By Rev. John Kennedy, DD.
Preached at Dingwall. Taken from Sermons by John Kennedy, DD. For a biographical sketch of Dr Kennedy see The Prince of Preachers .
Text: Awake, O Lord, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered; and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones. Zechariah 13:7.
THERE are four remarkable verses quite near to one another in this and the preceding chapter. One of these is the first verse of this chapter, in which appears the ‘fountain opened for sin and uncleanness’. The text informs us how that fountain was opened. In the tenth verse of the preceding chapter we are informed how sinners are led to the fountain, to be washed therein even by ‘the Spirit of grace and of supplications’. And in the last verse of this chapter we are told how the Lord deals with those on whom the Spirit has been poured, till He at last brings them, spotless and blessed, out of all their tribulations.
In addressing you from this text, I will call your attention: first, to the Shepherd of ‘the Lord of hosts’ and His flock; secondly, to the description given of His person; thirdly, to the way in which ‘the Lord of hosts’ dealt with Him; and fourthly, to the results of that dealing with Him by ‘the Lord of hosts’.
First, the Shepherd of the ‘Lord of hosts’ and His flock. “My Shepherd,” saith the ‘Lord of hosts’. It is of Him of whom ‘the Lord of hosts’ also saith, “My fellow.” He is His Shepherd as Mediator; and as He stands between ‘the Lord of hosts’ and His flock, He is claimed from both sides. The Lord of hosts saith, “My Shepherd,” and David, one of His flock, saith, “My Shepherd.” Think of the divine claim and the human, in the same words, meeting on the head of the same person.
Why did ‘the Lord of hosts’ require a shepherd? Because He had a flock to tend a people whom He purposed to save. In order to fulfil His purpose with regard to them He had to provide a shepherd for them. None else was there to care for them. And even if there were, who could make a suitable provision for them? And even if there were one both able and willing to do so, who but the Lord was entitled to appoint a shepherd? But before the foundation of the world was laid, ‘the Lord of hosts’ set One apart to be the Shepherd of His flock.
“My Shepherd,” saith ‘the Lord of hosts’, for He set Him apart to that office. He it was who found a Shepherd for the flock, His was the name whose glory was to be manifested, His the justice whose demands were to be satisfied, His the law which was to be magnified, and His the flock which the Shepherd had to tend. And He engaged Him, in the name of the Godhead, as representing the sovereign authority of Jehovah. He gave Him His commission to act the Shepherd’s part, and ‘Him hath God the Father sealed’. Well entitled, therefore, is ‘the Lord of hosts’ to claim the Shepherd as His own.
“My Shepherd,” saith ‘the Lord of hosts’, for He delights to have Him. Who can conceive what it is to ‘the Lord of hosts’, as the Father, to have Him so that He can call Him, “My beloved Son.” And who can conceive what it is to Him, as the Lord of all, whose pleasure is in Messiah’s hands, to have Him so as to be entitled to call Him, “My Shepherd.” And who can tell with what delight He, in His infinite love to His chosen people, contemplates Him in His relation to them? Before His view, in this wondrous Shepherd, is all that is required in order to His name being glorified in their everlasting salvation. That consummation is always present to the mind of God as associated with Him whom He has appointed to be ‘the great Shepherd of the sheep’. In His sovereign authority He claims Him as His own, and in all the infinite intensity of His Fatherly love, in all His zeal for the glory of His name, and in all His everlasting love to His people, He rejoices to have Him so that He may claim Him as His own.
And this Shepherd has no flock except what the Father gave Him. “Thine they were,” He says to the Father, “and thou gavest them me.” He gave them, as loved ones, whom it was His purpose to save. We cannot think that it was because they were sinners He loved them, nor can we approach to think that there was any good, in His view, associated with them, which drew forth His love. He loved their persons, just because it ‘seemed good in’ His ‘sight’; and never will other reason be found for His electing love, either in time or in eternity. If a consideration of misery, causing the exercise of pity, accounts for salvation, then all must be saved; and if only by a consideration of goodness could love have been induced, then no one could be saved. It was as loved ones, who were sinners, and whom it was Jehovah’s purpose to save, that they were given by the Father, as the representative of the authority and resources of the Godhead, as a flock, to His Shepherd.
This flock was one company, as given by the Father to the Son, and shall be one company when finally presented by the Son to the Father. But, meantime, it is broken up into sections. There are two sections in heaven, two on earth, and one neither in heaven, earth, or hell. There are a few two individuals, at any rate, (and if more, how many I cannot say) who are there in glorified bodies; and besides these, there are in heaven ‘the spirits of the just made perfect’. On earth there are some who have been effectually called into a state of grace, and there are others who are as yet in a state of nature, ‘other sheep’ who are not yet ‘of this fold’. And there are many we cannot but think them to be the largest section of the flock neither born nor born again, who are neither in heaven nor on earth. And of all the flock, none ever was, and none ever shall be, in hell.
They were all given to Christ with a view to their salvation, and therefore they were all given to Him as sinners, and He knew them all as such. He knew all that He was required to do, and to endure, with a view to their redemption; what had to be done in order to their being gathered into the fold, that He might have them and know them as His sheep; and that they would have Him and know Him as their Shepherd. He knew also all that was implied in His caring for them, guiding them, feeding and healing them, and at last bringing them spotless to their place in glory; and He with infinite willingness undertook to be their Shepherd! Sing His praise, though it should be in very feeble bleating, all ye who are the sheep of His pasture!
Let us make a very extravagant supposition, for without doing so we can find no illustration that can help to indicate the greatness of Messiah’s undertaking, as the Shepherd of ‘the Lord of Hosts’. Suppose someone who wished to procure a shepherd had advertised for one, and that in reply to his advertisement a person appeared before him, accepted the wages which were offered, and was engaged. The shepherd asks to be shown the flock, and to be told what he is expected to do. It is all too late to ask this now, for he never had engaged if he had asked this before. He is shown an enclosure within which the flock is, the entrance to which is guarded by a force that will admit no one within the fence who does not pay a ransom in blood. Looking through the gate the new shepherd can see nothing but heaps of bones covering the enclosed ground, and wild beasts prowling among the heaps and feasting on the bones. “What am I to do?” he asks his master. “You must pay the ransom; you must destroy these wild beasts; you must bring these bones to life; you must bring them as living sheep out of the enclosure in which they are; you must take care of them thereafter, and see that they are fed and healed; and you must bring them to me, all whole and all without blemish, and then your wages shall be paid.” This hireling thought only of the wages when he engaged as shepherd; he forgot about the work, and seeing that the first thing must be to lay down his life, ere he could have a flock to tend, he soon fled, turning his back right speedily, both on the master and the flock. I said that I was going to make an extravagant supposition, and I have surely done in this instance according to my promise. But all the extravagance is yet too little to indicate the greatness of the Good Shepherd’s work.
All in the flock, given to His Shepherd by ‘the Lord of hosts,’ were under arrest as criminals and condemned to die, and He had to buy them by His blood. They were spiritually ‘dead in trespasses and sins’, and He had to quicken them by His spirit. They were under the cruel and destructive power of Satan with his hosts of spirits of darkness, and his vast army in the world, all bent on serving him as the murderer of souls, and He had to deliver them by His power. And they had, after being quickened and gathered, to be preserved from all destroyers, and fed, and healed, and guided, till at last they all were brought with gladness into glory. This was Christ’s undertaking; and as this was all needed by the flock, it was not too much, either for his love or for His power.
Secondly, the description given of His Person. ‘The Lord of hosts’ calls Him, “The man that is my fellow.” These are wondrous words from the mouth of the ‘Lord of hosts’. One who is a ‘man’ He calls His ‘fellow’. Surely the name of Him, whom He thus addresses, is ‘Wonderful’.
‘The man’ He is, for He has true human nature subsisting in His Person. He had a real human body, and a real human soul; He was conceived and He was born; and He had all the sinless infirmities of human nature attached to the flesh and blood of which He partook. This made Him the kinsman of all whose shepherd he engaged to be, and gave Him an opportunity of acting as their Surety. He could, as ‘the man’, take their place under the law, as a covenant, to do and to die for them. And it gave Him joy to know Himself both as the kinsman, and the Surety, of the people whom the Father gave Him. He appeared often in human nature, under the Old Testament dispensation, loving to be near His people to speak to them with human lips. He loved the brotherhood which this gave Him in relation to His beloved ones; or, as some one once said, “He loved to try on the dress beforehand in which He was to appear in the fulness of time as ‘God manifest in the flesh’.” And when the fulness of the time came, hear His glad shout, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God, a body hast Thou prepared me.” How often He called Himself ‘the Son of Man’, when He was on the earth; and how careful He was to appear in human nature, in the act of ascension to heaven, to assure His disciples that He was to have it there ‘in the midst of the throne’ for ever.
And the Father loved to look on Him as ‘the man Christ Jesus’, and saw in Him, as such, all that was required for the accomplishment of His redemptive purpose bearing on the objects of His love. He delighted in seeing His Beloved Son as the kinsman of His beloved people; and delighted in contemplating what should arise to Himself of glory, and flow out to them of grace, because of the work to be done by One who was a partaker, in its perfect purity, of the very nature through which came, in the first Adam, dishonour to his name, and ruin to the race of mankind.
And with what unspeakable delight ought we to feast our eye, and through our eye our heart, on ‘the man’ of whom the text speaks. We have to look back on Adam, who was our covenant head, and who, in transacting with God in our behalf, ruined both himself and us. How can we, out of the depths in which the Fall has plunged us, lift up our eye directly to the holy majesty of Jehovah? But O, what is it to have One to look to, who is ‘the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus’! How delightful is the veil of His flesh tempering the light of the awful glory of Jehovah. And what bliss to know, that the fulness of the Godhead, in the person of Him who is ‘the man’, becomes an infinite fountain, whence, into His work as the kinsman Surety, comes infinite merit to make it all that I, as a sinner, require in order to have peace with God, and access to His presence. The more I realise the glory of Jehovah in my Elder Brother, the more I am encouraged to approach Him, for I know that because of His infinite riches of glory, He has infinite riches of merit to meet my guilt, and infinite riches of grace to meet my poverty.
And how sweet to our hearts it should be to follow ‘the man’ through all the experience of trial, which made Him ‘a man of sorrows’, and gave Him the power of sympathy which kinship and suffering alone could have given Him. He must have been ‘in all points tempted like as we are’, ere He could be ‘touched with a feeling of our infirmities’. But O think of Him as now in the midst of the throne, with His perfect memory of all His suffering, seeing the accordance ‘in all points’ between what He endured and what is experienced of trial by His people, and associating with every exercise of His power in helping them, what makes it both the fruit of infinite divine love and an expression of perfect human sympathy.
“My fellow,” saith ‘the Lord of hosts’ regarding Him, who is His ‘shepherd’ and ‘the man’. This is one of the most striking ways in which, in all Scripture, the wonderfulness of Christ’s Person, as Emmanuel, is presented to us.
The word rendered ‘fellow’ here occurs only besides in the book of Leviticus. There it occurs repeatedly, and is always rendered ‘neighbour;’ and so thoroughly relative a term is it, that it is never found without a suffix. It is applied in Leviticus to one who was of the same blood, the same people, the same tribe, the same locality with another. There must have been kinship and nearness to constitute one the ‘fellow’ or ‘neighbour’ of another. These ideas we must transfer to the relation which this word indicates between ‘the Lord of hosts’ and His ‘Shepherd’.
He cannot be acknowledged as His ‘fellow’ by ‘the Lord of hosts’ without His being a partaker of the divine nature. He is so necessarily and eternally as a Person who is God, for there can be no divine person not equal to the other divine persons. The divine nature is one and undivided and indivisible, and subsists in its infinite fulness in each. O, what is it to have Jehovah as my Shepherd, who in respect of equality is the ‘fellow’ of Him who, as the ‘Lord of hosts’, is my Judge! Jehovah on my side, in my kinsman, who is engaged in atoning work! O, my soul, there is hope for thee after all, for it is a divine person who is the Surety of the unjust! And He is one with ‘the Lord of hosts’ as surely as He is His equal. He is in the Father and the Father in Him; and as ‘the Lord of hosts’ from heaven calls Him ‘my fellow,’ so He on the earth said, “I and the Father are one.” And He is in a most intimate relationship of love to Him who claims Him as His Shepherd; for He is His eternal only begotten Son. Who can conceive of what the intimacy and love of this relation is? And what heart can contain the delight, occasioned by knowing that One, who is a kinsman, stands in such a relation to ‘the Lord of hosts’?
And this fellowship of the Shepherd with ‘the Lord of hosts’ refers to their intimate association in the great scheme of redemption. Being one in love, both were equally interested in the fulfilment of the purpose of salvation bearing on the elect. If the Shepherd has come, it was the Father who sent Him. If the Shepherd carried on and finished the work of redemption, the Father upheld him during its process. His gathering of the flock is the Father’s drawing; and all He does in defending, guiding, and healing them is connected with the Father’s blessing them ‘with all spiritual blessings’; if He baptiseth with the Holy Ghost, it is because He hath received the promise of the Spirit from the Father; and if He is ‘all in all’ to his flock, it is because ‘in him it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell’. O, what ecstatic delight it gives to one’s heart, to connect by faith this fellowship of the Mediator with the Father, and that which is His as Jehovah the Son! In His eternal divinity as ‘the living God’, in the exercise of His intercessory power as Priest, and in the potency of His reign as ‘the Prince of Peace’, we must not think of Him as the listless channel of the Father’s grace, but as the earnest, ever loving, ever active ‘fellow’ of the Father, accomplishing the pleasure of ‘the Lord of Hosts’, in the salvation of all whom He bought by His blood.
Thirdly, the dealing of ‘the Lord of hosts’ with His Shepherd: ‘Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, . . . smite the shepherd.’
The ‘sword’ is the instrument by which the sentence, passed by divine justice, is executed. The sword may be said to be the sword of divine justice, if we mean, that it is that by which the judgment, awarded by divine justice, is executed; but we must not approach to say that divine justice is the sword. Even among men, the judge never executes the sentence which he passes. In other days some great criminal was set apart for the hangman’s work, and it was, by executing the sentence passed on others, that he escaped from enduring the sentence passed upon himself. It would be more according to truth to regard the arch-criminal, Satan, as the executioner than ‘the Lord of hosts’, for it is declared, that he has ‘the power of death’, having hosts under him to accomplish his awful work, in bringing his power to bear on those who are condemned to die. But whatever the blade and edge of the sword may be, around all its length and edge is the flame of divine wrath, which must burn into every wound which the stroke of the sword inflicts.
‘Awake’ and ‘smite’ are the words addressed to the sword by ‘the Lord of hosts’. We are not to approach to thinking that these words are a justification of what is done by those who take part in the executioner’s work. They certainly imply an approval of Jehovah’s own judicial action of this and of no more. No more, because although he ‘who hath the power of death’ is allowed to act, he has no commission from heaven for the work in which he is engaged, and is earning death, in common with all the slaves who serve under him, while inflicting the sentence of death on others.
“Awake, O sword,” saith ‘the Lord of hosts’ to the instrument of vengeance against sin, because the greatest work that ever was done, or ever could be done, in carrying out the awards of justice, has now to be done. The vengeance demanded on sin requires that the work be thoroughly done. Never was there work for the sword which ‘executes the vengeance due’ like that which lies before it. The countless sins of each one of ‘a multitude whom no man can number’ have now to be atoned for, till the justice of ‘the Lord of hosts’ is satisfied.
“Awake, O sword, although it is my Shepherd, whom I have appointed to save a people whom I loved from everlasting, whom thou hast to smite.” Think of Him bearing imputed sin, and think of the sins which He bears as the sins of God’s chosen, and then think of how inflexible is the justice of ‘the Lord of hosts’.
“Awake, although He who is my Shepherd is also the ‘man that is my fellow’.” He, even He, must die the death, because He is the Shepherd of a flock of sinners. O, sinner, if this was said in reference to Him, what, apart from Him, can intercept from thee the edge and flame of the devouring sword?
And what powers are brought into action in consequence of this summons? The power of hell, and the power of the world, of which Satan is the prince, are to do their utmost in the work of judgment. But He, on whom the sentence of death is to be executed, must know as an expression of the wrath of God, all that the action of hell and of the world are permitted to do against Him. The sword must always be a flaming as well as a piercing one in His experience.
“Smite the shepherd,” saith the ‘Lord of hosts’. Early began the smiting. The sentence was being executed all along His whole life in the flesh on earth, for throughout it all He bore the imputed sins of His people, and was suffering in consequence. He lived ‘a man of sorrows’ because He was a sin-bearer, and because in consequence the curse of the law was taking effect upon Him. It was this which gave Him a stable as a birthplace, and a manger as His cradle; it was this that caused his flight to Egypt, to escape from the cruelty of murderous Herod; it was this that caused the obscurity and poverty of His home in Nazareth; it was this that caused His experience of persecution because of the first sermon which He preached, and which, but for a miracle, would have ended in His death; it was this that accounted for His having no place whereon to lay His head, while the foxes had holes and the birds of the air had nests; it was this which exposed Him to all the storm of persecution which He encountered during all His public ministry; it was this which caused His agony in Gethsemane; it was this that accounted for His being betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, and forsaken by all; it was this that caused the humiliation of His being before court after court, as if He were the most criminal of malefactors; this it was which made Him ‘the reproach of the people,’ and the butt of cruel Roman soldiers; it was this that caused Him to be led forth from Jerusalem, under the burden and reproach of the cross. But the summons still is, “Smite!” O, has not all that is past been enough? All this, as the experience of the man who is the ‘fellow’ of the ‘Lord of hosts’, might surely suffice for Him. “For Him“, do you say? Why, there was nothing of all such experience due to Him. To Him belongeth ‘blessing and honour, and glory, and power’, but to the people, whose Surety He was, dishonour and distress and death were due. He is experiencing according to their deserts. Therefore the summons still is, “Smite!” Smitten to death He must be. The justice of ‘the Lord of hosts’ demands this. The mad rage of hell, and the furious enmity of graceless men of no religion, and of graceless men of much religion, cry out for this. Both combine in the cry, “Crucify him, crucify him.” And your redemption, believer, required His being smitten, till His soul and body were parted in dying. Hell’s greatest feat, which proved to be the utter defeat of its power, the most awful murder, the killing of the ‘Prince of Life’, by the hands of wicked men, the full endurance of the law’s penalty, for satisfaction to divine justice, the slaying of the Lamb of God, in order to there being ‘a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour’, the payment in His own blood of the ransom price, in order that the Shepherd may buy His flock all this must take place and the smiting dead of ‘the man’ who is the ‘fellow’ of ‘the Lord of hosts’, is the event, the only one, in which all this could be involved. O, yes, the word of God has taken effect, and the result is that His Beloved Son is on the accursed tree, in a lifeless body, which passed through torturing agony ere it parted with the soul, whose agony was greater still. Yes, Beloved, Thou wert smitten because Thou wouldst that Thy flock should live, and Thine was no vain display of love, for peace through Thy chastisement, and healing through Thy stripes, shall be theirs.
Fourthly, the results of the Shepherd having been smitten. ‘The sheep shall be scattered, and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.’
‘The sheep shall be scattered‘. This is distinctly applied by Christ to the desertion of Him by His disciples at the time of His crucifixion. We cannot therefore but feel persuaded that here, in the prophecy, there was a reference to what is there in the history. Yes, the sheep are scattered. In this day of storm and tempest the Shepherd alone could stand and the Shepherd stood alone. Of the people there was none with Him at any stage of His work as surety, and He must be manifestly alone when He is finishing it on the cross. I am not to excuse the desertion of Him by His disciples, but I rejoice in the providence of God, according to which the Beloved is solitary when, by pouring out His soul unto death, He is redeeming the flock given to Him by His Father.
Let none of us dare, in a self-complacent spirit, to condemn those deserters. How often, without any such fiery trial as that through which they had to pass, have we ourselves forsaken Him. But we are always more prone to strike on the sores of others, than to smite upon our own breasts. There are many like the horse-fly that finds its choicest sustenance in sores. It seems to be with the appetite of this kind of insect that these fly over the record of the Bible, to alight on the faults of the saints and to deepen them. These blood-suckers may find, as they follow their hell-born instinct, what shall make them strong to despise true godliness, and increase their contentment without it; but in gaining this, they have won only what it is a judgment to acquire. They need not boast of their might or their wisdom, who have power and skill only to attain what must yet add to their misery.
I am not concerned, as to the work in which the Shepherd is engaged, because He is left alone. He is able, all alone, to finish it. And the desertion of Him by the sheep tells us that beside Him, or besides Him, there is none to look to for redemption. All have been driven away by the storm except Himself, but when the tempest is at its wildest, the shout is heard from the solitary sufferer on the cross, “It is finished.”
Are the sheep scattered? Then let all in the flock of the Good Shepherd, in every age and place, learn their dependence on the Shepherd’s gracious care to preserve them, as well as on His death to redeem them. Did these forsake Him, then surely thou mayest; and if the Lord does not preserve thee, the smallest trial will suffice to scare thee away from His fellowship and service.
This scattering of the disciples, though evidently alluded to, may point our attention, further on, even to the scattering of the whole people of the land, who regarded themselves as the sheep of the Shepherd whom the Lord promised to Israel. This scattering of the disciples may be regarded as a prelude of the other, and more extensive, scattering, when threatened judgments would overtake the nation, by whom Messiah was denied and crucified. Or may it not point to the dispersion, because of national judgments, of the faithful witnesses, the true sheep of the Good Shepherd, to spread among ‘all nations’ the savour of His blessed name? Works of judgment occasioned the scattering of these sheep, but purposes of grace were fulfilled by their dispersion. In this scattering of the sheep, the Lord found an opportunity of turning His ‘hand upon the little ones’.
“I will turn mine hand upon the little ones,” saith ‘the Lord of hosts’. The words, ‘I will turn my hand’, are sometimes used to describe divine action, in a work of judgment, and at other times a change of dealing in beginning a work of grace. In this latter sense it is to be understood in the promise, “I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin.” This must be the meaning of this phrase in the text. It indicates a mode of dealing, different from that of which the Shepherd had experience. And the description given of those, on whom ‘the Lord of hosts’ promised to turn his hand, makes this altogether certain. Those called ‘little ones’ are tenderly referred to, and shall be tenderly treated.
These ‘little ones’ were undoubtedly, but not exclusively, the disciples who forsook the Shepherd and fled. How graciously was this promise fulfilled to them when ‘the Lord of hosts’ raised the Shepherd from the dead; secured to them, during forty days, occasional opportunities of converse with Him; and allowed them, at the close of that period, an opportunity of seeing Him go up to heaven. This was followed by an outpouring of the Spirit from on high, as the result of which ‘the little ones’ rallied again, took their stand in the name of Jesus as witnesses before the powers of darkness, and in the face of a persecuting world. ‘Little ones’ verily these were! How little they were when we think of the awakened sword, before which they were exposed in their guiltiness, and by which ‘the Great Shepherd of the sheep’ was smitten! How little as compared with the ‘man who’ was the ‘fellow’ of ‘the Lord of Hosts’, were these! But they were ‘the little ones’ who were cared for in love by God! O, yes, He did care for them they were ‘the little ones’ of His love! How He delights in turning in His love towards them, while on the gift of His hand to them shines the brightness of the glory of all His name, as manifested in the smiting of ‘the man’ who was His ‘fellow’.
But there were ‘little ones’ besides these towards whom the love of ‘the Lord of hosts’ went forth, and on whom, in order to make them subjects of a work of grace, He was to turn His hand. Among ‘the little ones’ were all included in the flock given to the Shepherd, bought by His blood, but not yet effectually called by His Spirit. Towards these all, according to the behests of His own love, and in reward of Messiah’s obedience unto death, He promises to turn His hand in the gracious ministration of the Spirit. On these He would turn His hand in order to bring them to the Shepherd. “No man,”‘ says Christ, “can come to me except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him.” And, in joyful expectation of the Father’s promise of drawing being fulfilled, He says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” And the result of their being drawn to Him is that they become one Spirit with Him, and ‘the righteousness of God in Him’. This gives to ‘the Lord of hosts’ an opportunity of placing them in such relation to Himself that He turns His hand on them in the exercise of His pardoning mercy. And their justification furnished the love of God with an opportunity of adopting them into His family, so that His dealing with them shall henceforth be that of a father with his children. O, what a turning of His hand is this! And the hand thus turned on them shall never be turned from them, for He hath bound Himself by His promise not to ‘turn away from them, to do them good.’ According to that promise, He will follow up by a course of blessing, that shall extend over all their life, the good which He did to them when they were called and justified.
Application. This text is well fitted to remind us of the words of Christ, “If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” How much more unlikely the ‘green tree’ is to be affected by fire than ‘the dry’. And if the fire, which has greatly affected the former, comes in contact with the latter, how much more disastrous must the result be. But what does the text present to us? ‘The holy one and the just’, who is the Eternal Son of God, bears the imputed sins of a people whom Jehovah loved from everlasting, and the sword, by which vengeance is executed, is summoned to awake and smite Him. And awake it did, and it smote Him dead. O sinner, in thy meanness, weakness, guiltiness, loathsomeness, and proved hostility to God, what art thou that thou shouldst think of escaping from being ‘devoured by the sword’, if thou has not found refuge under the blood of the smitten Shepherd? O poor worm, what must befall thee if the sword is summoned to awake against, and to smite, thee! And smite thee it shall, if thou remainest away from the Good Shepherd, and if the merit of His death is not placed to thine account. Thou canst not dare to deny that thou art guilty of transgressing the law of God, and that ‘cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them’. Surely, then, thou canst not think as a rational being, and give any credit to the truth of God’s Word, without coming to the conclusion, that thou thyself thy very self art cursed; and that unless the curse, which now rests on thee, be removed, thou shalt encounter all the awfulness of enduring the infliction of that curse for ever. And art thou to remain easy in front of this? Art thou still to run on towards it? Art thou to rush on as if thou wert afraid the gate of hell would be closed before thou couldst reach it? Such fear, friend, is a groundless one, if it exists, for thou wilt, and soon, very soon, certainly reach, in an accursed death, the gate of an eternal hell, if thou movest on as thou hast been doing in the past. From the storm, which smote the Shepherd, thou carest not for shelter. Thou presentest thyself in thy guilt and weakness right before it. O, how awful, in thine experience, must the shock be, when it strikes thee outside the only shelter the covert of the Great Shepherd’s blood!
But to thee, as such a sinner as thou art, there is a way of escape opened up before thee. There could be no possible escape for thee if the justice of God were not fully satisfied, but the text shows thee that it was satisfied by the death of ‘the man’ who is the ‘fellow’ of ‘the Lord of hosts’. And remember that He ‘died for the ungodly’. And as thou lookest to Him acting as their surety, thou canst see how every stroke by which He was smitten, as He was rendering satisfaction, was opening up a way through which thou art called to flee to the bosom of God’s everlasting mercy. O, friend, be not satisfied without seeing this with the eye of faith, to the wonder and joy of thy heart. There is much said in these days of ‘finding peace’, without the understanding being enlightened by the doctrine of the cross, the will embracing the divine person who died on the cross, the conscience being purged by the blood of the cross, or the heart being affected by the power of the cross; and without any persuasion of the need of being regenerated and anointed by the Holy Ghost, in order that all this may be attained. But, friend, do not consent to a slight probing or slight healing of thy wound by those who say, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. Remember that thy one way of deliverance from guilt is that presented by the doctrine of the cross; that thou canst never appreciate what is there revealed without the teaching of the Holy Ghost; that thou must remain a ‘child of darkness’ if the divine glory of the crucified One shine not into thy soul; for only as thou lookest on the death of the cross, under that light, canst thou find sufficient atonement for the purging of thy conscience and never be content to have conscience quieted without its first being purged as only divine blood can purge it or canst thou discover love such as that thou, with all thine unworthiness, mayest expect a full salvation with a welcome from God. Remember, too, that without vital union to the Person of Christ thou canst have no benefit from His redemption. Although it is the work of the Holy Spirit to effect that union, it is thy duty for the call of God in the gospel makes it so to cast thyself, even as thou art, on Jesus. If thou dost so, there shall be nothing wanting on His side that is required to make it certain that thou shalt be ‘one Spirit with Him’.
Art thou looking wistfully to a place among ‘the little ones’, of whom the Shepherd of ‘the Lord of hosts’ takes care. Well, friend, if thou wouldst fain be one of them, the way to attain this is, as a sinner, to accept the Shepherd to be thine. Take Him, as He is offered to thee in the gospel, and all that pertains to the flock shall be thine. What canst thou lack, if thou hast Him? Do not imagine that thou wilt ever discover that thou art one of the flock given to Him by the Father, till first, as a child of wrath, thou comest to Him who was sent ‘to seek and to save that which was lost’. Let thy ‘calling’ be made sure, and then, and only then, can thine ‘election’ be made sure. Thine election must have been first as an act of God, and in the view of God that made thy calling certain. But thou hast to rise from the dust and dunghill, on which thou wert cast by the fall, through an effectual call, to the knowledge of that election of which all salvation is the fruit. Be content to take the place, which the law shows thee to be thine as a transgressor, and then receive Him to be thine own, who ‘came into the world to save sinners’.
O what a feast is in this text for the sheep of the flock of which Messiah is the Shepherd! Here He is in the marvellous glory of His Person, as ‘the man’ who is Jehovah’s ‘fellow’. Here He is in the infinite merit of the death He died; here He is in matchless love; here He is in the efficiency of His finished work, ‘the Lord of hosts’ being pledged to put forth His power in order to give His ‘fellow’ a satisfying reward of all His travail, in the salvation of ‘the little ones’! O, friend, is there not enough here, specially when around all this and through it shines forth, in its highest and fullest manifestation, the glory of ‘the Lord of hosts’. O seek grace to be more eager in desiring, and more diligent in partaking of this wondrous feast. O how little thou hast known, and trusted, and loved, and praised, and obeyed, and suffered for ‘the man’ who is the ‘fellow’ of the Lord of hosts, and who for thy sins was smitten, that His chastisement might be ‘the chastisement of’ thy ‘peace’, and that thou, through His ‘stripes’ might have healing. O cleave to Him, for He is thy only Refuge, thy only guide, thy only Healer, the ‘Friend that sticketh closer than a brother’. Seek to know His voice and to follow Him. Be content to pass in His company even ‘through the fire’. And seek to be so purged, as to be made ready for being with Him, as He is in the midst of the throne on high, so showing Himself, from out of the glory in which He dwells, that He shall be recognised by thee as the Lamb slain, or as the Shepherd smitten, while His glory and His love shall so affect thee, that to sing His praise as thy Redeemer, shall be thy blissful exercise for ever. And O seek to be more and more lost in admiration of the glory of ‘the Lord of Hosts’ of His wisdom, truth, righteousness, and love and to be more hearty in thine acknowledgements of what thou owest to Him, ‘of whom are all things’ that reach thee through ‘the Great Shepherd of the sheep’.