Isaiah 53: 2
Genesis 8: 8-12
Psalm 1: 1-3; 52: 8; 92: 13, 14
I have been thinking of the matter of life and freshness. It comes into the scriptures that we have read, primarily, of course, in the Lord Jesus, but it is to be reproduced in the saints. The matter of what is “green” or in life comes into these references in the Psalms, and if the testimony is to continue there has to be growth and development in the saints so that they should be maintained, not merely in light, but in life. I believe fresh life is particularly pleasurable to God. It is interesting that what comes in at the incoming of the Lord Jesus is “good pleasure in men”, Luke 2: 14. We are assured of the pleasure that the Lord Jesus has afforded heaven, but there is to be that in the saints that comes into expression and affords delight and pleasure to heaven. It relates to our localities; it relates to every facet of our lives because, as we were reminded at the end of the reading, we are never out of the house of God, and so there is what is fresh, there is what is green, by way of testimony. My desire is to be marked by these features, and my desire for my brethren is that they should be too. It speaks in Psalm 92 of those that are old, that “They are still vigorous in old age, they are full of sap and green”. On that basis there is something that can be handed on. The basis of life and freshness is to be maintained. Really the testimony depends on it, and our enjoyment of things depends on it.
I trust Isaiah 53 is well-known to everyone here. How attractive it is, and how attractive this reference is, “For he shall grow up before him as a tender sapling”! Have you ever thought of the Lord Jesus in that way, affording pleasure to the Father, affording pleasure to heaven in His life here? Our brother in the reading referred to the “blade” and the “ear” and the “full corn in the ear” (Mark 4: 28) in relation to ourselves. I was thinking too of Genesis 40 where the cup-bearer has a dream. He says, “In my dream, behold, a vine was before me; and in the vine were three branches; and it was as though it budded: its blossoms shot forth, its clusters ripened into grapes. And Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup”, v 9-11. That has been applied to the Lord Jesus: “a vine was before me”. Think of the One that afforded pleasure to God and to men, that one here as “a tender sapling”. Where did He draw His resource from? Where was His sap drawn from? Was it drawn from this scene? He is “as a root out of dry ground”. He derived nothing from this scene, derived nothing from His parents in that sense. He drew everything from above, drew everything from God. He was rooted there, and the life came into expression here, and what pleasure it afforded heaven. I trust it affords you pleasure too in thinking of it. Think of the Lord Jesus being referred to prophetically in this way: “for he shall grow up before him”! Think of the Father’s eye on that blessed One. It has been described in ministry as the one green spot upon the earth, JT vol 6 p188. How attractive that is! Things that are green draw our eyes to them. It came in in creation, “every green herb”, Gen 1: 30. There is what is restful there, what is pleasurable, what is pleasurable for divine Persons. The Lord Jesus was that when He was here. There had never been anyone like that before. In that sense there has never been anyone like that since, but the same character goes through. He has gone through death - we will come to that in the “olive-leaf plucked off”, something that has come through judgment. This blessed One had to go that way in order that life should be known by us. It is good to have our minds stayed on this blessed One: “he shall grow up before him as a tender sapling, and as a root out of dry ground”. Read Luke’s gospel as to the Lord Jesus and His incoming! Read of Him as a babe! Read of him as a boy of twelve: “did ye not know that I ought to be occupied in my Father’s business?”, chap 2: 49! Think of that tender sapling growing up before Him! How attractive, how fresh, how full of life: there is nothing to compare with it! Of nobody else could this be said, but the Lord Jesus. Think of the tenderness of that One to the eye of God! How blessed! What a contemplation! Have you thought of the life of Christ, dear young friend? Have you thought of what afforded pleasure to God in all its beauty, in all its perfection, never a life like that before? In one sense, that life was for God. We have come into the benefit of it, but that life was for God, and God gave that life up. That is an affecting matter too. In order that blessing should come in, in order that the thoughts of God should be fulfilled, that precious life was given up in death; but just to be impressed for the moment with what this life meant to God. How blessed, “a tender sapling”. Think of Him as a babe, think of Him in boyhood! Scripture is almost silent as to it. We get detail as to His incoming; we get a little as to Him as a boy of twelve; but think of these thirty years under the eye of the Father. Across it all you could write “he shall grow up before him as a tender sapling”, in complete consonance with the divine mind, ever in accordance with the will of His God and Father. Think of Him in the carpenter’s shop. Think of Him amongst men, going about doing His “Father’s business”, not Joseph’s business - although He did that too - but He drew His resource from heaven and He found His pleasure in the will of His God and Father. What an Object He is for our contemplation! I trust you have found rest and pleasure in considering Him. I have spoken of God finding that point of complacency, that green spot for His eye in that blessed One, but I trust in measure that you have too, dear friend, because we need an appreciation of His life, and all that was involved in it, if we are going to appreciate His death and all that was secured by Him going into death and coming out triumphant, this life which was so precious to God, perfect, “sin apart”, Heb 4: 15.
Think of Him growing up. We read of it in Luke. “And the child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and God’s grace was upon him”, chap 2: 40: “And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men”, v 52. Think of every step of that pathway, every stage of growth. I almost hesitate to use that term because the Lord Jesus was perfect in every way. We learn generally from our mistakes, but there was never that with Christ. Every impulse was derived from heaven. Everything was in keeping with this “root out of dry ground”. It had its source in what was above. What a Man! I trust you have found Him attractive in your own soul, dear friend. I trust you know something of what I am speaking about in the reality of your links with Him. I trust that He is attractive to you as He was to the Father.
Think of Him then when the Scripture does speak of Him again, coming up from the waters of baptism; the Spirit descending “in a bodily form as a dove upon him”, the voice being heard from heaven: “Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I have found my delight” (chap 3: 22), the thirty years of the private life of Christ underlying that proclamation from heaven when He is about to embark on public service. “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness”, Matt 3: 15. Think of the Lord Jesus saying that. He had nothing to repent of. He did not need to be baptised on that account as anyone else did, but think of the delight of heaven in these words from the lips of the Lord Jesus, “thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness”. These are blessed things, dear friends. Our salvation and our joy rest upon these things. What a matter it is, ”a root out of dry ground”. As I said, He did not derive anything from here, but He was ever fresh, ever vital in His links with heaven. He came into this place of restriction. Our brother reminded us in the reading of the place that the Spirit has taken of His own volition, but think of the Lord Jesus, He who Himself was God, coming into this scene as man, but as a Babe, and coming into a place where He could be described prophetically as “a tender sapling”. What grace there is in that! Think of the smallness of that and the humility that would mark the “tender sapling”, “no form nor lordliness”, nothing to appeal to us naturally, but the Lord Jesus took that place, took it of His own volition and glorified God in it. What an Object He is for our contemplation. “He hath no form nor lordliness, and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” He came from Nazareth. Think of the reproach that the Lord bore, but none of that detracted from what the Father could see in Him, that green spot.
Well, I have alluded to Genesis 8 already and I go on to that scripture now. That life of perfection of the Lord Jesus had to be given up in death. I have referred to the vine being before the cup-bearer in his dream: every stage of growth yielding its fruit to God. How blessed that is! But it came to the point when these grapes were pressed into Pharaoh’s cup. That speaks of what the Lord Jesus endured and suffered when He “poured out his soul unto death”, Is 53: 12. The life, perfect though it was in every detail and in every impulse, was not sufficient for God. If we were to come into blessing, and if God’s purpose were to be reached, that life had to be given up, and it was given up in its entirety. I am speaking now of the Lord Jesus in offering Himself to God. There was no mitigation for Christ as He suffered. There was no comfort for Him. Perhaps there was in those that stood around, but think of the way He faced death and went into it. It was a real matter. It should affect our souls that that blessed life was given up, and the One who so pleased God went into death. He suffered on our account. I trust everyone in this room is convicted as to that because the Lord Jesus went that way; He went that way for you; He went that way for you as an individual; and He went that way in order that you should prove what is really life, and that is proved in relation to Christ as raised from among the dead. All that the Lord endured has that in view, that there should be what is pleasurable to God: “good pleasure in men”.
Well, I am impressed with this “olive-leaf plucked off”. Think of those in the ark, Noah in particular, waiting for that dove. The dove had already been sent out but she “found no resting-place for the sole of her foot”. There was nothing there that the dove could rest on. Think of the discriminating nature of the dove, speaking typically of the Holy Spirit. In that respect there was nothing that the dove could associate itself with. But then, after the seven days, “he put forth his hand, and took her, and brought her to him into the ark. And he waited yet other seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. And the dove came to him at eventide; and behold, in her beak was an olive-leaf plucked off.” Think of that, “an olive-leaf plucked off”. It has been pointed out many times that it was not an olive-leaf that had survived the flood, that was floating on the surface. Amid all the death and destruction there was “an olive-leaf plucked off”, speaking of the life and vitality of an olive, consistent with the root of that plant, plucked off in life, something in resurrection life that was in evidence here, and it was brought back into the ark. Wonderful matter! How it must have cheered Noah’s heart, not only that there was a spot that was clear of judgment; the waters had gone down, things were beginning to come into evidence, “the tops of the mountains” had already been seen, v 5. So there is life, life where there was judgment. There is life out of death and it speaks of all that is in this blessed One. You might say there is a green spot on earth now in spite of the judgment that has passed on the earth, and that is pleasurable for divine Persons.
It is interesting to note that while we could not have part or association with Christ in His life here, as out of death, that brings us in, brings others in. He is in life again in a different condition, a condition in which He can be associated with others. “And he waited yet other seven days, and sent forth the dove; but she returned no more to him”. Well, this has a dispensational bearing as well, but I just want to fasten on this fact that where there was judgment; where the Lord bore the judgment, there is now life, “an olive-leaf plucked off” amidst a scene of judgment that the dove can alight on, and that gives us great cheer. It would have cheered Noah and it cheers us because things have not ended with the Lord Jesus going into death. Think of the disciples at that time; they thought everything was finished. The two on the way to Emmaus, their hopes had been pinned on what was going to happen on the earth. The Lord Jesus was able to manifest Himself to them and show them that there was still life and there was still hope and it was all resident in Himself. And so it comes down to us and whether that life has been availed of, whether we have availed ourselves of that life, whether we are in the good and the vitality of it.
So we come to Psalm 1, the godly man:
Blessed is the man that walketh
not in the counsel of the wicked,
and standeth not in the way of sinners,
and sitteth not in the seat of scorners;
But his delight is in Jehovah’s law …
And he is as a tree
planted by brooks of water.
This applies to those that find their resource in areas that are not known in the world. It is a source of supply that the world knows nothing about. The psalm starts that way. We spoke in the reading about the moral way into things. I suppose Psalm 1 gives us that, the godly man. Psalm 2 is more the official side. It does not seem so long ago that we were here listening to a brother talking about Moses refusing and choosing and esteeming, Heb 11: 24-26. I would gather that most here would have heard that address. Well, here is a man “that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, and standeth not in the way of sinners, and sitteth not in the seat of scorners”. It was not just that it so happened that he did not get into the place where the counsel of the wicked was in operation. This was a deliberate step; this is someone judging that there are “things that are more excellent” (Phil 1: 10), and that did not mix with the things down here, that were characterised by “the counsel of the wicked”, “the way of sinners” and “the seat of scorners”. This is a man thinking for God, and thinking of his relations with God, and consciously refusing things. There was a great appeal made in that address, and it tested me at the time. As thinking of it I wondered how much of that address had remained with me, and whether, in fact, I had refused anything and chosen rightly and esteemed things differently as a result of hearing that. The Spirit is stressing something and it relates to our walk and it relates to the pathway of the Christian here. It relates to a separate path, and we perhaps shrink from that at times, and I feel the edge of that for myself, possibly more than anyone here, but it is essential. The way into life and vitality is maintained through separation from the world, from worldly influences, from persons that are characterised in the way that these persons are in the first verse. And we are to refuse these things. We are not to go along with them and think that we can get through. They have to be actively refused. If we are to know what vitality is, if we are to know what life towards God is, there are certain things that cannot be gone on with; there are certain things that are, you might say, mutually exclusive. You cannot have a foot in the world and a foot in God’s things, as we are often reminded: it does not work. Those of us that are of any age at all would say that from our own experience because we have tried it and we cannot do it. So I would encourage the saints and myself to find grace to refuse things, and to come into things more fully in a moral way, and in a way that is pleasurable to God. “But his delight is in Jehovah’s law”: is your delight in Jehovah’s law or would you rather be found with scorners, sinners? The line of demarcation is clear. “In his law doth he meditate day and night”; so we begin to become characterised by these things.
“And he is as a tree planted by brooks of water, which giveth its fruit in its season, and whose leaf fadeth not; and all that he doeth prospereth”. This is someone beginning to live according to God, finding his pleasure in the things that God provides, finding his resource in what has been made available as among the saints. These “brooks of water” we may take them for granted. Sometimes I do. We come to occasions and we find help and we think that it was always thus, but we need to be exercised, we need to go in for these things in reality. We need to appreciate what there is amongst the saints. What blessings are ours! How readily we can gather for fellowship, how readily we can enjoy one another’s company, how readily we can enjoy practical fellowship. Numbers are not everything, but it is a great thing and a blessing to work things out together, to be impressed with things, and to discuss things together, and to grow together. I think that is what is in mind here: “as a tree planted by brooks of water”. I do not picture in my mind that this was one solitary tree standing by brooks of water. I think there were other trees, other trees drawing their resource from the same brooks, from the same stream, a heavenly stream, nothing to do with this world. Our roots are not consistent with what we have here in this world; but of drawing our resource from what is from above, from what God gives: “which giveth its fruit in its season”.
Well, that is a wonderful thing too because the fruit is for God, “fruit in its season”, something seasonal is in the fruit. We know what the seasons speak of. There are times when we need to endure the winter; we need to go through exercises. There are times when we cannot avoid these things. You seek to go through it with God. You seek to draw resource and sustaining grace from Him and from His things, and the brethren are a help too, but primarily we need to prove these things from the hand of God. But think of this tree giving “its fruit in its season, and whose leaf fadeth not; and all that he doeth prospereth”! What a picture it is! I trust we have some knowledge of it ourselves. I know we do, and I can see in the faces of the brethren that there are those here that are in the enjoyment of it. I trust all are, and I trust that the younger ones find something attractive, not only in what is being said, but in what they observe among the brethren, those that are enjoying these things, these trees in all their dignity, in all their fruitfulness, that are affording pleasure to divine Persons, giving “its fruit in its season”. Sometimes the winters can be very hard. I believe it is the case that if there is a particularly harsh winter, the blossom in spring is brighter, and more vibrant. So if we are going through these things, and the brethren are going through much at the moment, it has in view that there may be a result, that there may be a blossoming, that there may be fruit for God, something that is pleasurable to Him.
Well, we had a word last week in Brechin in another scripture I was thinking of. We referred, in relation to the matter of constancy, to the verse in Hosea: “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? (I answer him, and I will observe him.) I am like a green fir-tree. - From me is thy fruit found”, chap 14: 8. He spoke about the constancy of the green fir-tree. We know what evergreens are like; they are always green; and that is a blessed matter. It is in the setting of recovery: “What have I to do any more with idols?”. There are things, again I would say, that can be a distraction to us, that have to be set aside in order that this fruit should come out and this leaf should not fade. As we draw on this resource, there is power to maintain the leaf, to maintain the green for God’s pleasure in all its freshness and vitality.
In Psalm 52 we read, “But as for me, I am like a green olive-tree in the house of God". It speaks of the inward consciousness, that you are such a thing. You recognise it in yourself: “But as for me, I am like a green olive-tree”; something of the Spirit is coming into expression, “a green olive-tree”. The oil and the olive-tree often speak of the Spirit. We have not to shy away from going in for spiritual things as thinking that they are beyond us. The Spirit would guide us that way, and I believe that as we tread this moral road, this is where we are led: “I am like a green olive-tree in the house of God”, planted there.
We come on to that in Psalm 92, that there is the result of this constancy and enjoyment and freshness that finds its expression in the house of God. It is not greenness or freshness for its own sake: it has an objective in view; it has an end in view; and it finds its expression in the house of God. So just as when the Lord Jesus was here, there was a point of complacency and attraction in Him; there are these areas of green coming into expression in the house of God, in our localities, in individuals. Heaven can look down and rest; the eye can rest there. We need to be exercised that we are rooted in things rightly. There is a scripture that speaks of the Father’s planting: “Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up”, Matt. 15: 13. We want to ensure that the Father’s planting has gone on in our lives, and we indeed have been planted, and are bearing fruit for God because that is really the outcome of this. If we are to be fresh and in life, it has in mind vitality in the service of God. The testimony is a great thing, but, as mentioned in the reading it is almost a consequence of our enjoying our links together, and our links with divine Persons. The great matter is what is for God, and we have that in Psalm 92: “They are still vigorous in old age”. “Those that are planted in the house of Jehovah” - that is the inside position - “shall flourish in the courts of our God”. That is perhaps what is more outward; there is flourishing there. There is evidence of life there, evidence of where the roots are, “planted in the house of Jehovah”, stability there. How blessed it is! How we would covet to be planted in this way, “planted in the house of Jehovah” and flourishing “in the courts of our God”, “still vigorous in old age”. I do not want the young ones to think that they are being overlooked in this matter because, in one sense, we bear fruit at every stage of our growth. There is what can be taken account of in the blade; there is what can be taken account of in the bud; and there are various scriptures that would bear that out. We are to bear fruit to God. It is not that we are to wait until we are old to bear fruit: we bear fruit at every point. The Spirit’s service is conducive to that. So identify the work of God in yourself, dear friend, and cry to the Spirit that you might be helped to further that work, that you might be rooted rightly, that you might know the stability there is, not in what you do yourself, but in relating yourself to what God is doing, relating yourself to the purpose of God. This is so at every stage in life. There are those that are in old age and they are “full of sap and green”, but then elsewhere we have a scripture, in the Authorised Version, that says “The trees of the Lord are full of sap”, Ps 104: 16. It does not say what age they are exactly. In this translation it says, “The trees of Jehovah are satisfied”. I think that is a great thing. If we are going to be bearing fruit, if we are going to be rendering to God what is His due, we need to be satisfied persons. “Full of sap” suggests that. We have drawn the sap from elsewhere. We are satisfied in ourselves. We are convicted as to things; we are not “tossed and carried about” (Eph 4: 14); we are planted; and we are here for God; and we are seeking to render to Him what He is due. And there is the means to do that in this type. There will be a great result in a coming day, but we are given grace to do that now, and what an encouragement it is to those of us that are younger and coming up in the faith to see those that are old, that they are still “vigorous”, still “full of sap and green”. We have taken account of that in persons that have gone before us; we are taking account of that in persons that are still with us. We are in the time when we can still take account of that and I would encourage us all, in every age group, to take account of this and to emulate it, “full of sap and green”. How pleasurable that is to God, how attractive it is to His people.
Well, there is a great result being secured in this dispensation. If I go back to Genesis 8 again, I suppose that scripture could be applied in that way, that the Spirit’s work has gone on tirelessly in the whole dispensation and He has come back at eventide with this olive-leaf plucked off, which is green, which has been taken from the living root. The dispensation will yield that for the divine pleasure, and the Spirit’s work now is towards that end. May we be in line with it for His Name’s sake!
6th October 2012