Separation filters are things in this life that prove what you are. They are tests, opportunities, situations, scenarios that require you to take a step one way or another. The step you take shows what you are.
In Biblical Hebrew there is no distinction between the being and the doing. How we BE is WHAT we are. And we ARE what we DO. Food for thought.
“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
The righteous shall live by his faith—each of these words work together to emphasize the deep point of this verse. It is so significant, it is quoted three times in the New Testament (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38).
THE righteous (as opposed to thosewhose soul is puffed up) is the one who is humble, who trembles at His word. Not A righteous man–meaning anyone who does things that would be considered right. A pulls the point away from the covenant context.
Instead it says THE–as in the ones we have already spoken of, the ones the entire Bible is speaking of. God’s ones.
In this passage especially, the righteous refers to those who are NOT the cause of the punishment on Israel. The RIGHTEOUS is used as a noun and an adjective. The adjective represents the class of individuals. This class is known by their deeds.
“In Western thought, we are taught to make a distinction between what a person does and who he is. However, in Hebrew, it is difficult to articulate that distinction.” (Rabbi Berger) You are what you do.
This form is often used by Jesus when referring to things that will happen anyway. It is a statement, not a command. If you love me, you will keep my commands. You will certainly. See John 14:12, 23-24 compared with John 15:10–the keeping and the doing are connected with the essence of the person. As Jesus said, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him [the Father].”
Shall-“used to say that something certainly will or must happen, or that you are determined that something will happen.” The separation filter pivots on this word. The righteous will be this way, sure as the sun will rise. (See above).
How does one live? Shall-live is actually the Hebrew word. So what is meant by living? As seen above, living is the way we exist. What we do, in life, is what we are. How we BE is WHAT we are. Living is abiding, it is the use of our breath and heartbeat. A tree exists, and does what a tree does.
There are ultimately two kinds of people, God’s people and not-my-people. The righteous-beingand the unrighteous-being. So what of those who live righteously before men but not humbly before God? Are they righteous or unrighteous? This is where the next section comes in.
There are many angles that can be represented with the word “by.” The agent, the method, the position, not-later-than, part of a measurement, during or within.
Agent: by VanGogh, by a thermostat
Method: by train, by herself
Position: by her side
Not later than: by five o’clock, by dinner
Measurement: ten by ten, by the hour, minute by minute
During, within, according to: by night, by nature, fine by me
So how does one live “by faith” Which kind of by?
Is faith the agent, the faith enables the living?
Is faith a method, the faith brings the person to living?
Is faith a position, the person lives next to the faith?
Is faith a goal, in that a person finishes living if he arrives at faith point?
Is faith a measurement, in that living happens from faith to faith?
Is faith a comparative measure, in that the action of living happens within the state of faith?
In Hebrew, the proposition is connected to the word faith. It is not a separate word as it is in English. So “by-his-faith” is one word.
Interestingly, the exact same phrase by his faith occurs only in one place in Scripture, and this is a very relevant place.
Ps 96:12-13: “let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness”
Here, it’s a measure by which something is judged, and it is a state of being and a means. In Ps 96, the peoples will be judged by means of God’s faithfulness and because of God’s faithfulness.Of Ps 96:13, Matthew Poole in his commentary writes, “With his truth; or, in his faithfulness, i.e. so as he hath promised to do. He will certainly and abundantly fulfil all God’s promises made to his people.”
Using the same implications, the righteous will live by means of their faithfulness. The righteous will live in the state of fulfilling their covenant-promises.
The righteous shall live-by-faith.
The righteous ones will most assuredly be characterized by a certain manner of faithful-covenant-keeping-abiding.
New Testament Ethics
Jesus Christ lived-the-faith God required, for me. He said, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”
And since he also died the death-I-deserved, for me, my faithful-covenant-keeping-abiding in Christ will count me as one of “the righteous.”
This is why Paul said that Abraham was justified by faith…
“Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (Romans 4:3-8).
But James as well can say the seeming-opposite, that Abraham was justified by works…
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God (James 2:18-23).
The righteous are saved by their faithful-covenant-keeping-abiding in Christ.
Chickens, Boaz and Tears: Three Things that will Save your Eternal Life.
Have you ever seriously considered the verse, “Away from me, I never knew you!” ?
The Lord Jesus uses this warning in Matt 7:21-23 to show that not everyone who thinks they are saved will actually be saved.
But have you ever thought that MAYBE you might hear those words from the Lord’s lips? Does the thought strike fear into you?
In our Social Studies class this month we are studying the American Colonial times, and of course the Salem Witch trials come up. Many people accused of witchcraft were excommunicated from the Church, namely being told they were no longer saved.
In our PostChristian environment today, most people don’t give credence to the right of the Church to excommunicate its members.
But Scripture shows the authority Spirit-filled church leaders have to turn their members “over to Satan.” So those in 1692 Salem accused of witchcraft and their families all believed the convicted had likewise been deprived of salvation.
Can that happen? Really?
Another big question is about the “unforgivable sin.” Maybe you think you have committed it. You may be asking yourself, “Have I committed the unforgivable sin? Is what I have done too big now for Christ to forgive?”
What do I have to do to lose my salvation? What does one look like who will hear on Judgment Day, “Away from me, I never knew you”?
Or, more likely what you are asking, “How can I make sure that’s not me?”
I have good news for you today. You can know and be sure that you will never be discarded by God. You can have certainty. But it is costly and it is hard.
The answer is in the idea: Up is Down and Down is Up. But to understand this, we must understand Covenant.
A key aspect of the Bible, God’s Covenant with us, is expressed vividly in the Old Testament. Nature provides many examples of God’s principles (because Heavens Declare the glory of God).
One of the most poignant images, used repeatedly in Scripture, is that of the wings of God, which metaphorically represent his protective covering.
Behold what Psalms says:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,
…for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
…for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem as he spoke of his desire to bring comfort and safety to God’s people. He used the same imagery used of God in the OT.
Mt 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
Lk 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
The word for wing is also the word for garment. In Hebrew the word is kanaph (כָּנָף).
So we see in Ezekiel 16:8:
I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine.
The Sick Woman
The story of the sick woman taps into this same imagery.
Matthew 9:20-21 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.”
Mark 6:56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
Reasons for the sick touching the edge of Christ’s robe.
Several places in Scripture show us the thought behind sick people trying to touch Christ’s garment.
Zech 8:23 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'”
As we saw above, the Hebrew word for robe matches the word for wings, repeated many times in the Psalms. Taking hold of Christ’s robe was an ancient analogy for “attaching oneself to the party of his lord.”
They were humbling themselves before God, asking for mercy.
Down is Up. This is another way of saying “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Pet 5:6, NIV).
Bend down, bow, kneel, humble yourself…admit you are inadequate to the task…confess that HE is your only hope. Go down. God gives grace to the humble. But he opposes the proud. (1 Pet 5:5, James 4:6). Up is Down and Down is Up. If you go UP–if you insist on doing it your own way, sure you can do it yourself, lifting your chin and defying your need for God, that is the surest way “DOWN” to death and destruction, in the end.
But if you go Down, he will lift you Up.
Which means he will bring you into his eternal Covenant.
Nowhere is this more clear than the story of Ruth and Boaz.
The Book of Ruth holds the greatest clue for us, showing the relationship between redemption and the edge of the garment. Showing the certainty of the Covenant.
It’s a strange story, and one scandal-seekers love to point at while wiggling their eyebrows. But Ruth’s visit to the threshing floor was a demonstration for us of what a kinsman-redeemer is for humanity.
Ru 2:12 The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”
Already, Boaz had raised the topic of coming under the “wings” of God. Now, Naomi encourages Ruth to demonstrate the need for Boaz’s specific “wings,” as her protector, redeemer, and savior.
Ru 3:7–9 [Boaz] went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet! He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”
She had put herself under the edge of his garment. She desired covenant.
She desired him to be her guardian, her lord, her escape from a helpless situation.
Do you See it Yet?
It’s your only escape. The world may condemn you, they may falsely accuse you, or rightly accuse you. You will also accuse yourself of committing the unforgivable sin.
But where is your hope?
We will never live up to the life Christ lived. That’s the reason we needed a Savior.
But where is your hope?
Do you, after needing Christ for salvation, now attempt to reach perfection by works? (Gal 3:3) It won’t happen. We will produce fruit only as the Spirit enables us. As we abide we will be changed into his image.
But we are all going to fail this broken world.
You will have some up days, and down days. But as Billy Graham said, most of life is the valleys. We are not building our kingdom here. This broken world is not our home. We have hope in a kingdom not built by human hands. (Heb 11)
And when we consider Judgment Day…
…when we consider if he might could possibly accuse us of not being his,
The story of King Ahaz, the Syrian threat versus the Assyrian hope, the Immanuel promise, and the names of Isaiah’s sons all point to one amazing truth: This suffering world is the venue for sorting people both by their deeds and by God-given faith.
The first verses of Chapter 9 parallel last three verses of Chapter 8.
There is the remnant again! And the remnant, those who know their God, goes through the same dark anguish common to all of humanity. All mankind fell into a state of sin and misery. We were all of the same lump of clay (Rom 9). We all live in a broken world. Yet the anguish results in a different set of deeds.
“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish,” it says (v1).
Then there are some cryptic words about Galilee:
“He has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” (v1).
There is a group of people in this world whose hearts leap with the name of Galilee.
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin…”(Luke 1:26).
People who know Jesus see him already here in verse one.
What happens to this group of people as they are in the darkness? They have the dawn.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (v2).
This group of people does not curse God. The light shines in their hearts because God has “shone his face” on them, as is prayed for in the Aaronic blessing. As a result of God’s face shining upon them, sorrow turns to joy and the speeding spoils takes a completely different turn.
“You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy. They rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil”(v3).
Upharsin + Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Here, both concepts are tied together in the dawn of God’s shining face. In the Immanuel, darkness brings light, for very soon we hear the words:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…”(v6).
In the Nativity story we see this dawning.
Zechariah’s prophecy after the birth of John makes this connection:
“because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).
And Simeon said when he held the Babe in the temple,
“my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:31-32).
Isaiah speaks of the Immanuel, God-with-us, who is born. This one whose birth earns him David’s throne forever, the promised one who is born (earthly) and given (divine). And if that is not clear enough, he declares the name of the one who is born:
“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (v6).
Isaiah, who urgently called people away from idolatry and to worship the living and true God, would not have accidentally called a born-man “God.” Rather, through Isaiah’s amazing prophecy, God intentionally made this truth of a coming God-man known to those who listened to Isaiah.
But as we saw earlier, the truth of Immanuel would become a sanctuary or a stone of offense (8:14-15). Immanuel’s nature would sift people in to two camps.
“Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy” (Rev 22:11)
In Isaiah 7-9 we clearly see God using suffering as a separation filter, sorting people into his sheep and the goats. We see the fists lifted in defiance and the faces hung in despair. People are given a choice to trust or not. They are culpable for their choices, and they choose exactly what they want. But we see, too, that only if God shines his face on people will they see the great light.
Thus we see that a suffering world is the venue to sort people, both by their deeds and by their God-given faith.
The story of King Ahaz, the Syrian threat versus the Assyrian hope, the Immanuel promise, and the names of Isaiah’s sons all point to one amazing truth: This suffering world is the venue for sorting people both by their deeds and by God-given faith.
Maher-shalal-has-baz. Isaiah’s son, born as the first proof of God’s being with Israel, is named “The spoil speeds, the prey hastens.”
What kind of name is this? What kind of hope is here? The proof Ahaz got is this: the one you trust will betray you. This happened in the lifetime of Ahaz.
God had offered his presence as proof, and had promised consistent covenant provision if Israel would choose to trust his Character. As Christ had promised “living water” to those who came to him, here God refers to his faithful covenant-keeping acts as “the waters of Shiloah that flow gently.”
Yet in the face of suffering, Israel is being sifted. The test proves their mettle:
“Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently…therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River” (vv6-7).
Two waters: peace or war. They refused peace, so war will come. And it comes from the hand of God: “the Lord is bringing up against them” (v7) this consequence. God is like a parent who consistently disciplines his children to teach them the wise and prudent way to go.
So does this prove God is a dictator and a monster? Why doesn’t he just let them be the way they want to be?
If you notice, he does let King Ahaz, and all Israel, “choose this day whom [they] will serve” (Joshua 24:15).
Interestingly, or purposefully, the meaning of Maher-shalal-has-baz is equivalent to the third part of the warning Belshazzar himself heard at his blasphemous feast.
Mene: You have been measured.
Mene: You have been measured.
Tekel: You have been weighed.
Upharsin: You will be divided.
The Upharsin judgment of losing one’s home, life or kingdom is the ultimate consequence God may decree upon any man or king.
“The spoil speeds, the prey hastens” sounds like the tension that makes our hearts race in a suspense or horror film.
Loss of everything is coming, and there is nothing you can do about it.
“The spoil of Samaria will be carried away by Assyria” (v4) because their time is up, because they trusted Assyria instead of trusting in God’s promise. Man will betray them.
This example is for us. Israel’s remnant lived through these difficult times to prove its faithfulness. They went through this for us: so we would weigh our own lives in comparison.
The remnant clings to hope that the three names give. Even though the spoil speeds and the prey hastens, the remnant will return and God will be with us.
Yet remains the second fulfillment of the prophecy. There has been great debate as to the definition of “virgin” in the Immanuel prophecy. As is often the case, God uses one word to pivot two-prophecies in one. Only when we see this scene from a New Testament perspective can we understand it in fulness.
In Chapter eight, the Messiah is presented as one who will also be born, along with Isaiah’s son. “God with us” yet of a technical “virgin.” Maher-shalal-hash-baz comes up wanting.
King Ahaz has made a decision the remnant does not agree with. He trusts in “horses and chariots” but they trust “in the Name of the LORD” (Ps 20:7; Is 31:1). Those who believe in Immanuel are themselves called Immanuel (v8). Even as the destruction comes, God will keep his promise. The enemy nations will be broken and shattered.
They will “take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us” (v9-10).
Those who know their God know this: though the nations rage, God will never break his covenant with true Israel.
It is time for the great sorting.
“Do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (vv12-13).
This is the call to return to the covenant. The first and second commandment.
And after the call to return comes the sifting. Two groups will respond to this call:
“And he will become a sanctuary,”
(Rock of Ages, cleft for me)
the first response is juxtaposed against the second response:
“and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap. And a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken” (vv14-15).
Either you hold firmly to the covenant promise of “God with us whatever happens,” or you will trip and fall and be broken. The very promise of the Messiah is a separation filter. Sheep from goats.
But people will be what they will be. Some will be blind to the word of God. Isaiah says,
“I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him” (v17).
Obviously God was not hiding his face from Isaiah. The remnant alone, whose choosing proves their loyalty, can see the face of God. The Who of God is known by his people, and “whatever happens” his people will keep believing in his Character. To others, God is unseen and unknown.
“Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples,” God says (v16).
In Chapter 6, this is the very call God put on Isaiah’s life;
“Go, and say to this people: Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy and blind their eyes.”
The absence of seeing God’s face or hearing his word is equated as being in the darkness. Instead of seeking God’s voice, Israel seeks messages from mediums and necromancers. Isaiah begs them to look “to the teaching and to the testimony!” (v20). But then he says
“If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn”(v20).
The dawn has not lit them from inside. They cannot because they have no light. And the lack of light in itself sorts them into certain types of deeds:
“They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness” (v21-22).
They have no hope in the promises of God, because they do not know God. The suffering has sorted and sifted them. It has proven the fact that they were not true Israel in the first place. The suffering will cause them to shake their fist at God, to “speak contemptuously against…their God.” To hate him.
And we look upon this story and we ask ourselves, which group am I in? How do I respond to difficulty? Do I cling to the hope given that “the remnant shall be saved”? Or do I conclude that since I suffer, therefore there is no God?
The story of King Ahaz, the Syrian threat versus the Assyrian hope, the Immanuel promise, and the names of Isaiah’s sons all point to one amazing truth: This suffering world is the venue for sorting people both by their deeds and by God-given faith.
King Ahaz has an amazing opportunity. He meets with Isaiah not only to hear the direct word from God, but also to respond. As Joshua had commanded the people, “choose this day whom you will serve,” Ahaz is given hope and a choice. Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub comes with him to the meeting, his very name that of hope: “a remnant shall return.”
Isaiah presents to Ahaz an opportunity to prove his mettle. Pleasure and peace or war.
“Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two…” (v4).
We hear echoes of Moses and Joshua speaking to trembling Israel.
“Do not be dismayed or discouraged for the Lord is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
God recognizes the enemies are fearsome:
“two smoldering stumps of firebrands…fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah…. Syria has devised evil against you” (v4).
In spite of this God presents Ahaz with a great opportunity to throw in his hope onto God’s side.This is his only opportunity for success.
“If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all” (v9).
Then King Ahaz is given the option of choosing proof. Like with Gideon, God condescends to strengthen the faith of Ahaz with a sign of God’s presence.
“Let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (v10).
How many of us would love such an opportunity for divine proof? Yet Ahaz declines.
So God gives a promise that will come about in double-time:
“Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (v14).
The child will be named “God with us.” Can you hear Handel’s version of this playing in your head?
The immediate fulfillment of this proof happens in the next chapter, but with a twist. God tells all the signs of sorrow and suffering that will come upon Israel, with Sheer-jashub standing right there. To the hope of the remnant is added the hope of God with us.
What will Ahaz do? His decision is our decision. His choice pushes us to look inwardly. What would I have done? What do I do in my desperate times?
Ahaz is being sifted, shaken, stirred. How does he come out in the face of suffering? Ahaz chooses to put his faith in Assyria. This nation promises to help Israel against Rezin and Syria, but Israel has not considered the dear cost.
If we have learned anything from these warnings, EVACUATIONS for Hurricane Irma and Pac NW Fires, it is the reality and mercy of the urgent need to…
“Flee from the Wrath to Come!”
Do you hear the alarm? Do you not worry about the God of Nature? Why does he stir up the storms? Why the earthquakes? Why the fires? Why so few lives lost? What mercy, what strength, what warning.
Hear Charles Spurgeon’s words:
“Flee from the Wrath to Come!”
“Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” [Matthew 3:7]
“Who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us.” [Hebrews 6:18]
I. First, dear friends, let us think of THE TREMENDOUS DANGER which overtakes all men and women who do not flee from it.
1. I remark, first:, that this “coming wrath” is absolutely just and necessary.
2. Nor is “the coming wrath” any the less sure because it is delayed.
3. I tremble as I try to speak of this “coming wrath” because, when it does come it will surely be something very terrible because divinity enters into the essence of it.
II. Now, in the second place, I want, just; for a few minutes, to tell you about THE MEANS OF ESCAPE. John the Baptist said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”
By this question, he seemed to imply that there is no way of deliverance from “the coming wrath” but by fleeing from it.
1. First, we flee from the coming wrath by taking immediate action.
2. Fleeing means, not only immediate action, but swift action.
3. To flee also means to run directly to your object.
Notice how John the Baptist explained to those Pharisees and Sadducees the way in which they had to flee. He told them,
1. First, that they must repent.
2. Secondly, that repentance must be practical.
3. Then John went on to say to the Pharisees and Sadducees that they must give up all the false hopes which they had cherished: “Do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.” �
How does Christ deliver us from “the coming wrath?” He does it by putting himself into our place, and putting us into his place.
((These are Spurgeon’s outlined points: See the detailed sermon here:
(Quora Question) As a Christian, what is something that God has said (in the Bible) that you disagree with?:
In Song of Solomon, which can be seen partly as an allegory to the relationship of Christ and the Church (*1), it is written
You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you (4:7)
We are caught, as Christians, in what is referred to as the “already/not yet” of history.
While God looks at me and sees only Christ’s righteousness (Rom 5:9, Phil 3:9, Rom 5:18, Rom 9:30, Rom 4:5, Gal 3:6-7). “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21)…
…yet I look at myself and do not see this. I feel like Paul in Romans 7:
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing….So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am!
So my greatest disagreement, because of this already/not yet, has to do with my dissatisfaction with the unholiness surrounding me, in my thoughts, in my actions, in my plans and ambitions. While God sees that I am “clothed in the righteousness of Christ,” I see the not-yet.
But this is what fuels my hope, my greatest desire. It is what propels me through this world, facing what comes. As John said—John who was the “last to go” of the apostles, who had to wait the longest of the 11 for that which was promised—
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2
What is the Bride of Christ? We know that the Church is the bride, but WHAT is this bride? Some implications seem, almost, vulgar. But it is a concept repeatedly used in Scripture, in the Wisdom books, in the Prophets, and most emphatically from Christ himself and reiterated by the apostles. I recently came across this sermon, exactly the thing I was hunting for online. Read on to hear an amazing Puritan preacher, Thomas Watson, speak delicately and powerfully on this mystic union of Christ and his Bride.
by Thomas Watson
“My beloved is mine, and I am his.” (Song 2:16)
In this Song of Songs we see the love of Christ and his church running towards each other in a full torrent.
The text contains three general parts:
1. A symbol of affection: “My beloved.”
2. A term of appropriation: “is mine.”
3. A holy resignation: “I am his.”
Doctrine: That there is a conjugal union between Christ and believers.
The apostle, having treated at large of marriage, winds up the whole chapter thus: “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). What is closer than union? What sweeter? There is a twofold union with Christ:
1. A natural union. This all men have, Christ having taken their nature on him and not that of the angels (Heb. 2:16). But if there is no more than this natural union, it will give little comfort. Thousands are damned though Christ is united to their nature.
2. A sacred union. By this we are mystically united to Christ. The union with Christ is not personal. If Christ’s essence were transfused into the person of a believer, then it would follow that all that a believer does should be meritorious.
But the union between Christ and a saint is:
(a) Federal: “My beloved is mine.” God the Father gives the bride; God the Son receives the bride; God the Holy Ghost ties the knot in marriage – he knits our wills to Christ and Christ’s love to us.
(b) Effectual. Christ unites himself to his spouse by his graces and influences: “of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). Christ makes himself one with the spouse by conveying his image and stamping the impress of his own holiness upon her.
This union with Christ may well be called mystic. It is hard to describe the manner of it. It is hard to show how the soul is united to the body, and how Christ is united to the soul. But though this union is spiritual, it is real. Things in nature often work insensibly, yet really (Eccles. 11:5). We do not see the hand move on the dial, yet it moves. The sun exhales and draws up the vapours of the earth insensibly yet really. So the union between Christ and the soul, though it is imperceptible to the eye of reason, is still real (I Cor. 6:17).
Before this union with Christ there must be a separation. The heart must be separated from all other lovers, as in marriage there is a leaving of father and mother: “Forget your own people, and your father’s house.” (Psa. 45:10). So there must be a leaving of our former sins, a breaking off the old league with hell before we can be united to Christ. “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?” (Hos. 14:8), or as it is in the Hebrew, “with sorrows.” Those sins which were looked on before as lovers, are now sorrows. There must be a divorce before a union.
The purpose of our conjugal union with Christ is twofold:
1. Co-habitation. This is one purpose of marriage, to live together: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts” (Eph. 2:17). It is not enough to pay Christ a few complimentary visits in his ordinances – hypocrites may do so – but there must be a mutual associating. We must dwell upon the thoughts of Christ: “he that abides in God” (cf. I John 3:24). Married persons should not live apart.
2. Fruit bearing: “That you may be married to another; to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.” (Rom. 7:4). The spouse bears the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness (Gal. 5:22). Barrenness is a shame in Christ’s spouse.
This marriage union with Christ is the most noble and excellent union:
(a) Christ unites himself to many. In other marriages only one person is taken, but here millions are taken. Otherwise, poor souls might cry out, “Alas! Christ has married So-and-so, but what is that to me? I am left out.” No, Christ marries thousands. It is a holy and chaste polygamy. Multitudes of people do not defile this marriage bed. Any poor sinner who brings a humble, believing heart may be married to Christ.
(b) There is a closer union in this holy marriage than there can be in any other. In other marriages, two make one flesh, but Christ and the believer make one spirit: “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (I Cor. 6:17). Now as the soul is more excellent than the body, and admits of far greater joy, so this spiritual union brings in more astonishing delights and ravishments than any other marriage relationship is capable of. The joy that flows from the mystic union is unspeakable and full of glory (I Peter 1:8).
(c) This union with Christ never ceases. “Thrice happy they whom an unbroken bond unites” (Horace). Other marriages are soon at an end. Death cuts asunder the marriage knot, but this conjugal union is eternal. You who are once Christ’s spouse shall never again be a widow: “I will betroth you to me forever” (Hosea 2:19). To speak properly, our marriage with Christ begins where other marriages end, at death.
In this life there is only the contract. The Jews had a time set between their engagement and marriage, sometimes a year or more. In this life there is only the engagement and contract; promises are made on both sides, and love passes secretly between Christ and the soul. He gives some smiles of his face, and the soul sends up her sighs and drops tears of love. But all this is only a preliminary work, and something leading up to the marriage. The glorious completing and solemnizing of the marriage is reserved for heaven. There is the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9) and the bed of glory perfumed with love where the souls of the elect shall be perpetually consoling themselves. “Then shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:17). So death merely begins our marriage with Christ.
Application 1: If Christ is the head of the mystic body (Eph. 1:22), then this doctrine beheads the Pope, that man of sin who usurps this prerogative of being the head of the church, and so would defile Christ’s marriage bed. What blasphemy this is! Two heads are monstrous. Christ is Head, as he is Husband. There is no vice-husband, no deputy in his place. The Pope is the beast in Revelation (Rev. 13:11). To make him head of the church, what would this be but to set the head of a beast upon the body of a man?
Application 2: If there is such a conjugal union, let us test whether we are united to Christ:
1. Have we chosen Christto set our love upon, and is this choice founded on knowledge?
2. Have we consented to the match? It is not enough that Christ is willing to have us, but are we willing to have him? God does not so force salvation upon us that we shall have Christ whether we want to or not. We must consent to have him. Many approve of Christ, but do not give their consent. And this consent must be:
(a) Pure and genuine.We consent to have him for his own worth and excellence: “You are fairer than the sons of men” (Psa. 45:2).
(b) A present consent:“now is the acceptable time” (2 Cor. 6:2). If we put Christ off with delays and excuses, perhaps he will stop coming. He will leave off wooing. “His spirit shall no longer strive,” and then, poor sinner, what will you do? When God’s wooing ends, your woes begin.
3. Have we taken Christ? Faith is the bond of the union. Christ is joined to us by his Spirit, and we are joined to him by faith. Faith ties the marriage knot.
4. Have we given ourselves up to Christ? Thus the spouse in the text says, “I am his,” as if she had said, “All I have is for the use and service of Christ.” Have we made a surrender? Have we given up our name and will to Christ? When the devil solicits by a temptation, do we say, “We are not our own, we are Christ’s; our tongues are his, we must not defile them with oaths; our bodies are his temple, we must not pollute them with sin?” If it is so, it is a sign that the Holy Ghost has produced this blessed union between Christ and us.
Application 3: Is there this mystic union? Then from that we may draw many inferences:
1. See the dignity of all true believers.They are joined in marriage with Christ. There is not only assimilation but union; they are not only like Christ but one with Christ. All the saints have this honour. When a king marries a beggar, by virtue of the union she is ennobled and made of the blood royal. As wicked men are united to the prince of darkness, and he settles hell upon them as their inheritance, so the godly are divinely united to Christ, who is King of kings, and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16). By virtue of this sacred union the saints are dignified above the angels. Christ is the Lord of the angels, but not their husband.
2. See how happily all the saints are married.They are united to Christ, who is the best Husband, “the Chiefest among ten thousand” (Song 5:10). Christ is a Husband that cannot be paralleled:
(a) For tender care.The spouse cannot be as considerate of her own soul and credit as Christ is considerate of her: “He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:7). Christ has a debate with himself, consulting and projecting how to carry on the work of our salvation. He transacts all our affairs, he attends to our business as his own. Indeed, he himself is concerned in it. He brings fresh supplies to his spouse. If she wanders out of the way, he guides her. If she stumbles, he holds her by the hand. If she falls, he raises her. If she is dull, he quickens her by his Spirit. If she is perverse, he draws her with cords of love. If she is sad, he comforts her with promises.
(b) For ardent affection.No husband loves like Christ. The Lord says to the people, “I have loved you,” and they say, “In what way have you loved us?” (Mal. 1:2). But we cannot say to Christ, “In what way have you loved us?” Christ has given real demonstrations of his love to his spouse. He has sent her his Word, which is a love-letter, and he has given her his Spirit, which is a love-token. Christ loves more than any other husband:
Christ puts a richer robe on his bride: “For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isa. 61:10). In this robe, God looks on us as if we had not sinned. This robe is as truly ours to justify us, as it is Christ’s to bestow on us. This robe not only covers but adorns. Having on this robe, we are reputed righteous, not only as righteous as angels, but as righteous as Christ: “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Christ gives his bride not only his golden garments but his image.He loves her into his own likeness. A husband may have a dear affection for his wife, but he cannot stamp his own image on her. If she is deformed, he may give her a veil to hide it, but he cannot put his beauty on her. But Christ imparts “the beauty of holiness” to his spouse: “Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you,” (Ezek. 16:14). When Christ marries a soul, he makes it fair: “You are all fair, my love” (Song 4:7). Christ never thinks he has loved his spouse enough till he can see his own face in her.
Christ discharges those debts which no other husband can.Our sins are the worst debts we owe. If all the angels should contribute money, they could not pay one of these debts, but Christ frees us from these. He is both a Husband and a Surety. He says to justice what Paul said concerning Onesimus, “But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account.” (Philem. 1:18).
Christ has suffered more for his spouse than ever any husband did for a wife.He suffered poverty and ignominy. He who crowned the heavens with stars was himself crowned with thorns. He was called a companion of sinners, so that we might be made companions of angels. He was regardless of his life; he leaped into the sea of his Father’s wrath to save his spouse from drowning.
Christ’s love does not end with his life. He loves his spouse for ever: “I will betroth you to me forever” (Hos. 2:19). Well may the apostle call it “a love which passes knowledge” (Eph. 3:19).
3. See how rich believers are.They have married into the crown of heaven, and by virtue of the conjugal union all Christ’s riches go to believers: “communion is founded in union.” Christ communicates his graces (John 1:16 ). As long as Christ has them, believers shall not be in want. And he communicates his privileges – justification, glorification. He settles a kingdom on his spouse as her inheritance (Heb. 12:28). This is a key to the apostle’s riddle, “as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:10). By virtue of the marriage union, the saints have an interest in all Christ’s riches.
4. See how fearful a sin it is to abuse the saints.It is an injury done to Christ, for believers are mystically one with him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). When the body was wounded, the Head, being in heaven, cried out. In this sense, men crucify Christ afresh (Heb. 6:6), because what is done to his members is done to him. If Gideon was avenged upon those who slew his brethren, will not Christ much more be avenged on those that wrong his spouse (Judges 8:21)? Will a king tolerate having his treasure rifled, his crown thrown in the dust, his queen beheaded? Will Christ bear with the affronts and injuries done to his bride? The saints are the apple of Christ’s eye (Zech. 2:8), and let those who strike at his eye answer for it. Isa 49:26 “I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine” (Isa. 49:26).
5. See the reason why the saints so rejoice in the Word and sacrament,because here they meet with their Husband, Christ. The wife desires to be in the presence of her husband. The ordinances are the chariot in which Christ rides, the lattice through which he looks forth and shows his smiling face. Here Christ displays the banner of love (Song 2:4). The Lord’s Supper is nothing other than a pledge and earnest of that eternal communion which the saints shall have with Christ in heaven. Then he will take the spouse into his bosom. If Christ is so sweet in an ordinance, when we have only short glances and dark glimpses of him by faith, oh then, how delightful and ravishing will his presence be in heaven when we see him face to face and are for ever in his loving embraces!
Application 4: This mystic union affords much comfort to believers in several cases:
1. In the case of the disrespect and unkindness of the world: “in wrath they hate me” (Psa. 55:3). But though we live in an unkind world, we have a kind Husband: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9). What angel can tell how God the Father loves Christ? Yet the Father’s love to Christ is made the copy and pattern of Christ’s love to his spouse. This love of Christ as far exceeds all created love as the sun outshines the light of a torch. And is not this a matter of comfort? Though the world hates me, Christ still loves me.
2. In the case of weakness of grace.The believer cannot lay hold on Christ, except with a trembling hand. There is a “spirit of infirmity” on him, but oh, weak Christian, here is strong consolation: there is a conjugal union. You are the spouse of Christ, and he will bear with you as the weaker vessel. Will a husband divorce his wife because she is weak and sickly? No, he will be the more tender with her. Christ hates treachery, but he will pity infirmity. When the spouse is faint and ready to be discouraged, Christ puts his left hand under her head (Song 2:6). This is the spouse’s comfort when she is weak. Her Husband can infuse strength into her: “My God shall be my strength” (Isa. 49:5).
3. In the case of death. When believers die, they go to their Husband. Who would not be willing to cross the gulf of death that they might meet with their Husband, Christ? “I desire to loosen anchor” (Phil. 1:23), and be with Christ. What though the way is dirty? We are going to our friend. When a woman is engaged, she longs for the day of marriage. After the saints’ funeral, their marriage begins. The body is a prison to the soul. Who would not desire to exchange a prison for a marriage bed? How glad Joseph was to go out of prison to the king’s court! God is wise; he lets us meet with changes and troubles here, so that he may wean us from the world and make us long for death. When the soul is divorced from the body, it is married to Christ.
4. In the case of passing sentence at the day of judgment.There is a marriage union and, oh Christian, your Husband shall be your judge. A wife would not fear appearing at the bar if her husband was sitting as judge. What though the devil should bring in many indictments against you? Christ will expunge your sins in his blood. Could he possibly say, “I shall condemn my spouse?” Oh, what a comfort this is! The Husband is judge. Christ cannot pass sentence against his spouse without passing it against himself. For Christ and believers are one.
5. In the case of the saints’ suffering.The church of God is exposed in this life to many injuries, but she has a Husband in heaven who is mindful of her and will “turn water into wine” for her. Now it is a time of mourning with the spouse because the Bridegroom is absent (Matt. 9:15). But shortly she shall put off her mourning. Christ will wipe the tears of blood off the cheeks of his spouse: “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces” (Isa. 25:8). Christ will comfort his spouse for as much time as she has been afflicted. He will solace her with his love; he will take away the cup of trembling and give her the cup of consolation. And now she shall forget all her sorrows, being called into the banqueting house of heaven and having the banner of Christ’s love displayed over her.
Application 5: Let me press several duties upon those who have this marriage union with Christ:
1. Make use of this relationship in two cases:
(a) When the law brings in its indictments against you. The law says, “Here there are so many debts to be paid,” and it demands satisfaction. Acknowledge the debt, but turn it all over to your Husband, Christ. It is a maxim in law that the suit must not go against the wife, as long as the husband is living. Tell Satan when he accuses you, “It is true that the debt is mine, but go to my Husband, Christ; he will discharge it.” If we took this course, we might relieve ourselves of much trouble. By faith we turn over the debt to our Husband. Believers are not in a state of widowhood but of marriage. Satan will never go to Christ – he knows that justice is satisfied and the debt book cancelled – but he comes to us for the debt so that he may perplex us. We should send him to Christ and then all lawsuits would cease. This is a believer’s triumph. When he is guilty in himself, he is worthy in Christ. When he is spotted in himself, he is pure in his Head.
(b) In the case of desertion.Christ may (for reasons best known to himself) step aside for a time: “my beloved had withdrawn himself” (Song 5:6). Do not say, therefore, that Christ has gone for good. It is a fruit of jealousy in a wife, when her husband has left her a while, to think that he has gone from her for good. Every time Christ removes himself out of sight, it is wrong for us to say (like Zion), “The Lord has forsaken me” (Isa. 49:14). This is jealousy, and it is a wrong done to the love of Christ and the sweetness of this marriage relationship. Christ may forsake his spouse in regard of comfort, but he will not forsake her in regard of union. A husband may be a thousand miles distant from his wife, but he is still a husband. Christ may leave his spouse, but the marriage knot still holds.
2. Rejoice in your Husband, Christ.Has Christ honoured you by taking you into the marriage relationship and making you one with himself? This calls for joy. By virtue of the union, believers are sharers with Christ in his riches. It was a custom among the Romans, when the wife was brought home, for her to receive the keys of her husband’s house, intimating that the treasure and custody of the house was now committed to her. When Christ brings his bride home to those glorious mansions which he has gone ahead to prepare for her (John 14:2), he will hand over the keys of his treasure to her, and she shall be as rich as heaven can make her. And shall not the spouse rejoice and sing aloud upon her bed (Psa. 149:5)? Christians, let the times be ever so sad, you may rejoice in your spiritual espousals (Hab. 3:17,18). Let me tell you, it is a sin not to rejoice. You disparage your Husband, Christ. When a wife is always sighing and weeping, what will others say? “This woman has a bad husband.” Is this the fruit of Christ’s love to you, to reflect dishonour upon him? A melancholy spouse saddens Christ’s heart. I do not deny that Christians should grieve for sins of daily occurrence, but to be always weeping (as if they mourned without hope) is dishonourable to the marriage relationship. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4). Rejoicing brings credit to your husband. Christ loves a cheerful bride, and indeed the very purpose of God’s making us sad is to make us rejoice. We sow in tears, so that we may reap in joy. The excessive sadness and contrition of the godly will make others afraid to embrace Christ. They will begin to question whether there is that satisfactory joy in religion which is claimed. Oh, you saints of God, do not forget consolation; let others see that you do not repent of your choice. It is joy that puts liveliness and activity into a Christian: “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). The soul is swiftest in duty when it is carried on the wings of joy.
3. Adorn this marriage relationship,so that you may be a crown to your husband.
(a) Wear a veil. We read of the spouse’s veil (Song 5:7). This veil is humility.
(b) Put on your jewels. These are the graces which for their lustre are compared to rows of pearl and chains of gold (Song 1:1O). These precious jewels distinguish Christ’s bride from strangers.
(c) Behave as becomes Christ’s spouse:
In chastity.Be chaste in your judgments; do not defile yourselves with error. Error adulterates the mind (1 Tim. 6:5). It is one of Satan’s artifices first to defile the judgment, then the conscience.
In sanctity.It is not for Christ’s spouse to behave like harlots. A naked breast and a wanton tongue do not become a saint. Christ’s bride must shine forth in gospel purity, so that she may make her husband fall in love with her. A woman was asked what dowry she brought her husband. She answered that she had no dowry, but she promised to keep herself chaste. So though we can bring Christ no dowry, yet he expects us to keep ourselves pure, not spotting the breasts of our virginity by contagious and scandalous sins.
4. Love your Husband, Christ (Song 2:5). Love him though he is reproached and persecuted. A wife loves her husband when in prison. To inflame your love towards Christ, consider:
(a) Nothing else is fit for you to love. If Christ is your Husband, it is not fit to have other lovers who would make Christ grow jealous.
(b) He is worthy of your love.He is of unparalleled beauty: “altogether lovely” (Song 5:16).
(c) How fervent is Christ’s love towards you!He loves you in your worst condition, he loves you in affliction. The goldsmith loves his gold in the furnace. He loves you notwithstanding your fears and blemishes. The saints’ infirmities cannot wholly remove Christ’s love from them (Jer. 3:1). Oh then, how the spouse should be endeared in her love to Christ! This will be the excellence of heaven. Our love will then be like the sun in its full strength.
[From The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson, a Puritan Paperback edition published by the Banner of Truth.]
This video sets out some of the Jewish customs related to Christ’s “Bride” references to his Church.
“While the bridegroom tarried they all slumbered and slept.”
The fact is that the text tells us a sad truth, “While the bridegroom tarried they all slumbered and slept.” We hear you say, If all are going to be asleep when Jesus comes, if we know that ahead of time, what is the use of trying to keep awake?
We answer that there are exceptions to every rule. Men, even the people of God, were sleeping when Jesus came the first time. Yet a few were awake. Think of aged Simeon and Anna in the temple!
We surely may assume that there will be Simeons and Annas when Jesus comes the second time.May you and I be among them!
R.B. Kuyper “While the Bridegroom Tarries,” p. 98-99.
There do meet in Jesus Christ, infinite highness, and infinite condescension.
Christ, as he is God, is infinitely great and high above all.He is higher than the kings of the earth; for he is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. He is higher than the heavens, and higher than the highest angels of heaven.
So great is he, that all men, all kings and princes, are as worms of the dust before him, all nations are as the drop of the bucket, and the light dust of the balance; yea, and angels themselves are as nothing before him. He is so high, that he is infinitely above any need of us; above our reach, that we cannot be profitable to him, and above our conceptions, that we cannot comprehend him.
Proverbs 30:4, “What is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if thou canst tell?” Our understandings, if we stretch them never so far, can’t reach up to his divine glory. Job 11:8, “It is high as heaven, what canst thou do?”
Christ is the Creator, and great possessor of heaven and earth: he is sovereign lord of all: he rules over the whole universe, and doth whatsoever pleaseth him: his knowledge is without bound: his wisdom is perfect, and what none can circumvent: his power is infinite, and none can resist him: his riches are immense and inexhaustible: his majesty is infinitely awful.
And yet he is one of infinite condescension. None are so low, or inferior, but Christ’s condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of them. He condescends not only to the angels, humbling himself to behold the things that are done in heaven, but he also condescends to such poor creatures as men; and that not only so as to take notice of princes and great men, but of those that are of meanest rank and degree, “the poor of the world” (James 2:5).
Such as are commonly despised by their fellow creatures, Christ don’t despise. 1 Corinthians 1:28, “Base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen.” Christ condescends to take notice of beggars (Luke 16:22) and of servants, and people of the most despised nations: in Christ Jesus is neither “Barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free” (Colossians 3:11).
He that is thus high, condescends to take a gracious notice of little children. Matthew 19:14, “Suffer little children to come unto me.”Yea, which is much more, his condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of the most unworthy, sinful creatures, those that have no good deservings, and those that have infinite ill deservings.