Jehovah repudiates the religion of the mass, tenderly appreciates
the penitence of the Remnant. The grace of God, if dammed
up at one spot, flows with undiminished power in another.
The race of men in danger of extermination:
what prevents it. Meaning of "dust, the serpent's meat."
portentous is our day, so evidently do we see another day approaching,
that every glimmer of light that the Holy Scriptures may afford can
only be welcomed with heartfelt gratitude to their Author. The present
dispensation is about to come to a close, a close that is filled with
judgment from God, a judgment terrible in proportion to the proud
boasting of men and of privileges unavailed of. All prophetic Scripture
gives one united testimony to the awful failure of the one responsible
witness of God upon the earth, and black and threatening indeed is the
cloud that overhangs the whole sphere of Christian profession. Can we
neglect any light that our Father has given us? Has He not caused
Israel's history to be recorded for the very purpose that we on whom
the ends of the ages have come (1 Cor. 10:11) may have that light? With
these thoughts to increase our interest let us turn to the first seven
verses of this chapter, noting that its three divisions may each be
sufficiently characterized by one word, thus:
1: Verses 1-7: Denunciation.
2: Verses 8-16: Discrimination.
3: Verses 17-25: New-creation.
1: By those who asked not for Me I'm sought,
Whilst those who sought not have found Me.
I said to a nation: Here am I! Here am I!
To a nation My name not invoking.
2: But all the day long have I stretched out My hand
In appeal to a people rebellious,
To a people that walk in a path that's not good:
The way that their own thought devises.
3: A people that ever provokes Me to wrath
To My face without intermission.
For the place of their sacrifice, gardens they chose;
On altars of brick burn their incense.
4: Who dwell in the tombs, in dark caverns lodge,
The flesh of the swine is their eating,
Abom'nable broth's in their vessels.
5: Who cry, Keep away! Come not to me near,
For I am than thou far more holy!
These are indeed a smoke in My nose,
A fire continually burning.
6: 'Tis written before Me: no silence I'll keep,
But pay—yea, pay to their bosom—
7: Your sins and the sins of your fathers combined,
Who incense have burned on the mountains,
And brought Me to scorn on the hill-tops.
'Tis for this I will weigh the reward for their work,
From the very first,1 into their bosom.
Isaiah is indeed, as the apostle speaks, "very bold" (Rom. 10:20), for
like those kine that, leaving their calves behind, went lowing to
Bethshemesh (1 Sam. 6:12), so he goes in a way contrary to all his
natural and national inclinations, for what Jew would of his own will
speak of his nation being set aside in favor of the uncircumcised
Gentile? The tender grace of God to poor man is like a mighty river.
Let human pride, let lukewarm indifference, let self-complacent
religion, bar its course, it sweeps away in another direction. Let
Judea make Him weary, Samaria shall give Him refreshment (John 4). Let
the Pharisee exclude, the Publican shall welcome. Let New York and
London turn from Him, then China and Africa shall turn to Him: if
barred in one course it sweeps on in another. But what of those who
have turned away from those appealing Hands? What of those who have
rejected that tender grace? There can be nothing but judgment! And,
inflicting that, Jehovah would strike where their affections were most
sensitive, their "bosom."
In these seven verses, then, we have three
cryptic indictments brought against the Christ-rejecting Jews and
against Christ-rejecting Christians.
1: They sacrifice in gardens and burn incense on altars of brick.
2: They dwell among the tombs and lodge in the darkest places.
3: They feed on swine's flesh and their broth is made of abominable things.
Further in these three we again discern that all three parts of man's tripartite being are in view:
1: God-ward in their sacrifices; in the sphere of the spirit.
2: Earth-ward or Man-ward in their dwelling among men; a relationship of the soul.
3: Self-ward in their food, which clearly speaks of the body.
such minute details as these we discern the inimitable Fingerprints of
our God, binding the whole volume together into one, of which He alone
can be the Author, and we have to do with Him.
As these first verses
speak of the Lord turning from Israel to the Gentiles, the standpoint
of the time of the prophecy must be those earlier chapters of Acts in
which we see God still lingering over Israel, for even after the Lord
Jesus was taken up to heaven, for a time His Hands were still stretched
out appealingly to Israel, as Peter speaks: "Repent ye therefore, and
be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come
seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and that He may
send Christ, who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus" (Acts 3:19,
That clearly speaks of the possibility of the Lord's
return even at that time for Israel's blessing, and He would have so
returned had the representative heads of the nation repented, as they
will do when He does come (Zech. 12:12, 13). But at last, after the
stoning of Stephen, Paul and Barnabas pronounce the fateful sentence:
"Lo, we turn to the Gentiles" (Acts 13:46). Then Israel's history as a
nation, is ended for a time, although only for a time (Hos. 3:4,5).
that being the time of the prophecy it is sure that the Jews did not,
at that time, sacrifice in gardens or on altars of brick. Very far from
that. They were most punctilious in the observance of every external
detail of their religion. That religious man whom we see praying in the
temple (Luke 18:10) was an excellent representative of them all; would
he—with his fasting twice in the week, and giving tithes of all he
possessed—would he have eaten swine's flesh, or done anything that is
here charged? It is unthinkable.
But that puts into our hands the
needed key. These charges cannot be taken literally; but Jehovah looks
at the sacrifices, and tells the worshipers what is His estimate of
what they were bringing to Him with such self-complacent assurance.
that light it is not the temple, but their "gardens" in which they are
really. They may be externally and corporeally in the temple, it is
true, but their spirit is entirely occupied—not with His glory of which
"every whit" in that temple ever speaks (Ps. 29:9)—but with their own
religious goodness; and so it is in the "gardens" that their own hands
have made, that they are really sacrificing. Was not that Pharisee,
again I say, who tells God of all his own excellent doings, was he not,
while in the temple literally, really sacrificing in his garden? Indeed
he was, He was following closely in the way of his father Cain, who
"brought of the fruit of the ground"—that is, of his garden—although in
that early day we have only the seed, the full-grown plant of which we
have developed later. There was no lamb, no confession of sin, no
offering of blood, the need for them is ignored.
Further, look at
the altars on which they are burning their incense; they are made of
bricks. That sends our thoughts back to Babel and its tower, for there
too "they had brick for stone and slime for mortar." Those bricks, like
the gardens, then also clearly speak of the work of their own hands;
and based on these, as the offering is on the altar, they expected
their approach to God to be acceptable. It is the "altar that
sanctifies the gift," and can such an altar as defiled and defiling
human works sanctify anything?
Are these "gardens" as beautiful
in God's sight as in their own? Very far from it. Since they have not
come to Him for life, who alone can give it, they are not "gardens"
that speak of life on all sides, but "tombs" in which they are really
dwelling with all the dead for their companions, and in a darkness that
is intense, since the very light they claim is itself darkness (Matt.
This brings us to the third and strictly personal mark:
they "eat swine's flesh, and the broth of abominable things is in their
vessels." This will no more bear a literal interpretation than the
others. No Jew of that day, "tithing mint, anise, and cummin," would
even think of touching swine's flesh. But while he thus avoided the
shadow, he embraced the substance. To get what that substance is, we
must throw on it the light of Lev. 11, where Jehovah specifies what His
people may eat and what they must avoid among the creatures of earth,
air and water. It was not simply because these might be indigestible
foods that they were forbidden. We have not arrived at the truth at
all, if we thus stay on the surface of such scriptures. If we do, then
the profane criticism of our "modernists" is largely justified, and "no
person of education or refinement can read Leviticus with either
pleasure or profit."2
When our Lord said: "Not that
which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of
the mouth, this defileth a man" (Matt. 15:11), He surely showed that
the real source of defilement was not the external eating, but
something within, and these injunctions were given for the very purpose
of showing that, in a figure. This demands a few words more. "Feeding"
in the prophetic scriptures evidences what people are; for they hunger
for, and eat what is in accord with their own nature. Place hay before
a man, and meat before a horse, and both would turn away with disgust.
Reverse the offerings, and both would be received with pleasure. So
people show what they are spiritually by what they feed upon
spiritually. The Germans have a saying, "Man ist was er isst," "Man is
what he eats," and that is true both in the lower and higher sense, for
what he eats becomes in both senses a part of himself. If one feeds on
any food, that becomes part of one's body. Thus if one feeds on what
"swine's flesh" spiritually symbolizes, it evidences that spiritually
he is of the same nature. He has selected his food to accord with his
own nature. He assimilates it; it suits him, for by nature he is a
swine! Let us then seek to discern why this swine's flesh was
forbidden. Lev. 11:7 reads: "The swine, though he divide the hoof, and
be cloven-hoofed, yet he cheweth not the cud." Both these marks,
dividing the hoof and chewing the cud, were needed for the animal to be
fit food for the people of God. I venture again to say, that if this
has no meaning below the surface, it is unworthy of a child's primer,
and nothing more puerile can be found in the religious systems of
Maories or Hotten tots. But reason revolts at such an unreasonable
conclusion, and rather says though we may be unable to interpret, that
by no means proves that no interpretation is possible.
interpretation difficult? Of what would the "hoof" be the simplest
symbol? Surely of the walk; and that again is but the common word for
external conduct. We understand perfectly that what is meant by, "That
ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk" (Eph. 4:17), is that our
conduct should be very different from those who have not Christ.
what then does a divided hoof speak? The root idea of a division would
of course be "separation." Every step that the animal took told of
separation. But is that always good? Does it always tell the same story?
as some creatures that divided the hoof were clean and others
unclean—the ox being an example of the former, and the swine of the
latter—so may separation be either most excellent or most repulsive.
There is a separation to the Lord Jesus, won by discerning His
attractions, that has the fullest approval, for it is always marked by
low thoughts of self, or no thoughts of it at all. There is a
separation from our fellows, due to our self-appreciation, that meets
with the sternest reprobation. The Nazarite, by the meaning of the very
word, spoke of one separated to the Lord; the Pharisee by the same
meaning was one also separated, but it was from those whom he esteemed
less holy than himself. The one found, and still finds all his boast in
the Lord, in utter self-distrust; the other in his own assumed superior
piety. This is what is here sternly condemned.
But what of the
other mark that was needed to show that the creature was clean,
"chewing the cud"? Let us go into that pasture. See that ox; it has
been moving about, cropping the herbage as it walked; but now it
retires to the cool shade of a tree; and, first lying down, it
ruminates. The grass that it has cropped has not done it an atom of
good yet, it has only been stored in the rumen, or the first stomach,
to be regurgitated, chewed betwen the teeth, and finally swallowed and
digested. For that it quietly reposes.
How lovely the very
picture! How far more lovely its clear significance! Here is one whose
time is fully occupied all day; but in the early morning he "crops" a
little from the Word of God, then throughout the day his spirit, in
repose amid the activities of life, recalls, if even but for a few
moments, what he has read, and he ruminates, or chews the cud, between
the teeth of his faith, so that it becomes a part of himself. We may
well say that Paul counselled Timothy to "chew the cud" when he said:
"Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all
things" (2 Tim. 2:7).
Now see that swine. It is moving about with
divided hoof; but little does it care for the sweet living herb, it is
seeking for unclean things on which to feed, nor in that feeding does
it chew the cud at all. So much for the symbol, and now again for what
it symbolizes. Here is one who is externally moral and religious. He is
not at all like "this publican"; he severs himself from such, and thus
divides the hoof. Every footstep, everything he does, leaves marks of
that self-satisfied separation, but he does not ruminate; he does not
chew the cud; has no self-obliterating communion with God over His
Word. His own unclean works are his delight. Christ is not his joy and
boast; he is, in spite of that separation—nay, even by it—a leper,
This gives divine light on the few remaining
words: "Broth of abominations is in their vessels." Jehovah is still
looking on what gives these religious ones such satisfaction that it is
their food, they feed upon it, and here He tells them what is His
estimate of it—it is abominable! This "broth" then symbolizes something
"highly esteemed among men, but is an abomination in the sight of God."
But while this is what Jehovah through Isaiah tells us, we have quoted
the very words of the Lord Jesus Himself as recorded in Luke 16:15. To
whom was He referring? Was it to the publican, the profane, the debased
and the harlot? Not at all, for, say what you will, neither these, nor
their doings, are highly esteemed among men, nor even by themselves. It
was the most religious men of that day that were then before Him,
precisely as in the Old Testament prophet!
It is "religion,"
without penitence and confession, against which the sternest words that
ever fell from those gracious Lips were levelled: "Woe unto you,
scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites . . . serpents, generation of vipers,
how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matt. 23:33). Was He not
saying to them exactly what He had said in our prophet: "The broth of
abominable things is in your vessels"?
That "generation" is by no
means extinct. It has its representatives in every age. We see that
same abhorrence in those deeds and doctrines of the Nicolaitanes, which
specifically too He hates (Rev. 2:6). Then He finds in the
self-satisfied condition of the last Church to which He writes,
Laodicea, so clearly representing our own day, the same "abominable
broth" that brings the same utter reprobation. Consider it, reader, and
you will surely conclude that there is nothing—literally nothing—so
loathsome to God, as the assumption of religious superiority over
others. O Christless Religion! O impenitent, tearless Religion! O
self-complacent Religion! What myriads in everlasting perdition will
have thee to thank for their damnation, for thou art the broad way that
"seemeth right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death"
The second division of the chapter, verses 8 to
16, is in accord with the natural significance of the number "two," and
speaks of more than one object being in view. Here it is discrimination
between two different companies, the remnant of faith and the apostate
mass. First, then, we have the divine tenderness for the penitent:
8: Thus doth Jehovah speak:
As the new wine in the cluster is found,
One pleads: O do not destroy it,
For in it alone is a blessing,
So will I do for My servants' sakes,
That I bring them not all to destruction.
9: For even from Jacob I'll bring forth a seed,
An heir to My mountains from Judah,
To this My people elect shall be heir;
My servants shall there find their dwelling.
10: And Sharon shall be a fold for the flocks,
A rest for the herd, Achor's valley,
For My people beloved who have sought Me.
a valuable ray of light this throws on Matt. 24:22: "Unless those days
had been shortened, there would no flesh have been saved, but for the
elect's sake those days shall be shortened." The figure is of a bunch
of grapes, so repulsive that it is about to be thrown away and
destroyed altogether. But one intervenes, pointing out that it is not
all hopelessly bad; a small part of the cluster is sound and sweet, and
this may become a blessing, in making that new wine that "cheereth God
and man" (Judges 9:13).
Evidently the moment is most critical, for
there is but one little link between God and the whole world of men;
and if that be broken, or to use the prophetic symbol, if the cluster
be destroyed, nothing can save the whole race! That link is here the
remnant of Israel; and when Jerusalem is captured (Zech. 14) and this
little remnant is about to be exterminated, it looks as if all were
over. Then the days of sorrow and affliction are suddenly cut short by
the appearing of their long-expected Messiah, and His Feet standing
upon the Mount of Olives whence they had ascended two millenniums
before! Just as ten righteous would have saved Sodom, and have been the
new wine in that cluster, so these few afflicted captive Jews will save
the whole race of men of that day from destruction. From the west,
where the fertile plain of Sharon stretches along, to the east where
lies that valley that saw the infliction on Achan, all shall speak of
peace and prosperity. But now the prophecy returns to the apostate mass.
11: Ye who your God, Jehovah, forsake,
Forgetting His mountain so holy,
Preparing a table for that idol, Gad,
Filling a cup full for Meni,
12: Therefore I'll number you all to the sword;
Ye all shall bow down to the slaughter.
For when I called, ye gave no reply,
When I spoke ye did not e'en listen,
But ill have ye done in My very eyes,
Have chosen what gave Me no pleasure.
13: Therefore Jehovah Adohnai thus speaks:
Look at My servants, they feed whilst ye famish,
Look at My servants, they drink whilst ye parch,
Look at My servants, they boast3 whilst ye're blushing.
14: Lo, from heart's joy My servants shall sing,
The while ye in sorrow are wailing,
In crushing of spirit are moaning.
15: Your name ye shall leave as the form of a curse,
'Twill thus be of use for My chosen.
For thee Adohnai Jehovah shall slay,
And give a new name to His servants.
16: So he that doth bless himself in the land,
Shall bless by Elohi of Amen,4
And he who utters an oath in the land,
Shall swear by Elohi of Amen;4
For the past sorrows shall all be forgot,
For from Mine eyes they have vanished.
the parallelism of the first lines: Person and place are identified.
They who forsake Jehovah are those who forget His holy mountain. But
surely there is little danger, or indeed possibility of our being
charged with forgetting a mountain that we have never seen and know
nothing about. Exactly seven times in this prophet do we find the term
"holy mountain," and this "seven" itself serves to show the importance
of the term. What then is the name of this mountain? But one all
through the book is named, nor can we err in assuming that must be the
mountain meant; and Zion then becomes Jehovah's holy mountain. But why
is this mountain selected out of all the many hills of Israel to have
attached to it that title of "holy"? The answer is suggested by Heb.
12:18, 22, for Zion is the mount that represents the whole Heart of God
told out in grace, in contrast with that principle of Law with which He
ever found fault, for in His dealing with sinful, but ever-beloved men,
law shuts up both Heart and Hand. Further, we deduce from the word
"holy" that this way of grace is the true way of holiness, and is as
far removed from license as it is from law.
Thus to "forget God's
holy mountain" today, is to forget the abundant grace of Christ that
alone can, and does meet all our poverty, need and helplessness. In
short, it is to "fall from grace" (Gal. 5:5).
Little should we
profit in the search for Gad and Meni of old. The names are lost to us,
but what they signify remains. They stand for the dual form that evil
takes, called Violence and Corruption. These become deified, and their
devotees seek to propitiate them by their varying forms of "religious
duties," or, in the language of prophecy, in "preparing a table for
them." After the manner of Isaiah there is a play on the word Meni, in
the first line of the next verse, for the word means, "number," and so
Jehovah says, "I will meni, or number, you to the sword." It is again
the principle of God turning sin into penalty, as He does both with men
and the devil, as we shall see in verse 25.
Verses 13 to 16
repeat the strong contrasts that the day of revelation shall show
between the proud impenitents and those poor and contrite ones whom He
owns as His servants. Satiated shall these be, famished shall those be.
In this present sphere there is inextricable confusion; or, if there be
discrimination, it is rather the proud who are the favored and the
lowly are despised. Generation follows generation in telling the same
story, for we see it when the perplexed psalmist goes into the
sanctuary, and lo, he sees the ungodly wealthy of earth, as soon as
they pass out of this scene, to be in desolation in a moment, while the
poor penitents are ever with God (Ps. 73). A little later it is seen in
a rich [man] in torment, and a poor Lazarus in bliss; and still later
it shall be seen in those two contrasted companies, the proud gathered
at Har Mageddon (Rev. 16), and the penitent in the Valley of Megiddo
The proud shall leave a name to provide an oath for
the true, as "Jehovah slay thee as He slew them" (Delitzsch). But far
sweeter than that to our hearts are the thoughts we attach to that Name
Elohi Amen; for in it we see our Lord, who amid the disgrace that we
have made of our witnessing, is Himself not only The Faithful and True
Witness, but so brings all God's purposes into being, so fulfils all
His counsels, that He does not, as we, say "Amen" to them, but is that,
not only says, "May it so be," but makes it to be.
Now we pass to the scene of those fulfilled counsels.
17: For behold, I create new heavens, new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered,
Nor come evermore into mind,
18: For well may ye joy, and forever exult
In that which shall then be created;
Jerusalem I'll create a delight,
Her people a source of rejoicing!
19: For over Jerusalem I will exult,
And greatly rejoice o'er My people;
Nor ever again in her shall be heard
The sound of weeping or wailing.
20: No more shall there be an infant short-lived,
An elder whose days are not lived out;
Should he die aged a hundred they'll call him a child,
And the sinner thus dying count cursed.5
21: They who build houses shall in them dwell,
And they who plant vineyards enjoy them;
22: They shall not build what another shall use,
Nor shall they plant fruit for another.
As the years of a tree My people shall live,
Enjoying the fruit of their labor.
23: They shall not wearily labor in vain,
Nor bring forth for sudden disaster;
For they are the seed of the blest of the Lord,
And their offspring have part in their blessing.
24: Ere they utter a cry, an answer I'll send;
Whilst yet they are speaking, will hear them.
25: The wolf and the lamb together shall feed,
The lion eat straw like the oxen;
But dust shall still be the serpent's one food,
None shall hurt nor destroy in My mountain,
My mountain ever be holy!
So saith Jehovah.
Israel, the new heavens and earth commence with her perfect blessing.
She is henceforth as secure and as blessed nationally as the heavenly
saints will be at their rapture to their heavenly and eternal home.
Not, however, that at this moment, all the earth and its heaven is in
itself altogether and everywhere altered; but as today it can be
written, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are
passed away, behold, all things are become new, and all things are of
God" (2 Cor. 5:17), when indeed nothing is new except as "in Christ,"
so Israel now being "in Christ" by a new-creation life, for her too all
things in heaven and earth are new,and all things of God; while still
outside of Israel and her land, there is very much (as subsequent
events, when the Devil is loosed from his prison, evidence) that is not
new. We need no other illustration for this than our own experience. Do
you remember the morning after Christ was first seen as your own Lord
and Saviour—no longer a mere name but a real living Person—was not
everything new to you then? The skies had another tint; you thought the
whole world of people were different, and perhaps wondered that all
were not converted. The joy in your heart sent its music through the
whole earth. Nor earth alone. How new the heavens were when you could
look up and for the first time say, "My Father!" That was your
regeneration; this, the earth's.
There is no need to write much of
the beauteous scene. It is better to meditate and thus get the
refreshment such lovely and well-based anticipations must give. We
visit in spirit that "holy mountain" where alone naught defiles, where
alone naught doth hurt. We see the harmony of Eden renewed once more,
and the wild fierce creatures of the jungle graze in the company of the
fearless flocks of the farm. Still we have a hint that the scene is not
one of absolute perfection, for even here we listen to an echo of that
primal sentence on the serpent, for the dust shall still be his food.
We cannot look upon this as merely telling us literally on what the serpent family feeds.6 Utterly
unsatisfactory are all such explanations as Delitzsch and others give
us, when he says: "The serpent will no longer watch for human life, but
content itself with the food assigned it in Gen. 3:14. It still
continues to wriggle in the dust—the words affirm nothing more than
this!" He must permit us to differ. If all we get from this word is
that dust being the serpent's food means that he "wriggles in the
dust," it would be altogether unworthy of a divine revelation to a race
ruined by that "old serpent." Let all Scripture throw its light on
this, and at once there are profound verities—not "put in," as some
say, but seen to lie imbedded in these few words: "Dust shall be the
serpent's meat," or food.
Who can help thoughts turning to that
scene of sorrow and of judgment in Eden? There stand our weeping first
parents, and there too is their destroyer, still in the form that he
assumed in order to carry out his work. What has that work been? The
answer to that question is as important as it is simple and clear.
work of the Lord God had been to "form man (Heb., adam) of the dust of
the ground" (adamah, Gen. 2:7), and having thus formed, to give him a
life suitable to that earthly or dust body and to his dwelling upon the
earth, the man and his abode thus corresponding, for both are dust, The
work of the serpent had been to bring death to the man, and
consequently the return of the body to the dust whence it came. It was
"dust," the Lord God made it a body; it thus was a body, the serpent
made it dust—a complete reversal!
We need to bear in mind these
two basic principles of divine judgment: first, where people are
forever, depends not on what they have done, but on what they are. We
all know that heaven is not attained by "doing," nor is banishment to
hell for the same reason. All go "to their own place," a place that is
determined by whether "in Christ" by a new creation life, or only in
Adam by the old one. The man only in Adam would be as much out of his
own place in heaven as the man in Christ would be out of his in hell.
But retribution in either place is determined strictly by what each has
done. Thus Isaiah speaks in chap. 3:10: "The righteous shall eat of the
fruit of their doings." Again, Wisdom cries: "They shall eat of the
fruit of their own way" (Prov. 1:31). The same principle is in the New
Testament: "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap" (Gal.
6:7), and many other scriptures might be given. Thus every responsible
creature goes to his own place, but himself works out the retribution
that he receives there.
Can any then impugn divine justice, since
all go to the place to which they are suited, and each "eats of the
fruit of his own doings"?
This being the sure teachings of Holy
Writ, then the sentence passed upon that responsible creature, that
"serpent," must be in accord with that truth; so that the "dust" upon
which he is sentenced to feed cannot be simply that in the making of
which he had no part, but that to which his "doings" have brought man
(as identified with his body), and on that he must feed, for that, and
that alone, is here "the fruit of his doings."
That must be all
his satisfaction, for the feeding can no more be literal than that the
serpent was nothing more than a merely literal snake. All through
Scripture "feeding" figures absolute satisfaction, as in Deut. 14:19,
"The Levite . . . shall eat and be satisfied." Again, in Ps. 103:5,
"Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things," and any number of
Scriptures might be added to the same effect. Satan's food, or
satisfaction, must be found in that dust to which his "doings" have
brought man's body. But, and I pray you mark it well, on not one single
human "body" shall he ever feed. Never! For hear what the wisest of men
tells us, when speaking of a man's death, "Then shall the dust return
to the earth as it was" (Eccl. 12:7), just as it was before it was
formed, so it becomes again. It is no longer a body, but dust.
that what Satan craved? Is that what he hungered for? Does that give
him absolute satisfaction? Was that his final object in tempting man?
Let me answer these by asking a few similar questions regarding a scene
where the devil's own children are doing the very works of their father
(John 8:1-11, 44). Did those Pharisees care a snap of the finger as to
the fate of the poor adulteress? Did they aim at her? Would it have
satisfied their hungering longing to have her stoned? It is absurd even
to ask such questions. They could have effected that without any appeal
to Him. It was our divine Lord Himself that they attacked, and it was
with the final purpose of himself securing the Throne of God that their
father, the devil, the serpent, brought back to the dust the
That this idea—not of literal feeding, but of
the same satisfaction to the inner, as that feeding gives to the outer
man—is intended by the use of the word "meat" here, is confirmed by the
Lord's words when His disciples would have Him eat of the food they had
gone to the village to get for Him. "I have meat to eat that ye know
not of" (John 4:32), and that meat was, even in His case, we may
reverently say, the "fruit of His own blessed doings," for it consisted
in bringing a poor sinning wanderer back to everlasting rest in a love
of which till then she had known nothing. What an absolute contrast
there is in the two "meats," that of the "old serpent" and that of the
Lord! The one consisted in bringing man to the dust of death, the other
in not merely restoring the lost life but giving a life eternal. The
one set poor man to the hopeless task of covering himself: the other by
His own death provided the covering. The one severed man's heart from
God, the other restored man's heart to find a Father's love in that
same God. We can surely well afford to let the devil have the
sin-infected and so penalized dust for his food, whilst we in Christ
shall be clothed with a New Creation body of glory; for so God ever
works, He never merely offsets the work of the devil, as if in His
poverty, He must repeat, since His powers are so limited that He can
produce nothing beyond that has been thus marred. By the universal
truth of all Scripture, His works never witness to limitation, but He
ever does "much more" (Rom. 5:15), and always makes "better things," as
the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us—always!7 Never one shade of disappointment shall we have; the future will be far beyond all that we can conceive.
when the body has returned to what it was and to where it belongs, is
the unclothed spirit to remain thus naked? Far from it! Such a clothing
shall be given it as will tell to the universe that these are "the sons
of God" (Rom. 8:19). So that we can invite the "serpent" to look again,
and see how God even makes use of his malevolence and pride to express
His own attributes of benevolence and humble him to feeding on dust!
word more of balancing truth is necessary. We can never ignore—far less
condemn—the use of phenomenal, ordinary, inevitable expressions of
human thought. It ever has its place. As surely as "it doth not yet
appear what we shall be" (1 John 3:2), as surely as it is impossible
even to picture to ourselves that body of glory, or, to use the
divinely given illustration of 1 Cor. 15:37, as it is impossible to
deduce the beauty of the flower by merely looking at the bare seed, so
we are compelled, by the very conditions of our being, to expect the
return of all who have "fallen asleep," precisely as they were last
known to us, and from the tomb to which we saw them consigned. As that
is inevitable, so is it inevitable to use the ordinary language whereby
we speak of things as we see or know them. But again, when God is the
Worker the reality for His people is always "much more" and "better,"
and expressing His "immensely varied wisdom."
precise hearing of the word is rather doubtful. It means either, "the
first thing that Jehovah will do," or He will recompense all the former
sins, the sins of their fathers, upon them, since they have walked in
the same path. I have adopted this latter in accord with Matt. 23:30-35.
2 This was actually said in my hearing by one of the leading teachers of that school.
3 The first meaning of the word is to "sing with joy"—its contrast with "ashamed" permits the rendering "boast" and "blush."
4 "The God of Truth," but the written word "Amen," in view of Rev. 3:14, cannot be dropped without loss.
5 This is but a paraphrase, but it gives the meaning of the original: "And the sinner, son of a hundred years, is accursed."
6 Moffatt disposes of this by simply omitting the sentence entirely.
7 See Eph. 3:10, "the manifold (Gr. immensely varied) wisdom of God."