God's Book has been given to us as the Revelation of His Christ, the Surety of the covenant, the Mediator of the New Testament, the Saviour of the church, the Husband of His bride, the Head of His mystical body. God seems at times to go out of His ordinary way to open up that fullness of grace, perfection of redemption, and completeness of salvation, which those interested therein delight to see in the face, person and work of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we have a hint of this in proverb, at another time we have it expounded in parable, here in stated truth, there in type and shadow; but all in that teaching which is styled in God's Blessed Book, "good doctrine," "sound doctrine," simply because it is God's doctrine and free from error, according to His command given to us in Prov. 19:27: "Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge."
But in other portions of God's Holy Word we enjoy, not a passing glance, not a mere phase or feature of Divine truth in respect to the eternal salvation and glorification of the church in Christ Jesus, but clusters of truth in which the person and work of Christ are beautifully and blessedly set forth, and where the person and work of God the Indwelling Spirit are minutely described in that painful but very profitable experience read in our ears this morning in the words of Elihu recorded in Job 33. And in the chapter before us we have not a detached portion or incidental statement of a truth, or a simple phase or feature of the plan of salvation; but an interesting and instructive view of God's dealings with a chosen, redeemed, and regenerate sinner. In it we have a striking representation of what God does for His people in Christ Jesus, and of what He has determined to have them be before Him in spite of all the opposition they meet with from the world, the flesh and the devil. The chapter forms a very blessed and precious word-picture describing the enmity of Satan to the work of the Saviour, the state of the sinner under temptation, and the grace of God victorious over all. Here we see a man, a sinner, a saved sinner. A man greatly beloved, yet greatly hated. A sinner saved from sin yet fouled with sin, and yet, O blessed truth, "Though sinning yet free from all sin." He is a saint though a sinner, and though a sinner, he is a saint. The folds of sin hang fully on him, and in purest mercy, while beloved of his God, he is brought out to our view just as one of ourselves.
Here I desire you to notice how God opens up the misery of His servant and the grace of His covenant in the experience of Zechariah. Look at the first verse: "And He showed me Joshua the high priest, standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him." Mark well those three words, "He showed me." All that we can know of our true state as sinners before God must be shown to us by Himself. What did He show to Zechariah? Joshua the high priest. One loved by God, saved by God, and privileged by God to enter into the Holiest of all by precious blood, there to hold communion and fellowship with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This is all according to the pattern given by God Himself to Moses as recorded in Exod. 25: "And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel." Here we see the tables of stone deposited in the ark of the covenant, literally buried, covered with the Mercy Seat. And what a blessed sight for the eye of faith to dwell upon, the law with all its curse, condemnation, wrath and fury, the law by which is the knowledge of sin, for ever out of sight and hearing. This is all of God's showing. "He showed me," said the prophet, and if He does not show to us the things of His kingdom and covenant we shall be left ignorant of Him and them.
The intelligent possession of the grace, promises and blessings of the kingdom of God is by Divine revelation, conveyance and communication. We know this from the language of our blessed Lord Himself in Luke 10:21,22, the only instance recorded in the gospels of our blessed Lord and Saviour rejoicing. The seventy had gone forth at His appointment and command, and returned flushed with pride at their success. They were full of themselves at the thought of the ability and honor conferred upon them. Poor things! that was only natural. It matters not what the privileges of a child of God may be, if he is made useful in the church of God, left to himself he will be sure to be taken up with his accomplishments, think more of his blessings than of the Blesser, and the gifts he enjoys will stand between him and the Giver. Do notice their words to Jesus: "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And He said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." This is the execution of God's judgment upon Satan for his enmity against God's Christ. "Behold, I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you, notwithstanding," though nothing can hurt you, and the power of the enemy is weakness before you, and the scorpions and serpents are under your feet" in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." The sure and certain consequence of the names being written in heaven is the revelation of the mind and will of the Father to those whose names are found there.
"Ne'er had ye felt the guilt of sin,
Nor sweets of pard'ning love,
Unless your worthless names had been
Enrolled to life above."
"In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." Marvelous thanksgiving! Strange that the Saviour of men should thank the Father for hiding salvation matters from any! Do you think the religious host of our day would thank any servant of God for using, and that by the Spirit, this language of our Lord Jesus Christ? Does Christendom thank either Jesus Christ or His servants for preaching the Gospel of glorious sovereignty? Listen again, "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight. All things are delivered to Me of My Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father: and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him" (Matt. 11:25-27). You see that every revelation of the Father is by the Son, and every revelation of the Son is by the Father, and that there can be no revelation of the Father in the Son, but by the Holy Ghost. "But all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will" (1 Cor. 12:11).
Will you turn with me to 1 Cor. 2:7: "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." The common misinterpretation of this is, "neither have entered into the heart of man" to conceive. The heart of man can conceive nothing but enmity to the truth of God, nothing more, nothing less. Whose heart? The heart of the prince, and the heart of the pauper, the heart of the dignitary, and the heart of the dolt, the heart of the imperious priest, and that of his ignorant devotee, the heart of universal man is opposed to, enmity against, and utterly lost to God, to Christ, and to the revelation He has given of Himself as "The God of all grace." See how clearly Divine sovereignty is revealed in the answer of Christ to the inquiry of His disciples after His mind in this matter, "And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest Thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but unto them it is not given" (Matt. 13:10,11). Who were those left ignorant of Divine mysteries? In another Gospel Jesus says, "Them that are without (Mark 4:11). Without what? Outside the pale of God's distinguishing grace, beyond the boundary line of God's election, far off from the line of Christ's redemption, remote from the marks of the Spirit's regeneration. Now Zechariah was not left without, not an outsider. Have you ever noticed the meaning of his name? It is, "One whom God remembers." This is just what I like. It is the desire of every redeemed sinner who dreads being forgotten of God. Listen to a few of them! "Remember the Word unto Thy servant" (Ps. 119:49). "Remember me, O Lord, with the favor that Thou bearest unto Thy people" (Ps. 106:4). And mark the cry of the poor, dying robber to his Gracious Redeemer suffering beside him: "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom" (Luke 23:42). He Who remembers us in our low estate will ever prove Himself to be the Revealer of His own truth to His own people. God reveals spiritual truths to the mind brought into spiritual oneness with Himself, according to Paul, "But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:10).
Now I want you to notice particularly a revealed fact, "Joshua, the high priest, standing before the Angel of the Lord." What a favored position! How came he there? He came because he was brought. He came because he was carried. He came because he was taught. He came for further teaching, and for further proof of the fact "that he should be holy and without blame before Him" (Eph. 1:4). That is a wonderful verse, John 6:37, "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." Joshua was one of those given by the Father to the Son, to be saved in Him with an everlasting salvation, redeemed with an eternal redemption, cared for with no small care, sustained in every trial, sympathized with in suffering, and succored in every temptation. Look through that precious John 17., and there you see our Lord and Saviour opening up His heart of love and making intercession for His disciples, and for His whole church. He mentions them not as sinners, nor as transgressors, though they are all that, and so they are styled in the last clause of Isaiah 53. "He made intercession for the transgressors." But in His intercession we find not a word about sin, nor discover a hint at their transgressions, nor the faintest allusion to their infirmities, failures, or falls. Does He ever speak of them as His saved ones? Does He call them, My redeemed? No, no. Our Most Glorious Christ, your Christ and mine, is known by comparatively few. Not many understand Him as He is revealed all through the blessed Book. These four words I have uttered many times in your ears, the Unselfishness of Deity. Here we see the unselfishness of Christ. In His intercession He speaks not a word about saving His people from their sins, nor of their redemption from guilt and condemnation. He speaks openly, freely and fully of the original terms of grace, the covenant thereof before the foundation of the world, the understanding between Him and His Father in the counsels of eternity. He brings His loved ones to His Father not as saved sinners, but as those whom Thou hast given Me. He presents them to the view of His Father just as they were when He received them from His hands before all worlds, clean, pure, without spot, wrinkle, or any such thing. This is sweetly set forth in that blessed hymn by John Kent.
"Betrothed in love, ere time began,
His blood-bought Bride with Jesus see;
Made by eternal union One,
Who was, and is, and is to be.
"Thus He became our Covenant Head;
Charged with her sin the Saviour stands,
To do and suffer in her stead
All that the righteous law demands.
"Here justice and the highest grace
Met in the sinners only Friend;
He freely took our lowest place;
Oh! love that does all thought transcend.
"When sunk in sin He'll not disown
Those sacred ties that made her His,
But claim this partner of His throne,
Through floods of wrath and deep di-tress.
"Nor flood, nor flame, nor hell combined,
Shall from His heart the church divide;
His blood th'eternal covenant signed'
When for her sins in love He died.
"Thus in His eyes she ever stood
From wrinkle and from blemish free;
Lov'd with the dateless love of God,
And blest by the Great Sacred Three."
Thus we see Christ and His bride the church, God's own elect, standing and abiding eternally pure and perfect through all the changes of changing time, secure from all defects and deformities, "complete in Him." Thus He ever will have and hold His own without blemish, without blot, without spot in the presence of His eternal glory. Those are encouraging and heart-cheering words, "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me." Now mark well, "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him." In these words we discover the harmonious work of the Glorious Three-in-One, and lose not sight of the gracious operation of the Holy Ghost. In all this Christ sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied, and when the Holy Ghost draws and brings a redeemed soul to Him, He will take care of it, and will see to it, that, down to the depths of deserved damnation it can never go. The devil may assault, and ten thousand fiends may worry, but they can neither devour nor destroy. "I will keep thee," is one of Christ's exceeding great and precious promises. I know this full well. Do I sin? He saves me. Am I filthy? He cleanses me. Am I fainting? He revives me. Am I fallen? He restores me. Am I indifferent? He rouses me. Oftentimes I have heard Him say, "I will manifest Myself to him, and show My Father to him. I will bless him with the sweet experience of the love of My Father's heart by revealing Mine to him." The love of the Father and the love of the Spirit are the same as the love of Jesus to His own. How blessed! My dear friends, we do not half believe. We talk about believing, but we need to be ashamed of our belief. There are those who address their hearers as believers. I dare not do so, because I never expect to find a congregation of believers here below. In Christ's little company there was one who was a devil. Some are unbelievers through spite. Some of God's poor children would believe if they could, and when brought to confess their faith, they are like the poor father who brought his poor lunatic lad to Jesus, saying, "Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24). O, how blessed it is to know that Jesus has full charge of my believing, that the Holy Ghost is the sole power by which I believe, that all true faith is by the revelation of the Father through the Son, and by the grace and indwelling of the Holy Ghost. The Father gives, the Spirit draws, the Saviour carries, and preserves from evil according to the Father's purpose, all whose names are in the Book of Life, who are redeemed by the blood of the covenant, and quickened into spiritual life by God the ever-blessed Spirit.
Now I want you to notice the concentration of diversities, and the mingling of opposites in the same person. Joshua was beloved and chosen of God. Is not that worth knowing? Certainly. But knowing this, there is something else to be known. As chosen and redeemed, he must know himself as clothed with iniquity. Mark this, in Christ, pure, as Christ is pure, righteous, as Christ is righteous, holy, as Christ is holy. Dear me, says lordly legality, I cannot believe that! Perhaps not. But I do hope the Lord will make you believe it. My dear friends, you can only be holy and acceptable to God in Christ. The holiness of Israel of old was God in the midst of it. This is beautifully seen in Exodus 28., where the high priest appears in his garments of glory and beauty, wearing his priestly crown, on which was inscribed, "HOLINESS TO THE LORD." There God revealed to Israel all the holiness they needed, and all the holiness He required. As Christ is revealed to me, an unholy wretch, I enjoy Him as made holiness, sanctification, everything to me. In this I am one with the poor idiot of Aldermary,"I am a poor sinner, and nothing at all But Jesus Christ is my All in All."
Yes, He is my Holiness, my Righteousness, my Redemption, my Wisdom, my Supply in need, my Defense in danger, my Deliverer from distress, my Salvation from sin, my Strength in weakness, my Solace in sorrow, my Comfort when my heart is surcharged with grief unknown to all else but Himself. Who can show forth all His praise, or the blessedness of a heartfelt interest in truths so gracious and glorious?
In Christ, pure, in self, impure. God says, "I have nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against Me." Hear what He says of the children of His own bringing up-"From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores; they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment" (Isa. 1:2,6). Turn to chapter 64:6, "But we are all as an unclean thing." Who are these? They are the very people for whom God has prepared all the good things of the covenant, which are revealed unto them by His Spirit, as we learn from Paul's quotation of this scripture in 1 Cor. 2:9. These are they who rejoice in God, Who meets them with His reconciling grace, and works righteousness in them as the evidence of His life bestowed. Look here! "Those that remember Thee in Thy ways." I like to do that. "Behold, Thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved." In what is continuance? In the saving power of God's right hand, and the unchanging love of His heart. Yet, in the face of all this, "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." These were spiritually one with Joshua, sensibly clothed with filthy garments, yet spiritually free from sin, without spot or blot in the righteousness of the Lord the Lamb. Do you really believe that? See how it flows from the heart of Isaiah and the godly remnant in his day, "We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before Thee, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities we know them. In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, concerning and uttering from the heart words of falsehood." That is just what the heart of man can conceive (Isa. 59:11-13). Go to the 19th verse-"When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him."
Marvelous truths here! Do you and I know what it is to be exercised at times in healthful self-examination? Not according to priestly prescription, or the vile tradition of an earthly ecclesiastical system; but according to God's Word, in His pure, all-searching light, where "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do" (Heb. 4:13). And does the Great Searcher of hearts bring up hidden evils to light in us? He does in me, and compels me to confess daily to Him, "Lord, I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not" (Rom. 7:18). If you have been thus searched, you will want your religion to be more in your heart than in your head. But here I would not have you deceived by those who make light of what they call a head-religion, which, when tested by the written Word of God is a Spirit-taught religion. Many of God's own ministers have been persecuted with the taunt, "Ah, he is only a letter preacher." What do they mean? I think they themselves understand not the term they so cruelly use. By consulting 2 Cor. 3., we discover that the letter means the law contrasted with the gospel. Letter preachers are those who preach the precept and in their preaching hide the Precept Fulfiller from view. They are zealous in enforcing commands, and fail to make Him everything by Whom the commandments of God are made life and power in the experience of vessels of mercy, and subjects of JEHOVAH'S reigning grace. It is a blessed thing to have a right apprehension of these covenant realities. Creed or confidence? Which do you like best? Confidence, to be sure. "For the Lord shall be thy Confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken" (Prov. 3:26). "The God of our salvation is the Confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea" (Ps. 65:5).
"Man, know thyself," is an old adage, and a very good one too, when man knows himself lost, empty and vile. But the most blessed part of this knowledge is that it is secured to us in the everlasting purpose of love (Jer. 31:33,34); in the person of Jesus Christ (John 17:3); in the Scriptures of truth (1 John 5:13); in a God-given understanding (1 John 5:20); by the anointing of the Spirit (1 John 2:27). God's promise holds good to His Zion: "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children" (Isa. 54:13). To know one's self is a very bitter and terrible lesson. It is painful yet highly profitable to see myself filthy and vile in the light of God's infinite perfections as they shine in the face of Jesus Christ. It is here I discover and acknowledge that my carnal mind is enmity against God, my heart deceitful above all things, that beats the devil. I might as well look for holiness in Satan as seek for it in self. Holiness is only to be found in Jesus Christ, and that only as we are led to Him by the Holy Ghost to enjoy the gracious provision of the Father in Him, and experience the love of the Covenant Three. Notice Joshua's posture:
He "stood before the Angel." Though he was clothed with filthy garments, his standing in the pure white robe of Christ's righteousness was not compromised thereby. I like that word "stood" "standing." How glorious it appears when our hearts are warmed in singing these sweet words by Mote,
"My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name:
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand."
Yet this standing is frequently assailed, "and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him." Are you near to Jesus this morning in faith and feeling? The devil will not be far distant. Read for yourselves the first and second chapters of the Book of Job. The sons of God appear before Him, but Satan is among them. The patient patriarch is accepted of God, but he is accused by Satan. Look at Paul in the third heaven. You need not look long before you see the messenger of Satan buffeting him. Come to Eph. 6:12, and there you will see the saints contending with wicked spirits in the very places of spiritual blessing, heavenly glory, divine communion, and gracious revelation (Eph. 1:3,20; 2:6; 3:10). The very spots of spiritual privilege are the scenes of spiritual conflict.
But here I wish you to notice Satan's seeming vantage ground, he stood at Joshua's right hand. There he appeared to have a powerful claim upon the chosen and plucked brand. Christ's lawful position is the right hand of God. The bride sits at the right hand of the King. This is the legal right. So Satan stands to powerfully put in his claim to the possession Joshua. He questions the right of the Covenant Angel to His redeemed property. He says, "He is mine. How can he belong to a God of purity, and clothed in garments so filthy?" Satan ever rakes up all the filth and dirt possible to strengthen his claim to weak and weary saints, and there appears to be legal ground for his claim. As he describes every one of us as we are in ourselves, and portrays the carnality of our nature, he may well lay claim to full possession of what he conceives to be his own property. But when a Stronger than he comes to take possession by grace of His purchased right, then the poor anxious soul feels its true desert, eternal damnation, God's frown, Satan's malicious work, according to Hart's words,
"When his pardon is signed, and his peace is procured,
From that moment his conflict begins."
Every living child of God knows this to the sorrow of his soul. Quickened by the Holy Ghost he struggles to be free from Satan's thrall, while Satan is determined to retain his hold. But the Angel, before, and in, Whom Joshua stands has a good word ready for His loved one. "And the Lord said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee." Look at that! There are people who tell me that I should not preach election. Let all such "study to be quiet and do their own business," but let them remember this, no election, no salvation. Here we see that God's thunderbolt in smashing Satan's power is sovereign election. Let us read it again; "The LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire." "Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the Angel."
"And He answered and spake unto those that stood before Him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him He said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment." Here we see the joint action of pastors according to God's heart, and God who has appointed them. The God-sent pastor energises in his spirit that the people of his charge, and those to whom he may be sent, may be a people stripped of their filthy rags, a people cleansed with atoning blood, a people clothed in justifying righteousness, a people "crowned with lovingkindness and tender mercies." "And He said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments." Here we see that "God's commandings are God's enablings." What God desires to be done He will lovingly enforce. "And the Angel of the Lord stood by," superintending the whole affair, seeing that nothing designed was left undone, and all designed was perfectly done. "But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). This fully demonstrates that all the holiness we need, for access to, and acceptance with God is Christ Himself made so to us.
May the Holy Ghost impress these truths more deeply in our heart, for Christ's sake. Amen.