Abolishing the Enmity

Ellet J. Waggoner

The Present Truth : December 14, 1899

Isaiah 44.21-28 

 “Remember these things, O Jacob;
 And, Israel; for thou art My servant;
 I have formed thee; thou art a servant unto Me;
 O Israel, by Me thou shalt not be forgotten.
 I have made thy transgressions vanish away like a cloud;
 And thy sins like a vapor;
 Return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee.
 Sing, O ye heavens, for Jehovah hath effected it;
 Utter a joyful sound, O ye depths of the earth;
 Burst forth into song, O ye mountains;
 Thou, forest, and every tree therein!
 For Jehovah hath redeemed Jacob;
 And will be glorified in Israel.
 Thus saith Jehovah, thy redeemer;
 Even He that formed thee from the womb;
 I am Jehovah, who make all things;
 Who stretch out the heavens alone;
 Who spread the firm earth by Myself;
 I am He who frustrates the prognostics of the imposters;
 And makes the diviners mad;
 Who reverses the devices of the sages,
 And infatuates their knowledge;
Who establishes the word of His servant;
 And accomplishes the counsel of His messengers;
 Who says to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited;
 And to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built;
 And her desolated places I will restore;
Who says to the deep, Be thou wasted;
 And I will make dry thy rivers;
Who says to Cyrus, Thou art My shepherd!
 And he shall fulfill all My pleasure;
 Who says to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built;
 And to the temple, Thy foundations shall be laid.”


What a contrast we have here between the true God, and the god made by a man who cannot work a single day without fainting from hunger and thirst, and who takes a portion of the material from which his god is made, and cooks his dinner with it. These things are to be remembered. This was written for us in this nineteenth century. That man who makes his god out of an ash tree is no more of a heathen than is any other man who does not trust in the Lord.


It is a blessed thing for any man to hear the Lord say to him, “Thou art My servant.” To whom does He say it? —To every one who will listen to Him. Jesus tasted death for every man, and the blood of Christ has purchased all. As soon as anyone yields to the Lord, to serve Him, that moment he is the Lord’s servant. Romans 6.16. Then he has all the privileges of the Lord’s house. The Lord’s servants are all free men. The loosing of them from bondage is the mark of servitude to Him. Psalm 116.16. The Lord’s servants, that is, those who give themselves wholly to His service, are known by their freedom.
In verse 21 we have literally, instead of “I have formed thee; thou art My servant,” “I have formed thee My servant.” God creates man His servant. When God made man in the beginning, man was God’s servant. But he was made a king, with absolute authority over all the earth and everything connected with it. So the Lord’s servants are all kings by birth. There are many different grades of servants just as there are different degrees of ability; but the Lord has no one in His service, which is lower in rank than king. Men have lost the dominion. Adam lost control of himself, and therefore all his authority was gone; but Christ came to restore that which was lost; in Him we are created anew, and then the authority is restored. We are given complete dominion over ourselves, and the man who can rule himself can rule anything else under heaven.


Surely there is not a more comforting passage of scripture in the Bible than this. It is full of tender, comforting words. “O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of Me.” “He that keeps thee will not slumber. Behold, He that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121.3-4. How often we hear somebody say that God has forgotten him. Why, the very breath that he uses in saying it is evidence that God has not forgotten him. A man is not a mere machine. He is not like a clock, which the owner winds up, and then leaves to run down when the spring has uncoiled. If that were the case, then everybody would live at least to old age. No man lives of his own power, for “there is no man that has power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death.” Ecclesiastes 8.8. We lie down, and go to sleep, and we awake, simply because the Lord stays awake and watches. In the beginning He breathed the breath of life into man’s nostrils, and He has continued doing that every moment since. If He thought only of Himself; if He gathered unto Himself His Spirit and His breath; all flesh would perish together, and man would turn again to dust. Job 34.14-15. But God does not forget a single individual; therefore we live. This does not imply that when a man dies it is because God has forgotten him. Not by any means. No, the God who has so complete a grasp of details that He knows every sparrow, and the number of the hairs upon every head, as well as the names of all the innumerable stars, can never be accused of forgetfulness. Details do not worry Him.


Where are our sins? —They are in us, in our own lives, of course. “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” Mark 7.21-23. Then when God says, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins,” (Isaiah 44.22) what does He mean? —Simply this, that by His life He cleanses us from all sin—takes it out of us. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1.7. The Hebrew word here rendered “blotted out,” is the word meaning to wipe off, as one would wipe words from a slate or blackboard. God takes the sins, and obliterates them. Do not make the mistake of saying that there is no such thing as sin, as some people do. There is sin, and it is very real; but it is not in Christ. “He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin.” 1 John 3.5. He has “condemned sin in the flesh.” Romans 8.3. In His own flesh He has “abolished the enmity” (Ephesians 2.15), which is the carnal mind. Although He was in the flesh, the mind of the flesh had no control over Him. It was our flesh that He took; therefore He has abolished sin in the flesh of every one who will confess Him. It is literally blotted out. He took upon Himself all the sins of the world, yet no person ever saw the slightest trace of a sin in or on Him. In Him the sins were as effectually effaced as if they had never existed.


When the child plays truant from school, he is afraid to meet the master. The youth gets into bad company, and fears to go home. Conscience—a guilty conscience—makes cowards of us all, ever since Adam and Eve hid themselves from the face of the Lord in the garden of Eden, after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. People judge the Lord by their own hard, unforgiving natures, and think that since they have sinned against Him He must be angry with them; this keeps many away from Him; they do not believe that He will accept them if they come to Him. But He says, “Return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee.” He tells us that our sins are blotted out, so that we need have no fear of returning. Nothing is held against us; all is gone in Christ. More blessed than all this is the fact that in this blotting out of our sins their power is destroyed, so that they cannot have dominion over us. God Himself has provided the way so that we need not come back like culprits, cringing and cowering with fear, but like sons, confidently, expecting mercy, and grace to help in time of need.


Here is something for the heavens and earth to rejoice over. How often the heavens and earth are called upon, in connection with the work of redemption. In the very first chapter of Isaiah, the heavens and earth are called upon to witness that God has nourished and brought up children, who have rebelled against Him. Now the same heavens and earth are called upon to rejoice, from the utmost heights to the lowest depths, because God has redeemed His people. Why should all nature be called upon to rejoice in this? Ah, there is good reason for it, because all nature was as it were placed in pawn, pledged to man’s redemption. God upholds all things: in Christ all things hold together; so when God gave Christ, interposing Himself by an oath, thus pledging His own existence for man’s salvation, the whole creation was placed over against the redemption of man. Humanly speaking, all nature was risked by the Lord in the grand enterprise of redeeming man. If the work had failed, if God had broken His word, then His life would have been forfeited, and the universe would have been dissolved. God and all creation, therefore, have a far greater interest in the redemption of man, than any man can have, or than all mankind can have. Their existence depends upon man’s salvation. So we can well understand why “heaven and nature” should be called on to sing the grace of God that brings salvation, and why they should respond. What a strong ground of faith this gives us. There is not a thing in God’s universe that has not an interest in our redemption, and there is nothing that is not calculated to help us in the way of life. Nothing is against us, but everything is for us. “All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come: all are yours; and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” 1 Corinthians 3.21-23


God had no helper in the creation of the universe. The Word was with God in the beginning, but the Word was God. He who by Himself created the heavens, and spread out the earth, is competent to redeem His people. Redemption is but creation anew, and the fact that God is Creator, and that without any aid, — when indeed there was no one else to give aid, —He created all things, is sufficient proof that what He has promised concerning man, He is fully able to perform. This is the reason we are called upon in the very last days to give glory to God, and to worship Him as the One who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. Revelation 14.6, 7


That which God does by another is as firm as if done without any agency. He confirms the word of His servant. He has reconciled us to Himself, and has put into us the Word of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5.18-19. “He whom God hath sent, speaks the words of God.” John 3.34. Whoever speaks only the Word of the Lord, need have no fear that one of his words will fail. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4.11), and he may speak with all boldness. The tokens of liars will be frustrated, and diviners will be seen to be mad, and the worldly-wise will be taken in their own craftiness, and their knowledge shown to be foolishness; but the simple truth uttered by the lowliest follower of God will stand as long as the sun and moon endure.
The last reference in this chapter, concerning Cyrus and his work, will be considered in connection with the first verses of the next chapter, where the subject is continued.