As the diamond in the hand of the jeweller, by catching various shades of light, reflects new facets of its beauty and brilliance, so the Spirit of God, by taking a word here or a phrase there, unfolds the beauty and glory of the Lord, and, at the same lime, teaches us some practical lessons.
Every reader is doubtless familiar with the words of John chapter 1 verse 14. All believers accept with unquestioning faith the mystery and wonder of the incarnation, ‘And the Word was made flesh’, for this lies at the very heart of their sure and certain hope.
It was, therefore, with something of renewed wonder that the writer recently thought upon the words ‘and dwelt among us’. Here is a fact that is astounding and wonderful when we consider of whom it was written. God in Christ has come to men. He has not only come but has ‘dwelt’ among them! The words of Proverbs chapter 8 verse 31, ‘And my delights were with the sons of men’, have found their fulfilment in ‘Immanuel’ – God with us. We had Him here among men, sharing the life they live, and entering into the experiences common to them, sin apart; for He was ‘holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners’, Heb. 7. 26. The humanity of the Lord Jesus was very real, He ‘was found in fashion as a man’, Phil. 2. 8. The truth concerning the deity and humanity of the Lord Jesus is so profound that we cannot fully understand, still less explain it, but faith unhesitatingly accepts the statements of the word of God concerning the Son of God, the Lord from heaven, and sings:
‘Where reason fails,
with all her powers,
There faith prevails,
and love adores’,
But for this, Hebrews chapter 2 verses 17 and 18, and chapter 4 verses 15 and 16 would never have been written. ‘Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted’.
Is it weariness? Linger awhile at Sychar’s Well and ponder the wondrous grace of Him who rested there ‘being wearied with his journey’, John 4. 6.
Is it hunger? ‘He afterward hungered’, Luke 4. 2; yet He was always ready to satisfy the hunger of others, both physically and spiritually.
Is it sorrow? Who ever touched the depths of sorrow as He did? He was indeed the ‘man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’. No wonder He, only, can truly heal the broken heart.
Yes! In all things He touches us, and, because He has dwelt among us, knows how to minister that grace and help we so much need, for He is ‘touched with the feeling of our infirmities’, Heb 4. 15. What matchless compassion and comfort are revealed in the High Priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus.
A little while ago a Christian friend said something like this to me. ‘I go along … Street about five to eleven Lord’s day mornings. No doubt people in the street who see me pass by – usually in the car – know that I go to the Gospel Hall, but does it mean anything to them? Does it touch them in any way?’ Thinking over this, I wonder whether much of the apathy and indifference shown by many is explained, at least partially, by the fact that in many cases our ‘tents’ are so far from the ‘tabernacle’ that we are out of touch with the lives and problems of the people we seek to reach. One of the valuable features of missionary work, particularly in the case of married missionaries, is that they are able to set up a Christian home among the people they seek to serve. When the late Mr. R. C. Chapman was led to take up residence in Barnstaple, he took a cottage in a side street so that he might dwell among the people he was to care for spiritually. But whether near at hand or otherwise, may our lives be such that people shall know by our understanding and sympathy how much we really do care for their spiritual and material welfare. May the Lord so indwell our hearts that we shall bring to others an awareness of His presence! How essential, also, for the shepherd to be among the flock he seeks to guide and feed!
Is there today any community of Christians who may claim this statement of the Lord? We believe there is! The Hebrew reader of chapter 13 verse 13 would readily understand and appreciate the words ‘without the camp’. The Lord Jesus is still in the ‘outside place’ and there is still a ‘reproach’ to bear. And whoever they are and wherever they are found, He is in the midst of all who own His lordly name, and worship Him in spirit and in truth. The crux of the matter surely is not whether we should be more ‘open’ or ‘closed’, but whether we know where He is, and are found in that place with all who look for, and love His appearing. And let us remember that it is His word that will be our sure guide in this matter.