"What doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?" — Micah 6:8.
JESUS sought to impress upon His hearers that it was not sufficient for them to hear that a Kingdom of God was coming, and that it would bring certain blessings to the world. It was not sufficient that they should know that a Kingdom class was being called out of the world to be Messiah's joint-heirs in that Kingdom. Action would be necessary on their part if they would attain to this high privilege which God had granted to them. "Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works," wrote St. James. Not that we are to attain the Kingdom by our works; for, imperfect through the fall, we are unable to do perfect works, acceptable to God. It will be our faith in God and in the Lord Jesus that will bring us the victory, if we gain it; but the victory will be accounted only to those who shall, to the best of their ability, work out their salvation with fear and trembling. God will work in such, and through Christ bring them off conquerors, yea, more than conquerors.
Jesus gave an illustration, or parable, declaring that those who heard His Message and rendered obedience thereto would be like a wise man, who built his house upon the rock, where the descending rains would not wash away the foundation from underneath, nor in any wise harm it. The storms of life are sure to come; and the great crisis of life, death, is sure to come. Amidst those trials there will be calmness, confidence and security for such as have accepted the Lord's arrangement and have been walking to the best of their ability in the footsteps of Jesus. To them death will be merely a transition from the earthly state to the Heavenly, by the power of the First Resurrection—"changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye"; for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 15:50-52.) Their faith and confidence, built upon God's promises, can never fail them. For such there is laid up a crown of life, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give them at that Day.—2 Timothy 4:8.
On the other hand, Jesus intimates that many who heard His words and expressed great appreciation of them, would fail to take the proper steps to attain the glorious Kingdom privileges which He presented. They would allow custom, habit, love of pleasure, love of ease, the spirit of the world, to hinder them, either from making the proper, full devotion of themselves to God, or from carrying out that purpose. Such indeed might to some extent encourage themselves with hopes of the Kingdom which would never be realized, because they never took the proper steps. They did not build their faith upon the proper foundation. Perhaps some of them built upon the Law, and thought that they could commend themselves to God by their own endeavors, without the imputation of the merit of Christ. Such would be greatly mistaken. "Other foundation can no man lay than that which God has laid—Jesus Christ." His death is our redemption-price, and His appearance in glory as our Advocate is to make good for our unintentional shortcomings.
With all such, the day of stress and trial will surely come; and their faith structure, being without a proper foundation, will give way. They will suffer the loss of all their hopes. This, however, does not signify, as many of us once supposed, that they will go to eternal torment. Evidently nearly all Christian people, misled by the creeds of the Dark Ages, read into the Word of God many things which it does not at all contain.
COMPARE ST. PAUL'S PARABLE
The Apostle Paul used a similar illustration, saying, "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid—Jesus Christ." "But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon"; for the Day that cometh shall try every man's work of what sort it is. Those building with the gold, silver and precious stones of Divine Truth, developing their faith and character in harmony with the Divine requirements and arrangements, will suffer no loss in the great trial day at the end of this Age. But others who build with the wood, hay and stubble of human tradition and self-complacency, will find that their entire faith structure will be consumed; for the fire of that Day shall try every man's work of what sort it is.—1 Corinthians 3:10-15.
Nevertheless, the Apostle tells us that even those who will suffer the loss of their faith structure, if they have built upon Christ, will themselves be saved, though so as by fire. They will be what is sometimes termed a tribulation class, described in Revelation 7:14-17: "These are they that have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the Throne of God, and serve Him in His Temple day and night." On these, God has various blessings to bestow. These will be in proportion to their obedience and loyalty and faith.
The class that the Apostle mentions as building with gold, silver and precious stones, will be a Little Flock, a Royal Priesthood, who will sit in the Throne, wearing the crowns, and be joint-heirs with Jesus in the Kingdom. But the class building upon the Rock without proper materials, yet saved so as by fire, will be the Great Company class, the antitype of the Levites, who instead of being in the Throne, will before the Throne serve those in the Throne; instead of wearing crowns, they will be granted palm branches, indicating a victory of an inferior kind. The priestly class will be the antitypical Temple of God; the Levite class, the Great Company, will serve God in and through that Temple class.
Nor is this all of the salvation which God has purposed. These two classes include merely the spirit-begotten ones of this Gospel Age. The Ancient Worthies are to constitute another class of saved ones—saved to an earthly perfection, to be princes in all the earth, glorious representatives of the invisible, spiritual, Heavenly Kingdom class. Then finally will come the blessing of all the families of the earth who shall prove willing and obedient during the thousand years of the Kingdom Reign, and who will be gradually lifted up, up, out of sin and degradation, by resurrection power, back to all that was lost in Adam and redeemed through the precious blood of Jesus. On the other hand, all intelligent, wilful opposers of God and righteousness, after a certain period of opportunity, will be destroyed in the Second Death—whether they belong to the class that is now on trial, a class of spirit-begotten ones, or to the class which will be on trial during the period of Messiah's Reign. "All the wicked will God destroy."
THE PEOPLE WERE ASTONISHED
No wonder the people were astonished at such doctrines as Jesus gave forth, even though they but imperfectly understood these, for none could perfectly understand except through the enlightening influence of the Holy Spirit, which was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:39.) The teachings of Jesus had a positiveness quite different from the various speculations and wonderings of the scribes. So it is always with the Truth. Wherever there is confusion and mysticism, we may be sure there is error and ignorance. Hence the necessity that all who preach Christ should have the anointing, or ordination, to preach, which God alone gives through the begetting of the Holy Spirit.
OUR GOLDEN TEXT
"What doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?" At first one might be inclined to say, Why, that is different! There is nothing in that text of Scripture to say that in order to be an heir of the Kingdom one must take up his cross, deny himself and follow in the footsteps of Jesus, self-sacrificingly!
This is true; but we should notice that the one is a requirement and the other a privilege. God does not require sacrifice. What He requires is loyalty and obedience, but not sacrifice. Whatever is sacrificial is so much more than the Divine Law requires. Thus in the case of Jesus, the Divine Law could not require Him to do more than to obey it—to love God with all His heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love His neighbor as Himself. But could not all this have been done by Jesus without the laying down of His life at all! Surely! Hence the Scriptures represent that when Jesus presented Himself at Jordan, He consecrated all that He had to do the Father's will, even unto death—not merely to keep the Law. He delighted to do the Father's will, even beyond what the Father demanded in the Law. (Hebrews 10:5-7.) And so must it be with all who would be acceptable footstep followers of Jesus and attain with Him glory, honor and immortality on the Heavenly plane.
The Prophet Micah addressed the Jews, and his message was from the standpoint of the Law. He was encouraging the Jews to do their best to fulfil its requirements. Nevertheless, we know that no Jew ever fulfilled the Law except Jesus, because all except Him were fallen, imperfect. He alone was "holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners."
During the Millennial Kingdom of Messiah, this same Law of God, given to the Jews through Moses, will be given to the whole world of mankind through Messiah. The requirements will be to do justly, to love kindness, to walk humbly with God. The reason why Messiah's ministration of this Law will be a success, while Moses' ministration of it was a failure, so far as bringing any to perfection was concerned, is that Messiah's Kingdom will be fully prepared and authorized to forgive sinners and to help them up out of their imperfections—back to the image and likeness of God as it was originally represented in Father Adam.
The privilege and right to thus forgive sins and to thus lift the sinner out of degradation belongs to Messiah, by virtue of His sacrifice for sins which He finished on Calvary. The right to life which He there laid down without forfeiting He will be prepared to give to mankind during the Millennium; and only the wilful rejectors will perish in the Second Death.
"O! we long to see Thy glory
Streaming wide o'er all the earth;
Every error, old and hoary,
Flee to realms that gave them birth.
"For this glorious culmination,
Not for long shall Zion wait:
Soon will come her coronation;
Lo, her King is at the gate."