Back to Contents
Natural Emblems Of Spiritual Life
By A. B. Simpson
Human Relationships As Types Of Heavenly Ones
"And he answered them, saying. Who is my mother or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him and said: Behold my mother and my brethren!" Mark 3:33-34
THERE is something very tender and very dear to all our hearts in the ties of human relationship. The bonds of social life and kindred and fellowship are the dearest things on earth to all of us, dear as the link that binds soul and body together, and sometimes dearer. We come by these types to know all we do know about God. We cannot fully understand what home means without talking also of the heavenly home. We cannot know a human father well without understanding our Father in heaven better.
We cannot think of the love of friends, without being reminded of that dearer friend who sticketh closer than a brother. So God is drawing us up through these human links to the divine bonds of which they are the symbols, and we find the divine ties are larger and broader and fuller than the human. The earthly relationships are but types of the heavenly, and the Lord does not disapprove of them. He sanctions them and would raise us through them up to Himself, and the glorious everlasting relationship in which he seeks to bind us to Himself.
That is the thought our dear Saviour had in mind when He uttered the words of the test. He takes each of the ties of kindred that bind us so closely to each other, and would awaken something deeper in our hearts with regard to them. He reaches out His hands and clasps us in them in divine relationship to Himself, saying: "Whosoever will do the will of God, the same may be my sister, my brother, or even my mother."
Let us dwell on these ties a little till we feel our hearts moved by them and drawn out in greater tenderness to our dear Lord.
The first of these human relationships through which God speaks to us, is the filial bond. We cannot know God as a father until we have become His child, and so God gives us human parents that we may understand this relationship in which we stand to Him. "As many as received him to them gave he power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba Father." Or, Papa Father, as it is translated in every language. It is the tender familiar name, by which a child can address a loving parent, lisping it out with its earliest accents. Many Christians are full-grown before they know the simplicity of its meaning. They too often become hoary-headed before they are children.
But God not only calls Himself, our Father, He gives us a softer and more tender name to address him by, the exquisite and resistless name of mother: "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you." These terms have all the sensibilities of the human heart embodied in them. God the Father is to us the loving tender father. God the Holy Ghost is to us the gentle compassionate mother. So God meets us in all the higher and deeper meaning of parental love. It is not so much fatherhood of which we speak as filialhood. "Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us."
We are to walk in the likeness of God, but to do that we must understand the relation in which we stand to Him. We must get so near to Him that we can know the outreachings of His loving heart to us, and we must know of the child's love and confidence going out from our heart to Him. As we come to comprehend all the meaning of this tender bond between us we can understand better His requirement of us that we shall be imitators of Him. As dear children our hearts are full of His tender love, our eyes are on Him always, we receive richly from His tender care and bounty. Then we are to give of all this to those about us.
Have we been always loyal and sometimes anxious and solicitous perhaps for His honor among the people? Has the true heart in the loyal child never wavered in allegiance and love to Him, which is the badge by which the sincere disciple can be known? There is a legend among the Arabs that shows the true filial test. A chief of one of the tribes was dead, and three sheiks came to claim the inheritance he left. One was his son and rightful heir, but he had been away for years, and it was impossible to tell which of the three was he. Each one had his partisans and friends. Finally a wise man from the east was called upon to settle the dispute.
His judgment was that as the father was known to be an excellent marksman, and his true son would undoubtedly be so, too; each of the three claimants should be furnished with a bow, and be required to shoot at the body of the dead chieftain, and that should settle the question of inheritance. Accordingly the body of the dead father was brought out and placed in an erect position, and the three men were told to aim at the heart. The first one shot and his arrow entered the quivering breast of the corpse very near the heart; the second came forward and with keen eye and steady aim sent his arrow straight to the very heart of the chief.
His look of triumph seemed to say that he had gained the prize. When the third stepped forward his eyes were moist, and his hand was trembling. His courage seemed to be gone, and when at last he pulled the bow string, the arrow went far above the father's head, and fell upon the ground at some distance beyond. The wise man instantly exclaimed, "That's the father's child." He loved him too well to wound his dead body, even for the sake of the inheritance.
It is not smartness, nor keenness of thought God wants of us, beloved, but that we shall be followers of Him as dear children, and walk in love. If we are to be like Him, we must love as He loved. Don't wound His Heart by any unfilialness. So it shall be known that we are His dear children. We can come to Him as closely as we will. We can bring to Him our greatest needs. We can tell Him the things we would tell to no one, but to our mother. There will come times in your life when you will feel you never needed a father so much as now. Then is the time to remember God is your Father.
There are many times in an orphan's life when tears have filled the eye and the longing of the heart has been, "Oh! for a mother to run to now." Oh! if you could but remember, you have a mother still. "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you." Draw near to God, beloved; do not stay afar off. Do not let even your mother be so near. You know how the big-hearted child will get nearer the mother's heart than the others will. God wants us to be dear, trusting, little children, too simple-hearted to have any doubts or fears; too loving to get away from Him for a moment. So may we ever be followers of Him as dear children.
The next relationship we will speak of, is that of a brother. This bond we know was much more thought of in the East than it is now in more enlightened times. Our age rides over everything that is sacred, and blots out much that should be retained. Formerly the brother was the man who avenged all the wrongs inflicted on the family. Murder was not a matter for public justice. The brother was the avenger of blood. A judge was not needed. A person's needs or wrongs would always find a ready ear to listen to them, in his brother. The picture of Jesus as our brother is the most exquisite one the Bible gives of Him. He is a true-hearted brother, and unlike the most of earthly brothers we see.
He is full of gentleness and tenderness and discriminating love. He first convicted us of sin, then forgave us, then blessed and honored us, cared for us and provided for all our need. Jesus calls Himself our brother. He is not ashamed to call us brethren. That seems to mean very much. He has got good cause to be ashamed of us, and yet He is not. It is a wonderful thing. I am afraid the most of us have some relatives we would not like to introduce publicly as such. We would be a little ashamed of them. Jesus knows the worst of us, and He calls us brethren. He takes that poor fellow all reeking with sin out of the gutter, and He is not ashamed to call him brother. He is willing to take him up to His glorious home in Heaven, and confer upon him all the dignity that He Himself possesses.
He admits him to the aristocracy of Heaven, far far higher than that of earth. Jesus says of him, "I've got a new brother," and He is not ashamed. Perhaps tomorrow, and again tomorrow, that brother will do something that will bring the mantling crimson of shame to our cheeks. Jesus says, "I will forgive it. I will refuse to see it. I will wash it out, and bless him, and help him on until he is able to overcome. I will be his everlasting friend." Yes, He is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. What merchant or business man would not hesitate to introduce some forlorn creature to his partner as His friend. Jesus is not ashamed to call us brethren before anybody. Don't be ashamed of Him. Be true to Him everywhere.
I don't know, dear friends, what this means to you. I don't, of course, know what life has been to you. "When we speak of a child, I cannot tell what picture of a father it recalls to your mind. If we speak of a brother, it may make you think of some noble-hearted brother who used to fight all your battles for you. I don't know what it means, but I know that Jesus should mean more to you than I can possibly express. Have you learned to lean on His strength, remembering He is your elder Brother? When a school-boy among larger and tyrannical boys, what a comfort it was to have a big brother to settle things for you.
So Christ is able to become all-in-all to you. We can be lost in the fullness of His love. He only can teach us all that this means. Are you a weak, shrinking woman, wishing you had a strong brother to lean upon? You have, beloved, One full of disinterested love, far more pure and unselfish than any human brother's can be. He is not far above us, but down here right at our side. He is saying God is my Father, and He is, therefore, your Father. Yonder is my throne, but it is your throne also. There is my God, but He is your God, too. I have strong faith in Him, but my faith is your faith, too. We are joint-heirs together of all these things.
It was a sweet meaning, a little Scotch lassie took out of the Lord's supper. The dragoons of Claverhouse stopped her one Sabbath, and asked her where she was going. She replied, "My brother is dead, and I am going to hear the will read, and get my share of the inheritance." "Oh!" they said, "if that is all, go along," and she went on to partake of the Lord's Supper. She was going to hear His will read and divide His inheritance, but they did not understand it. Are we partaking of our Brother's riches? He died to make it ours, and it is freely offered to us.
Jesus stands to us also in the relation of a friend. We can apply this bond to Him with all the deeper meaning it is capable of expressing. "Henceforth," he says, "I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends: for all things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you."
Jesus Himself gives us this name, but, knowing how apt we are not to take all His gifts, He says: "Don't be too modest about taking it. You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. I gave you this name: don't be afraid to take it and call yourself by it." Do you know what it is to have true friends? How your heart warms as their names come up to your mind! They were not related to you, except through the love they bore to you. They drew you because they had a heart fitted to attract you; they were in every way congenial to you. They were each a special selection, and you were bound to them by some quality they possessed, some peculiarly sweet characteristic that made it hard for you to understand how any one could fail to love them.
Do you know what it is to be true to such friends, to trust them unreservedly, to know the joy of standing for them, although they be misunderstood by others, and of suffering with them in all their trials? Such friendships are rare in this life, where there is so much that is drifting and unstable in hearts and lives. Do you know what this true friendship is? Have you ever understood this congenial tie, in which you have common joys, common tastes, common trials, and common temptations? There is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Henceforth Jesus calls us friends. He has set His heart on us. We can come as close to Him as we please, and we will find His heart outreaching to us constantly.
The Bible is full of examples of strong friendship. Such was the tie that bound Jonathan and David together. The Holy Ghost lingers over this scene as if fascinated by the picture. Jonathan risks his father's displeasure in being truer to David. He was willing to give up all for David's sake, and finally died to get out of the way and let David be king. It was munificent generosity that, dying, blessed its friend with everlasting love. How beautiful a type of the love Jesus has to His people! A love in which we can rejoice, and sing: "I am His, and He is mine. He has chosen me, and He will not let me go. I have taken Him, also; I will trust Him fully. By God's grace I will be true to Him."
Notice how beautifully Christ speaks of this bond between us. It is not so much that Christ is our friend, as that we are His friends. Can He call you His friend, beloved? Can you call Him your friend? There is no doubt about that. Whatever the world may say, can you stand as the true and tried friend of Christ? The world may deride you for it, but do you cause them to know that you are His friend? The storm may fall upon you like lightning; but, let what will come, can you say, I am His friend? God marks you as you say it. You may have but little strength, but with that are you loving Him? You may have but little wisdom, but are you true to your Master? Are you saying, always and everywhere, "This is my Beloved, O ye daughters of Jerusalem"? If you are, He is looking down upon you from the battlements of heaven and saying," This is My beloved, O ye sons of light."
Jesus calls Himself by another name, more expressive of tender love, and which may be ours even here in a heavenly reality the name of Bridegroom. It means something more than friend: it means the exclusive love which can be typified by nothing so well as by the bond between a truly wedded pair. It is the love which separates each one unto Himself, and so dwells not with the many, but with the one. What has He a right to expect from His true-hearted bride? First, that she shall love Him only, then that she shall leave all for Him, and, lastly, that she shall be constantly watching for His appearance.
This is the Scriptural meaning of the tie all through the Word. It was the symbolic meaning of the union between Adam and Eve, and it was still more sweetly typified in the marriage between Isaac and Rebecca. The bridal of the Lamb awaits its consummation in the coming ages. Words can not explain to us what it shall mean to be thus united to Jesus. We know it is the most sweet and tender tie that earthly affection can put around our heart; and we know that, with Him, it means a deeper love and union than aught but the reality can express.
Christ is not only the Bridegroom of the Church: He has told each individual heart to say of Him, "Thou art my husband." Here in the heart's deepest holy of holies, He Himself will make the meaning known. Here in that most secret recess, "Wrapped in deep, adoring silence," He will teach us His own love as no one else can make it known, and will show us how tender it is, how exquisite, how holy and lifted far above the heat of earthly passion; how intensely real it is, bringing His spirit into our very life and blood, and His strength into all our being.
May He whisper its meaning to our hearts today so that in our very flesh and bones, in our inmost heart of hearts we shall know what the Marriage of the Lamb means, and learn to long intensely for that glorious home when the cry shall resound from the heights of glory. "Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to Him, for the marriage of the lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready." We must know the love of Jesus here if we would be with Him in that great day. It must be dwelling in our hearts, purifying us and transforming us into His likeness. Thank God it was granted to her to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white. She did not have to make herself ready.
It was His love, and His purity, and His righteousness that she was arrayed in. And thus she was placed upon His throne to sit with Him forever. May God make us to understand these different relations in which He stands to us. May we hear Him saying to us this morning, "Behold my mother and my sister and my brother. Behold my friend and my bride. For whosoever will do the will of God, the same is my brother and my sister, and my mother."
Back to Contents