Chapter 90

 

“Ye Would Not”

 

“And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last. The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

(Luke 13:30-35)

 

An Instructive Proverb

 

First, in verse 30 our Lord uses a proverb to describe the kingdom of God and the work of God. — “And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.”

 

What an instructive proverb this is! Do not fail to notice the context in which this proverb is given. Our Master is urging us to strive to enter into the strait gate (v. 24). He tells us that we must do so now, for the hour is soon coming when he will shut the door, and none will be able to enter, though they long to do so. Then, he speaks of the Day of Judgment and eternity (vv. 25-29).

 

            It is in this context that our Lord gives us this parable. — “And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.”

 

            This proverb was literally fulfilled when the gospel was first preached, has been fulfilled throughout the ages, is being fulfilled now, and shall be fulfilled in eternity. The Jews who were first became last; and the Gentiles who were last became first.

 

            But there is more here than simply the declaration of God’s method of grace in dealing with the Jews and with his elect among the Gentiles. In this proverb our Lord is teaching us something about God’s method of grace and who they are who are the objects of his eternal mercy, love, and grace, who they are whom he has chosen to save. Those who think they are and appear to be first in line for heaven will be last in the Day of Judgment. And those who think themselves to be and appear to be last in line for the grace of God will be first in the Day of Judgment. God’s elect are seldom those we would choose (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

 

“Ah, Grace! Into unlikeliest hearts

It is thy boast to come;

The glory of thy light to find

In darkest spots a home.

 

Thy choice (O God of goodness!) then

I lovingly adore:

Oh, give me grace to keep Thy grace,

And grace to long for more.”

 

A Blessed Fact

 

Second, in verses 31-32 our Savior sets before us a blessed fact that ought to constantly quieten and calm our hearts in the face of trouble.

 

            No doubt, when the Pharisees heard what our Lord said about them being last in the Day of Judgment and of others going before them into the kingdom of God, they understood that he was talking about them. I rather suspect that he was looking them right in the eye when he said it. So they thought they could scare the Master into silence and get him to quit preaching. — “The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee” (v. 31).

 

            Perhaps Herod, the ruler of Galilee, who had beheaded John the Baptist, had let it be known that he was determined to kill our Savior. But it may be that the Pharisees simply invented the report. (Never put anything past lost religious men, who are determined to justify themselves.) Whether the report was true or false, it was obviously the intent of these Pharisees to intimidate the Master; but their scheme backfired.

 

            “And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected” (v. 32). — Our Lord was not frightened by the Pharisees or by Herod, but there is more here than that.

 

            In his reply to the Pharisees our Master simply stated, “My time to leave this world has not yet come. My work is not yet finished. Until that time comes, you can tell ‘that fox’ for me that he has no power to harm me. I fear him no more than I fear a yelping little fox that is scared of his own shadow.”

 

            “Today, and tomorrow, and the third day” are not prophetic terms, but are used simply as a declaration of the fact that our Savior was assured that the time of his life on earth, the time of his service to the glory of God and men, and the time of his death were appointed by his Father and ours, and could not be shortened by Herod, or by anyone, or by anything.

 

            Our Master, by using the word “perfected” to describe his death, was saying, “I shall finish what I came here to do. I will not leave this world until my purpose, the purpose appointed for me by my Father, is completed. Then, my life shall be complete.”

 

            It is no accident that this same word (perfected) is applied to our Savior twice in the Book of Hebrews and to his people, the people he came here to make perfect, three times (Hebrews 2:10; 5:9; 10:10-14; 11:40; 12:23). Our Lord’s perfection as the God-man Mediator, as our Covenant Surety, was and is wrapped up in the salvation (perfection) of those he came here to save. The law could never make anyone perfect (Hebrews 10:1); but Christ did. And he is perfected because he has perfected his people by the work he finished as our Mediator, Surety, Representative, and Substitute (Hebrews 10:10-14; 11:40).

 

            What our Lord here says of himself is true of every believer. The Lord God has put us on this earth for a specific time, to accomplish a specific purpose, and nothing shall prevent it. Nothing can add to or shorten our days. The lesson to be learned from this is clear: — Our times are entirely in the hands of our God.

 

            Oh, may God give me grace to live in the frame of mind and heart my Lord exemplified here! We ought to possess a calm, unshaken confidence in our Father’s good purpose. If our hearts are fixed, trusting the Lord, we shall not be afraid of evil tidings. Our times are in our Father’s hands (Psalms 112:4-10; 31:13-20).

 

            Let this be my attitude before every danger, every foe, every trouble, every slandering tongue, every deceitful spirit: — I have and shall continue to have only that which is good for me. I shall live until my work is done, and not a moment longer. All the powers of earth and hell combined cannot harm me. All the powers of earth and hell combined cannot destroy my life, until the time my Father has ordained. And all the physicians on earth cannot preserve me for one second beyond that time.

 

      Nothing is beyond the reach of a man who has such an attitude regarding his life; and, if we believe God, that ought to be our attitude. The hairs of our heads are all numbered. Our steps are all ordered of the Lord. All things work together for our good. If some Shemei cusses me, the Lord will do me good by the wretch’s foul tongue. If afflictions befall me, they shall only assist me. All things are mine. — Life! — Death! — Things Present! — Things to Come! —All things are mine, for I am Christ’s and Christ is God’s! Let me therefore live and serve my God with utter abandonment to care and fear. — “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” And, then, “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalms 23:6; 56:4; 118:6; 92:1-15; Hebrews 13:5-6)

 

            “For it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem” (v. 33). — The word translated here, “it cannot be,” is found nowhere else in the Word of God. It means “it is impossible.” Yet, many prophets (John the Baptist, to name just one) died somewhere else. So what does our Lord’s statement mean? It means two things:

1.    It would be an unusual thing, the exception, not the rule, for a prophet to die anywhere except at Jerusalem. It would be an unusual thing, the exception, not the rule, for a prophet to die by the hands of any, except at the hands of those who professed to be the servants and representatives of God.

2.    And, second, our Lord here speaks prophetically of his own death. Remember, he is addressing the Pharisees. He is saying, “When I (that great Prophet of whom Moses spoke), when I die it will be at your hands, at Jerusalem; but I am not there yet; and my hour has not yet come.” It is against that backdrop that we must hear his next word.

 

A Willing Savior

 

Third, in verse 34 we see how tender, compassionate, and willing our Lord Jesus Christ is to save sinners who have earned and fully deserve his everlasting fury.

 

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”

 

            Oh, what a willing Savior our Savior is! He is God who “delighteth in mercy!” Aren’t you thankful? Many try to say this cannot be understood of our Lord Jesus in a strict sense, as God, that we must understand this as a display of our Master’s human emotions. The problem with that is this: — I have not yet found one of those precise theologians who could tell me how to divide our Redeemer into two persons. This man is God; and this God is man; but he is one Person with two natures.

 

            Let us never try to put God in our little box. He just won’t fit! Let us never try to be more theologically precise than the plain statement of Holy Scripture. If these blessed, blessed words that fell from the lips of him into whose lips all grace has been poured choke you, you need choking. If you cannot read them without having to explain them away, you need a course in remedial reading.

 

            Salvation is entirely the work of God. — All will be saved in the end who were chosen to salvation from the beginning, them and no one else. — All will be with Christ in glory for whom Christ made atonement and satisfaction at Calvary, them and no one else. — All will be crowned with the heavenly hosts who have been effectually called by the Holy Ghost, them and no one else. — But eternal ruin, eternal damnation, everlasting woe is altogether the work of man.

 

            Hear what this Book teaches: — If you are saved, go to heaven, enjoy eternal life and glory in the bliss of God’s presence, it will be because of God’s will and God’s work alone. And if you are lost, perish under the wrath of God, and go to a dark, Christless, eternal hell, it will be your fault, because of your will, and your work alone. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is as willing to save as he is mighty to save (Isaiah 45:22; 55:1-3, 6-7; Matthew 11:28-30; 23:37; Luke 13:34; John 7:37-38). Do you not hear his willingness in his words?

 

            If you are lost, perish under the wrath of God, and go to a dark, Christless, eternal hell, it will be your fault, because of your will, and your work alone (Isaiah 59:1-2; John 5:40). The Lord Jesus Christ came here to save lost sinners. He came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” The Son of God died in the room and stead of the ungodly. The Lamb of God is seated upon the throne of grace in heaven, waiting to be gracious, waiting to save sinners.

 

            Read verse 34 one more time and hear the tender, compassionate and willing heart of Immanuel.

 

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”

 

            He knew the wickedness of that city. He knew what crimes had been committed by them. He knew all the prophets they had hated and murdered. He knew what they wanted to do and soon would do to him. Yet, he pities them! Oh, may he give me his Spirit and his grace, that I may be tender, compassionate, and merciful to men!

 

Divine Judgment

 

Fourth, in verse 35 our Savior teaches us that in the last day, in that great Day of Judgment, he will be completely vindicated and honored, even by those who perish under his wrath.

 

“Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

 

            “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate!” — This is what you have chosen. You shall forever eat the fruit of your own ways (Proverbs 1:31). The God you have despised and forsaken has despised and forsaken you forever!

 

            “Verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” — You shall see me no more until you see me glorified by all as the Christ of God. In my entry into Jerusalem, when all, even those who later cry, “crucify him,” shall cry, “Here is the Blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:37-38) And in my glorious second advent when you shall say, as the gaping pit of hell opens wide its mouth to swallow you up, “Here is the Blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Revelation 1:7; Philippians 2:9-11; Isaiah 45:22-25).

 

“Ye sinners, seek His grace,

Whose wrath ye cannot bear;

Fly to the shelter of His cross,

And find salvation there.

 

So shall the curse remove,

By which the Savior bled;

And that last, awful day shall pour

His blessings on your head!”

 

 

 

 

 

Don Fortner

 

 

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