The Eternal Reward of Labor (continued)
Joint-heirs With Christ Through Suffering (continued)
The Lord bring us to understand that the meaning of the conflict and of the suffering, from His standpoint, is not only - and I say this quite reverently - not only in order to get something for Him. It is because He wants us in an inward relatedness to it, as a very part of ourselves. I believe that is the very essence of this joint-heirship with Jesus Christ. What does it mean to inherit if we suffer? Surely it means - 'This is what you have earned through the grace of God. Here it is: you have paid for this in fellowship with Christ.' I do not understand all this in the New Testament about 'suffering together with Him,' "filling up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ for His Body's sake, which is the Church' - I do not understand unless it is this, that the Lord wants us not just as bits of a machine to work out some piece of work for Him. He wants a real heart-relatedness; so that, as we suffer with Him - and we are suffering with Him, there is no doubt about that - as we suffer with Him, we shall be gratified with Him. Glorified - yes, but gratified; the deep sense of gratification that we had a share in this. The Lord give us a right attitude toward all the cost.
Recovery of the Glory
1 Samuel 4:21-22; 1 Kings 8:10, 11
Ichabod! This dying widow spoke a good deal of truth when she lamented the glory that had gone, but she did not speak all the truth, for she could not foresee what would follow. The Ark of the Covenant was more than a material emblem: the Lord's Name and honor were associated with it. Israel had suffered a great loss, but the Lord was still well able to look after His own interests and act in jealousy for His own Name. The subsequent chapter relates His immediate reaction with regard to that Testimony and that Name.
Jealousy and Mercy
If the Ark was taken into the house of Dagon, then so much the worse for Dagon. When God's people tried to make selfish use of the Ark, bringing it out to back them up in their conflict though their hearts were estranged from the God whose covenant it represented, they found that the Ark seemed powerless. It was as if God had no interest in it - did not care what happened to it. But when the Philistines presumed to take liberties with that same Ark, they found, to their cost, that it mattered very much to the Lord. Dagon, their god, was first humbled, then smashed to pieces, as the Ark was placed in his temple. And the Philistines concerned had no doubt about the supernatural power involved, for it left a lasting impression of awe upon them all. Jehovah is a jealous God, and He showed His ability to crush this would-be rival, Dagon.
If the men of Ashdod thought that they could trifle with Divine things, they, too, had to learn a painful lesson. "But the hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod ..." (1 Samuel 5:6), so that they soon took steps to get rid of this troublesome Ark. To Israel it seemed powerless, but to those in Ashdod who trifled with God's glory the power of Divine judgments was overwhelming. It may be, then, that some godly Israelites who heard of these events would take heart, in the realization that God was still God, jealous in holiness for His great Name; so that, mingled with their regret at their own sin and failure, there would come the assurance that He would still take care of His interests. His power was the same, even if His people had failed Him. 'He cannot fail, for He is God!'
(continued with # 44)