“BEFORE she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she wast delivered of a man child. Who hath hoard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not. cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God.”
Sister M. J. Riley, of Romulus, Okla., wishes our view of verses eight and nine above quoted, but as verse seven is in immediate connection it cannot be separated from verses eight and nine. In order to reach the subject we feel it necessary to call attention also to verses one and two of this chapter: “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembleth at my word.” In this God declares his immensity as filling heaven and earth, as being over all things, controlling all things in heaven and in earth; thus showing that he needs no such house or place of rest as the Jews could build. They had taken much credit to themselves in that vast work, but the Lord said, “All those things hath mine hand made;” that is, it was by his counsel and purpose that they existed. But instead of looking to those things and dwelling in them, he would look to (respect) the man who is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembleth at his word. In these sayings is presented the difference between the legal covenant and the covenant of grace; the difference between the house or dwelling-place of God under the law, as the Jews thought, and his dwelling-place in the gospel. He “dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshiped with men’s hands.” He dwells in the heart of his people; this is the place of his rest, because there is his kingdom. These two first verses have their special bearing upon the prophecy contained in our text concerning the great prosperity of the church in having the Gentiles added to it after the natural branches (Jews) had been broken off. There was a remnant, however, of the Jews who did believe, and who according to prophecy were saved: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved.” The gospel church was first established with the Jews, but the number was only one hundred and twenty on the day of Pentecost, before the Lord “added unto them about three thousand souls.” This number was far short of that multitude of which the fourth part could not be numbered.
In Isaiah liv. 1-3, we have the following language: “Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes: for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.” The Jewish church is here set forth as a married woman, who, like Sarah, had long been barren, but is now called upon to enlarge the place of her tent, to lengthen her cords and strengthen her stakes, because she should break forth on the right hand and on the left, for her seed should “inherit the Gentiles.” This Scripture seems to furnish, as it were, a key to the subject to which our attention has been called: “Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.” The Jewish gospel church was profoundly ignorant of God’s purpose and will to manifest the Gentiles as his people, hence before the thought was conceived the work was done. The Gentiles were brought into the saving knowledge of God’s grace, given the Holy Ghost and turned from idolatry to serve God; therefore were brought into full fellowship with the Jews. “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together.” (See Eph. ii. 11-22.) The Jews rejoiced that God had granted repentance to the Gentiles, hence joy without pain and sorrow. Thus we understand how the church brought forth before she travailed, and how she was delivered of a man child before her pain came. The expression, “delivered of a man child,” signifies, we think, the manifestation of the holy child Jesus in Gentile believers. Well might the questions have been asked: “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things?” No mortal had heard such a thing nor had seen such things. These things had been alone with God from eternity. While the Gentiles were often spoken of by the prophets, Israel did not understand God’s purpose concerning them; this secret had been hid from the beginning, “That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” This work was so vast and so wonderful that it appeared as marvelous as though the earth had brought forth in one day, or so sudden and unexpected that it seemed the work of a day only. How different from the way God dealt with man and made known his purposes in ancient times! First he called Abraham and blessed him, then Isaac, then Jacob, afterwards the twelve patriarchs were manifested. It required four hundred and thirty years to produce the nation of Israel, which was all done according to nature. But the spiritual nation, contrary to nature, was by his power produced, as it were, in one day. “Shall a nation be born at once! for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” This last sentence of Scripture is not a contradiction to verse seven, but it qualifies that Zion, the church of God, is presented in this figurative language.
Peter calls the Gentile believers “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation;” chosen in Christ before the world began, a royal priesthood, because of having been washed in the blood of Christ and made kings and priests unto God; an holy nation because of God’s imputed righteousness.
“Shall I bring to birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut tee womb? saith thy God.” In this verso we are taught that God does not divide his glory with another; he it is who brings to birth, and causes to be brought forth. God in his own great, wonder-working way prepared the Gentiles, by giving them divine life, to receive the gospel and to rejoice in it. No power could have hindered his purpose in that grand manifestation of his power, grace and mercy. It is said in Isaiah lxv. 24, concerning the Gentiles, “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer.” Therefore we must say, It is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us. The Lord’s ways are equal, therefore where he begins a work he will perform it until completely and gloriously accomplished. Man often fails in his purposes, but not so with God, he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. The immutability of God is clearly presented in the last sentence of our text; he will not repent, he will not leave his work undone; “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” His promises are as sure as his decrees; he never promised anything that he had not before decreed to bestow upon his children.
We have now briefly given such thoughts as we have upon this wonderful subject, and leave them for the consideration of sister Riley and all who may read them. K.
Editorial – Elder H. C. Ker
Signs Of The Times
Volume 74., No. 20.
OCTOBER 15, 1906.