Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee—Psa. 116:7.
The Christian's habit of thought has much indeed to do with his spiritual progress or retrogression, as it is also an index of his spiritual state; and good habits of thought need to be carefully cultivated. By "habit of thought" we mean that normal condition to which the mind habitually (characteristically) returns in the moments of mental leisure. While engaged in the active duties of life, we must of necessity bend our mental energies to the work at hand, for if we do anything merely mechanically and without concentrating thought upon it, we cannot do it well; yet even here Christian principle, well established in the character, will unconsciously guide. But when the strain of labor and care are lifted for a time, the established habit of thought, like the needle to the pole, should quickly, return to its rest in God—Z '95, 250 (R 1884).
The Christian life is one in which, from the standpoint of the flesh, there is much perplexity and unrest, and the Christian's danger under these circumstances is permitting this perplexity and unrest to become a part of his character. To overthrow this tendency a constant returning in confidence in the Lord's good will and purpose toward him as expressed in the Word is necessary; for in such reliance upon the Lord through the Word, he finds rest and peace amid trouble and perplexity—P '33, 16.
Parallel passages: Job 34:29; Psa. 1:1, 2; 4:8; 25:12; 29:11; 85:8; 119:165; 125:1, 5; Prov. 3:13-26; Isa. 26:3, 12; 28:12; 32:2, 17, 18; 53:5; Luke 1:79; John 14:27; 16:33; Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:15; Phil. 4:7, 9.
Hymns: 244, 220, 339, 296, 90, 97, 22.
Poems of Dawn, 25: Let Not Doubts O'erwhelm.
Tower Reading: Z '14, 25, 202 (R 5387, 5492).
Questions: What have been this week's experiences with the Word as our resting place? What helped or hindered therein? What were the results?
HOW oft we doubt
And fear we shall be overwhelmed in sin,
Because temptation grows so strong without,
Because our courage is so faint within.
And thus we sigh:
Then can it be that I have known the Lord?
Can I be one with Him that sits on high?
Have I e'er felt the power of His Word?
Is this poor life
Fit prelude for a high eternity?
Alas! Have I not yet begun the strife,
Or must I fail before the victory?
O heart of doubt!
When wilt thou, O thou foolish heart, be wise?
Thou lookest everywhere, within, without,
Forgetting only to lift up thine eyes.
No more despair,
There is no help for thee in things below;
Search not within for hope—it is not there,
But unto Christ do thou for comfort go.
Christ is thy Rock;
Doubt not this firm foundation, true and tried;
Fear not the gathering tempest's angry shock;
It harms not those that on this Rock abide.
Christ is thy Friend,
He knows thy weakness, He will give thee strength;
Trust! In His name is victory; He will end
The conflict for thee; thou shalt win at length.
Christ is thy Peace;
From penalty and stain He sets thee free;
And in the white robe of His righteousness,
Before the approving God presenteth thee.
Christ is thine ALL:
Forget thyself, and in Him sweetly rest;
And thou shalt enter, whatsoe'er befall,
The everlasting mansions of the blest.
"My Presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest."—Exod. 33:14.
WE ARE NOT to think of our Heavenly Father as literally walking through the wilderness with the children of Israel, as leaving the affairs of the Universe and going with them in their journey. Nor are we to get the thought that God is everywhere at the same time. This unscriptural thought has been the foundation for much error. Christian Scientists say that God is everywhere—in every piece of wood, of china—in everything.
When we ask what they mean, they say that since the word God simply stands for good, and since there is good in everything, therefore God must be in everything; for God means good and must be everywhere, even in every atom of matter. So on this erroneous doctrine of God's omnipresence they build their theory. But theirs is not the Scriptural thought.
The Scriptural thought is that God specially manifests His Power and Love to His people. God is in Heaven; the earth is His footstool. But by His various powers and agents, and by His intelligence and knowledge, He can be as if present everywhere—through His angels, His messengers. Just as we by the telegraph and the telephone can have communication with the uttermost parts of the earth, so God can exercise His Power in every part of the Universe.
The words of our text, we remember, were the Lord's answer to Moses when that great statesman was in perplexity. He had been commanded to go forward as the leader of Israel, and through Divine favor to bring them into the land of Canaan, there to give them rest.
From the beginning of the wilderness journey, there was more or less of disinclination or fear on the part of the people. They realized that they were breaking up their homes and going forth into a strange land. Even though they had been oppressed by the Egyptians, they reasoned that if they went out into the wilderness with no Egyptian taskmasters, this would mean that they would have no food. Thus they were stiff-necked—like an ox—difficult to turn about.
The Lord's promise to Moses was, "My Presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." And He promised to be with the Israelites. He gave them assurance that they might recognize His power in their midst; for God's energy in all the affairs of earth, as of the Universe, is not merely a power to know the things that are happening, but to control all events that they may outwork His designs. He guides and assists the efforts of His people. Additionally, the angels of the Lord quite probably were employed in this special work of superintending the affairs of the Israelites.
This thought is in harmony with the Scripture which intimates that there is a guardian angel for each one of the Lord's saints, who has supervision over him. We read, "In Heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in Heaven." (Matt. 18:10.) They have immediate communication with the Father; and thus He has direct oversight of all who belong to Him.
The Divine Power was manifested directly with the Israelites in the Shekinah glory over the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy, which indicated the Lord's presence with them. And when they were to journey onward, the pillar of cloud went before them by day, and the pillar of fire by night. When they were to stop, this cloud would stand still. While they were encamped, the cloud would rest over the Tabernacle, and the Shekinah glory rested between the cherubim on the Mercy-Seat in the Tabernacle. Thus the presence of God went with them to the Land of Canaan, and gave them all things which He had promised—Joshua 23:14.
MOSES' NEED OF ENCOURAGEMENT
From our context we perceive that Moses' meekness was again manifesting itself. He had previously asked for some one to be mouthpiece for him, and the Lord had said that Aaron might be his mouthpiece. Rash people often get into trouble, because there is a lack of meekness, modesty. But it was not so with Moses—"the meekest man in all the earth." Humility is a most important element of character. The meek man will find it easier to be gentle and patient than will the man who lacks meekness. And so in enumerating the fruits of the Holy Spirit St. Paul mentions meekness.—Gal. 5:23.
When the Lord promised that His presence should go with Moses, He was speaking to him as the Mediator. Therefore He said, "My Presence shall go with thee." As soon as Moses had inaugurated the Law Covenant at Sinai, Israel was in covenant relationship with God, and the Lord with Israel.
ISRAEL'S FAILURE TO ENTER REST
One might get the thought that God's promise to give rest would signify that Moses should have a rest of mind, and that all who would come into line with Moses and with God's promises would also have a rest of mind. But this mental rest is not what is here meant. The Israelites were going from the land of Egypt into the Land of Promise, which was to be an everlasting inheritance to them, if they would keep their Covenant. But of all the adults who came out of Egypt, only Caleb and Joshua entered into Canaan. (Num. 32:11, 12.) The majority failed to enter in because of their lack of faith. The forty years' wandering in the desert was because of their fearfulness and consequent rebellion.
When on the wilderness journey Israel came finally to the place where they could see the land of Canaan, spies were sent to make investigation and to report as to which would be the best way to enter the promised land. All of the spies save Caleb and Joshua, gave an unfavorable report. Then through timidity the people said, "We cannot go up and take that land. Those people are giants, and we look like grasshoppers beside them." So in their lack of faith they murmured against going up. Therefore God sware in His wrath, "This people shall not enter into My rest."—Hebrews 3:11.
TYPICAL AND ANTITYPICAL REST
The Apostle Paul shows that the rest in Canaan was a type of the rest of the people of God, in this Gospel Age. (Heb. 4:3, 9.) By faith we rest in God—we rest in His promises. We are not moved away by any of the adverse conditions of the present time. Our rest is the reality; the rest of Israel was the type.
The antitypical rest, into which the Lord's people enter, has two phases. We who believe enter into rest now. We have the peace of God ruling in our hearts and guiding our lives. We have the peace of faith, the rest of faith, the confidence that God will direct our course. Therefore we are contented, even though not yet satisfied. We shall not be satisfied until we enter into our complete rest. Our true rest will be that glorious, perfect condition beyond the veil, which we shall attain through the First Resurrection.
St. Paul, in discussing this question in the 3d and 4th chapters of Hebrews, declares that the people of Israel failed to enter into rest, not because God did not perform His part, but because they failed to exercise the proper faith in the Lord; they had "an evil heart of unbelief." And he proceeds to say, "Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." (Heb. 4:1.) There are requirements; there are conditions. The Apostle means that whoever would be of this overcoming class must take heed, or he will fail to enter into the eternal rest of God. There will be such a class of overcomers; and God has predestined and foreordained that they shall enter into this glorious and perfect rest. If we are faithful unto death, we shall attain this glorious rest by the resurrection "change."
JOSHUA A TYPE OF CHRIST
The world is not now able to enter into rest. They are like the raging sea. They have not come into relationship with God. As the Scriptures tell us, mankind is a poor, groaning creation, travailing together in pain. They do not see the rest which God has provided. We see, however, that when the antitypical Moses, the great Mediator, shall have been completed, He will lead the people into rest.—Deut. 18:15; Acts 3:22.
Moses did not lead the people into the Land of Promise; it was Joshua—their new leader—who led them over Jordan. Thus the type shows that mankind will enter into the promised land, not by the Law, but by a Savior. The name Joshua means savior—Greek Jesous. (Heb. 4:8, margin.) So Jesus will lead all of mankind who will, into the true Land of Promise—into love and loyalty to God and to the principles of righteousness. It will take the entire thousand years of the Messianic Kingdom to bring the world into condition for all the blessings which God has in store for them.
Our Lord Jesus entered into rest by trusting the Heavenly Father to fulfil all His gracious promises. Jesus, the Head of the antitypical Moses, thus enjoyed perfect rest of heart, and realized the Heavenly Father's continual presence with Him. This continued for three and a half years; and then He entered into the rest complete, by the First Resurrection.
The same is true of all the members of the Body of the antitypical Moses—The Christ. God's presence goes with them. The world at present is not in a condition to enter into the Father's rest. Only the members of the Body of Christ have entered into this rest of faith, trusting in the Lord. And none except those who continue faithful will be recognized as members of the great antitypical Mediator. All who lack faith lack proof that they are in the Body of Christ. If, then, our hearts are disturbed and we cannot enter into this rest of faith, the proper course is to seek the Throne of Grace, that we may overcome the difficulty.
THE REST PROVIDED FOR MANKIND
As for those Israelites who the Lord said should not enter into His rest, we understand Him to mean, not that no Jew will enter into the true rest of God, but rather, that this was a prophecy of the end of the Jewish Age—that they as a nation would not be ready to enter into this rest of faith which was then offered them—that as a nation they would fail. They did fail; for "they knew not the day of their visitation."
As soon as the great Messiah shall establish the New Covenant, both Jews and Gentiles will enter into peace and prosperity, as rapidly as they enter into that New Covenant. But the disobedient, after a full, fair trial, will go into the Second Death. Throughout the Millennial Age mankind will be entering into the actual rest, which will mean deliverance from the bondage of Sin and Death. Before Messiah's Reign shall have ended, they will have fully entered into that rest and into perfection of life, and will be counted in as a part of the seed of Abraham, according to the promise, "I have constituted thee a father of many nations." (Gen. 17:5; Rom. 4:17.) The blessing of the Lord will be upon them all. Any refusing to enter into the rest of God will be cut off—the wilful sinner shall die at one hundred years of age.—Isa. 65:20.
R5492: FAITHFULNESS TO OPPORTUNITIES
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."—Matthew 25:21.
WE ARE NOT to confound the Parable of the Pounds with the Parable of the Talents. They teach totally different lessons. In the case of the talents, the amount given to each of the servants differed. In the case of the pounds, it was the same—each servant received one pound—approximately sixteen dollars. This parable, therefore, deals with something that is common to all of the class to which reference is made.
The object in the giving of the parable is stated in the lesson. The Lord and His disciples were approaching Jerusalem, where shortly He was to be crucified. The disciples had supposed, on the contrary, that the Messianic Kingdom would immediately be established in power and great honor. This parable was intended to inform them that a considerable period of time would elapse before the Kingdom would be established.
The disciples knew that the kings of Palestine were appointed by the Roman Emperor, and they had recently had an experience along this line, when one of the Herods went to Rome, seeking an appointment to a kingdom. Some who hated him sent a message to Rome, discrediting him and declaring their preference for another king. Jesus seized this circumstance as an illustration in His own case. He was the Appointee for the Messianic Kingdom of the world; but He would go to Heaven itself and there appear in the presence of the Heavenly Father, the great Overlord or Emperor of the Universe. He would be
invested by the Father with the ruling authority, and later return to earth and exercise His dominion.
This is exactly the presentation of the matter given us prophetically. (Psalm 2:8.) The Divine regulation is that Messiah, after finishing His work, shall in Heaven itself make application for a Kingdom which Divine providence has already arranged for and which Divine prophecy has already foretold. "Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession."
"OCCUPY TILL I COME"
During the interim of the Master's absence—in Heaven, waiting for Divine investiture with the government of earth—He has committed to His disciples, His servants, otherwise styled His brethren, one pound each. He has left them with full liberty to use their best judgment and to show their love and their zeal in His service. At His return, all these servants will be reckoned with, and the degree of their zeal and efficiency as servants will be manifested by the results; and the rewards given them will be proportionate.
The parable distinguishes between these consecrated servants of God and the masses of the people. It shows that nothing is committed to the masses of the people; and that no judgment, reward, is made in their case at the return of the Master as King. Only to His servants did He give the pounds—only His servants had the responsibility of those pounds, and only those servants will be reckoned with or held responsible, either for reward or for punishment in respect to the matter.
In considering what is signified, or symbolized, by the pound, we must keep in memory the fact that as the same amount was given to each, the fulfilment must show some blessing or responsibility given in each case alike to all of God's consecrated people—all who are His servants. There is but one thing that we can think of that is given to all of the Lord's people in exactly the same measure. They have not talents and opportunities alike, but, on the contrary, very unlike. Some have more and some less wealth; some more and some less mental capacity; some more and some less of favorable or unfavorable environment. None of these varied talents belong to this Parable of the Pounds.
The pound is the same to all; it represents justification. The one thing which the Redeemer does for all who become His followers is to justify them freely from all things. This leaves them all on exactly an even footing; for justification makes up to each individual in proportion as he is deficient—in proportion as he by nature is short of perfection, the Divine standard.
"BE THOU FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH"
All who in the present time become children of God, servants of God, followers of Christ, must receive from the Lord, as a basis for this relationship, the pound—the free
forgiveness of sins—justification. On this basis he has a standing with God, and whatever he may do or endeavor to do will be to his credit. Because all are alike qualified by justification, the results will show the degree of loving zeal controlling each servant. Those who love much will serve much. Those who love little will neglect to use their opportunities. As one in the parable gained ten pounds, so such noble characters as St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John and others, sacrificed themselves over and over again in the Divine service. In their zeal they counted all earthly things but as loss and dross, that they might be pleasing to their Master, the coming King.
These, and such as these, who have gladly spent themselves zealously in the service of the Lord, are to have the highest rewards, as represented by the Lord's words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Because thou wast faithful in a very little have thou authority over ten cities." In the parable another came, reporting a gain of five pounds. He had not done so well as did the first, but he had done well. He received the same commendation: he had been faithful, although less faithful than the first. He received his master's "Well done," however; but the reward was less—dominion over five cities. This will mean a less influential place in the Messianic Kingdom.
Then came a servant saying, "Lord, here is the pound that you gave me; I have kept it carefully laid up in a napkin." This represents a class that say, "I endeavored to maintain my justification. I endeavored to live justly and honorably, but I did not sacrifice myself. I am glad to be able to say that I have lost nothing. I was really afraid to use my opportunity, to use my privilege; for I realized that You would be expecting considerable return from the amount which You gave me."
The master in the parable addresses this one still as a servant, but a wicked servant, who knew his master's will, who had undertaken his service, but who had been found unfaithful in respect to it. Had he not professed to be a servant, he would have received no pound and would have had no responsibility for it. He should have made use of his privilege and opportunity. He should have lived for his master. If not so actively and so directly as did the others, he should have made at least some use of the pound entrusted to him, so that he would have had some results to show.
We may assume that this one represents a considerable class of those who have entered into a covenant with the Lord to be His servants, and who have received justification at His hands, but who have neglected to comply with their engagements for self-sacrifice in His service. This neglect indicates their lack of loving zeal; and all this means that they will not be fit for a share in the Kingdom. This class is referred to on several occasions by the Lord: for instance, they are represented in the foolish virgins, who failed to enter in to the wedding; and so these will fail to become members of the Bride, the Lamb's Wife.
"SAVED SO AS BY FIRE"
The same class seems to be pictured by St. Paul when, speaking of the same testing of the Church in the end of this Age, he declares, "The fire of that Day shall try every man's
work of what sort it is." He proceeds to say that those who build with gold, silver and precious stones will suffer no loss, but will receive a full reward; while others building upon the same Rock, Christ Jesus—the same justification by faith—will suffer the loss of all their time and opportunity. He adds, however, that they themselves shall be saved, yet so as by fire.
This we understand to mean that this class of servants who maintain their justification, seeking to live harmless, honest lives, but who fail to sacrifice as they have covenanted to do, will not be lost, in the worst sense of that word. They will indeed lose the great prize—the highest blessing—the Kingdom; but because they still remain servants and have a love for righteousness they will be saved so as by fire; that is, through tribulations. They will ultimately gain everlasting life on the spirit plane, but will be quite inferior to the Bride class. They seem to be represented in the Scriptures as the virgins, the Bride's companions, who follow her.—Psalm 45:14.
These seem again to be pictured in Revelation, Chapters 14 and 7. Here the elect Church are referred to as 144,000, who will stand on Mount Zion, because they followed the Lamb whithersoever He went. Then a great multitude is pictured as coming through great tribulation, washing their robes and attaining a place before the Throne, instead of on the Throne. To these are given palm branches, instead of crowns. They are victors, but not "more than conquerors." In this respect they are not wholly copies of God's dear Son, and are not esteemed worthy of being members of His Bride class, who are to share with Him the honors and glories and services in His Kingdom, as set forth in this parable.
The fear expressed by this servant, saying, "For I feared thee," reminds us of the Apostle's words respecting this same class. He declares that Christ at His Second Coming will deliver those who all their lifetime were subject to bondage through fear of death. The consecration of the Lord's servants is unto death, and those who fear death are fearful of performing their covenant vow. They will not be worthy of the Lord's approval as faithful servants. Nevertheless, there are many vessels in the house of the King—some to more honor and some to less honor.—2 Timothy 2:20, 21.
"THOSE MINE ENEMIES"
Not until first He shall have finished dealing with His own servants at His Second Coming will the glorious Messiah begin to deal with the world, and especially with His enemies. This is the statement of the parable, and it is borne out by numerous Scriptures. When Jesus prayed on the night before His crucifixion, He said: "I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; word." (John 17:9, 20.) Thus we see the work of the Gospel Age outlined by our Lord. It is merely for the selection of His servants, and the testing and proving of these. It is with a view to determining which of them will be found worthy of association with Himself in the great Millennial Kingdom which God has decreed, and whose work will be for the blessing and uplifting of the whole world of mankind.
So the Second Psalm points out that the Redeemer will not pray for, ask for, the world until, at His Second Advent, He is ready to establish His Kingdom, His Church having first been gathered to glory. Then He will ask for the heathen. By the term heathen, or Gentile, is signified all out of fellowship with God, "enemies through wicked works." The Psalm proceeds to say that Messiah will deal rudely with the heathen. "He will dash them in pieces as a potter's vessel," etc. This, interpreted by other Scriptures, means that the inauguration of Messiah's Kingdom will bring a great Time of Trouble, symbolically styled fire, or fiery judgments. "He shall be revealed in flaming fire, taking vengeance." Everything appertaining to present institutions contrary to the Divine standards of justice will be rudely shaken and eventually destroyed.
However, the Lord wounds that He may heal. The lessons of the Time of Trouble will be salutary; as we read, "When the judgments of the Lord are abroad in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." These judgments will not in any sense continue upon all throughout the thousand years of Messiah's Kingdom, but will be inflicted only upon those deserving them. Hence the judgments will be especially severe at the beginning. All who learn righteousness will thereby deliver themselves; and as they come into harmony with the King of kings and Lord of lords, blessings will be their portion, uplifting them gradually to human perfection.
"SLAY THEM BEFORE ME"
At first thought, we might gather that these words signify that the King of Glory will be implacable, ferocious, unsympathetic, with His enemies. We might wonder how this shows sympathy! He admonishes us to love our enemies and to do good to them that despitefully use us. Gradually we come to see that this will indeed be the policy which the great King will pursue. He will be doing the greatest good for His enemies in bringing upon them punishments for their wrong course—shame, publicity, contempt. These things will be necessary to arouse them to an appreciation of their true condition and show them their privileges.
We are not to forget that during this Age the Lord's dealings with His faithful servants has been in permitting fiery trials to try them and to instruct them. It should not be a wonder to us therefore that fiery judgments upon the world are the Master's design, not for the world's injury, but for its blessing. We read that as a result of St. Peter's preaching at Pentecost the truths struck home to the hearts of his hearers—"They were cut to the heart." But we realize that this was a great blessing, in that it prepared them for the Message of Divine Mercy. So here we read of the Lord's slaying His enemies; they will be cut to the heart. A picture of this slaughter is given us in Revelation, where the Lord is represented in glorious majesty, with a sword proceeding out of His mouth, that with it He should smite the nations. (Revelation 19:15.) Blessed smiting! The sooner it begins, the better for the world, we might say; and yet we remember that God's time is best for everything.
Another similar picture of the progress of Messiah's Kingdom is given us in figurative language, as follows: "Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Thou Most Mighty, with Thy
glory and Thy majesty. Thy right hand shall teach Thee terrible things. Thine arrows shall be sharp in the hearts of the King's enemies; whereby the people shall fall under Thee."—Psalm 45:3-5.
Here the establishment of Messiah's Kingdom with power, great glory and majesty, is presented in pictorial imagery; and the sharp arrows of Divine Truth are represented as slaughtering the hosts of error. This terrible carnage will mean a great blessing; for the Lord smites to heal, and when His Word cuts to the heart the effect is to destroy the enemy. Unless the enemies of the Lord be thus brought into subjection to Him, nothing will remain for them but the final extinction mentioned by St. Peter: "It shall come to pass that the soul that will not hear that Prophet shall be destroyed from amongst the people."—Acts 3:23.