What Pastor Russell Said About Judging

“UNTIL THE LORD COME”
 
“Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God.” – 1 Cor. 4:5.
THE TEACHING of the Apostle here is parallel to that of our Lord in his parable of the wheat and the tares. (Matt. 13:24-30,36-43.) When the zealous servant in the parable inquired, “Wilt thou then that we go and gather them [the tares] up?” the Lord answered, “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the Harvest; and in the time of Harvest I will say to the reapers,* Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.”
All through the Gospel Age the wheat and tares have grown together, and only the Lord, who could read the hearts, could distinguish between them with unerring precision. But both the Lord and the Apostle, in the above Scriptures, indicate a difference in the time of Harvest, and show that it will then be possible for the faithful saints to judge also. With this thought in view, they are told to “judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come.”
THE DAY OF THE LORD HAS COME

And now the day of the Lord has come: we are now living in the days of the parousia (presence) of the Son of Man – “the Lord of the Harvest,” “having on his head a golden crown [Divine authority] and in his hand [in his power] a sharp sickle” – the sickle of “present truth,” the clear unfolding of the “Word of God [which] is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword …and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12; Matt. 9:38; Rev. 14:14.)

UNTIL THE LORD COME.

And he is sending forth such “laborers,” “angels” or “messengers” into this harvest as he sent forth into the harvest of the Jewish Age, viz., his consecrated and faithful disciples, bearing the Harvest message – the now fully revealed Plan of God and its appointed times and seasons.

The Truth thus sent forth is doing its appointed work. Like a magnet, it gathers to itself all who have an affinity for it. Thrust it in wherever you will, it will invariably accomplish its work of finding the loyal and faithful. And we can readily judge, from this affinity for the magnet, who are at heart true and loyal and faithful to the Lord. “My sheep hear my voice,” said the Master, “and I know them, and they follow me;…for they know my voice [they are able to recognize his voice of Truth]; and a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers.” (John 10:27,4,5.) Again he says, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the Word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” – John 12:48.

THE TRUTH IS DOING ITS SEPARATING WORK

Thus, in this last day, the Harvest of the Age, this day of the Lord’s invisible presence in the world, the Truth concerning the Divine Plan, which he has been revealing since 1874, and which is now being widely testified for the sealing of the elect, is doing its separating work; and the saints, who understand the present situation and watch with interest the progress of the harvest work, can see clearly where the lines of judgment are drawn between the faithful and the unfaithful. And often with astonishment they mark the divisions which the Truth makes when some prominent church-member, whom they had always judged to be faithful and true, manifests no affinity for the Truth, but turns from it and hugs the error more tightly than ever; or, when some other one, touched by the power of the Truth, awakes to earnest self-sacrifice in its service.

“Judge nothing before the time.” How could we have judged before this time as to whose hearts were loyal and true? But now, in this day of the Lord’s presence, when the magnet of Divine Truth makes manifest those who have and those who have not an affinity for it – those who refuse to recognize the voice of the “Good Shepherd,” and will not follow his leading, and who flee not from the voice of strangers, but hearken to and follow them – it becomes our duty, as well as our privilege, to judge who is on the Lord’s side and who is against him; for, says the Master, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” – Matt. 12:30.

“JUDGE NOTHING UNTIL THE LORD COME”

“Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come”; but then let your spiritual senses be exercised in observing and marking the heretofore hidden things which the Truth, in its effects, is bringing to light. See how it is bringing to light the hitherto covered deformities of the various creeds. Where is the intelligent Calvinist today who would not like to bury his creed sea deep, and forever hush this wrangle that has been exposing its deformity for a few years past? And where is the intelligent Arminian that is not trembling lest his turn may come next?

Everything is being dragged to the light, whether men are willing or not; for every hidden thing must be revealed. And not only the hidden things of creeds and systems of error and iniquity, but also the hidden things of individual character; “for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, neither hid that shall not be known. Therefore, whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” – Luke 12:2,3.

Ah! it is the day of reckoning with the Church, and “the Lord hath a controversy with his people.” And this controversy, this reckoning, is not merely with the Church-nominal in its great sectarian branches; but in a special sense it is with those who have escaped from the bondage of error and sectarianism, and who, because faithful to their consciences and the truths brought to their attention, have been served by the Master with “present truth” as “meat in due season” (Luke 12:37), and who have been permitted to enter into some of the “deep things” of God’s Plan.

THE CHURCH’S JUDGMENT NOW – THE WORLD’S NOT YET HERE

The world has not yet come into its judgment; its reckoning is yet future; but ours is now upon us. We, to whom the testimony of Divine Truth has been borne, before whose mental vision the whole Plan of God with all its specifications has been spread out and carefully explained, now stand on trial, yea, under the final tests of that trial, which is either to prove or disprove our worthiness to enter into the promised reward of the faithful. Many, as predicted (Psa. 91:7), are proving unworthy, and some still stand.

And among those whom we fellowship and bid Godspeed as faithful brethren in Christ, it is our duty to judge as to whether they are still faithful when the magnet of Truth makes their judgment so manifest in this day of the Lord; for it is written (2 John 10,11), “If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed; for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”

Here is a responsibility with reference to our endorsement of another which we cannot ignore and still be faithful; and except we judge of one’s course by his fidelity or infidelity to the Truth, we shall be endorsing error quite as often as Truth. It is our privilege to know the Truth and to hold it firmly and to be faithful to it to the end, and if we so abide and walk in the light we will quickly know when one has turned away from the light into darkness, and will be able to render wholesome counsel and warning to such, and to help those who still retain enough of the spirit of meekness to accept the proffered assistance.

But, if such a one still pursue the path of darkness and call it light, thus deceiving himself and others, we cannot further endorse him and be guiltless. To do so is to add our influence in some measure, at least, to the error and in opposition to the Truth, and thus we become partaker of his evil deeds.

“IN THE LAST DAYS PERILOUS TIMES SHALL COME”

The necessity for this careful discrimination and jealous guarding of the Truth in these last days is very manifest, both from the warnings of the Scriptures and from observation of their fulfilment. “In the last days,” says the Apostle, “perilous times shall come.” (2 Tim. 3:1.) Why? Because the Prince of darkness will make every possible effort to retain his power and dominion; and ignorance, error and superstition are his strongholds. He first used all his power to keep men in ignorance and to foster superstition. But now God’s due time has come for knowledge to be increased (Dan. 12:4), and the Millennial dawn is breaking; and not only the Church but the world is now waking up and beginning to think.

So the policy of Satan at present is to devise plausible counterfeits of the Truth, whereby to entrap and mislead those who have been making progress in the knowledge of the Divine Plan. As, in the beginning of our Lord’s ministry at his first advent, Satan’s efforts were concentrated upon the one object of causing him to stumble, thereby to nip the Divine Plan in the bud; and as during the Gospel Age the consecrated members of the Body of Christ have been specially opposed and beset by him, so now his efforts are concentrated specially upon the last members of that Body, “the Feet of him,” who are running the race for the prize of the high calling. It is for this cause that so many new and plausible forms of error have been brought forward within this Harvest period.

SATAN USING EVERY EFFORT TO STUMBLE
THE FEET OF HIM THAT PUBLISHETH PEACE

Satan is using every effort to thwart God’s Plan and to stumble the Feet. And God even more than permits this: he encourages it by sending these strong delusions of Satan among his professed followers – at the same time assuring all who at heart are faithful to his Word and to their covenant of self-sacrifice that they need fear no evil, for he will be with them and uphold them though a thousand fall at their side.

Ever since the Plan of God has been made manifest to the saints, the delusions of error have been rapidly multiplying. This was foretold by the Apostle who, referring to our Lord’s second coming, said, “And then shall that wicked [the Man of Sin] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the bright-shining of his presence, whose parousia [Christ’s presence] is with [or accompanied by] the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the Truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they might all be condemned who believed not the Truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” – 2 Thess. 2:8-12.

One after another the deluded ones who have fallen into the various snares set for their feet have become active advocates of the several causes they have espoused since they departed from the Truth, and are advanced by the Adversary as teachers, angels or messengers of new light. They never seem to realize that they have gone into darkness, but imagine they have made great strides of progress in the light. This is because they have been overcome by the strong delusions of this evil day. They verily mistake the darkness for the light, the error for the Truth. But, though they be cast thus into the outer darkness of the world and of the nominal professor, thank God, we can now see that by and by the shining forth of the Sun of Righteousness in the Millennial morning shall open all the error-blinded eyes to the full and glorious Truth, though too late to assist any to win the great prize of joint-heirship in the Kingdom.
THE STRONG DELUSIONS SHALL CAUSE
THE UNWORTHY TO BELIEVE THE UNTRUTH

However, none are ever permitted to be thus overcome who have not in some way been unfaithful to the Truth and hence unworthy of it. Upon all such God has said he would send the strong delusion, so that they shall believe a lie. The Truth being designed for those only who are worthy of it – the elect – all others are bound to lose it. But it is impossible to deceive the “very elect.” God will keep them by his mighty power because of their faithfulness and loyalty to him.

The Lord distinguishes between the nominally elect and the finally elect, and so should we. Not all who have accepted of the Redeemer’s favor of justification from guilt, and have heard and accepted the high calling to joint-heirship with Christ in his Kingdom and glory, will attain that great prize. All such have entered the race as now the nominally elect, and all such are eligible to membership in the glorified Church as the finally elect; but in order to gain that prize they must fulfil the conditions specified when they entered the race – when they in Christ’s name and merit made a covenant with God, to sacrifice themselves in his service. In no other way can they make their calling and election sure.

“LET HIM THAT THINKETH HE
STANDETH TAKE HEED LEST HE FALL”

It is this nominally elect class that is being tried now; and God is now making manifest the secret counsels of the hearts of his people. He puts us all on guard, too, saying, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall”; and telling us to take heed that no man take our crown.

How great is the responsibility of our present position before God, the great Judge of all hearts! He has shown us special favor in revealing to us the wonders of his Plan and in setting before us the grand prize of our high calling. Thus far we were counted worthy of those favors and eligible to the prize of joint-heirship with Christ. How worthy have we proved ourselves since receiving this knowledge? Have we received it with meekness and humility and with a gratitude which manifests itself in active service of the Truth – in proclaiming it to others and in defending it and standing by it nobly in the midst of all the reproaches hurled against it? Have we refused to compromise the Truth to any extent to avoid its otherwise inevitable reproach?

If we are not thus jealous for the Truth we are not worthy of it, and one of the deceptions of this “evil day” will surely number us among its victims; for it is in this time of the Lord’s presence that Satan is to work so mightily, with great power to deceive, with signs of success and with lying wonders of error. His various schemes will have great success, in comparison with which the success of the Truth will seem small; for with these, as with Gideon’s band, it will be a time of sifting, and “who shall be able to stand?”

But let those who stand girt about with Divine Truth fear nothing; the Lord is permitting these delusions that they may serve his own wise and benevolent purposes in the separating of the worthy from the unworthy, and for the manifestation of those who are at heart loyal to him and to his Truth.

 

Righteous Judgment and Criticism

Question.How may we distinguish between “righteous judgment” and criticism?

Answer. – The Lord says, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24.) St. Paul says, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come.” (I Cor. 4:5.) The question then arises, What is “righteous judgment”? A righteous judgment is a right decision. But since we cannot read the heart, how can we render a right decision? The Scriptures answer that we cannot read one another’s hearts and therefore should not attempt to judge them.

If, then, we cannot judge each other’s hearts, motives or intentions, what can we judge? The answer of Scripture is that we may judge each other’s conduct. If we see one of the Lord’s people doing something improper, we might say, “Dear Brother (or Sister), your conduct would seem to be contrary to the Word of God, and to be bringing forth bad fruitage.” If that person should reply, “It does not seem to me that I am doing wrong,” we must not judge or condemn that one’s heart. But we should judge between good and evil conduct, and at the proper time and place call attention to the matter and leave it there.

There is a difference between judging the heart, which we have no right to do, and judging the conduct, which is right to do. But it does not always follow that our judgment of another’s conduct must always be right. We are all prone to make mistakes.

If we should come to a brother and say, “Dear Brother, your conduct seems to be wrong, but I am sure that you want to do right. Will you explain?” He may be able to show us that the fruitage was good when we thought it bad. We may have misunderstood the matter. We are not to condemn our brother, but to go directly to him and get his view. Then if we cannot agree, we should tell him how it seems to us, and ask him to judge his own heart. We can do no more.

 

Perilous Times at hand

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” – 2 Tim. 3:1.

REALIZING that we are now living in the very times referred to by the Apostle, some may inquire, How can this be? Are not these times, in comparison with times past, especially favorable to the prosperity of the Church? Time was when fire and sword and guillotine and rack were systematically employed to exterminate the true saints of God, when the Word of God was a book prohibited, and when the prison and the dungeon rewarded the faithful searching of the Scriptures. And is there not also more Truth due and understood now than formerly, as well as full liberty (if a man is pleased to exercise it) to believe and teach, either in private or in public, whatever he believes to be Truth?

Yes, such are the favorable conditions of our day. Never, in all the history of the Church, has there been a day of such privilege and blessing – such increase of knowledge and general intelligence, such facilities for the general diffusion of knowledge and such breadth of individual liberty – of conscience, of speech and of action – as today. The spirit of liberty is abroad in the earth, and though the wily enemies that once fettered and handcuffed and imprisoned it still live, and would fain imprison it as before, they regretfully realize that the soaring eagle is on the wing and may never be pinioned again. But hand in hand with all these advantages, strange to say, comes the Church’s greatest peril. True, there is little peril to physical life, or earthly property; but these, to the true saints, are of minor importance, for they count not their earthly life dear unto them if by any means they may attain the divine nature and glory to which they are called.

The peril of these times is to the spiritual nature of the saints and to their valuable inheritance in the exceeding great and precious promises of God, which are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus. Subtle influences are now at work seeking to dwarf and extinguish the spiritual life and to rob the saints of their glorious hope, to sap stealthily the very foundations of Christianity, and thus effectually to overthrow the whole superstructure of the Christian faith in the minds of many, causing them thus to stumble and lose their glorious inheritance as joint-heirs with Christ.

The present besetments, being of this subtle character, are the more calculated to delude and ensnare, so that if one allows himself to be for a moment off his guard, the agencies of the Adversary will gain an advantage and use it to entrap the unwary one. And God will permit such snares because only those who are loyal and faithful, and therefore ever watchful, are counted worthy to escape their strong delusion. “Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” – Matt. 21:36.

MANNER OF APPROACH OF THESE TIMES

The Apostle forewarns the Church, not only of the certainty of such perils, and of their character, but also of their manner of approach. On one occasion he said, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. (Such were the great and destructive papal powers.) Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29,30.) Some of these Paul and the early Church encountered in their day.

Paul was often in peril among false brethren who, concerning the faith, had made shipwreck, and who greatly withstood his words – his efforts to build up the Church in the most holy faith. (2 Cor. 11:26; I Tim. 1:19; 2 Tim. 4:14-17.) And he shows that from such false brethren, brethren who have erred from the Truth and become teachers of false doctrine, will come the Church’s greatest peril in these last times. (2 Tim. 2:16-18; 3:5.) And in order that we might recognize and beware of them, he very minutely described them, though the clear significance of the warning is somewhat beclouded by a faulty translation, which reads as follows: –

“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,* truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good; traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth.”

The description as here translated, the reader will observe, is incongruous; for men of such villainous character could have no form of godliness. Read the description again and consider, How could a proud, covetous, boastful blasphemer, a truce-breaker, a false accuser, incontinent and fierce, a despiser of those that are good, a heady, high-minded, pleasure-loving traitor, have any form of godliness whatever, or deceive any one in this respect? Such a fierce character and bold blasphemer could not possibly palm himself off as a child of God; nor would he attempt it. The fact is that our translators did not fully comprehend the Apostle’s language, and in rendering it into English they put the heaviest possible construction upon the Greek words, and thus the picture of these persons is overdrawn. Thus, for instance, the Greek word here rendered “blasphemers” (V. 3) is blasphemos, which signifies one speaking injuriously, or an evil-speaker.

Now, judging merely by the word, regardless of the context, we would not know whether in this instance the evil-speaking is carried to the extent of revilings or not; but as it stands related to the context – in view of the after statement that these have a form of godliness (V. 5), though lacking its real power – we must conclude that those milder or more subtle forms of evil-speaking, which would be consistent with hypocritical forms of godliness, are referred to, and therefore that our English word blaspheme, though it means evil-speaking, is too strong a term by which here to translate the Greek word blasphemos; for the full and generally understood significance of the English word blaspheme is – “To speak of the Supreme Being in terms of impious irreverence, to revile or speak reproachfully of God, Christ, or the holy Spirit – to speak wickedly of, to utter abuse or calumny against, to speak reproachfully of.” – Webster.

So also the word apeithes rendered “disobedient,” signifies not persuaded; and the expression “disobedient to parents” would consequently signify not of the same persuasion, or not of the same mind as were the parents. The word anosios, rendered “unholy,” which signifies unkind, or unholy, would likewise, in view of the context, be better rendered by the milder English term, unkind. The word aspondos rendered “truce-breakers” (V. 3), signifies irreconcilable or implacable – i.e., stubborn or constant in enmity. The word akrates, rendered “incontinent,” signifies more properly, without strength, or without self-control. Though this thought is also in the English word “incontinent,” a coarser meaning generally attaches to the word. The word anemeros, rendered “fierce,” signifies not mild, savage. That is, it may be a great or a small lack of mildness, amounting in some cases to savage bitterness. But, again, the fierce or savage idea is not compatible with any pretentions to godliness, as intimated in verse 5. The word aphilagathos, rendered “despisers of those that are good,” would thus be better rendered not friendly to the good.

Thus revised, the Apostle’s language reads as follows: “For men shall be lovers of their own selves (selfish), covetous, boasters, proud, evil-speakers, not of the same mind as were their forefathers (i.e., devisers of new doctrines), unthankful, unkind, irreconcilable, false accusers, without self-control, not mild, not friendly to those that are good – traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God (i.e., preferring their own will or pleasure to the will or pleasure of God); having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; ever learning, and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

“MEN OF YOUR OWN SELVES SHALL
ARISE SPEAKING PERVERSE THINGS”

It should be observed also that the word men, in verse 2, is emphatic in the Greek text, as shown in the Emphatic Diaglott, thus indicating that a particular class of men is here referred to, which, according to the description, can be none other than those mentioned in Acts 20:29,30, viz., men “of your own selves (men of your own company, men whom you have hitherto regarded as members of the Body of Christ, and who still claim to be such), who shall arise speaking perverse things (perverting the Truth).

But why, you ask, should any one who had once received the Truth desire to pervert it? The Apostle answers that their object is) to draw away disciples after them.” And for this purpose, of leading away disciples after them, they keep up the form of godliness, although they deny its power – the only power by means of which any of the fallen race can be reckoned godly or righteous in God’s sight, viz., the power of the precious blood of Christ, which cleanseth us from all sin, as long as we appreciate and accept this salvation through faith in his blood.

Well may we inquire, as we realize that we are living in the last days here referred to, Is there such a class of enemies to the Truth and to the Church actually in existence today? Truly, the voice of prophecy has never set up a false alarm, or foretold an uncertain event. The perilous times have come and the foretold perils are all about us. Side by side in the same communities with the humble, faithful, consecrated saints – in the same little assemblings together of those who have escaped from the bondage of Babylon, in the same households, and often at the same table of the Lord, there has also been developing a class who are “lovers of their own selves (selfish), covetous (of honors and distinction and the praise of men – ambitious), boasters (as though the credit of the Truth now due and received were in some way due to them, and as though they had a right therefore to alter and amend it at their pleasure), proud” (of that knowledge which should be received with only humility and thankfulness, and which can be retained only under these conditions).

Because the light of the newly unfolding Truth has dawned upon their pathway, they, in common with the faithful saints, no longer are of the same mind as were their parents; but the goodness of God thus manifested to them, instead of cultivating in them a spirit of thankfulness and co-operation, which is its design, seems to arouse a spirit of pride and ambition, which does not long hesitate to make merchandise of the Truth for ambitious ends, however trivial and foolish those ends may be. And in pursuance of the ambitious policy, by degrees they become “evil-speakers (against the doctrine of Christ and those who believe and teach it), unkind, unfriendly to those that are good (who hold fast the Truth in righteousness), and false accusers” (of such). As they proceed in this way they seem to lose all former strength of Christian character. They become irreconcilable to the Truth, so that neither Scripture, nor reason, nor the example of the faithful, has power to restore them. Loving their own wills more than the will of God, they grow more and more proud and boastful of their attainments – high-minded and heady. Not submitting themselves to the Head of the Body, Christ Jesus, they are ambitious to head new factions themselves, and thus they turn traitors to the Truth.

They claim, too, to be very earnest students of the Word of God; and so they are, but they never come to a knowledge of the Truth. They are after something new, some new and peculiar “find” in the mine of God that will attract the wondering gaze of many curious disciples. But, alas for their purposes! There are no such real curiosities in the blessed Word of God; but the zeal of these ambitious ones is equal to the emergency, and one after another the actual truths are beclouded, distorted and perverted to this ignoble end and presented as newly-found truths. And the unwary receive them as such, not recognizing at first that they are subversive of the entire system of Divine Truth. Thus their faith in the truths already learned is unwittingly undermined; they are caught in the snare of the Enemy; and as they continue to give ear to these seductive influences they become more and more entangled, until, having lost their anchorage, they find themselves adrift on a vast sea of unbelief, floating they know not whither. Like their leaders, they may retain the form of godliness, but have lost its power.

THEIR POLICIES SHALL BE VERY SEDUCTIVE

But there is another feature of the description of these false teachers, whose ambitions place so many perils in the pathway of the saints, which should not be overlooked. Verses 6 and 8 describe, or rather illustrate, the manner in which the influence of such teachers will be brought to bear upon the Church. Their opposition is not expressed in bold, defiant terms, and emphasized and enforced with vehemency. As here intimated, their policy is crafty, deceitful, sly, under pretentions of godliness, love of truth and zeal for the truth. Their influence will be exerted somewhat after the manner of a vile class mentioned in verse 6, who “creep into houses and lead captive silly women, laden with sin, and led away by various inordinate desires.” Not that such will be the actual immoral character of these teachers, but that their policy will be similarly seductive.

Their actual course is more particularly described in verse 8 thus: “Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the Truth – men of corrupt minds (corrupted or turned aside from the Truth), reprobate concerning the faith.” Thus we are shown that the opposition to the Truth will be manifested in a subtle, deceptive course similar to that of those opposers of Moses. They opposed Moses by doing something similar to what he did, thus confusing the people. God had given Moses power to do certain miracles in order to prove to Israel that Moses was his Divinely empowered agent. And Satan forthwith empowered his agents to duplicate those miracles, which they did to some extent, not perfectly, thus endeavoring to confuse the minds of the people and to unsettle their confidence in Moses and his leading and teaching.

Just so it is today. The studied effort of false teachers – false brethren developing in the very midst of the Church – is to offset the Truth by plausible forms of error, to unsettle confidence both in the Truth and in all teachers of the Truth, thus to lead away disciples after them and their theories. And in consequence of the allurements of these false teachers, and of the unfaithfulness of many to the love and service of the Truth which they have received, a class in the midst of the Church will give much encouragement to the ambitions of these false brethren; “for,” says the Apostle (2 Tim. 4:3,4), “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own desires (desires for something new) shall they gather to themselves teachers, having itching ears (for new and strange things); and they shall turn away their ears from the Truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

Nor will this class be only a small minority; for, in order that the faithful may not be discouraged when brought face to face with these things, they are forewarned (Psa. 91:7) that, before this conflict ends, a thousand shall fall at their side and ten thousand at their right hand. Thus, realizing that God foreknew it all and that the accomplishment of his glorious purposes is not in the least endangered thereby, they may still have confidence and joy in view of the glorious consummation of his Plan, and of their promised position in it.

“FROM SUCH TURN AWAY”

But how shall the faithful believers act towards these false brethren in their midst? Shall they take them by the hand, as formerly, and bid them God-speed? Shall they recognize them as brethren in Christ? Are they owned of God as sons? Shall we indeed walk with them and be guiltless? What does the Apostle say we shall do? He says, “From such turn away.” (V. 5.) “Be not ye partakers with them; for ye were formerly darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light…and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Eph. 5:6-11.) And the Apostle John (2 John 11) emphasizes Paul’s counsel, saying, “If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed; for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”

Such “evil men,” says Paul (V. 13), “shall wax worse and worse (more and more bold and aggressive, as they receive encouragement from that rapidly increasing class who will no longer endure sound doctrine), deceiving (others) and being deceived” (themselves – becoming more firmly intrenched in the snares of their own weaving, so as to make it impossible to extricate them). But, nevertheless, the time is coming when they shall proceed no further; for their folly shall be manifested unto all men, as was the folly of Jannes and Jambres, who could not forever withstand the teachings of Moses, the servant of God. – V. 9.

Then Paul proceeds to call attention to the ground of Timothy’s confidence in himself as a faithful teacher of Divine Truth, saying, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured; but out of them all the Lord delivered me.” – Vs. 10,11.

Such are always the marks of a true teacher. His [R4728 : page 392] doctrine will be that which the most thorough investigation of the Scriptures most clearly proves and establishes beyond all peradventure. His manner of life will be consistent both with his faith and with his consecration to the Lord. His purpose will be the building up of the Church in the most holy faith. His faith will be positive and clear – not mere guesswork, but knowledge based upon the sure Word of God, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning. And his great love for the Church will be manifest, as was Paul’s, and as was Moses’ love for Israel, by long-suffering, patience and meek endurance of persecution, both from an opposing world and from false brethren arising in the midst of God’s people. And in such persecutions no true teacher will be lacking; for “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (V. 12.) Such has been the experience of every true teacher that God has ever raised up to deliver and guide his people. Witness Noah, Moses, Paul and Luther.

But, Beloved, our advice to you in these perilous times, when error is taking on its most baneful and deceitful forms, and when it is finding its most active agents amongst false brethren and sisters in your very midst, and when fidelity to Truth, therefore, occasions the severing of some of the tenderest social ties you have ever known, even among those with whom you once held sweet converse as you walked together to the house of God – yes, in these times let us again urge the counsel of Paul – “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them”; for it is written (John 6:45), “They shall be all taught of God.” Whoever the human agent may be that God has made use of to bring you to a knowledge of the truth, he was simply an index finger to help you trace it for yourself on the sacred page; and in humility and faithfulness he made no greater claim than this, assuring you that the holy Scriptures to which he ever and continually pointed are indeed “able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”; and that “all Scripture, given by inspiration of God, is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

THE PRECIOUS TRUTH IS GOD’S MESSAGE

Therefore, dearly beloved, what you have learned concerning God’s glorious Plan of the Ages, and concerning your privileged place in that Plan, as heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, his Son, and concerning the conditions upon which you hold this precious promise and may finally realize it, and concerning that great foundation doctrine of our redemption from sin and death through the precious blood of “the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all,” upon which fact rests the whole superstructure of the wondrous and glorious Plan, hold fast these things, knowing of whom you have learned them. This precious Truth is God’s message to you, not man’s. No such high and glorious hope could ever have entered the mind of mortal man had not God revealed it by his Spirit, as he has done through faith in his Word, in his own due time. It is all in that Word. Search and see for yourselves; and be not faithless but believing. It comes not to you on the miserable authority of vain imagination, or dreams, or doubtful visions, but on the authority of God’s most holy and authentic Word. True, it is almost too good to believe, but is it not just like our God? Does it not gloriously illustrate the breadth of his mighty mind, the scope of his marvelous wisdom and power, and the depth of his love and grace?

Continue, therefore, in the things which thou hast learned, and hast been assured of (having proved them yourselves from the Scriptures), and be not of them who turn away their ears from the Truth and are turned unto fables. And observing those who have a form of godliness, but who, nevertheless, by their false teachings deny the power thereof, “from such turn away,” and “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”

We cannot serve two masters; we cannot espouse the cause of Truth and the cause of error as well; nor can we retain the friendship of God and of the advocates of error also. Who is on the Lord’s side? Let them rally around the Lord’s standard. All told, they will be only a “little flock.” Like Gideon’s band, the company now gathered by the proclamation of the harvest-message of Truth must be tested and sifted until only the loyal, faithful, true-hearted, brave and valiant soldiers of the cross remain; and to these, though their numbers be small, will the laurels of victory belong when Truth and righteousness finally prevail. Let no man boast of numbers now when the highest interests of the elect of God are all bound up with the faithful few, to whom it will be the Father’s good pleasure to give the Kingdom.

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*The Sinaitic, the oldest and most reliable MS., omits the words, “without natural affection,” they being no part of the original text.

 

Our Lord Betrayed and Denied

“Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men.” – Matt. 17:22.

Our lesson constitutes one of the saddest chapters in history. It reveals to us the depths of human ingratitude, selfishness, weakness, and fear to a remarkable degree. Nevertheless, it is a most helpful lesson to those who are in the right attitude of heart to receive it, because it warns against weaknesses more or less common to all and against dangers to which all are exposed. It emphasizes our Lord’s words to the twelve apostles, words which are applicable also to all of his followers – “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” And in respect to the Apostle Peter’s experience and our Lord’s magnanimity in dealing with him, the lesson gives encouragement to others who, like Peter, have strayed from the right path unwisely.

To get the proper bearings of this lesson we go back to the early hours of the same evening when Jesus and his chosen twelve met to eat the Passover Supper. For three years our Lord had been training those twelve men, preparing them to be his representatives in the world, his mouthpieces to the Church. They had seen his power, known his teachings and themselves had exercised the power of healing and casting out devils, his power operating through them. He had been on the alert to instruct them as to the need of humility; that they must become as little children, simple, earnest and obedient in order to be fitted for the Kingdom which they were called to share with him. On several occasions he had been obliged to call to their attention the necessity for meekness and humility, as he perceived the spirit of ambition and rivalry amongst them. On this last evening which he would spend with them in the flesh he had noted with regret that when assembling for the Passover Supper they had neglected the usual hospitalities of the time not only toward each other but also toward him, their Leader, their Master whom they professed to believe was the special Son of God, the Messiah. They had neglected to wash one another’s feet and his feet, a custom, almost a necessity to comfort in that dusty land, where sandals are worn instead of shoes.

“I, YOUR LORD – SERVANT OF ALL”

Forgetful of his own weight of care and sorrow, and anxious for the welfare of his followers, Jesus improved the opportunity to teach them all a great lesson in humility. He took water in a basin and a towel and did the feet-washing, while the disciples, ashamed, confused, [R4167 : page 140] knew not what to say or do under the circumstances, except Peter, who protested that he could not thus have the Master act as his servant; but when Jesus explained that there was a symbolical meaning to the matter, Peter also was anxious for the washing. Lest they should fail to get the lesson, our Lord, after he had finished, explained it, saying, If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, have displayed humility and willingness to serve any of you in the most menial capacity, you surely ought to be willing to follow the same example with one another, and to perform the most menial service for one another, even to the extent of washing one another’s feet, as opportunity may offer.

It was not long before this that Jesus, talking to the apostles, told them plainly that he would be delivered up to the authorities and that the disciples would all forsake him. This seemed a hard statement to the apostles; an intimation that Jesus lacked confidence in them, and it was the impulsive Peter who spoke up and declared that although all should deny the Lord and forsake him he would never do so. It was then that our Lord prophetically told him that before the second cock crowing at night he would deny his Master, and assured him that Satan desired to capture him, but that he was praying for him that his faith would not fail. Surely these statements were of value to the Apostle in his hour of temptation; surely they helped to put all the apostles on guard against what was to be expected.

“LORD, IS IT I? LORD, IS IT I?”

Proceeding further in his cautioning our Lord declared, “Verily I say unto you, one of you shall betray me!” What consternation must have prevailed! Could it be that amongst those who were so highly favored of the Lord and so long associated with him there could be one so base as to deny his Lord?

Let us not lose the force of this lesson; let us remember that the Lord’s disciples down through the Gospel Age have been as the Apostle here declares of the twelve, “Men of like passions with you,” men from the common walks of life, neither above nor below the average standard of human imperfection! Let us remember that the same Lord who cautioned those twelve respecting the trials coming upon them is still mindful of his Church, his flock, and we may suppose especially mindful of all who are in any prominent place of responsibility amongst the brethren. He still guards us, warns us, seeks to keep us from falling under the power of the Adversary. He still prays for his faithful, those who at heart are loyal to him, but who have weaknesses of the flesh which are liable to make their temptations more severe. As our Lord’s interest in and efforts for the apostles increased as they neared the special hour of their temptation, so we may be sure that it is also with respect to his Church in general today, when the last members of his Body, the “feet of him,” are approaching the crucial hour, “The hour of temptation that cometh upon the whole world to try them.” – Rev. 3:10.

The Master does not speak to us in audible tones, as he did to those twelve, but has he not spoken to us with equal force and earnestness? Do not the words and actions of the Lord to those disciples come to us today with the same lesson and with as much force as they bore to them? Have we not, in addition to these examples and warnings, special declarations of the Scriptures respecting the end of the age? Did not our Lord, in the parable of the suitable and unsuitable fish, explain to us that in the end of this Gospel Age there would be a separation of those in the Gospel net? Does he not again in the parable of the wheat and tares tell us of the separation due to take place in the harvest time of this Gospel Age, when only the true and the ripe wheat will be gathered into the barn? Does he not through the Apostle forewarn us that in the end of the age perilous times shall come because men will be lovers of their own selves – selfish, ambitious – lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God? (2 Tim. 3:1,2.) Does he not tell us that it would be at the time in the divine plan when God would send [permit] strong delusions, so that all might believe a lie who shall not have received the truth in the love of it and with zeal? – 2 Thess. 2:11.

“THE HOUR OF TEMPTATION THAT SHALL TRY”

Does he not also tell us that the temptations of this hour will be such as would, if it were possible, deceive the “very Elect,” but that in their case it will not be possible because of their love, their zeal and the consequent blessings and privileges that divine favor will provide for them! And if to Peter special encouragement was given – “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not” – have we not a full equivalent of this in the Scriptural assurance, “Lo, I am with you alway,” “My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in your weakness”? (Matt. 28:30; 2 Cor. 12:9.) Surely we have much advantage every way over the apostles in their trial, and this advantage is emphasized in the fact that their trial came upon them before their anointing with the holy Spirit, whereas our testings come to us at the time we are of the anointed Body. When we now look out into the future and hear the message, “The morning cometh, but a night also” (Isa. 21:12), we may well be forewarned as to what to expect in that short night of trouble which will affect the consecrated followers before it reaches the world in general. We must expect in this hour of trial that “a thousand shall fall at thy side and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee”; yet we must remember that this promise is limited to the class specified, to those who have made the Lord, even the Most High, their refuge and habitation; for no evil can come nigh their dwelling place. (Psa. 91:7,9.) Therefore, dearly beloved, putting on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand in this evil day, we will need to watch unto prayer for ourselves and for those over whom the holy Spirit hath made us overseers, that we may feed the flock of God, which he hath purchased with the blood of his own Son. – Acts 20:28, Diaglott.

As the eating of a meal together was a pledge of faithfulness, so for the Master to dip a special sop was a special mark of favor, and this was given to Judas at the supper to indicate the one who would betray the Lord. We can better imagine than describe how the apostles, in various tones, asked the Lord, “Is it I?” and how Judas likewise asked the same question! We can imagine the look of our Lord’s eye as he gave him the sop, saying in action and look, Judas, why do you resist the loving kindnesses which I have bestowed upon you? You have professed to be my friend and disciple; I surely have done the part of a friend toward you. That glance and that sop should have overwhelmed the selfish Judas, but as the mercy of the Lord, in the taking away of the plagues from Pharaoh had so much the more hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so every additional manifestation of our Lord’s humility and kindness seems to have had the effect of hardening the heart of Judas. In answer to our Lord’s glance and sop Judas, so far from repenting, was more embittered, more determined to carry out his program. It shone in his eye; our Lord read his thoughts and answered in the words, “What thou doest, do quickly.”

Let us not lose the lesson in its application and bearing upon the Lord’s people of today. If any amongst the consecrated are cultivating selfishness and personal ambition, they are preparing themselves for such a termination as that of Judas. The influence of the spirit they are cultivating will lead them further and further from sympathy with the Lord’s cause and the faithful brethren until, like Judas, they shall be ready to sell the truth for a little personal advantage. And when such a condition of heart has been reached by those who were once enlightened and have tasted of the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come, no power will hinder them from going to the limit of their evil course. Their minds become so poisoned against the truth that the very sops of favor animate them the more toward evil. As in Judas’ case we read that then Satan entered into him, so with a similar class here; we may expect the Adversary to get fuller power and control over them.

THE LESSONS OF GETHSEMANE

One would think that the impressive lessons of that night would have so filled the minds of the apostles and made them so alert that sleep would have been far from their eyes. But not so; they scarcely understood how to take the Master’s words; he had said so many remarkable things which they did not comprehend; it seemed so incomprehensible that he who had come to be the Messiah and reign should be betrayed and crucified, and that they whom he had promised should sit with him in his throne should all forsake him and flee. Hence the repeated instruction that they should watch and pray made little impression. Even the three special friends of Jesus, the ones whom he made his special confidants and took with him to the Mount of Transfiguration on another special occasion without the others – even these three slumbered, except as from time to time the Lord visited them and awakened them and they noted certain incidents which they recorded for us.

“LEST ANY ROOT OF BITTERNESS SPRING UP”

How is it now? The night of trouble nearing, the hour of trial that shall try all that dwell upon the face of the whole earth coming close, and with the many warnings of the Master through the Word that we should watch and pray lest we enter into temptation! – how is it with us? Alas! many of those who, like Peter, James and John, have been specially favored of the Lord, especially near to him, fail to realize the importance of the time in which we are living, fail to realize that the foretold temptations are about to come upon them and that, like Peter, they will be in great danger of being swept away, sifted out from amongst the Lord’s faithful.

We can imagine our Lord’s condition to some extent. His great hour of trial was upon him; he realized it to the full; it meant not only that his own faithfulness, past and present and on the day following, would decide respecting his loyalty to the Father and his right to obtain the high reward of glory, honor and immortality, but it meant additionally that the interests of the whole world of mankind were in the balance! Victory would mean eventually the deliverance of all the prisoners in bondage to sin and death; failure would mean the loss of everything! Can we wonder that his soul was exceeding sorrowful, and that in his intensity of feeling bloody perspiration oozed from his pores? Ah, dear Master! Well was it written of him, “Of the people there was none with me.” Even his most intimate and most beloved disciples failed to appreciate the conditions and to render him the sympathetic aid which he craved. What would those disciples afterward not have given to have had back the opportunity of ministering to their Lord in his hour of trial! What a privilege they let slip! There is a lesson here for us also, for although the Master is not in the flesh and will suffer no more, some of his members are still in the flesh, some who must suffer with him if they would reign with him. Our sufferings are not all just like those of the Master, nor are they just the same with each of us; each has his own experiences to prove, to test, to fit, to polish him that he may be made meet for the Master’s use. Have we, each for the other, that sympathy, that yearning love which would lead us to help one another and to bear one another’s burdens and thus to fulfil the Law of Christ, the Law of Love? or have we the Judas spirit to injure? or have we the spirit of slothful indifference and lack of appreciation which would lead us to slumber while the interests of others of the Body are at stake, while the brethren are suffering and are in trial? Our practical answer to these questions the Lord is looking for, and his love and his favor will be upon those who manifest most of his Spirit. To us much has been given, in that the hour of testing along these lines comes to us after we have received the anointing of the holy Spirit. Of us correspondingly more will be expected – “We ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

AN ANGEL MINISTERED UNTO HIM

When our Lord in his agony prayed the Father, “If it be possible let this cup pass from me,” we are not to suppose that he meant the cup of death, for he had already explained to his disciples that this death was necessary, and that he had come into the world for this very purpose. What, then, was the cup which he asked might pass from him? We reply that quite probably he referred to the particular ignominy which would be associated with his crucifixion; which would attach to his execution as a blasphemer against God and between two thieves. Another Scripture gives us to understand that the severity of our Lord’s anguish was in respect to his own faithfulness, upon which depended his resurrection. If he failed in even one little item, one jot or tittle of the Law, his own life would have been condemned and forfeited as much as was Adam’s and as a result he would have had no resurrection and no future life, and the whole work, for which he had come into the world, would have been a failure. The Scripture we refer to says, “Who in the days of his flesh offered up strong crying and tears unto him who was able to save him from [out of] death. And he was heard in respect to the thing which he feared.” Although none of his disciples gathered around him to assure him that he had been without spot and blemish and that every act of his life had been in full conformity to the divine will, God more than made up to him such encouragement by sending specially an angel, who ministered unto him, who served him in respect to the thing which he feared, who therefore must have given him assurance from the Father that he had been faithful, that he was approved.

On the strength of that assurance our Lord arose firm, calm, strong for all the coming events of that night and the next day up to the moment of his death. And so it should be with us: Properly there should be some anxiety in respect to the future; the Lord will not be pleased if we are careless as respects the matter of making our calling and election sure. We are to appreciate life, and particularly the life more abundant which has been promised to us if we prove faithful. We are so to appreciate this that our eyes will be toward the Lord for such ministrations of his love and favor as will give us assurance that we are still his and that the glorious hopes and promises are still ours. And his assurances or comfort may not come through earthly ministrations; the Lord himself will see to it that every member of his Body who is deeply earnest and anxious on the subject will have the proper witness of the Spirit, the proper testimony to his heart of his continued acceptance and faithfulness.

JESUS BETRAYED WITH A KISS

Treachery is universally despised and properly so, hence Satan, the traitor to God, and Judas, the traitor to our Lord Jesus, stand out prominently as representatives of that condition of mind and heart which should be shunned by all, the condition of heart which the Lord declares merits and shall have the Second Death, everlasting destruction. From the various Gospel records we find that Judas, leaving the company of the Lord and the eleven apostles, went again to the Chief Priests, with whom he had already been in conference. He finished the bargain and became the guide of a band of temple guards or temple policemen and their followers. These, armed with their clubs or maces, took with them lights needed for the searching of the foliage, although the moon was at its full. From the standpoint of the rulers the midnight hour was the most favorable because a large concourse of people then in Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover included many who knew Jesus and had been witnesses of his miracles and his arrest in day time might have led to a tumult. Our Lord probably went to the Garden because it belonged to a friend and because in the open his disciples would have a better opportunity for escape from arrest; though it does not appear that there was any special endeavor to make an arrest, except that mentioned by Mark of a young man who followed with the crowd as they led Jesus away and who had on a long, loose garment, and when they laid hold upon it he fled from them naked. This is supposed to have been John Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark, and that he lived on the premises of which the Gethsemane Garden was a part.

Our Lord’s agony, prayer and comforting at an end, he returned to the apostles, saying, “Sleep on now, and take your rest.” Your opportunity for watching with me or speaking a word of comfort has passed; your opportunity for waking your own hearts and minds to prayer as a safeguard against coming trials and testings is past. Behold the band of those who will arrest me! A little ahead of the band came Judas, who indicated the Master by the traitorous kiss, which John, for very shame, did not record. Judas, finding his deception recognized as the Master said, “Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” left him and joined the band who had come for his arrest, while Jesus, coming out of the cover into the open, said, “Whom seek ye?” After he had answered their reply, saying, “I am he, let these my friends go their way,” we read that the men went backward and fell on the ground. This was doubtless the result of a power our Lord exercised upon them, the power by which he might have resisted them entirely had he so desired. What he did was sufficient to show them and his apostles that his surrender was not one of necessity, but that the Father’s will might be done.

Awhile before Jesus had said that they should have some swords, and, finding that there were two, he said they were enough. The Apostle Peter was evidently the bearer of one of these and as the armed men approached the Lord, Peter used the sword and smote off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest. This incident was evidently of the Lord’s intention to show that his surrender was not because of cowardice on the part of the disciples or himself. It also furnished the opportunity of healing an enemy by our Lord’s touch and the opportunity of saying to Peter, “Put up thy sword; they that take to the sword shall perish by the sword”; in other words, My followers are not to fight with carnal weapons, my Kingdom is not to be established in this manner.

Annas had been the High Priest for a number of years and had been followed in the office by several of his sons and now his son-in-law, Caiaphas, filled the position. Nevertheless, Annas in a certain sense was recognized and hence our Lord was first taken before him. Annas questioned him but did not attempt a judicial investigation. This was had before Caiaphas and apparently in another part of the palace of the High Priest.

It was apparently while our Lord was being examined by Annas that Peter, who warmed himself at the fire, was questioned three times respecting his identity with our Lord as one of his followers, and three times he denied and directly the cock crowing began. Peter heard it, and our Lord, while being led from the presence of Annas to the judgment seat of Caiaphas, looked upon Peter. What a sermon there was in the glance toward Peter! He who had boasted of his courage that he never would deny the Lord had failed. How much weaker he was than he had supposed! How the Lord’s prophecy had come true, Before the second cock crowing thou shalt deny me thrice! He went out and wept bitterly, sick at heart and thoroughly ashamed of himself, resolving, no doubt, that he would be less boastful in the future and do more of the watching and praying which the Master had enjoined.

We know not how close parallels to some of these experiences may lie before some of the Lord’s dear people now. But let us hope that if any of us should come so sadly short of our own hopes and privileges that the Master would not only pray for us, as he did for Peter, but that he would turn upon us also his glances of reproof, of chiding, and also such glances as would remind us of his sympathy and love that we might not be overwhelmed with our own sense of weakness and shame, but that our repentance, unlike that of Judas, should be like that of Peter, sincere and acceptable to the Lord.

 

Them That Honor Me, I Will Honor

“If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God.” – James 1:5.

JOSEPH’S three years’ experience as a prisoner, most of it as the superintendent of the prison, undoubtedly brought to him a rich experience of patience and sympathy, and tended to confirm and deepen those beautiful elements of his character manifested in his boyhood. The Lord had him in training for a great work: not only was it appropriate that his character should be developed, but also that his faith should be tested and made very strong. We have seen that although he trusted the Lord implicitly, this did not hinder him from appealing to Pharaoh’s butler, whose dream he interpreted favorably, asking him that when restored to the king’s favor he would remember Joseph’s kindness to him as a prisoner and speak a word in his interest to secure his liberty. Perhaps he expected much from this man, who certainly would have had many opportunities for requiting his kindness, yet two years rolled around without relief – two years in which, nevertheless, Joseph maintained his confidence in the Lord and waited patiently for the outworkings of his plan.

There could be no better illustration than this for the proper course of all who belong to the New Creation. In a special sense all of our interests are the Lord’s, because we have presented ourselves to him wholly, unreservedly, and have been accepted as members of the body of Christ. It is for such to remember the Master’s words, “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of,” “The Father himself loveth you,” “No man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand,” “All things shall work together for good to them that love God.” While, therefore, it is proper for us to make use of any and every reasonable means for the securing of what we consider to be our best interests, we are not to rely upon these but upon the Lord, and to wait patiently for his time and his way for our deliverance from every evil condition.

WAIT PATIENTLY FOR HIM

The Lord’s time and method for delivering Joseph from the prison transcended all of Joseph’s expectations; and lifted him from the prison to the palace of the greatest nation of that time. It came about eventually through the mediation of the butler, but to the latter’s shame it was not because of his appreciation or thoughtfulness. Pharaoh had two dreams which impressed his mind deeply, and he earnestly sought the interpretation of them. He dreamed of seeing seven cows come up out of the river Nile, very fat, and feed upon luxuriant grass of the river side; next he saw seven lean cows come up out of the river, and they devoured the seven fat ones, yet seemed none the fatter themselves. This dream was followed by another in which the king saw a stalk of Egyptian wheat, known as compound wheat; its top was exceedingly large, dividing into seven distinct branches or spikes, indicating a most prolific yield; and following it came up another stalk, with seven thin ears or branches, of the kind common to a time of famine, when lack of moisture and a southeast wind would injure the crop and make it worthless. This last stalk of seven branches devoured the first one.

We are to remember that the Lord in those ancient times gave important dreams not only to some of his own people, as in the case of Joseph, Daniel and others, but also sometimes to the heathen; for instance, to Nebuchadnezzar a dream of the golden image, and again of the fruitful tree, and in the present instance Pharaoh’s dreams. We are not to wonder, then, that the king of Egypt desired assistance in the interpretation of his dreams and called for it of the wise men of his court, who, however, were unable to offer any satisfactory solution. After we have Joseph’s interpretation the whole matter seems so simple and plain that we wonder that the wise men and priests had not guessed it: but thus it is with our wisdom; it seems simple after we have it, understand it and appreciate it. Thus it is, too, with the inventions of our day. We wonder why they were not thought of centuries ago.

We are sure that the world is not inclined to give proper credit for wisdom to the great Revealer of secrets, and we are sure, too, that the majority of Christian people are not sufficiently inclined to honor God in respect to such matters. Could the world but realize what we see from the Scriptures – namely, that the present activity of thought along the lines of invention are of divine prearrangement as elements of the “Day of God’s Preparation” for the Millennial Kingdom – how it would prick its bubble of pride in our present-day wisdom; how it would show us most effectively that all wisdom comes from above, and that we might be groping almost as blindly as our ancestors were it not that the Lord’s due time has come for lifting the vail and helping us to develop the forces of nature as a preparation, not only for the Kingdom, but also a preparation for the great time of trouble by which it will be introduced.

“IN ALL THY WAYS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM”

When the wise men of Egypt were unable to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, his butler naturally enough called to mind his own dream and how accurately it had been interpreted by the kind and sympathizing Joseph, and his own promise to do something for the interpreter, and his neglect until this time. Perhaps he was not entirely to blame; he could only be useful to Joseph when God’s time for favoring the latter had come. When Pharaoh heard the story of the wonderful interpretation of the dreams of his butler and baker he sent with haste to the prison, eager to know the meaning of his own dreams. Here we have a further test of Joseph’s character. Let us notice carefully how he demeaned himself in the presence of the king. Was he haughty, boastful, self-assertive? Did he throw around himself a mystery and seem to call from the recesses of his mind some deep wisdom? Not so. He was the very personification of modesty, and when the king expressed the hope that he could interpret his dreams he answered, “It is not of me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer.”

Here we have one of the secrets of the greatness of Joseph: he honored God, and was therefore of the kind whom God is pleased eventually to honor and exalt. How the Scriptures bear out this thought! Mark our Master’s words, “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted, he that exalteth himself shall be abased.” (Luke 14:11.) Mark the Apostle’s words, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (1 Pet. 5:6.) O, that we all might have this lesson deeply impressed upon our hearts and minds, so that with us it will be true, as with Joseph, in harmony with the instruction, “In all thy ways acknowledge him.” – Prov. 3:6.

While such an acknowledgment of the Lord is proper in all the affairs of life, it certainly is especially appropriate in connection with the study of the divine Word and any attempt to give an interpretation thereof. Let none of us speak as of ourselves, nor appropriate wisdom to ourselves, but rather, with hearts full of gratitude to the Lord for blessings received, let us acknowledge him and his Word and his arrangements in connection with his Truth. Especially is this appropriate in those who occupy positions of responsibility in the Church – whom the holy Spirit has made overseers to “feed the flock of Christ.” To whatever extent self-seeking is indulged, to whatever extent the honor of men is craved, the Lord as the fountain of wisdom and the channels which he uses in dispensing his Truth are ignored or belittled by any of us, to that extent we may be sure we are in a dangerous situation and not likely to make real progress in the good way.

SEIZING FAVORABLE OPPORTUNITIES

Pharaoh related his dreams, and after hearing them Joseph promptly gave the interpretation and explained that the two dreams were one – that they taught the same lesson: that thus the Lord had indicated to Pharaoh that there would be seven years of very bountiful harvests which would be followed by seven years of drouth and famine, in which all the surplus of the first seven years would be necessary for the preservation of the lives of the people. A lighter-headed man than Joseph, a man who felt that in interpreting the dream he had confounded the wise men of Egypt, had done a wonderful thing, would have been so overwhelmed with the sense of his own importance that he doubtless would have stood there and received the king’s thanks, and have passed out a free man, to be noted by the people as the wise man.

The humility of Joseph was not merely assumed: his crediting of the wisdom to the Lord was the genuine sentiment of his heart, so that he did not feel thus elated when he had delivered the Lord’s message, but with coolness and self-possession he proceeded to suggest to the king what might be the proper steps to be taken so that the dream might indeed prove a blessing. He said, “Let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years; and let them gather all the fruit of those seven years as the property of Pharaoh, to be kept in store in cities for use in the seven years of famine that will follow.” We cannot suppose that Joseph had the slightest suspicion that he would be the one appointed to this work. It would be a most unnatural expectation that Pharaoh would take from the prison a man of foreign birth and exalt him to a station above the other officers of his empire. Yet this is just what Pharaoh did, and it is here that our lesson proper commences.

COULD WE CHOOSE MORE WISELY THAN GOD?

Addressing his court officers Pharaoh said, Could we find such another one as this Joseph, in whom is the Spirit of God, to be at the head of this great work of preparing for the years of famine of which God has thus forewarned us? Not waiting to have the consent of the officers of his court, but after the manner of the time as an autocrat, he decided the question and said to Joseph, “Forasmuch as God has showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: thou shalt be over my house [kingdom], and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.”

So thrilling a transition from slavery and the dungeon to the governorship of the greatest country of the world, and honor and distinction and power next to those of the king, outrivals the pen of fiction in the most attractive novels. It seems so wonderful that it is difficult to believe its truthfulness. Hence it is well for us to remember that while such transitions would not be possible under the democratic conditions of our day and country, they were not out of harmony with the conditions of their time and place. For instance, we know that Daniel was a Hebrew captive and slave, and yet that he was chosen by Nebuchadnezzar to be one of the rulers of the empire of Babylon. We remember also that Daniel was brought to the King’s notice in a very similar manner, namely, by the interpretation of a dream. Professor Sayce says, “It was not an unheard-of thing for a Syrian to be thus raised to the highest offices of the Egyptian State, and in the days of Hyksos’ dominion it was naturally easier than when a dynasty of purely native origin was on the throne….For many centuries during the Mohammedan age none but a slave could govern Egypt.” We are also reminded that in 1852 the prime minister of Persia, the second in rank in the kingdom but first in power, was the son of a donkey driver; and that the Sultan of Turkey once rewarded a poor dentist who relieved him of pain by making him a peer of the realm.

The exaltation of Joseph from the condition of a slave and from a dungeon to be the second person of power in the world suggests to us further the typical character of Joseph’s life. Did not our Lord Jesus take a bondsman’s form? and did he not enter the great prison-house of death? and was he not suddenly raised up to the throne – to be next to the Father, the Governor of the universe? And did not the experiences of Jesus under God’s providence have to do with preparing him for his great work of the future, the blessing of the whole world? And as Joseph saved the lives of the people of Egypt, will not the antitypical Joseph save the lives of the world? While thinking along these lines let us remember, too, how we are invited to be members of the body of Christ, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together. (Rom. 8:17.) With this thought in our minds, the trials, the difficulties, the sufferings of this present time, its afflictions, disappointments, may all be endured with cheerfulness if we have the proper faith – knowing that all things shall work together for good to them that love God, to the called ones according to his purpose.

“UNTO HIM EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW”

When the time came for King Pharaoh to introduce the new governor or prime minister of the empire to the people he first provided for him suitable apparel, to indicate the rank; next, the second state chariot, and, third, that he should be escorted in parade before the people by criers, who should announce his rank and call upon the people to bow the knee – to acknowledge him as the king’s representative. How this reminds us of the Apostle’s words respecting our Lord Jesus and his high exaltation after his trials were concluded. Paul says, “Wherefore God hath also highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth.” (Phil. 2:9,10.) And while we contemplate this high exaltation of the Master let us not forget that his Bride is to be joint-heir with him in all of his glory, honor and immortality, and that the privilege of becoming members of the Bride class belongs to the “called, chosen, faithful,” the “very elect” of this Gospel age.

If we could but have this in mind continually, what manner of persons would we be in all holy conversation and godliness – how trifling all earthly pleasures and sorrows, all riches and poverty, all weakness and debasement would seem to us! so intense would we be in our desire to make our calling and election sure to those exceeding great and precious promises. Pharaoh gave Joseph a new name, the meaning of which is suggested to be something like – Deliverer from death by the bread of life. We remember how our dear Redeemer said of himself, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” God provided in Jesus the bread of life, by which the whole world may be saved eventually from Adamic death if they but eat of the divine Word, appropriate its lessons and experiences, under the ministry and discipline of the great Redeemer during his glorious Kingdom. And all this was considerably illustrated in Joseph’s course as the governor of Egypt.

DID JOSEPH ENSLAVE THE EGYPTIANS?

Some have severely criticized Joseph’s course in dealing with the people on this occasion, but we find no criticism of it in the Scriptures. His first work was to journey throughout the entire land of Egypt, select suitable sites as granaries, and to give contracts for the building of these. Then throughout the seven years of bountiful harvests he first of all collected from the people their usual tax of one-fifth of the product for the king. Additionally he bought from the people with the king’s money all the surplus grain they could spare and thus laid up vast stores of wheat. When the years of drought and famine came the people in turn were glad to buy from the government the very same grain that they had previously sold. We have no intimation that an exorbitant price was charged for the wheat, no intimation that advantage was taken of the people.

But after the people had spent their money still the famine prevailed, and Joseph, the governor, purchased their cattle and all the people had, which thus became the property of the king. This was not an ideal condition according to our conception of matters, because it left too much of a centralization of power and authority in the hands of an autocrat; but if we could imagine divinely appointed and divinely guided and divinely willed kings and priests in the world, such an autocratic power would be one of the very greatest blessings imaginable to all the people. Indeed we know through the Scriptures that this will practically be the condition of affairs that will prevail during the Millennial age – that the world will not be asked to vote for its rulers and to determine its laws, but simply be required to obey the great Governor of divine appointment, unto whom every knee must bow and every tongue confess to the glory of God.

Here, then, in Joseph we see another illustration or type of the Christ of glory and the manner in which he will bless the world. Our Redeemer has already laid up in store a complete provision of the bread of life, sufficient for every member of our race. In him was life, and he gave it on our behalf. We who are now accepted as his members, and who at once receive this life by faith when we accept him, and will receive it actually in the First Resurrection, are the predecessors of the world in the matter of these blessings. Only the little flock is now being developed, now being fed, now passing from death unto life, through accepting the bread from heaven – only the Bride and the virgins, her companions. The great work which God has in mind, and for which he has appointed our Redeemer, is the work of saving the world, and the time and means for this salvation of the world is the Millennial age, the reign of the Kingdom of heaven amongst men.

THE BREAD FROM HEAVEN

During the Millennium the great Provider of the Bread of life and his associated Bride will dispense to the world, through the agency of the ancient worthies, the Bread of life as they will need it and be able to appreciate it. Day by day and year by year, during all that time, the world must bow the knee to the great Ruler and Representative of Jehovah. And during all that time they will be required to give up one thing after another for the attainment of the eternal life, until finally, at the end of the Millennial age, all who remain – not cut off in the Second Death – shall have given their property, their all, including themselves, in exchange for the eternal life represented by this living Bread that came from heaven, of which if a man eat he shall never die.

The abundance of corn gathered by Joseph typically assures us of the abundance of God’s provision for granting eternal life to every member of the human family willing to receive it from the Son upon the terms of loving obedience to the extent of full surrender. While the surrender of the will and of all that we possess to a fellow-mortal would be a very dangerous matter indeed, against which we should properly strive, it is not so as respects the Lord. He is the grand exception. To give ourselves wholly and unreservedly to him is to bring to each of us, through his blessing, the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and to have him mould and fashion our characters with all our interests of life to our highest welfare and his glory. What a blessed prospect then is before the world! and how we who by faith eat of this Bread in advance, and participate with the antitypical Joseph in all of his trials and sufferings for righteousness’ sake, may rejoice in our privilege.