Saturday, August 05, 2006

J.N. Darby on Obadiah

by John Nelson Darby

Edom's perpetual hatred to Jehovah's people: the inveterate enemy of Jerusalem
Edom is frequently spoken of in the prophets. This people, who, as well as Jacob, were descended from Isaac, had an inveterate hatred to the posterity of the younger son who were favoured as the people of Jehovah. Psalm 137 tells of this hatred in the seventh verse. In Psalm 83 Edom forms a part of the last confederacy against Jerusalem, the object of which was to cut off the name of Israel from the earth. Ezekiel 35 dwells upon this perpetual hatred, shewn from the first in the refusal to give them a passage through the land, and upon the desire of Edom to possess the land of Israel. Our prophet enlarges upon the details of the manifestation of this hatred, which burst forth when Jerusalem was taken. It is possible that there was something of this sort when Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar. Edom is united with Babylon in Psalm 137 as the inveterate enemy of Jerusalem.

Their future attitude and complete destruction: the armies of the nations to be assembled in Edom's land
But it is evident that the prophecy extends to other events. Jerusalem shall again be attacked by these Gentiles, who seek to satiate their hatred to the city of Jehovah, and to gratify their ambitious purposes. Edom plays a sorrowful part on this occasion, and its judgment is proportioned to its sin. The nation is entirely cut off. When the rest of the world rejoice, the desolation of Edom shall be complete. Edom had purposed to take advantage of the attack of the nations upon Jerusalem, to possess itself of the land, and had united with them to take part in the attack, by lying in wait -- as was natural to a people whose habits were those of the Arab tribes -- to cut off the retreat of the fugitives, laying hands, when possible, on their substance, and giving them up also to their enemies. The men of Edom knew not that the day of Jehovah was upon all the nations, and that this conduct would but bring down an especial curse on their own heads. Their judgment is thus described: God takes away their wisdom, their pride deceives them, their strength fails them, in order that they may be entirely cut off. We have seen them joining the last confederacy against Jerusalem, and taking part in the destruction of that city. But it appears that their confederates deceive them (v. 7); and Edom, thus ill-treated by former allies, become "small among the heathen" (v. 1, 2). The nations are the first instruments of Jehovah's vengeance. But another and yet more terrible event is linked with the name of Edom, or Idumea, and is the occasion of Jehovah's judgment falling upon that people. It is in Edom that the armies of the nations will be assembled in the last days. We have the account of this in Isaiah 34 and 63. See Isaiah 34: 5, 6, the rest of the chapter displaying the judgment of desolation in the strongest possible language. Isaiah 63 shews us Jehovah Himself returning from the judgment, having trodden the winepress alone. Of the peoples there were none with Him.

Edom's judgment reserved for Israel as Jehovah's instrument
Finally, Israel itself shall be an instrument in the hand of Jehovah for the judgment of Esau (Obad. 18). The destruction in Isaiah relates especially to the armies of the nations, which, in their movements, find themselves assembled in Edom. The part which Israel takes in the judgment is on the people in general; and, I suppose, afterwards, when Christ is at their head as the Messiah (compare v. 17, 18); and Isaiah 11: 14 appears to confirm this view of the passage. At all events it takes place after Israel's blessing.

Complete destruction predicted by other prophets
That none shall be left of Edom is also declared in Obadiah 5, 6, 9, 18; Jeremiah 49: 9, 10-22; and it will be observed that there is no restoration of a remnant, as in the case of Elam and others (Jer. 49: 39). A part of the latter prophecy establishes the same facts as that of Obadiah, in nearly the same words. The same judgment is pronounced in Ezekiel 35, and in Isaiah 34, already quoted. We see in these chapters, as well as in Isaiah 63, that it is the controversy of Jerusalem, that Jehovah pleads with Edom (Ezek. 35: 12; Isaiah 34: 8; 63: 4). In these passages Jehovah does not forget His thoughts of love towards Zion and His people.

The effect of God's call to repentance, of His unchangeable faithfulness and unwearying love: deliverance upon Mount Zion
He closes the prophecy of Obadiah with the testimony of the effect of His call to repentance, of His unchangeable faithfulness to His promises and unwearying love. Power and might against those formidable enemies should be given to Israel, who should in peace possess the territory which their enemies had invaded. Deliverance should be on Mount Zion; from thence Mount Esau should be judged, and the kingdom should be Jehovah's. As corrupt power had been judged in Babylon, so in Edom hatred to the people of God.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Shoes Off at the Door, Please: This Week's NATIONAL ETIQUETTE AWARD

Shoes Off at the Door, Please: This Week's NATIONAL ETIQUETTE AWARD

J.N. Darby on the Difference Between the Levitical Priesthood and the Ministry of the Gospel

John Nelson Darby wrote:

"The existence of ministry is consequent on the nature of the present dispensation; and, in saying this, we ascend very high to discover its source; for the nature of this dispensation is nothing less than the sovereign grace of God, the activity of His love.

The position and the character which distinguish the servants of God, are always, and necessarily, in unison with the priciples of the relation which exists between God and men. When God only recognised certain families, the head of the family was its priest and prophet. We find examples of this in Abraham, Noah, and the other patriarchs. But this principle acquires a more general and important application, when a whole dispensation is in question; as in the case of Judaism and Christianity. The ways of God, and the principlers of His dealings with sinners, are here unfolded with many more details for the conscience, and more distinctness and splendour as to the accomplishment and the revelation of grace.

Observe, accordingly, the marked distinction between these two dispensations. In Judaism, under mount Sinai, where the law was given and those ordinances established which regulated the intercourse between the people and God, we have a people already formed and recognised as such before God; a people whom God had already brought to Himself (Exod.19); whose existence and whose rights depended on their being the children of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, and who, with few exceptions, were perpetuated by natural descent. In a word, they already existed as a people, when God entered into the covenant relationship with them; for it pleased God to try if man, so privileged and put in posession of every possible advantage for the maintenance of his position, could stand before Him.

The work and principle of Christianity are altogether different. Christianity supposes that the trial, to which God has subjected him by means of the law, has only served to prove more plainly how impossible it is for man, whatever his advantages and privileges to stand before Him. But this having been proved, Christianity presents to us God in His grace, visiting this ruined race. He beholds the Gentiles sunk in ignorance and idolatry, and degraded by the most revolting crimes; He finds the Jews still more culpable, having been unfaithful to higher privileges; and He exhibits both Jew and Gentile as the terrible proof that human nature is fallen and corrupt, and that in the flesh good does not dwell. In Christianity God sees man wicked, miserable, rebellious, lost; but He sees him according to His infinite compassions; He only notices the wretchedness of man to bear witness to him of His own pity. He beholds and comes to call men by Jesus; that they may enjoy in Him, and through Him, deliverance and salvation, with His favour and His blessing!

The consequence of the Jewish nation was very simple: a law, to direct the conduct of a people already existing as such before God; and a priesthood, to maintain the relations which existed between the people and their God- relations which were not of a character to enable them to draw nigh to Him without meditation. The question was not, how to seek and call those without; but to order the intercorse with God of a people already recognised as such.

As we have already seen, Christianity has an entirely different character. It considers mankind as universally lost, proves them in reality to be so, and seeks, through the power of a new life, worshippers in spirit and in truth. In like manner does it introduce the worshippers themselves into the presence of God, who there reveals Himself as their Father- a Father who has sought and saved them. And this is done, not by means of an intermediate priestly class who represent the worshippers because of the inability of the latter to approach a terrible and imperfectly known God; but it introduces them in full ocnfidence to a God known and loved, because He loved them, sought, and washed them from all their sins, that they might be before Him without fear.

The consequence of this marked difference between the relations in which Jews and Christians stand as towards God is, that the Jews had a priesthood (and not a ministry) which acted outwards, that is, outside the people; while Christianity has a ministry which finds its exercise in the active revelation of what God is- whether within the church or without- there being no intermediate priesthood between God and His people, save the Great High Priest Himself. The Christian priesthood is composed of all true Christians, who equally enjoy the right of entering into the holy places by the new and living way which has been consecrated for them- a priesthood, moreover, whose relations are essentially heavenly. Ministry, then, is essential to Christianity; which is the activity of the love of God in delivering souls from ruin and from sin, and in drawing them to Himself.

On earth, then, as regards the relations between God and man, a priesthood was the distinguishing characteristic of the Jewish dispensation; ministry of the Christian: because priesthood maintained the Jews in their relations with God; and because by ministry Christianity seeks in this world worshippers of the Father. I say on earth, for, in truth, when we consider the portion of the Christian in its highest point if view, namely in that which has relation to heaven, Christianity has its 'kings and priests'- that is to say, all saints. The worship of God is not ministry; it is the expression of the heart of the children before their Father in heaven, and of priests before their God; in the intimacy of the presence of Him who in His own love, has rent the veil, which His justice had opposed to the sinner; and has rent it by a stroke which has disarmed justice, and left her nothing but the happy task of clothing with the best robe those to whom before all entrance had been denied.

To suppose, then, the necessity of a priestly order is to deny the efficacy of the work of Christ, which has procured for us the privilege of our presenting ourselves before God; it is in fact, though not in words, to deny Christianity, in its application to the conscience, and to the justication of the sinner; it is to overthrow all those relations which God has established that He might glorify Himself and place man in peace and blessedness. On the other hand, God acting in Christianity according to the active energy of His love towards sinners, Christian ministry becomes the expression of this activity. It has its source in the power of this love; whether it be in calling souls, or in nourishing those who are called and whom Jesus loves.

It is thus presented to us by Paul, as one of those things which characterise the gospel of the grace of God."

Taken from On Ministry in Collected Writings, vol.1, p.206-209

William Kelly on the Antichrist

William Kelly wrote:

"Nor will this be all; there is another step- that the man of sin will be revealed. For just as God had a man of righteousness in the Lord Jesus Christ, so Satan will have a man of sin. Thus there is, first the systematic abandonment, not perhaps of Christian forms, but of revealed and professed Christian truth: then will arrive a personal expression of man's will without God who puts himself at the head of it. There will not be wanting a man to lead the evil when the right moment comes. This is the true meaning and place of the man of sin; the Holy Spirit furnishes here a picture of him spiritually considered. If you want to see him politically, you must look at Daniel xi. 36, where the king that does according to his own will is the self-same personage here described religiously, if one may so speak of Antichrist. Daniel naturally treats the king in connection with the Jews, with the land of Palestine, which is clearly to be his habitat, and with the kings of the north and south and their conflicts. The apostle looks at the same person in connection with corrupted Christendom giving up the truth; and accordingly his description is of this sort: he 'opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.'"

Taken from The Coming and the Day of the Lord in Selected Pamphlets, p.423

J.N. Darby on Philemon

J.N. Darby wrote:

"The very beautiful and interesting Epistle to Philemon does not require much comment; it is an expression of the love which works by the Spirit within the assembly of God in all the circumstances of individual life. Written for the purpose of awakening in Philemon sentiments which certain events had a tendency to extinguish in his heart, this epistle is suited to produce those feelings in the reader more than to be the object of explanation. It is a fine picture of the way in which the tenderness and the strength of the love of God, working in the heart, occupies itself with every detail wherein that love might be wounded, or that might be an occasion for its growth and manifestation. In this point of view the epistle is as important as beautiful; for this development of tender and delicate consideration in the midst of the apostle's gigantic labours, and of the immense truths that formed the basis of relationship between all creatures and God in Christ, gives a very peculiar character to Christianity and shews its divine nature; since He who reveals the most profound truths, and puts them in their right place in the circle of divine thought, does so as speaking of a known thing, as communicating His own thoughts; and can (being the Spirit of the God of love) fill the heart with considerations which love only can suggest, with a dignity which manifests their source, and with a delicacy of application which shews that, whatever be the grandeur of His thoughts, He is at liberty to consider everything. When the human mind is occupied with elevated subjects, it feels their weight, and bends under the load; it is absorbed; it has to abstract itself, to fix its attention. God reveals His own thoughts; and, vast as they may be to the human mind, they flow with the clearness and connectedness that is natural to them, when he communicates them by His chosen instruments. The latter are free to love; for the God who employs them and inspires them is love.

It is a more essential part of their task to present Him thus, than even to speak of the deep things. Accordingly, when they are moved by that love, the character of Him who sends them is demonstrated as that of the God who is the source of love, by a perfect consideration for others, and the most delicate attention to those things which their hearts would feel. Moreover this love develops itself in relationships formed by the Holy Ghost Himself, between the members of the body of Christ, that is to say, between men. Springing from a divine source, and always fed b y it, Christian affections assume the form of human regard, which by exhibiting love and the opposite of selfishness, bear the stamp of their origin. Love, free from self, can and does think of all that concerns others and understands what will affect them. Onesimus, a fugitive slave, had been converted by means of Paul in his bonds. Philemon, a rich man or at least one of easy fortune, received the assembly in his house (his wife also being converted). and in his measure laboured himself in the Lord's work. Archippus was a servant of the Lord, who ministered in the assembly, perhaps an evangelist; at any rate he took part in the conflicts of the gospel, and was thus associated with Philemon and the assembly. The apostle, in sending Onesimus back, addresses the whole assembly. This is the reason that we have here, "grace and peace" without the addition of "mercy" as when individuals only are addressed by the apostles. His appeal on behalf of Onesimus is to Philemon; but the whole assembly is to interest itself in this beloved slave, who was become a child of God. Their christian hearts would be a support and a guarantee for the conduct of Philemon; although the apostle expects pardon and kindness for Onesimus form the love of Philemon himself as a servant of God. Paul (as was his custom) recognizes all the good that was in Philemon, and uses it as a motive to Philemon himself, that he might let the feelings of grace flow out freely, in spite of anything that the return of Onesimus might excite in the flesh or any displeasure that Satan might try to re-awaken in him.

The apostle would have that which he desired for Onesimus to be Philemon's own act. The enfranchisement of his former slave, or even his kind reception as a brother, would have quite a different bearing in that case, than if it had arisen from a command on the apostle's part; for christian affection and the bonds of love were in question. He gives due weight to the right he had to command, but only I order to abandon it, and to give more force to his request; and at the same time he suggests that the communion of Philemons' faith with the whole assembly of God and with the apostle?that is, the way in which his faith connected him, in the activities of christian love, with the assembly of God and those appointed by him to labour in it, and with the Lord Himself?which had already shewn itself so honourably in Philemon, would have its full development in the acknowledgment of tall the apostle's rights over his heart. In verse 6 we must read "every good thing which is in us." It is beautiful to see the mixture of affection for Onesimus? which shews itself in an anxiety that makes him plead every motive which could act on the heart of Philemon?with the christian feeling that inspired him with full confidence in the kindly affections of this faithful and excellent brother. The return of his fugitive slave was indeed likely to stir something in his natural heart; the apostle interposes his letter on behalf of his dear child in the faith, born in the time of his captivity. God had interposed the work of His grace, which ought to act on the heart of Philemon, producing altogether new relationships with Onesimus. The apostle beseeches him to receive his former slave as a brother, but it is evident (ver 12), although Paul wished it to be the spontaneous act of the master whom Onesimus had wronged, that the apostle expected the affranchisement of the latter.

Be that as it may, he takes everything upon himself for his dear son. According to grace Onesimus was more profitable to Philemon, as well as to Paul, than formerly, when the flesh had made him an unfaithful and valueless servant; and this he should rejoice in. (Ver 11) Paul alludes to the name of "Onesimus", which means "profitable." Finally he reminds Philemon that he was indebted to him for his own salvation?for his life as a Christian. Paul at this moment was a prisoner at Rome. God had brought Onesimus there (whither all resorted) to lead him to salvation and the knowledge of the Lord, in order that we should be instructed, and that Onesimus should have a new position in the christian assembly. [See Footnote #1] It was apparently towards the end of the apostle's imprisonment. He hopes at least soon to be released and tells Philemon to prepare him a lodging. We find the names again in the Epistle to the Colossians. There the apostle says, "Onesimus, who is one of you;" so that, if it be the same, he was of Colosse. It seems likely, because there is Archippus also, who is exhorted to take heed to his ministry. If it be so, the fact that he speaks thus of Onesimus to the Christians at Colosse is another proof of his loving care for this new convert. He lays him thus upon the hearts of the assembly, sending his letter by him and Tychicus.

In the Epistle to the Ephesians there are no salutations; but the same Tychicus is its bearer. Timothy is joined with Paul in the address of the Epistle to the Colossians, as well as in this to Philemon. It was not so in the Epistle to the Ephesians; but in that to the Philippians to whom the apostle hoped to send Timothy ere long, their two names are again united. I do not draw an conclusions from these last details; but they furnish ground for inquiry into details. Each of the four epistles was written during the apostle's captivity at Rome, and when he was expecting to be delivered form that captivity. Finally, that which we have especially to remark in the Epistle to Philemon is the love which, in the intimate centre of this circle (guarded all round by an unparalleled development of doctrine) reigned and bore fruit, and bound the members of Christ together, and spread the savour of grace over all the relationships in which men could stand towards each other, occupying itself about all the details of life with a perfect propriety, and with the recognition of every right that can exist among men and of all that the human heart can feel."

Footnotes for Philemon 1
1: It seems to me, from the way in which the apostle speaks, that he even thought Onesimus would be an instrument of God in the assembly, useful in the Lord's served. He would have retained him to minister to himself in the bonds of the gospel; but he respects his connection with Philemon. It was also much better for the soul of Onesimus that he should submit himself where had done wrong; and if he was to be free, that he should receive his freedom from the love of Philemon.