Service - The Work of God Through Men - Part 3
R. Grant, Stevenston
THE WORTH OF THE FATHER, 2. 9-10
Scripture is not wanting in examples to show that God's portion has precedence over man's, and it is fitting that sanctuary service should precede witness in the world. This service manward is described in the third paragraph which speaks of the worth of the Father, declared by His people, 2. 9-10. The central idea, containing both statements of fact and intention, in these verses is this: "But ye are a chosen generation" and "that ye should show forth the virtues of him who hath called you", a.v. marg. The passage contains a statement of:
Fulfilment and Ideal, "But ye are . . .". Verse 9 implies contrast with the closing idea of verse 8 - "whereunto also they were appointed". "But", says Peter, "ye are a chosen generation". The long history of Israel's rebellion found its climax, its final test, in her reaction to the Son of God, a fact which He Himself emphasized and applied in the parable of Matthew 21. 33-46. The hopes of Exodus 19. 5-6, "ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me ... a kingdom of priests ... an holy nation" were never realized because the condition upon which they rested, "if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant", was never met. By contrast, all that God sought in His people is now realized - "But ye are a chosen generation".
The verse is marked by comprehensiveness. One has suggested that the features of the people of God in these verses are five in number, answering to the intention of God developed in the five Pentateuchal books. This warrants consideration:
i. "A chosen generation". Certainly the book of Genesis is full of the idea of sovereign, often surprising, choice - of individuals, families and of races. But the book is largely a history of failure and clearly the purpose of God becomes a reality only in Christ.
ii. "A royal priesthood". Exodus 19. 5 outlines the promises of God contingent upon the obedience of His people. They would be a kingdom of priests. This prospect was never realized, and chapters 28-29 describe the installation of the house of Aaron only to these holy privileges. At best, the people were to be represented in the presence of God. Even that "sample" became a disappointment at best, but the purpose of God has been realized in Christ.
iii. "A holy nation". The book of Leviticus speaks often of the holiness of God, of His house and of the need of holiness in those who bear His Name, who claim relationship with Him or who would draw near to His presence. How often and how completely the nation failed to answer to the rights of that holy Name or met the requirements of that holy sanctuary. But now, in Christ, God designates His people "a holy nation'*.
iv. "A people for a possession". The book of Numbers is a history of God's care and protection of His precious possession, and it is marred completely by Israel's own insubordination, murmuring and rebellion. But now God has His precious possession in His people in Christ.
v. "To show forth the virtues of him who hath called you". The book of Deuteronomy is a rehearsal of the worth, the work and the ways of Jehovah, as a reminder to the people themselves, 26. 5-9; to their children, 6. 20-24;t0 the nations of the land, 4. 1-8; to the nations of the earth, 28. 10. The result, foreknown and foretold by God, is declared, 31. 16, as utter failure to fill this place of witness to Jehovah. But now, in Christ, God has a people as a witness to His Name.
The verses we are considering also express completeness. What was impossible because it rested upon human responsibility is now accomplished fact because it rests upon divine grace and righteousness. The few "strangers" to national recognition are, in consequence, the possessors of these precious privileges which God has always desired for men. They are so by virtue of their faith in the Lord Jesus and on the ground of His finished work.
Again, the paragraph is a statement of:
Fact and Intention, "Ye are ... that ye should". It is never God's way to bless without purpose. His blessings are not an end in themselves, but a means to an end. Christians should be deeply exercised for divine life to be expressed in activity Godward and manward. In this case, the intention and result of the divine work is that the excellencies (for such is the force of the word "praises") of God should be manifested. The verb "show forth" suggests complete proclamation, and the happy choice of words in the Authorized Version readily suggests that life as well as lip is the agency of witness. What has been impressed on human hearts must be expressed, and every Christ-like action or attitude is the showing forth of divine excellencies.
But the passage goes on to develop and explain the idea of impression and expression in a statement of
Fitness and Incentive. Three statements at the end of this passage explain the ways in which God, in all the fulness of His being, reveals Himself to His people and identifies them with Himself, thus giving them fitness to express His glories. The believer has come to know God as:
i. Light, "who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light". He is the object of the revelation of God in Christ, the subject of the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit. It is now possible for him to say with the Psalmist, "In thy light shall we see light", Psa. 36. 9. He who said of Himself, "I am the light of the world", said also of His followers, "Ye are the light of the world". He has left to them, in the darkness of the night of His absence, the work of illumination, the continuation of the testimony that He bore to the excellencies of God. ,
ii. Life, "which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God". The object of divine revelation, the believer is also a sharer in divine relationship. The life of God is his; He is a member of God's family. He is in living, vital relationship with God. As particularly emphasized in 1 John, righteousness, 3. 9-10; love, 3. 14; faith, 5. 4, are among the proofs that we possess divine life, which must, by its very nature, express itself.
iii. Love, "which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy". We are not only the objects of divine revelation and sharers in divine relationship, but also the subjects of divine redemption. The infinite love which reaches out to the world has embraced us through Christ. 1 John again describes the expression of the divine, positively as love, 4. 11, 19, and negatively as the absence of hatred, 4. 20.
The way of incentive is shown in the following scriptures: Now "are ye light in the Lord", hence "walk as children of light". It is as "beloved children", sharers of God's life, that we are exhorted to be "imitators of God". We are called to "walk in love" with this as the glorious incentive "even as Christ also loved you and gave himself up for us"; see Eph. 5. 1-8 R.v. May the Lord help us out of adoring hearts to respond with loyalty to His Name, His Word, His church.