MOST HIGH GOD, OR EL ELYON
WE have seen how the view of God, revealed to Abram under the name "El Shaddai," or "Almighty," reconciles, so far as the elect are concerned, the apparent contradiction suggested by the first two names of God, and by the varying aspects of His nature which are brought before us in them. The name, "Most High," which we are now to consider, throws yet further light on the same point, revealing God in relation to those who are not Abram's seed, who nevertheless possess a priesthood of an order which is earlier and greater than that of the elect, and yet not in opposition to it. This name, "Most High God," is revealed in connexion with Melchisedek, the King of Salem, in the days of Abram. Melchisedek, we are told, was "priest of the Most High God;" and it was through him that Abram also received the knowledge of this name; for it was only after Abram's meeting with Melchisedek that he says, "I have lifted up my hand unto the Lord, the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth" (Gen. 14:22). The elect's knowledge of this name therefore is somehow connected with his knowledge of Melchisedek, and of the special nature of his priesthood, as "priest of the Most High."
Now that there is something very deep and special in the knowledge of this name, and of this priesthood, is obvious from the way in which the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews introduces what he has to say respecting it. The passage is in the fifth, sixth, and seventh, chapters of that Epistle. There we see that the writer, having in the earlier portion of his Epistle spoken, first, of "God," who "has built all things," and who "made them by His Son" (Heb. 1:2; 3:4), whose "word is quick and powerful," for He is "appointed Heir of all things" (Heb 4:12); and then, secondly, of the "Lord," who "remains the same, and whose years shall not fail" (Heb. 1:12), who "is and shall be what He is," to whose words therefore "we ought to give the more earnest heed, lest at any time we let them slip" (Heb. 2:1); and then, thirdly, of One who gives His Spirit to men, so that the elect are partakers of His life, as he says, "He that sanctifieth, and they which are sanctified are all of one" (Heb. 2:11), which is the truth taught under the title, "The Almighty," who in the power of His outbreathing makes His elect partakers of His nature;—the writer, having thus referred to the three names of God which we have already considered, namely, "God," "Lord," and "Almighty," says that he wishes, "if God permit," to go on to speak of One, who, being a "Priest after the order of Melchisedek," is "Priest of the Most High God" (Heb. 5:6, 10; 7:1); "of whom," he adds, "we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing that ye are dull of hearing; for when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." But at this point the writer suddenly breaks off, and makes a long digression, which occupies the latter part of the fifth, and the whole of the sixth, chapter of his Epistle.
What he says in this digression is in substance this:—"You ought, considering the time you have been believers, to be able to go on from the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, which are as milk for babes, to the deeper truths of revelation, which are the meat for men of full age." The "first principles" consist of three things: first, "repentance from dead works;" secondly, "faith towards God;" and thirdly, a certain "doctrine" or teaching, as to "baptisms, and the laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment." Of these the first, touching "repentance," is connected with "Jehovah," the just and holy Lord: the second, namely "faith towards God," takes us back to "Elohim's" changeless love in virtue of relationship: while the third, containing a fourfold doctrine,—as to "baptisms," which are purifications; as to "laying on of hands," which are gifts bestowed; and as to "resurrection" and "eternal judgment," which are the varying results of the working of God's Spirit on the creature, whether obedient or disobedient,—is all directly connected with the knowledge of "El Shaddai," the "Pourer-forth" of His own life, to make His creatures fruitful. These truths, which comprise all that the majority of Christians now consider essential, are by the Apostle here all spoken of as simply "first principles." "Leaving these," he says, "let us go on unto perfection." "And this," he adds, "we will do, if God permit." But God may not permit. For there is a peculiar peril in the carnal reception of the higher truth, which is contained in the name "Most High," and in the doctrine of the "priesthood of Melchisedek," which is connected with this revelation. "For," as the Apostle goes on to say, "it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame;" for this knowledge may be like the rain, which not only makes the ground bring forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, but may also stimulate it to produce an increased growth of thorns and briars; so that by this higher knowledge a man may be even worse than he was before, "nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned." There is therefore a special peril, as well as blessing, in the knowledge of this name, "Most High." An awful pride may be the result of an unsanctified reception of it. If our self-will is chastened by it, we may be made more perfect and enlightened; but if our will is only stimulated to greater self-confidence and self-assertion by the deeper truth received, a more awful judgment can only result from such knowledge. As old John Bunyan said, when asked, what doctrine was the worst,—"I know of none so dangerous as the truth of God received carnally." The knowledge of the "Most High" is therefore "a secret" (Psalm 91:1). A Divine warning mercifully meets us on our approach to it.
With this warning, which is that of the Apostle, when he would speak of the "priest of the Most High," I proceed to say what little I may respecting this name of God, and the circumstances under which it is revealed in Holy Scripture. Both the name itself, and its special connexion with things and persons outside the election, if we can read their import, are full of significance.
First, as to the name itself, "Most High God:" in Hebrew, "El Elyon" (Heb. אל עליון): the "El" here is the same as in the name "El Shaddai," and, here as there, expresses the same idea of God as "Might" or "Power." (Note: See what is said of "El" in chapter 3.) What is further revealed here is that this "God," or "El," is the "Most High," and as such "Possessor of heaven and earth" (Gen. 14:19, 22). Now this name "Elyon," or "Most High," like some others which are used of God, is at times applied in Holy Scripture to things and persons of this world; but, wherever it is so used, its special and distinctive sense is always, that the person or thing it speaks of is the highest of a series or order of like natures. It is used of the "highest basket" of a tier of baskets (Gen. 40:17): of the "nation high above all nations" (Deut. 26:19); of the "king higher than other kings" (Psalm 89:27); of "chambers higher than other chambers" (Ezek. 41:7; 42:5). (Note: For other illustrations of this, compare, the "upper watercourse," 2 Chron. 32:30; the "upper pool," 2 Kings 18:17; Isa. 7:3; 36:2; the "upper gate," 2 Kings 15:35; 2 Chron. 23:20; the "upper court," Jer. 36:10; and the "high house," Neh. 3:25; in all which places the word "Elyon" is used, to describe the "pool," or "gate," or "court," or "house," higher than other "pools," or "gates," or "courts," or "houses.") A different word is used when it is said that the "heavens are higher than the earth" (Isa. 55:9); or that the "clouds are higher than a man" (Job 35:5). Thus the word, "Elyon," or "Most High," here applied to God, reveals, that, though He is the "Highest," there are others below Him, endowed by Him with like natures, and therefore in some way related to Him; but that, because He is the "Highest," He has power to rule and turn them as He will, should they be disobedient or seek to exalt themselves against Him. For "the Most High doeth according to His will, in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou? His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation" (Dan. 4:34, 35).
Who then are those below Him, who are endowed with like natures? First, angels are "sons of God" (Job 38:7; Psalm 29:1; 89:6): even fallen angels, whatever the depth of their fall, are partakers of a nature which is descended from Him (Job 1:6; 2:1). This it is which makes their fall so awful. These are the powers of heaven (Eph. 6:12), which exalted themselves, figured by the kings of Tyre and Babylon of old, whose "heart was lifted up because of their beauty, and who corrupted their wisdom by reason of their brightness;" who "said, I am El: I sit in the seat of God:" "I will exalt my throne above the stars of El: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the Most High" (See Ezek. 28:2-17; Isa. 14:12-14). But there are others, who "for a little while are lower than the angels" (Heb. 2:7), who are also "children of the Most High." This is the point constantly referred to in the Psalms which speak of the "Most High," especially in the Psalm which our Lord quotes, where men are called "gods:"—"Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods, and all of you the children of the Most High?" (Psalm 82:1, 6; John 10:34). For man was "created in the image of God" (Gen. 1:27). (Note: I have already referred to the connexion between ברא, to create, and בר, a son.) He may not know it, for he is fallen, and become "even as a beast" (Psalm 40:12, 20; 73:22); for awhile without his true inheritance; yet is he in his fall a fallen son; for "Adam was son of God" (Luke 3:38), and "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Rom. 11:29). Therefore even to unconverted Gentiles, bowing to idols, Paul could quote as truth their poet's words, "For we also are His offspring" (Acts 17:28), and say again to carnal Corinthians, that "the head of every man is Christ," and that "man is the image and glory of God" (1 Cor. 11:3, 7), like the "lost silver" (Luke 15:8), bearing something of the image of his Maker, dimmed and defaced as that image may be through sin. Certainly when one thinks what man can do, even in his fall, and in this life, which is "but as a vapour, which appeareth for a little while, and then vanisheth away" (James 4:14), how he can weigh the earth, measure the stars, calculate to a moment when some planet in its rapid course shall pass between us and the sun, and tell where on one part of the surface of this moving globe this shall be seen, while on other parts of the same globe it shall be invisible: how he can make the lightning carry his words, under the sea or over the earth: how he makes the sunlight give us pictures of every seen creature: nay more, how he can speak the words of God Himself, for God speaks both through him and to him:—when but for a moment one considers this, what does it all witness, but that man is even here a son of the "Most High,"—a fallen son, even a dead son, leprous, palsied, mad, or blind, not knowing his Father,—nevertheless a son; and because a son, never to be forsaken by Him from whom he came; for "the fathers must lay up for the children, and not the children for the fathers" (2 Cor. 12:14). There is surely peril in this high truth, yet there is rich blessing also; for the "Most High" cannot deny Himself, and therefore, even if we forget our relationship to Him, can and surely will overthrow and overturn and overcome us, till He has again His due place in us for our blessing. For He is "over all" (Rom. 9:5), the "God of gods" (Psalm 136:2), the "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:16), "of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things" (Rom. 11:36).
This is the truth first revealed in Scripture through Melchisedek, who was "king of Salem, and priest of the Most High." Apparently of Canaan's race, (Note: This was the view of some of the most learned of the Fathers, Hippolytus, Eusebius, Theodoret, and others, (see Jerome, in his Epist. lxxviii, on this subject,) and seems also to have been the opinion of Josephus. (Antiqq. i. 10. § 2.) The name of the king of Jerusalem in the days of Joshua, Adonizedek, supports this view; Adonizedek being substantially the same as Melchisedek, the one meaning "lord," the other "king," of righteousness.) for he dwelt among them as one of their kings, he does not seem to have known,—certainly he does not speak of,—"Elohim," the covenant-keeping God, or of "Jehovah," the righteous Lord, who yet suffers with His fallen creatures, or of "El Shaddai," the Breasted God, who gives His own Spirit to His people. All these are names which are the special portion of the elect. But he knew "Elyon," the "Most High," whose name preserved, even among the Gentiles, the truth, however much abused, that in God's creation there are "thrones and dominions and principalities and powers," called "gods" (Col. 1:16; Psalm 97:7), which are more or less akin to God; and that though for a season lower than these, and under a curse for sin, men also are "children of the Most High," and as such predestined to an inheritance which must be one of rich blessing. Strange and yet most certain, that this truth, so dimly seen by Israel, should have been kept by the Gentile world. Yet so it was. The old mythologies are full of stories of men who were sons of gods, these gods being sons of a higher God, who was the Lord of all. Melchisedek shews how even a son of Canaan kept up the same tradition of man's high nature; while what is recorded of his people reveals, how in this faith, often to their own hurt, they sought, by "witches, and consulters with familiar spirits, and wizards, and necromancers" (Deut. 18:10-12), to hold converse with the unseen powers, which they recognised as above, and yet not wholly severed from, them. Their idea of God was terribly perverted, but it was the perversion of a great truth, that God had sons, and that man was one; a truth which the elect nation, through their bondage in Egypt, had lost perhaps even more than far-off Gentiles. The name, "El Elyon," preserved this truth of God's relation to "thrones and dominions" far below Him, and that even men, under a curse, and fallen from Him, are indeed "His offspring."
All this, and secrets of grace, even more profound, are revealed yet hidden in what is recorded of Melchisedek. For the fact that man is son of God involved a further relationship. Man as son of God must be a priest; for as God, because He is love, cannot but sacrifice, so man, the son of God, and inheriting His nature, must also sacrifice. The name, "El Shaddai," revealed much. It told how God is specially related to the elect, and that through circumcision, that is the judgment of the flesh, a new life shall be brought forth, a life, like Isaac's, of sacrifice, and yet of rest, in and through whom all nations shall be blessed. The name "El Elyon" reveals more,—namely, that Gentiles, like Canaan, though doomed to judgment here, have, in their relation to the "Most High," the pledge of sure and high blessing, even to be priests in virtue of their sonship. This truth shadowed in Melchisedek, who is brought before us in Scripture, as "without genealogy or descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God" (Heb. 7:3), is the blessed truth which is perfectly revealed in Christ, the Son of God, who, because He is One to whom God says, "Thou art my son, to day have I begotten thee," is "priest after the order of Melchisedek" (Heb. 5:5, 6). Christ is the witness of man's true nature—that he is son of God. He serves as priest, because he is a son of God. His priesthood, as the Apostle says, is "not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life" (Heb. 7:16). The priesthood after the order of Aaron is a priesthood based on a commandment (Heb. 7:5); that commandment being required by man's fall, and the consequent separation between God and man, and man and man. But the priesthood of man, as man, that is, as son of God, for "Adam was son of God" (Luke 3:38), is based on the participation of the Divine nature. And though that nature is spoilt and perverted by the fall, and man, in ignorance of God through the serpent's lie, regarding Him as an Exactor rather than a Giver, ceases himself to be a giver or offerer of himself in willing sacrifice; yet is his nature in its source and essence still Divine. Even in its fall it is the fall of something heavenly. The priesthood of one so related to God must be in virtue of a life, not of a commandment, and as such far greater than any priesthood or righteousness of law. The "priest of the Most High" preserves this truth, and is the means of teaching it even to him who had received the promises.
Now a priest in virtue of sonship, inheriting God's nature, will necessarily inherit all the varied virtues of that nature. The Apostle calls our attention to this fact in pointing out that the "priest of the Most High" is "King of righteousness" and "King of peace" (Heb. 7:2). In this double title we see again the union of the two great truths revealed apart in "Jehovah" and "Elohim." For "Jehovah" is righteous: and the "priest of the Most High" is "king of righteousness." Elohim's covenant and oath pledge unbroken union and peace: and the "priest of the Most High" is also "king of peace." Thus he is witness that "righteousness and peace shall kiss each other" (Psalm 85:10), through the power which is in the "Most High" to reconcile all antagonisms. It is hard to utter even a little of the wonders which are figured here. Melchisedek, though a Gentile, and of Canaan's cursed seed, "blesses Abram," who has already received the promise, that the land of Canaan shall be his for ever;—a promise only to be fulfilled by the casting out of Canaan and his seed;—and further "blesses the Most High God, who has delivered Abram's enemies into his hands;" while Abram, the heir of promise, "pays tithes," as a debtor to one, whose people are to be judged and cast out for the fulfilment of the promises (Gen. 14:19, 20). To crown all, Canaan, the land of the cursed, for "Cursed is Canaan" (Gen. 9:25), becomes the land of promise, and the inheritance of the elect (Psalm 105:11). But Christ has opened all the secret. Man as man is son of God. He may be, and is, for awhile like Canaan under a curse; but even so, because his God is the "Most High," he is also the heir of boundless blessing. With such a God the very curse became a blessing; judgment is mercy; and death the way of life. The cursed are to be blessed, and blessed through the elect, who are but "a kind of firstfruits of God's creatures" (Rom. 11:16; James 1:18; Rev. 14:4); while the elect, who have accepted the judgment of their flesh, in circumcision, are appointed to judge those who cannot judge themselves, for "the saints shall judge the world" (1 Cor. 6:2); that so "the creature may be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21). Therefore those who must be judged, like Canaan and his seed, bless both the elect, who shall judge them, and the "Most High," who gives His elect victory over the foe which has led their brethren captive (Gen. 14:17, 18; Heb. 7:1). The true "Priest after the order of Melchisedek," the Son of Man and Son of God, has set this in a light never to be dimmed, though few as yet see all its significance. As in the flesh, and linked with all, He was accursed, and yet is blessed (Gal. 3:13; Rev. 5:12): condemned in the flesh, yet justified in the Spirit (1 Tim. 3:16; 1 Pet. 3:18). As the elect, He will judge the world; and His judgment, when with the sword, which goeth out of His mouth, He will smite all flesh, both of free and bond, will save the world (Rev. 19:15, 18; Psalm 82:8). He Himself is the witness how the judged through judgment shall be blessed, and how the Judge only judges to bring in righteousness and peace.
And the further title, which is added when the name "Most High" is first revealed, namely "Possessor of heaven and earth" (Gen. 14:19), throws yet clearer light on the view of God here opened to us. For the word translated "Possessor" (Heb. קנה), comes directly from a verb, which, though in our Authorised Version variously rendered to "buy," or "purchase," or "possess," (Note: See Gen. 25:10; 33:19; 39:1; 47:19, 20, 22; Exod. 15:16; 21:2; Lev. 22:11; Deut. 32:6; Neh. 5:8; Psalm 74:2; 78:54; and in many other places.) means primarily to "contain" or "hold." (Note: So Parkhurst: see Heb. Lex. in loc. This primary sense of this word, as meaning to "contain," or "hold," explains its use in Gen. 4:1; Prov. 1:5; 4:5, 7; 16:16, and in other places, where it is translated "get" or "attain.") It therefore describes One "in whom we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28); "in whom all things consist" (Col. 1:17); "for whom are all things, and by whom are all things" (Heb. 2:10). The "Most High" is "Possessor" of all, "of heaven and earth," of church and world: and this His rightful claim He never foregoes, though angels or men for awhile may act as self-proprietors. Thus this name answers the question of the Apostle, "Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also" (Rom. 3:29). For He is "the God of the spirits of all" (Numb. 16:22). He has said, "All souls are mine" (Ezek. 18:4). "All lands" should "know," that "it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves: we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture" (Psalm 100:1, 3). And the true elect, like Abram, though through long years they may not have seen this,—for the elect are slow to receive things outside their own election,—when it is shewn them by the "Priest of the Most High," at once accept the blessed truth, saying, "I have lifted up my hand to the Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth" (Gen. 14:22). Thus does Abram learn from a Gentile what the chief Apostle learnt later through the centurion of the Italian band, that the elect "should call no man common or unclean" (Acts 10:28); "for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him; for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10:12-13).
Such is the first mention of the "Most High" in Holy Scripture; but in every passage where the name occurs, its special import is the same, revealing the relationship of God to all, even to the world outside the election, and that, where men either cannot or will not judge themselves, the "Most High" even through judgment will carry out in them His own purpose. Every reference to the name repeats this teaching. In the books of Moses we find it only in three places,—first in the words we have considered, in connexion with Melchisedek, then in Balaam's prophecy, and lastly in the song of Moses,—but in each case this name is either in the mouth of a Gentile, or in reference to the Gentile world, and God's relation to it. Balaam, who "came from Aram, out of the mountains of the east" (Numb. 23:7), says, that he "had heard the words of El, and knew the knowledge of the Most High, and saw the vision of the Almighty." What does he see but the judgment of the nations, of "Sheth, and Moab, and Amalek, and Asshur," while "out of Jacob shall come He that shall have dominion" (Numb. 24:19)? The words of the song of Moses no less distinctly link the nations with the "Most High:"—"When the Most High divided the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel;" thus caring for Gentiles, though at the same time witnessing that "Jehovah's portion is His people," and that He has chosen Jacob for a special purpose and for special blessings (Deut. 32:8, 9). In the Historic Books, from Joshua to Esther, the name "Most High" never occurs, except in a Psalm of David's, which is inserted in the history (2 Sam. 22:14); but the omission is characteristic, for these books are the record of the elect, and of their relation to "Jehovah," and the name "Most High" rather belongs to the world outside the election. In the Psalms the name is oftener referred to; but, wherever it is used, we find, if not a direct mention of the Gentile world, and its final subjection to the "Most High," yet a recognition of its claims and of God's universal providence. Thus in the eighty-third Psalm, where we read of the "enemies of God," "Edom, Moab, and the Hagarenes, the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre, and Asshur," the end is foreseen, that "they shall be confounded, and put to shame, and perish; that they may seek thy name, and know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth" (Psalm 83:6, 7, 16-18). It is the same in the eighty-seventh Psalm, where, foreseeing that "of Zion it shall be said, The Highest (or "Most High") Himself shall establish her," "mention" is no less made of "Rahab, and Babylon, and of Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia," that "this man was born there" (Psalm 87:4, 5). To the same effect, in the Psalm already referred to, from which our Lord quotes the words, "I said, Ye are gods, and all of you the children of the Most High," the conclusion is, "Arise, O God, and judge the earth, for thou shalt inherit all nations" (Psalm 82:6, 8). Thus again in the Psalm, which speaks perhaps more clearly than any other of God's kingdom over all nations, the Psalmist's reason why all should praise Him is, that "the Lord, Most High, is terrible: He is a great King over all the earth. He shall subdue the peoples under us, and the nations under our feet; for God is the King over all the earth; and the princes of the peoples are gathered together to be (Note: So the Revised Version.) the people of the God of Abraham; for the shields of the earth belong unto God. He is greatly exalted" (Psalm 47:1-9).
And I notice that the elect themselves, when, either for their own or for Israel's sin, they are cast out, almost as Gentiles, "far from God's holy hill and from His tabernacle," seem instinctively to turn to this name "Most High," as a ground of hope, whatever may be their trouble or unworthiness. Thus David, "when the Philistines took him in Gath," cries to the "Most High" (Psalm 56:2, and title). Again, "when he fled from Saul in the cave," his words are, "I will cry unto God, Most High; unto God that performeth all things for me" (Psalm 57:2, and title). Again, when fleeing from his son Absalom, he hears "the words of Cush, the Benjamite," he accepts the Gentiles' place, invoking the "Most High." (Psalm 7:17, and title. Compare also Psalm 9:2, 5; 18:13; 21:7.) For under this name all may find hope. It is the witness for ever, that, whatever our condition, there yet is help for us in Him from whom we came.
But there is perhaps no better illustration of the import of this name than the way it is used in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, who is set before us in the book of Daniel as the great head of Gentile power. In him we find the Adamic dominion almost repeated:—"Thou, O king, art a king of kings, for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, and wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, hath He given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over all" (Dan. 2:37, 38). But his heart is lifted up: through self-exaltation he loses his understanding, till by judgment he is brought to know the "Most High." What is written of him requires no comment. "The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will. The same hour was Nebuchadnezzar driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws. And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes to heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom from generation to generation" (Dan. 4:30-34). (Note: See too Dan. 5:18-22, where the same name, "Most High," is used by Daniel when he interprets to Belshazzar the "writing on the wall.") Are there not yet such souls, some of the grandest of the sons of men, who know neither "Elohim," nor "El Shaddai," nor "Jehovah," but who like Nebuchadnezzar shall be brought to know that the "Most High" ruleth, and through His rule shall regain their understanding? This, if I err not, is the "secret of the Most High" (Psalm 91:1). Souls outside the election shall own His power; and the saints,—here, in their relation to the world, called the "saints of the Most High,"—shall have judgment given to them, and shall "possess the kingdom" (Dan. 7:18, 22, 25, 27).
I will only add that the indirect allusions to the worship of the "Most High," wherever we find such in Holy Scripture, always shew something wider and simpler than that which was divinely ordained for the elect people. To recur to the first place in which the name occurs. Melchisedek, "priest of the Most High," is presented to us, not only "without genealogy" (Heb. 7:3), as the Apostle says, but also without a temple, and without blood, offering simply "bread and wine," when He blesses the "Most High," and at the same time pronounces upon Abram the blessing of the "Most High" (Gen. 14:18, 20). For "the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands" (Acts 7:48); "neither is He worshipped as though He needed anything, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things" (Acts 17:25, 26). Therefore in the Psalm which says, "The Mighty God hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof," His question, to those who would satisfy Him with "bullocks out of their house, and he-goats out of their folds," is, "Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most High; and call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me" (Psalm 50:1, 9, 13, 14). What the "Most High" delights in is a life in accordance with His own. This is the witness of His beloved Son, in the Gospel which links Him with all men, and in which alone of the Gospels the title "Most High" is to be found (Luke 1:32, 35, 76), where He says, "Love your enemies, and do good and lend, hoping for nothing again; and ye shall be children of the Most High, for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil" (Luke 6:35). "In every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him" (Acts 10:35).
Such is the teaching of the name "Most High." In it more than in any other name, we have the revelation of God's relationship to man as man, and of the unchangeableness of that relationship, spite of the change which sin has wrought in man's condition. Need I say again that a special peril attends this truth? It is like the rain which the Apostle speaks of, which, if it does not make the earth bear fruit, cannot but stimulate a greater growth of thorns and briars (Heb. 6:7, 8). If rightly received, it will increase our faith and hope in God, who though He is so high, spite of our fall, yet owns and claims us as His children. If abused, it may lead us to regard our fallen state as good, and so to consider the voice of our passions as the voice of God. The great coming apostasy will, if I err not, be the final perversion of this truth, when the last Antichrist, whose claim and boast will be a Divine humanity, will assume as man, in the fallen life of independence, that which can only be truly possessed by us, as partakers of the life of God, in Christ Jesus. There is therefore peril as well as blessing in the mystery of the "Most High," which, as we have seen, is so closely connected with the "priesthood after the order of Melchisedek." And yet, until we know this calling, and what we really are, we shall not understand the depth and fulness of God's purpose, and that, though fallen, man is a son of the "Most High."
And the way in which, both in the Old Testament and in the New, this name is joined with the other names, "Elohim" or "God," "Jehovah" or "Lord," and "El Shaddai" or "Almighty," shews that while some may abuse this truth, it is no less an integral part of the one harmonious whole of God's fulness, in which not only righteousness and love are one, but where also the election of some and the final salvation of all may both be seen as consistent parts of one purpose. Thus the Psalmist in a single sentence speaks of the "secret of the Most High," of the "shadow of the Almighty," of the "refuge in Jehovah," and of the "trust in God" (Psalm 91:1, 2). For there is a "secret" in the "Most High," as to man's participation in the Divine nature, and the power of the "Most High" to abase him in the dust, if he abuse his gifts and calling, even though those "gifts and calling are without repentance." There is a "shadow of the Almighty;" a shadow in a double sense; either a cloud, with some darkness in the shadow, for there is pain both in self-judgment and in God's judgment; or a shadow, as the "shadow of a great rock in a weary land" (Isa. 32:2); for the "Almighty" is such a shadow also, "under which we may sit with great delight" (Song 2:3). Such as know this can "say of Jehovah," who "judges evil," "He is my refuge and my fortress:" such can say of "God," who loves in virtue of relationship, "In Him will I trust." And the song of those whom St. John sees standing on the "sea of glass, having the harps of God," and who "have gotten the victory over the beast and over his image," is again little more than a triumphant repetition of these same names of God, as all subserving our salvation and deliverance; for they say, "Great and marvellous are thy ways, Lord, God, Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King (or "Most High") of nations. (Note: There is a question whether the true reading is "King of ages," or "King of nations." Alford, in his text, adopts the reading, "King of nations," which is supported by a mass of MSS., and is given also in the margin of the Authorised Version; but in a note he adds, that "in the conflict of authorities it is impossible to decide" whether ἐθνῶν or αἰώνων was the original: the context seems to me to shew that it must have been ἐθνῶν.) Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for all nations shall come and worship before thee, for thy judgments are made manifest" (Rev. 15:2-4). This is the "song of Moses and of the Lamb." These are the names, full of light and love, which the Word, whether as Law or Gospel, opens to us.
And the Church on earth re-echoes the same. In her Communion Service, which, in this part at least, comes down to us unaltered almost from Apostolic days, once and again we are taught to repeat the same four names in union; first, when we say, "It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks to thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God. Therefore with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious name, evermore praising thee, and saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord, God of hosts: heaven and earth are full of thy glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord, Most High;" and again, in the "Gloria in excelsis," where we say, "Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men. We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee, we glorify thee, we give thanks to thee for thy great glory, O Lord, God, heavenly King, God, the Father, Almighty. ... For thou only art holy, thou only art the Lord, thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art Most High, in the glory of God the Father."
Blessed for ever be the "Lord," "God," "Almighty," the "Most High," for such a revelation of Himself, that men may know and trust and joy in Him.
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