He would give us life. That is not sufficient; that is not God’s mind: He has “quickened us with the Christ, (ye are saved by grace)”. How blessed it is, how full it is, that there should be such excess. There is always excess on the part of God; He never merely meets a need. If He is coming in, He is going to come in with a richness of blessing, “being rich in mercy”. He has “raised us up together, and has made us sit down together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. How wonderful that He has that in mind for you. I do not know whether you enjoy it, perhaps you do not enjoy that fact. It is a glorious fact that, as a believer on the Lord Jesus, that is your position, your place to be enjoyed as one who is “raised up together, and made us sit down together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus”. How thankful we are that if God intervenes: if your need is there, “but God” comes in; He is going to raise you up and make you enjoy the fulness and the grandness of His thoughts for you, and not simply to merely meet the need that you may feel.
We have an interesting person writing Psalm 74, Asaph. You get this series of psalms in the beginning of the third book of Psalms (Psalm 50 is also his), but these are all interesting and I think that in a lot of them, although he only uses the term in Psalm 74, you can see that it is the spirit of the phrase we are referring to that has affected this man, Asaph; there is a turn. You speak of that in poems, you come to the turn; here is one of the great poets, and time after time, going through an exercise, going through a concern, even a depression, something comes into the psalm and it turns. Where is the turn? Here - “but God”. In perhaps a more familiar psalm, Psalm 73, he looks around, looks at the world, looks at man, the prosperity of men, what is going on that is not according to God, and it seems to him that men away from God are prospering; he cannot understand, and then the time comes in Psalm 73 when the turn comes: he goes into the sanctuary (v 17) and you can see in the principle there, “but God”. God has His view; have you got God’s view of matters? That is the question; that is the exercise. You will be in that same depression that he was in until such time as you see “but God”, His answer. In Psalm 74 he is looking again; there seems to be no answer. He seems to be praying; perhaps you have done that, prayed and felt as if there was no answer. He goes on for several verses: what is happening, God does not seem to be answering their prayer? God does not seem to be giving me what I am asking for; why is that? Then he comes back to the point, he comes back to the glory that was in that One, and he can see, and God intervenes in this powerful word, “But God is my king of old”. The present circumstances may not suit you; there may be these tests, and perhaps you feel as though you are not being answered. We have all possibly been in that circumstance; God is not giving you what you desire. What is your circumstance? If you keep looking at that then you will get increasingly depressed. What you have got to look at is what is underlying it all,
But God is my king of old, accomplishing
deliverances in the midst of the earth.
That is what is underlying it all. You can leave it in His hands. Whatever it is that may exercise or concern you just now, you can leave in His hands. There is a blessing in waiting, and He will come in in His way, in His time; He will come in His own way of blessing, “But God”. Be assured as you look at that; “But God is my king of old”. You have experience with Him; He has answered you before; you may not see the answer just now; perhaps He is just waiting, testing you. How patient are you? He has it in hand. How blessed it is that we have that reassurance, and reassurance from our experience with Him, “But God is my king of old”.
Asaph can expand on the various ways that God has operated in the past. He can see these examples; we have examples in the past of how God has operated. He will come in in His way, in His time, whatever your pressure, whatever you feel; be confident: “But God is my king of old”. You find this as you go through Asaph’s psalms. Psalm 78 is a great history, and he looks at the history of Israel and its failure after failure after failure until he comes to a point where he sees God’s man come on to view. You can see that God intervenes there, “but God”; God is bringing in His man. He brings David into the psalm; He brings in Christ as the answer, the anti-type of David. How wonderful it is that we can depend on God; we can say, “But God”. He has His intervention, and He will intervene, but we can trust Him until the time comes.
In Samuel, you have the most spiritual man of the day. Someone comes before him, and for the moment he gets the wrong view. Most of us have done that; we have had the wrong view, the wrong person before us. Those of us who are a bit older have a sad experience of having the wrong man in our view. “But Jehovah”; you see the way in which God intervenes. He intervenes in your view. What is your view? Is it God’s view? That is always a test for us, a test for every one of us to have. Do you have the right Man before you? Do you say of the one who is before you, “Surely Jehovah’s anointed is before him”? Is that God’s view of that person? Is that God’s view of that question? Is that God’s view of the issue that is concerning you? That is a concern. Have you got God’s view? He would intervene, He would bring you up, He would take you before Him, and say, “but God”, “But Jehovah”. There is another view and you need to have His view.
Samuel is a spiritual person, and therefore he is rapidly adjusted. That is one of the great features that you see in the history of Samuel: he is a man who is rapidly adjusted. He rapidly comes into God’s view. He had perhaps given too much space in his life and time to Saul, and we can understand that, and understand what his feelings were, because Saul had been one who God had used at one stage. That man is taken out of view, and another who seems to have that character seems to fill his view for the moment. He has another man like Saul in view. God has another Man in view and the intervention is here. Why is that? It goes on in the verse, “man looketh upon the outward appearance”. Be careful of looking upon the outward appearance because God has another view, a deeper view, a fuller view, “but Jehovah looketh upon the heart”, v 7. Do you know the heart? Some things come out in behaviour that you can get some notion of what is going on in the heart, but the exercise is, what is God’s view? Does He know? He looks on the heart; He knows how the heart is operating; He knows that in you and He knows it in me. Let us be careful that we have His view, and are ready as Samuel to adjust to His view.
Joseph is another spiritual man, and he looks at things and says, “And now it was not you that sent me here, but God”. He has God’s view of the exercise that he had had to go through. Think of how sore it had been with his brethren; you could think of how resentful he might be, how naturally he would react. They had done him wrong, they had acted murderously towards him; some had actively advocated his murder, others had taken another view for the sake of what they could get out of it, or whatever had been in their minds. Reuben had been somewhat feeble in running along with it. What kind of view might he have had? He looks at them and says, “it was not you that sent me here”, ‘I am not putting the blame there, I am not laying it upon you’; “but God”. He looked through the circumstances, he looked through the needs, he looked through all that had affected his brethren, and their hatred of him, and he said, ‘I can see that there is another way, a wiser way, and a necessary way and all under God’s hand. It is all in His way, that there should be what He has in mind to achieve, and what He has in mind to achieve is that there should be a people kept alive’.
Have you looked at the circumstances? You might just look at the surface, but are you looking at God’s way? What God is working out is what matters. It is wonderful to see this whole history of Joseph and his brethren; he is a wonderful example to us. Think of what they were in contrariety and in hatred towards him. They come and they are in his hands, and what does he do? He puts them in custody three days. It is not that he is allowing what is wrong without it being kept under control. They are under custody, but then he sends them away. How does he send them? With the food that they require, and the return of their money in full. That is the spirit of Christ: someone is sent away with all the food supply, and the return of the full money. They come back again; the need is there and they come back. How does he send them away? Before he sends them away be brings them in, and supplies them and feeds them. He also identifies Benjamin in his innocence, he identifies the innocent element, but then he sends them away, and again with the full money. That is how the spirit of Christ operates; matters are not to be resolved without them being resolved righteously. Judah takes the blame in due course, but he is someone who has received the return of the full money, someone who has already been dined by Joseph himself. Then Joseph makes himself known, and he shows them the picture of how God has been operating in matters. That is a feature we saw with Asaph; he looked at the way God had been operating in matters, he saw things from God’s viewpoint. Do you see things from God’s viewpoint, and what He is doing, how He is operating? You could look at the externals and say, ‘That was hatred; that was what was contrary there”, and Joseph is a man who is able to see God’s view and say who is operating; God is operating. It is God who is the One who is securing things, “now it was not you that sent me here, but God”.
I simply leave these words with you that the power of them should be with each one of us. If you find yourself in a problem or exercise, “but God”: He will come in, He will come in in His own way; wait, see His view, see how He is working things out, see what there is that is to be secured for His pleasure in a great people kept alive.
May the Lord bless the word.
21st November 2015