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Among the Children (1)
Rev J R Tallach
Jeremiah 3.19. But I said, How shall I put thee among the children?
God here makes a gracious enquiry about these two rebellious sons, Israel and Judah. They have turned from Him to idols and every form of sin, but God’s enquiry is not one of judgement – for judgement is His strange work – but one of mercy, for He delights in mercy. We all fell in Adam, and the spirit of idolatry and every other sin was set up in our hearts. Yet God enquired concerning His people: “How shall I put thee among the children?” They were rebellious, as all Adam’s children were, and had become the children of the god of this world. But sovereign grace enquired of them how God’s justice might be satisfied for their sins and they themselves put among His own children. “Who is a God like unto Thee?”
This work of redemption was God’s own work. The Lord had done everything for His people, the Children of Israel, in bringing them out of Egypt, across the Red Sea and through the wilderness, and this was because He had chosen them. In like manner the Father chose a multitude that no man can number from all kingdoms and tribes and nations, and sent forth His Son to pay the ransom price for them by atoning for their sins, in order to make them the children of God. David says, “God setteth the solitary in families . . . but the rebellious dwell in a dry land” (Ps 68:6). They were rebels by nature, and now their Saviour must take their place. The cross was as a parched land for Jesus. He cried, “I thirst”, and vinegar was given to Him to drink. His soul was in a desert as the comfortable sense of His Father’s favour was withdrawn and He cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Ps 22:1). It is by the death of His own dear Son in our nature that God answers His own question, “How shall I put thee among the children?” “His right hand and His holy arm hath gotten Him the victory” (Ps 98:1).
God viewed Israel as His son. He speaks of calling His son out of Egypt (Hos 11:1) and on another occasion asks Israel, “If I be a father, where is Mine honour?” (Mal 1:6). The spirit and relationship of adoption was typified in Israel. All His people receive of that spirit and call Him Father. “Thou shalt call Me my Father.” “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom 8:14). The third Person of the Godhead makes the work effectual, takes away the spirit of rebellion and gives the spirit of adoption. As children, they are now part of the family in heaven and earth which is called by the name of Jesus. The Prodigal is made to sit by his father at the father’s table.
The Lord promised Abraham a land of rest in Canaan and, through Abraham, to all of Israel. The Lord is not going to leave His children without a home. This world is not their home. They are in the world, but not of the world. Yet God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city (Heb 11:16). This city is called here a “pleasant land”, or a “land of desires”. Had they wished, they could have had opportunity to return, but now they desire a better country – that is, an heavenly. Christian accomplishments in this world are largely made up of desires. Believers are those “who desire to fear Thy name” (Neh 1:11). There is a desire after holiness and sanctification and the presence of Christ Himself, but all these spiritual, gracious desires will only be satisfied fully in the land of desires – that is, in heaven itself. “The expectation of the poor shall not be lost for aye” (Ps 9:18, metrical version).
Just as God did not leave Israel in the wilderness without water and manna and the promise of the better country, so God will not leave His children without a spiritual inheritance. He here promises a “goodly heritage”, or a heritage of glory and beauty. In Hebrews 9 the Spirit speaks of the requirement that the testator die in order that those who stand to benefit by the testator’s will might obtain their inheritance. Jesus died and left a goodly heritage for His children. All that is required of grace and gifts in order to call His children out of this world and sanctify them for heaven is bequeathed to them in Christ. “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” (2 Cor 8:9). They know and feel their poverty and need, but the Lord thinks on them; He will give them a goodly heritage.
The garments of the High Priest, like this inheritance, were for glory and for beauty. Too often the child of God has to mourn over the state of the garment of his profession in the world, stained as that garment so often is with self-glorying. But a spotless garment awaits him in the land of desires and, clothed in that garment, he will not be ashamed before Gabriel himself, who never fell. And he will be made welcome at the wedding feast of the Lamb. That garment belongs to him as surely as the glory and beauty of it belongs to his High Priest. “For their sakes I sanctify myself” Jesus said.
1. This is the address given by Dr Tallach at the Mbuma Zending meeting on May 5, about which he writes as follows: “More than 5000 people attended the society’s annual meeting in Geldermalsen on April 30 when 63 000 euros were donated for the support of our missionary endeavours in Africa. The meeting was opened by Ds T J de Jong, the Chairman of the Committee, and this was followed by a brief devotional exercise by the writer as this year’s representative from Scotland. Mr van Woerden, a divinity student, then preached on the words, ‘The government shall be upon His shoulders’, after which we broke up for lunch. This break also gave an opportunity to look round the many and varied stalls which had been set up within the building. The afternoon session consisted of a sermon by Ds Klok on Ephesians 2:1 and an address by Mr A B den Breejen, a retired headmaster. The day was closed with prayer and the singing of a psalm.
“I was made very welcome and am especially indebted to Mr and Mrs Slabbekoorn and Mr and Mrs van Vliet. My previous experience of this remarkable meeting was 20 years ago and the enthusiasm and generosity in such a good cause shows no sign of abating.”