Reading: Hebrews 2.
We are going to pause here before going on from where we left off our last meditation, to stress two things.
The first thing is the wonder that God Himself has become His own Prophet, His own Priest, and His own King. That is the utter meaning. We could say God has provided His own Prophet, His own Priest, His own King right out from heaven; but realising that here Jesus is the Son of God, one with God in very essence, we can go the further step and say that God Himself in Christ has become His own Prophet, Priest and King.
It is a wonderful thing when you get behind that governing thought, that God said, "Let Us make man". Eventually God said, so far as the second Person of the Godhead was concerned, "We will become that Man." So in the letter to the Hebrews you have the Son of God saying, "A body didst thou prepare for Me". God prepared and provided Himself with a body. Thus you have one of those grand titles: "They shall call His name Emmanuel... God with us."
The other thing we want to stress before passing on is this. We must never think of the Lord Jesus, while being the Eternal Son of God, as being a Man until the incarnation. We are rather apt to allow the very words 'Eternal Son' to imply that, or carry that with it. The incarnation is definitely God taking up His original thought in the midst of the ages in relation to man. We must recognise this, that God never did have, even in the first Adam, a man that expressed His thought to the full, until the incarnation when He Himself entered into the body prepared for Him. The Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son, manifested in the flesh, takes up something that has never before been realised.
So the letter to the Hebrews opens with this statement concerning man (not the Son of God in His intrinsic deity): What is man? He is the express image, the very essence of the Father's nature, the effulgence of the Father's glory. God has, in Jesus Christ, in the incarnation, that which He originally intended to have when He said, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." That may be an unnecessary emphasis, but it brings us very much to the point where we want to take things up.
The closing word of our last meditation was regarding the Son of Man having become God's standard, established in heaven and set forth as the pattern for the whole creation. God is working towards this in all who have come into a living relationship with Him, and that fact explains and governs all the dealings of God with every one of His children. God is more concerned about conformity to His Son than He is about anything else. Let us say once more that it is so necessary that we get that firmly fixed in our hearts. He is not concerned in the first place with what we do for Him. He is pre-eminently concerned with the formation of Christ in us, and our conformity to the image of His Son. This explains why even service is so often fraught with experiences of the deepest trial.
We might think that being given to the service of God, and being given to the purpose of God, there ought to be such a manifestation of the power and co-operation of God that we simply ride over every kind of adversity without feeling it. The facts are to the contrary, that even when you are most utterly abandoned to God, when you are given up most entirely to the Lord's interests in the service of God, you go through experiences of the deepest and utmost trial, which constitute tests of faith of the most acute character. You are almost brought to a standstill in your service from time to time on the major questions of God, His power, His wisdom, and so on. We do not escape that kind of thing because we are abandoned to the Lord. Sometimes we have thought that we ought to escape it because of our utter devotion to the Lord. It is not so.
Even when you and I have no reservation, no personal interests, no ambitions of our own, and the Lord Himself is our object, our goal, and His glory the one governing passion of our beings, even then we shall be tested and tried to the very hilt. Let us not expect it to be otherwise for this reason: that the necessity above all others is that Christ should be fully formed in us, and that is only accomplished along the line of trial and refining fires. So even the souls of those who have been martyred for the testimony of Jesus will go on crying, "How long, O Lord, how long?" Right up to the end we shall be tried, however much we are given up to the Lord. The Lord governs everything by this one matter of sonship, as Hebrews 12 makes perfectly clear.
Now we go on with the next phase, in John 5:21. There we read that the Son quickens, or gives life to whom He will. That is a prophetic act, related to Him as Prophet, and it is the relationship between that and Christ in His prophetic capacity that we feel the Lord wants us to understand at this time.
We have seen that Jesus, in the capacity of Prophet, sets forth God's full thought concerning man, and that the prophetic office is to bring those thoughts into expression in man, and bring man to be constituted according to God's thoughts for him. That is the meaning of the prophet throughout, and all the prophets lead up to the Prophet. The Lord Jesus sums up all the prophets and all prophetic ministry and meaning, so that, as the inclusive Prophet, He represents and embodies God's thoughts for man. He is working to bring man to be constituted according to those thoughts, and to bring those thoughts into man for full expression; that is, the expression of God in man.
Seeing that is the meaning of the Prophet, and who the Lord Jesus is, we are able to understand better what He meant when He said, as Son of Man, as Prophet, "The Son quickens whom He will." The Son gives life to whom He will.
You will remember how often the whole question of life and death arose with the prophets, how those outstanding incidents in the life of certain prophets had to do with the destruction of death and the bringing in of life. We have seen how the whole life of Elisha was summed up in the one issue of life triumphant over death. Now, here the Son gives life to whom He will. What is the very first step towards the realisation of God's full thought concerning man? By what means shall we come to that Divine end? What is essential for God's achievement of His purpose? Basically it is that we have Life in and from His Son, that the Son gives Life to us. That becomes the basis of everything, for it is in that Life which we share with Him that all the potency of the Divine thought resides, and if that Life is in us and is free to function, that Life which is by the Holy Spirit will itself constitute us according to God's mind. In other words: that is the life, the dynamic power in the hands of the Holy Spirit of the new creation, of which Christ is the sum total.
If you want that made clear, or carried further, look again at very familiar words in 1 Corinthians 15. In John 5 reference is made to resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15 is almost entirely to do with resurrection, and it brings us to the very heart of things. Verse 45 says: "The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam a quickening spirit."
In John 5:21 we read: "...even so also the Son gives life to whom He will". First Corinthians 15 goes on, in verses 46-49: "Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual... as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."
That clearly sets forth the new creation, a heavenly order of man; man according to a heavenly kind, and the first of that race is this Last Adam, the Lord from heaven. He initiates the new creation by giving Life to whom He will. There we have the Man who is God, who is the Son of Man, giving Life to whom He will, in order to have other men according to God's thought. God formed man and breathed into him the breath of life, and the first Adam became a living soul. Now there is another creation, a new creation in Christ. God breathes into him, not this time the breath of life, but the Spirit of Life in Christ who is a Life-giving Spirit. That is the work of the Prophet, who, like one of old, comes down and stretches himself upon that which is without that Life and has become dead, and imparts as from himself Life, and brings that dead one up in his own life. That is a type, a figure of exactly what the Lord Jesus is and does. He comes as Son of Man in the power of new creation Life where there is an exercise of faith. He spreads Himself upon that which is dead, and gives His own Life, and brings out into a new Life: the sharing of a common Life with Himself.
That is the beginning of everything and the basis of everything. His Life, the same Life as He possesses, with all its qualities, nature, characteristics and forces, as it is nurtured, cherished, watched over and obeyed in all its laws, produces Christ-likeness and issues in conformity to His image. So, by that Life God peoples His new Kingdom, secures His new creation, and realises His first thought when He said, "Let Us make man in Our own image, and after Our own likeness."
The point is this: that Christ as Prophet is not the only one who proclaims God's mind, sets forth God's thoughts, and imposes upon us the demands of heaven and of God. He is more than that. As Prophet He identifies Himself with us in order to identify us with Himself in His own Life; or, in other words, He is more than a spokesman for God, He is the dynamic of God, "Christ the power of God..." (1 Cor. 1:24). Union with Christ is not upon the basis of truth, teaching, doctrine or creed. It is upon a basis of a mighty Life, the intent and purpose of which is to constitute us according to Christ. Our failure in Christ-likeness is traceable somewhere to a hindrance to the free operation of His Life in us, and therefore there should always be exercise to discover where that hindrance is, and what is the nature of that arrest. It may not always be in sins. It may be that there is some specific thing that is the arresting of the Spirit, something which the Life cannot get over because it has got to be dealt with. It would be quite impossible for anyone to catalogue all the things that arrest the Spirit of Life in us. That is for our exercise before the Lord. It may be the comprehensive sin of unbelief. There are various things which interrupt, arrest and hinder, but too commonly it is unbelief.
That brings us to the prophet. When you come to study the work of the prophets you find that the main thing with which they had to do was unbelief. Jesus, as Prophet in His own day on the earth, found Himself up against unbelief as the major thing which made it impossible for Him to give Life. "Ye will not come to Me that ye might have life." The "not coming" was unbelief.
In what way does unbelief manifest itself in relation to the Prophet? Just along the line of failure in the practical application of what we have just said. Here is the Lord Jesus, who as Man fully and completely satisfies the thoughts of God concerning man, establishing the fact that God has got in a Man all that ever He thought of having, all that ever He purposed to have, and God has reached His satisfaction in a Man. That Man, the Man Christ Jesus, has been accepted by God in a representative way for all who will believe, so that faith in the Lord Jesus, and faith in God on the ground of the Lord Jesus, of what He is, means our acceptance. God freely gives us all that pertains to Christ, and puts to our account all the perfections of Jesus Christ, all His own satisfaction with the Lord Jesus Christ, and says, "Now, if you will not stand on your ground of what you are in the old creation, but by faith on My ground in the new creation, I will mediate to you the power of that new creation to conform you to it."
Every bit of unbelief means in practical outworking that we are remaining on our own ground and not abiding on His ground. Follow that through, and you will see that is true. All our failure is due to our getting onto some other ground than the ground of what Jesus is. There is plenty of other ground to get onto. The enemy sees to that. You can go so far as to believe that you are veritably devil possessed, although you are not; yet all your feelings and symptoms point to that. There can be such an operation of the enemy's power of death and evil insinuation upon a broken-down nervous system as to give you all the symptoms of being positively in the power of the devil. He sets up a situation like that, and all he asks you to do is to step across onto that ground and accept it. If you do, you have stepped away from your ground of faith in what Jesus is, onto the ground of insinuation made by the enemy through conditions and circumstances. You can get plenty of evidence, if you want it, that what the devil says is quite true. The Prophet calls you off your own ground onto His ground.
Look at Elijah, and see if this is not the outworking of his ministry. His challenge is that God's ground should be taken. His great crisic challenge was this, "Why limp ye between two opinions?" (1 Ki. 18:21). The word "halt" in the King James Version is a little misleading. I used to think it meant standing, halting between two things; but really the word is what we mean when we say, 'He is halt or limp.' It is like a man who is limping first on one side and then on the other, he is crippled by indecision and uncertainty. Today you will find him on one side, and tomorrow on the other. So he alternates day by day in his position regarding the Lord.
Faith takes one ground and stays there; faith holds on in the dark. Elijah's challenge was to take God's ground and thus prove God. When they took God's ground they proved God. The prophet says, "Come over onto my ground, for my ground is God's." Oh, the strength of Elijah on that point. There was no question about God with Elijah. He was not afraid to put God to the greatest test. He told them to build the altar, dig a trench, pour in water, and do it again, and again. He made things as difficult as he could for God, knowing that God could stand up to it. See the faith of this man! Make it as hard as possible for God, and Elijah does not flinch. That is the Prophet. That is the Lord Jesus who stands there and says, "Come over onto My ground, stand with Me, and slay this unbelief which cripples, and you will find your peace, your rest, and God can go on with His work. While you are taking any other ground, Life is arrested, and therefore the end of God is rendered impossible of attainment." The Son, because He is a Son of Man, in order that He might bring many sons to glory, gives Life and quickens whom He will. Everything begins there, and everything is gathered up in that.
The Last Adam (not the second Adam, for there is not a third one; this is final, it is this or nothing) is a Life-giving Spirit, and there is no hope for you if you do not take His ground. The prophetic element is inherent in Man according to God's mind.
In 1 Corinthians 12 there is much said about spiritual gifts, and in the second chapter of Hebrews there is a reference to spiritual gifts. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit"; "God... bearing witness (the writer is pointing back to a past time) with gifts of the Holy Spirit".
We are not discussing all the gifts, but among them (1 Cor. 12:28) there is the gift of prophecy, the prophetic function, first constituted by the Holy Spirit. If you look closer you will find that everything is very rigid and strictly governed. The apostle is seeking to bring in governing factors because the governing factors were not at Corinth. Things were running wild, and therefore missing the mark, and not attaining God's end. Even gifts of the Holy Spirit may be diverted from the end for which they are given, and so the apostle seeks to introduce great governing factors in relation to spiritual gifts.
What is the great governing law in 1 Corinthians 12? Everything is unto "edifying". 'Edifying' is the word in our translation. Literally it means 'building up'. What are you building? Look again at chapter 12 and you will find it is the Body of Christ. It is the collective, corporate expression of Christ. It is, then, in the Body of Christ an increase of Himself. You come back to the same principle in the prophet. The prophet brings into conformity to God's thoughts for man. Everything is challenged by this. Does it lead to an increase of the Lord Jesus? If not, it has missed its way, it has been misapplied, it has been diverted. Everything is governed by this purpose of God. God has fixed it from eternity, and He is ruling everything. Even gifts of the Holy Spirit are given under this one governing law, that they shall issue in an increase of Christ in His Body; not gifts for themselves, not gifts for the sake of experience, but gifts for an increase of the Lord Jesus.
"Jesus... my Prophet...". That means He stands on behalf of me to satisfy God in all. I, by faith, stand in Him and enter into that satisfaction of God, that peace. What is the peace of God in your heart and in mine? It is just our coming to the place where the Lord has no controversy with us, where the Lord is well pleased. It is a glorious thing, and I am sure your heart leaps to it as you respond to the thought that you and I should be in the place where it is possible for the Lord to say, "I am delighted with you, My child!" How far off we are from that, and how often we are leagues away from that. The enemy is always trying to make us feel that God is against us, or has some controversy with us, to rob us of our peace. When you and I take the ground of the Lord Jesus as our Prophet, we have the peace of God in our hearts which is just that attestation of the Holy Spirit that we are on ground acceptable to God, with which He is quite pleased. After that He simply says, "Stay there and see what I will do; stay there and I will do the rest."
All of this the Lord Jesus set forth in His parable of the Vine and the branches. "Abide in Me...", and if you do that you do not need to worry about anything else. What is abiding? It is faith settled, remaining on the ground of what Jesus is. The Lord knows that you and I cannot be other than we are by any effort of our own, and we cannot do other than we do, but He has achieved all, and done all, in a Man, and that is put to our credit through faith, and then that is made good in outworking progressively while we remain there. It is the secret of rest. You and I will never be any good whatever until we have got the first secret, and that is rest, the rest of faith. God does not go on with His work until we have got there, and we cannot go on with our work until we have got there. We cannot fight the Lord's battles until we have got the battle settled in ourselves, we cannot do the Lord's work until we have come to the place of rest in ourselves. It all begins from rest, and rest is the result of occupying the ground of what Jesus is as our Prophet.
We must say one closing word to conclude this part. It is in John 5:22: "For the Father judges no man, but hath committed all judgement unto the Son." Jesus as Prophet takes charge of the whole question of judgement, and judgement is bound up with Him. All judgement is taken up in and by the Son of Man. There are several practical values about that.
The first is this, that judgement entirely rests in One who is Himself God's standard. That is why you and I must not take judgement into our hands. We are not to judge one another. If you and I were God's standard then it would be right to judge, but until we are, judgement is not given to us. It is in the hands of One who is God's standard. All judgement is given to the Son, because He satisfies God. You notice how in this chapter the utterness of Christ with the Father is stressed and emphasised. Take these typical words: "Verily, verily I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do..." (verse 19); "I can of Myself do nothing; as I hear, I judge..." (verse 30). "There is another that bears witness of Me..." (verse 32). Such words show the perfect oneness between the Son and the Father. That is the prophetic feature. It is the complete expression of Divine thoughts, and it is a constituting wholly according to the mind of God. Because there is obedience in the case of the Son of Man, He is constituted wholly according to God's thoughts. There is perfect oneness between Him and God, therefore, judgement is committed unto Him, and more than that, all the work of the Holy Spirit is related to the Lord Jesus. There is that great statement concerning the advent of the Holy Spirit: "When He is come, He shall convict the world in respect of sin, of righteousness and of judgement. Of sin (now note) because they believe not on Me, of righteousness because I go to the Father, of judgement because the prince of this world hath been judged" (John 16:8-11). Consider those three things and, "They believe not on Me." In other words, "They do not take My ground as representing God's mind for them. They refuse to accept Me as their ground."
"I go to the Father." No one ever went to the Father unless God was fully satisfied with them. No one could ever be in the Father's presence unless he fully answered to the Father's thoughts. There is a way through for Him, and that fact settles the whole question of righteousness. If He were the slightest bit unrighteous He could not go to the Father, but His going to the Father makes it plain that that whole question of righteousness is settled, and the Holy Spirit is coming to convict in respect of righteousness.
"The prince of this world hath been judged." How was he judged? What was the basis of his judgement? Who brought him to judgement and overthrew him? The Son of Man. The basis of judgement is that men prefer to remain on the ground of the judged prince of this world than to take the ground of the Son of Man. That is what brings them into judgement. Judgement is not upon the basis of whether we are more or less sinners, for if you commit one sin and another commits a dozen you will be judged alike. It never is a question of how good you and I may be to escape judgement. A lot of people are carried away with that idea, that if they do not do so many bad things as someone else they will pass in the judgement. The whole ground of judgement is whether we are alive to Satan or alive to Christ. One is judged, condemned for ever; the other is righteous and accepted for ever. That is the ground on which we are - by deliberate choice and an act of faith.
We come right back to the whole of this truth, that here the Holy Spirit is doing this work in this threefold way, and the point is that the Holy Spirit is working in relation to the Lord Jesus all the time. And He is dealing with men, He is dealing with us on the basis of what Christ is, and where Christ is, and what He has done. The Lord says, "Now, you stand entirely free of judgement or under judgement by your relation to the Son in whom all judgement is gathered up." Let us not think of the Lord Jesus as sitting like a judge in court, weighing up evidence against anyone. That is not the point. Judgement is related to a Person, and God sets the Lord Jesus forth as His standard and says, "Now, that is what I require, nothing less." If you will in faith take your position on that, then for you judgement is past, there is no judgement, you shall not come into judgement; but if you do not come in a living way by faith into relation to what He is, you come under judgement; the Holy Spirit sees to that. It is all related to the Person.
See how the Lord upheld the prophets. It says concerning Samuel that all Israel knew that he was a prophet, and God did not let one of his words fall to the ground. There you have the principle. Here is the Lord Jesus as Prophet, and the Holy Spirit making Him the beginning and the end of all matters of judgement, sin, righteousness, and saying that those who stand in a faith relationship to Jesus as their Prophet, their representation, do not come under judgement. But those who do not stand there come under judgement by the Holy Spirit, because they are not in Him. You and I have not to commit a lot of sins in order to come under judgement; we have only to stand on our own ground and that happens. I think it was Henry Drummond who, speaking on "How shall we escape if we neglect..." said, "Here is a man who has taken poison, and the doctor prescribes an antidote and puts it in a glass beside his bed. The man does not have to take that glass and smash it to the ground in order to die, he will die right enough by neglect." If we stay where we are, take our own ground, we shall come under judgement.
All this is a setting forth of what the Lord Jesus is as our Surety. You may think that this overlaps very much with His priestly work, but there is a stress in His priestly work which is not this, although it may include this. Here is "Jesus, My Prophet"; that is, He who for me satisfies God; the One who brings God pleasure on my behalf as I stand by faith in Him; and the One who mediates to Me the energy of His own Divine Life to constitute me according to Himself as I trust, believe and abide. The simplicity of that may cause us to stumble, but there are many of the Lord's people who have struggled on as children of God for many years before they have come to the rest of simple trust in the Lord Jesus. Their Christian life has been a disappointing thing, an up-and-down thing, and they have not come into real rest until they have belonged to the Lord for many years. In meeting them you do not meet one who is at rest and satisfied; you meet a striving, straining, anxious, burdened, troubled one. They tell you emphatically that they trust the Lord Jesus for their salvation, but they are not in the enjoyment of it. Many have known that, so that the burden has rested upon them, broken them and worn them out, and they have come to the place where they have wondered whether the Christian life was a success or whether all that they have had said to them about belonging to the Lord was true. The fault is with ourselves. After many years of belonging to the Lord, many of His children have only just discovered rest. What is the secret of rest, out of which everything else springs? It is contentment with the Lord Jesus; not contentment with what you are at the moment finding Him to be, but what your faith fastens upon Him as being. You are going to prove what He is, not before you believe, but as you believe. The Lord's purpose at the moment is this, to set forth before us His Son, "Jesus my Prophet".
That may not be your experience. You may not know Him like that. You may not be in the enjoyment of that. He is presented to be that; God's Word declares Him to be that; God's satisfaction with you through faith. God takes up the work of the new creation to conform us to the image of His Son only at the point where we begin to believe. We are never a new creation either at the beginning or in any other measure until we believe. The new creation is wrought out to the full along the line of faith, and every fresh test of faith is an increase of Christ as we go through with it. That is what it is meant for.
If you are restless, crippled, unable to lift yourself up, let me tell you there is a Man who can help you. Oh, I like this so much in this Gospel by John. You remember the pool with the poor impotent, lame folk there, and the Lord Jesus came among them, and on seeing one poor fellow who had been there thirty-eight years, He said to him, "Wilt thou be made whole?" The man replies that he has no man to put him in when the waters are troubled. What he wanted was a man; if only he could find a man then it would be alright. In that chapter the Son of Man is brought out. There is your Man. You are made whole by that Man, by what He is, by your faith in Him as what He is. It is the Man we want, the Man Christ Jesus, the Son of God, Very God, the Man who makes us whole.
Are you seeing this? Try to get through all the language and ideas, to the truth. I hope that in the future we are going to sing with something of deeper appreciation in our hearts,
'Jesus, my Shepherd, Saviour, Friend,
My Prophet, Priest, and King.'
The Lord open our hearts to see Him who has been raised from among His brethren, a Prophet before the Lord.