Is He in the Company?
It was a regular matter, this journey to Jerusalem recorded in Luke 2: 42–52. “His parents went yearly to Jerusalem”. They had done it many times previously, Jerusalem and back from Nazareth. It was well over 50 miles each way. Not an easy hour or so in relative comfort as it would be today, but a journey lasting a number of days. It says “they went....according to the custom of the feast”. Now when a thing becomes a custom, it can become a spiritual danger as well. The original freshness can go. Many a matter has begun in the Spirit but has been continued in the flesh. The object of their journey was most commendable, one of the great feasts of Jehovah. Our parallel would be the Lord's Supper. Its customary regularity, right in itself, can tend to gender a spiritual dullness, a lack of sensitivity. You can be occupied with the thing itself, with the occasion, without having any real thoughts for the Lord. For instance, some saints speak of "The Supper", as if the importance lies in the occasion; Scripture speaks always of the Lord's Supper, reminding us that its real importance is derived from Him whose supper it is, and His presence at the occasion.
To return to this incident in Luke 2. It was a company, rather than an individual matter. They travelled in a company, they did not go alone. That was not advisable, for they needed the company for protection. There are certain spiritual exercises that require the company, that you need your brethren with you in. It is not advisable to move alone, you must go with your brethren. Now they, no doubt, having made this journey a number of times, were well used to it, and there was the danger. There is nothing in the text to suggest that the Lord Jesus had not gone with them on numerous occasions. We too, as a company of the Lord's people, may have made many a spiritual journey in the past and enjoyed the Lord's presence with us, so much so that His presence may be taken for granted. That is the great danger. Assumption! Worst of all, spiritual assumption! We reason wrongly from the past to the present and assume that because He may have been with us in the past, that He is with us now. The past is no guarantor for the present. They set out, but He was not with them. They started the journey without ensuring that He would be with them. That was the mistake.
It speaks of “the company that journeyed together”. They were not a company like Israel of old, wandering around for 40 odd years (Num. 14: 33). They were journeying, moving with purpose, knowing where they were going, yet the Ark was missing (Num. 14: 44), “the cloud had not moved” (Ex. 40: 36–38) and yet they had set out! Note again the wording of the inspired record: “they journeyed together”. They had a mutual purpose and there was no friction in the company. Commendable features! Apparently they did not need that word given to brethren of a previous day who also embarked on a journey: “Do not quarrel on the way” (Gen. 45: 24). Everything was fine except for one vital matter. HE WAS NOT WITH THEM.
Now it was not that they knew that He was not there. There was no self-will involved, as in the case of Israel (see Num. 14: 42–45). We read “supposing him to be in the company”. Are we sure of His company in any collective spiritual movements that we may make? They genuinely thought that He was with them, but He was not with them. They were deceiving themselves. How is it with us? Do we know Him to be with us, or are we only assuming it? “A day's journey”. Just how far can we move together and yet not miss His presence? It really highlights our spiritual state. Do we really deem His presence absolutely essential? If we journey without Him, over spiritual distances great or small, then sooner or later we will have to do what they had to do: retrace our steps. His presence is absolutely vital for all our movements. Whatever distance we have gone without Him is wasted, the time expended is lost. We must go back to where we left Him. Whatever the exercise might be, whether the company carrying it out is great or small, whether the movement is a fresh one or one that has been made a multitude of times previously, we must be assured that He is with us. This question that I raise is of paramount importance, and we ignore it at our peril. IS HE IN THE COMPANY?