Of all the incomprehensible things which God has revealed concerning Himself, perhaps the most difficult to understand is why He, the Possessor of heaven and earth, should need an “inheritance”; for it is written of Him: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though He needed any thing, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things…” (Acts 17:25). But when we learn that those whom He has saved by His grace are His inheritance, as Israel in Egypt when they heard that the Lord had visited His people and had looked upon their affliction, we can but bow our heads and worship. When we were dead in sins He loved us with an everlasting love, redeemed us by His blood, and united us to Himself for ever. Then, after all this, He speaks of “His glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18, RSV).
Chosen for His Own Inheritance
The Psalmist sang concerning Israel: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance” (Psalm 33:12). In the unfolding of His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus, which involved the revelation of Himself to men, God chose the seed of Abraham; and throughout their long history He continued to pour out expressions of His love to them; using them to display His love by word and deed until the time came when that love was fully demonstrated in His Son. To what other people did God speak such words as these?
“For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance” (Deuteronomy 32:9).
“Yea, He loved the people; all His saints are in Thy hand.”
“The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between His shoulders.”
“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
“Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and Who is the sword of thy excellency!” (Deuteronomy 33:3, 12, 27, 29).
“Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3).
Other Sheep I Have
These promises to Israel, although given in love, were despised by them as a nation, for in the fulness of time when He Who had made these promises came unto His own, His own received Him not. He had to accuse them: “I am come in My Father’s Name, and ye receive Me not …” (John 5:43). After speaking to the Jews in the parable of the vineyard and the husbandmen, He said: “Did ye never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?’ Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof … And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard His parables, they perceived that He spake of them” (Matthew 21:33-46). The Holy Spirit by Peter the apostle takes up this same Scripture and applies the promises which were made to Israel on the condition “If ye will obey My voice indeed and keep My covenant” (Exodus 19:5), to that “one flock” of which the Lord Himself is the “One Shepherd” (John 10:16).
“Unto you therefore which believe He is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,’ and ‘a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence,’ even to them which stumble at the Word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a ‘chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people;’ that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light: which in time past were ‘not a people’, but are now ‘the people of God:’ which ‘had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.’ “ (1 Peter 2:7-10).
A Chosen Generation
God’s purpose provided that in Abraham all families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Israel in unbelief sought to limit the scope of that blessing to their own family; but God had from the beginning planned that a people for His Name would be called from all nations. Those who are in Christ, whether Jews or Gentiles, were chosen and called with a holy calling, “not according to their works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given them in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
Israel were an elect people: they were chosen in Abraham before any of them were born; and God gave them two reasons why He had chosen them (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). “The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people: for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen … .” These two reasons also apply to the people of God today. Because of that great love wherewith He loved us, and because of the blood of the everlasting covenant, we are His. Before the world began we were His by the gift of the Father; then His by creation; then by redemption; and now, by His grace, we are His by choice. He calls us His beloved; His bride; His fulness; His body; His people; His saints; His sheep; His Church; all of which teach us something more of the blessed relationship which He has established between Himself and His inheritance.
An Holy Nation
“The Hebrew term for ‘holy’ is generally supposed to mean ‘separated, set apart.’ But this is only its secondary signification, derived from the purpose of that which is holy. Its primary meaning is to be splendid beautiful, pure and uncontaminated. God is holy — as the Absolutely Pure, Resplendent, and Glorious One. Hence this is symbolized by the light. God dwelleth in light that is unapproachable … And Israel was to be a holy people as dwelling in the light through its covenant-relationship to God. It was not the selection of Israel from all other nations that made them holy, but the relationship to God into which it brought the people…” (Dr. Edersheim, “Bible History” II, Ch. 2, p.110).
“When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land … and hath cast out many nations before thee … thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them … but thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God …” (Deuteronomy 7:1-6). As with Israel, so with His inheritance today: there must be no compromise with sin or sinners. “Peace through the blood of His cross” was not a negotiated peace. There was no “appeasement” at Calvary, but an utter destruction of the enemy.
The Lord emerged from that conflict as the Conqueror, Who destroyed Satan and delivered those who were in the bondage of death: re-creating and sanctifying them to Himself, for they were predestinated to partake of His holiness.
The presence of the Holy Spirit within us, ever seeking to conform us to His image, is the assurance that some day we shall be like Him and stand holy and without blame before Him. We are now in Him as a holy nation; but He seeks to wean us away from the uncleanness of the world and display His character in us. He calls us to a life that is splendid, beautiful, pure, and uncontaminated: even to walk as He walked.
A Royal Priesthood
“And ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests …” (Exodus 19:6). Israel’s priesthood was instituted by God Himself and her priests were described as “the ministers of the Lord.” They were appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins; but everything about them and their ministry was typical: they served “unto the example and shadow of heavenly things.” (Hebrews 8:5). But when Christ Jesus appeared, as the Great High Priest He offered the one sacrifice for sins for ever: thereby perfecting for ever them that are sanctified. Since the Substance has come, the shadows have departed and there remains no more offering for sins.
When our Lord passed into the heavens, the Holy Spirit proclaimed the institution of an eternal priesthood; consisting of One Great High Priest and in Him a great company of those whom He has redeemed by His blood. This His inheritance constitutes His royal priesthood: ever to be occupied with His ministry. “Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ … But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood …” (1 Peter 2:5,9). “To Him Who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6, RSV). We are called upon to exercise the privilege of approach as believer-priests in these words: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water …” (Hebrews 10:19-22).
The priest’s office was given to Aaron and his sons as a “service of gift” and was to be exercised by them exclusively unto the Lord (Numbers 18:7). In like manner when our High Priest ascended on high He dispensed gifts to His ministers that they might serve Him acceptably. His First and Greatest Gift was, of course, the Holy Spirit Himself: without Whom no service can be acceptable to Him. With and in Him He has given to all His priests gifts, or endowments; and these the Spirit has apportioned to each one as He willed (1. Corinthians 12:11).
The tribe of Levi was separated “to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to minister unto Him, and to bless in His Name …” (Deuteronomy 10:8). To exalt Him Whom the ark of the covenant typified, to minister unto the Lord, and to be a blessing by displaying His holiness is priestly ministry indeed. It is a “royal priesthood because we are inseparably associated with the King and the kingdom; and our ministry shall endure for ever, for His kingdom is everlasting. “His servants shall serve Him: and they shall see His face; and His Name shall be in their foreheads” (Revelations 22:3-4).
A Peculiar People
“Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine …” (Exodus 19:5). The most beautiful and precious object carried by Israel’s high priest was the breastplate of judgment. It consisted of twelve jewels, each en-graven with the name of one of the tribes, and each displaying a beauty of its own, yet all contributing to the resplendent glory of the whole collection. Mounted in a setting of pure gold, and borne upon the high priest’s heart before the Lord continually, they typified the Lord’s inheritance and their identification with Him in everything but the sprinkling of the blood in the holiest.
It is a cause for great rejoicing that our names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20). The symbol of the breastplate suggests that these names are written, not on some celestial honour roll, although that would be glory far more than we could ever deserve, but actually upon the heart of Him Who sits upon the throne. As a victor proudly wears the decorations won on the field of battle, He ever confesses our names before His Father with great joy. God chose Israel because He loved them and His people today are His beloved; His peculiar treasure. No more beautiful description was ever applied to any people than “The beloved of the Lord.” The measure of His love is beyond our understanding for it “passeth knowledge.” He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Truly He regards us as a “pearl of great price!” Where His treasure is — that which He values most — there is His heart.
Praise Ye the Lord!
“This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise” (Isaiah 43:21).
We have been chosen for His own inheritance; appointed a kingdom and a priesthood; sanctified and made fit for His presence; treasured as a precious possession: all in order that we might show forth the glory of His Name, for no more worthy occupation is possible for His creatures. Yet the theme of our praise is not the fact that we have been called out of darkness into His marvellous light; not that from being hateful and hating one another we have been called to be God’s own people; not that He saved us according to His abundant mercy: these things are the manifestation of His grace and fit subjects indeed for eternal thanksgivings; but the infinite worth of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Whose Name alone is excellent.
The new heaven and the new earth will be filled with His praises; and we, into whose mouth, He has put the new song will sing that song unto Him Who is greatly to be praised. Heaven must be a place of exceeding joy for it is the place of everlasting praise. There is an intimate connection between the statements, “In Thy presence is fulness of joy: at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” and “ … every creature which is in heaven, … heard I saying, Blessing and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (Psalm 16:11, Revelation 5:13). But our Lord would have us show forth His praises here and now — and we have every reason for so doing —for this anticipates our occupation in glory and gives us a foretaste of the joy of heaven.
“From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s Name is to be praised” ‘Psalm 113:3).