Exo. 25. 4, 5; 1 Sam. 18. 1-4; Rom. 13. 11-14; 2 Cor. 5. 1-4.
Devotedness and Affection for Christ.
by E.J. McBride
I WANT to say a word or two on the subject of devotedness, and the way a believer can be maintained in continuous freshness of affection for Christ. In the history of our souls, there is a time when Christ Himself lays hold of the affections, and if the Spirit of God has His own way, those affections will remain true to Christ in spite of everything. It is well to remember, beloved, that the flesh hates Christ. This is a serious thing. Then, on the other hand, we have an enemy who is prepared, when any evidence of Christ appears, to put an end to it; and he has gone so far as to get rid of Jesus Himself personally from this world. Now when Satan got rid of Christ, He was received to the right hand of God, and we who believe, have received the Holy Spirit from that point.
Now you can understand that the flesh and Satan stand in the way of the affections that are moved out to Christ, being maintained in constant loyalty to Him. We each one, have the privilege of lending ourselves to the Lord. I suppose the finest example in Scripture of that is the Hebrew servant, who, when the time of his liberty came, lent himself to his master for ever—a devotedness that can only be seen in its full extent and blessedness in our Lord Jesus Christ; but we have our measure, thank God!
I wanted to speak of how those affections lent to the Lord are to be maintained in the freshness of the original committal. In a human figure—we may have a child born healthy and well, but ten years pass, and it is puny and weak. What has gone wrong? Many things may account for it you say, and many things may account for the departure of the affections of the people of God, but we do not want to deal with the many things, we want to deal with the things that will keep those affections in their right place. I have referred to the tabernacle. It sets forth the willing-heartedness of the people towards the interests of Jehovah, and I want to touch on the materials—the blue, the purple, the scarlet, the goats' hair, and the rams' skins dyed red, as giving the conditions that are intended to maintain affection in its freshness. The subject is simple; if instead of being occupied with the details of the type, we consider the import of the type. When we are shewn a type, it is like a picture. We are not intended to take a microscope and begin at one corner and work round the frame and then go through line by line and examine every detail in it; if you are shewn a picture, it is intended to convey an impression to your mind. I want to recall to a friend the family to which I belong; I shew him a photograph of my father, my mother and my brothers and sisters. I do not want him to discuss whether they are plain or nice-looking. No! It is the family. Now that is the value of the type. In the tabernacle system, God would convey to our souls, an impression of what things will be like when He dwells with man. That is the impression He is going to convey. He brought His people out of Egypt; He was going to take them into Canaan, but on the way to Canaan, He called Moses up into the holy mount and He gave him an impression of what His great end was—to dwell with men. I am speaking of the type in its broad principle. You have been redeemed. You have been called by God out of darkness into light, the light of the God that calls you, and He intends you to dwell with Him for ever, and He gives you the possibility of passing into a spiritual region where you can anticipate that now—what we speak of as the heavenlies. He does not take you literally to Heaven; that will happen when the Lord Jesus Christ comes back again. As He took Israel out of Egypt, He gave them this wonderful impression, that they were going to be a people that He would dwell with for ever. What is the advantage of coming into Christian fellowship, and the holy ministry of divine things by the Spirit, and the precious enjoyment of the celebration of the Lord's death? It means this, that God is bringing us into a spot that is keeping, developing, and preserving our affections in view of the day when He will be with us for ever.
In Jonathan, we have divestment, but on the one hand there is to be the investment. I am afraid we suffer from divestment without investment like Jonathan. Our affections go astray, not from lack of divestment, but from lack of investment. It says of Jonathan—no doubt about his affections—that "the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David . . . he loved him as his own soul." That is a marvellous thing, beloved. Fancy loving the Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart and with all your soul. Now the divestment begins; he took off many things, even to the girdle, but his affections went astray. He was found at the end of his history amongst the enemies of David. Why? Lack of investment. When he took those things off, he put nothing on. That is it. That, I believe, is where we break down. I delight in seeing the early marks of Christian devotedness—"I will give up this." And what is that? "It is my robe, I do not want to shine where Jesus died." That is good. "And I will give up the other." What is that? "The bow." Yes—prosperity here, that is good, but go further than that. "I will give up my girdle." It is beautiful to see how the early devotedness of Christian affection is enough to draw out any heart in thanksgiving. But you will find you cannot live with no investments, you must be clothed upon with something that is superior to what you have taken off, or you will find yourself attacked either by the enemy from outside or by the flesh from inside. In Jonathan's case, the attack was successful. It is a sad history—a great lesson for us.
Now look at Exodus 25. It says, "blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair." In the history of our souls, we have to come to it, that it will not do to try and live on the intense delight that made us at our conversion say, "Christ for me"—that is good, and that occasion was marked like Jonathan of old, by a definite refusal of the flesh, but remember this, if we are going to put off the earthly, we are to put on the heavenly. If we do not put the blue where the black was, we will have the old thing reviving. Finding no resistance, it will shew itself in an even worse phase than before you knew what it was to be converted. It was not an unbeliever to whom the Lord said, "Get thee behind me, Satan." It was the old thing shewing itself in Peter. So it says, "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ." What marked that blessed living Man that redeemed my soul, was that He was heavenly. Oh, the blessedness of coming under the heavenly influence. Let us acquaint ourselves increasingly with the heavenly One. You will unconsciously become like what you admire, and if you acquire an adoring attachment to the heavenly One, you will become like Him. Consider His pathway, His beautiful acts, His loving way of dealing with need and sorrow. Imitation is due to appreciation, and so, we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, not only to believe in Him (how precious that is!), but if you want the joy that your heart had when you first believed in Him to be kept in its beautiful purity, put Him on. And as time goes on and one gets accustomed to blue, you say, "I wonder that I wore any other colour"; there is nothing to compare with it. As you begin to view Christ, even alongside the choicest of His people, you say, "Precious as they are, they fade when I think of Christ." He stands out alone. How the flesh would like to come out again, were it not for the blue.
Then we have the purple. I suppose the idea of the purple is an imperial idea. It is evidently the intention of the writer to draw attention to the dignity that marked this particular part of material supplied for the tabernacle system, and where does the dignity shew itself? In those that go into it. I sometimes think, beloved, when a young brother or sister—or indeed an old one for that—is having the world opened out before him (or her) by Satan, with its alluring attractions, as he knows how to do it, and he hears the call from Heaven, "They shall walk with me in white," he immediately erects himself. There is not only a putting off, of the voice that comes from below, but you erect yourself in holy dignity in the light of the heavenly calling. How beautiful it is to see the lame man at the gate of the temple called Beautiful; there he is miserable, and suddenly in the presence of the whole multitude, the man is erect, walking, leaping and praising God. What is it for? It is the character that is going to mark that man for ever. He is going to be one of those that shall "walk with me in white," yea, beloved, "clothed upon." So we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and, as Paul says, put on "the armour of light." It is not so much to protect you from what comes from without, but to protect you from what comes from within. So that those inward affections, the spring of which was the precious gospel of God's grace, are maintained in their purity and vigour.
We want to be dignified as those belonging to the Lord of glory, and the purple is needed in our relations to a scene of moral filth and impurity.
Scarlet, I believe, has to do with your bounty. It is not so much the position that is at stake, as the person who is in the position. Scarlet is not an imperial thought, it is a royal thought. If we were clothed in scarlet, we would ourselves be an invitation to the gospel. To be clothed in all the warmth of the holy love of God, kings and priests unto God. You are not afraid of the cold world when you are clothed in scarlet. You meet a man or a woman who not only has put off the filthy conversation and the unholy doings of the world, but who has put on the scarlet. Such are marked by the sense of the delight and joy that they are to the heart of God, and it is attractive. Oh, yes. I remember a dear man in New Zealand, not an educated man at that, sitting at the roadside, and a body of American tourists went by in a car; they stopped and looked at him—he was clothed in scarlet. They got out of their car, "May we take your photograph?" they asked. "Why do you want to take my photograph?" "We have never seen a happier man"—just a dear brother in the Lord, sitting at the roadside. "Well, you can take my photograph if you will put the cause of my happiness at the bottom. Put at the bottom, that I am so happy because I love our Lord Jesus Christ." You know, that is clothed in scarlet. It was not what he had put off, but what he had put on. The enemy comes along and finds you have got rid of a lot of things, but have you got something on? Get hold of what is to be had in the deep and precious enjoyment of Christ. "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ." Put Him on, and then you will be able to stand against the wintry blasts of the last few days of Christian testimony, and you will be as fresh as if it were summer. Oh! the holy delight of finding that the One who died to save me, can make Himself intensely precious to me all my life. These are the things that are unanswerable and unassailable, and the enemy does not know what to do.
And then "fine linen." We are moving closer home—fine linen has to do with the presence of God. It is not a question now of people seeing your joy, but of being suitable for a home-call at any moment. "It is high time to awake"—the call might come to-night. The call might come any time. Are you ready for the transfer? "Oh," you say, "I have got rid of my sins." Got rid of yourself? "Yes." Got rid of your past history? "Yes." And what have you got on? "Oh," you say, "I am waiting to be clothed." Would you like to be found naked? "Oh," you say, "what can I put on?" Fine linen. You can learn in the power of the Spirit, what it is to transfer from Adam to Christ. Fine linen—it is the saints in moral accord with the Man who died for them. It is said of the church, "To her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen." (Rev. 19. 8.) Why? She was going to be in the presence of God, exactly like the Christ. God is going to see a vessel, clothed in the same character as the Man who ever maintained His rights, our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is a great thing to have a sense of what is right as God views it. Satan comes along and makes a most tempting offer. You know how Daniel came out, "fairer . . . than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat." That is how Christ is described, "fairer than the children of men." Daniel came out, the fruit, not only of his refusal of the king's meat, but of his enjoyment of his place with God. His enjoyment of it. "They shall walk with me in white."
Would you touch precious things like these? Remember, there is a feature added which cannot be overlooked: "and goats' hair." People say they are sympathetic, they like the brethren and the ministry. But they do not like the exclusiveness. They do not like the goats' hair. It is stiff and rigid and hard. They do not like it. What is underneath, that is of God, is not safe without it. It is not the thing you like, but it is what it preserves you from, and the way the Lord has preserved the precious affections of His people through the dark ages, has been by the goats' hair. I look right into the dark ages, as people speak, and I see one man all alone. I say, "Why do not you mix with the rest?" He says, "I can have nothing to do with it"—rigidly separate from the lot. I refer to Luther. If we mixed with the mass, where should we be to-day? It is the goats' hair that preserves the linen, in its exclusive preciousness to God. Do you let the world see the secret of your inward springs of communion? Let them see a rigid refusal to have anything to do with that which is unsuitable to Christ. Goats' hair covers and protects the precious springs of holy affection that are God's right in the hearts of His people.
Now, just a word or two on the two passages I read in the New Testament. "And that, knowing the time"—knowing the time. In these days, beloved, people tell the time by clocks. I have no objection to clocks, but the original way of telling the time was the best way. They originally told the time by the sun, and they will have to come back to it. If you want to know the time, you must watch the sun, and if you see a move with the Sun of Righteousness, it is time you got up; it is high time. We are just on the eve of the One who died for us, coming for us. The Sun of Righteousness is going to arise, and if you look at Him, you will be able to tell the time. And I think you will experience, as many a child of God has experienced and is experiencing, that when you get occupied with Christ in glory, it is surprising how you begin to get a kind of spiritual ministry that comes from Him. It is really near the end of this precious period of God's activities with His beloved people. In view of it how touching it is, "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof." It is too late in the day, may I put it simply, to give the flesh any more time. Yes, it is time to be ready for translation.
I read the verse in 2 Corinthians with that in view, not a question of knowing the time, that is with your eye heavenward, but looking down here. Do you know the earthly tabernacle is being dissolved? The world is wearing out. It looks as if the earthly tabernacle will be taken down any minute. The Lord has never forgotten the original fresh affection you had for Him. If you cannot recall it, He has not lost it. "I remember thee . . . when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown." / remember. But how precious in view of the taking down of the earthly tabernacle to find when it is taken down, nothing left behind but living affection for Christ—a vessel of holy affections, the fruit of the devoted life of Christ, and the precious activity of the Spirit.
May the Lord give us more of it, for His name's sake.
"The Believer's Friend" 1932