Concerning Himself, The Lamb of God.
"What is the best method to pursue to acquire a knowledge of the Scriptures and to enjoy them? Every true-hearted Christian should ask himself this question, for we are told to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. (Col. iii. 16) It is quite possible to have a very considerable knowledge of the Word of God without any richness or any wisdom; the knowledge is valuable, but useless to a very great extent if it does not feed the soul. For example, I may be very keen on this or that doctrinal point, and perfectly correct; or I may be very well instructed on the subject of the Church; or I may be very ingenious and argumentative on the seventy weeks of Daniel—I do not say correct, for I am much inclined to think from Ch. xii., that Daniel only relates in a general way, what the Angel said to him, which he imperfectly understood, and that he himself will be the true interpreter when the time comes, when he stands in his lot. Nor is it, I think, necessary for us Gentiles to know all the exact details; for a good knowledge on all or any of these matters may but puff us up, and not make "our heart burn within us," although that is what we really want; it is no use to sit down and study the Scriptures in the spirit in which we should act to obtain a knowledge of mathematics, or of the Sanskrit language. Nor indeed is it much better to study them as a rule of life, if Christ is not the main object before the heart and soul, since if He is not, we shall lose the best part of our labour, and be barren, cold, and joyless; hence, we should notice with extreme care what is said on this subject in these closing words of Luke, for it is repeated (v. 27 and v. 44) where we learn that the chief point to understand, if we would not be "fools" and "slow of heart," is the things concerning Christ both in "the Law," and "the Prophets," and "the Psalms;" in other words, "in all the Scriptures."
So far as we trace Christ in prediction as in Gen. iii. 15, in type, as in all the details and variation of sacrifice, the history of David, of Solomon, &c, or in direct prophecy, as in Isaiah vii. 1., Iii., liii., in the Psalms i., xxi., xxii. &c, and a very great multitude of passages, so far shall we grow rich in a knowledge of the Word of Christ Himself; and we shall be able to see in all the rest, what a fine background it makes, throwing into prominence the chief, the only figure, which is Christ Himself; this is the true food of the soul—and it was this to which the Lord in grace and love opened the understandings of His sorrowing followers, and made their hearts to burn within them.
The knowledge of the Scriptures lies in a very careful study of the background; the enjoyment of the Scriptures is in the contemplation of the chief figure; for the spirit (end, aim, object) of prophecy, is the testimony of Jesus; thus we learn to mark, and ponder, and feed on the things "concerning Himself:" so far as we do this—and it is a study for one's whole life—we shall not be at a loss to understand what the rule of that life should be; then obedience to that word gives us the true enjoyment of it.
The Lamb of God.
In [the previous] paper, I spoke of studying the Scriptures with the main object before the mind of attending to the things "concerning Himself," and will now endeavour to give a faint outline of the mention of the Lamb as a small illustration of my meaning. To many Christian hearts, the Lamb of God is unspeakably precious—many nowadays are occupied, rather, I might say distracted, with various subjects which lead the soul away from Christ to be occupied with something else, ourselves, our doings, our party—one is giving himself heart and soul to the great question of teetotalism, another is occupied with the conversion of the world by—by what? a distracted, disunited Church, forgetting or ignoring altogether the sad failure of all Christendom, now well-nigh apostate, which has not continued in the "goodness of God," and will assuredly be "cutoff," (see Rom. xi.), and the faithful Jew again used as a powerful instrument in the hand of God for blessing the whole world. The apostle speaks very plainly on this subject. Then again, another is occupied, and earnestly so, with the sad state of sin in his own heart; he is vainly trying to keep the law, is in agony of soul, as the man in Rom. vii., be it Paul or anyone else. He is blind to the freedom and blessedness spoken of in Rom. viii., perhaps he flies to Rome or to Ritualism, instead of to the Lamb of God, and the law of the spirit of Life in Him.
Now let us endeavour to learn something of the grace and wisdom of God in the way in which He has prominently and persistently in all ages put the Lamb to the front as man's only remedy, resource and deliverance. The Words of holy writ are few, but weighty; the sentences often very brief, and require most careful attention. Abel, it is said, offered a lamb, and the fat thereof. Why is this fact mentioned? Just for this reason, that it shows how thoroughly he understood the mind of God. The fat—read the instructions to Moses when God was taking His people in hand, to educate them to the understanding of worship; what was the value of a lamb without fat? Would the priest accept such an offering? Would God accept it? The fat shows the richness, the preciousness of Christ in His sight, and which He alone could appreciate. "The fat is the Lord's," so we find Abel spoken of by Christ Himself as "righteous Abel." Now pass on to the history of Abraham as given in Gen. xxii.: Isaac sees plainly that something is wanted. "Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" (v. 7) What a stupendous question, and what a stupendous reply: "My son, GOD will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering." Was Isaac that lamb? Nay, he might have sufficed as an offering to prove Abraham's faith, but what benefit should you or I derive from such a sacrifice? The time was not yet come for God's Lamb, so a ram suffices for the occasion, but the deep knowledge of the mind of God acquired in communion on the mountain heights, (Lot chose the plain) is shown in that magnificent answer: "My son, God will provide Himself, (or Himself provide) a lamb for a burnt offering; Abraham seeing infinitely beyond present circumstances.
When we arrive at the time of Moses—a time as we have said when God was definitely instructing His people as a nation—we get the lamb of the Passover set forth in all its blessed fulness, and ordained to be remembered annually; but this was a sin offering, and we soon get more than this, for we get a lamb twice a day, a daily remembrance as a burnt offering repeated twice, nay more, for every Sabbath, two lambs were to be offered in the morning, and two in the evening. (Num. xxviii.) Why was this? We shall see as we go on; but note this—or ever Moses with the law in his hand leaves the Mount, he has learned what is meant by this offering of a lamb, God's remedy, and the only one, for a law that was so soon to be broken by His faithless people. He not only is the bearer of that law, but of everything that shows in every detail God's remedy—the ark, the mercy seat, the sprinkled blood, the great day of atonement— everything is explained to him.
As to the offering of the lamb at the Passover, it is sufficiently understood by most Christians not to need much comment; it is the grand type of the power of the redeeming blood, shelter from avenging justice, as well as food for the start on the wilderness journey; a careful comparison of this solemn annual observance with the prophecies of Isaiah from chapters 1, 4, to the better known 53rd, and of these again with the detailed history of the sufferings of Christ in the gospels, will most assuredly and most clearly point to the Lord as the "Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world," as well as the One in Whom is our refuge and strength. And though the Israelites at the time of its first momentous keeping in Egypt, little understood it, they kept it in obedience. Moses, as we learn from Heb. xi. 28, kept it in full intelligence and faith. The direct words of the Apostle in 1 Cor. v. 7, are a very plain and positive proofs that Christ Himself was the true Paschal Lamb.
We come now to the time when His people were somewhat established in the land of promise, and had miserably failed in it. Samuel arises—a prophet of God—the priesthood had utterly failed, and in their extremity nationally, Samuel takes "a sucking lamb," not simply a lamb of the first year, but a sucking lamb. (1 Sam. vii. 9) Christ assuredly presented in the most elementary way, and suited to their present condition, but sufficient for the occasion, and God publicly owns and accepts it, (ver. 10, 12,) and an Eben Ezer is raised up. Hitherto, yes, my dear reader, and God's Lamb will be sufficient unto the very end, but there is great force and sweetness in the hitherto, as you will find in reading the passage in 1 Samuel.
I remember many years ago, a Christian of some gift, asking me the meaning of this offering of a "sucking lamb;" he could not fathom it, much less could I, a mere child in the faith; now surely God has in some measure opened my eyes. It is a profitable thing to put questions of this sort one to another, though it may be years before they are solved.
Having glanced at a few of the types, we must now pass on to the great epoch in the history of man, that time styled by the Apostle "the fulness of time," that time when God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, the true Lamb of God. It is very sweet, very beautiful, to notice the touching way in which this inestimable gift is brought before us in the words of the messenger sent to prepare His way. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John i. 29) Reader! do you habituate yourself to dwell on such brilliant passages as these? The whole object of such feeble writing as is this paper, is to direct your earnest attention to the richness and precious fulness of the pure Word of God; do you let such passages, and there are many of them, ring in your ears and through the inmost chambers of your soul in the silence of the midnight watches, yea, and also in the busy hum of daily work? If you do, it is your joy, your wisdom, your food, your strength. If you have not yet learned to do so, pray God at once to teach you, and you will presently find it to be marrow and fatness to your bones. But could such an expression as this of the Baptist's have applied to any other person or to any other offering? This was as it were the official proclamation of His worth, and dignity, and office; but then again, there is a second proclamation, and note carefully—not now official, but Christ is presented in His Own intrinsic personal perfection and preciousness, and the result is quickly seen: "Behold, the Lamb of God." We may not have eyes to see all God's comprehensive and eternal purposes treasured up in Christ, but when He is presented to us simply as the Lamb of God, sufficient for our personal need—then when we have learned that great lesson, we "follow Jesus," but it is well for us to seek to understand the meaning and value of both these proclamations.
But how was He proved to be the Lamb of God? We have passed in brief review through the chief types of the Lamb, and now we have to compare them with the most blessed antitype, though we shall find that all is not yet fulfilled concerning Him. Bright days of glory are yet to be manifested before all creation, and for these days we wait, and long, and hope, and pray. The declaration of John the Baptist that the One before his eyes was the Lamb of God, is quite sufficient for us, but when we compare the sufferings of Christ with all that had been prophesied and typified, we are most abundantly satisfied.
The morning daily offering of a Lamb as a burnt-offering—wholly the Lord's, and the evening repetition of it—that is, what we in western language should call three o'clock in the afternoon, was most significant and impressive. When Moses was receiving the detailed instructions about the manner in which God would have His people to approach unto Him in holy worship, what do we find?—a tabernacle to be set up, no doubt, and priests to be specially ordained to minister therein; but what is the principal and leading thought? Doubtless Christ—Christ—and Christ alone—the Tabernacle was to contain the Ark—the Ark was to enclose, and hide, and conceal the Law—the Mercy-seat was to cover it—the Cherubim—the glory of God, were looking downward on the Mercy-seat, which was sprinkled with the blood of atonement, and in that most holy place was God to speak to His servant Moses—over the Mercy-seat, between the Cherubim—all this plainly points to Christ and to His work, as man's only way of approach to God. Then, again, outside the most holy place, but within the Tabernacle, was this daily offering, morning and evening, of a lamb as a burnt-offering to be made. God could be only thinking of Christ whenever man—his salvation, his approach to a holy God, is in question, and his supreme delight, and daily delight in Him, the blessed Lamb without spot—is here set forth. Now what do we find; in fact, in Christ's work down here in the body prepared for Him—He was crucified at nine o'clock in the morning—the morning offering—and expired on the cross at three o'clock in the afternoon—thus uniting in His Own person, both of these significant burnt offerings.
In the evening (three o'clock), the Lord uttered those blessed words, "It is finished." (John. xix. 30; Matt, xxvii. 46—50) "The ninth hour" (three o'clock in the afternoon). From that time forward, this hour of the day is always peculiarly sacred, indeed it was of old—Daniel prayed at this time—and the language of Ps. cxli. 2, shows this very clearly. Most probably, it accounts for the generally observed hour of evening cathedral service.
It may be as well to note again, that Christ was also the sin-offering on the Cross, and as such suffered "outside the gate," according to Heb. xiii. 12—but this is not exactly our subject here—it is as the Lamb of the burnt-offering that we are now considering Him.
But there is yet more connected with it. We have already spoken of two lambs being offered up, one each morning and evening on the Sabbath. Now what does this signify? God's most perfect satisfaction in Christ and His accomplished work throughout all the toiling centuries of a groaning creation, however long they may continue, was set forth in this week-day offering, but the true Sabbath is coming, when the creation itself shall be delivered (Rom. viii. 21, new version), when the liberty of the glory of the children of God shall be made manifest. A period of double rejoicing most undoubtedly—all brought about by the one offering of Christ on the cross—the true Lamb of God. Thus on the Sabbath, God rejoiced, not only in the person and in the work of the Lord Jesus, but in its blessed RESULT—as it will be seen throughout the one Eternal Sabbath—and all this was symbolized for centuries beforehand in the offering up of a double sacrifice on the Sabbath Day. But there is yet another point to be noticed in the future respecting the Lamb—when we look into that Divine book—the book of the Revelation of St. John, we find there a Lamb in connection with a Throne—quite a new idea—but the meaning is too plain to be misunderstood. He Who was so cruelly rejected and despised by men, has been duly and fully exalted by God, and when again He is manifested before the eyes of sinful men, it will always be in connection with a throne upon earth, and when He is manifested before the eyes of His saints in Heaven, it will also, be always in connection with a Throne, and with many crowns on His head.
Now this Lamb, having been God's faithful Witness and Servant upon the earth, is also found to be the only One Who can approach the throne to dare to open the seven-sealed book of the dreadful judgments that are coming on the earth, and that day—how soon will it be, coming with startling terrors on an ungodly world?—who shall say? But the day is appointed and fixed (Acts xvii. 31), when everything will be in the hands of this Lamb, according to the prophesy of Isa. lxi., that part which the meek and lowly Jesus did not, and could not read in the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke iv. 16), because the time was not yet come, "The day of vengeance of our God." But the blessing and the judgment are here most pointedly (Isa. lxi.) united in one and the same person.
But the consummation of the work of this blessed One is also seen in connection with another book, not now of judgment and terrors, but of blessing supreme. He does not open a book already written and sealed up, but He, Himself, keeps a book—a record—and this wondrous book is styled "The Lamb's Book of Life," and whosoever has his name written therein, has his part in the untold joys of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Thus, from the simple sacrifice, yet withal deeply significant one, of Abel's lamb, as given in the early chapters of Genesis, down to the closing of the book of Revelation, do we find the Lamb set forth as God's medium of blessing to man. Briefly, indeed, have we endeavoured to show these things; the Word of God and the Spirit of God can alone bring them in all their intense preciousness before the eyes and into the heart and understanding of each one of His dear and chosen children. May you, dear reader, and may I with you and with all saints, drink more deeply into the precious Word of God, and more especially on those parts that treat of "THE THINGS CONCERNING HIMSELF."
J. D. B. (J. Davis Burton)
From: "Bible Light for Truth Seekers" 1883. London: John F. Shaw