It's happened again. A passage I've read dozens and dozens of times has struck me in an entirely new and brighter light. Here is Nathanael - the friend of Philip - the questioner of Christ - being spoken of in a complimentary light by the Lord of the universe.
Jesus sees him coming and states: "Behold, an Israelite in whom there is no guile!" Wow!! The weight of that statement zapped me this morning and I've been drinking it in ever since and praying about its sanctifying application to me!
Guile is not a word we use regularly in our conversations today. It means to be skillful in craftiness and full of deceit. That was NOT Nathanael. He was an honest man. He really was who he appeared to be. He was true to his profession and his character and confession matched up with it. Nathanael was real. Oh, that more of us were like Nathanael!
"Nathanael, there can be no doubt, was a true child of God, and a child of God in difficult times. He was of a very little flock. Like Simeon and Anna, and other pious Jews, he was living by faith, and waiting prayerfully for the promised Redeemer, when our Lord's ministry began. He had that which grace alone can give, - an honest heart, a heart without guile.
"His knowledge was probably small. His spiritual eyesight was most likely dim. But he was one who had lived carefully up to his light. He had diligently used such knowledge as he possessed. His eye had been single, though his vision had not been strong. His spiritual judgment had been honest, though it had not been powerful. What he saw in Scripture he had held firmly, in spite of the Pharisees and Saducees, and all the fashionable religion of the day. He was an honest Old Testament believer, who had stood alone. And here was the secret of our Lord's peculiar commendation! He declared Nathanael to be a true son of Abraham - a Jew inwardly, possessing circumcision in the spirit, as well as in the letter, - an Israelite in heart, as well as a son of Jacob in the flesh.
"Let us pray that we may be of the same spirit as Nathanael. An honest, unpredjudiced mind, - a child-like willingness to follow the truth, wherever the truth may lead us, -a simple, hearty desire to be guided, taught and led by the Spirit, -a thorough determination to use every spark of light which we have, these are possessions of priceless value." (J.C. Ryle)
"An Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!" Matthew Henry wisely points out that Christ refers to Nathanael as one without guile not as one without guilt! That's an important distinction. Try as I may, be as guileless as grace allows me to be, this side of heaven I will always be a sinner - a redeemed sinner - but a sinner nonetheless. I need not confuse the two. I need to be honest and real, even about the fact that I wrestle and struggle and battle with the flesh - even as Paul was in Romans 7 (see verses 14-25).
Natathanael was declared by Christ to be a guileless man - boy, I want that to be a truth that can be said about me. "Lori is a Christian in whom there is no guile! - She's real and honest and genuine- even in her struggles." Only Christ can make me so - and only His declaration of it as being so really matters.
Nathanael, the guile free Israelite, is about to become the guile free follower of our Lord. Christ sees him coming at a distance and commends him. Nathanael wants to know how Christ even knew his name. "'How do You know me?' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Before Phillip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.'" Does not verse 48 show us that Christ knows us long before we ever know Him?!?! Take comfort Christian, take warning unbeliever. We cannot hide from Him - everything is open and laid bare before Him - He sees, He knows, He takes notice of ALL that we say, think and do!
"Nathanael answered Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel." Nathanael, who only a few moments ago questioned Christ, now declares Him to be the Messiah. Here his guileless character bears the most beautiful of guileless fruit. This true Israelite in whom there is no guile meets the Messiah he has so faithfully waited upon! And that's not all...
Christ promises him much more in verses 50-51. Those who, with guileless faith believe the gospel can trust that much more awaits them. "Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.... Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
Nathanael did see much more. As we walk with the Messiah, so shall we. Oh, Son of God - make me a woman in whom there is no guile and grant me that I may see you with the eyes of faith in this life and face to face in the next.
In His glorious grace,