WHAT SHALL WE DO FOR OUR SISTER?

Song of Songs 8: 8, 9

RWMcC  Dear brethren, I feel that we will need the Spirit with us and in us in what is in mind to enquire into; grace upon grace. We have exercises, as we well know, and there are those we would love to be gathering with us that are not gathering with us at the moment for various reasons.  This scripture came to me; it says,

         What shall we do for our sister … ?. 

It is a question that I feel laid upon me to enquire into.  We are not here to discuss any specific matter exactly - matters belong where they belong - but more to enquire into the principles that might be set out here.  We understand from the teaching that the spouse here represents Judah, and the little sister Ephraim, in a day to come when Israel is re-established in her relationships with the Lord; that would be the interpretation of the scripture.  But we can apply it to ourselves, and I believe it would be right to say that scriptures such as these have a moral application to us and we can use them.  We need help from the Spirit to understand what the enquiry is really about; but it says,

         We have a little sister,

         And she hath no breasts;

it might appear to be a negative thing.  I suggest that it is not that she does not have love but it is not developed, that is the way it is set out here.  But then it goes on to say “What shall we do for our sister … ?”.  It is not what shall she do for herself, but -

         What shall we do for our sister

         In the day when she shall be spoken for?

I just thought of these exercises that will develop her.  The Lord has His claim upon all of us: the assembly is spoken for: she belongs to another; she belongs to Christ, to the Lord Jesus.  We belong to Him.  There are many that do, and we give thanks for every one.  They are part of the assembly, as will be shown in that day when the Lord comes for us.

  When we come to verse 9, we have the wall; I would like to enquire what the wall means.  Then it says, “We will build upon her a turret of silver”.  We might enquire what the turret of silver means; what can be brought out there?  And then, “And if she be a door”.  It is another thought; we can enquire about the door, what can be brought out there?  Then it says,

         And if she be a door,

         We will enclose her with boards of cedar.

We might enquire as to the boards of cedar as well. 

         I trust that this is acceptable and we can get help together.

DJR  It is a good exercise.  I suppose the state of development has to be looked at.  One might say there is some way to go, but there is potential, and God is looking forward to that day when it comes into expression, when she shall be spoken for.

RWMcC  That helps.  It is an expression we use, perhaps when we are looking at someone of the opposite gender, that they have been spoken for; somebody else has their heart.  That is what I was wondering.

DJR  I was thinking that the spouse is looking forward to the day when she shall be spoken for.  There may be several years in between, but development is steady.

RWMcC  That is right, and Mr Coates says  that we cannot exactly tell somebody that they should have something that they do not (CAC vol 9 (Outline of the Song of Songs) p209); it is this desire of the spouse - what shall we do?  It is not what she should do; it is not what we should do to her, it what we should we do for her.  It is to engender an expression of love.

PJW  Do you think it helps us to keep the perfection and the beauty of the assembly in mind?  The next verse says,

         I am a wall, and my breasts like towers.

That would refer to the greatness of what is found in the assembly, do you think?  I was wondering if it helps in the exercises you are speaking of to keep that before us.  It goes on to speak of peace and Solomon.

RWMcC  I am glad you refer to that.  It should be said that the brethren are free to bring in whatever scriptures come to mind, including elsewhere in this chapter.  Verse 7 speaks about love -

         Many waters cannot quench love.

I think what you say about the assembly, and keeping that in mind, is good.  The spouse is fully developed in love, as we would speak of it; and I feel individually that I need help about that.  She says beyond where we read,

         Then was I in his eyes as one that findeth peace, v 10.

It is a great matter to find peace, and to be restful.  It is important to be restful in the exercises of the present time.

DAB  Was it your exercise that the object of this concern is a young person?

RWMcC  I do feel for the young.  When we were young, we went through exercises of a different kind, and maybe young persons are facing exercises in Christian company that they have not had to face before.  The exercises are real and we feel them.  We all need help; it is not that we just address a few in the company: it is all of us.  But the idea is not just that we might be developed; it is,

         What shall we do for our sister … ?

DAB  That is my thought.  The exercises you speak of are apt to cause pre-occupation and confusion, but these verses are about the committal and development of a young person; and if we take our eye off that we might lose a whole generation that is very precious to Christ.  It is the Lord who has spoken for them, and is our part to secure the relationship that the Lord seeks with them?

RWMcC  I think that is very much so, and it helps us to see the context of the section we have read.  There is a need to be building.  I think this wall has been linked with Corinthians -

         We will build upon it a turret of silver.

It links with 1 Corinthians, and the apostle’s exercise to secure them.  It says in one place, “ye are not your own … for ye have been bought with a price”, 1 Cor 6: 19, 20.  Other exercises are brought out in 2 Corinthians, and he desires that we might be perfected, which might link with the door, chap 13: 11.

PJW  I am glad that you say that.  Paul says in one of those epistles, “if even in abundantly loving you I should be less loved”, 2 Cor 12: 15.  So as to this question -

         What shall we do for our sister … ?

He was prepared to do whatever he could, whatever it meant in cost to himself, to secure the Corinthians; and there were others with him, Silvanus and Timotheus.  He speaks of sending the brother Timotheus to put them in mind of his ways, 1 Cor 4: 17.  And he sent Titus to secure their affections for Christ, “a chaste virgin for Christ”, 2 Cor 11: 2.

RWMcC  Yes, that is very good.  Paul says, “I shall most gladly spend and be utterly spent for your souls”, 2 Cor 12: 15.

GCB  I did not quite catch your thought as to the expression, “in the day when she shall be spoken for”.

RWMcC  Well, we might say for example of someone who is engaged to be married that they have been ‘spoken for’.  What was said was helpful, that the little sister belongs to the Lord: she is spoken for Him in principle.  And the young ones among us are spoken for, are they not?  They belong to the Lord Jesus, and that is really what I was thinking.  They have that place in His heart.

GCB  We had in an earlier fellowship meeting in this area the Lord’s love for the local assembly.  I suppose we all feel a lack of maturity personally, and we speak of this very feelingly.

RWMcC  I do agree with you about that very much.  We must be with the Lord in regard to this.

JRW  It is interesting that the question is raised, and two answers are given; and they both involve protection, it seems to me.  Is there anything for us in that?

RWMcC  I am glad that you suggest that.  The spouse is motivated by love; that is the key to this.  If it refers to Judah and Ephraim, there had been rivalry; but there is no rivalry here, it is pure affection for the little sister, knowing what she means in principle to the Lord.  I think you are right: there is something that is looked for, and then there is something that can be done, to build upon that.  What you say as to protection would be one of the features of the wall and the door; it would be one of the ways in which you could apply them.

JRW  When a young brother or sister takes their place in relation to the breaking of bread, I remember it being said that at that time of committal, the enemy’s attack becomes more pointed and strong.  It suggests that the day when she shall be spoken for is when the enemy comes in like a flood to turn the young person aside.  But there are these thoughts of protection which come in; redemption, I think, you have already touched upon, so that they belong to the Lord; they have been bought with a price.  Then the boards of cedar might speak of the way that the precious qualities of the manhood of Christ might be brought before the young heart.  These things would be a protection from the dangers around, would they not?

RWMcC  Yes, I think that would be right.

RDP-r  Are you exercised that we have a responsibility towards one another to maintain the whole thought?  I was thinking of the end of Judges when a whole tribe was almost blotted out of Israel, and they ask, “What shall we do … ?”, Judg 21: 16.  There was concern that those who had escaped might be provided for, so that the whole thought of the twelve tribes might not be lost.

RWMcC  Yes, that is right as to the decimation of the population of Benjamin.  As to responsibility, it is very much on my mind.  We are not here to tell one another what to do, but we need to enquire as to what these things mean. 

         What shall we do for our sister … ?

implies not just a responsibility - there is that, but there is also a desire, a longing; we just long to promote these features with one another.

RDP-r  I was thinking of, “am I my brother’s keeper” (Gen 4: 9), and that is the complete opposite of what we are speaking about now, is it not?  We should be looking for all to “arrive … at the full-grown man” (Eph 4: 13); there is what carries everything through to completion, do you think?

RWMcC  Yes, very much; and it is a very challenging exercise for me, at any rate.

DJR  The matter of protection which has been mentioned is so important, because it says in Hosea that “Ephraim is joined to idols: leave him alone”, chap 4: 17.

RWMcC  Yes, it is a very sobering thing, our responsibility to one another, and the need to be protective.  It is not exactly that the little sister is presented as irresponsible, but immature in the sense that there is what needs to be developed.

HTF  “What shall we do” introduces a little pause which is so important.  We may feel very weak but it is an opportunity for the Lord to come in in relation to a matter, and direction may come out of that.  All of that is divinely provided resource for the situation.

RWMcC  Yes, that is right.  It is not that we are agitated about a situation; we should not be agitated.  The Lord will come in.

TJH  Is spiritual discernment needed – “If she be a wall … if she be a door”?  So we should be looking for certain features which can be built upon?

RWMcC  Yes.  “If she be a wall … if she be a door”: they are features we should look for.  Would they represent the work of God?

TJH  The work of God is there with our young ones.  It is a positive thought here; it does not say it might not be so, but if it is so, we might build upon it.  We should look for these features, do you think?

RWMcC  Yes, I think so.  We cannot build upon anything but the work of God, can we?

PJW  These are ‘ifs’ of consequence, are they not, not ‘ifs’ of doubt?  So, as was said, we look for the work of God with our young, and with all of us, and link on with it.  If we regarded one another in that way, I do not know if there would be the exercises among us that there are.

RWMcC  Yes, that would be right.  We are not all young but we all need help; we all need encouragement.  Things do not come automatically; we do not just become good when we reach a certain age; we know that if we look back.  Exercises will be with us until the end of our lives.

PJW  A brother said in the gospel that, at first, you get everything for nothing, but from that point on you get nothing without exercise.

RWMcC  Well, that is good.

DJW  Paul has already been referred to, but in that chapter about what might be called collective growth; it is not segregation, but we are all in it together: “that we may be no longer babes, tossed and carried about by every wind of that teaching”, which is unstable, “but, holding the truth in love, we may grow up to him in all things”, Eph 4: 14, 15.  I wondered whether that would help us together to develop in the truth.

RWMcC  Yes, that is very good, to develop together.  We are not segregated by age or in any other way, but we enquire together, we feed together, we are to grow up together.  I find it very, very testing to speak of these things.

TJC  Do we see this worked out when Paul descended to Eutychus in Acts 20?  He went down and enfolded him in his arms, v 10.  Do you think the principle of this is in Paul’s action?

RWMcC  I am glad that you referred to that.  Paul exemplified this; he showed love really; he took him up, and he was close enough to say his life was in him.  That is a good example.

TJC  It is very testing.  If you take account of someone who has become cold in their affections, it is a test to bring in the warmth and the feeling that is required.  We see that in the way that Paul descended, and enfolded him in his arms, and brought comfort into the company as well.

RWMcC  Yes, that is good; and that would be the effect, they “were no little comforted”, v 12.  “They brought away the boy alive”.

PJW  We speak of the cedars sometimes as referring to the saints, but a cedar has a very deep root; it goes down and down.  I was thinking of the Man of Philippians 2 and linking to the suggestion as to Paul; he went down and down to secure Eutychus.

RWMcC  Yes, the cedar-wood is seen in the type along with the scarlet and the hyssop in the healing of the leper, Lev 14: 4.  You might say that we have the greatest and most noble of the trees, and the humility of the hyssop that springs out of the wall, 1 Kings 4: 33.  These things are to be with us, are they not?  Cedar-wood has a lovely pattern and colour, and a fragrance too.  These things would beautify the little sister, and adorn the door.  We might enquire about these things, what the door means.  We have spoken rightly about what is protective; there is also the thought of the door being a way in, a doorway into the knowledge of God.  The Lord speaks of Himself as “the door” (John 10: 7), and He is really magnifying and beautifying that feature.  What you say as to the One who went down is very fine.

DJW  Luke 10 also helps with these thoughts.  There was the man that had the need, and it was easy to point out that there was a need there, but the challenge was what could be brought in to help him; and there was the good Samaritan who had the oil and the wine.  I feel it is easy to see a need, but I feel challenged as to what resources there are to meet it.

RWMcC  Well, I agree.  As we enquire, we can get some direction as to that.  It required action, it required the good Samaritan to act.  As we often say, divine Persons bring with them everything that is needed to meet the situation.  He had the oil and wine, and the beast to carry him on.  It is a really pressing exercise I feel, whether we have these things, and know how to apply them.

HTF  The question, “What shall we do … ?” comes into Acts 2: 37, when they ask the apostles, “What shall we do, brethren?  And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptised, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for remission of sins, and ye will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God may call”.  I was wondering if this related to what our scripture is speaking of?

RWMcC  Yes, I thought about that, “What shall we do … ?”.  It was a very healthy exercise, was it not?  And it was blessed of the Lord and the Spirit.  That would have been an exercise about their own needs; but Mr Taylor says, ‘The true proof of genuine love to Christ is that you think of others’, JT vol 82 p51.  So that would develop from it, would it not?

DAB  There are two claims here.  The spouse speaks of their sister, and then there is someone who is speaking for her, or will speak for her: a day will come when another will have a stronger claim on their sister than they do.  I feel that in relation to the way that we conduct ourselves.  My mother used to ask, when we spoke together about exercises, ‘Do the brethren not remember that the fellowship is the Lord’s?’.  We are apt to say we have a right to do things; but the assembly is concerned with the Lord’s rights only.

RWMcC  Yes, I think that is most important.  If we stand insisting on our rights, we are Laodicean.  I understand that this is what the word Laodicea means, the people’s rights.  It is a very dangerous direction to go in; the world is going in the direction of rights, and they are finding that the various rights conflict.  We are hearing of people going into some persecution because of their stating what is the truth according to Scripture, and it was deemed to be against other people’s rights.

DAB  The spouse plans to augment what will be for someone else.  She might make her more attractive to the one who is speaking for her.

RWMcC  Absolutely; that is a very important part of our enquiry.  She is seeking only to build up and enhance and beautify the little sister, and bring out these features.  We have an appreciation of redemption, silver speaking about redemption - as far as I can see that is supported by Scripture.  And we could not build a turret of silver if we did not have an appreciation of redemption ourselves.

TJH  I was going to ask you about the ‘we’:

         What shall we do for our sister … ?

We have a male and female speaker.  I was wondering if it was both of these, and if we are to do something for one another, it would be together with the Lord and in accord with Him.

RWMcC  I think that is a good suggestion, and would link with what was said earlier as to making room for the Lord to come in.  We cannot do anything without the Lord; we would tremble at the thought of doing anything that the Lord was not supporting; we need Him for everything.

PM  I am just thinking of what Paul says to the Corinthians about what they were in the divine sight, and what Christ had been made to them, 1 Cor 1: 30.  One of those features is redemption, and he works on that and builds a wall on it.

RWMcC  Yes, the Corinthians had already been secured, and already belonged to the Lord.  They needed help and he brings out those features: “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who has been made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and holiness, and redemption” - is it that expression you are thinking of?  He brings these things in as landmarks in their soul history; so that the sovereign work of God can be built upon.  Paul had to work with the Corinthians, they needed love, and the apostle was prepared to do that for the glory of Christ - “most gladly spend and be utterly spent for your souls...”.

DJR  That is important, because I might see something which I believe needs adjustment, and I might get worked up about it.  I might say that I have got to do something for the Lord, and I might be so set that I act without the Lord, and, in so doing, do damage to the “little sister”.

RWMcC  Well, a lot of damage has been done over the years.  It is not possible to repair some of that damage; we need to carry that feelingly.  What you say is right, and it is coming to me particularly, that what we do must be with the Lord.  I am not a free agent; I cannot just act as I think or like; even if my thought were right.  Even the Lord did not act like that: “but then, not my will, but thine be done”, Luke 22: 42.  We must always be with Him.

MRC  It is interesting that in Genesis the creation appears to be the action of one divine Person, but when it comes to the formation of what speaks of Christ, we have, “Let us make man”, Gen 1: 26.

RWMcC  That is interesting.  It was not only important, but it was so precious to the mind of God.  The hymn writer says,

         And see Thine own great thoughts

                   in  making  man.       (No 61)

MRC  I have been thinking about John 17 and the Lord speaking to the Father.  It is as if there was a certain desire that there should be that formation after Christ in the saints: “the men whom thou gavest me out of the world.  They were thine, and thou gavest them me”, John 17: 6.  There seems to be a desire such as we have here, “what shall we do … ?”, in the day that they were spoken for.  The Lord is with the Father now.  Do you think we need to be with the Lord in exercise in a similar way as to how things are to be worked out?

RWMcC  Very much so.  It would be a disaster if we try to do things without the Lord.  These are His things.  We might say that, and we might sometimes think it is taking high ground, but they are the Lord’s things, and we must be careful in relation to them.

AW  Would it be right to say that there is a family atmosphere here?  I was wondering if it would be right to say that family feelings come out here.  I was thinking of Mary and Martha, and the family feelings that come in their concern for their brother in John 11.  They realised that they could not do anything of themselves but committed it to the Lord.

RWMcC  That is right.  They sent a message, “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick” (v 3); they brought the Lord into the circumstances.  The Lord may seem to delay; He remained two days in the place where He was, but Lazarus was four days in the tomb when He arrived; so perhaps the Lord could not have made it in time even so, speaking reverently and carefully.  But they brought the Lord into the circumstances.  The family side is very important to our subject.  The family relationship is there all the time, and we belong to one another; you look after one another in the family.

JRW  Say a little more about your thought about affection, and the exercise there should be for that to be developed?  How do we develop affection in one another for Christ?  It would be affection for Christ that would be the impetus for what we are speaking about: how can we develop in that ourselves, and then help others in it?

RWMcC  I am challenged as to how we can do that.  Mr Taylor said that it is not implied that she did not have love, but that it needed developing, JT vol 37 p140.  I know there is the side of example: if I have affection for Christ then others might see that; I might see it in you and have a desire after it.  But this is the kernel of the issue: how do we do it?  How can we engender affection for Christ in one another?  I think it is building on these features, the turret of silver.  It is not insubstantial; it is ornamental, probably, but it is substantial.  An appreciation of redemption would be one thing.

JRW  Yes; it is only affection for Christ that will lead my steps in the right direction, in the direction where His interests are, where He finds His affections.  It is only as I have affection for Him that I will move in that direction, otherwise I will be led astray by the pressures you referred to.  I feel that, the conflict of that.  It is only as I keep my eyes on Christ that I will be able to move in a right direction, and then we may be able to help one another.

RWMcC  In the beginning of the Song of Songs, it says,

         A  bundle  of myrrh is my beloved unto me;

         He shall pass the night between my breasts

                       chap 1: 13.

Mr Coates speaks of that as Christ in His suffering love, held in the affections of His own, CAC vol 7 p32.  I think that links with what you are bringing out.

DAB  It recalls what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12: 19, “we speak before God in Christ; and all things, beloved, for your building up”.  There is nothing unnatural suggested; there is no lack; it is just that things need to develop.  Paul said that the authority he had been given was for building up, 2 Cor 13: 10.  And “love edifies” (1 Cor 8: 1); it is one of the thoughts in Corinthians, is it not?

RWMcC  I was struck by that: it is not just that Paul had an impression he ought to do that, but he had authority to build them up.  It is a very important feature.

PJW  It also speaks about “provoking to love and good works” (Heb 10: 24); it is very easy to provoke something else in my brother or my sister.  To provoke to love and good works is quite an exercise.

RWMcC  Yes, it is. Promoting these features in one another is something the Lord expects of us.

RDP-r  Paul speaks of “the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me, Gal 2: 20.  I wonder if that is the turret of silver, the One who gave Himself, who shed His blood for me to secure my redemption, and to secure yours.  We can stimulate one another by occupying ourselves with the One who gave Himself?

RWMcC  Yes, occupation with Christ should have that effect.  My exercise relates particularly to this question -

         What shall we do for our sister … ?

But we have needs ourselves too.  How good it is to have brethren that do this for us, that can help us.  We can see how these features develop.

RDP-r  I think that occupation with love will develop love.

RWMcC  Yes.  Love is the key to this chapter.

KJM  I was thinking of what was said: this situation is normal.  To have a little sister, and to want to do something for her, is not abnormal.  It is what was referred to as a family situation.

RWMcC  That is good, and it is important to see that; there is no criticism of anyone, but it is so that the divine work might promote development in a right direction.  So that, when she is spoken for, she is mature.  How wonderful it is that there should be a full response.

DJW  John’s teaching brings in the family side of things.  It has been referred to already that this question is about a family relationship.  Did Mr Darby say at the end of his life, ‘let not John's ministry be forgotten in insisting on Paul's’, Letters vol 3 p 223?  I was wondering whether the family affection and atmosphere that are seen in John’s ministry go along with Paul’s ministry: they go together, do they?

RWMcC  Yes.  That is right; the two ministries go along together, they complement each other.  The Lord on the cross commits His mother into John’s hands (John 19: 26); that is giving the family side its right place, is it not?

PJW  Now say a little more about the door.

RWMcC  Well, we are enquiring together, but when we look in the ministry about these things, you find different impressions brought out.  It does not exactly speak of just one thing.  Mr Coates speaks about the door into the knowledge of God (CAC vol 7 p211); that would be an important aspect of the door, a way in.  The Lord says to Philadelphia, “I have set before thee an opened door”, Rev 3: 8; it is the way into all that God has in mind for us.  There would be that principle; and then there is the idea of protection.  In one place, the doors were “shut where the disciples were, through fear of the Jews”, John 20: 19.  A door is a way in and out, it is for movement.

PJW  We have been reading Nehemiah, and what has impressed us is that what Israel committed themselves to in a broken and ruined day was on the same level as what was set up at the beginning, under Moses and under David - the singers and the Nethinim, and the doorkeepers.  They did not lower the level; they did not say that things had gone to pieces and they could not quite reach that standard; they committed themselves to the full thought as it was in David’s day, and from Moses’s time - the law of Moses.

RWMcC  Some of the doorkeepers were sons of Korah, 1 Chron 9: 19.  They had a real sense of mercy.  We talk about feelings, and we have to be careful about feelings, but we can have right feelings, right desire; and we come to these things with a sense of redemption and a sense of mercy.  We cannot take these things up as being on any high ground.

PJW  We may think of doorkeepers keeping things out, but we should rather think of them as bringing things in on a right basis.

RWMcC  Yes; the doorkeeper is more welcoming than a closed door!

MRC  The thought is personal here - “If she be a door”.  Is there a certain personal responsibility as to how I hold myself?  I remember a brother saying once that you open the door to the Lord and His people; and you can close it to what is displeasing to Him.  Is it important that I seek to hold myself and my affections rightly for the Lord?

RWMcC  Yes, that is important.  I think as to these two features, the wall and the door, they are as was said ‘ifs’ of consequence; as much as to say that these are the features you would look for - “If she be a wall”; “if she be a door”, and then you can build upon them.  It says, “let each see how he builds upon it” (1 Cor 3: 10); that is quite a challenge.   Holding ourselves for the Lord in that way is important.

MRC  Would you say something as to enclosing the door with boards of cedar?

RWMcC  Cedar is a very beautiful wood, with a lovely grain and colour.  It is a wood that carries its fragrance for a long time.  It seems to me that it has an ornamental aspect; the cedar tree speaks of Christ.  It is bringing out these features of Christ, the beauty of what He is in His humanity; and she is enclosed with that.  The temple was built of stone; and then it was boarded out with cedar, and then it was overlaid with gold 1 Kings 6: 9.  These are all precious features.

MRC  I wondered about dignity - “excellent as the cedars”,  Song of Songs 5: 15?  If you look at the Lord’s people, there is a beauty and dignity about them, which is of Christ.

RWMcC  Yes, “dignity” is a good description - the features of Christ coming out in the saints.

RDP-r  Is that what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, to attract them?  Before he takes up any matter with them, he dignifies them according to the Lord’s thought in relation to them?

RWMcC  Can you please read that to us?

RDP-r  “Paul, a called apostle of Jesus Christ, by God’s will, and Sosthenes the brother, to the assembly of God which is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all that in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both theirs and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ”, 1 Cor 1: 1-3.  And then he says that they came short in no gift, v 7.  It seems as though he would write the people up.  I wondered if we should confer on the saints the highest dignity possible.

RWMcC  Yes, I think that is right.  That is one of the things that impresses you as you go through Corinthians, how there were very deep matters to address, but Paul addresses the saints so lovingly, and dignifies them.  He does not have any lesser view of them than what they are before the Lord, before God.

RDP-r  Do you think that, with all the work he went through in Corinth, the objective was to bring them all through?

RWMcC  As was said, he might be less loved.  He was on the line of John the baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease”, John 3: 30.

DAB  I am reminded that Nehemiah refers to the “holy city”, Neh 11: 1.  If we speak of what is to be protected, it is holy; and it is not just to be protected from the wicked world outside, but from fleshly activity even in the company.  Young people are exposed where things are allowed below the dignity of fellowship.

RWMcC   I think that is true and might link with the thought of a wall.  The wall might be seen as protective, to keep out what is wrong, but it is to keep in what is for Christ in an exclusive way.  There was a path all round the wall in Nehemiah’s day, and they walk it in the sense of fellowship.

DAB  I was thinking that we might think it was a good idea just to have a wall, but a city serves no purpose if nobody can come in.  Here we have someone who has a right to come in; she will be spoken for.  So there has to be a door.  The Lord has a right to come in, but the question is about what else I might propose to admit through that door.

RWMcC  Everything that comes in through that door has to pass by those boards of cedar, the dignity and worth of Christ seen in the saints.

DJW  I was thinking of that scripture, “God is faithful, by whom ye have been called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord”, 1 Cor 1: 9.  Does the dignity of that link to the cedar, and help us in relation to our conduct in the house of God?

RWMcC  Yes, that is very important.  There is a big responsibility to be mature ourselves.

TJH  I was thinking that this door is enclosed in the same way as those in Solomon’s house, which might speak about how each of us is to be clothed in all the worth of Christ.  It is not just a door, but it is enclosed in what belongs to Christ.

RWMcC  Yes that would be right.  I think we are seeing the importance of the door, and the wall.  It is not just a door, it is enclosed; it is something attractive.  We would be attracted to it.

JRW  The Lord Jesus speaks of Himself as “the door”; “the door of the sheep”.  He speaks of them going in and out and finding pasture; these are precious thoughts.

RWMcC  He is the true door, and if the little sister is a door, if these features are to be seen, and enhanced and embellished, given dignity, that is the character we would look for - it is what is of Christ that is magnified in that way.

JRW  I was also thinking of Exodus 12, where there was blood on the door-posts and the lintel, v 7.  So that what goes through that door has to pass by what that blood speaks of.  I wondered if that would link the side of redemption, and the silver, with the door.

RWMcC  That is good; the blood is a vital matter there, and I feel challenged -

         What shall we do for our sister … ?

How can we promote these features?  It is not just that we observe a door or a wall.  It is almost as if to say that is not enough; there must be more: there must be these adornments.  And the turret of silver is a mature and rich impression to me of redemption.

         Can we show love; can we develop these features?  If there are things that need adjusting, the first thing is whether I can show an example.  If I can promote an appreciation of redemption, and of the dignity and beauty of Christ, surely that is what will push aside what hinders.  We could say that it needs people who are part of the solution!  I cannot solve somebody else’s problem, exactly, but if I can promote these precious features, they will gain an ascendancy.  That is my impression; that is what I would like to promote.  Love would promote these features and put aside these other things.

PJW  To the Galatians, who were really undermining the foundations of Christianity, Paul says, “my children, of whom I again travail in birth until Christ shall have been formed in you”, Gal 4: 19.  I was thinking how he could travail, as in child-bearing, and what that means.

RWMcC  We were reminded about the matter of travail recently, and the exercises Paul went through that there might be that which was formed after Christ in the saints.

AM  I was wondering if the spouse really has the answer to the question when she says “our sister”; would that not convey dignity and affection?

RWMcC  I think that is very good.  She is not being derogatory in speaking of “a little sister”; it is affection, protective affection.  And “our sister” - she is motivated by desire and love, is she not; to secure what is for Christ in her sister?

AW  Could you open up how they seem to be together - reference was made to “our sister”; and you have referred to what should “we” do?  In a practical way, how are we together in these exercises?

RWMcC  That is a great challenge.  You are thinking that we are not to be working at cross-purposes; do we need to have the Lord as the director of the work?

AW  I was thinking that we all get our own thoughts, and we all want to put everything right; these are persons who are together with one objective.

RWMcC  It is not presented as if the little sister is repelling advances; it is what love would draw out in the family setting.

DJR  We have in Philippians “joined in soul, thinking one thing”, chap 2: 2.

RWMcC  We have referred to some of these things already - the ‘going-down mind’, that would help us.  Then that chapter speaks about thinking “the same thing” and then “one thing”.  That is important.  I am not saying - as men would - that we are all ‘singing from the same hymn-sheet’; it is more fundamental than that.  It is not just that we say the same thing with our mouths; but it is divinely inspired affection in us all, and controlled by divine Persons.

PM  The Lord says, “having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret”, Matt 6: 6.  Does that individual exercise underlie unity collectively?

RWMcC  Yes, that is so, and I feel challenged by that.  How do I pray about matters?  We can be found in such circumstances and spread matters out in the Father's presence.  We have the liberty to do that; we may not understand them, but we know Somebody who does.

PJW  We may think a lot about what we might say to the Lord, but how about listening?  Perhaps we do not listen enough.

RWMcC  That is important; we have liberty to approach divine Persons at all times. Would the thought of communion enter into that?  I am not only praying and giving thanks, I am listening to what divine Persons would have to say to me.

TJC  The Lord would lead us on to affection for one another, affection for the truth, affection for the fellowship.  I wondered in connection with what you have brought in if what we need to be mature in is affection for the fellowship, affection for divine things, affection for the brethren?

RWMcC  They are all very important; affection underlies and is the key to this:  affection for God, affection for the truth, affection for the saints.

TJC  I was thinking of our local settings, and how much we work out there, and it is important to be together in matters.   We see in this section one who saw a need, but the solution to it is a collective matter.

RWMcC  That is good.

TJH  Would the boards of the tabernacle help us to see how to be together in matters?  The boards were joined at the top.

RWMcC  They have sockets of silver too, an appreciation of redemption. 

         We have spoken about this question,

         What shall we do for our sister … ?

And there has been a lot of enquiry.  We have spoken of the need to promote the work of God in one another.  I have appreciated what has been brought in, and the contributions.  It speaks in Ezekiel about things being “as a lovely song” (Ezek 33: 32); and I trust that these things are more than just a “lovely song” to us.  I feel the need myself to get help in these things, that we might retain everyone together on right principles; and that love to Christ is motivating us to do this.

Strood

5th March 2016

 

Key to Initials:

D A Burr, London; G C Bywater, Buckhurst Hill; T J Campbell, Glasgow; M R Cook, Folkestone; H T Franklin, Grimsby; T J Harvey, East Finchley; A Martin, Buckhurst Hill; P Martin, Colchester; K J May, Maidstone; R W McClean, Grimsby; R D Painter, Yeovil; D J Roberts, Strood; J R Walkinshaw, Maidstone; P J Walkinshaw, Strood; A Wraighte, Strood; D J Wright, Havering