"When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, then thou shalt bestir thyself."
2 Samuel 5:24
The members of Christ's Church should be very prayerful, always seeking the unction of the Holy One to rest upon their hearts, that the kingdom of Christ may come, and that his "will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven;" but there are times when God seems especially to favour Zion, such seasons ought to be to them like "the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees." We ought then to be doubly prayerful, doubly earnest, wrestling more at the throne than we have been wont to do. Action should then be prompt and vigorous. The tide is flowing--now let us pull manfully for the shore. O for Pentecostal outpourings and Pentecostal labours. Christian, in yourself there are times "when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees." You have a peculiar power in prayer; the Spirit of God gives you joy and gladness; the Scripture is open to you; the promises are applied; you walk in the light of God's countenance; you have peculiar freedom and liberty in devotion, and more closeness of communion with Christ than was your wont. Now, at such joyous periods when you hear the "sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees," is the time to bestir yourself; now is the time to get rid of any evil habit, while God the Spirit helpeth your infirmities. Spread your sail; but remember what you sometimes sing--
"I can only spread the sail;
Thou! Thou! must breathe the auspicious gale."
Only be sure you have the sail up. Do not miss the gale for want of preparation for it. Seek help of God, that you may be more earnest in duty when made more strong in faith; that you may be more constant in prayer when you have more liberty at the throne; that you may be more holy in your conversation whilst you live more closely with Christ.
"In whom also we have obtained an inheritance."
When Jesus gave himself for us, he gave us all the rights and privileges which went with himself; so that now, although as eternal God, he has essential rights to which no creature may venture to pretend, yet as Jesus, the Mediator, the federal head of the covenant of grace, he has no heritage apart from us. All the glorious consequences of his obedience unto death are the joint riches of all who are in him, and on whose behalf he accomplished the divine will. See, he enters into glory, but not for himself alone, for it is written, "Whither the Forerunner is for us entered." Heb. 6:20. Does he stand in the presence of God?--"He appears in the presence of God for us." Heb. 9:24. Consider this, believer. You have no right to heaven in yourself: your right lies in Christ. If you are pardoned, it is through his blood; if you are justified, it is through his righteousness; if you are sanctified, it is because he is made of God unto you sanctification; if you shall be kept from falling, it will be because you are preserved in Christ Jesus; and if you are perfected at the last, it will be because you are complete in him. Thus Jesus is magnified--for all is in him and by him; thus the inheritance is made certain to us--for it is obtained in him; thus each blessing is the sweeter, and even heaven itself the brighter, because it is Jesus our Beloved "in whom" we have obtained all. Where is the man who shall estimate our divine portion? Weigh the riches of Christ in scales, and his treasure in balances, and then think to count the treasures which belong to the saints. Reach the bottom of Christ's sea of joy, and then hope to understand the bliss which God hath prepared for them that love him. Overleap the boundaries of Christ's possessions, and then dream of a limit to the fair inheritance of the elect. "All things are yours, for ye are Christ's and Christ is God's."
Today's reading: Exodus 23-24; Matthew 20:1-16 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Laws of Justice and Mercy
1 “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.
2 “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, 3 and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit.
4 “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. 5 If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.
6 “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. 7Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.
8 “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent.
9 “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.
10 “For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, 11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.
12 “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.
13 “Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.
The Three Annual Festivals
14 “Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.
15 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.
“No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
16 “Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.
“Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.
17 “Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD.
18 “Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast.
“The fat of my festival offerings must not be kept until morning.
19 “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.
“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.
God’s Angel to Prepare the Way
20 “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. 21Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. 22 If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. 23 My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out. 24Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. 25 Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, 26 and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.
27 “I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. 28 I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. 29 But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.
31 “I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. 32 Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. 33 Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.”
The Covenant Confirmed
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, 2 but Moses alone is to approach the LORD; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.”
3 When Moses went and told the people all the LORD’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.” 4 Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said.
He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.”
8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
9 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. 11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.
12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.”
13 Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. 14 He said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them.”
15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. 18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
WOMAN OF SAMARIA
The Woman Who Left Her Waterpot
The pregnant phrase to underline in the incident at Sychar’s well which is so rich in spiritual instruction, is the announcement John gives at the beginning of the chapter, namely, “He must needs go through Samaria.” Why the necessity? While this was the shortest and most usual road for a traveler going from Galilee to Jerusalem ( Luke 9:52), the Pharisees avoided this customary route, and took a longer, round-about one through Peraea. They did this in order to avoid any contact with the Samaritans with whom, as Jews, they had no dealings. While the Jews and the Samaritans were physically alike in many ways, requiring the same food, following the same occupations, having the same hopes and ambitions, and suffering the same diseases, yet there was a racial hatred that kept them apart.
The origin of this hostility between these two peoples may be traced back to the Assyrian colonization of the land of Israel ( 2 Kings 17:21). From this followed the antagonism of the Samaritans to the Jews at the return from captivity (Ezra 4;Nehemiah 4 ), which led to the erection of rival temples on Mount Gerizim. This was in the mind of the woman at the well when she said, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain” (John 4:20). From that time the spirit of religious bitterness lingered, and this accounts for the Jewish reproach.
“He who eats the bread of a Samaritan is as he who eats swine’s flesh.”
“No Samaritan shall be made a proselyte.”
“They have no share in the resurrection of the dead.”
Jesus spoke of a Samaritan as an alien ( Luke 10:33; 17:16,18), and in turn was accused by the Jews of being a Samaritan Himself and possessed by a demon ( John 8:48). While the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans, Jesus had. He spoke well of them, healed one of them of leprosy, and rebuked two of His disciples for wishing to destroy some of their number with fire from heaven (Luke 9:55, 56; 10:30-37). As the omniscient Lord, He knew all about the woman in Samaria and went there to show and teach that He was above all religious and racial prejudices and that true worship consisted of worshiping God in spirit and in truth.
Thus necessity brought Jesus to the place where the Samaritan woman lived, and reaching Jacob’s well, being wearied because of the long noontide journey, He sat by the well while His disciples went into the city to buy food. The reality of our Lord’s fatigue testifies to the reality of His humanity. As the Man, He was weary and required food and drink, but as the God He could tell the woman who met Him at the well all about her guilty past and her soul’s deepest need. Jesus was often weary in His work, but never weary of it. As Man, He knows all about our human and spiritual needs, and as God, He can meet every one of them. So about noon that day, Christ, a Jew, and the God-Man, met a Samaritan who was a woman, whose life was to be transformed as the result of that contact.
Twice over this nameless female is referred to as “a woman of Samaria” (John 4:7, 9 ). Prominent in this phrase is her religious and national position. She was not only an alien as far as the Jews were concerned, but was also poor, for women of affluence did not draw water in those times. The Samaritan woman differs from many of the other women who came before Christ in His itinerant work. Some of them pressed into the kingdom or took it by violence with their earnest prayers. We think of Anna who spent her nights and days in fastings and prayers—of the sinful woman of Canaan who washed His feet with her tears—of the widow of Nain who moved His heart by her silent weeping in her great loss, but for the woman before us no petition was granted, no miracle was wrought except her spiritual transformation. Yet she was a privileged woman in that Christ confessed to her that He was indeed the Messiah which He did not usually confess even to His disciples, leaving them to discern for themselves the truth of His Godhead from His mighty works and miracles of mercy. Thus this woman has an individual prominence in that she was among the number who sought Him not (Isaiah 65:1 ). Further, He did not usually offer His gifts unasked, but waited until they were sought or importuned. Here He offered the woman the unspeakable gift of Himself. First of all, He asked relief of the woman, then He offered her relief, not common water to slake her thirst, but Himself, the Well of Everlasting Life.
What kind of a woman, morally, was this Samaritan water-carrier? When the disciples returned from their shopping errand they “marvelled that Jesus talked with the woman.” Perhaps they were surprised to see Him talking in public with a woman, which was directly contrary to the Rabbinic precepts affirming that a man should not speak in public to his own wife, and that the words of the Law should be burned rather than taught publicly to a woman. Probably there were three reasons why the disciples marveled at the sight of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in earnest conversation. First, they wondered that He, as a Rabbi or Teacher sent from God, talked with her because she was only a woman. Second, because she was a Samaritan woman with whom no Jew should have dealings. Third, because she was a sinner. Some versions speak of her as “thewoman of Samaria,” and she was likely well-known because of her association with men.
As a Samaritan, this woman had and knew the Pentateuchal law against adultery. When Jesus found her she was living with a man who was not her husband, but He did not expose her sin to others. He wanted her to feel the sense of sin herself. So when she asked Jesus for the living water of which He spoke, He replied: “Go, call thy husband.” Her life had to be a clean receptacle to hold the living spring, so Jesus revealed the foulness that had to be destroyed, and His thrust left its mark. Her past and present life had been laid bare by the omniscient Lord who said, “Thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband.” If death had invaded her home upon five occasions, and the five men she had lived with in succession were actual husbands, she certainly did not gather praise for her five marriages. But to bury her fifth husband and go and live with a man who was not a husband, revealed how she had fallen into the depths of sin. We can imagine how the people of her locality avoided her because of her lack of feminine modesty and purity.
Behind the questions, “What seekest thou?” “Why talked thou with her ?”—such a woman—is the thought that whatever His talk with such a woman, whose reputation the disciples may have heard about in the city, it must have been of the highest nature and was related to her spiritual welfare. Because those disciples believed that Jesus was perfect, and knew no sin, ulterior motives could not be ascribed to such a Holy One, as He talked with one whose sin became apparent in the white light of His holiness.
It is inferred that the woman complied immediately with the thirsty Man’s request for a drink of refreshing water, even though she could see by His features and dress that He belonged to the nation who hated her people. As she drew water from the well she asked Him, “How is it that thou, being aJew, asketh drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?” Little did she realize that in her willingness to give the Jew a drink she was fulfilling the Christian law toward Him, “If he thirst—even if he is thine enemy—give him drink,” and that cup of water she gave Him did not lose its reward ( Matthew 10:42). Jesus answered the woman’s question by bringing home to her mind her ignorance of the greatness of the One sitting at the well.
If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
What the Samaritan woman was so ignorant of was the fact that she had been coming daily to a deep well of water that had been God’s gift of refreshment to man and beast since Jacob’s time, yet there was a deeper well of spiritual truth so necessary for man’s hidden needs, of which she was unconscious. She was a traveler in the journey of life, travel-stained by her sins, but had not discovered as yet the fountain opened for uncleanness. Instead of Christ begging her for a refreshing draught of water, she should have been beseeching Him for the unfailing supply of spiritual water from the eternal well.
From her ungracious manner and slur at Christ’s people, she answered His comment in a tone of respect. There was something about His voice and manner that gripped her heart, and while she did not understand His message, she was conscious of its latent force, and felt that this traveler was no ordinary man. He seemed to speak with authority, and so passes in her address to Him from, “Thou, being a Jew”—the last word uttered in the tone of contempt—to the reverential, “Sir,” Having had five husbands she was not easily worsted in conversation and wanted to know where was the better well than Jacob’s from which the “living water” could be secured, and her ignorance begins to vanish as she asks Him, “Art thou greater than Jacob, our ancestor?”
As the woman spoke of the deep well before her, and of Christ having no bucket to secure more vitalizing water from the depths of the well, Jesus, pointing to the ancient well, said, “Anyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but anyone who drinks of the water I shall give him will never thirst any more; the water I shall give him will turn into a spring of water, welling up to eternal life.”
What Jesus supplied was not external water to satisfy the recurring physical need, but an internal and eternal source of unfailing spiritual, life-giving water. Such living water was a divine gift (Isaiah 55:1), was Christ Himself (John 4:10), easily reached—the woman walked far to reach Jacob’s well, but the spiritual well is ever at hand—and a satisfying, unfailing gift for “whosoever drinketh” ( Revelation 22:17). As light broke in upon her darkened mind, the woman replied to Christ’s teaching, “Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.”
But a full understanding of His words was not yet hers. Still thinking of them in their physical sense, she thinks of toilsome hours and weary journeys that could be saved if only she knew the marvelous well the Stranger was speaking about. Jesus answered her request, and cut short her argument with a command that went straight to her heart: “Go, call thy husband and come hither.” Our Lord wanted to turn her from a proud argumentative frame of mind to the humility of confession. Here was a sinful creature worth saving, but she must be made conscious of her sin, and when she humbly said, “I have no husband,” she became a different woman.
Proceeding gently, Jesus replied, and revealed His omniscience as He unmasked her secret: “Thou hast well said ... For thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband.”
The very wounds her shame would hide were seen by His all-searching eye, and her ignorance gives way to spiritual insight as she reverently confesses the prophetic gift of the One who knew all about her past and present life and asks Him to solve the problem of the right place of worship for both Jew and Samaritan. The woman was taken up with the place of worship, but Jesus sought to teach her that the spirit of worship is more important than the place. Alas, on any Lord’s Day there are thousands in the place of worship as they gather in churches, but they are strangers to the spirit of worship which is related to the worship of God in spirit and in truth—worship inspired by the Holy Spirit in conformity to the truth of the Word.
It was to this woman that Jesus revealed the only basis of acceptable worship, and also the truth of His Messiahship. Perceiving that Jesus was a Prophet, the woman felt He knew the nature of true worship, namely, the spiritual worship of a spiritual Being not only at Jerusalem or Gerizim, but wherever there is a heart seeking Him. With her mind opening to Christ’s instruction about spiritual worship, the Samaritan woman confessed the power of the coming Messiah to reveal all things, and perhaps now sensed that because the Jew before her had told her all things about her life, He must be the Messiah. Then came the dramatic word of Christ’s claim, “I that speak unto thee am the Messiah.” How privileged this sinful woman was to hear from the lips of Jesus Himself the divine secret of His Messiahship!
By the Spirit, the woman acknowledged the truth of Christ’s Messiahship and Omniscience, and immediately became a powerful witness to her remarkable discovery. With her mind full of the new truth she had learned, she left her water-pot and, full of her great discovery, hurried back to the city. In her enthusiasm she left her water-pot behind as a pledge of her return, not only for natural water, but also for a further spiritual draught from the living well she had found in Christ. Reaching the city, she met the men who knew her only too well, and declared the truth she had learned of Christ’s Messiahship. Because He had unveiled her past life, He must be the Christ for whom both Jew and Samaritan were looking.
Her ignorant mind had grasped the secret of true worship and of Christ’s mission, and her instinct for telling news became apparent as with the passion of an evangelist she said, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” He had awakened her to a new and better life and such was the effect of her earnest witness that many of those Samaritans went out and came to Jesus at the well. For two days they listened to His teaching, and came to believe in Him, and accept Him as the Christ, the Saviour of the world. This was not only because of what His first native woman evangelist in Samaria had said of Him, but also because they had heard Him for themselves, and hearing, believed. In the glow of her newborn faith, the woman had to tell others and share with them all she had heard and experienced. Some four years later, when Philip the Evangelist came to preach “in many villages of the Samaritans,” he doubtless met “the woman of Samaria” and realized how wonderfully the Holy Spirit had used her life and witness as well as the testimony of the Samaritans she had been the means of leading to Christ, to prepare the way for his miraculous ministry in Samaria. When the disciples returned from the city and saw Jesus talking with the woman, they knew what He meant by telling them that the fields were white already unto harvest. Because of the seed sown by the woman who, when she found the well, left her water-pot, Philip experienced a great ingathering of souls in Samaria, so much so that there was great joy in that city. The most joyful inhabitant was the woman who from her heart confessed, “Come see a man, who told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?” (Acts 8:5-25). She had laid the foundation of that Samaritan Pentecost. At Jacob’s well she saw Jacob’s Star (Numbers 24:17 ), and ascending Jacob’s Ladder (John 1:51) became the means of others climbing to God.