by T. Austin-Sparks
In our last consideration we saw the world into which Jesus came, and the kind of mind there was in Israel and in the pagan world about God. When Jesus came, using the word 'Father' about God, it was quite a revolution both in Israel and in the pagan world. Jesus was always talking about God as Father, and this was an altogether new idea.
He made it clear that God was not a God of terror to be feared, but a God of love to be loved. "We love Him, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19 A.V.). 'Father' is a name of love: "God so loved the world" (John 3:16). He loved the world with the love of a father. God was not far off - He had come very near in the Person of Jesus. God was not unknowable - He had made Himself known in the Person of Jesus. And while God was still a very holy God, Jesus came to give man a righteousness which made it possible for him to abide in the presence of God. What a tremendous change came in the situation with Jesus! We look at the Lord Jesus and we do not see One from whom we must run away in fear, He drew people to Himself - they wanted to come near to Him. He was not One who was shut up away from them. He came near and was always trying to make Himself known by them. And He said: "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9): 'I am really what God is like'.
We said that the Old Testament is divided into three main sections. The first is what we call the Patriarchs; the second is that of the Monarchy; and the third is that of the Prophets. And we have pointed out that the first section is concerned with the revelation of God's mind, in that He wants a family. It was that which came into view when He said to the first man and wife: "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). That could have been put in other words: 'I want a family for Myself. I want this earth to be filled with a family like Myself'. So He made man after His own image and in His own likeness, and said, 'I want a family like that'.
Well, we know what happened. He lost that family, and then He came down and took hold of one man. That man was Abraham, and he became known as the father of a new kind of being, or person, that is: "The father of all them that believe" (Romans 4:11). If you look into the Letter to the Romans you will see how often Abraham is called 'Father'. He was God's new beginning for a family, and all through the Patriarchs God is making this family. There were the twelve sons of Israel, and through those twelve sons God was building up His family. We pointed out that the very word 'Patriarch' means 'Father of a family'. So God wrote His thought deeply in the first section of the Bible, and all that section is occupied with this matter of revealing God's desire to have a certain kind of family.
Now we are going to follow on into the second phase of the Old Testament. We have said that this section is occupied with the Monarchy, but what does that mean when you come to look into it? It does not just become a matter of so many individual kings. If you look into it very closely you will see that the thought of God is to have a ruling family.
Israel was intended to be God's ruling family on this earth. There was a historic sense in which God was Israel's Father, not in the same sense in which He is our Father, but historically God was thought of as Israel's Father. In the Book of Deuteronomy Moses says about God: "Is not He thy father that hath bought thee?" (Deut. 32:6). Isaiah, the prophet, speaking for Israel, says: "Thou art our father, though Abraham knowest us not" (Isaiah 63:16). In the next chapter he says: "Thou art our father; we are the clay, and Thou our potter" (Isa. 64:8). So, you see, there was a historic sense in which God was the Father of that nation. And everybody who knows the Old Testament knows quite well that God intended that nation to be the ruling nation: "The Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath" (Deut. 28:13). How true it was! When Israel was walking with God in truth, there was not a nation on this earth that could contend with them. See how all the nations in the land were subdued under their feet! And when the Monarchy reached its highest point in David, every nation was subdued under him. Israel was intended to be the ruling family amongst the nations.
But note this family principle. When the Monarchy reached its highest point in David, it was the principle of sonship which was uppermost.
Here is a strange thing. in the second book of Samuel it says: "When thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee... I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father and he shall be My son" (2 Sam. 7:12-14). That looks as though it applied to Solomon: "When thou, David, shall sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee ... I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father and he shall be My son". Well, what about these words in the first chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews? These very words are taken out of the Old Testament and applied to the Lord Jesus: "For unto which of the angels said He at any time: Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten thee; and again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to Me a Son?" (Heb. 1:5). And "Of the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; and the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom" (Heb. 1:8).
So, when the Spirit of God said those words to David many hundreds of years earlier, He had Jesus in mind, and David's really great Son is Jesus. 'I will be to Him a Father and He shall be to Me a Son, and I will establish His Kingdom for ever'. So the ruling family was God's idea.
Now you will have to be very patient while I work through all this, because you know that we always work toward something. We have something very good coming out soon. It was a very good thing that came out of this morning - the wonderful revelation of God as Father. Now we proceed from that to see the wonderful revelation that the Lord's people are to be a reigning people.
But let us look back again into the Old Testament for our illustration. I think the story of Joseph is the best illustration of this thing. Here is this son of Jacob, and you know how he was sold by his brethren and then was sold again in Egypt. Then for a certain reason he was put in prison and had to sit in that dark, miserable place for thirteen years. But at the end of that time he was taken up and came to be the second one to the throne. Pharaoh said: "Only in the throne will I be greater than thou" (Gen. 41:40). Here is one who went through terrible, dark sufferings, but out of them he was raised to the throne. Why was he raised to the throne? There is no doubt about it - because God was in this business. It was God who raised Joseph to the throne. Why did He do it? Joseph tells us: it was to save the family of God. That family was in peril of death and Joseph said: "God did send me before you to preserve life" (Gen. 45:5). And through Joseph coming to the throne that family of God came eventually to be the ruling nation.
Surely you can see the story of the Lord Jesus written in that? His own brethren after the flesh sent Him into suffering and death, but God raised Him and "made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority" (Ephesians 1:20). And the apostle who said that about the Lord Jesus immediately went on to say this: "And raised us up with Him, and made us to sit with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6). God's idea is that the family shall come where the Son is, to be the ruling family. And God wrote that truth in the whole life of the nation, and in everything to do with that nation and, as we have seen, in a special way in the story of Joseph.
Now, all that is hidden in that great section of the Old Testament concerning the Monarchy. God chose a nation as His family to govern this world, but we know the tragedy of that nation. That is not true of Israel today. It is very much the other way - they are in subjection to the nations. Why is that? Because they rejected the Son. Their destiny was bound up with the Son of God. They said: "We will not that this Man reign over us" (Luke 19:14). And God said: 'Very well, then, you shall not reign at all. If you refuse My Son His place as Lord, I refuse you as the reigning family'. And so Israel was set aside as God's reigning, or ruling, family. All history proves that to be true.
But do you think that God has given up His idea? Oh, no. He sent His Son into this world, and if Israel refused Him, there are others who will accept Him, and from the time that Jesus came, there has been this family growing and growing and growing.
And we are a proof of that. We can say that we are just like one big family here. We come from about nine or ten different nationalities, and have quite a number of different languages, but we are just a family. We have just one language and we all understand it - the language of heaven, the language of the Spirit. We have all been born in the same City and our names are written in the book of the citizens of that City. We are all born in the heavenly Jerusalem and our names are written in heaven. Yes, the Lord did not give up His idea because Israel refused it - but we will have to say more about that when we come to the third section.