The Renown of His Ways

“I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 45:13).

Our Lord was like wisdom. His ways were ways of pleasantness, and all His paths were peace. (Prov. 3:17).

The world He had made, and the world in which He was, knew Him not; but He was the delight of the heart of God. God said from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Not only when He went down into the waters of baptism, but also when He was on the mount of transfiguration with Moses and Elijah, surrounded by publicans and sinners, was He God’s delight.

The meal offering of Leviticus, chapter two, suggests the lovely perfections of the ways of our Lord. That offering was composed of fine flour mingled and anointed with oil and with frankincense thereon. The flour was the best—all good for food; the oil was the best of the olives that made man’s face to shine; the pure frankincense was the most fragrant possible. This was God’s own picture of the needful and delightful moral perfections of Christ. The meal offering was the food of God and of the priests. Part was burned upon the altar and part was the portion of Aaron and his sons.

No tongue could possibly describe the delight of the heart of God in that lowly life lived in the seclusion of Nazareth. God, who alone knew the glory that humble form covered, alone could appreciate the path of lowly obedience He trod. Little is said in the gospel records of those thirty quiet years. The little things that are said are windows opened for a moment to reveal the light and loveliness that most of the time was hidden under that form of a servant.

The prophet Isaiah gives us one brief look at Him in chapter 53, verse 2: “He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant.” That plant was not tender in the way of likelihood of perishing in the cold of this foreign world, but tender like an exotic that feels the change of the climate from which it came.

This is how He grew up before the Lord. Not a day, not a moment in Nazareth that God did not look down from heaven with delight upon Him. No husbandman ever watched a rare and lovely plant as God did His comely Son. There was death and corruption all around; but there was life and holiness in Him. The world was full of striving, lusting men and women, crushing and climbing to excel; here was One who took the lowest place and grew unknown but to God alone.

That Babe in the manger was God manifest in the flesh. The One His virgin mother held upon her breast was the Mighty One who upholds all things. The shining glory was hidden, but the glory of grace and truth was beautifully revealed.

How wonderful that a lad in a peasant home in Nazareth; eating common food; sleeping on a hard bed; working with his hands as soon as he was able; that that One should be the very Son of God! “The only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

This was the way of God. These were the ways of Christ. Pure and fragrant like a lily among the thorns; rare beauty for only God to appreciate; growing up before the Lord as a tender plant. To Israel He was a root out of a dry ground. He had no form nor comeliness to them.

In Luke 2:52 there is another touching and exquisite reference to the youth of Christ: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” He did not seem to be a prodigy. The lovely ways of a perfect child characterized His childhood years. The wisdom of His words increased according to His stature. As a youth He did not speak as a patriarch. His life was unblemished and altogether lovely, but it was consistent with His years and humble circumstances.

The very covering with silence of those years at Nazareth is the perfect way of the Spirit of God. This was His way. There was no outshining of His glory. There was no demonstration of His miraculous greatness. The home was humble; its furnishings almost nil, no doubt; the table was not the table of a king; but there the loveliest flower that ever graced this earth grew unnoticed by all but God.

“… and was subject unto them” (Luke 2:51). This was another way of loveliness in Him as a child of twelve years. After the episode in the temple, and His gentle reproof, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” it is recorded that He went down with Joseph and Mary, “and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them.” He declared that God was His Father, and that His business was all important to Him, but nevertheless recognized His earthly relationship and was subject to Joseph and Mary. That subjection of His own voluntary will was lovely in Him. Joseph and Mary had the manifest token that He fully comprehended His Sonship of God and His exalted mission, but that did not change His moral perfection as subject to those to whose care God had entrusted Him.

This one incident when He was twelve years of age is on record to reveal the consistent moral perfection of our Lord as He grew up in that lovely family of Joseph the carpenter.

When our Lord was “sitting in the midst of the doctors,” (Luke 2:46) in the temple, He was like charity, He did not behave Himself unseemly. (1 Cor. 13:5). He was “hearing them, and asking them questions.” He did not pose as a teacher, though there did dwell in Him “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). “All that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” He was the true speaker of Psalm 119:99: “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.” All His life, Isaiah 50:4 was true of Him: “He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.” Thus, that childhood and youth were passed in quiet, loving fellowship with God; hearing His voice and responding to His love.

“Be pitiful, be courteous” (I Peter 3:8). Our Lord was very pitiful, and our Lord was always courteous. There is the thought of offence latent in each of these words; “pitiful,” “courteous.” Pitiful is that condition of soul that considers the weakness, the infirmity, or the ignorance of the offender, and thus does not take offence. This was ever true of our Lord. There was compassion and mercy always in His heart. He considered the burden of others.

The story is told of Napoleon walking with a lady along a narrow path that became so very narrow that the lady had to walk ahead with the Emperor behind. Approaching them was a workman with a heavy load upon his back. The lady was keeping the path so the burdened workman would have to step aside. Napoleon gently took the lady by the shoulders and caused her to leave the path so the man with the load could continue on the walk. Napoleon said to the lady, “Madame, consider the burden.”

This our Lord always did. The disciples rudely awakened Him from his sleep when He was weary in the boat on stormy Galilee: “Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” What unbelieving folly to suppose that the boat would sink with Christ in it! But He considered their panic and fear, and rebuked the wind and the sea with, “Peace, be still.” He could have rebuked them and let the storm rage on. But He was pitiful.

When He, their Lord, was praying more earnestly in Gethsemane because of the coming cross with all its terror, He said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch” (Mark 14:34). If ever He desired the sympathy of loving human hearts it was then. His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. But when He came from prayer the three favored disciples were asleep. “What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” He went away and prayed again. When He returned to them they were asleep again. Then He said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” How pitiful that was! He seemed to say, “They were willing to watch with Me but they were not able.” How gracious of Him to remember the weakness of the flesh!

At Calvary, when our Lord suffered the repeated abuse and mortification of the shame men heaped upon Him, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Rotherham’s translation says, “He kept saying, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He was suffering the cruel, heartless infliction of crucifixion; yet He could remember their ignorance and plead it to His Father for their forgiveness. No doubt many of the perpetrators of Calvary will be in Heaven in answer to that prayer.

He was that charity which “suffereth long, and is kind” (1 Cor. 13:4). How wonderful that His spirit never soured. How perfectly lovely of Him to “endure all things” without for one moment either doubting God’s love, or threatening His persecutors! The fountain of His heart’s love could not be stopped. He was very pitiful still; very full of pity.

He was always courteous. Behind this word “courteous” is the thought of not giving offence. Our Lord was so thoughtful and so careful to give no offence.

In the house of Simon the Pharisee, when our Lord was so discourteously received by His host, our Lord was most courteous. Simon had nothing for Christ; no kiss; no water for His feet; no oil for His head; nothing to give Him, because nothing had been received from Him. There was no love at all, because there had been no forgiveness.

The woman was such a contrast. She loved much and she showed it. She washed His feet with her tears. She kissed His feet. She anointed His feet with ointment. Simon looked sullenly on: “A woman like that I would not allow to touch me! He surely does not know her character. If He were a prophet He would know.” And so Simon mused.

“Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee.” Then Simon found that He read his heart as well as He knew the character of the woman! But see the courtesy of the parable of the two debtors, the one of whom owed fifty pence, and the other five hundred; the one of whom loved little, and the other loved much. Was this Simon and the woman? It was the woman, all right. She loved much. She was forgiven much. But it was not Simon. He had no love. He had been forgiven nothing. What a courteous way to omit mention of the one who had been forgiven nothing and so had no love! Simon could read himself into the picture. Then, “Thou gavest me no kiss: thou gavest me no water for my feet: my head with oil thou didst not anoint.” The woman gave Christ everything, but Simon gave Him nothing. Still our Lord was courteous, even with His most discourteous enemies.

“Go and sit down in the lowest room” (Luke 14:10). Where was our Lord sitting when He gave these instructions to His disciples? Although higher than the highest, our Lord sat in the lowest rooms. No one estimated His worth accurately. The ruler did not say to Him, “Friend, go up higher.” God surely did, and will, but man did not. They just let Him sit in the lowest room. What courtesy on His part! Courtesy that could not possibly offend any. No one could envy Him. He was that charity that “envieth not” and that “vaunteth not itself.”

This was His perfect way to “make Himself of no reputation” and take the lowest place of all. Being in the lowest room, our Lord was near the man who needed Him; the man who had the dropsy (Luke 14:2-4). Sitting in the lowest room, our Lord dispensed the greatest blessing!

In the home of His special friends at Bethany, how courteously He behaved. Martha and Mary and Lazarus all acknowledged Him as Lord. Martha was cumbered about much serving. She looked again and again with impatient eye upon Mary “sitting at Jesus feet”: “Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.” But that would have been out of place for Him as a guest to take the place of master in the house of His friends. Martha wanted Him to assume the role of head of that house, but He was too courteous to leave the character of guest.

He was charity that did not “behave itself unseemly.” Although Lord of all, He respected the honor of His friends ruling in their own house. But He did give Martha needful instruction as to what delighted Him most. He did not desire to sit alone while both the sisters busied themselves preparing Him many dishes. The Word of God was more to Him than His necessary food. When the care of “many things” took the place of hearing His Word, it is the “many things” that must go. So our Lord, when a guest, maintained the character of a guest, and did it in a lovely way. He was the courteous Gentleman in the home.

There are three classes of outcasts appearing again and again on the pages of the Gospel story. They are: Samaritans—hated because of their history and competitive religion; Publicans—hated by the Jews for their practices of farming the taxes and exploiting the people; and sinners—despised because of the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. Our Lord’s way with these brought Him opprobrium and shame from the bigoted leaders of the nation. His ways were ways of grace.

It was a Samaritan woman who said, “The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9). This was the reason she wondered why this Jewish Stranger should ask a drink of her at Sychar’s well. Even the disciples felt this was exceeding what was right and proper, to talk to a woman of Samaria. They “marvelled that He talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or Why talkest thou with her?” (John 4:27). Evidently they wanted to ask Him those very questions, but were reluctant to do it.

The great subject of worship in spirit and in truth was revealed at Sychar’s well to a woman of Samaria. Grace in Him knew no restrictions and looked not for worthy objects upon which to bestow its richest gifts.

The Lord did not act on the prejudices of the Samaritans, for when He was going to Jerusalem He sent His disciples to prepare Him a place in a village of Samaria (Luke 9:51, 52). The violation of the Jewish procedure caused Him to be slandered as a Samaritan: “Thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil” (John 8:48). His violation of the Samaritan prejudice in going to Jerusalem to the feast and passing through their country caused them to refuse to receive Him (Luke 9: 53). The Jewish reproach He accepted, for in a parable He called Himself “a certain Samaritan” (Luke 10:33). The Samaritan rejection because of their prejudice did not dry up His springs of grace, for immediately on leaving Samaria He healed a Samaritan leper (Luke 17:16). It was the same journey mentioned in the 9th and 17th chapters of Luke.

In the life of our Lord He ran counter to every prejudice in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. There was religious pride in each place. The humbling of this pride caused bitterness in the hearts of those whose bigotry was opposed. That bitterness and opposition never lessened the grace in the heart of Him Who went about doing good.

Reading Luke 9 after John 4 reveals that, although grace may make many converts in a place (“many believed on Him”), deep rooted religious tradition will likely remain. Many Samaritans believed on Christ as the Messiah, but Samaritans would not tolerate a setting of Jerusalem feasts above their worship. They would even refuse Christ when His face was as though He were going to Jerusalem. I suppose the very early honoring of the mountain of Samaria would be ample justification for Samaritans looking upon this as the right place. Many a book could be written (and probably was) about the comparative claims of Jerusalem and Gerizim as the place where men ought to worship. The place was all important in their eyes. Instead of a place, worship now is in spirit and in truth. What is important today is not the place but the way. “After the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers” (Acts 24:14). The Acts of the Apostles never honors “the place,” but “the way.” The place usually refers to the temple. The word “way” is used for Christianity and the truth of God.

When because of His grace to the Samaritans the Jews said, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil” (John 8:48), our Lord answered, “I have not a devil; but I honor My Father, and ye do dishonor Me.” He would not say, “I am not a Samaritan,” for such a statement might have offended the Samaritans. He was too courteous to give offence. Grace continually flowed from His lips in spite of the reproach it often brought to Him.

One of our Lord’s chief disciples was a Publican—“Matthew the publican.” I have often wondered if Matthew were that publican who went behind the Pharisee to the temple to pray (Luke 18:10-14): who smote upon his breast saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Had this taken place in the life of Matthew before the Lord called him, it is no wonder he was singled out with the words, “Follow me” (Matt. 9:9).

The fact that a publican was chosen to write the gospel of Christ the King, is surely the way of grace that completely ignored the reproach of men.

When many publicans sat down to eat with the Lord, the scribes and Pharisees found fault: “Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?” He, the Lord, justified Himself as the physician seeking the sick rather than those who thought they needed Him not (Luke 5:27-32). The gospel according to the Pharisees (!), “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them,” was spoken when “publicans and sinners drew near to hear Him” (Luke 15:1, 2). Then our Lord spoke those inimitable parables of the lost things and their finding. The ways of the Lord were always ways of grace and truth. He never sought the approbation of men. In a proud world and among a very proud people, the Son of God walked a path of unprecedented lowliness and grace.

When the impotent man was healed at the pool of Bethesda (John 5), the Jews interrogated the happy, healed man carrying his bed home on his back, “What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?” The happy, delivered man did not even know His name! It says, “Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place” (John 5:13). How unlike the ways of men who crave all the publicity and honor which exploits will bring to them.

God had said of old, “My ways are not your ways” (Isaiah 55:8). It was true of the Lord Jesus. The ways of men were not His ways. Men thought little of God in Heaven or of what would be pleasing to Him. This was everything to Christ our Lord. He did everything that pleased the Father. The Father’s Name, the Father’s kingdom, and the Father’s will were the great dominating motives of the life of our Lord. He cared for nothing else.