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“And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son who is lame on his feet.”-2 SAM. ix. 31.
THE divine declaration, “the law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul,” is felt by the thoughtful mind to describe truly the purpose of the whole Word of God. The ways of the, Lord are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. We are too much concerned with our earthly cares, our buying and selling, our. marrying and giving in marriage; whereas with the Lord, but one .thing is needful, the good part which Mary chose, to learn and live for heaven.
When holy men of old then wrote, what the Spirit of Christ, as Peter said, in them did signify (I Pet. i, II), we may rest assured that the great aim of everything they wrote was the regeneration and salvation of the soul. The histories, as well as the Law and the Prophets, will be full of the spirit and life which our Lord said His words always contained. Let us see how this will appear in the Divine history before us.
We might readily doubt if much of an edifying character could be obtained by studying the treatment of the young prince with the lame feet, if we did not bear in mind how much there is in Scripture of what may properly be called THE RELIGION OF THE FEET. The whole body corresponds to the whole mind, and each portion of the body corresponds to some answering part of the mind. The soul is a spiritual body, having of course its interior principles, and its external forms, as the natural body has its inner and its outer parts. There is a supreme region of the soul, or head, of whose interior activities, though they are most wonderful, we know little. This is represented by the head of the body. There is the middle portion, containing the heart and the lungs, of whose movements we are more conscious. And, in the Divine Word, there is much said of the heart, and the spirit, or breathing part of the soul, and the necessity of their being purified and made new (Ezek. xviii.). But we can only contribute to this indirectly, by prayer to the Lord and by obedience to His commands. The actual change of the heart and the intellect is done by the Lord Himself, while man has faith in him, and obeys Him. THE FEET, however are visible to man; he can absolutely control them; hence they correspond to man’s life in the world, his daily life, and to those powers of thought and affection which produce his works.
A man stands upon his feet: he rests upon his daily deeds. Alla man’s inner and higher powers, views and states, ultimately rest upon his life and position in the world, Hence, the feet, the lowest part of the body, correspond to the lowest part of the soul; the degree of the soul engaged In our earthly doings, and the performance of our duty from principles of justice and judgment, is called walking uprightly. From a perception of this correspondence of feet, a large number of passages of Scripture previously obscure become at once lucid, and many a declaration that seemed mysterious teems with practical wisdom. There is a curious passage in Psalm xlix. 5, “Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about ?” What can be meant, a person might say, who thought only of the letter of Scripture, what can be meant by the iniquity of my heels? But, when we regard the feet as corresponding to the natural mind, the feet of the soul, and remember that our hereditary evils are imbedded in that portion of the soul, we see the application of the words, and feel their force. Why should we fear in the hour of temptation when our evil tendencies rise up and harass us, for the inner mind, the angels and the Lord are for us. The heels are against us, the head is on our side. “My feet were almost gone; my steps were well-nigh slipped, for I was envious at the foolish when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psa. Lxxiii. 2, 3). Again,”For Thou hast delivered my soul from death; wilt not Thou deliver my FEET from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living” (Psa, lvi. 13). “O bless our God ye people, and make the voice of His praise to be heard, who holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our FOOT to be moved” (Psa. lxvi. 8, 9). In all these cases, when we understand the feet to mean the mind which is employed in our daily life, we see clearly what is meant. We almost give way to evil feelings, when we suffer envy to influence us. We pray that the Lord will “keep us from evils of conduct; and we praise Him that so far .we have been preserved in the path of right.
In Isaiah it is said, “If thou wilt turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight; the holy of the Lord, honourable, and shalt honour Him: not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord” (lviii.. 13, 14). When the natural mind is made quiet on the Sabbath, and all anxieties and cares are laid aside, and spiritual things sought and loved; then will divine joy and peace flow in: we shall delight ourselves in the Lord. There is an exhortation of the Lord in the New Testament which has been sometimes misunderstood, which exemplifies the words of the Apostle, “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” The passage I mean is, “If thy foot offend thee cut it off,” and the newspapers have sometimes contained accounts of persons who have gone astray; laid their fault upon their feet, and absolutely determined to cut off the supposed offending part. But sin is in the mind, the legs are not to blame. Our Lord meant, that if there were something in our daily habits or our dally business, which truth shewed to be contrary to conscience and to right, we should reject it, and not have a divided mind.
This religion of daily life is the true test of religion. WE ARE what we do. If we are inconsistent in our conduct, we are inconsistent in our minds. Our faith is seen in our works. We may have splendid fancies, and think we believe them, but our real belief is shown by WHAT WE DO. Peter said he had given up all for the Lord, and would follow Him, whithersoever He went. This was, however, not faith, it was fancy. His real belief was in taking care of himself, and denying his Lord, or whatever would bring him into danger. Hence, when the trial came he forsook the Lord and fled. “Shew me thy faith, without thy works,” James said, “and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (ii. 18). This is indeed the eternal law. Whatever a man DOES, is what he really and inwardly believes. He may think he believes in loving the Lord, and being honest, because he may admire these things in an abstract way, and when he believes his interests are not against them, but if he defrauds another when he has the opportunity, and seeks his interests unjustly, he really believes in selfishness and fraud. Hence, the importance of the teaching of the Divine Word respecting works. ” And shall come forth, they that have done good to the resurrection of life: and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation (judgment)” (John v. 29). Their faith, their love is in their works when they are good, and have done good; and, when they have done evil their wickedness is the embodiment of their iniquity and falsity.
Hence, too, that impressive lesson given by the Lord on the night of His last meeting with His disciples, before the supper, from which Judas went out to betray Him, He took a basin of water, and girded Himself with a towel, and then proceeded to wash His disciples’ feet: but when He came to Peter, the forward disciple objected, not understanding the inward meaning of which this was the outward symbol, nor yet prepared to understand it. Lord, he said, “dost Thou wash my feet ?” “Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” Peter had no loving trust in the Lord yet, but was full of his own conceit, and so he became positive, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” Jesus then spoke the memorable words which should be deeply impressed upon every heart, “If I wash thee not thou hast no part in me.”O, that every disciple of the Lord felt this. If the Lord does not wash us from our faults by the water of truth we have no part in Him. We may be able to talk about Him, sing and pray to Him; argue for Him, write for Him, preach for Him, fight for Him, die for Him: but has He washed us? that is the question. Has He washed greed from the covetous man, bad temper from the violent? Has He washed fretfulness from the discontented, and impurity from the unclean? Has He washed us? Has He washed pride from the haughty, ostentation from the vain? and trickery from the dishonest? If that has not been done, they have no part in Him.
“Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus rejoined, “He that is washed needeth not save TO WASH HIS FEET, but is clean every whit.” Mysterious and all-Important words. What the life is, that is all the rest. Let a man sincerely purify his conduct, by power from the Lord, and his faith becomes purer, his love purer. If he neglect HIS FEET, though his head may be full of sentiment, and his hands busy with benevolent objects, every work is defiled, he is still impure. He needeth but to wash his feet the Lord will take care of the rest, BUT HE MUST WASH THEM. “Thine eyes, O Lord of Hosts, the great, the mighty God, are open upon all the ways of the sons of men; to give every one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. xxxii. 19). How many there are who, although they profess reverence for the Lord, take the outward uniform of religion, and as to modes of faith, or rather doctrine, are of the straitest sect of the modern Pharisees, but whose feet are soiled by many a fault, and many a folly. They cannot be known from other people except on Sunday. They have not washed their feet, or at best very slightly washed them and they have no part in the Lord.
The man of genuine religion, however, carries out the exclamation of the Psalmist, “My feet shall stand within thy gates, Jerusalem (Ps. cxxii. 2). Not our thoughts only, or our intentions only, but our works and all our ways shall be Thine. By Thy spirit shall all our doings be wrought in us.
When we clearly perceive the correspondence of feet we shall readily see the Divine lessons in passages of the Sacred Word which speak of walking, leaping, and running. To walk in the truth is to live and upright and heavenly life. How often in the Word, especially in the book of Psalms, this use of walking to represent living occurs, every diligent reader will know. The very first sentence is, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.” When we are in temptation we are said to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psa. xxiii. 4). “The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord, and he delighteth in His way” (xxxvii. 23.) “Teach me thy way, O Lord: I will walk in thy truth, unite my heart to fear thy name” (Psa. Lxxxvi. 11).
When we reflect upon the vital importance of a truly virtuous life, both for time and eternity, it is sad to know that a large portion of the preaching, in many branches of the Christian Church, consists in persistent efforts to persuade men that they cannot keep the commandments of their Heavenly Father. Walking, purely and perfectly, is pretended to be impossible, and often in other ways shewn to be of little value. The result, combined with the tendencies of human lust and passion is the very imperfect world we see.
Yet, why should it be thought easier to act contrary to the laws of the Creator than to walk according to them? Every humanly-constructed machine works more easily in the direction its maker intended its springs and wheels to move than if it is turned in an opposite course. How can it be supposed that the human being, that wondrous construction of infinite love and infinite skill, will work more easily when moving contrary to the laws of his construction. O let us dread this pernicious error, and walk in the way of God’s commandments. The way of transgressors is hard. “This is the love of God, that ye keep His commandments:” and His commandments are not grievous (I John v. 3). It is break.ing God’s blessed. commands which makes almost all the grief in the world, It is grievous to hurt the kind feelings of those around us. It is grievous to be ignorant, stupid, and irrational. It is grievous to offend the divine laws, and, instead of being angel-men, to be those poor degraded beings who are insane with pride or brutalized and deformed almost to fiendishness on earth, by vile passions and degrading habits. Oh it is grievous to see one who might have been an angel degraded to “a thing that smokes and drinks.” But, on the contrary, the path of the just man is increasingly easy. He has his troubles now and then, which are blessings in disguise, but his ordinary condition is one of light, joy, and peace. In the light of the Lord Jesus he can not only walk, but run. “I am the Light of the world,” the Saviour said, “he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. The Lord Jesus is not only the light of heaven but the light of the world. If the world would but walk in His truth, as the angels do, the world would become like heaven, and rejoice in the brightness and gladness of love. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall RUN and not be weary: and they shall walk and not faint.
We shall now have no difficulty in understanding the sort of person brought before our contemplation in the young prince the son of Jonathan, who was lame of both his feet. Jonathan, the son of Saul, represented, in the spiritual sense, those who are born again, but only to the level of the literal sense of the Word. They are obedient and orderly, but have no deep yearnings after spiritual wisdom, They rejoice in the milk for babes, but the strong meat for men they have not yet tasted. But there are those who gather their religion, such as it is, not directly from the Word at all, but from the example of good men, and what they can pick up in a general way from the good they follow. These are represented by Jonathan’s son. Having comparatively little knowledge of the Word of God and Divine things, they have but little strength. They are well disposed, but they have many imperfections-they are lame of both their feet. The right foot corresponds to deeds of goodness, the left foot to words of truth. To be lame is to have many weaknesses and faults in both these respects. He was said to dwell in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar, and this, no doubt, was literally correct. But it is equally true of those who are represented. They who are weakly religious at second hand all dwell in the house of MACHIR, or of ONE WHO KNOWS, which that name expresses. They trust in men rather than go to the Word of the Lord the TRUTH ITSELF. They lean upon creeds forms rituals but have no clear light in their own minds: They are Christians by tradition; and the stream of truth like other streams, gathers defilement as it goes. We shouid rise to the Fountain Head.
Ammiel signifies the people of God, and Machir, son of Ammiel expresses one who has derived his information from the people of God but who uses it to obtain spiritual influence over others. Lo-debar means the Word to him. They make themselves TO BE AS THE WORD to weak minds, and often lead men blindly in religious servility, instead of training a host of enlightened Christians. How large a portion of society even at this day, are mere followers of men, not really disciples of the Lord. Some church or some distinguished preacher IS THE WORD TO THEM and the leaders are content to have it so. The thought with multitudes is not what the Lord says, or what is right in the sight of the Lord, but what our church says, or what the minister allows or blames. How lame is society in both its feet.
How much is there in daily life, in personal habits, and in the usages of society which weakens health and destroys usefulness? How much is there in business which is unprincipled, but which is passed over and done, because it has been passed over and done before. Men hurry themselves on in life, both in mind and body, because society does it, but it is spiritual lameness and oftentimes they fall and can with difficulty rise again. How many words are used in daily intercourse which are not true? How many professions are made, and promises and threats used in our intercourse with children which are far from being right. Society is lame of both feet. Like the feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s famous image, society rests upon some things true, but much that is spurious, corrupt, and wrong: the feet are partly iron and partly miry clay. From the Legislature downwards how many habits prevail which are contraventions of God’s laws and destructive of morality and health. Night is turned into day; the lust of making great fortunes, and making them suddenly, gives a savage energy to many, and fills the mind with anxiety and care, destructive to happiness and health. The boasting bills which cover the walls with declarations, scarcely half-true, announce how much fraud has vitiated the left foot.
When people become sensible of their weakness and imperfections, real Mephibosheths, they will be on the way to gain strength. The word Mephibosheth signifies a confession of shame. And a sincere confession is the way to repentance. When men can be induced to rise out of the rut of old ways, and ask not what men have taught, but what does the Lord the living Lord our Saviour, teach now, teach to us, teach to me, we shall find the lame man will not only be comforted, but be filled with strength and joy. “Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the durnb shall sing” (Isa. xxxv.), The day has come when the lame can be healed. Divine truth is given in abundance to strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees. The lame can take the strength the Lord has provided, and none need say I am sick. The great Saviour has promised, and He is now fulfilling it. “I will assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted. And I will make her that halteth a remnant, and her that was cast afar off a strong nation: and the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth even for ever.”
David’s kind feeling towards the lame son of Jonathan represents the tenderness of the spiritually-minded Christian to the weaknesses of the erring. Stern uncharitable men are harsh, hard, and forbidding, but the real Christian is tender and very pitiful. He desires to help the weak, and not to discourage them. He knows his own struggles, and his own shortcomings, and he sympathizes and desires to console and to cheer. His heart, inspired by the infinite love of the Lord Jesus, is ever asking if there be any weak one whom he can aid, and, when he finds a Mephibosheth, he is ever ready in loving kindness to encourage the weak to become strong. He never forgets the charity that hopeth all things and believeth all things, and with his kindly cheer the prodigal will sometimes come home to his father, the crooked will become straight and the rough places plain.
Author: Jonathan Bayley— The Divine Wisdom of the Word of God (1892)