Giant of the Bible


2. The Individual Application.

THERE are two smaller sections of the first natural division of the book of Genesis. The first (chap. i. - ii. 3.) gives us the work of God and His rest; the second, (chap. ii. 4 - 25.) God in relationship with the creature He has made. Hence, in this latter part the covenant-name is for the first time introduced; it is not "God" merely, but " The Lord God"’ - Jehovah. We shall see more fully the force of this hereafter. In this double account there is an exquisite beauty, which the unbelief that cavils at it can never see.

It is necessary also to distinguish from the six days’ work, what has been strangely confounded with it, the primitive creation of the first chapter and verse, and the ruin into which it had fallen when "without form and void, and darkness on the face of the deep." This used to be, and I suppose still may be called, the common view; and yet the more cne looks at the passage the more it seems imposssble to make such a mistake. For plainly the work of the six days begins with this: "God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light." But as plainly the earth, although waste and desolate, was there before that, not created then. Moreover the words "without form and void," for which "waste and desolate" would be preferable as a reading, imply distinctly a state of ruin, and not of development; while a passage in which the first of these terms is used asserts expressly that the Lord did not create the earth so.*
*It is the word rendered "in vain," Isaiah xiv. 18. The two are found together in Isaiah xxxiv. 11 and Jeremiah iv. 23.

Nor can it be said that the exigencies of a geological difficulty have forced such a construction of the opening words of this account. Augustine, who knew nothing of such a difficulty, long ago decided for it from the mere force of the language used. The requirement of it by the mere typical view I am just now advocating, is independent of it also, and yet quite as urgent; for it makes the six days’ work a remoulding of a former lapsed creation, the new birth, as we may call it, of a world. How plainly significant is that, at once! And such a view of it the words themselves necessitate.

There was, then, a primary creation, afterward a fall; first, "heaven and earth," in due order; then earth without a heaven - in darkness, and buried under "a deep" of salt and barren and restless waters. What a picture of man’s condition, as fallen away from God! How complete the confusion! how profound the darkness, how deep the restless waves of passion roll over the wreck of what was once so fair! "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt."

Then mark how the new birth begins: "The Spirit of God moved [or brooded] upon the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light.’" From the Spirit and the Word it comes: we are "born of the Spirit;" we are "born of the incorruptible seed" of "the Word of God." And "the entrance of Thy Word giveth light." How faithfully this beginning of creative work depicts that more mighty still in the human soul, and assures of what was even then for us in the counsels of divine wisdom! Truly His "delights were with the sons of men."

The first day gives us, then, the entrance of the Word giving light The state of the creature is manifested by it, but as yet it shines on naught but desolation. Nothing is changed, save the darkness; there is nothing that God can find of good but the light itself. That He pronounces so - severs it from the darkness and gives it a place and a name; but the darkness too is named, and has its place, and is not all removed. For not in the earth itself is the source of light, and when turned away from this it is still dark. Practically, the day is not all light, but "evening and morning" make it up; yet, though darkness is in itself "night," it is well to note that it is never, now that light has once come in, simple and absolute night any more, but "evening;" some rays of the day there ever are; and in God’s order, too, an evening surely giving place to morning. And then again, as to the "morning," its promise of the perfect "day" is never realized until God’s work is wrought out and His Sabbath is reached; then, indeed, there is no more evening, or morning either, but "day," without mixture or decline - God’s great finality - is fully come.

I do not believe this needs interpreting; the significance of its voice is not hard to apprehend. And then not only" day unto day uttereth speech," but also "night unto night showeth knowledge." Dear reader, if perchance one there be who may read this, down into whose desolate soul the light has shone, revealing not good but ill, when good has begun to have attraction too, but there is none - you are learning but this first day’s lesson. Spite of all that is disclosed, the light is good. Welcome it as from God, the beginning of His gracious work in you, the promise of the day that yet shall come.

The second stage of this divine work is the making of the "firmament," or "expanse," by which a separation of the waters is effected. Strangely misunderstood as it has been by some, it is, one would think, self-evidently, the formation of the atmospheric "heavens," which draw up now (as they have been doing ever since) out of the deep below, waters which, purged of their saltness, become the still inexplicably balanced clouds.

The spiritual stage it represents is scarcely more difficult to follow. A separation is now effected, not in the external condition merely, but more inwardly. The unseen things operate upon the soul, and attract affections and desires upward to them. That which was "lust" and "corruption" in a heart away from God is thus purified by the new object. It is the "kingdom of heaven" spiritually begun. The heart is under divine government. And while the general state of the creature remains apparently the same (there is still no fruit nor solid ground) - while still "in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing," yea, while "how to perform that which is good I find not" - still we can say, "To will is present with me," and "with the mind I myself serve the law of God." Peace is not come, nor liberty, nor power; but the heart drawn up to God, that intercourse with heaven is begun which at a further stage shall bring down showers of blessing to fertilize and bring forth fruit to God.
Still, by the Word is every stage produced. Each time God speaks. It is not mere development of what lies unfolded in the earliest germ. Step by step the forthputting of divine power accomplishes counsels that are all divine. "We are His workmanship"- the patient, perfect elaboration of the wisdom of God- "created in Christ Jesus." Happy we, proportionately as we are yielded into His hands, and cast into the mould ot His efficacious Word!

The "third day" speaks to the Christian heart of resurrection. It is marked here by resurrection power: the earth comes up out of the waters. That which can be wrought upon and made fruitful is now brought up from under the irreclaimable waste of sea. This is not removed, but bounded and restrained; it cannot return to cover the earth. Its existence is indeed distinctly recognized; it gets for the first time its name from God; in the new earth there will be none. (Rev. xxi. i.) Meanwhile He lays the foundations of the earth,* that it never should be moved at any time.
* Not the world but that "dry land" which He has named named "Earth".

This is only the first half of the third day. It is a double day, as we may say, with God. Twice He speaks; twice He pronounces His work good. In the first half, the earth is separated from the waters; in the second, it brings forth the "grass," the "herb," and "the fruit tree yielding fruit." Let us examine the spiritual meaning of all this.

"Risen with Christ" is the truth which inevitably connects itself with such a figure. Christ having died and risen again for us, His resurrection no less than His death is ours. His death is our passage out of our old state and condition as sinners - as children of Adam. His resurrection is our entrance into a new state and sphere. "In Christ " - "if any man be" there, "he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

The attempt to read this by experience has been the loss (practically) of its blessedness. Unable to look within and say "all things are new," men have been reduced either to modify this as if it were too extreme a statement, or else to doubt if they were really Christians. Moreover, the trying to produce such a state of things within them has resulted in constant disappointment and real loss of power. They have sought to mend self and produce there what they might find satisfaction in, instead of turning away from self altogether, to find in occupation with Christ and with His love true power over it.

But it is not "if any man be born again" or "be converted." It is not the result of the work within us that is stated, but the result of the new position before God in which we stand. Acceptance in Christ is acceptance as Christ. It is no question, therefore, of what is in us at all, but of what is in Christ for us; thus viewed, old things are indeed passed away, and all things become new.

Christ’s resurrection has put us in this new place; we are risen with Him. The acceptance of this blessed fact brings us into rest and peace, and sets us on vantage-ground above the water-floods. It is for us spiritually God’s bringing up the earth from under the waves, and settling it upon its everlasting foundations. True, the waters are not removed, the flesh is not become spirit, nor done away; on the contrary, it is now for the first time fully recognized as there, and incurable - has its place and its name defined; but the man in Christ has risen out of it - is "not in the flesh." It is in him; but he is not it, nor in it.

This is the first part of the day of resurrection only. The second part gives us the fruitfulness which is the immediate consequence of this; for being now "made free from sin," we are "become the servants of righteousness." Notice some features here.

God calls the dry land "Earth." In the original, this word is derived from one which means" crumbling," and it is manifestly a chief condition of fertility that earth should crumble. The more continually its clods break up into ever finer dust, the more its promise to the husbandman; and this is a simple lesson and a great one. The brokenness of spirit which makes no resistance to the Father’s hand is a main element of fertility in souls wherein He works. It is not power He seeks from us, but weakness; not resistant force, but "yieldingness" to Him. All power is His: His strength is perfected in weakness.
The character depicted here is beautifully illustrated in this very "third day" state in Romans viii. Up to the very end of chapter vii, in the well-known experience already alluded to, the man in question is profoundly conscious of two "I’s" in opposition to each other; "with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." There is the struggle that convulses him; one part for God and good, the other always contrary - alas, always the stronger too. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" delivers him "from the law of sin and death." Then there are two contrary parties still. But there is a change.

The flesh is there indeed yet, and nowise altered, but its now victorious antagonist is not " I myself." That is sunk; it is now "flesh" and "Spirit" that conflict - the Holy Ghost in place of "me."
Oh for constant realization of this! The dropping (not of the flesh - that cannot be here, but) of that good and right-minded and holy "I" which is ever weakness, ever inability, with all its pious resolution and good will! "I live - not I - but Christ liveth in me."

Even thus is the fertile earth produced. Out of weakness, out of nothingness, out of infirmities, which make the power of Christ to rest upon us, and leave us clay in the potter’s hands. The more we know the reality of resurrection, the more shall we know of this.

Then as to the fruit. There is progress; from grass and herb to "fruit-tree yielding fruit, whose seed is in itself upon the earth " - another beautiful figure that. The fruit bears within itself the capacity of self-perpetuation. Itself for the Master’s use (and it is well to remember that), the seed is in this fruit according to its kind, - love to produce love, and so on. If we want to find love, we must show it. And the riper the fruit is for the Master’s taste, the riper the seed is also; the best ripe fruit is that which has hung in the sun most.

All this is simple; and it shows there is a real voice in creation round, to be understood if we have will to understand. The works of His hand bear witness to Himself, - creation to redemption - things seen to the unseen; the thoughts of God’s heart, the depths of His love. It is not a mere accommodation of these things we are making; they are destined witness, though Christ must be the key to all.

And now we are come to the fourth day. Here the entire scene is changed. It is not the laying the foundations of the earth any more, but the garnishing of the heavens. Sun and moon are ordained as light-givers to the earth now made, and for signs and for seasons, for days and years.

And we are not only "risen with Christ," but in Christ, heavenly; "seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." This truth necessarily follows that of resurrection, and no view of our new creation could be in any wise complete which left out this. Here it follows, then, in very natural order, and the language of the type is not hard to apprehend. "Heaven" is, I doubt not, its own symbol, as indeed the firmament, the lower heaven, gives its name to the unseen and spiritual heaven, God’s dwelling-place. Applying it in this way, the first object seen in it speaks for itself. Scripture too applies it (Mal. iv. 2.). The great luminary of the day, the source of heat and light to the earth, its light self-derived, unchanging, constant as the day it brings - clearly enough presents to us the "Heavenly One" back in the glory whence He came. The secondary light, light of the night, a light derived from His, yet oh how cold and dull comparatively at the best, changeful - full-faced or dwindled according as it fully faces or is turned away from Him; how easily we read that too, as we read such words as the apostle’s here ! - " We all, with open face beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Let us learn the lessons that the moon teaches, for they are serious and yet helpful ones. What more serious lesson than her changefulness? She belongs always to heaven according to God’s ordinance. Practically, you cannot always find her there; nay, she is more often (to man’s sight, of course,) out of the sky than in it. Then, when there, how seldom full-orbed! how often turned away from him from whom all her radiance comes! For so it does come; her part is reception merely; she shines perforce when in his light, not by her own effort in the least. And could you go up, attracted by her brightness, to see how fair and glorious she was, you would find yourself there not in the glory of the moon at all, but of that sun which was bathing her with brightness.

Then notice her from this earth new risen from the waters. Fair she may be, and "precious fruits be brought forth" by her; yea, "abundance of peace as long as the moon endureth;" still the direct sun-rays are another thing, and are the real fructifying, life-giving influence after all. It is one thing to be occupied even with what we are in Christ - and it is our guide in the night, too (Gal. vi. i6.) - it is yet another to be in the glory of His presence, where moon and stars are hidden in the day.

There is much more here, but I leave it and pass on. The fifth day brings another change of scene; and here, when we might have thought that we had left them finally behind, we are brought back again to the barren waste of waters. But now even here the power of God is working; the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and birds fly in the open firmament of heaven. It is still progress in the great creative plan, and new and higher forms of life are reached than heretofore. It is not now grass and herb, but the "living soul," and God blesses them, and bids them multiply.

Can we give this expression? I believe so. There are harmonies elsewhere that will guide us to an understanding of it.
Take one in the order of the Pentateuch itself, where the same thing occurs - a real progress by apparent retrogression. For if Genesis begins (as we have seen it does) with" life," Exodus gives us, very plainly, the redemption of God’s people; while Leviticus leads us into the sanctuary of God, to learn in His presence what suits Him to whom we are brought and whose we are. Thus all is progress; but at the next step this seems ended, for in Numbers we pass out once more into the world to face the trials of the wilderness and the still worse exposure of ourselves that meets us there.

This seems retrogression; still it is progress after all. There is no dislocation of His plan who is ever working onward to perfection. For the world is surely the place where, after we have known redemption, and the God that has redeemed us too, we are left to be practiced in what we know, that we may be "those who by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."

There is discipline in this; and failure comes out plentifully too; still we are chastened to be partakers of His holiness; the new life in us gets practical form and embodiment, as we may say: in other words - the words of our type - the "living soul" is produced out of the midst of the waters.

For the waters are, as we have seen, the restless and fallen nature of man; and it is this (whether within or without) that makes the wilderness the place of trial that it is; yet out of this evil, divine sovereignty produces good. And again, the "living soul " - since the soul is the seat of desires, appetites, affections, etc., - may fitly depict the living energies which lay hold of eternal things amid the pressure on every side of what is seen and temporal.*
* Take Philippians iii. as the vivid portrayal of this.

This, I believe, is the fifth-day scene. One day alone remains, and God’s work is complete.
And this day, which is a second "third," has its two parts likewise, as the third day had. First, the earth (and not the waters now) bring forth the "living soul." It is not now the fruit of discipline, or the chafing and contact of sin and evil, but the development of what is proper to the new man apart from this. Jacob’s and Joseph’s lives show us this contrast fully, as we may see more afterward. And like Joseph’s too, this sixth day shows us next the rule of the man, God’s image. I can but little interpret here, it is true, but the outline is not the less plain because of the meagreness of the interpretation. The mere indication may attract some to look deeper into this final mystery of creative wisdom.

For what remains is rest, and only rest, God’s rest in love over His accomplished work. Seven times He has pronounced all "good," the last time "very good." Now evening and morning come no more, but full, ripe, unending "day" - a day blessed and sanctified of God as the day of His rest.

The fuller exposition of this, however, will come more in its place after we have glanced at the dispensational application of the six days’ work. For they have their fulfillment also, as I have already said, in the sphere of the world at large, in the progressive steps by which from the beginning divine power and wisdom have been moving on to the accomplishment of that of which eternity alone can fully tell.
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