The Man, Woman and Serpent
In last month’s article, Brother St. John dealt with Eve, as seen in Genesis 3, in contradistinction to the Woman of Revelation 21, the Bride, the Lamb’s wife. The concluding chapter In this interesting study sets forth the first man, Adam, compared and contrasted to the Last Adam, the Lord from Heaven.
We now reach Adam; himself a n mere shadow — but behind him stands One infinitely greater; in deep shadows (verses 17 to 19), which have fallen across man’s life, every one of which has been lifted and borne by the Blessed Son of Man; sorrow, thorns, thistles, sweat, and dust. Around these five dark and sad words God entwines every thought of His as to man in relation to Christ.
Now consider these words one by one. We begin with sorrow. Imagine a serious man looking out on the world, taking a great city, and trying to measure in thought even a fraction of the sorrow in that city, then multiplying that by the tens of thousands of other cities, and multiplying that by the centuries that lie behind, and looking at the vast mass of misery. You are not surprised that Moses said, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow - - -.” Thus, we see weary man standing in front of God, and God laying on him this tremendous load of sorrow which his posterity bears, crushed beneath its weight, for sixty centuries.
I look at the first man, but he fades away, and in his place I see Another standing. Who is this? It is the Man of Sorrows, with grief walking by His side! Why is He a Man of Sorrows? Isaiah says, “Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows - -.” Here is the one Man who says, “Your sorrow is turned into joy.” Here is the one Man who can banish sorrow from a human life.
Then the second part of the curse was the thorns. A thorn is an abortive branch. When it began it was a bud, and either through excess of sun, or too little rain, the bud turned into a thorn, and instead of being a thing of beauty became a noxious thing, and a curse on the earth.
Again the first man steps aside, and out from the Roman Praetorium Pilate comes, and, dressed in a purple robe with a crown of thorns on His head, stands the Man who not only lifted the load of sorrow, but who bore the crown of thorns, so that now the curse is lifted forever for those that trust Him.
Next the thistle, this is a very remarkable word here; Hosea 10 and 8 says, “The thistle will spring up upon their altars.” The great interest of this verse is that when the Lord Jesus walked out of Jerusalem nineteen hundred years ago, and wended His way up to the place called Calvary, He was thinking about that verse that speaks of the thistles. That Scripture was running in the Saviour’s mind as He carried His Cross up the hill.
How do I know this? As He was on the road, He saw a group of women weeping, and said, “Weep not for Me, but for yourselves,” and then quoted the second half of Hosea 10 and 8. What does it mean when it says that thistles will spring up on altars? This is the picture of desolation. The thorn is the symbol of the curse, and the thistle is the symbol of desolation.
On the day Immanuel’s orphan cry rose to the sky when He stood in utter desertion, He bore all life’s desolation, and since then we need not be lonely.
The thought in the next verse is “the sweat of thy brow” that is, the labour by which man reaches his goal. He works, travails, and toils, and at last puts out his hand for the prize.
But come to the 44th chapter of Ezekiel, and you will find that the priest was not allowed to have or to wear anything that caused sweat because it was the symbol of that which disqualified anyone from life with God. It speaks of the haste and restlessness of nature.
In Gethsemane Christ sweat as it were, great drops of blood, and bore that of which sweat speaks. He says, “Come unto Me, all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” If we do this, all the heat and haste of this world will be gone and we may walk with God because Christ has carried away the burden of life.
And then the last and deepest thing, far and away the most mysterious, God spoke of sorrow, and thorns, and thistles, and sweat, but the climax is this! “Thou shalt return unto the ground, for dust thou art.”
Do you remember that verse Genesis 2:7, which says that the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground? Do you ever think what it means? It is a physical fact, but deeper. God has never made any man excepting out of dust. Out of the dust of our failures, out of the dust of humiliation and degradation, and out of the dust of defeats. Out of that does God make man.
In Psalm 22, verses 1 to 15, I hear these words, spoken not by the first Adam but by the last Adam, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” The 15th verse reads, “Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death!” Why was He in the dust of death? Because we were there. Why did He go down into it? To bring us out of it. Of these five things that He has borne for us, this is the deepest and the greatest of all that He went into the dust of death, to bring us hence. Death now stands behind us as surely as does judgment. “Herein is Love made perfect, that we should have boldness in the day of judgment.”
Shall we try and gather up in a moment or two the sum total of that of which we have been speaking? The law was that God was prepared to deal with all the misery that ever was brought into the world. That is the secret of Adam’s life.
First, in the devil’s case we learn that sin depraves (upon thy belly shalt thou go) and sin humiliates (dust shalt thou eat). Then in the case of Eve, we find that all fruit-bearing springs from travail of soul, desire of heart, and submission of will.
But when we come to Adam, Christ’s great forerunner and shadow, we find that: He has lifted the load of our sorrow. He has worn the symbol of our curse (thorns). His desolation forbids that we should ever be forsaken or lonely (thistles). His toil and labour have won for us eternal rest (the sweat). His descent into the dust has lifted us to the throne of glory.
If Christ has thus dealt with every phase of our misery, we at least owe it to Him to ask what He seeks from us, and we shall learn that He only wants a yielded life, a surrendered will!