Deliverance: The Rule of Christ

Isa. 9:6.---' The government shall be upon his shoulder.'

We are taught in Scripture to think of redemption sometimes as complete, and sometimes as still to be completed. In his Ephesian letter, St. Paul declares that we HAVE redemption in Christ's blood; but a little later he speaks of Christian people as 'sealed unto the day of redemption,' as if that still belonged to the future. Our Lord upon the Cross cried with a loud voice, It is finished; and we, learning from Him, have rejoiced in the assurance that all that is needed for the salvation of the world has been accomplished. We may be well assured that He finished His work, and that, in the matter of his own salvation, a man must consent to be in God's debt for everything; but we cannot acquaint ourselves with the life of any patch or corner of one of our cities without realizing what the Apostle meant when he spoke of redemption as future. There are touches of human kindness, a cheery stoicism which carries men and women and children through cruel straits; there are fragments of half-forgotten piety, very touching as one comes upon them. But after that is said, it remains that here are spirits in prison, a whole society fettered by tradition and environment, by ignorance, and the habit of vice and the crushing power of hopelessness. The situation calls aloud for a Redeemer; His work is before Him there, and if it were not for our faith we could not hope at all.

Our faith for the world rests on a clear perception of the natural quality of God's King. The prophet was not blind to the prospects of his time. Neither should we be. He anticipates that the land will fall back to wilderness. Where vineyards had once brought wealth to the peasants, there would be thickets through which a chance hunter would struggle in pursuit of game. The crowded population of the older time would disappear, and nothing be left but the stout-hearted farmer here and there, fighting for a livelihood, with a cow and a sheep or two in some tiny patch of clearing; for the days of big flocks and of corn should be gone. That is to say, it is in a ruined land, in conditions that are clearly desperate, that the Deliverer will be manifest. But the prophet talks of the future with an entire rest and certainty of heart. In God's good time these things shall be.

'The government shall come to be upon his shoulder.' As he looked on through the years, he saw men laying their burdens more and more on One who had the gift of knowing the way. He did not mark any limit to the benignant influence of the Coming One. Wherever there were men and need, His power would spread, for One so endowed, He is adequate for all things.

One often feels that we get very little measure of Christ's quality within some of our churches. Men gather for such diverse reasons there: custom, society, some vague sentiment, some touch of culture, all these are at work in bringing them together. But on another level, where men have got beyond convention, and have realized that they are clearly outcast and disreputable by the worlds standards, there we see what Christ can do. It is a matter of real gladness when a boy discovers in his heart a new deepness and desire, and wishes to assume the Christian name; it is a cause for gladness, but scarcely for astonishment. But where the powers of training have worked the other way, where neighbors do not help but hinder, if Jesus Christ can deliver, it must be by the essential part and power of His nature. If they come to Jesus Christ, it is because of something they have found in Him.

But, going deeper, we come upon one of the roots of authority. This government, which has no frontier, rests upon association. The King began His birth what life is for the hard-driven and the poor. Limitations and peril and hardship, the conditions of a poor man's life, are no flatterers, but, whatever his endowment, they make him feel what things really are. There is no thing that enbitters a people more than the sense that those who hold the reins of government do not know what life is for a poor man. If they had ever done a week of hard physical toil, or had experienced the wearing anxiety for bread, if they had shared the cramped and unhomely conditions of life in a single room, they would speak with another tone.

Jesus, as we see Him in the Gospels, was much more careful to assert His community of interest than His separateness from men; for though He knew that there were differences of nature parting Him from the others, He was not ashamed to call them brethren. He would not turn stones to bread for Himself; for, if hunger were His lot, there were others who had hungered too, and He would bear what they had borne. At the Baptism, which spoke of the cleansing of sin and of introduction into a closer relation with God, He might well have stood apart; but, in the sight of the sun and by His own choice, He was numbered with the transgressors. Lest men should ever think that He was above temptation, He lifted the curtain and suffered them to see how hardly pressed He was, in the Wilderness and in Gethsemane, where His sweat fell down like heavy drops of blood. That is the secret of His authority; when He gives a command He knows what it costs to fulfil it. His government of men is a sort of communion with them, in which He shares their feelings and communicates His own.

A faith like this, resting on what Christ is and on the way He takes, has no limit. The 'government' here spoken of is entirely vague; it is not of any particular land; rather, as a contemporary writer says [Mic. 5:4], 'He shall be great unto the ends of the earth.' Isaiah's was only a little world, confined on the west by the estranging sea, and on the east by wide deserts. But outside of that little patch of light there were lands half-concealed by the shadow, and it seemed to the prophet that a King such as he foresaw would find His subjects wherever there were men. 'Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end.' 'In other empires, what began in gold ended in iron and clay'; great tasks fall into feeble hands, large plans are misapprehended and distorted by men of smaller wit; but the kingdom of Christ is a growing kingdom, whose perfecting is yet to be. And it grows because He lives. He faces the need of each new age with the same power of heart.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha