This article, in the form of an address to young believers, was first given by brother Fletcher in the Bracondale Gospel Hall, Toronto, Canada.
God has been pleased to associate His truth with places as well as with persons. The names of Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, and of others are rich with valuable instruction. In like manner the names of Bethel, Jericho, Jordan, Jerusalem, and of other places have their own deep spiritual significance.
There are five very interesting places in the Gospel according to John which bear the prefix “Beth,” meaning “house.” May the Spirit of God direct us in our meditations as we would gather spiritual lessons from the meaning of these names and places.
The name Bethesda means “The house of Mercy.” It is mentioned in chapter five.
The “House of Mercy” suggests the truth of salvation, and reminds us of the beginning of spiritual life. It is described as having five porches. Morally speaking some waited long in the porch of feelings, others in the porch of good works, and still others in the porch of churchianity. Some even spent time in the porch of religious profession before they were brought to an end of themselves, as was the cripple in the story, and acknowledged their impotence. It was then, as did this lame
man, they took the Lord Jesus at His word and experienced healing from sin and its consequences. What a strking illustration of the words of the Saviour: “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me hath everlasting life!”
The name Bethabara appears in chapter one, verse twenty-eight. It was given that name because it was “the House of Passage.” Possibly this might suggest obedience in the Christian life.
We read that John was baptizing there because it was a fording place in the river Jordan, therefore, suitable for that purpose. We read about another place in this Gospel where John baptized “because there was much water there” (3:23).
The Lord Jesus told His disciples, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). What a baptism of suffering and sorrow! All true believers, in view of His baptism in death, should be willing to obey His wish. The Apostle Peter assures us that baptism is “the answer of a good conscience toward God” (I Pet. 3:21).
This precious name means “House of Bread,” therefore conveys the idea of sustenance. Such, truly, was the One whom they did not recognize, but of whom they said, “Hath not the Scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was” (John 7:42).
As the manna sustained Israel for forty years in the wilderness, so our Lord Jesus is the bread of life to the believer. To saints who apparently had been years in Christ, the Apostle Peter wrote, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2).
For spiritual strength, we must daily appropriate spiritual nourishment.
The suggestion in this name is service for the Lord, for it means “House of Nets.” Of course, all service for the Master cannot be called public service; nevertheless, there is a work which all may do, a work in obscurity, maybe. We read, “Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph” (John 1:44-45).
Each one has been saved to serve, but let each remember that to be successful fishers of men, they must keep their net clean, mended, and cast into the sea (Mark 1:16-20. Luke 5:2).
To the home in Bethany, which means the “House of Affliction,” the Lord Jesus came (John 11). Death had again broken the ties of a devout family in that region and left two sisters distraught and lonely. When He arrived, He expressed His sympathy in the most sincere manner, “Jesus wept.” In that circumstance, the Master spoke words of comfort, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee;” words of revelation, ‘Thy brother shall rise again;” and words of power, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?”
“Not a sorrow rends the heart, but the Man of Sorrows shares a part.”
The Lord Jesus led His disciples out as far as to Bethany, “and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into Heaven.”
It was while they still stood near Bethany, the House of Affliction, that “two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven” (Acts 1:10-11).
Soon, very soon, Christ will call His own away from this world of sorrow and trouble. As His own await that glorious moment, He comforts them and says, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
May we no longer be found confined to one of the porches by the pool of Bethesda, but may the pleasant liberty of these beautiful houses be ours. May we render implicit obedience to our Lord, and find in Him the true means of spiritual strength in order that we may serve Him more effectively. In all our trial may we turn to Him for He is touched with the feeling of our infirmity. May these be our daily experiences until the day dawn and the shadows flee away, the day when we shall leave this House of Affliction for the Father’s house and the place our Saviour has there prepared.