Someone is Speaking
In the God-head there are three Persons but only, as Augustine puts it, una mens, or the one mind. Therefore there is in the Godhead but one love. Although, however, God’s love for his people is one and personal, the Scriptures speak of its several activities and manifestations as these are ascribed to each Person.
We speak for example, of the electing love of the Father, the redeeming love of the Son, and the sanctifying love of the Spirit. These, however, are but living streams flowing from the one great deep. The pearl of God’s love - to change the figure - is something which we may admire in the light of revelation in its infinite beauty and variety. But as the Persons in the Godhead are equal this love in its depth and duration has the same changeless quality also.
The Bible, however, speaks of the love of Christ - the second Person in the Godhead - for his people as having a peculiar wonder all its own. We say this although we really cannot tell which is the greater wonder - God giving us His Son or the Son giving us Himself. All we can say is that in the death of Christ for sinful men God’s love is seen at its deepest and highest point.
When the Scriptures say that Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her we see His love touching a height beyond which it can never go. At that point its mystery deepens beyond all knowledge. It is, indeed, ‘the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.’
Following this thought let us look for a moment into the eternal world through one of those brightly lit windows which God has opened for us in His Own Word. As we look we may also listen, for Someone is speaking. ‘The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was…Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him: rejoicing in the habitable part of the earth: and my delights were with the Sons of men.’ The Person who is speaking is called the ‘Wisdom of God,’ or Jesus Christ; and He tells us that from all eternity His place of repose and rejoicing was in the bosom of the Father.
People who are perfectly happy at home have no desire to dwell elsewhere. And it may be said of Christ that He was infinitely happy in His heavenly home where He not only enjoyed the love of the other Persons, but also the love and adoration of the angelic hosts who surrounded His throne.
Yet in the words quoted He speaks of his joy at the prospect of entering our fallen world - the world which was to be the scene of His humiliation, sorrow and death. He longed, in other words, for the day when He should inhabit our world and dwell among us.
He was happy in Heaven; and yet those compassionate and love-filled eyes were ever looking beyond the confines of the heavenly world toward our mist-covered and fallen world where His loved ones were held in the unyielding grasp of sin and death.
The story of Jacob’s love for Rachel is one of the great idylls of literature. The cruel conditions laid down by her father before she could become Jacob’s wife involved a long duration of time and hard pitiless service. And, as time went on, his fond love-dream became shrouded in the dark folds of pain and deception.
At the outset he knew but little of those privations and sufferings which lay across the hidden path of the future and which he had to endure before Rachel became his. At Bethel God had blessed him. There He had also promised him His guidance and His presence all his days.
But a loving God left a mantle of concealment over his twenty years of tribulation in Padan-aram where ‘in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.’
God indeed is kind in hiding from us the trials which belong to the future. If the scroll of our personal providence were unrolled, even for a moment, before our eyes we could not endure the sight! In this concealment we see God’s care for us and His infinite sympathy with our finite and enfeebled nature.
One of my boyhood memories is that of listening to a man over whose hearth Death had cast its shadow several times. In a broken voice he told his friend that if he had known beforehand how Death was to empty his home of his loved ones it would have been too great a sorrow to bear. God did not disclose to him beforehand the desolation and loneliness of his latter days. Instead, He was present Himself in each bereavement with the needed strength to enable him to bear it.
With Christ, however, there could be no concealment of all that He must suffer before He could have his loved ones with Him in the heavenly home. He is God, and as such all things are ‘naked and opened’ before His eyes. He, Who is the Alpha and the Omega of all knowledge and of all events, is the omniscient God. From the pinnacle of eternity He could see beforehand all the humiliations, the agonies and the death which He must suffer before His loved ones could be redeemed.
He could see the manger where they laid Him, and the well at which He sat wearied with His journey through our world. He could see Gethsemane and Pilate’s hall. He could see the awful cross shrouded in darkness and utter dereliction. He could anticipate that dread hour when, forsaken of God, He cried, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’
He could see His own rejection and crucifixion by a nation whom He would have gathered under His wings. He could see the grave where He must lie for a season in the stillness of death. All this, and much much more, stood out before His all-seeing eyes.
Besides, it was all written of Him ‘in the volume of the book’ - a book which He knew from cover to cover. And yet, as we said, those eyes, warm with undying love, were ever looking beyond those dread depths into which He must descend to the day when He would present His people to Himself in the world of Glory. ‘Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame:’ He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied:’ ‘Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her that He might present her to Himself a glorious Church:’ ‘For as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.’
We have noticed already in our story that when Abraham would secure a bride for his son he made use of a servant. And Isaac himself expressed no desire to go into the far country to seek and win the one whom God had chosen for him. It may be that the ancient code of marriage etiquette demanded this, initial aloofness. Or could it be that Abraham was, as a fond father, extremely solicitous of his son’s welfare and safety?
The long journey was fraught with peril and the distant desert was the haunt of ferocious beasts. Besides, evil men might lay hands on him. His only true son, the very apple of his eye, must not on any account be exposed to such dangers. The thought of his son going into that far country would have filled him with fear.
Now God in his Word describes our world as a far country.
Because of sin it is alienated from God and inconceivably distant from Him. It is sin alone that has created the awesome chasm between us and God. For all we know the rest of the creation is untouched by evil and may therefore be very near to God. Physical distance means nothing to Him. The real and infinite distance between Him and us is moral and spiritual.
Our world is fallen; therefore it is a place of peril. Here ‘wild beasts’ in the shape of men and devils constantly prowl and destroy. God saw that, if He sent His Son into our world to redeem it, He would fare ill at our hands. Many would seek to tear Him in pieces. Indeed, the very people whom He loved and whom He came to save would in their ignorance show themselves to be His enemies also. He was to he wounded and slain in the house of His friends! But God sent Him: ‘God spared not His Own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.’
And the Son wanted to come.
And as our Lord, so to speak, steps out of the eternal world into ours, He is faced with the deepest crisis through which He and our world ever passed. It was a crisis which His death alone could meet: ‘Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.’
Had He not come and had He not died we and all men would have sunk into the despair and darkness of a lost eternity. The chasm between us and God would have remained unbridged for ever. There would have been no marriage, and we would have remained eternally divorced from God.