The New Thing Which Is Old (continued)
We make a long leap and come to Israel in Egypt. Here in this mighty reaction or intervention of God all the elements so far mentioned are gathered up. God is working back to His original purpose. The elements are clearly seen:
The Altar; the heavenly people for a House of God; a revelation; a testimony; a conflict; a country and city in view, and so on. This God secures, even if it means hurling a mighty empire to judgment.
Thus commences the long and checkered history of that which was intended to be in itself a revelation of the mind of God. But again and again they departed and deviated and the Lord had to take up things from the inside. Thus we have those movements back to God's original thought under Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:1-9), under Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:17-19), and others. But in none of these was the heart of the entire people restored. It was a partial thing. No sooner had the leader gone than the apostasy and declension set in and deepened. It was not the common inclination of the whole people to return, but the strong lead of a few which influenced them for a time - and then they declined or reverted to their worldliness and idolatry. These were beautiful breaks of sunshine in days of deepening spiritual darkness and departure. At length, even these ceased; there was hardly a residue of faithfulness found among the people, and they were all sent into captivity. Babylon is the synonym for confusion, lost distinctiveness, lost testimony, spiritual paralysis, and a false life. Yet, even here God does not abandon His intention, and in Babylon He reacts to tings in and by a small group of men: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego. They are faithful to all the elements of the Divine purpose and have their prayer-gaze upon Jerusalem.
At length the Lord breaks in and reacts again. It is by but a remnant, but this weak and chastened remnant is His instrument for reviving and perpetuating His testimony in the earth. There follow the heart-warming events as recorded in Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah. It is a great epoch, but, alas -
"The radiant morn hath passed away,
And spent too soon her golden store."
More apostasy, declension, until we get the terrible conditions recorded in Malachi, leading up to the awful announcement: "Ye are cursed with a curse." How black and dark things are! Were they ever worse? And yet - and yet - God is not defeated; for, in the midst of and over against the blackness, there is that which - because of the darkness - represents the most blessed triumph.
"Then THEY that feared the Lord spake often one with another: and the Lord hearkened (bent down), and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day wherein I do make A PECULIAR TREASURE" (Mal. 3:16-17).
Malachi closes, and for three or four hundred years there is chaos. Surely now the testimony has ceased and faithfulness has disappeared? Surely now the Lord has lost everything?
Take up the New Testament record, as Luke essays to give a certain history to his friend Theophilus. He does not travel far before he lights upon certain people of whom he says very significant things from our present point of view. He speaks of one Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth, "both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Luke 1:5-6).
Then he speaks of Mary, to whom the angel Gabriel said: "Thou that are endued with grace, the Lord is with thee" ((1:28).
A little later he refers to another thus: "And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit ..." (2:25-26).
And a little further on this: "And there was one Anna, a prophetess ... she ... spake of Him to All them that were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (2:36, 38).
Thus we see that there is still left a remnant of the faithful after hundreds of years of seeming death. God maintains a representative company.
(continued with # 4)