Daniel 2: 31-45
Exodus 21: 1-6
Acts 16: 14, 15
1 Corinthians 15: 51, 52
I thought in this occasion we could speak of waiting for the Lord to come. It is a wonderful matter to wait for Him. You will never be disappointed if you wait for the Lord, but it is something that would challenge our hearts, as to what we are waiting for. I know in my own life sometimes I have waited on certain things happening, and perhaps you have too. You may be waiting for certain things to take place and then perhaps you will commit yourself a little more. Maybe it is in relation to the breaking of bread, or in relation to your household, or whatever it may be; you are waiting for certain things to change. Certain things are right to be waited upon, but sometimes you find too that in your life you may wait for other things. How sobering this is, and I speak feelingly. Beloved brother or sister you may be waiting for something that is never going to happen. I have done that too. For example, you might think there is some other way to find happiness. I have read scriptures which relate to the Lord coming, and I have also read scriptures as to the bondman, because one thing the bondman does above all else is that he waits on his Lord to come. How wonderful that is. Perhaps we will get help to speak about that. You may be waiting for things. You younger ones, how I would encourage you to think about what you may be waiting for; waiting for certain things that may contribute to your happiness, things that may never actually happen. Sometimes when we are young we think that happiness is out there somewhere, and the propensity of our hearts is then to start to try other things, almost as if happiness was like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. That pot of gold that the story-tellers may speak of does not exist. Happiness away from Christ, and happiness apart from Jesus, happiness apart from waiting for Him and on Him, does not exist, dear brother or sister. There is nothing greater, there is nothing more pleasurable, than waiting for the Lord Jesus, and you will never be let down. Think of that, that is wonderful, is it not?
It says in John’s gospel, “I am coming to you”; “I will not leave you orphans, I am coming to you”, chap 14: 18. It is characteristic of Jesus to come to His own. How blessed that is. He is the coming One. That is characteristic. He would come to us. That is blessed is it not, to know that, to have some little experience of the Lord Jesus coming to us. There are various aspects of His coming. At present He will come to us, but then He is going to come for us. That is the rapture and then He is going to come with us – that is the appearing. How blessed that is. It has been said that the rapture and the appearing are two parts of the one event, the coming of Jesus. I would encourage our hearts then as to this matter of waiting for the Lord to come. That is a test, is it not? The waiting time is usually a test; many people wait for many different things, but think of this matter, this much more important matter, profound matter, of waiting for the Lord, waiting for Him to come. It says of old in Exodus 32 that they were waiting for Moses to come back down the mountain (v 1) but they lost sight of him, did they not? Mr Coates in his last word in The Believer Established (vol 15) describes the situation as ’The Lost Hope’. The coming of the Lord Jesus to the public profession is a lost hope. It may be that in our own affections we sometimes lose hope in the Lord coming. They did in Exodus 32: they said “for this Moses ... we do not know what is become of him!”, and they started to do all sorts of things. They made a molten image, a golden calf. Think of it, think of the contrast. It was molten which means they must have had a mould, and they poured it in and there it was, it was something to idolise, something to worship. That is not what God is going on with. Whilst we wait there is something happening. There is this wonderful vessel, the assembly: it is not made from a mould. Assembly features are being formed out of the exercises that the beloved saints are passing through, and that is why it has an intrinsic beauty that no other object for your affections could compare with. How wonderful that is. So, as waiting for the Lord, we can make much of Christ and much of the assembly.
So I read in Daniel: I do not mean to go into the details of the verses that I have read but just to show how the verses read would bring in stability. We have thought of waiting for the Lord, and how those in Exodus 32 did not know what had become of Moses. We have been waiting and the dispensation has gone on for a long time. From where we have read in Daniel chapter 2, and the setting up of these Gentile monarchs, it was about 600 years until Christ came, and then we have had more than 2000 years, the longest dispensation recorded. That brings out again the magnitude of what divine Persons are securing in this dispensation, that there is what is being secured in this dispensation that is unrivalled. No other dispensation will yield to God what this dispensation is yielding in the personnel of the assembly being secured for Christ. We may wonder at things in the world, and think this is the way things have always been and they always will be. Dear brother or sister, it is not the case. We find here, before where we read, in Daniel chapter 2 v 20, 21, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever; For wisdom and might are his. And it is he that changeth times and seasons; He deposeth kings, and setteth up kings”. God’s hand is behind everything: it is behind government. This is what the section we have read refers to. At present God’s government is known indirectly through magisterial government and known directly in this wonderful vessel, the assembly. I read those verses to bring out just where we are because we have these different phases of rule referred to. First we have this image; it says in verse 32, “This image’s head was of fine gold”. That is what was set on by God. Nebuchadnezzar was eventually converted: God’s power was manifest in him and it was set on by God. In many respects publicly the situation has changed but for the believer it has never changed. Authority is of God: that remains. Indeed, it is not just for the believer, it remains absolutely that authority is of God. It has become less and less recognised by government. We read of that in verse 39, “And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee”, and the situation has become more and more inferior. Paul reminds us in Romans chapter 13, “Let every soul be subject to the authorities that are above him. For there is no authority except from God; and those that exist are set up by God”, v 1. So the believer, as part of his enlightenment in relation to all creation (Rom 8: 22), is enlightened in relation to government, and he recognises the authority that is of God that is in government. It is remarkable to consider the Lord Himself in John’s gospel, “Pilate therefore says to him, Speakest thou not to me? Dost thou not know that I have authority to release thee and have authority to crucify thee? Jesus answered, Thou hadst no authority whatever against me if it were not given to thee from above”, chap 19: 10, 11. Think of the wonderful illustration of Christ in dependent manhood recognising what had been set on by God. Publicly this head of fine gold has broken down and deteriorated, but for the believer, for the bondman who waits on his Lord, we find the head of fine gold is seen in Christ Himself. As Christ is your Lord, that is where the authority sits. How blessed that is.
Then it goes on to speak about other phases of government. It speaks of “its breast and its arms of silver”. I think that, as the brethren will know, the teaching refers to that as the time of the Medes and Persians, and the silver as representing something favourable. And there has been something favourable in government. We have been thankful for that. Others will remember there was a time when government made allowance for such things as conscientious objectors: they made allowance for those who were seeking to be faithful to the Lord. That would be an element of the silver that has come in to government. Then it says, “its belly and its thighs of brass”, showing that what is disciplinary enters in to government, and we have seen that too. You can think of the two World Wars, and other matters that have taken place, as allowed by God, having come in through government. It says “its belly and its thighs of brass”; then it adds, “its legs of iron, its feet part of iron and part of clay”, and that brings us to our day. I suppose what we know now in government is what we have here in the iron and the clay. The western world has been blessed by an element of constitutional government that has brought in stability. I am not sure if we could say so now, but for many years this country was known as a Christian country. and God’s goodness was in that, to be recognised. But still the thing has deteriorated, and so we have this matter. It says in verse 42, “And as the toes of the feet were part of iron and part of clay, the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. And whereas thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men; but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron doth not mingle with clay”. We may say in some respects that this is the day we are in, and so the believer, although recognising government and what we may call the institution of government, would not vote. I was taken aback by the strength of a remark about the base principle of democracy, and we can see that now being acted out before the country in relation to the political world, and the believer has no part in that. In John’s gospel chapter 18, the Lord says to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my servants had fought that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from hence”, v 36. Beloved brother and sister, we belong to another kingdom: how blessed it is, a wonderful kingdom. We would not vote because of that. It is a wonderful reason, because we belong to another kingdom, the kingdom of God. What we also find where we read is that these other kingdoms are going to disappear. I trust there is some stability to be gained from these things; it says, “Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold broken in pieces together, and they became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away, and no place was found for them”, v 35. Think of that; this world is passing. It is going to be blown away. These things are going to be blown away in the wind, and God is going to introduce a world in the millennium - how blessed it is - where righteousness is going to reign, and then we come to the eternal day when there will be a new heavens and a new earth, “wherein dwells righteousness”, 2 Pet 3: 13. What a blessed prospect the believer has: what an assurance we have.
Then we come to this matter in verse 34, “Thou sawest till a stone was cut out without hands”. We can depend upon God to accomplish His own ends. The One whom we believe in, the Lord Jesus Christ, is God. He has deity; full deity belongs to Him. It says, “a stone was cut out without hands; and it smote the image upon its feet of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces”. What a One we have, what a One we are waiting for, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is going to affect all these things. Later on in chapter 7 it says “I saw in the night visions, and behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like a son of man, and he came up even to the Ancient of days”, v 13. How blessed that is: the Lord Jesus Christ who is God as to His Person, and yet a blessed Man, the One that we wait for, the One that we are going to see face to face; He is going to accomplish all these things. It says of the Ancient of days, “his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool”, v 9. Think of the maturity, if we can say that reverently, of the judgment of Christ upon all that has gone before. It says “his throne was flames of fire, and its wheels burning fire.” These are the wheels of government; everything will come under the influence of Christ. We see that opening up in Revelation: all these things are going to be taken care of. There is stability in that: things are not going to be lost on the way; they have gone on for ever: they are going to come to a conclusion at the end of this wonderful dispensation. And yet we wait, and how do we wait?
That is the test, and that is why I read in Exodus as to the bondman. We have a reference here to the Lord Himself and, of course, there is what is unique to Christ, but there is also what we can draw upon as an example of bondmanship. I would encourage us in this matter of being a bondman. It is a blessed matter. There are various references in scripture to bondmen. In Galatians it says, “So thou art no longer bondman, but son” (chap 4: 7), but we have to take scripture in its context, and there it is in relation to the legality and being in kindergarten. We need be under a tutor no longer, but come into the joy of sonship. The Lord Himself also says in John’s gospel, “I call you no longer bondmen ... but I have called you friends”, chap 15: 15. What this brings out, dear brother or sister, is that this matter of bondmanship underlies everything. I would suggest that everything we enjoy, everything that we are, is connected with this matter of being a bondman. The bondman of course refers to brothers and sisters; you may be a bondmaid or a bondwoman: it is gathered up in the same thought. Bondmanship includes what we are when the brethren are not looking at us. This is how you lead your life. How wonderful that is. I trust you have been compelled into this type of life. Being a bondman, it is not optional. Someone else has said that we are all pressed men. I know scripture speaks, especially in the Old Testament, as to what is voluntary, but what underlies a voluntary offering to God is that we have been compelled into the way by divine love and grace into the way. How blessed that is; so what a privilege it is to be a bondman, one of God’s bondmen, if we can say that. We have this wonderful example here in the Lord Himself, for it says, “If thou buy a Hebrew bondman”. I think the word Hebrew would draw our attention to this being a love matter, “if thou buy a Hebrew bondman”. It has been said that Hebrews is the language of the heart, and Greek is the language of the mind; and here it is a Hebrew bondman. “If thou buy a Hebrew bondman, six years shall he serve and in the seventh he shall go out free.” So the thought of a bondman here introduces excess. Is that not wonderful? I think we can say so, that even at the end of the dispensation there is excess. God will provide the excess, dear brother or sister; if we need more grace, if you need more love or more faith, God is going to provide it. It is all to do with the seventh year, and you can think also of the seventh month, and link it with Paul’s ministry too, and how it was given to him to complete the word of God, Col 1: 25. He could speak of the “word of the Lord” to Lydia. There is this excess that is attached to the thought of a bondman. When Christ came into manhood - and we would be careful in the language that we use - He did not only become a Man: He took a bondman’s form, Phil 2: 7. He went further than that, and so you can read in Luke 10 of the good Samaritan, and what it says of the good Samaritan is that he “came up to him”, v 34. The Lord Jesus can do that: bondmen can do that. I wonder if I can do that? Can I come up to persons, come up to my brethren, in the humility of one who is self judged, and one who has some little resources perhaps? This Samaritan was able to pour in oil and wine. What a blessed matter that is. Does it not say elsewhere, “A bruised reed shall he not break”, Isa 42: 3? That was the man in Luke 10; the bondman does not break the reed: he is able to mend the reed, and to help or testify to these things. Another thing that the bondman does, he is able to go further: that is what happened at the end of Luke’s gospel. In Luke 24, with the two who were on the way to Emmaus the Lord “drawing nigh, went with them” and then “he made as though he would go farther”, v 13. That is the excess that the bondman brings in, the excess of love. It is wonderful. I do not mean to go into each of the verses in their detail, they are well known.
It says, “If he came in alone”, and there is a reference in the footnote to his body. Bondmanship would involve our bodies. We can think of Romans 12: although it is the beginning of priesthood, it involves our bodies, how we hold them here whilst we wait for the Lord coming, how we live here. I was thinking of that, becoming a bondman, seeking to be here for the Lord, and who of us can say much about it. It is not like choosing a pastime, it is not like choosing some other interest or theme, it is something that divine grace would compel us into. How blessed it is: it is a much greater and deeper matter to be attracted, and to be attached, and to be committed to the Lord Jesus than simply thinking of it as another interest, because it is your life: it becomes everything. Men speak about ‘24/7’: the bondman lives for Christ. You may say it is all he does, and it is everything he does. Think of that: think of every second of every minute, and every minute of every hour, every hour of every day, every day of every week, every week of every month, every month of every year being here for the Lord. What a privilege! How wonderful: if that is all we can do, it is everything we can do. I feel more and more impressed by this: this is how we lead our lives. Standing here is a wonderful privilege, but it is not bondman service exactly. It is a bigger privilege to live your life for Jesus. It is a bigger privilege to live every minute of your life for Him. I am not pretending I do this all the time, but I desire to do it, and I trust that you, dear brother and sister, would also desire that whilst we wait for the Lord to come you should live here for Him. Think of that: what is it going to mean? It is going to mean suffering. The apostle John - I do not know if John ever refers to himself as an apostle, but he certainly refers to himself as a bondman, and if you look at the beginning of Revelation it speaks there of him being in the Isle of Patmos, and it says he “was in the Island called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus”, chap 1: 9. (I think John is a model bondman and he is a model friend – he is both those things.) These are two things the bondman is concerned about: he is concerned about maintaining the word of God, he is concerned about maintaining what is in the scriptures, and what is in the ministry. We have spoken of Exodus 32, and the wonderful pattern of the tabernacle, and how after, despite the glorious pattern that was shown, they made the molten calf, and that causes me to question my own heart.
We have had wonderful ministry in the recovery, and if I may say so, the distinctive ministry of Mr James Taylor, and that was given in the past. We are still waiting; we are waiting for the Lord to come. Am I going to be a bondman who is going to maintain in faithfulness the word of God, and what comes out in the word of God, and in the ministry, and am I going to display something of the testimony of Jesus? That is not always going to be easy. You find that in the simple affairs of life; perhaps someone says something to you or, in these days you get an email, and you think, well I need to respond to that, and I think this and that should be the case, and so on. Take time to think how your response is going to affect the testimony. How am I going to respond, if someone read it would they think. ’Oh! there is a person establishing his rights’? I am never too keen when I hear believers speaking about their rights. I do not really consider myself to have any rights except being able to boast in Christ, but I am concerned about my testimony. Think about that: you might reply, but does it show anything of the fragrance of Christ? How far are you going to go with this? Is it going to mean that you are going to lose out here: it may well mean that. Paul says at the end of Romans 8, “we have been reckoned as sheep for slaughter”, v 36. We might be that: you say, ’Well, people are going to walk all over you’. Perhaps they will: the one thing for sure, when you put your head on the pillow at night, you will be able to say to your heavenly Father. ’I am sure I have not done everything quite the way I could have done it, but I did it desiring to be faithful to the testimony of Jesus’. How blessed that is: it is an expression of the new man. How blessed that is: think of what has been reconciled. The old man is not reconciled, it is crucified and the new man is not reconciled, it does not need to be, but it says, “you … has it reconciled”, Col 1: 21. And that reconciled person becomes part of the demonstration here in his pathway of the new man. How wonderful this matter of bondmanship is: I commend it to you, dear brother and sister.
It says at the end of the section we read, “and shall bring him to the door, or to the door-post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl”. That is another thing that the bondman does, he waits on his Lord, and he has an ear to hear. We know that scripture where it speaks about “morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the instructed”, Isa 50: 4. The bondman can hear, and Simeon in Luke 2 is an example. I did not realise until recently that Simeon’s name means ’hearing’. That is one thing the bondman does, perhaps he does more hearing than speaking. It is lovely what it says about Simeon: it says he “was just and pious, and awaiting ...”, v 25. I would like to encourage us just to be these things: just and pious and waiting, and then you have a wonderful service to fulfil. Look at the examples of bondmanship you can find in scripture.
The little maid in 2 Kings 5 was a true bondmaid. If you look at the teaching you will see that the previous chapter brings out the truth of Romans, Colossians and Ephesians and brings us to in this person, and she is just a little maid. She is ’below the radar’, as people say, but she is prepared to be there, and she is prepared to be faithful. She says “Oh, would that my lord were before the prophet that is in Samaria! then he would cure him of his leprosy”, v 3. That is a bondman, that is the features and the feelings of a bondman coming out. You find it elsewhere too. It is of note that in Luke 15 the father says to his bondmen, “Bring out the best robe”, v 22. Can I do that? Can I contribute to clothing the saints in the worth of Christ? It is the bondmen who are given to bring out the best robe. How blessed these things are. May our hearts be encouraged in them.
So I read of Lydia. It speaks of “a certain woman, by name Lydia, a seller of purple”. I have perhaps touched on what I really had in mind in relation to this scripture, but she was a seller of purple. It is an imperial colour, but it also speaks of suffering. She went about her daily business, and she was prepared for the suffering. I challenge my own heart as to how much of an appetite or capacity I have for that. You can see more and more from scripture that it is a suffering pathway we have been called to. The privilege is that we are not only called to suffer for Him but to suffer with Him. How blessed that is to be with the Lord in it. Lydia is a seller of purple, and when she went about her business she was faithful to Christ. There would be suffering involved in that. But then it says that she worshipped God, and she heard. There again is this feature of hearing. She heard and then it says, “whose heart the Lord opened to attend to the things spoken by Paul”.
If you take up this matter of bondmanship in its simplicity, the Lord is going to help you. How often I become complicated, but it is wonderful to consider what the Lord says in the gospels. The Jews in John‘s gospel were seeking to be complicated about doctrine and about the truth and the Lord simply says to them. “If anyone desire to practice his will, he shall know concerning the doctrine”, chap 7: 17. So you can take the first step by seeking to follow the Lord’s will for you, and these other things will follow. He will provide the doctrine, He will provide the teaching, He will give you the scope of things. How I long for that! Here it says of Lydia, “whose heart the Lord opened to attend to the things spoken by Paul”. I would love to have my heart opened to attend to the things spoken by Paul, and not be like Miriam in the Old Testament who died on the way, Num 20: 1. She started off well, she had the song and a tambour (Ex 15: 20), but she died on the way. She was not maintained in the matter. Here the Lord opens the heart of Lydia, and she attends to the things spoken by Paul; so she not only hears, she attends. There is a doing involved in that also. She had been baptised and her house, and “she besought us, saying. If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there”, v 15. How blessed a situation this is. Think of Lydia’s house. The devil desires to get into our homes, and I am thinking of the internet. The devil is making an attempt to get into our homes and we need wisdom and care as to how we carry on being faithful. Lydia says “If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord”, think of that, faithful to the Lord, “come into my house and abide there”. Think of Lydia standing at the door of her house; and think of the doorway of her house. You may say, the blood was on the lintel and the doorposts, but then there is this threshold and on that threshold, you may say, was written this matter of being faithful to Paul’s ministry. I wonder then if I am holding my house in such high regard for the Lord’s things, and I can say it is protected by the blood of Christ. Anybody coming in to it will see, on that threshold, a threshold that is not only between me and my house and unbelievers, but, when it needs to be, a threshold between me and other believers, in being faithful to Paul’s ministry. Is it evident as someone comes into my house?
Well, I would encourage our hearts in relation to these things. And lastly I have read in 1 Corinthians 15, and there I just wanted to touch upon this wonderful matter of the change. Has change taken place now? It says here “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all fall asleep, but we shall all be changed, in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed”. Paul in this chapter is combating the matter of certain persons denying the resurrection, the truth of which underlies the Lord coming for us. As we wait for the Lord, and as He comes for us, what underlies that mighty power is that Christ is risen. That is another thing to carry in our hearts, the Lord coming and the truth and the power of His resurrection. That was something that Paul knew and, as seeking to know “the power of his resurrection” (Phil 3: 10), he can then speak about one thing, one thing was before him and that was “the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus”, v 14. It is a wonderful matter that the Lord is coming for us as One who is risen from the dead. We should be encouraged by that. He has the power to bring about change, something that can go on now in our hearts. How the bondman would be open to that. The Lord had to say to the Sadducees, “Ye err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God”, Matt 22: 29. Think of that, the power that would sustain us. I would like to draw attention to this wonderful matter of resurrection. It is wonderful; the One who is coming for us is the One who has been raised from amongst the dead, the One who now lives in glory. Is it not wonderful? What a life He had. The Lord Jesus lived an un-forfeited life. Think of that: our lives are forfeited because we are marked by what is fallen. We are subject to death within ourselves. That never was so of Christ. He was of His own order. Do these not things thrill your heart, and give you some sense of the power that Christ has to bring in this change? May your faith be strengthened that this change is going to take place because of who Christ is. We read in Genesis of what was after its kind, “seed after its kind” Gen 1: 12. The Lord Jesus did not come in on that principle; He was of His own order, and life is inherent in Christ. That is why He could not be held by death and its power, that is why He could not see corruption, that is why the Father raised Him. Think of this blessed One who is coming for us. Dear brother and sister, be encouraged: He has this wonderful power to effect change. It says here, “We shall not all fall asleep, but we shall all be changed, in an instant”. How quickly this is going to happen! How urgent then it makes the exercise of taking up bondmanship, to be faithful to Him whilst we wait for Him to come. Well may our hearts be encouraged.
It goes on to say, “and we shall be changed”. How we can encourage our hearts. Paul does not say that at the end of his account in 1 Thessalonians. He says, “For if we believe that Jesus has died and has risen again, so also God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. (For this we say to you in the word of the Lord, that we, the living, who remain to the coming of the Lord, are in no way to anticipate those who have fallen asleep; for the Lord Himself, with an assembling shout, with archangel’s voice and with trump of God, shall descend from heaven; and the dead in Christ shall rise first” - an old sister once said, ’That is their privilege’ - “the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we, the living who remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall be always with the Lord.) So encourage one another with these words”, chap 4: 14-18. Well, may it be so for His Name’s sake.
24th April 2010