Oil for the Light

Oil for the Light

The book of Exodus, chapter 27 at verse 20: “And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually. In the tent of meeting, without the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the Lord: it shall be a statute for ever throughout their generations on behalf of the children of Israel.”

Oil for the light. It is my growing conviction dear friends, that the greatest need of our time is a true knowledge and understanding of the Holy Spirit and His work. Such knowledge, if spiritually apprehended, would really solve by far the greater number of the problems which beset Christians and the church today. If only we really lived in the good of the indwelling Holy Spirit with all that that means as a matter of light… how different everything would be.

So I say again, the pressing need of our time is for such knowledge, such understanding. And so, what follows this morning is just touching on the very fringe of that matter; not by any means an attempt to cover it or exhaust it.

This simple fragment: “thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring pure olive oil for the light…” You notice this is a command to the Lord’s people. This is an imperative. This is a necessity. This is indispensible, this is essential – a command. It is not optional, left to choice; this is an obligation: “Command the children of Israel that they bring oil for the light”.

Now, first of all note the place of the light. The lampstand, as you know, was in the holy place, between the outer court and the most holy place. It was in that place which in type is a between place, a place between heaven and earth, heaven and the world – there’s the outside and there’s the inside. There is all that is here in this world on the one side, on the other side there is all that which is essentially heaven – the very presence of God. And in between heaven and earth, this light was to be a place which united heaven and earth and yet divided them.

I think the meaning is what our Lord meant in His great prayer. It seems to me that He was standing very much in this position when He prayed in John 17: “They are not of the world even as I am not of the world, and yet… and yet they are in the world, these are in the world. I come to Thee, they are not of the world.” It is so familiar a truth, almost a hackneyed phrase, “in the world but not of it”. Here is an in-between place which is the place of believers in this present dispensation at this present time. It is our place between heaven and earth in a very real sense. Well, we know that don’t we? We know that on the one hand we are here in this world, right enough and it’s very real. And yet it is just as real that we don’t belong to it, we are not of its life, we’re in an in-between place. We know that we’re not yet literally and actually in heaven, and yet and yet! Somehow or other we are deeply linked with heaven. The place between… that is where the light was to be or where the light was; a place which divides heaven and earth and yet brings them together.

There were no windows in that place. No windows in the holy place. No provision was made for natural light. Natural light was excluded. But for this lampstand, it would have been totally dark. All that was there represented in type and symbol, all the values and functions of that place were only possible, capable, of being effective by a light which was not the light of nature.

The Light of the Spirit

The light is produced by the oil. That is very true and touches very closely upon my opening remark. This holy place, this in-between place was symbolic of the position in which Israel were just at that time, they were out of Egypt but they were not yet literally and altogether in the land of Canaan. They were in an in-between place and oh, how they needed the light of heaven for that wilderness journey!

There are two aspects of the Christian life. In Christ it is true we are seated in the heavenlies, but Peter will tell us that we are still pilgrims and strangers; we are sojourners – always the two aspects. And on this side, the peculiar, peculiar position of God’s people at the present time: the pilgrimage aspect.

And this is true to very positive teaching in the New Testament. In this life God has made no provision for natural light. If you and I are going on our way to reach God’s full end then natural light, for one thing, will be no good to us, but for another God has ruled it out. He has made no windows. That’s the argument of the first letter to the Corinthians isn’t it? “The natural man receiveth not the things of God and neither can he know them”. And the whole force of the chapter in which those words occurs, is: “God has made no windows for that – your reason doesn’t come in here, the light of your natural judgement is not allowed here. It is all excluded. The light that is here is the light from the oil. It’s the light of the Spirit.”

So the argument of the first letter to the Corinthians is the argument about the Spirit, isn’t it? And about what is spiritual for guidance, for judgement, for counsel, and for the knowledge of everything of the Lord. No place for natural light, yet God’s own provision for light which is better than that, it’s God’s own light.

Now look at the contents of this place, the holy place. Well, in addition to the lampstand, the golden lampstand, you know there was the golden altar of incense and then there was the golden table of bread, of the loaves. Simple symbols that help us to understand the meaning of the light, the functioning of the oil. Just this, dear friends, and of course we know the symbolism is that the oil is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is our light for the things of God. But this light is not just unto itself. It is to throw its rays upon, to light up, to illumine this whole matter of prayer.

And I’m quite sure I carry you with me when I say what a tremendous  need there is that the people of God should know how to pray in the Spirit. If only we knew how to pray in the Holy Ghost! That’s a New Testament phrase: “praying in the Holy Ghost”. We need that. We shall never really get very far without that. We’ll be going round in circles. And you see the Lord from time to time called a halt in this journey for the setting up of the tabernacle again, with everything that it contained. But right in the centre was this thing: the light in the holy place upon this matter of intercession and prayer – the altar of incense. It is as though the Lord was saying, “we can’t get any further until we have put a new emphasis upon this matter of prayer in the Spirit, praying in the Holy Ghost”.

Our future, our progress, our fresh stages will require that we get into the Spirit of prayer again and we get prayer in the Spirit. Now, it’s difficult for me to convey all that I am feeling about that, but dear friends, you will grasp the point. If in our prayers and in our own prayer life privately, and when we came together, we come together for prayer as the Lord’s people, we were really praying in the Spirit, how much further we should get! Instead of praying in our own judgements, our own feelings, our own impulses, our own ideas, our own  reasoning – what ought to be, what we think should be and so on – and uttering a lot of things out of our own natural light. If the Holy Spirit got hold of our praying and we prayed in the Spirit even one thing, how much further we should get! See, I do not believe it is possible to pray a thing in the Holy Ghost without an issue, without something happening, without something being reached and some moving taking place.

Look again in the book of the Acts. That’s just what it was, you see, they prayed in the Spirit. And that does not mean that they just prayed in a kind of feeling, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of light, you see. And the Holy Spirit knows what God wants. He knows all the purposes of God, all the designs of God, all the ways of God, all the times of God. He knows when the time is due for such and such a thing. He knows exactly how that thing ought to be done. He knows it all, He’s the Spirit of light! Pray in the Holy Spirit and you pray right on to the things that God intends and they must be.

And I can do no more this morning than just make this appeal: that you and I seek the Lord yet more earnestly that our prayer life shall be in the Spirit, illumined by the Spirit, that we shall pray in the intelligence and the understanding of the Holy Spirit.

So the oil for the light has a relationship to prayer in the Holy Spirit. On the other hand this light was thrown upon the table and the bread. And that surely indicates that we must feed upon the Word of God in the illumination of the Holy Spirit. This is the extra factor that is so necessary, I feel perhaps more necessary today than ever, if that’s possible.

You can take this book, the Bible, and from the same book, using exactly the same Scriptures, get a hundred different positions, even every one of which is in conflict with the other. That is what has been done! That is what is being done. You see nearly all the different aspects and forms of Christianity today build themselves upon Scripture, support their position by Scripture, and very few of them can stand together. They are contradictory if not antagonistic to one another, they take one thing out of the Word of God and you get these different views which are absolutely in conflict with each other and yet built upon Scripture. And that can be extended over so many things, so many ways.

Well, what are we to do? How are we to know? Not by leaving the Scripture and arriving at our own conclusions and judgements, but we need the Holy Spirit to tell us what the Scripture means. There’s something, you see, extra to the Word. The Spirit gave this Word and He knew what He meant by it. And He never meant two conflicting and contradictory things. He’s not like that. The Spirit’s mind is one mind. Always very consistent is the Holy Spirit, and there are no contradictions in the Bible where the Holy Spirit is concerned; there are in our natural light interpretations or apprehensions.

Do you not see how important it is to bring oil for the light? That in the Word of God upon which we have got to feed (it is our Bread) Christ has come to us as the Bread in the form of the Word, “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word…” every Word! Christ is the living Word as the living Bread. But oh! We need the Holy Spirit to illumine this Word and to interpret, and to convict, to save us from contradiction. Ah yes, but the Holy Spirit has no windows for our reasoning and our interpretations – natural light. Here everything is shut up to Him; shut up to Him – everything else excluded.

Well, our time is gone. I think you see what I meant, the tremendous importance in our day of the Holy Spirit – knowing the Holy Spirit. My last word is this: beaten. “Bring pure olive oil beaten for the light”. There’s got to be definite exercise about this matter of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the illumination of the Holy Spirit. It just does not happen and come about. It does not just come about, we’ve got to get down to this matter in real exercise and energy and make, shall I say, a business of it: “Lord, Lord, rule out my judgement, rule out my feelings, rule out my likes and my dislikes. You come by Your Spirit and have absolute pre-eminence in my heart, in my mind as I pray, as I read Thy Word”. See? It’s business,  beaten out, real exercise about the place and the work of the Holy Spirit in our personal life with the Lord and in our collective life.

Let us long to hear that note in our prayer gatherings, a real laying hold of the Lord, “Now Lord, tonight in this hour we must come into the mind of the Spirit about things…” A real laying hold of God, beating it out. “Command the children of Israel that they bring pure olive oil, beaten… for the light”.

Published in: on April 18, 2014 at 10:53 am  Leave a Comment  

The Time is Shortened

The Time is Shortened

“But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both those that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it…” 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.

It is necessary that we should not misunderstand Paul’s words, for he would never contradict himself. He who wrote: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church…” would never write anything that set aside or lessened the force of such a grand description of marriage relationship. Clearly he did not wish to minimise the importance of marriage; nor did he mean that weeping or rejoicing or other human activities should be obliterated; his remarks are set over against the existing situation in Corinth and they are introduced by the word ‘But’. “But this I say, brethren, the time is shortened” (RV).

In his letter the apostle had been forced to deal with many unhappy features of current experience in the Corinthian church. There were so many inconsistencies, even contradictions, and so much which denied the Lord, that it was as though he became utterly wearied of it all and felt obliged to cry out in protest against using so much time and energy on the quibblings and carnality of God’s people. He felt that he could not afford the time which he was having to give to the negative task of admonishing, correcting and remonstrating. He wanted to get busy with the positive matters of life in the Spirit, and groaned at the sheer waste of time produced by the internal conditions at Corinth.

For this man, who ever had his eyes on a wider horizon, there was still so much to be done. Paul was so aware of the tremendous forces at work against Christ and against His testimony that he felt that they were in an emergency situation. In his day there were signs of a great crisis in which Christian testimony might be curtailed; he sensed in the very atmosphere the tension which eventually brought him to martyrdom. Being conscious of the emergency state in which public witness, the work of the Lord, would be severely suppressed and the antagonistic forces would overflow the world in their attempt to destroy the testimony of Christ, he could not refrain from crying out about it to his brethren: “But… the time is short!”. He wanted them to get clear of their internal problems and difficulties so that they could buy up all possible opportunities for Christ. We need to be freed from self-preoccupation, so that we can redeem what time there is, for at best it is all too short.

I suggest to you that in this connection the Scripture is very meaningful for us now. There are so many problems, questions, differences of opinion, personal clashes, but…! ‘But’ brothers and sisters, ‘the time is short – too short to be wasted on things of secondary or third-rate importance.’ Even marriage, the sorrows and joys of life, possessions, fashions, earthly interests – it is not that they are wrong but they provide a subtle snare to distract us from the real business of our Christian living. Nothing, from the inner circle of our domestic relationship to the widest circle of world events, must ever be allowed to interfere with our testimony for Christ. Those blessed with wives must not allow them so to fill their lives that the happy domestic circle becomes a preoccupation which absorbs all their time.

There are some that weep, but they must not let their sorrow paralyse them with regard to the Lord’s interests. There are those who can rightly rejoice, but they must watch that their delight does not subvert them, so that they give it priority and find themselves turned aside from their main concern which should have been for the glory of Christ. There is much in the world which can rightly interest. The Corinthians had already been told that “All things are yours; whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world…” (1 Corinthians 3:22). But Paul also told them that they must not abuse this gift, not use it to the full, not let it be their prime concern. Brethren, the time is short, and we must not allow anything in any department of our lives to encroach upon the interests of the Lord.

This is the cry of a man looking back and knowing that for him time would not last much longer. Paul was always feeling the cold hand of the past reaching out to remind him of those wasted years which he so deeply regretted. He had spent such a valuable part of his early life in travelling along the wrong road, fighting against the Son of God; and he deplored those barren years. How much energy – and religious energy at that – had been utterly wasted! His soul was filled with sorrow about the failures, the lost opportunities of the past, and he was stirred to make sure that this should never happen again. He cried out in protest against the possibility of further shortening. Life is not as long as all this, that one can afford to have more failures, more lost time, more misspent energy. Life here on this earth is all too short. The man who looked back and grieved over those periods of his experience when his energies were bent on a course which brought no glory to his Lord, had to cry out in dismay at the prospect of still more waste.

It is also the cry of a man who was looking around, being made conscious of the overwhelming need which everywhere abounded. Paul was deeply distressed over the crying spiritual need of Christians who seemed so muddled and powerless, as well as over the appalling condition of men without Christ, multitudes who had no vital experience of the transforming power of the gospel. And time was passing so rapidly. The demands on every hand were so great that it seemed most culpable to give them anything less than full and undivided attention. So it is today. Only the gravely insensitive can fail to register the seriousness of the circumstances which surround us.

The needs are so great and the important thing to remember is that our remaining time is very short, and so are our opportunities for doing the Lord’s work. It seems that the Corinthians were so taken up with their own affairs that they failed to realise how spiritual opportunities and values were slipping from their grasp. Paul was aghast that this should be so. He was no passive spectator himself, no self-interested neutral, but a man who realised the supreme importance of working the works of God while it was still day. He cried out against the paralysing work of Satan among Christians and the great power of darkness in the world. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving”, he affirmed (2 Corinthians 4:4), and this darkening, blinding work of the devil forced him to warn his brothers that the time was drawing to an end.

His words were also the appeal of a man looking on into the future with eager expectation but who yet appreciated how much still remained to be done in these shortening days. His own course would soon be finished, and he felt that if he spent all the moments of all his days in utter devotion to Christ, it would still be woefully inadequate and he an unprofitable servant. The time was so short that he knew that at the end he would feel regretfully that if he could have his life all over again he would use it to so much better advantage. This might be a general and very natural emotion, but for Paul the important thing was to minimise it and be saved from unnecessary regrets at the end of his brief career. So it was that he urged his brothers at Corinth to join with him in making everything subservient to the one great consideration of the work of Christ.

Some of them were doubtless still young in years and therefore not so conscious of the swift approach of the end of earthly life, but the call to them was just as valid, for at best life passes all too quickly and the Spirit of God would surely impart to them something of His own urgency to buy up every opportunity for glorifying Christ. The Christians of those days lived in constant expectation of the return of the Lord Jesus in glory. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” they were told, the trumpet would sound for the termination of the gospel age (1 Corinthians 15:52). The Second Coming has not yet taken place, but to many of us it appears quite imminent, so that more than ever we need to take note of the fact that the time is shortened.

It may well be that as we move rapidly towards that great day we shall find that there will be a closing in upon Christian testimony, with all kinds of new limitations being imposed on the servants of the Lord, and then Paul’s ‘But’ will be even more relevant. It stands over against all the petty and unworthy preoccupations of Christians like those Corinthians who were inclined to fritter away the precious moments still remaining to them in unprofitable disputations and childish self-indulgence. Most of the matters raised in this letter would never have arisen if the believers had kept their priorities right and not forgotten how rapidly time is diminishing and eternity drawing near.

The same applies – and even more so – to our own day and age. Brothers, there is no time to spare for the many unimportant and time-wasting differences and disputes which beset the Church of Christ and dissipate its energies. There is something far more important on hand. The Lord’s interests demand that we have done with all that has no eternal value and get on with the real business of life, which is the bringing in of the kingdom and of the King.

Published in: on February 28, 2014 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Vital Ministry

A Vital Ministry in a Day of Transition

”Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5).

”For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.”

”And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matt. 11:13-14).

Elijah and John the Baptist are in view in these passages of Scripture, and much for our help can be learned from their experiences.

In the first place, we must take account of their ministries. The two men are brought together in a mysterious identification by the Lord Jesus, and from various fragments it is quite clear that their ministries were one in principle and nature; that is, in a day of fairly general spiritual smallness and weakness, these two servants of God were His instrument and vessel for making a way and a place for Himself in greater fullness. They were way-makers for the Lord, pioneers and pathfinders for His larger purposes and desires. In the familiar words used by John: ”He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). That was the key to the ministry of both Elijah and John the Baptist, the increase of the Lord amongst His people.

Both lived in a time of transition. The principle of transition is clear, firstly, in that Elijah is brought over into full view at the very end of Malachi’s prophecies, at the close of the Old Testament, an end-time, a period of transition unto the Lord’s coming; in that case, of course, His first coming. But I do not think that what the Lord said about Elijah, in Malachi and later, was exhausted by the first coming of the Lord; the great and terrible day of the Lord is still to come.

We will not enlarge too much on details, but be content to note that that time of transition was governed by the ministry of both these men, and was marked by the gathering out of a real people from among the professing people of the Lord. Malachi makes that perfectly clear:

”Then they that feared the Lord spake one with another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon His Name . And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, even Mine own possession, in the day that I do make” (Mal. 3:16-17). Out from the professing, religious realm there is seen in these words to be a true people for the Lord.

Undoubtedly that was the mark of John’ s ministry, for tradition, formalism, legalism were the dominant features of religion in his day, and it was against these that he hurled his weight to secure a people unto Christ in fullness, in utterness. He sought a transition from one spiritual state to another, and, in the light of a change of dispensation, to secure a people wholly for the Lord. That wants dwelling upon very much more fully, but I think that is enough to give us the clue to the ministry of these men and to relate them in a vital way to our own day – another end-time transition period that is surely ushering in another coming of the Lord and that also is characterized by the need for the gathering out of a real people from among those who profess to be the Lord’s. We may expect that what was true in the experience of Elijah and John in their day will in principle be found in God’s dealings with instruments of His choice today.

It become clear then that for such a great purpose, to make a way and to make room for the Lord, God had, and has, His instruments, known to Himself and secretly under His hand being prepared. Elijah comes on to the scene mysteriously, almost out of nowhere, after deep secret preparation and discipline. John has spent all his life in the wilderness waiting for the day of his appearing to Israel. Something has been going on in secret. God has had these men in hand in deep preparation, vessels to meet this particular need in the time of transition – transition from a state which the Lord can no longer accept as answering to His known will to a state which will satisfy Him.

He must have a vessel for such a purpose. It may be individuals, as it often is, but it has also through the ages proved to be a corporate vessel, a company of the Lord’s people prepared in this way. These instruments, known and secured by God in secret, have, in a secret history with Him, been learning to know the Lord as their heavenly sustenance. Elijah, at a time when earth could not provide any sustenance, was sustained from heaven. John the Baptist, in the wilderness for many years, where he had to know the Lord in loneliness and apart from men, was having to learn the Lord as his heavenly life and his heavenly provision. Such is the preparation, the equipment, of any vessel to serve God in this greater purpose of His heart.

Published in: on February 1, 2014 at 9:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Threshing and Balance

Threshing, and the Lord’s Balance

“Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech. Doth the plowman plow continually to sow? doth he continually open and break the clods of his ground? When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and put in the wheat in rows and the barley in the appointed place and the spelt in the border thereof? For his God doth instruct him aright, and doth teach him. For the fitches are not threshed with a sharp threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. Bread corn is ground; for he will not ever be threshing it: and though the wheel of his cart and his horses scatter it, he doth not grind it. This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom” (Isaiah 28:23-39).

“I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid… They also that err in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmur shall learn doctrine” (Isaiah 29:14, 24).

“And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, and to Iconium, and to Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21, 22).

This parable that we have read from Isaiah is related particularly to spiritual understanding, in connection with the meaning of the ways of the Lord with His people. The context of the passage is concerned with the faithful company of the Lord’s children, who, in the midst of many unfaithful ones, were suffering for their faithfulness. That is always a difficult thing to understand; it is very testing of faith. It was because of this perplexity, in the presence of such suffering, that the Lord gave His servant the word of this parable.

The general meaning of the parable is clear enough. Men apply to natural processes their inborn or acquired wisdom – wisdom born either of instinct or of experience – as to what should be done with this and that, when it should be done, and how it should be done; but they often fail to recognize two things. Firstly, that the wisdom by which they are so acting has come from God – ‘This also cometh from the Lord’; and secondly, that, behind the very things that they are doing, expressing the wisdom or knowledge that they have acquired, whether by learning, by experience, or by training – behind what they are doing, because it is God-given wisdom, there is a spiritual meaning. They do many things, and they do not see the spiritual meaning of the things they are doing. I have often felt, and sometimes said, that I wish that all the experts in the different realms of knowledge and science – medicine, biology, physics, and so on – could see through their expert knowledge to the spiritual interpretation. Isaiah is saying here, that behind things that are done in nature – in this case, the operations of agriculture – there are spiritual meanings.

The Meaning of the Plough At the beginning: “Doth the plowman plow continually to sow?” Well, the answer of common sense is, No, of course he does not! He would be a madman if he ploughed, and then went on ploughing all through the year; if he did nothing else but plough, or harrow his ploughed ground. Does he do that continually? No; it is a job that has got to be done – the breaking up, the turning over, the exposing to the elements, the harrowing – it is an essential operation, but it is not continued indefinitely. It is something to be done, but it has its time and place, its beginning and its end.

The Lord is speaking to His faithful people who are feeling that they are under the plough; furrows are being cut deep into their souls; they are being turned up and turned over, laid bare, exposed, broken, harrowed. The Lord says, even to faithful people: ‘This is necessary we are looking ahead to a harvest, to real values; this is an essential aspect of the work. But… take this comfort: this is not going on for ever.’ Under the hand of the Lord it is periodic, and it is timed. It comes into the individual life of the child of God; it comes into the life of a company of the Lord’s people; and, as history shows, it comes into the experience of the whole Church. From time to time, down through the centuries, it seems that the action of God once more is cutting deep, overturning, breaking up. It is the hard way toward some fresh harvest. But the word of the Lord is: ‘My dear people, remember this: I am the Man with His hand on the plough: I have this whole thing in hand, it will not go on for ever.’ It is something necessary – everybody will agree with it in nature; we agree with it, surely, in grace – but it has its time limit; and when that phase is accomplished, the Lord terminates it, and says: Now, that is done and we can get on with the next thing.

The Sowing of the Seeds Now the parable goes on with the seed. You notice that four kinds of seed are mentioned here. And it is a very interesting thing, though it is difficult to detect this in our translation, that the verbs used are chosen definitely and specifically in relation to the kind of seed. Fitches, the ‘love-in-a-mist’ or ‘devil-in-a-bush’ of our gardens, the smallest of them all, are sown broadcast. The ‘cummin’ is also very small, but a little larger. The fitches are said to be just ‘scattered’; but for the cummin another verb is used: it is ‘distributed’, sown more carefully than the other. And when you come to the barley and the wheat, it is ‘dropped’ into holes; it is given more particular care as to where it is put. It is not just broadcast; it is planted.

Now, probably you can see something through that. The Lord’s people vary. I do not think that the parable is intended to discriminate in values. Everything has its own value, and everything has its own worth, its own significance. It is all a part of the great harvest. But supposing we look at the fitches and the cummin, not as something of less importance, but perhaps as those who are smaller, shall we say, in the immature or child stage. I think they comprise by far the larger number of the Lord’s people, scattered abroad. They are the Lord’s people in general, scattered broadcast over the earth – “the field is the world” (Matt. 13:38) – and because they have not come yet to a point of greater maturity, or to the phase where something more is to be realised, the Lord deals with them in His own gracious way.

The Harvesting of the Seeds Notice what follows: how the fitches and the cummin are dealt with in one way; the wheat and the barley are dealt with in quite another way. To the little fitches and cummin no cart wheel is taken; no threshing machine is employed; it only just needs the gentle tap of the rod. So easily is the work done with these that the harder dealings of the threshing-floor are not called for. They are but children. Now, is this not true of the Christian life? Sometimes you wonder why some people get away so easily; so many Christians get off with it so lightly; the Lord does not seem to deal with them as He deals with others – perhaps with you. Well, all right, their time has not come. Of course all parables break down, you cannot change fitches into wheat; this is where all parables have their limitations. Within a certain general realm, where there is the intrinsic value to the Lord, the Lord’s dealings, for the time being, are apparently very light and easy-going; it is just the staff, it is just the rod, it is just a pull-up here and there, without anything very drastic. The Lord deals with people according to their measure. At a certain stage their measure is this, and the Lord deals with them accordingly.

A Question of Measure But, immediately the question of greater measure, and greater value, comes into view (sometimes that comes into view very early; sometimes it seems to take much longer) – as soon as greater values, like wheat and barley, come into view, the handling of the Lord is very much more drastic. “Bread corn is ground”. If it is a question of the value of ‘bread’, then those who are going to be ‘bread’, that is, food, for the people of God, are going to have very drastic handling by the Lord. If you feel the Lord is handling you in that way, bruising, hammering, using the flail on you, I say it to you emphatically, that is a hopeful sign. The Lord is meaning something more of value in your life for others. It is ‘bread’ corn that is bruised.

Many young Christians do not understand when we speak to the Lord’s more mature people about the difficulties and the sufferings of the Christian life. They think that we are a bit morbid, and making the Christian life something complicated and hard. To any such young Christians I would say: If you are the Lord’s, the Lord will deal with you appropriately to where you are spiritually. He will not be too hard on you; He may be very gentle with you, He may just correct you with the rod, quite lightly, because so far you are just in that category of the ‘fitches’ and the ‘cummin’. But remember, it may not always be like that. The Lord who wants the most, and whose heart is set upon ‘bread’ for His people – that over the whole earth His people should receive strength, sustenance, building up, through your ministry, individually or collectively – if it is going to be like that, to satisfy that desire of His heart, you are going to have a difficult time; you are going through the ‘threshing-floor’; you are going to know the ‘bruising’.

If the Lord is not able to do that, and He has to keep us on the elementary, easy-going basis, where we are all having a happy time, and the Lord very rarely does anything corrective and stringent, it is not a compliment to our spiritual life. It may just mean that He is not able to do all that He would do if He could in this great need of bread. So, if He really does turn His cart-wheel upon us , if the hoofs of the horses stamp upon us, if the flail gets to work, it is because He is looking upon us as bread-corn, something by which He is going to serve Himself in the interest of others.

An Explanation of Discipline That, very briefly and imperfectly, is Isaiah’s parable. Now, if you look, you will see how that worked out with this company. The suffering remnant – suffering not because of their own unfaithfulness, but because of the unfaithfulness of the nation as a whole, suffering under the Lord’s hand, being dealt with, disciplined – it was that remnant which was the Lord’s key to the whole later situation. It has always been like that. The key to the situation of all the Lord’s people is a remnant, a company, who suffer together with Him, and who allow themselves to go through the discipline that is necessary.

What is the Lord saying, perhaps to you, in the parable? Perhaps you have had a harder time than many people, and you do not understand it. You have perhaps said: Is this necessary to the Christian life? Look at all these other Christians; they do not have my difficulties and troubles. Well, the parable explains it. The whole point of this parable is spiritual understanding. The Lord deals with His people in different ways. Yes, these others are His people, but, but… so far they just cannot serve Him in the way in which He wants to be served, and so He is dealing with them, quite gently, in their category, in their measure; but you may be chosen to something more.

The idea has been very common in Christianity, that it is a great and wonderful thing to be ‘mightily used of the Lord’! Oh, to be a great evangelist! Oh, to be a great teacher! Oh, to be a great Christian worker! Let me tell you, that is an entirely false conception. The truth is that those who serve the Lord most truly go through the deepest suffering. The balances are truly kept by God – extra suffering, extra usefulness; little suffering, little usefulness. That is how God keeps His balances, and that is what is here, implicit in this story. You may be having a more or less easy time. I do not want to dishearten you by saying it may not always be so, but if you really want to be of greater use to the Lord, remember it may be by a deeper discipline of the Lord. And if you are having a particularly difficult time, most likely it is because the Lord is going to meet need more fully through you.

Published in: on November 15, 2013 at 10:31 am  Leave a Comment  

The Altar of Incense

The Altar of Incense

Reading: Exodus 30:1-10.

In reading through the book of Exodus you will be struck with the strange break of continuity, that, passing from the most holy place into the holy place where three vessels are found, the table of shewbread, the golden lampstand, and the altar of incense, the account stops with the lampstand. Then there is the lapse in these chapters from 25 to 30 before the third vessel in that part is mentioned. So we have this considerable space between, occupied by a great many things, before that third vessel in the holy place is taken up. I think the order of things gives us the clue to this, for it is not an accident, not just that the writer omitted or forgot and then came back again remembering, but there is government, and the very order of things here is full of valuable significance.

The Order of Things Let us note, then, the order of things as set forth by the Lord. The Lord began in the most holy place with the ark, and then the mercy seat. Then He passed into the holy place, to the table of shewbread and the golden lampstand; and then He took up the matter of the curtains of the tabernacle, and the coverings; then the boards, the sockets, the bars; then the veil; then the door of the tabernacle. From there He passed to the great altar, the altar of burnt offering. Then He dealt with the court, its pillars, its hangings, its sockets; then with the gate of the court. After that He spoke of the olive oil for the light; and then of the priesthood; firstly Aaron, and then Aaron’s sons, the garments of the high priest, the garments of the priests, the breastplate of Aaron, the robe of the ephod to be worn in the most holy place; and then of the consecration of the priests; then of the daily offering; then the altar of incense.

It is remarkable to start right at the centre of things, the most holy place, and work outwards to the very circumference, taking up everything as to the components, as to the ministry, as to the offerings; omitting only one thing, leaving it to the end: the altar of incense. No one who thoughtfully reads this account can fail to be impressed with that, and no one would ever think that it is because this altar of incense is of such insignificance that it can be left to the end. The reverse is the truth.

A Priestly People All this of which we have been speaking as coming in between chapter 25 and chapter 30 is, on the one hand, a revelation of Christ in relation to man’s fellowship with God. It all has to do with how God brings man into fellowship with Himself in Christ, how man’s desire and man’s need and the very object of man’s being is to be realised, that is, fellowship with God. That is all set forth in this very comprehensive order in type. On the other hand, it is all a revelation of the church’s vocation, the vocation of the people of God as a priestly people. It is a wonderful vocation. The priestly vocation of the Lord’s people is to me one of the most wonderful things that God has ever revealed. It is amazing that God has brought man into fellowship with Himself in a priestly ministry in this universe, to embody and express in a spiritual life the wonder of redemption, of a redeemed universe by the blood of Jesus Christ. The church’s vocation is to embody and express not only in doctrine or in word, but in spiritual power and influence, the great fact that this universe is redempto-centric, that redemption is at the heart of this universe. That is the essence of the familiar phrase, “hath made us a kingdom and priests (that is, a holy nation; that is, a holy church) unto our God”. This is all, then, a revelation of the church’s vocation in that capacity.

Grace and Glory There is one little phrase in Scripture which gathers up all that this tabernacle and its system represents. It is the little phrase in the Psalm: “He will give grace and glory” (Ps. 84:11). The acacia wood always speaks of the grace, that is man in fellowship with God. The gold overspread, covering, encasing, is the divine glory. The two things are brought together, grace and glory. You find the whole system is shot through with that twofold blessing of God. You can take it as a key. The grace of God issuing in the glory of God! The glory of God resting upon us because of the grace of God!

The Altar of Incense Now we come to this altar of incense, and as it comes in where it does in this remarkable way after the whole thing has been comprehended and set forth, it shows one thing so very plainly and emphatically. It is almost as though the Holy Spirit had just suspended that and said, “Now then, we will just hold this for a minute. Let Me go over everything, touch on everything, and give you a full revelation. That is tremendously important, and it shall come in when I have set out everything else.” So it comes in there, and declares its own emphatic message, that everything is carried on and made effectual through prayer. That is, in prayer which is in virtue of the precious Blood, for the blood of atonement is sprinkled upon the horns of the altar and the altar itself. There is a very clear prescribing of that here in this account, and it is prayer in virtue of the blood of Jesus which touches everything, affects everything, makes everything of living value, and causes everything to be effectual. Paul’s phrase is “everything by prayer”.

You see how everything in these chapters is made to lead up to this altar. Everything is taken hold of and eventually leads to this altar, and then you see the immediate association of this altar of incense. Look again at this account, and you will find that it is before the veil that is by the ark of testimony; it is before the mercy seat that is over the testimony; it is beside the table of shewbread, beside the lampstand.

The Value of Prayer Prayer in virtue of the blood of the Lord Jesus touches the deepest things, touches everything and is associated with everything. It is as though the Lord were saying, “Yes, there is an atonement; in the most holy place atonement has been made. Yes, there is a mercy seat for communion. Yes, there is every provision. But for a daily value of that, a prayer life is essential.” All this is ministry by prayer, is entered into by prayer. There is nothing — however great and comprehensive the divine provision may be — which can be known independently of prayer. Find a prayerless life, and all the great, wonderful meaning of God’s provision in Christ is of little real value. There is no entering gloriously into God’s great provision where prayer life is at low ebb. Whether it be communion with God, that communion is in prayer; whether it be in testimony to the world, that testimony is made effectual through prayer; whether it is in feeding upon Christ, the Living Bread, that is by prayer. You say, The Word! Yes, but what is the Word without prayer? If you divorce your Bible from your prayer life you simply have a Book of laws and instructions, a manual, and you become merely theological or doctrinal. But prayer in association with the Word makes the Word live and makes it of spiritual value.

Notice what the Lord said: “When Aaron dresses the lamps in the morning, he shall offer incense” (verse 7). What does he do in dressing the lamps? He takes the snuffers. Some wick has got a bit dry and used up, and it is smouldering and smoking and filling the atmosphere with something that is not pleasant, and that is the flesh. This old man does get up, and this flesh life does manifest itself from time to time. Even though we have the Spirit, the flesh becomes unsteady at times, and there is always the possibility very near at hand of the flesh and the self and the old nature filling the air with something obnoxious, unpleasant, smoky and smouldering. That has got to be trimmed every morning by prayer: “Lord, trim the smouldering wick of my fleshly lips, of my fleshly doing; trim my nature, Lord, this morning. Cut off that which is me, which if not cut off today will make for much that is regrettable, and fill the day with cloudy, smoky, smouldering flesh.” Aaron trimmed the lamps with prayer every morning, and every evening when he lit the lamps he offered incense (verse 7-8). There is always darkness about, ready to encroach and overcome the heart which is God’s sanctuary, and it has got to be withstood lest the light which is in us become darkness.

The Lamps — the Testimony So the lamps have to be lit against the darkness, the light has to be maintained as a testimony against darkness. How? By prayer. The light of a testimony; to use the words of Paul about this world: “in the midst of which we shine as lights in the world”. Our testimony, the testimony of Jesus in us, can be overpowered by darkness around us, but it has to be maintained by fresh supplies of the oil of the Spirit continually. How are the fresh supplies of the Spirit received? How is the light of testimony maintained against the darkness? By prayer.

Now you see the testimony is in view here: “When he trims the lamps… when he lights the lamps”. That lamp is the lamp of the testimony of Jesus in the believer, in the church, so that the testimony of Jesus is always in view. Prayer is related to the testimony of Jesus. That is the basis of prayer, the maintenance of a clear witness, a clear testimony to Him in our lives. As we have said, if the prayer life is weak, then the revelation of the Lord Jesus in us will be weak, and rather than being a revelation of Him it will be a manifestation of ourselves, and that is the thing the Lord says has got to be trimmed.

The Horns — Power and Strength Then we read: “… the horns thereof shall be of one piece with it” (verse 2). The more perfect translation of the phrase would be, “the horns shall be itself”. “One piece”. Of course, that is what it means; not something made apart and joined on, but as wrought of one piece. But the literal translation is very emphatic: “the horns shall be of itself”. The point is this. You have prayer in view, and this altar, and the horns in Scripture are always types of power, strength, and the strength is of itself, the strength is of prayer; prayer is strength. Power is not something apart from prayer, not something made in itself and given to us. Power is a part of prayer, and prayer is power. It is  one thing. We have to learn more and more the power of prayer, and the prayer of power.

The Blood of the Sin Offering Finally, the blood of the sin offering shall be sprinkled on the horns of the altar (verse 10). That blood is always in the Scripture a witness against what is of the old creation, to cut it off, and to bring in a new creation; a witness against the earthly, the worldly and the fleshly, and therefore the satanic; a witness unto the heavenly, the spiritual, and that which is of the Lord. It means here that the blood of the sin offering being sprinkled on the horns and on the altar makes everything heavenly. Our prayer life has got to be on a heavenly basis. It is not enough just to be praying for our earthly affairs. It is so easy to get up in the morning and hurry through a few words asking the Lord to bless us and ours, and our earthly things for the day, as though these things of this life were all. Oh, no! The Lord would have prayer touching things heavenly, things spiritual, related to that which is not of time but of eternity, not of this world but in relation to His eternal, heavenly intentions. He would have us separated from the merely temporal. There is a place for bringing those before the Lord, but they have got to be lifted in relation to the heavenly and not be dealt with as things in themselves. The blood makes everything heavenly, separating from the old creation. There is a very great deal of the old creation in our prayers; it is our convenience, our deliverance from inconvenience and discomfort, our salvation from what would bring us a great deal of trouble and sorrow. That is the motive behind a good deal of our praying. “Lord, don’t let anything bad happen today, because it would spoil our life today!”

But supposing the Lord would lift us into something altogether new through sorrow, are we then going to pray that prayer? No, our prayer must be: “Today, Lord, I want that which is of greatest account in relation to spiritual values and if that must be by way of trial and adversity, I do not pray to be delivered from it.” I say, “Lord, there is power to carry me through, and by prayer I come into touch with that power to carry me through the trials of every day in relation to the meaning of the trial.” That is heavenly praying. That is praying with your heart in heaven. “If ye be risen with Christ seek those things which are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your affections upon the things which are above, not on the things which are on the earth, for ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3). “Our citizenship is in heaven.” Now the life of the believer is to be, therefore, one with heavenly interests always in view, and our prayer life is in relation to those interests.

Warfare in the Heavenlies Where prayer counts most vitally and effectually is in the heavenlies. Ephesians makes that perfectly clear: “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers… the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” Then, providing for that warfare, he gathers it all up, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit”. The warfare is in the heavenlies, and the prayer is most effectual there. That is where the power is indeed against the spiritual forces, and that blood brings us out there as our protection for a realm which is spiritual and therefore counts for most. The place of the altar of incense, the holding of it to the end till everything else has been brought in, gives to prayer tremendous significance.

Now one closing thought. There was to be a crown of gold round the top of this altar of incense (verse 3), and that crown speaks of the glorifying of the Lord Jesus as the Victor. “But we behold… Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour” (Heb. 2:9). The crown of the Victor over sin and death and the reason for that victory in this connection is in Isaiah 53: “He made intercession for the transgressors.” The implication is that by His intercession for the transgressors in His cross He won. There were transgressors doomed under judgement, and His cross was a great work of intercession for the transgressors — and we were among them. By intercession in His cross, His great ministry of intercession in giving Himself, He saved us. You and I are today in Christ, saved men and women, because of the intercession of the Lord Jesus. He triumphed in intercession for us, and as High Priest He ever lives to make intercession, and every day we are living in the benefit of His continual intercession. That is the point in the crown of gold, the crown of glory. Now the Lord is calling us into that ministry. It is not only to share the travail, but to share the glory, not only to share the humiliation but to share the crown, and the crown is not just some objective thing given to us but for the Lord to come and crown our lives. That is to be His seal upon us, and He will say, “Well done! As I have overcome so you have overcome; share with Me My throne.” If that can be because my life was a life of prevailing prayer, that is the glory of it; and even now to know what it is to prevail in prayer is glory; it is the crown of glory.

Now you see there is a glory connected with prayer. The Lord calls us, then, to consider our prayer life, because everything depends upon it. It must be the time for trimming the wick, the works of the flesh. It must be the means of keeping the light clear and strong against the darkness and it must be the means of power, the ground of power, and of prevailing. The Lord use His word, then, to bring us back, if needs be, to the strength of a full prayer life.

Published in: on August 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Final Call of God

The Final Call of God

History is marked by a recurrent crisis which has three aspects. Whenever God has considered that the time has come for judgment, that ordeal by fire has involved these three issues. Judgment is not only penalty or punishment; it is firstly discovery and uncovering. Then it is discrimination and putting things in the category to which they belong because of what they are. Finally, it is passing sentence accordingly, and fixing destiny. This is clearly observable in all the Divine visitations in the history of nations and of the people of God. It will be fully and ultimately true of the last phase of this present world-history – disclosure, discrimination, destiny.

We have a very clear and definite instance of this represented in the fiftieth Psalm.

It has not yet been finally settled as to what part of history this Psalm belongs. Who this Asaph was is not certain. The conditions referred to in the Psalm do not very well fit into the national situation in the time of David and Solomon, when Asaph was the leader of the music. They are more like those of a later time when that glorious epoch had passed and the glory faded.

But it does not really matter; the Psalm embodies God’s work of judgment at any time of visitation, and the aspects are clear.

Firstly there is the delineation of His fullest and highest thought; that which is His standard, His desire, His joy; that which is His satisfaction.

“God… hath spoken… Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty…”

God has an object and a pattern to which He is committed, and this is the background against which His judgment is placed. God cannot judge until He has clearly shown and revealed that which He desires and that for which He has made every provision. Judgment will ever be according to the will of God, as revealed and known; or, at least, as made available to knowledge.

In this Psalm, as in so many others, and in the Prophets, Zion is the synonym for that which embodies the full pleasure and satisfaction of God’s heart and mind. In the New Testament, Zion is no longer any earthly point, but is synonymous with the Church ideally; which, again, is Christ in corporate expression (Hebrews 12:22,23).

This Divine conception and intention has been fully and gloriously revealed to a whole dispensation through the last ‘Letters’ of the Apostle Paul. We have this revelation, and it will be over against this revealed mind of God that judgment is to take place. In the sovereignty of God there is a great renewal of attention being drawn to these ‘Church’ Letters in our time. Perhaps never was there such a large place being given to these writings as at this present time. Upon this basis the judgment will rest, as in the case of the churches in Asia (Revelation 1-3), for it is here that the fullest and ultimate thought of God is revealed and presented. “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty…” Then immediately follows – “Our God shall come… a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him”.

Three things characterize this ‘coming to judgment’. We take them in reverse order.

(1) “But unto the wicked God saith…” (verse 16). “Now consider this, ye that forget God” (verse 22).

Fearful things are said as pending for the ‘wicked’ who are described as those who ‘forget God’: those who have not God in their thought when so many evidences of Him abound.

(2) The middle section has to do with the judgment of formalism: the judgment to uncover and reveal what is merely outward and formal. Here is a whole system of ritual; sacrifices, altars, priests, and ceremonies. The fiery ordeal will show how much there is in the religious world, that is, of “truth in the inward parts”; whether it is a matter of the very life and character, or merely a system of rites and practices. Here is a massive structure of profession which will collapse and become ashes in the day when “Our God shall come”.

(3) The gold secured and preserved.

“Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (verse 5).

The last call of God, as judgment is pending, is a call to Himself. Here then is the call of God in our time.

The last movement of the people of God is to Himself: not to a movement as such; not to a teaching or interpretation of truth; not to a sect or party; not to an enterprise or mission – but to Christ. The final true and Divine movement is to the Lord Himself. The sheer pressure of the conditions in the gathering storm and tempest will demand a leaving of all lesser interests and objects, however good a purpose they may have served hitherto, and a moving toward the Lord Himself. ‘Things’ divide; the Lord unites. ‘Things’ must pass; the Lord abides. The time comes when all the means and accessories which the Lord has sovereignly used will cease to avail. This includes all the organized side of Christianity, and the Lord will force the issue as to how much there really is of Himself.

The basis of this phase or aspect is the ‘covenant by sacrifice’. It rests upon the Cross as rooted in the very life of His people.

“GATHER… UNTO ME… BY SACRIFICE.” If this little paper could have any influence with the several thousands who receive it, this would be what we would desire, for our whole position from the beginning of our ministry has been that of the Lord above all else. It is not merely negative, as against this and that, or wrongly exclusive, as for some particular form or fellowship; but Christ in all His fulness. We may feel that devotion – more or less – to the forms or sections of Christianity is often a limitation to the Lord; but we would say: ‘Make the Lord Himself your supreme object: to know Him, and to increase in His fulness; and all else will take its measure of value from that.’

So, not other than as spiritual movement, we would take up this Divine call.

“Gather my saints together unto me” – with the emphasis upon “together” and “me”.

Published in: on July 5, 2013 at 10:39 am  Leave a Comment  

The Watchword of the Son of Man

We are to consider briefly that solemn watchword of our Lord’s life on earth by which the stages of His advance toward His ultimate purpose were governed and marked: for He went toward that ultimate purpose by stages governed by a consciousness which found its expression in a familiar phrase, “Mine hour.” That was the solemn watchword of our Lord’s life and progressive movement into and unto His ultimate purpose, and we shall look at some of those movements as defined by that expression.

1. The Sign of the Ultimate Purpose.

In the first place let us turn to John 2. You know this is the account of the miracle of turning water into wine at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, and the thing upon which everything turned was this utterance, “Mine hour is not yet.” Mary, His mother in the flesh, had come to Him saying, “They have no wine.” Whether she was anticipat­ing a miracle on His part or not, we need not stay to discuss. Probably not, for His answer is illuminating. It is very harsh in our English language, which does not convey a certain softness that really was in His own words. Our language simply bluntly puts it this way, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet.” Literally He said this, “What is there in common between you and Me,” which being expounded means this, you are thinking of one thing and I am thinking of another. Your mind is in one realm, My mind is working in another. You are wanting one thing, I am after another. What is there in common between thee and Me? We are in two different realms of thought, of inclination, of intention, of desire. That, I say, is very significant and very suggestive, as the original language makes it perfectly clear that that is what He said, and therefore you come to this conclusion, that He had a mind, a very clear mind, a made-up mind, a settled mind as to what He would do.

What He was after and the thing that was going to happen had a significance in His mind which far transcended anything that was in the mind of anyone else: there was really no com­parison or relationship between these other thoughts and His. He had something in mind which they did not discern or perceive. When you realise that this was the beginning of His ministry, and that this was the first manifestation of that Divine Sonship in its sovereignty, then you have a clue; you recognise that He is making this first thing a very, very significant thing indeed; that in His mind this is full of eternal significance, and no one else saw that, but He knew, and He was moving in a definite and deliberate act and stage toward that ultimate thing which He was now projecting in this positive and definite way. Now you break the thing up, and you find that the key-words are, “Mine hour,” and the last word, “manifested His glory.” Then the miracle, or the sign, as you notice, had wine as its occasion and basis. Wine is a symbol in the Word for blood and life, very often interchangeable words, and very often synonymous terms. As we gather around the Lord’s Table we recognise that the wine is the symbol of the blood which contains the Life, and this symbol was the basis and the occasion of this sign, or act, which issued in His glory relative to His hour, and marked a definite stage toward an ultimate purpose.

Here He ceases to be a private person, and crosses the line into public life, and from this moment He was a marked man. On the one hand, sought after because of certain benefits which He was considered capable of bestowing; on the other hand, sought after for His destruction; but from this moment He was out in the open, and it was this deliberate stepping across the line with this thing which was in His mind relative to “the hour” that committed Him to the battle which had its consummation in the last declaration of this watchword: “The hour is come that the Son of Man should be delivered into the hands of wicked men and should be crucified.” He crossed the line in Cana of Galilee and related this to the first expression “Mine hour,” “the hour,” and in between you mark the stages, the progress toward that.

Now what is the thing that is in His mind? Everything that the Master did was deliberate. There was nothing casual; there were no side-shows in the Master’s life; there was nothing that was merely incidental. Everything was in the direct line of His ultimate purpose, and He would not accept an invitation to a marriage festivity just on sentimental grounds. This thing was not a social incident in His life, it was brought right into direct line with His ultimate purpose, and that is why the whole thing was made to centre in this “Mine hour.” This beginning of signs related to His glory. Then if He takes hold of this thing and turns it thus to be a sign, the meaning of this is that He projects, as it were, upon the screen, all the purpose of His coming, a marriage relationship upon a basis of Life, and that Life as found in His blood, and the ultimate Purpose looms into view.

The hour in which He is glorified is that when He gets that which stands in relationship to Him as a bride, and it throws you right on into that unveiling through Paul, “Husbands love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.” That is the end of this. His hour is related to that, and His glory is related to that. In simple words, it is this that the Son of Man requires for the manifestation of His glory, that church which stands in this relationship to Him upon a basis of One Life for which He gave Himself. He takes hold of this which other­wise would have been an ordinary occasion of social festivity, He turns it to account and makes of it the occasion of the sign of His ultimate Purpose. “This beginning of signs” – that is what it signifies here, and the miracle of death and resurrection by which He gets His church, is foreshadowed, fore­seen in this – the Life poured out, the basis of a union. “Mine hour.” That is “the hour,” and He has, as we have pointed out, deliberately stepped out to that.

As we pass on, let us take with us this central thought. It is a Life which is in question which is to be shared by a corporate company in a marital union with the Lord Jesus in His Resurrection; a Life, a triumphant Life, by which the church is secured triumphantly over death. Now we cannot stay for anything more about that, but we take up the clue and pass on with that in our hands.

2. The Security of the Ultimate Purpose.

The next is in John 7:30: “They sought therefore to take Him: and no man laid his hand on Him because His hour was not yet come.”

What was His own later comment upon that?

“I lay it down of Myself, no man taketh it from Me. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it again. This commandment have I received from My Father.” “No man laid his hand upon Him because His Hour was not yet come.” The Hour of His authority for laying down that Life. The death of the Lord Jesus Christ was not just to be murder. The murderer was out, he of whom the Lord said, “he is a murderer” was out to murder the Son of God, and he is seeking all the way through to bring about His untimely death, His destruction, and you notice how varied are his methods. The first temptation – “Cast Thyself down for it is written He will give His angels charge concerning Thee. In their hands shall they bear Thee up lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.” You see he was trying to bring about His undoing and His death by not keeping in the way of God. If the Lord had acted upon the basis projected by the devil, the angels could not have upheld Him, He would have been dashed to pieces. That would have been the untimely end. The Master saw through it, and from that first time of temptation onward the devil is out to murder, but the death of Christ is not murder. His death, when it came about, was to be deliberate and in the will of God, and therefore victorious, not defeat.

Now, as you have the sign of the ultimate Purpose in the first occasion, here you have the security of the ultimate Purpose: that that Life cannot be touched by man; that Life is a thing which man cannot interfere with. The laying down of that Life is a deliberate act of authority, and in the same authority it will be taken up again, the triumph of that Life in Resurrection, because it is in the will and purpose of God, and neither devil nor man can touch that. It is a very blessed thing, beloved, to know this as a practical thing, that if we possess that Life and are keeping in the way of the Lord, there can be no untimely end. Everything will be deliberate, however it may appear. The murderer is defeated, the Purpose is secured in that Life, the triumph of that Life as it is kept sheerly in the way of the Divine will. Get out of that and deviate, and you have no guarantee of protection from the murderer. Keep in that, and “no man laid hand upon Him”; “His hour was not yet.” The security of the ultimate Purpose is in that Life maintained in the will of God.

3. The Law of the Ultimate Purpose.

Pass on hurriedly to the 12th chapter. The Greeks enquired for Him saying, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” His response to the enquiry is, “the Hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die,” etc. Perhaps [there is] no more familiar passage to us than that – a corn of wheat issuing in the Resurrection Body; the Son of Man thus glorified; the triumph of Christ over death in a bodily form. It is true that in an isolated capacity and apart altogether, He triumphed personally over death, but that is not the only method of God of demonstrating the fact. The fact of His triumph over death is also in a corporate Resurrection Body with all the members sharing that Resurrection Life. That is the testimony to the fact that He has risen; that is also an Instrument by which it is to be proved to the universe that He is alive from the dead.

The law of that ultimate Purpose is here seen – “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die.”

The sign of the ultimate Purpose; the security of the ultimate Purpose; the law of the ultimate Purpose. What is that? Life through Death.

Now we are so familiar with this truth that it hardly needs further emphasis or words, but, beloved, let it be said as we pass on that everything to the most minute detail which relates to that ultimate Purpose of God has to be born in the power of His Resurrection. All relationships! Oh, how we are tested upon that! A relationship, and the Lord calls upon you to let that relationship go. The Cross and your position in relation to the Lord Jesus costs you that, and that is to go down into death. The relationships are all tested down there, and then, what is of God comes back, it must survive. What is not of God we become quite content to do without. We come up in the victory of His Life.

If a thing has been sown of God in the grave of the Lord Jesus, it is in the power of a Life that cannot see death, which cannot see corruption; it will come up, but this time on a higher level. That is the history of many a personal experience. That is the continual order, the cycle of the law of this progress of the ultimate Purpose, and I think the Church will be baptised into a deeper death just before the Lord comes than ever it has been before, and then it will go higher than ever; it will not be able to get any higher, it will bound to the utmost heights. This is the law of the ultimate Purpose which is wrought out in individual lives in every relationship, in every thing. It results in this, that you do not come back to the single plane, you come back to the multiple plane – increase – the one corn changed to the many, all sharing One Life.

4. The Basis of the Ultimate Purpose.

Let us now turn to Matthew 26:18. Here the Master is preparing for the Passover, sending a messenger to a certain man He evidently knows in secret, and He says to this man, “My time is at hand; prepare Me a place where I may keep the Passover.” The Passover. Here the Blood is again in view, but what is the most conspicuous thing relative to this particular Passover Supper and the shed Blood? It is a covenant. Do we not read, “This is the new covenant in My Blood which is shed for the remission of sins.” The blood of the Eternal Covenant. It is a covenant in view; now in the Passover. Tracing this thing through the Word, as in the case of Israel and the Passover, it was in that blood of the lamb, a covenant between the Lord of Life and His people as against the lord of death and his authority, and in that covenant with His people made in the blood of the Passover Lamb they were secured from the tyranny of “him that had the power of death, that is the devil,” and were brought out from death into life, from darkness into light, from bondage into liberty, from shame into glory, from desolation into fruitfulness.

That covenant was the basis of their emancipation, and all that is bound up now with this – a new covenant in My Blood – is the covenant between Himself, the Lord of Life and His own elect ones by which they are going to be made victorious over death in their union with Him as members of His Body, as seen in the other side of the supper; the covenant with His Church by which death is robbed ultimately, finally of its power. Here you have the basis of His ultimate Purpose, and, beloved, it will be upon the basis of that covenant in His Life that we are maintained victorious. That is, here you have the thing made in the Blood and in the Life of the Eternal Son of God, Whom “God brought again from the dead by the blood of the Eternal Covenant,” which is the absolute ground of your victory. “He is a God Who keepeth covenant.” This covenant is an Everlasting Covenant, the Eternal Covenant of a Life which cannot see corruption, and upon that basis we are bound to go through triumphantly. He will not break this covenant with us. This covenant stands to bring us into that union with Himself which is going absolutely to triumph.

Now you see what He secures here in His covenant is a basis; that relationship in Life by which He is going to work out all that was wrought in the Cross, and in the Resurrection. We have anticipated this, but here the stronger emphasis comes. How is He going to demonstrate throughout the Kosmos that He has triumphed over death? In those who are in covenant relation with Him upon the basis of this One Life! So He sits down with His disciples, and in this testimony He declares that oneness in His death and in His burial and in His Resurrection – victory! “God says what is true of Me is going to be true in you, that is, victory over death and here I make the Covenant which cannot be broken that we together are going to display this victory of this Life throughout the universe.” A Covenant in Life. That is the Hour. “Mine Hour is at Hand.”

5. The Mind and the Method of the Ultimate Purpose.

Now let us turn to John 13. Here you have the account of the feet-washing. “Jesus knew that His hour was come. And that the Father had delivered all things into His hands. He came forth from God and went to God.” How rich that is! But that is the basis of what is going to take place now. All things delivered unto Him of the Father, knowing that He came forth from the Father and returned to the Father. Upon that basis He rose from the supper and took a towel, laid aside His garment, girded Himself and poured water into a basin and washed the feet of the disciples. Then cometh He to Simon – knowing that the Father had given all. And then this remarkable statement so full of significance, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know afterwards.” Then this must be a symbolic act, and mean a sign. It is a sign of Jesus. It ranges the ages, and it ranges the eternities, and could truly be paraphrased in this way:-

“He rose from His Throne; He laid aside the garments of Light; He took the poor towel of our humanity and wrapped it around His glorious Person, and poured His own Blood into the basin of the Cross, and set Himself to wipe from the universe the foul stains of sin.” Or put round the other way, He is about to lay aside the garment of humiliation, enter into the presence of God, girded to make abiding intercession in virtue of His shed blood for the maintenance of a life, walk, work, and fellowship of holiness on the part of His servants.

That is what is signified in this. Oh, you say, that is imagination taking flight. Oh, no, come again to Philippians 2. There He is in the throne with God. “He thought it not something to be grasped at to be on equality with God; He emptied Himself; laid aside the garments of glory. He rose from His throne of equality with God and took upon Himself the form of a servant, being found in fashion as a man.” There is the towel of our humanity (in essence He was always equal with the Father, but in ministry He accepted our dependence). He came forth, poured His blood out to wipe the stains of sin from the universe; that is why there is this basis, “Knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and He came forth from the Father and returned to the Father.” You see that is the background of this thing. “What I am doing thou knowest not now,” but they did know afterward. All this said to them, this is the way of the highest service, not to be important, not to be high and lifted up above everyone else; for this was a blow at their attitude at this very time, when no one would take upon himself the form of a slave and wash the others’ feet; but this is the way.

Now recognise this one central thing. Pride was the source of all human sin. Satan started this awful thing there. “Thou saidst in thine heart, I will be equal with the Most High,” he who had no right to it, and sought to grasp at that. He who had the right to it did not think it a thing to be grasped at, and saw a need for laying it down, so He rebukes them thus. Pride was the source of all human sin, and the wreckage of the world; so Christ must needs provide an antidote for the source of sin. What is that? His own humiliation. He reverses the order, and ends all this work of the devil by and in His humiliation. Now He says in effect to them, and to us, Do you want to remove the ground from the devil, pride must be torn from your hearts, and you must pour yourself out unto death; pour yourself out for the sake of the Name, and for the sake of others. Position, prestige, reputation, these must be of no concern whatever. The spirit of victorious service is this. So here you have the mind, and the method of the ultimate Purpose. “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped at to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond­servant, being made in the likeness of men; and as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the Cross. Wherefore (knowing that He returned unto the Father – this was the way up; this was the way back to the glory – He came forth from God and He was going unto God, and all things are His) God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name above every name.”

6. The Instrument of the Ultimate Purpose.

“Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son” (John 17:1).

John seventeen is a chapter of great range. Back to the past Eternity (5), on through all time (23), unto eternity to be (25). Heaven, earth, hell, believers, unbelievers, and the Evil One, are all touched.

With all these in full view the Great High Priest stands by the altar of the Cross and prays. He is praying a prayer of universal and timeless dimensions. And yet He focuses it all upon a point in time which He calls “The Hour.” To what does that eternal hour relate? To the glorifying of the Son, Who is praying! What is one of the prominent factors in that glorifying? That the world might know that He had been sent by the Father, and that He should be believed on in the world!

By what means will that be brought about? What will be the ultimate proof that He came, and coming, accomplished His work successfully? By the triumphant manifestation of His own one Life by which the “Church – which is His Body” is constituted a living organism through that deathless and indestructible Life. The heart of this far-reaching and many-sided chapter would seem to be the constituting of an effectual testimony to the Lord Jesus to the nations in and through the Church in virtue of His Cross. This testimony is seen to have as a primary and basic truth, the organic oneness of all members of Christ. The nature and pattern of this oneness is revealed in verse 21. It is oneness in God and in Christ. It is not merely the presenting of a united front to the world, but the impact of a mighty Presence.

Christ dwelt in the Father; had His life in the Father in the days of His flesh. He said “I live by the Father.” It was the effect of this that demonstrated the oneness. The oneness is a spiritual power not an organised force. A world governed by “The spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” will not bow to a common testimony to objective truths, however many may represent them. The conviction that Christ has come rests upon the abiding power of His imparted Life which is the common possession of all who are truly His by new birth. To know God and Jesus Christ Whom He did send is a matter of Life (3). It is not life resultant from knowledge, but knowledge resultant from Life. When the Lord Jesus prays that the world may know and believe, He makes that consequent upon the living manifestation of the believer’s union with and abiding in the Father and Himself, which relationship would issue in a common witness to the living reality of Christ.

This then is a full consecration chapter, based upon His own model – “For their sakes I consecrate Myself” (19). There may be different aspects of the oneness in the chapter. Verse 21, in basic oneness in Christ. Verse 11 may be that manifest oneness as on the Day of Pentecost. Verse 23 is a process and a consummation, ultimate oneness. The glorifying also is threefold. There is the glorifying of the Father in the Son, verse 1. Then the glorifying of the Son in the church, verse 10. Finally the glorifying of the church in the Son, verse 24.

Now all this is gathered up into the “Hour” which is the hour of the Cross, and the Cross is necessary for it and basic to it. The common participation in the Life of the Lord demands the end of the self-life. It is the self-life that obscures the glory of Christ. The whole trend of the flesh is to take the glory from Christ. The “flesh” is the principle of the fallen humanity by which initially and continuously the Adversary robs God of His glory, and mars that which was made for His glory.

The background of this prayer is the “Evil One,” working through fallen human nature, splitting it into unholy rivalries, schisms, factions, partisan­ships, jealousies, suspicions, hatreds, conflicts, and what not. Christ has come to deal with this spiritual background, and lay a new foundation of a oneness which is deeper than intellect or emotion.

If there is one element in the seventeenth of John more than another, surely it is the spirit of selfless humility. It is just as important – if not more so – to get into the spirit of this chapter as into the words, and this humility so deeply breathed is the key to all the teaching. It is the offset to the pride which is the world-spirit, and from which the disciples themselves needed deliverance. Pride is the root and cause of all divisions. There has never yet been an external rift amongst the Lord’s people which did not have its source in pride somewhere. Pride blinds. Pride therefore provides a ground for deception. Often this deception makes the proud believe that they are the humblest and most selfless. Pride’s firstborn is jealousy, and jealousy tears in fragments and gets on with no one.

The spirit of subjection to Christ as Christ is subject to the Father is the most potent force in fellowship. A “holding fast the Head” as Head is a vital law of the “Body” of Christ, for thus all the members find their oneness.

Thus when the Lord Jesus prayed this great “Father Glorify,” He linked it with “The Hour” when by the Cross, through utter consecration to the will of the Father, in the power of an endless life, “through the eternal spirit,” He met the great arch­enemy of God and His ultimate purpose for a people out of whom all the discord and enmity is utterly eliminated, and who live in a love which has been made perfect: and He secured that end when He destroyed the works of the devil by His Cross. The means by which that testimony is veiled are legion, but in every case the contradiction is by reason of something either less than or extra to that Divine Life and its operations.

When “movements” as the enterprises of men take the place of the spontaneous movement of the Spirit of God; when teaching as such moves in advance of real spiritual hunger and becomes merely mental; when men become the centre of an encirclement instead of the Lord Jesus; when even a “testimony” is more than “The Person” of the Lord; then divisions are bound to come. Thus we

It was when “no one called the things that he possessed his own” that a spirit prevailed which afforded Christ His supreme opportunity for being glorified. That spirit must extend to everything in life, ministry, position, salvation, revelation. All must be held for Christ and to Him.

7. The Cost of the Ultimate Purpose.

Finally we come to Matthew 26:45. “Sleep on now and take your rest, the hour is come.”

It is significant that following upon a prayer for oneness and fellowship in and with Himself, so deep and strong that “neither life nor death, height nor depth, things present nor things to come” could destroy, the Lord should find Himself without a single wakeful helper in the hour of His deepest need. He is going to have His heart’s desire, but on the one hand He has to pay the price, and on the other something has to be done to get it on the stable rock of the Divine and off this insecure sand of the human.

He must “tread the winepress alone,” this is where they “cannot follow Him now.” They did not yet realise what was going on. The mighty issues were not perceived by them. He alone knew all that was involved, and while His human nature cried out for companionship and co-operation, He and only He could go those “few steps further,” to that deep “yonder.” He was tasting a desolation essential to His office and work which no other one need ever taste in the same measure. There is a fellowship, however, in His sufferings which, while not being of an atoning character, relates to the outworking of what He has done.

As with Him, so with His servants, one of the deepest points and the greatest costs is loneliness. The loneliness where no one else is able to appreciate what is going on, what God is doing, what is the meaning of the strange features which are apparent.

Before there can be true fellowship and oneness in the great spiritual realities, a fellowship of a lesser sort has to break down, and then ensues this costly isolation before eyes begin to be opened, and understanding is given. There will then come into being a fellowship over which death has no power.

The price of leadership in these things is terrible loneliness, but the end makes it worth while.

He who was cut off from the last human companion in the Garden is at length seen encompassed by “a great multitude which no man can number out of every nation, and tribe, and peoples, and tongues.” Any loneliness which may come to us in fellowship with Him now will not issue in our having a company of our own, but something far greater; it will have helped in the securing for the Lamb that was slain, the reward of His sufferings. It will be an ample reward for us to be standing by and with increasing intensity and emphasis cry:

“Crown Him! Crown Him!! Angels Crown Him!!! Crown the Saviour King of kings. “Bring forth the royal diadem, And Crown Him Lord of All.”

Published in: on May 31, 2013 at 10:36 am  Leave a Comment  

David’s Mighty Men

“And it came to pass after this, that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob: then Sibbechai the Hushathite slew Saph, which was of the sons of the giant. And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. And there was yet a battle in Gath, where was a man of great stature, that had on every hand six fingers, and on every foot six toes, four and twenty in number; and he also was born to the giant. And when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimeah the brother of David slew him. These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants” (2 Sam. 21:18-22).

This is a part of the recounting of the deeds of David’s mighty men. What I want you to note is that there were a number of giants – apparently of the family of the original giant, Goliath – who were dealt with by these men of David; and alongside of that, in order to get us into our right and proper and up-to-date position,

I recall to your minds the familiar words of Ephesians 6:10-12. “Finally, be strong in the Lord… Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities,… against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies”. It is upon the relationship of these giants to the original giant, Goliath, that I want you to focus your attention.

A Corporate Answer To The Enemy’s Challenge You know that David himself first came into view in relation to the throne in connection with this original (and what we might call, inclusive) giant. It was in his victorious combat with Goliath that David was first taken account of publicly, and this marked his first step toward the throne of Israel, in relation to which he had been anointed. Now we have moved on some considerable distance, and the security of that throne is seen to be the issue at the time of these mighty deeds.

When these mighty men come into view, they, as in the case of David, are seen in relation to the throne and to him who is destined to occupy it. But the movement is one from the personal to the corporate. In David’s case, it was personal. He fought a lone battle with Goliath; he was a lone figure on that field. When the giant challenged, all the people fled, but David moved out alone to accept that challenge and to answer it. But here, in the portion of the record with which we are now dealing, everything is corporate; but it is the same issue. It is all gathered up into a company.

The one giant, the inclusive giant, has been fully dealt with and beheaded, but he has left some of his offspring, and they are all giants; and now the giant in corporate expression is being met by the corporate expression of the throne. That sets us very clearly in ‘Ephesians’. We know that in the beginning of ‘Ephesians’ it is declared that the Lord Jesus has been raised up and set far above all rule and authority; the personal and the individual is an accomplished thing.

But at the end of ‘Ephesians’ the Church comes into view in exactly the same connection, the issue of the throne as challenged by giants – principalities, authorities, world rulers, the great ones in the spiritual realm – as well as by the hosts of the lesser wicked spirits gathered around. I think that is perfectly clear. So that it is this company called David’s mighty men who are brought in to meet the residue of the giant, to take up the same great issue of the throne and of him who is to occupy it. These giants are to be dealt with by the company as the giant was dealt with by the individual.

The Embodiment Of A Spirit David’s mighty men are not so much a class of people as they are the embodiment of a spirit. They express a spiritual state, a spiritual life. In Ephesians, it is the Spirit. “Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might”; and it is so clearly, in that letter, by the Spirit that we are strengthened with might into the inward man. Now there are two things to be noted about these mighty men.

Committal In Love To A Person Firstly, they are committed to David. You cannot fail to see how they loved him, the devotion of these men to David himself. We shall come upon that again before we are through, but you will recall that some of their exploits were especially related to some breathed desire of his heart. It was to himself that they were devoted, and that was quite a discriminating feature. You notice that when the giant Goliath shouted, the people fled (1 Sam. 17:24). Why? Because they were mainly there for the benefits that they could get for themselves. It was a matter of how things affected them.

That is the thing that is found in Israel’s life so continually – when things were not favourable to their interests, then they were anywhere but in the right place and condition. They were all over the place because personal interests were so much in the ascendant. But these men were not at all concerned about their personal interests and how things affected them. It was David alone who mattered to them; and so when others who had lesser interests would flee because of the difficulty, because of the greatness of the adverse conditions, these men saw the adversity as an opportunity for proving their love for their lord. They were committed to him. It was, in principle, love for the Lord.

Committal To God’s King And then, of course, they were committed to his throne. Read carefully the things that are said about them, and you will find throughout that their loyalty was not just because of David as a person, but because they knew God’s place for that person, because they had come to see that he was the man chosen of God to occupy the throne. The throne was for them the throne of the one of God’s choice. They had to come to that through discipline, and to arrive at the point where Saul no longer held the ground for them.

They saw that David was God’s man for the throne. They were committed therefore to him on the double ground of Divine destiny and of personal devotion. I am sure that simple truth needs no emphasis; here. We occupy ourselves much with the proclamation of those two things – that the Lord Jesus in Himself personally has won our hearts’ allegiance, and also that we have come to see that He is the One Whom God has chosen for the place of supreme authority throughout this universe unto the ages of the ages; and we are committed – to Christianity, or to the Lord – not for merely personal reasons. If we were, when a giant loomed up we should very quickly be off the scene; the test, you see, is that.

The Lord is really working very hard with us to try and woo us from our personal interests in Christianity and in our relationship with Him, because when things which touch us here on this earth and in our personal lives are threatened, we very often lose faith. We go down, we scatter spiritually, in the presence of an uprising threat to our interests here, even though we are Christians related to the Lord. We have to brush aside the consideration of how it affects us, and take a position in the interests of the Lord. It is a very testing and very important thing.

We must say, ‘It does not matter how it affects me, but how is the Lord going to suffer over this? What does the Lord stand to lose if I flee, or if this thing gains the ascendancy? How is it going to affect my Lord and to touch the great fact of His throne?’ So these mighty men of David are distinguished from the general company of those who very largely are Christians for the sake of the blessings of Christianity and who are driven from the field by the enemy because their blessings are threatened. These mighty men speak of those who have got beyond that point of personal consideration and have seen the interests of Christ and the purposes of God centered in Him for universal dominion.

Corporate Responsibility For Throne Interests There was a sense – and this gets very near to the heart of it – in which David had to be saved and succoured by these men. You notice in verses 16 and 17, one of these giants, in a set of new armour, marked out David and made him his object of destruction, and David was involved in very great peril. The man who had slain the original giant was now in peril from one of that giant’s offspring, and one of the mighty men came to David’s rescue and succoured him and slew the giant. Then David’s men said to him, ‘We cannot afford to lose you; you keep back and let us deal with this; we will come between you and this sort of thing.’

You will say it is a wrong interpretation to put the Lord Jesus in David’s place there – ‘Lord Jesus, You keep out of this, we are going to look after You!’ Yet there is a sense in which that is right where the Church is concerned; the very interests and honour and glory and throne of the Lord Jesus are bound up with the Church. The matter is no longer His alone, and there is a sense in which He stands to lose if the Church fails – in which God would say about His Son, ‘This is not the time for you to come out personally; you have done that; this is the time for the Church to take up your interests.’ David’s life, David’s throne, were put into the hands of these men, and they saw their responsibility, and how great it was, and what David stood to lose if they did not take definite action about it.

There must be a company of the Lord’s people who rise to that level, who see that the tremendous significance of the throne of the Lord Jesus is in their hands. In one way it sounds a presumptuous thing to say, but you see what I mean. If we do not take responsibility over this matter of these evil forces in their assailing, if we are not strong in the Lord and do not move out against the principalities and powers, it is not only ourselves who are going to lose, but our Lord also. His throne is going to be affected. He has now, in a sense, made us responsible for the final issue, which is not personal but collective and corporate.

So there must be a people (actual numbers are mentioned in David’s case but we must not take that literally: they represent a specific inner company) who have seen the mighty issues of what is presented in the Letter to the Ephesians – those eternal counsels of God concerning Jesus Christ, and the place of the Church in those counsels as instrumental for their full realization – and have got through all personal interest in the matter of blessings, and are now committed to their Lord and to God’s intention concerning Him, and realize that the responsibility is with them. That is what I feel is the Lord’s word to us at this time – not to be just ‘ordinary’ Christians, but to realize that God must have a company of His Own, in the midst of the general rank and file, who answer to David’s mighty men, to take up the ultimate issues of Christ’s Lordship on His behalf.

The Lord is involved in these battles into which we are precipitated, and they are not just our battles, they are the battles of the Lord. There are situations and propositions which present themselves which are gigantic; they are paralysing if you can be paralysed. When Goliath started to shout, the people were literally paralysed – if that is in keeping with being able to run away! But all their strength went in the presence of this man’s showing of himself. You can be petrified by some of the situations that the enemy brings about as tests of faith. And then what is it going to be? Well, one deciding factor will be whether we consider ourselves or our Lord; whether at once we begin to feel sorry for ourselves, get down on to our own ground – which is just what the enemy wants to bring about – or whether we say, ‘Well, the Lord’s name and honour are involved in this; the real issue here is the Lordship, the Sovereignty, the Ascendancy of the Lord’ – and, as they did, meet the situation on that ground.

They did not always wait for these enemies to come and start the thing. When the enemies loomed up before them, these men took the initiative. I am the last to suggest that we should be careless and frivolous over attacking spiritual forces. We can do that to our undoing; and I also remind you that this is a thing which it is very dangerous to do individually. This is the business for the Church – the corporate assault upon situations which loom up and which could literally paralyse and put out of action. The Lord must have people like this in whom there is the initiative of His Lordship.

Suffering For The Body’s Sake There must be some to meet the situation – may I use the word? – in a vicarious way. There are all the others, there is all Israel; but so many cannot stand up, they have not got the spiritual position, the spiritual measure; they are in spiritual weakness, and for them anything in the way of severe or extra trial or difficulty finds them at once paralysed and helpless. Is the enemy going to create a universal situation like that? No, for the sake of the Church there must be those who take this position of the mighty men vicariously for the sake of others, the strong to bear the burdens of the weak, to take the initiative on behalf of the Church for the Church’s sake. I am sure that amongst the mighty men of the Lord Jesus the Apostle Paul has “attained unto the first three,” and he was one who said “for His body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24).

He filled up that which was lacking of the sufferings of Christ for His Body’s sake – vicarious suffering, not for sin, which is Christ’s alone, but for the Church’s victory. You are not unfamiliar with the large place in the New Testament given to the matter of spiritual strength and courage. I think that these stories are written in the Old Testament about David and his mighty men not as nice little picture book stories for the children, but as typifying what God means by courage, spiritual boldness, being strong in the Lord.

There they are as great illustrations of these very passages which we have read from Ephesians. The message of the Lord to us is that He needs a company who, having seen what is involved in the spiritual warfare, will graduate out of the position of personal interests and personal blessing, and for the Lord’s sake and for His people’s sake take up the matter of the warfare with spiritual forces, and break a way through for the Church.

Published in: on January 23, 2012 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Where Christendom Has Gone Astray

“Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father… But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:20, 21, 23, 24).

Where does everything begin in relation to God, and therefore, in relation to the enemy in his counterfeit? It begins in the realm of worship. The beginning of everything is worship, in relation to God. That is, God having the central and supreme place of recognition, acknowledgment, of government. In our complete obedience, surrender, in every part and phase of our being, God having supreme right. Worship begins there. It is a relationship, not only an exercise. It is not something that we do in specified ways and methods. It is some attitude of the life, some place which God has in the entire consciousness. That is worship.

Now if Satan is to counterfeit and take God’s place, worship is his objective. With the first Adam that was his objective; to draw man away from giving God the supreme place, that he might take God’s place. He supplanted God in the reverence and the acknowledgment and the obedience of man and captured worship and became “the god of this age”. When the last Adam, the Second Man, came and entered officially, publicly upon the great work that He had come to do, the one thing that the adversary sought to capture was His worship. “All these will I give thee if thou wilt worship me.” He has betrayed himself; he has shown his hand. If he could do the same with the last Adam as he did with the first, he has defeated the object of a new race.

Now it is just here that we have got to have light. We have read John 4 from the twentieth verse. The woman is saying “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem men ought to worship.” Jesus said unto her, “Woman, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, will men worship the Father. Believe Me, the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” In spirit – a small “s”, not a capital “S”.

Oh, what is this? This represents a new regime, a new order. This is the crisis of the Cross in the realm of worship, the basic thing. But what has happened? Jerusalem was definitely, divinely ordained as the seat of honour and worship. The Samaritans imitated with temple and mountain the system which was at Jerusalem and worshipped the same God. But God had brought into the world that system of worship at Jerusalem; He had projected that. It was a temple, a building, a piece of elaborate ecclesiastical architecture with priests, with robes and vestments, burning incense, offering sacrifices, making prayers, reading Scriptures, and many other things.

Yes, God had brought that in, and now the Lord Jesus was setting the whole thing aside, and in so doing, implying as clearly as anything could be implied, that this is not true worship. It is a comparison which is almost invidious. “Neither in this mountain, nor at Jerusalem, will men worship the Father. But true worshippers shall worship in spirit and in truth.” “God is a spirit.”

Where Christendom is Astray What has happened, then, if this is not the truth, what is the truth? That is where Christendom has gone astray. That is the divide between soul and spirit. Not something which was but a type, an illustration, a set of symbols. God never intended that to be the final thing, never intended man to make that a thing in itself, never intended that that thing should go on indefinitely. It was brought in to illustrate and represent something else and its time for duration was until the Lord Jesus came.

It all pointed towards Him, led up to Him, spoke of Him and His Cross in which that which was merely of the soul would pass, and that which was of the spirit would come in. What is the spiritual life in the matter of worship? Oh, it is not ecclesiastical architecture, it is not vestments, it is not ordinances, it is not rites. They pass out with Calvary. The perpetuating of anything like that is a contradiction of Calvary. See where we are today. The maintenance of that sort of thing, beloved, is because of a failure to perceive what the Lord Jesus has brought in.

What, then, is spiritual worship? It is getting back behind all that and seeing the spiritual meaning. Those sacrifices which were brought and sacrificed were looked into and most carefully turned over, if peradventure there might be a flaw, a blemish, a taint, an inconsistency, a double element, two colours, two kinds. If any such mark could be found the whole thing was rejected. When, however, after careful inquiry and investigation not a flaw or a blemish could be found, and God’s representative with the keen eyes of an expert could pronounce over them the familiar “Tetelestai” – “It is perfect”, then they were offered to God. And the truth embodied in the type was this, that the only fellowship with God is on the basis of the spiritual perfections of the Lord Jesus.

Worship is no longer bringing of animal sacrifices but bringing up from the heart an appreciation of the perfection of Christ. That is worship. The vestments of old were only types and figures and illustrations. The priestly apparel was speaking all the time in type of a righteousness and beauty and glory which is the nature of the God-Man, the Lord Jesus. It is given, imputed and imparted to the one who by faith apprehends Christ. We who are in Christ, in the sight of God, are wearing garments of beauty and glory and holiness. Why, then, perpetuate a system? The Lord Jesus put all that away in His Cross, it is all gone. That is what He means by worshipping in spirit and in truth.

The temple and the tabernacle were only types, speaking of that spiritual fellowship of the saints as joined to an exalted Head, one Body, the Temple of God. The boards of the tabernacle tied together by the bands only speak of saints with the imputed righteousness and holiness and glory of God laid upon them, bound together in one spirit, one Body, with the “joints and the bands”. The fitting together of the stones of the temple wrought in the quarry and brought together without the sound of hammer or axe, silently fitted in, only speaks in foreshadowing of the living stones built together for a spiritual habitation. God now indwells not temples made with hands, but a spiritual body, the members of Christ joined to Him.

Why, then, perpetuate a thing which God has dismissed in the Cross, and keep to the lower, fail to reach the higher, the fact that “we who are many are one body”? Do you see where things are astray today? I know how sweeping this is, but all this has to do with worship.

Now note that when there is a failure to recognise, to know the spiritual meaning of all this and to enter into it, and a maintaining of the old thing, you are still on a soul-level and you are open to deception. The whole thing may be a ghastly deception. And how does that deception work? In this way, that so many good Christian people are absolutely in bondage to a traditional system which is cutting clean across divine revelation for them. It is their traditional system which is simply barring the way to the spiritual revelation.

The Cross of the Lord Jesus represents the liberty in the spirit for God to lead into the fullness of His life and light. That is the whole purpose of the letter to the Hebrews. It was for that very purpose; that here was a people that had received light concerning the true nature of fellowship with God in Christ. The Lord Jesus had taken the place of the temple and the priesthood and the sacrifices and the ordinances, and even the sabbath. The sabbath was no longer merely a point of time but related to a Person. God had reached His rest in Christ. All God’s works were finished in Christ. God had entered into His rest when Christ perfected the work of God in redemption on the Cross.

Now that is no longer a matter of form, ceremony, external rites, buildings, priests, sacrifices; it is all Christ. They had seen that; He had called upon them to go outside the religious, formal, historic, traditional camp, and that brought persecution, ostracism, isolation, loneliness and all manner of things. The official religious people made it very hard for them because of that. The price to be paid for what is truly spiritual and heavenly was and is great, and they were dangerously in peril of going back to the old thing.

The letter to the Hebrews was just written to save them from that peril, and to more fully tell them about the great change that had come about in the Cross, the work of the Lord Jesus. One system had passed, the earthly representation, and the other, the heavenly reality, had come in. You know how that letter speaks about the “pattern of things in the heavenlies” and “the heavenly things themselves”. The letter comes to the great conclusion in “We are come to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the blood of sprinkling, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant”, come to that in Him.

Now you see historic Christianity as such, traditional Christianity as such, may still keep us on a soul-level of worship where we must have a certain kind of building with certain kinds of windows, with a certain kind of music, and certain kinds of prayers, certain kinds of people and certain kinds of dress, and all this to “aid” our worship: all this to make real our fellowship with God. It is living back on pre-Calvary ground and it may be all soulish, and it may just be obstructing the path to a full personal inward spiritual life with God.

Free from Outward Systems To know the Lord in Life we must be free from the Grave Clothes of Outward Systems. Beloved, it is as true as anything I have said, that if you want to know the Lord livingly in greater fullness you have to be free from every external control of religion, you have got to be free and open to the Lord, you have to be free in the spirit. Formalism has got to go and reality and life have got to come in.

There must be a personal life in God, and that is not dependent upon place or anything outside and round us. That is dependent entirely upon our spiritual fellowship with Him. It can be as real, as blessed in a dingy rat-infested Bedford jail as it can be in the most gorgeous ornate cathedral. Oh, yes, some of the most wonderful fellowship with God has been in the most unlikely places. You need no “helps” of that kind when you know God. Your life is with God.

Now remember, that letter to the Hebrews was written in anticipation of something. The Apostle knew that before very long the whole of that Jewish system would be in ruins. The Lord Jesus had prophesied it, that there should not be left one stone upon another. It would be scattered to the four winds. There would be no temple, no altar, no sacrifice, no festivals, no priests. The whole thing would cease and be smashed in fulfilment of the divine prediction.

What would happen to these people if their fellowship with God was bound up with that? It would go. It would go with the system, and He wanted to save them from that thing which, being bound to earth, would go, and to bring them into a new thing which belonged to salvation. Fellowship with God must be of that kind, that whether we can go to meetings or not we have still got the Lord. Whether we have nice soulish music or not, we have still got the Lord. We are not in that realm. “Woman, believe Me, the h our cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.”

Bricks and mortar cannot communicate with spirit. Man’s soul can communicate with God only through the vehicle of his spirit in union with God. That is what Calvary has done. Of course, you can understand now why the message of the Cross is unacceptable, and if you are going to proclaim and stand for it, you will be outside the camp because of this strong cleaving to a historic traditional inheritance. The awful thing is this, that Satan has taken hold of the divine representation or typical system to appropriate it, when God has done away with it. That which God has had brought in for a temporary purpose Satan has captured for himself to obscure the real nature of fellowship with God.

Now no one will think that I am saying that there are no spiritual people in that system of things. I am not saying that, but I am saying that if that represents for them their spiritual life, and if they must have that, and if that is the realm in which they live, that they do not see beyond that and are not free from that as a thing in itself, then they have missed the meaning of Calvary, and they are bound to miss all the meaning of Christ crucified, the wisdom and the power of God. Wrestling with principalities and powers demands something more than a system of external things.

You see we are up against a terrific business, we are up against a spiritual position which is colossal and only a spiritual position is adequate to that, nothing less. I trust you have received enough light to see that what has been said is justified. We do not want to be in any position less than the Lord’s first best for us. I am sure we are prepared to pay the greatest price to be in God’s first place for us, by His grace.

May He enable us to be willing to go on with Him, “leaving the things which are behind and pressing on”, or, to come to the Hebrews again, “Let us go on unto full growth”. The toys, the picture books, the illustrations, the symbols, the types are for children who have little intelligence. They are taken away at a certain time when God’s intention is not to have children, but to have sons, and there is all the difference between the two. And so Calvary dismisses the kindergarten of external things in relation to God and brings in the fullness of heavenly order to make of us full-grown sons of God. May we be so.

Published in: on December 26, 2011 at 10:01 am  Leave a Comment  

The beginning of a mandate

To some people prayer warfare is attractive and exiting. They seek after the rush and the sense of power which ensues from the speaking against a Pharao or the addressing the powers of a city. But, few are those who have received a solid mandate from the Eternal to do so. The prophetic mandate is a rare item, but a necessary one as the world – and the Church at large – is toppling over.

God’s mandate, God’s sending is firmly founded in his own choice. If man can add anything at all to the process of sending, it would be his willingness to wait, his willingness to be reduced as to categories, to personal preferences and ambition. Waiting is reducing, a reducing as to self-gratification and self-aggrandizement. The waiting accepted by God, is directly related to the altar, to the work of the Cross. A mandate requires the 40 years of isolation in the desert. Only God is able to light a thorn-bush, and keep it burning.

The encounter with God, and the thorn-bush which is not consumed by fire, produces meekness. The “I am undone” before the altar of eternal fire is the beginning of apostolic meekness – without which there will be no sending. The experiences of Moses and of Isaiah are absolutes as to the formation of an apostolic man. The sending is a non-occurrence without the reduction at the altar. To have begun to see, as these men saw, is the beginning of sending. And such an experience cannot be appropriated by faith – it must take place in reality, in real time. It is a “shoes of” reality, it reduces the three-piece-suit man to a bare minimum of existence – silk-tie and patent-leather shoes will have no meaning in this setting or after such an experience. A seeing – and a cleansing – of this peculiar kind equals sending.

Apostles and prophets are foundational men, men overwhelmed by the Holiness of God. “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word.” Isa 66:2. Apostolic meekness has its counterpart in the apostolic trembling. The apostolic man is qualified to speak because of his fear of the Word, even because of the jealousy for the righteousness set forth in the word. “God is greatly to be feared in the congregation of the saints.” Ps 89.7. “Justice and judgment are the foundation of Your throne.” Ps 89:14. The apostolic man bears a mark of the “otherness” which he has encountered in the presence of God – Joh 7:31-34.

The prophetic man is a tempered man, a man who has learned obedience. He is tempered by the Tent – “At the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet you, to speak there to you. And there I will meet with the sons of Israel, and Israel shall be sanctified by My glory.” Ex 29:42-43. This speaking brings substance and depth to the prophetic man. The tempering of the Tent brings mandate. And, again, this experience is not to be appropriated by faith – it is a substantial day-to-day experience in fellowship with Him who dwelled in a thorn bush.

“Who shall go up into the hill of Jehovah? Or who shall stand in His holy place?” Ps 24:3. The pretentious man does not care for such an experience. The light-hearted man finds substitutes for it – and dares to call it glory. The conceited man follows his own imaginations – and becomes a vanity prophet. The mandate begins at the altar, the mandate begins with a holy fire. What burns within will be seen without. A fire of personal desires will not manifest holiness and glory. A fire of personal ambitions will not satisfy hearts who long for righteousness. Only the heart which is touched by His word unto godly living will carry a prophetic testimony to chosen segments of our cities and churches.

Lars Widerberg

From the notes to a Church in Bronx, New York

Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 12:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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