Reading: Ephesians 1:5-12
God's glory ultimately displayed and manifested in sons - that is what is before us - God's heritage of glory in sons. God has a great heritage; that heritage He has vested in a people; that people, by His foreordaining, stand related to Him as sons in His Son Jesus Christ. From that comprehensive horizon of God's intention, we seek to see something of the meaning of how God reaches that end and what, therefore, sonship means.
In the previous chapter we were occupied with David. In this connection David's name means "beloved, chosen, anointed, attested by God", pointing on to a greater than David, God's own beloved Son.
David's Life and History Realised in His Son Solomon
Now we shall continue in that connection, and I have only to remind you that the whole life and history of David was realised in his son Solomon. There came a point at which this whole matter of sonship arose in a very definite and precise way with David in relation to Solomon, and David's whole life passed over to Solomon and had its fulfilment in Solomon. Solomon is the proverbial figure in the whole Bible for glory. He is the synonym of glory, magnificence, wealth, majesty, fulness, everything that speaks of what is consummate. But Solomon does not stand by himself. Solomon, after all, is only the fulfilment of David's whole life.
Solomon's heritage was the heritage of his father David. The Lord Jesus, when He was here on earth speaking of Solomon's greatness, Solomon's glory, Solomon's wisdom, said, "A greater than Solomon is here" (Matt. 12:42). So Solomon represents three things: sonship, glory, and Christ. In those two things he foreshadows Christ, but is only a shadow. A shadow passes, Christ remains. A shadow reflects, Christ is that which is reflected. A shadow is something quite intangible. Christ is very tangible. But David has a lot to say to us yet on this matter of sonship and glory and what sonship means. We now take another fragment this evening, because David was the embodiment of a very great deal himself.
David Halfway Between Abraham and Christ
"The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham... So all the generations from Abraham unto David are fourteen generations; and from David unto the carrying away to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the carrying away to Babylon unto the Christ fourteen generations" (Matt. 1:1-17). So David stands halfway between Abraham and Christ and is a terminal point in that long history; that is, he takes up into himself everything from Abraham and passes it all on to Christ. It is a tremendous sweep. And genealogies end with Christ. There is no one after him. He is the sum of all, the end of all. All that history comes to its climax and its consummation in Christ. But, as we said, David stands halfway, and David looks back, gathers up all the life and the history of the chosen people and becomes the embodiment of all that history, and then hands it on to another in terms of sonship. That Other, the greater Son of David, Jesus Christ, takes up all that David had taken up and includes it and transcends it.
Principles of Sonship in David
What is that "all"? That "all" which finds its terminal point, its climax in David is the principles of sonship. If the climax is David in Solomon, that is the climax in sonship, for that is the great thing that comes in with Solomon. I do not want to anticipate what will be said more fully later, but those of you who know your Bibles know that the one word which seems to cover Solomon altogether where David is concerned is this word 'son'. "Thy son which shall come after thee", and so on. And you know very well too from the New Testament that Solomon was a figure of Christ. The very language which seemed to be addressed to David about Solomon is taken up in the New Testament in the book of the Acts and applied to Christ, seeming to say, 'Yes, that was all right for Solomon, in a way, but it really did not apply to him wholly and fully. It applied to another, a transcendent Solomon, the Son of all sons, above all sons.' You know that quite well, that is simple Bible knowledge.
But if David's climax is in sonship and therefore in glory, and in glory and therefore in sonship, we want to see what sonship means as a cumulative thing, because it is the heritage of the past. What has been going on since Abraham, under the hand of God, has been the working out of the principles and the development of sonship. Solomon does not just come in and begin and end the thing. Solomon comes in as the crown of a whole course, and we want to see that course, and we can do that very quickly and quite briefly.
Abraham - Election
Back to Abraham. What does Abraham signify in this connection? Well, things begin with Abraham in a new way. God made a new beginning where Abraham was concerned, in relation to this elect race, this chosen people, the seed of Abraham, and Abraham comes to us as setting forth this election, this Divine choosing and calling and establishing upon covenant. Abraham was away out there beyond, and God, so to speak, went out there beyond, chose him and called him and made a covenant with him. He is called Abraham the Hebrew. The 'Hebrew' means 'the man from beyond'. So that God went out beyond to find, to choose, to call, and to bring on to covenant ground, and in Abraham his seed became the covenant people, the covenant nation. And sonship, as we were pointing out earlier, rests upon that: chosen, called and covenanted in Christ. "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4), says the apostle. We were called according to His purpose, and we are established upon a covenant made in His precious blood. That is where sonship begins. It is a fairly firm foundation. It goes right out beyond to the beyond to find us, to bring us in, to call us by His grace, and to establish us in the incorruptible blood of the everlasting covenant. Sonship is founded in something very substantial and strong. That is where it begins.
Isaac - Death and Resurrection
The next figure is Isaac. The ground has been established, the ground of sonship, and then Isaac comes along, and we all know what Isaac represents - death and resurrection, that is, the bringing to an end of a natural life or a natural relationship in order to establish the relationship upon heavenly Divine ground to make it something permanent. Through death and resurrection the principle of heavenly permanence is secured. And if it is difficult for you to understand that way of putting it, let me try to simplify that by saying that this great purpose of God in His heritage in sons demands that you and I shall be entirely cut off from our natural and earthly connection and attached to heaven. That is the principle of the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus representatively. That is the meaning of our being crucified with Christ, buried with Him and raised together with Him - to be taken off of one ground and to be placed upon another - for that old ground can never be the ground of God's glory. God never gets any glory out of our old natural life, He gets nothing at all of a heritage in that realm, and He has closed it down. His heritage of glory is on other ground. We are so familiar with that; that is Isaac.
Jacob - Discipline Unto Sonship
Jacob follows. Get the man established on covenant ground, and then the man established on heavenly ground of incorruptible, indestructible life figuratively, and you have got that, yet you have not got to the end of all that sonship means. You really have only come to the beginning of the practical application. Jacob, the next link in the chain, sets forth the discipline unto sonship. In a peculiar way Jacob represents sonship because it is the twelve sons of Jacob who are the nucleus of Israel. Sonship is very much in view where Jacob is concerned. I speak of Jacob as a type, a figure. But what discipline unto sonship! What a hard school Jacob had to go into, and sonship does mean that. Perhaps you have no need to be told that. God has got hold of you, called you by His grace, called you with a heavenly calling, brought you into that living relationship with His heavenly Son, the ground of His risen life, and that is not the end. It is then that things begin to happen, we go into the hard school. God is dealing with us as with sons, and we are very ready to admit when we get into that school that there is a lot of Jacob that needs dealing with. Indeed, I do not think we really know how much Jacob there is in us until we get into the Lord's hands. There is a need for this discipline unto sonship.
Joseph - Suffering Unto Sonship
The next is Joseph. Joseph brings us into the presence of sonship through suffering, suffering unto glory. The difference between Jacob's discipline and Joseph's suffering is this, that Jacob's discipline, which was, of course, a good deal of suffering to him, was due to what was in him. Joseph's suffering was at the hands of his brethren, what came upon him from them because of the hatred of the enemy, because of envy.
Principles of Sonship Taken Up in Israel
Well, here you have these aspects of sonship. They are very clear. Now they are all taken up collectively in the nation Israel. Every one of those things is taken into the nation - covenant, election, calling. That passes into the nation collectively. The death and the resurrection becomes a very real thing, symbolically or typically, in the life of Israel. Yes, Jacob's sons went down into Egypt, and if that was not a living grave, what was? They had to be brought out as by a mighty act of resurrection, brought out of their grave. That is Isaac in the nation. Jacob - well, did they know nothing about discipline because of themselves, their own natural lives? Forty years they were disciplined, and at the end of forty years the verdict was: there is no glory in Jacob; all the glory will be in Israel, but that is a different kind. There is no glory in Jacob. You had better bury that. That was buried. But the discipline which brought an end to the Jacob brought a beginning to Israel, the son; Israel, prince with God. Joseph gathered into the nation, yes, Israel also knew quite a bit about the sufferings of Joseph in the midst of the nations, at the hands of the nations. Israel's history has been suffering at the hands of others, but brought eventually, ultimately, to glory. All these things which are principles and aspects of sonship were gathered from the several individuals into the one collective nation, and David inherits them all. He becomes the embodiment of all the past history and life of the chosen people of God, but it was not just that it came to him in an hereditary way.
Principles of Sonship in David
The next thing you notice is that David himself has to go through every one of those experiences, so that it is not just a traditional and historical heritage or inheritance; it becomes a very practical and personal one. It is tremendously impressive to see how much of David's own experience was the experience of the nation of which he was the crown. Some of his psalms take us right back over the history of the nation and they find expression through his own soul as though he himself was going through that, or had gone through that and knew all about it. The great thing about the Psalms of David (and we are going to be very much occupied with them before we are through this series) is that every one of them is an experience. He was not just a poet writing beautiful poems, he was a man writing or singing his experience. You can hear the echo of his own nation, of his own people and their history in so much that David writes and sings. Yes, he was the experimental or experiential embodiment of the history of the whole nation of which he was the sum.
But that was not all. We are not just talking about history in the Bible back there long ago. This comes right up to date, right up to ourselves, and we have in all that enunciated a law and that great law is this: the chosen vessel has to have in its own being all that for which it is chosen. God has no interest in theories. God has no interest in anything that is abstract. God makes things very definitely personal, a part of the very being of those who are called according thereto.
David - a Beginning
We have said that David is halfway between Abraham and Christ, a terminal point, not just an end, but also a beginning. He gathers into himself a lot that is yet future. You are familiar, I am sure, with all those expressions in the Psalms of David which have a Messianic nature and character, what we call the Messianic Psalms, the psalms which point to and speak of the Messiah, the coming Christ. There is a lot in David's Psalms which speaks of Christ, and yet, as you read the Psalms, it is so interwoven with David's life that you feel he must be speaking about himself, he must be going through an experience that makes it possible for him to say that, and he did not know at the time all that he meant, all that he was saying.
He went through an experience and gave expression to it, and centuries after, the very words that he used were applied to Christ. Oh, you know some of them! Psalm 22 opens with "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and the following words show that David was passing through some experience like that. "I go mourning all the day long" (Ps. 38:6), and you know how those words were taken up by our Lord on the cross. "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46). David went through something, because in sonship and glory this was the way of the great Son. "The fellowship of His sufferings" (Phil. 3:10). To use another phrase - "Cast off among the dead". Did not our Lord enter into something like that, as though He were cast off by God? What about Judas and his treachery? "For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it." "Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, who did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me" (Ps. 55:12; 41:9). You can look through that window into that upper room, and see Judas, the familiar friend, sitting at the table of the Lord in treachery planning His betrayal. And so we could go on, but we should arrive at the last, for it was David who said, "Into Thy hand I commend my spirit" (Ps. 31:5), the last words of our Lord. Was he not in fellowship with Christ in his life, in his experience? Was he not learning in the depths of his soul the meaning of sonship? Did not all this issue in Solomon, the glorious kingdom, the glorious king? I am sure you see the point.
But it did not stay there. In the New Testament you have on several occasions a quotation from David beyond the Cross. I will not turn to those passages in the book of the Acts which refer to this, but I just remind you of one. "The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner" (Luke 20:17, Ps. 118:22). "This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Mark 12:11). The temple rises, the heavenly spiritual house. Peter quoted that in connection with the house of living stones. Yes, that is quoted a few times beyond the Cross. He is the "chief corner stone" says Paul (Eph. 2:20). "The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes." How does that begin? "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." Of course, traditionally Christianity attaches that to Sunday - nothing of the kind - "This is the day!" Christ has triumphed through His cross, in His resurrection, and is in the throne of His Father - "This is the day which the Lord hath made." "The stone which the builders rejected was made the head of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes." David went through something like that.
Was he not, in so far as Israel was concerned, in his time the chief corner-stone? Was he not rejected? Was he not pursued out of his very country? Was he not despised, set at nought? God brought him to be the head of the corner for his time, for his generation, and in a limited form he passed through the experience which Christ passed through in an unlimited form. He came to the same glorious issue, and that is all contained in this so familiar phrase - "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever" (Eph. 3:20-21). That is the heritage of David taken up in Christ and transcended just as far as the heaven is above the earth, just as far as the eternal is beyond the temporal, just as far as the spiritual is more than the natural. Christ has transcended David, the Beloved of all the Beloveds.
"Accepted in the Beloved"
Then we are "accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:6. A.V.), we are made a heritage, "according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Eph. 1:5-6). It is all such a wonderful network. No one but the infinite God could have written the Bible. It all works in so marvellously. Called, foreordained unto the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ unto Himself to the end that we should be to the praise of His glory, and that end sees all this that is related to sonship carried out and fulfilled. You and I are in the school of sonship now, in the fellowship of His sufferings, tasting of His cup, knowing the way that He went in ourselves.
The Explanation of God's Dealings With Us
If I should re-emphasize anything at all as I close, it would be this: the Lord is not just wanting to have saved people. He wants to have saved people, but He does not just want to have a lot of busy, saved people doing a lot of things for Him, and perhaps doing His work. Above all, over all and through all, working or not being able to work for the Lord, in all and through all He is developing this body of sons for the display of His eternal glory, and that is the explanation of His dealings with us.
You have a thousand "whys" as to the way of the Lord with you, as to the dealings of the Lord with you, as to the bitterness out of which you might even cry "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me", out of that darkness from which you groan "cast off among the dead". If there is anything like that, it is the way of sonship to the glory, to God's heritage. Do believe it. If you could lay hold of that, you would get through more easily, you will have something upon which to get through. Do not think that it is all judgement. Do not think that all discipline is condemnation and that God is against you. That is always the twist that the enemy gives to the hard experiences under the hand of God, for he is the evil maligner of God.
Whether your sufferings are the result of your faults and your failures and therefore are used by God for your discipline, instruction, training and warning, God is the God of purpose and the God of glory. And out of even your blunders and your mistakes, yes, and your sins, if your heart is towards Him, glory can and will come. Do not let your failures, your sinning, your imperfections, become death to you. They need not be. Bring them to the hands of the God of glory, for that is the story of David from another angle. I thank God that David's sins and failures are all written in large letters; they have not been covered up. Oh, problem as it may be, there it is, he comes to glory. We may fail, we may sin, default, go wrong, but given that our hearts are where David's heart was, to the Lord, the Lord can take hold of the shame, the tragedy, the ignominy, and turn it to glory. He can, He has done it, and He will, and when that day comes, the day of manifestation of His glory, it will be not in lovely things which never had anything bad or wrong about them, but vessels of mercy, and the chief element in the glory will be grace.