Mesopotamia: Type of The World

"And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: and they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves. Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years. And when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's youngest brother. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the Lord delivered Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushan-rishathaim. And the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died." (Judges 3: 5-11.)

"And afterwards the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites, that dwelt in the mountain, and in the south, and in the valley. And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjath-arba:) and they slew Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai. And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjath-sepher. And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjath-sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife. And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife. And it came to pass, when she came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted from off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wilt thou? And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs." (Judges 1: 9-15.)

How to Overcome the World

What is the World?

Mesopotamia is a type of the world; not in its material character, which our eyes can see, but of its principles and ways, motives and maxims, which govern and control men who are not subject to God. The material world is the sphere in which these things find play, and the pomp and glory of it are the product of the will of men, but the will of men and their efforts for their own pleasure and exaltation are the spirit and life of it, while the material world is but the shell.

The world in this character is opposed to God; it is like a stronghold that harbours rebels against their rightful sovereign, and all who are on good terms with it are against God, for we read: "The friendship of the world is enmity with God; whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4: 4). It appeals to the lusts within men, and is summed up for us in the verse: "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 John 2: 16). It is evident that it has nothing in common with God. Whether it is cultured or debased, religious or profane, it is His great rival, holding, by its magnetic power, the hearts of men which ought to be yielded up to God.

The three great features of the World.

The three great features of the world appeared first in the temptation in the Garden of Eden. Under the malign power of Satan, Eve saw that the forbidden tree was -

  1. Good for food - Lust of the flesh:
  2. Pleasant to the eyes - Lust of the eyes:
  3. And a tree to be desired to make one wise - Pride of life (Gen. 3: 6):
and, like leaves swept by the whirlwind from the tree that gave them life, the woman and then the man were swept far from God by this attack of the enemy. God was dethroned in their hearts; self became the centre of their lives. From that time onward man has been controlled by lust for what he has not, and pride in what he has; and we see in Cain and his descendants that it became easy for men to make temporary happiness for themselves apart from God and in independence of Him (Gen. 4: 16-22).

Abram was called out of Mesopotamia.

It was out of Mesopotamia that Abram was called by God (Gen. 12: 1). And the call of Abram is figurative of the call of men by the gospel to-day. The great object of the gospel is not to uplift or improve the world (though the world would be a sorry place without it), but to deliver men from its seductions, and call them out of it unto God. It is the will of God that His people should be delivered from its bondage and power, but for this there had to be a great sacrifice. That sacrifice has been made, for our Lord Jesus Christ "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father, to whom be glory for ever" (Gal. 1: 4, 5). The gospel of God's grace, which tells of the great sacrifice which love has made, is a delivering gospel; it sets men free from the delusions and allurements of a world that is doomed to judgment and gives them heavenly hopes. It links them up with heaven, so that heaven becomes their Fatherland and home. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1: 3, 4).

Heaven is the home of all those who have believed the gospel, and just in the measure in which we realize this shall we be strangers and pilgrims in the world.

Now God called Abram out of Mesopotamia that henceforward he and his descendants might be His own people; and, having obeyed the call of God, it is evident that the king of that land had no further claim over them. It is equally evident that those who have believed the gospel and belong to Christ are not of the world, for He has said: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17: 14). But Israel departed from God, and in so doing exchanged the joy and liberty of serving Him for bitter slavery; and the first king under whose yoke they came was Chushan-rishathaim, king of the land out of which Abram had been called. In like manner, oftentimes, Christians turn from the true fountain of life and gladness to seek satisfaction in this world, and that which they seek and follow enslaves them, and they lose their liberty and joy. We are all in danger of this, and need to give heed to the exhortation: "Love not the world neither the things that are in the world."

The King of Mesopotamia.

The name of the king means "double-wickedness," and in this it is a true type of the world, for we know that the one who controls the world is the devil (1 John 5: 19). Behind the scenes he holds sway: he offered all the glory of its kingdoms to the Lord: he still offers these things to the children of men, and by the glitter of them bewitches and destroys their souls. His wickedness in this respect has a double character, for he is both the god and the prince of the world which he controls (John 12: 31; 2 Cor. 4: 4).

The Israelites began to feel the iron yoke to which they had become subject, and they cried unto the Lord in their distress. He heard their cries and raised up for them a deliverer who was more than a match for all the power of Mesopotamia.

The Deliverer.

The man whom God could use to set His people free was named Othniel, which means, "powerful man of God." He is introduced to our notice in ch. 1. There his valour was fully tested and proved, and was also rewarded by the hand of the daughter of Caleb, and with her he received the south land - the sunny and fruitful place - and with this south land the upper and nether springs.

It was the man who possessed as his inheritance the south land, with the upper and nether springs that overcame the Mesopotamians.

It is God's way in these bright days of grace to work by the law of attraction. He would draw us from what is evil by the mighty magnetism of His goodness and love, and would drive the world from our hearts by the expulsive power of some better thing. This better thing is the south land with its upper and nether springs.

The South land.

The radiant beauty of this wonderful inheritance unfolds before our vision in the Gospel of John; and in John's writings, more often than in any other part of Scripture, we are warned against the world; for that which God has for us and the world are in perpetual antagonism. They cannot be blended or reconciled.

Now the Gospel of John possesses a very peculiar character. In it the Lord is not presented to us as the poor man without a place to lay His head, but as "The only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father" John 1: 18. That was His home, His rest, and His place of joy. He was able to speak of His possession in the hearing of His disciples, and the characteristic word of the Gospel is the possessive pronoun "My." chapters 14 - 17 the Lord uses it about thirty times. He was there in the midst of His prized possessions - the things that He could call His own: "My Father's house," "My Father," "My joy," "My way," "My name," "My peace," "My glory," and so forth. It is our blessed privilege to behold Him, as the Only-begotten rejoicing in the perennial sunshine of His inheritance. But He came into this world in order to seek out and find companions who should share these things with Him for ever.

Now Christianity is not made up of dogma and creed only, it is real and living, and consists in the enjoyment of these things of which the Lord here speaks.

He would have all whom He can call His own enjoy these things, for He said: "My peace I give unto you," John 14: 27. "These things have I spoken unto you that My joy might remain in you," John 15: 11. "The glory which Thou hast given Me I have given them," John 17. "My Father and your Father, My God and your God," John 20: 17. That these things might be ours He has associated us with Himself as His brethren, and it is His delight to give to us, not as the world giveth, but to share with us this wonderful inheritance. He has brought us to Himself that we might know and enjoy the best of His portion, even His Father's love; for He prayed to His Father that "the world might know that Thou hast loved them, as Thou hast loved me," John 17: 23. And again, "I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and in them," John 17: 26.

Here we are brought to the infinitude and eternity of divine love, too vast for our poor minds to comprehend; but, though we have scarcely begun to understand the precious meaning of the words, we are conscious that they are indeed the words of eternal life, and the sound of them thrills our hearts and makes them throb responsive to this unmeasured love.

How we may enjoy this Inheritance.

Now we can understand the Lord rejoicing in this south land where all is of God, for He was the Son of God, but how can we understand or enjoy this place which He gives in association with Himself?

If the King of these realms went down to a convict prison and pardoned a criminal there, that would be an act of clemency; but it would not be a kindness if he took him to his palace as a companion. The man would be quite out of place there, and probably far happier in the prison than in the palace. But if the King could give to him the spirit of the Prince of Wales, then all would be changed, for the man would then be able to appreciate the things of the King and would be at home in his company. Now what the King could never do God has done. He has given to us the Spirit of His Son - the Holy Ghost and the Spirit not only enables us to cry, "Abba, Father," but reveals to us the things of Christ, and enables us to enjoy them, and in the Spirit thus given to us we have the upper and nether springs.

We shall enjoy this place of blessing in all its fulness when we reach the Father's house on high, but such is His love to us that He will not keep us waiting for this joy until we reach that blest abode; He has given to us His Spirit that we might begin to enjoy it now.

The world's resources.

Mesopotamia means "the land of two rivers," and this is another feature which marks it out as being figurative of the world. It would be wrong to suppose that the world has nothing to offer, for it has two streams which, in its eyes, are both noble and sufficient. But they are not what they seem to be; they cannot yield that which the heart craves; and yet men, refusing the truth, blindly seek after them, even as Naaman in his pride cried: "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?" The two great streams of which the world boasts are exposed in their unsatisfying character in John's Gospel. They are the counterfeit of what God has for men, and are: (1) Pleasure (ch. 4) and (2) Religion (ch. 7). The two sides of man's nature are appealed to, but of the first the Lord of Truth said: "He that drinketh of this water shall thirst again," John 4: 13. And on the great day of the greatest religious festival Jesus looked with compassion upon the unsatisfied multitude, and cried: "If any man thirst," John 7: 37.

As all the rivers run into the sea, and yet the sea is not full, so all the waters of this world's resources may flow into the heart of man and he remains unsatisfied. His heart is too big for the world; for he was created for God, and God alone can satisfy his thirst. The world's pleasure is totally inadequate to give him lasting joy, and its religion cannot save or uplift his soul.

The Lord's Proposals. - The upper and nether springs.

How blessed it is to find the Lord prepared to satisfy alike the heart-thirst of the pleasure-seeker, and to fill up the breasts of those who prove how unable to fill them were all the festivities of a hollow religion. He proposes to make men independent of the world in these wonderful words: "He that drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life," John 4: 14. In like manner He also proposes to make them contributors to the deep need of thirsty hearts within the world, for "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given: because that Jesus was not yet glorified," John 7: 37-39. Could anything be more magnificent than this? To have a deep well-spring of satisfaction within, springing up into everlasting life, - rising up to its Source and Giver in intelligent appreciation and worship - this is the upper spring; and then, to have these same waters of refreshing flowing out in rivers to others for their blessing also - this is the nether spring.

These things are no mere fancy; it is true that they surpass the highest dreams of the poet, but they are, nevertheless, the solid truths of God, and are very tangible and real to those who love Him.

It is not difficult to see that as the heart enjoys this wonderful inheritance the world will have no charms. Its smiles will not allure, nor its frowns dismay: the bands of it will be loosened, and the soul free from it.

Only those who possess and enjoy this inheritance are true Othniels, - men of God - free themselves, and delivering others also.

But it is not by the energy of nature or by great efforts on our part to deny ourselves that we overcome the world; all such efforts would merely end in miserable legality and failure, it is as we enter by faith these things, and the heart truly enjoys them, that we shall delight in the commandments of the Lord, and prove that His commandments are not grievous. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world, and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God," 1 John 5: 4, 5.

Our great Example.

There has been but one perfect Man upon the earth, who in dependence upon God trod an ever-victorious path, and He has left us an example that we should walk in His steps. If we love Him, we shall delight to follow Him, and shall prove that His yoke is easy and His burden light. The Gospel of Luke presents the Lord to us in the particularly attractive character of the Man in dependence upon God, and it is in that Gospel that the devil confronted Him with the threefold temptation which had wrought such disaster in Eden.

The temptation in the wilderness consisted in:

  1. The lust of the flesh - make these stones into bread.
  2. The lust of the eye - all the kingdoms of the world.
  3. The pride of life - cast thyself down hence.

The first attack was met by a perfect answer: "It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of GOD." Certainly the Lord had the power to make stones into bread, but He was here to do God's will alone, and He never used His power on His own behalf; moreover, He would not look to the earth for His satisfaction but to God. He did not seek sustenance from below but from above.

"GOD" filled His heart, and was His answer to the devil's temptation. God would supply His every need, and He would not use His own power to take Himself out of the place of entire dependence on God, He was not here to please Himself but to do the will of God; the lust of the flesh had no place in His heart. It was here that Adam and Eve failed: they put self before God, but where they were overthrown Jesus stood firm, and the devil was foiled and driven back.

The attack was renewed from another quarter, and all the splendours of the world's kingdoms were set before His eye: but the power and pomp and greatness which dazzle and fascinate men, and for which they will sell their souls and deny their God had no charm for Jesus. Palmerston, the great prime minister, than whom none knew men better, said: "Every man has his price": but here was One whom no inducement could turn aside from His purpose. His eyes were upon God, and He met the trial with the conclusive answer: "For it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy GOD, and Him only shalt thou serve." A true worshipper of God is one whose heart is filled with His glory. It was ever so with Jesus here upon earth, and in that filled heart there was no room for the world; its empty splendour did not attract Him. "GOD" was also His answer to the second temptation.

Yet again the devil returned to the attack and suggested that He should cast Himself down from the temple pinnacle in the presence of the multitude below, and by so doing prove Himself to be the Son of God - the object of God's special care according to His word. But the trap was laid in vain: Jesus would await God's time for the manifestation of Himself and His glory. He would not tempt God by taking matters into His own hands and vindicating Himself, so he replied: "It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy GOD."

"GOD" is again the answer of the truly dependent and so ever victorious Man. He was impregnable, for He set the Lord always before Him. He looked to "GOD" for His sustenance. "GOD" filled His heart to the exclusion of all beside. "GOD" was His confidence, so that He left His times entirely in His hands and could not be moved.

Satan returned to the attack when the shadows of the cross were falling darkly on the pathway of the Lord. To turn Him aside from the path of obedience was still the intention of the enemy. He had failed to accomplish this by the attractions and favours of the world so he sought to do it by the terrors and frowns of it (Matt. 16: 21). The Lord began to show His disciples what he must suffer at the hands of men: all the horror of it pressed upon His spirit; and, seizing this opportunity, through Peter, Satan said, "This be far from Thee, Lord: [Pity thyself - marg.] this shall not be unto Thee." But the Lord at once detected the foe in His new character of an apparent friend and, He met his subtlety with stern rebuke: "Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offence unto Me: for thou savourest not the things that be of GOD."

"GOD" was still before His blessed soul; His only object for living here. He would not save Himself - that was no business of His - and thus all the devil's great siege guns were brought to bear upon Him in vain: He came through the conflict victoriously. The prince of this world came, but found no vulnerable point: he was utterly defeated. It could not have been otherwise when he tried conclusions with the One whose first recorded words were: "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business;" who lived on account of His Father alone, and never turned to the right hand or the left until He could say, "It is finished."

He overcame the world: its attractions and snares were laid in vain for Him. His heart was satisfied, and every breathing of His soul was controlled by God Himself. He is our Pattern and Guide, and in Him is all the grace and power we need, so that without faltering we may walk in His steps.

We owe everything to the devotion and love of the Lord Jesus Christ, and our hearts have been taught to appreciate Him in whom we have found transcendent beauty. But how did the world treat Him when He manifested Himself in it? They beheld His wondrous works, and were compelled to exclaim: "He hath done all things well." They heard the words of His mouth, and acknowledged: "Never man spake like this Man." And yet, at the end of it all, they spat in His face, and crowned Him with thorns, and crucified Him between two murderers. There was no room in the world for the lone but lovely Man of Nazareth. He was hated and cast out by it. Keep this in mind, all ye who belong to Him. Remember, also, that the world has never gone in deep contrition to God's footstool, and there expressed its sorrow for this deed; it is still guilty of the blood of God's dear Son. In the presence of this ask yourself the question, What ought to be my attitude towards this world? Can we wonder that Paul should say: "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world," Gal. 6: 14; or, that it is recorded for our instruction and warning: "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God," James 4: 4.