Contrasts of Scripture.
by John S. Bagshaw
God puts shade and shine together, the one setting off the other in bold relief; it is according to God's creation order, the morning and the evening were the first day, or, as the apostle puts it, that which is natural, then that which is spiritual. Ishmael first, then Isaac; it is the same all scripture over, and the history of the dealings of God with His people in all dispensations confirms the fact. He must come down to our condition and position before He could take us up to His. It is also in the government of God that such has become His order; some would be occupied with either the one or the other, either depressed or jubilant; but our God, in whose hands the balances are, would have it otherwise. He wants him to rightly appreciate the one and enjoy the other without effervescence; our tendency is to be pendulum-like, at one side or the other; but I hear the blessed apostle say, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound." The shade comes first. Wonderful condition of soul! He was occupied with the Luke presentation of Christ—the true meal-offering, where the seed sown brought forth a hundred-fold, and when explained by Him who had "the seed basket" (Psa. cxxii.), it ''brought forth fruit with patience." No variation, as in Matthew and Mark, giving the kingdom and the work of Christ.
Abram had his tent and his altar, seeking a city which hath foundations, and Jacob and his family are homeless and houseless, while the great of the earth had kings, dukes and palaces. The Lord leads us into the shade to shew us what we are, and then into the shine to shew us what He is. It is well said, that in nature, any action is followed by a reaction; it may be the same in things spiritual, and sometimes the latter exceeds the former, so that the good of the one is much impaired by that of the other. Elijah lost his balance by his success, so did Gideon in an earlier day, shewing how little able they were to bear the reaction of the sunshine. The hour of victory is a moment of great danger; we are so apt to lose the equilibrium necessary to the enjoyment of our gain, and it has happened more than once that those who have surrendered much for Christ, have been overcome by the reaction and have retrograded into what they had forsaken, as in the case of Ephesus "because thou hast left thy first love." Considering Paul's exhortation to Timothy as to the use of money (1 Tim. vi.), 50,000 pieces of silver was a goodly sum (Acts xix.), and perhaps the recollection of affluence and luxury, together with the influence of idolatrous relations, dragged these Ephesians back into the world; in those days there were no halfway houses for malcontents.
The psalms abound in contrasts of the brightest dye. Psalm viii. stands amidst persecution on one side—Psalms iii.-vii. and the circumstances thereof on the other, Psalms ix.-xv., like an Alpine glacier when first struck by the rising sun, or a Himalayan peak viewed from the base, from the river Jhelum, as we see the Son of man arising in all the brightness of millennial sovereignty and glory. Psalm xx. is Messiah in the day of His trouble; Psalm xxi. He is saved, crowned and glorified, “a crown of pure gold upon his head." From the shade and suffering of Psalm xxii. arises the ''governor among the nations," the Shepherd who leads into green pastures and the warrior king returning from the battle-field of Idumea. So Psalm lxiii. I-6, who leads into glory. Book II. gives the full length portrait of the Antichrist, as Book I. that of the Christ of God; Psalms Iii., liii., liv., lv. the one who loves evil and lying, the deceitful tongue, the fool, stranger and violent, the apostate who profanes his covenant (Dan. ix. 27), in contrast to Him who loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity, and who says, ''I will not profane my covenant." In Book III. how dark and gloomy is Psalm lxxxviii., no ray of light from God, no answer to the cry in morning, noon or night, and the wail of the lamentation of the children of Korah breaks in upon us, as they see the judgment of God consigning their parents to the pit—like "them that go down into the pit," and what grace it was to have saved the children. (Num. xxvi. 11.) The psalm expresses Israel's sense of a broken law, in which the Spirit of Christ participates; but how bright is the shine of Psalm lxxxix. as he emerges from the darksome tunnel into the daylight and begins to sing of the counsel and oath of Jehovah to David. (2 Sam. vii.; 1 Chron. xvii.) How the lustre of the shine eclipses the shade, though receiving bold relief from it. Again in Book IV. listen to "the prayer of the afflicted one, as he poureth out his complaint before Jehovah." "He weakened my strength in the way; he shortened my days. I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days, thy years are throughout all generations." (Psa. cii. 23, 24.) Then Jehovah seems to throw a bright halo of light around the rejected One and says, "Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou continuest, yea, all of them shall grow old as a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed, but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end." (vers. 25-27.) A bright light and word of encouragement in the dark scene of the garden of Gethsemane: "I have heard thee in an accepted time;" "and an angel appeared from heaven, strengthening him." In Book V. Psalms cix., cx. stand in bold apposition one to the other. Betrayed by the apostate Judas, who sold his King for thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave—as of old Judah sold Joseph, during the absence of Reuben, representing the ten tribes to his cousins, the Ishmaelites and they again to the Gentiles (the price that Potiphar paid is not recorded)—so Judah sold the true Joseph in the absence of the ten tribes to the Jews, who made Him over to the Gentiles to carry out the counsels of God in the mode of crucifixion, "lifted up,'' not stoned. Then in Psalm cx. how bright is the exaltation of the rejected One: ''The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool."
In returning to the Book of Exodus, we find shade and shine deeply marked, the extremes and the extremities are clearly defined, beginning with the darkness and oppression of Israel amidst the brick-kilns of Egypt, and ending with the brightness of the glory of God shining on the face of Moses (chap. xxxiv.), and winding up with the habitation of Jehovah amidst His people (chap. xl. 17); carried out in the Ephesians, “a habitation of God in Spirit," having arisen out of those once "dead in trespasses and sins." How the shine eclipses the shade, the greatest distance and the greatest nearness brought in to parallel.
The early part of John's gospel is a superseding of the great in Judaism by the person of the Son of God, beginning with the Lamb of God who sets aside all other lambs, and that temple built by Herod thrown into the shade by the actual body of Christ; the brazen serpent gives way to the Son of man and becomes "a brass thing," as the king called it, beside the Christ of God. Then Sychar's well is dried up in the presence of the ''living water"—"the water that I shall give him." The weakness and unprofitableness of Bethesda's water is declared by the sovereign word of the Son of God. The manna then falls into shade by ''the bread of God which came down from heaven," which could give life and immunity from death, and lastly the day of the feast of tabernacles is dimmed by the gift of the Spirit of God which could make a man a blessing to the earth instead of receiving something from it. The Epistle to the Hebrews is a dissolving view, in which the great personages in Judaism are placed on the sheet and fade away before the person of the Christ of God. Angels, man, Moses, Joshua, the high priest, all bow the knee and own the superiority of the Son of God, the Son of man, the Son over His own house, the ever-living Melchizedek, priest and king, who leads the many sons into ''that rest" (chap. iv. 11) and retire into their own assigned corners. Peter delights in juxtaposition, and we find him producing from the embers of the old system, principles of the new, which have displaced the former order, such as election, sanctification, obedience, all on a new basis in his first epistle, and a new kind of kingdom in his second.
In referring to Romans, it is pleasant to see where Paul puts his light affliction, his "filling up of the afflictions of Christ"—the most awful suffering possible for a human being to undergo (2 Cor. xi.)—between his joint glory with Christ and the glory of God (chap. viii. 18), like Aaron of old, when dressed in his garments of glory and beauty, only enough of the man seen to shew the shade.
J.S. Bagshawe, New Zealand.
“Mutual Comfort” 1909