Responsibility in an Assembly – 1 Chronicles 4. 21-23 – Part 1

Very often, when reading through a list of names or genealogies in the Word of God, we come across a verse or two suggestive of deep spiritual truth. In 1 Chronicles 4, there are perhaps three such passages:

  1. Verses 9-10: The prayer of Jabez, a head of a family in the tribe of Judah. This was a truly spiritual prayer, giving us a pattern even in our day.
  2. Verses 21 -23: Our present study, stressing responsibility,
  3. Verses 39-43: Illustrating sufficiency, contentment and victory.

If we were to keep these things before us we would do well, for there would be spiritual prayer in the name of the Lord and according to His will, true spiritual care for the people of God, and enjoyment of true spiritual welfare, finding satisfaction, contentment and victory in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Prayer of Jabez. vv. 9-10

Jabez was an honourable man, a word meaning here “to be, or become weighty, honoured”. Perhaps Jabez had accompanied Caleb in going up against the Canaanites; this would account for his being mentioned as more honourable than his brethren. To fight against what would hinder the Lord’s people from entering into the life of victory is an honourable thing.

Jabez prayed for:

  • real blessing— “indeed”;
  • for enlargement—“my coast”;
  • for God-consciousness— “that thine hand might be with me”;
  • for safe keeping—“that thou wouldest keep me from evil”.

“And God granted him that which he requested.”

Sufficiency, Contentment and Victory, vv. 39-43

First we read that the people concerned went to “the east side of the valley”. It is lovely to know that, even when going through the dark valleys of life, we can look towards the east, to the sunrising and the new day which will dawn when the Lord returns for His own. They found “fat pasture and good”, speaking to us of feasting on the good things of the Word of God while we await His return. The land was “quiet, and peaceable”, what we should seek for in our Christian life, a field wide open in which to work, without having interference on the part of idle people who want to do nothing, but to try and control everything. Moreover, they “destroyed” the enemy. This was real victory, and Amalek is mentioned by name. Amalek is typical of the flesh, and the lesson here is that no quarter must be shown or given to the flesh at all.

Verses 21-23.

This portion has to do with certain descendants of Judah. But our attention will be occupied with their activities rather than with the men themselves.

They Wrought Fine Linen

In the Bible, linen speaks of righteousness, either as a gift from God, or the righteous acts of those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. In Deuteronomy 22. 11, something else is in view; people were told that the wearing of a garment made of a mixture of wool and linen was forbidden. Perhaps this has to do with mixing law and grace. We are not saved by grace thereafter to be kept by works or lawkeeping. Salvation is all of grace; we are not saved partly by law and partly by grace. Salvation depends on the death of the Lamb and His shed blood. This is told out in the wool, a product of the lamb. But in regard to Christian living, we must be clothed in linen. After the death of the Lord Jesus, His body was taken down from the cross by Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, and it was wound in linen clothes before being laid in the tomb. This pictures the righteousness that He procured for us when He died on the cross.

But further; in Ezekiel 44. 17-18 we read that the priests, upon entering in at the gates of the inner court, shall be clothed in linen garments, having linen bonnets on their heads and linen breeches on their loins when ministering within the inner court. In other words, a righteous God demands righteousness in those who seek to serve Him. Again, as in Deuteronomy 22. 11, we find that no wool was to come upon them at that time. It has been said that in these two scriptures we see in the wool the warmth of human natural affection. But this is not to be mixed with that which should be wholly spiritual. There must be nothing to excite the flesh. There must be spiritual fervour, but not mere natural eloquence and warmth; service for God must have a truly spiritual character, 1 Cor. 2. 1 -5.

Then in Revelation 19. 8, 14 we read that it was granted to the Lamb’s wife to be “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white”, this being the righteousnesses (righteous deeds) of the saints. In Ecclesiastes 9. 8 we read, “Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment”. Righteousness and fragrance go together.

Ancient Things, 1 Chron. 4. 22

Returning to our portion, we read next concerning “ancient things”. This can mean “ancient words, records or matters”. Even in a day when the cry is to “go modern”, there is a need for us to return again and again to the “ancient things” of the “Ancient of days”, Dan. 7. 9, 13, 22.

In Jeremiah 6. 16 it is written, “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein”. This surely is God’s desire for His people, for them to stand fast, to have true spiritual vision, and to be fervent in prayer. God desires that we live out the truths of His Word by walking therein, and so enjoy rest and contentment. How tragic to find that God’s command in relation to these things is followed by the words, “But they said, We will not walk therein”. The Hebrew word for “old” in this verse is olam, meaning an age; it is not belo, meaning worn out. God’s ways and His standards are always both right and up to date. The principles of the New Testament are still in force. So we must return to the New Testament time and time again, seeking to adjust our practices and teaching so that they are in accord with those taught in the Word. How often we may try and make the New Testament fit into our idea of things. On the other hand, we must remember that “new things” are not necessarily wrong, and that “old things” are not automatically right. We must examine all things, making sure that the things we do are in line with the Word of God. Since the word for “ancient” in our text is used elsewhere in the Old Testament only of God, we must see that our things are all of God.

Potters, 1 Chron. 4. 23

This verse contains the first mention of potters in the Bible. A potter works with clay, moulding and fashioning it according to his will. Generally he works with common clay, but he makes it into something of usefulness and beauty. As far as the clay is concerned, there can only be submission to the will of the potter. Surely this is the teaching of Romans 9. 20, 21, “Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”.

In 2 Corinthians 4. 6-7 we are told that we have the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and that we have “this treasure in earthen vessels”. This is so that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of ourselves. How necessary to place these earthen vessels at the disposal of Almighty God.

Jeremiah refers to potters more than any other writer in the Bible. He writes of them in chapters 18 and 19 of his book, these chapters following on chapter 17, which is the chapter of the heart. There we read of sin graven on the table of the heart, 17. 1, of a heart that departs from the Lord, v. 5. Moreover, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”, v. 9, God being the One who searches the heart, v. 10. Having revealed the condition of the human heart, God now tells Jeremiah to go down to the house of the potter, where he will hear God’s words, 18. 2. How we need to hear the words of God in the house of the heavenly Potter.

Again, in Isaiah 64. 8 we read, “But now, 0 Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter, and we all are the work of thy hand”. So in the house of the potter, Jeremiah watches the potter working, Jer. 18. 3. But the vessel that the potter was making was marred in the hands of the potter; he did not repair it—instead he made it anew. He made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter. What a picture of God’s dealing with us in redemption; we are not just patched up, but rather He makes us new creatures in Christ.

In Galatians 4. 19 Paul writes, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you”. Is not this just how spiritual elders should feel and act?, as they seek to see something of Christ manifested in every believer in the assembly.

There is another mention of a potter in Zechariah 11. 13, and this is prophetic, finding its fulfilment in Matthew 27. 7-10. It concerns the potter’s field, which was bought with the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas for his betrayal of the Lord Jesus, May we never betray Him in any wise!

To be concluded


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