“And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!” (Matt. 12:49).
When Joseph brought his two sons before Jacob, he laid his hands on them (Gen. 48:14). By doing so, he identified those boys with his whole family saying, “You are my children, even though you were born in Egypt. You belong to my family. Now you have an equal share in the blessings which God has given to Abraham and his seed.” By laying his hands on them he also reminded them, “Now my grandsons, do not be deceived by Egypt and its wealth or glory. God has given you a great spiritual and eternal inheritance along with the other children of Abraham.” Thus, by the laying on of hands, we show our spiritual oneness and relationship with God’s children who are bought by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. In your town there may be many people, but only those who know the Lord Jesus Christ are your brothers and sisters. In Matt. 12:50, our Lord said, “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother”. In the laying on of hands we declare that we belong to those who love the Lord, irrespective of nation or culture or education. We belong to the same family. We cannot be deceived any more by the world and its attractions. So the first significance of the laying on of hands is our spiritual relationship with other believers.
Secondly, by the laying on of hands we declare our identification with the Lord Jesus in His sacrificial death. “And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him” (Lev. 1:4). Whenever anyone brought a sacrifice to the door of the Tabernacle, he would lay his hands upon the animal and confess his sins. The animal was then killed and sacrificed upon the altar. By laying his hands upon the animal, he declared, “This animal is going to die in my place”. He himself could not go inside. In his place the animal was killed and taken inside for a sacrifice. Similarly, by faith we declare that the Lord Jesus Christ is our stead. Thus our spiritual identification in the death of the Lord Jesus is expressed by the laying on of hands.
“…and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment” (John 12:3).
Our longing and desire for all believers is, that they should have such real happy Christian homes. Happiness does not depend on furniture, clothes, jewels and other worldly goods or any other qualifications such as university degrees. These cannot bring real or lasting joy. True joy depends upon our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and on how far we honour the Word of God and obey His Word. We do not usually come across many happy homes. We mostly come across many sad homes. They are sad because they neither honour God’s Word, not consult or obey it.
Now let us see from the Word of God how a happy home can become possible. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:6). This the first pre-requisite for a happy home. Be positively sure that you are joined by God. You might say that all are joined by God because they are married in some church building. It does not necessarily mean they are joined by God. Only those who have sought to know God’s will for their marriage and then are sure of doing God’s will are joined by God. For the Word of God say, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).
We consider the highest privilege of believers to be the ability to know and do God’s will. I do not know any other joy comparable to this joy. In many marriages couples are joined together by their personal feelings, for the sake of money or gold, and some because of their liking for outward appearances or other qualifications like belonging to the same caste. Some are joined by brokers. In all these cases the motives are wrong and unworthy. God’s Word says that those who are joined by God should not be separated by man. Believers have the right and privilege to seek the face of God and find Gods will before they agree for marriage. It may take one year, two years or even more. It is up to God to decide the time and the partner. We cannot dictate to God. As far as possible it is better to wait for Scripture guidance. “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17) and “…prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2).
Those who are born again are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will enable them to say, “Not my will but Thy will. I will gladly accept Thy will Lord, kindly speak to me”.
“…let every man take heed how he buildeth” (1 Cor. 3:10).
On the 31st of May, 1935 there was an earthquake in the city of Quetta. I remember in 1933 an expert engineer came to Quetta. He warned the Government that there would be an earthquake in the city area in about a year, and he advised them to make some provision for it at once and also construct earthquake-proof houses. The Government did not take it seriously. Only the Railway officials agreed to the proposal and they had six earthquake-proof houses. Suddenly the earthquake came, and in 18 seconds 58,000 people were killed and except for these six specially prepared houses every other house, whether of stone or brick or mud, became rubble. It is high time for us, who are God’s servants to learn our lessons also.
There will be many severe attacks by Satan upon God’s people. He will come as a roaring lion, or a ravening wolf, or like a flood, or even like an angel of light. God’s servants are responsible for the flock and have to make every provision for their spiritual protection. This can be done only if we build according to the heavenly pattern. Some people think they can serve in their own way. They say, “God is blessing us anyhow!” Please do not be satisfied with a temporary blessing. God is gracious. That is why He blesses our work in a way in spite of the fact that our obedience is only partial. We need to recognize that; nevertheless God always keeps to His original plan. Paul the apostle says in 1 Cor. 3:6, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase”. He admits that he had need of co-workers, and that although he was an apostle he was not sufficient by himself. God uses some servants to plant. Others are needed to come and water. Thus all have to labour in oneness and unity. If you have been called only to sow the seed, and have no other calling or burden, then you should pray that God may send an “Apollos” to come and water that seed. Paul could remain in a place long enough only to do the planting. Before he left that place, he would tell those who came after him, that it was God’s work. Therefore, “Let a man take heed how he buildeth thereon”.
“…there was a famine in the land … of Bethlehem – Judah” (Ruth 1:1).
Those were days of spiritual darkness in the land of Israel. If you compare the opening words of Ruth chapter 1 with the closing words in the Book of Judges, you can understand something of the conditions prevailing in the land at that time. “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes”. When there was famine in the land Naomi and her family thought that by running away from these troubles and going to the land of Moab, all their problems would be over; they had no thought of seeking the will of God. They were being governed only by “that which was right in their own eyes”. Even today, for the sake of money and worldly prosperity, many believers neglect the fellowship of God’s children. For a time, everything went well with Naomi and her family. They had more food than they had in Bethlehem. But soon death came into the family; and the two sons went and married women of Moab.
One can easily see that the cause of all the failures in Naomi’s family was that they had despised the fellowship of God’s people, and had gone away from them. First Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, died. Naomi thus became a widow, and she had no control over her sons. There was no one to guide the two young men in the proper path, and they married women of Moab. We are more exposed to temptations when we are alone, than when we are in the company of other children of God. When we are with other believers, we are strengthened by their prayer and fellowship, and thus better equipped to face the devices of the enemy. So never neglect the fellowship of God’s people. Disobedience to the Word of God and to divine principles invariably brings us into loss and this, in turn, leads to sorrow.
It was only then that Naomi began to think of Bethlehem-Judah. It drawned on her that she would be better off in Bethlehem and that she had done wrong in coming away from the land of God’s promise. Whatever be the failures in our lives, when we truly repent of them, and are willing to put things right, we find God working on our behalf turning our failures into triumphs. Unknown to Naomi, God was working behind the scenes. Her Moabitish daughter-in-law Ruth became the channel through whom His Son may be brought into the world, thereby revealing the riches of His mercy. But before He could do any of these things, Naomi should return to the land of God’s promise. The moment she decided to return, God began to work. In the same way, whatever be the failures in our lives, when we decide to return to God. He will change our sorrow into joy, and reveal the riches of His grace through us.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain …” (1 Cor. 15:10).
Through the mitre which the high priest wore we have a message of grace. “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all : yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). We may wonder why human beings like so frail, so weak and so foolish, should be filled with His fullness. Why does God want to fill us with His fullness? The answer is not because of what we are, nor because of our cleverness or our gifts or our talents, but because of His grace. Perhaps you may think, a man like Paul can attain to that standard of fullness, but I cannot, because I am so weak. But Paul himself declares that he is what he is only by the grace of God. It has to be the same with you and with me. Do not think that you can receive God’s fullness because of your Bible knowledge, or intelligence or other qualifications. It must be only by God’s grace. Therefore we should never take pride in our family or in our education or in any thing else. The Lord shows us that if we want to be a partaker of His glory and beauty, we must learn how to claim His grace for every thing. We are saved by His grace alone and after that, day by day, we have to claim the same grace for every need.
Sometimes, through very painful experiences the Lord teaches us that His grace is sufficient in every situation (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul, the apostle, had gone through many hardships without a murmur or complaint (2 Cor. 11:23). We read that God permitted him to suffer from a painful “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7-9a). We do not know what this thorn was. Evidently it was something exceeding painful, because Paul says, “I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” This proves that the thorn must have been an extraordinarily painful one. At such a time, God’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” God allowed the thorn to remain with Paul for a definite purpose. First of all, it was meant to keep him humble, lest Paul should be exalted above measure through the divine revelations given to him. Secondly, it was meant to teach him a little more of God’s grace. This cannot be understood easily. Even though Paul had received many revelations and wonderful experiences, he still had to suffer this very painful thorn in the flesh in order to learn more of the grace of God. Thus we see that God permits all kinds of painful experiences in the lives of His children in order to teach them more of His grace.
“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
When we come to the Lord Jesus Christ, we all have some fault or failure or weakness in us. Nobody is free from them. We inherit these weaknesses from our fathers and they from their fathers and so on. We are born in sin (Psa. 51:5). If the father has a bad temper, invariably the children will have it. If the father is greedy for money, the children too are of the same type. If the father has a haughty, proud spirit, the children will have the same. Thus we inherit the weaknesses of our parents. We cannot overcome our weaknesses by reformation or tears or other things. But the Lord Jesus Christ can transform us as we humble ourselves and confess our failures and weaknesses day by day.
The Lord Jesus Christ is our High Priest and He bears our weaknesses on His shoulder. We are privileged to go on Him with all our weaknesses, shortcomings and failures. So by faith we say to Him. “My Lord, I confess my shortcomings, failures and faults. Have mercy upon me. Give me victory over all these.” As our High Priest He bears our burdens also (1 Pet. 5:7). Believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has a very strong shoulder to carry you through any kind of weakness, shortcoming or failure. He is our strength in our weaknesses and failures. He is our Advocate (1 John 2:1). By His advocacy all our shortcomings are transformed into divine virtues (Heb. 7:25). These virtues of the Lord Jesus Christ are symbolized by the five materials of the ephod : gold, blue, purple, scarlet and fine linen. Through these garments, God shows us how the virtues of Christ should be woven into our lives. Five is the number of grace. Divine virtues are given to us as we willingly obey Him. Here the gold speaks of the divine nature by which we are enabled to know heavenly things, and which is manifested by Christ-like virtues. These virtues become apparent when we, with strong faith endure patiently trials and temptations (1 Pet. 1:7). The blue speaks of divine wisdom, purple speaks of the Lord’s authority, scarlet speaks of His precious blood and fine twined linen speaks of the pure life of our Lord.
“… that ye may know … what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead …” (Eph. 1:18-20).
God wants us to be filled completely with His power. It is by that power we conquer our temptations, trials and difficulties and by the same power one day we shall have immortal bodies (Rom. 8:11). It is the power of resurrection, that power which God manifested in raising up the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Upon the earth, we are being quickened daily with the same power to overcome our temptations and burdens. By the same power we shall be given immortal bodies in heaven and by that same power we shall enjoy eventually our share in God’s fulness. It is only by the power of resurrection that our inner man can be strengthened, and that we can be deeply rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:16, 17). We see tall trees on mountains. Let there be any big storm, the trees do not fall down, because their roots go very deep over large areas. That is why no storm can uproot them, rather they go on growing taller and taller and the roots go deeper. In the same way by the power of resurrection, in the inner man, we are rooted deeply in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let there be any trial, persecution or hardship, it will not shake us. We will rejoice in our trials and at the same we will become stronger spiritually. As we grow spiritually, we know that eventually we shall be filled with God’s fullness. Thus we will find in a practical way the love of God filling us more and more. We become loving, tender, patient and gentle as a result. We can love our enemies. we can love the unlovely and pray for those that hate us and curse us. That is the evidence of the fact that we are being deeply grounded in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our hope is that one day, we will be filled by His fullness. God help us to learn that secret more and more.