REMEMBER ME - WEEK 25– HIS SEPARATION
Twice already in recent weeks we have thought about The Lord as the man that was God incarnate [“verily God” but become “truly human”]. We can readily understand that in God we can see perfection – perfection in moral qualities and perfection in his works [ “wonderful works” says Psalm 40 v 5]. Again in Ps 18 v 30 is that clear statement “As for God, His way is perfect”. But we remember as well that as God incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth was perfect. The epistle to the Hebrews reminds us that he was “holy, harmless and undefiled” [ Heb 7 v 26]. The word used in this verse for “holy” is an unusual Greek word and means “pious” [i.e. God honouring, merciful and gracious]. Such qualities were seen in the Lord’s walk among men. “Harmless” means “innocent, free from evil thought, blameless” and “Undefiled” means “unstained, unsoiled, unblemished”. Our Lord was all of that – chaste, pure, sincere, irreproachable, incomparable. We sing sometimes:
Thy stainless life, thy lovely walk, in every aspect true, from the defilement all around, no taint of evil drew.
We should note that the verse quoted above from Heb 7 v 26 continues and says that he was ”separate from sinners”. This does not mean he was separated physically from them, but rather it means he was different to them. He was different morally in thought and word and deed. At the end of 30 years of human life in Nazareth, His father expressed his delight in him. We should note that Paul exhorted the Corinthian believers to be separate. He writes to them and says in 2 Cor 6 v 17 “Come ye out from among them and be ye separate”. Christians should realise that although we are “in the world” we are not “of the world” – we should be different to the man in the street [morally] and should live for the glory of God. The Holy Spirit works to encourage us [like happened with Paul and Barnabus] “to be separated for the work whereunto God called them” [Acts 13 v 2].
The concept of being “separate” is what is conveyed in the scriptural word “Sanctified” which essentially means “set apart” – we are set apart for a purpose and we need to be fit for that purpose for God to use us. The Lord was set apart as a boy – remember he said to Mary and Joseph “wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business” and he was set apart to do a work that only he could do – the work of salvation. [Says the hymn “He only [ i.e. only him] could unlock the gate of heaven to let us in”. We can think of the issue of being separated in the scripture. The Lord said to his disciples who were wearied in service “Come ye yourselves apart and rest a while”. So, they separated themselves to be with him for that purpose. We can think too of the Lord going up the mountain and praying all night-alone - separated in prayer. In John 6 v 16 he separates himself from the crowd that wanted to take him by force and make him a king.
What would be a practical lesson for us about being “separated” in our Christian journey. Surely it is not the thought of isolation for we have to go into all the world to preach the Gospel. We are the light of the world and we have to let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our father which is in heaven [Matt 5 v 16]. We are known by our works – they can speak volumes. What we do and how we act and react defines our Christian attitude. Are we able and willing to reach out to others in times of need for the sake of the testimony and for the glory of God so that beneficiaries may exclaim “God is in you of a truth” [ 1Cor 14 v 25 ]. This may result in us supplying material things to worthy causes – like disasters that happen worldwide, like those deprived of adequate food [ even in our own community- hence food banks]. [ Remember the Lord fed a multitude that was hungry.]
Paul says he was “separated unto the gospel of God” [ Romans 1 v1] and we too are separated unto God and to his cause. We should have His interests as our interests, so let us embrace them and strive to honour him in our duty and testimony. Alex
REMEMBER ME - WEEK 24 – HIS SENSITIVITY [TO HIMSELF]
Last week we thought about The Lord as the man that was God incarnate [ “verily God” but become “truly human”. We looked at his sensitivity from the point of view as to his feelings for others and his compassion towards them and how he reached out to bless and heal. Today I thought to remember him in regard to his own sensitivity to what he encountered, i.e. to consider His own feelings. Jim Tennant of Grangemouth once spoke on the 12 Minor prophets in the Old Testament and remarked that the first of them – Hosea, was a record of how God sought to impress Hosea about God’s feelings about the nation of Israel and its sinful behaviour and attitude towards him. He did this by instructing Hosea to marry a harlot so that Hosea would live to experience how God felt about a people that were unfaithful and not truly loving. So, the Book of Hosea could be entitled “The Feelings of Jehovah”.
Our Lord was tested in all points such as we are and he experienced many things which are typical of human experience. We should marvel at that because it means he can truly empathise with us in our experiences in the journey of life and we should remember His Feelings about the negative things in life he encountered. He lived in a society characterised by spiritual decline. That must have filled him with a sense of despair. “The Feasts of Jehovah” which are described under God’s instruction in the book of Leviticus had been downgraded just to be known as “The Feasts of the Jews”. His “Fathers House” [the Temple] was known as “The House of Merchandise” since there was more emphasis on bartering and trading than on godly exercises and because the Lord challenged the chief priests and scribes about their behaviour, he experienced what it was like to witness “sore displeasure” – i.e. to be unpopular [Matt 21v15]. He knew what it felt like to be criticised as religious leaders found fault. Mark 7 records the occasion when he apparently condoned his disciples eating without the formal ceremonial cleansing of their hands, it says v 2 “they found fault”. There are several occasions when the Lord was criticised for his miracles on the Sabbath Day but besides the negative feelings of criticism, there was the fact that he was not trusted i.e. not believed. John 12 says “Though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him. [v 37]. What feelings must that have engendered in his heart. He came unto his own and his own received him not [ John 1 v 11]. He was spurned. [He is despised and rejected of men, Isaiah 53]. Worse than that in Mark 3 we read about his healing of the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath Day and he knew that the elders were watching and waiting to have cause to accuse him. Verse 5 describes his feelings [He was grieved for the hardness of their hearts.] and then they “took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him”
He knew too the feeling of disappointment in people. In Luke 4 in the synagogue, there was a congregation who “marvelled at the gracious words that proceeded out of his lips”[v4] but as soon as he pointed out how God had blessed a Lebonese starving widow [ a Gentile] and healed a Syrian leper [also a Gentile] and implied that these Gentiles were more worthy of God’s blessing than the Jews, they turned on him and “were filled with wrath and rose up and thrust him out of the city” – unwelcome - the truth hurt them and it hurt him to be thrown out by his own townsfolk.
And then we can remember the feelings of being let down as Judas betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver. What was it like to feel valued at the price of a slave? And then he felt the anguish of being denied by Peter who should have stood by him and supported him and spoken up in his defence but no he denied him three times and “the Lord turned and looked upon Peter” [Luke 22 v 61]. It would be a look of personal hurt and disappointment. And then the cry of the people “His citizens hated him…saying we will not have this man to reign over us” [Luke 19 v 14]. His feelings must have been like Job. “I am a worm and no man: a reproach of men and despised by the people.” [Job 22 v 6]
REMEMBER ME - WEEK 23 – HIS SENSITIVITY [TO OTHERS]
When we think about The Lord [ The Lord Jesus Christ] we stand in awe at the realisation that this man was God incarnate. We say he was “verily God” but yes, he became “truly human”. This mean’t he could “feel” and experience humanity, pass through “time scenes” and walk life’s pathway. The Psalmist said “He knoweth our frame” [Ps 103] and by partaking of human flesh, he would really come to know experiencially our frame and all we pass through in inhabiting it. This experience for him qualified Him to not only be our Saviour but also our “Great High Priest” and in that intercessory role he is “touched with the feelings of our infirmities” [ Heb 4 v15]. This leads us to take comfort in the knowledge that he is therefore SENSITIVE” to our feelings and experiences in life’s journey. He not only can sympathise but he also understands what we may be going through since he too has been touched . He was TESTED [ not tempted]. When we are tempted it means that there is the thought of sinning -albeit we manage to stop short of doing it: but that was not true of him.
Let us think about some instances where our Lord demonstrates His understanding of our circumstances, His sensitivity to our need and His reassurance of being willing to “help in time of need”. In Matt 9 v 36 we read of the Lord looking upon a multitude and it says “He was moved with COMPASSION” because they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd”. He was SENSITIVE for their need of leadership and security, safety and guidance. In Mark 1 v 40 where we have the leper, it says “Jesus was moved with compassion” – indicating His SENSITIVITY to a man’s unfortunate circumstances – begging, separated, lonely, unclean and loathsome. Again, in Mark’s Gospel [5 v 19] we read of the Lord having “compassion” on a mentally deranged man [Legion by name]. He was SENSITIVE” to his condition, perhaps once healthy but now forced out of family home and community life to be restrained by chains and living in a cemetery which couldn’t have helped his mental wellbeing! Again in John 19 v 27 as the Lord was in agony on that cruel cross, he did not think so much about his own pain but looked down compassionately at the mental pain of his heartbroken mother and showed his SENSITIVITY towards her and her future by saying to that disciple whom Jesus loved [John], “Behold thy mother” [ in other words take care of her as if she was your own mother, care for her need of help in coming days [perhaps in widowhood?]
In Luke 7 we read yet again of our Lord’s great compassion and His SENSITIVITY towards others like the woman who had been made a widow and thereby would be in financial straits and now the only one who could support her [her son] has also died and was being taken to the cemetery on a bier. Note that the intervention of the Lord is not initially directed towards the dead man but rather to the woman and her sense of hopelessness and her grief as she wept. He has compassion on her and he speaks to her personally and then performs a miracle such that her son sat up and was delivered to her. Again, in Mark 8 v 2, we witness His SENSITIVITY as he became aware of the multitude that had been with Him for a long time [3 days] and he appreciated that they would be hungry and thirsty and tired. He knew what it was like to experience these needs and was able to supply the need of that great crowd of people with 12 baskets of bread left over. So, he knows our needs and provides for them - but of course that does not mean he will necessarily supply our wants.
Then in our Lord’s messages to the seven churches in the book of Revelation, he repeatedly says to each one “I KNOW….” and demonstrates that he is SENSITIVE to their needs and thereby to our needs. He knows about the current shutdown of our assembly activity. But we should take comfort in the knowledge that whilst the building may be closed, the church isn’t, it is eternal in Him. For some reason He has allowed the current situation to develop. We have to be patient and wait upon Him. He is SENSTIVE to our situation and knows how we feel and what we miss. - The Psalmist said “The Lord thinketh upon me”. Alex