"And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among
you... Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all
the earth passeth over before you into the Jordan."
"For they themselves report... how ye turned unto God from idols, to
serve a living and true God"
1 Thess. 1:9.
"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit
offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead
works to serve the living God?"
"And it shall be, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are
not my people, There shall they be called sons of the living God."
"...ye are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink,
but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in tables
that are hearts of flesh...
And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the
living God..." 2 Cor. 3:3;
"For to this end we labor and strive, because we have our hope set on the
living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe."
1 Tim. 4:10.
"Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art
the Christ, the Son of the living God." Matt. 16:16.
"...that thou mayest know how men ought
to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God,
the pillar and ground of the truth." 1 Tim. 3:15.
"But ye are come unto mount Zion,
and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable
hosts of angels...
Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart
of unbelief, in falling away from the living God."
Heb. 12:22; 3:12.
Without attempting to touch in detail on all these
passages, every one of which deals with a different
aspect of practical relationship with the living God, we
shall seek to gather the whole matter up into a small
compass, and bring it down to some simple, direct,
The Living One
In the first place we recognise the fact that
with whom we have to do
a living God.
does not sound very wonderful, very fresh, but I believe
that with regard to that, as to everything else, it is
possible to wake up to the realisation of a meaning from
which we have been very largely estranged.
The God with whom we have to do is a living God!
As these passages indicate, and as perhaps most of us
have had reason to know, that fact has two sides and
conveys two meanings. On the one side it is a fact of
infinite comfort to the honest in heart. To begin with,
when we turn to Him in honesty of heart it is perhaps the
greatest thing to know that we are turning to a
living and true God. Of the Thessalonians we read that
they turned from idols "to serve a living and true God".
The Apostle was glorying in what that meant amongst
those believers, for these letters to the Thessalonians are
nothing if they are not letters of life. Read them with that
thought in mind alone, and you will find that they throb
with life. There are all the marks of a living experience, a
joyous experience, an overflowing experience - yes,
overflowing! so much so that the overflow reached far,
far afield, and their faith was spoken of in all the
churches. It was not necessary for the Apostle to refer to
them, and that because through them the word went out
far and wide. It meant something to them to discover that
it was not to another religion, not to another system of
teaching, not to another association of people, but to a
living God that they were turning; not to things, but to a
It entirely depends upon our apprehension of the Lord
as to what our testimony is. If we are turning
teaching, to tradition, to interpretations, to human
associations, to Christianity, we are going to miss
something, but if we are turning to the living God, in the
realisation that He is the living God, we are going to
life; everything is going to be all living in our experience
right from the beginning.
It is not unnecessary to say a thing like that.
We said at the outset we wake up, and some of
us awoke too late. The thing that kept us asleep
- though we did not know we were asleep,
except that there was a restlessness, a sense of
dissatisfaction, a turning from side to side, and a
and groaning - was the fact that we had
been associated with Christianity and the things of the
people of God from so early in our lives. Our Christianity
and our relationship with the Lord was something into
which we were brought in infancy, and it had all become
a matter of a system
the things of the Lord around
us, with which we were quite familiar. We had been
taught to say prayers, and go to meetings, and so on.
One day we awoke to the fact that this God was a living
God. We had been associated with Him in a way for a
long time, but He was not personal to us, not a living
Forgive me for going back to such an elementary
stage, if it is necessary to ask forgiveness, for it is just
possible there are some among us whose relationship is
of that kind. Maybe you are associated with things
related to the Lord, but what about this question of your
own personal, inward enjoyment of the living God, of His
really being to you a living Person? We must begin back
there, and all this is nothing to you unless the Holy Spirit
has made it real, or does make it real, in your experience.
I do know that it is true to fact in the life of a great many,
that the day comes when, though they have been
associated with the things of the Lord for a long time,
they suddenly wake up to the fact that the Lord is a living
Person. That contains so much for us as we come to realise it. It means everything to us from every point of
view. We are the Lord's now! We know the Lord!
But, oh, we pass into experiences, and into times which
are so difficult, so mysterious, so full of shadows and
clouds. We go through periods of deep trial, when
everything seems to be in eclipse, and it is all so long-drawn-out; the demand for patience is so great; so much
time is being taken, that very often we draw near to the
point where we almost feel that, so far as we are
concerned, the Lord is not the living God.
The Purpose of Trial
So I want to say to those who are tried, to
those who are under a cloud, to those who may be
tested at this time in that way, that the God with whom
you have to do is a living God. He knows exactly what
He is doing. You have to do with a living God, and that
living God has you in hand, although you do not know it,
do not realise it at the moment. You are not forgotten. If
this is a living God with whom we have come into
relation in Jesus Christ, then He knows all about us, and
has His eye upon us; and, what is more, He has a direct
interest in us and concern for us; He is not dead to our
interests, but very much alive to us. What we are passing
through is not an indication of His having forgotten us,
abandoned us, or of His having ceased to be, so far as
we are concerned; He is dealing with us in the way
which is most of all calculated to reach His end. He is the
That can be said on more than one basis of authority.
You can go through the Word of God and follow the life
story of many of His servants and see that they had good
opportunity, had they so desired, to consider that God
was not; that if God was, then they had been abandoned
by Him; everything in their experience, in their life, in
their affairs seemed to say that they had been
abandoned, or that God was dead. But you follow
through the story, and you find that the sequel always
shows that at the time when it seemed to them that God
was most far off, outside of their world, He was most
active in what He was doing, most directly bound up
with their affairs, securing some state, some condition,
some position in them which was fitting them for a
position of trust, and of honour, and of fruitfulness.
Although to them it seemed just the opposite, all the time
in their very history He was the living God in truth. You
have that made perfectly clear in the Word of God.
There are those of us who also know that in our
experience there are times when it seems that God - to
use the words of one in the Word of God - "had
forgotten to be gracious".
we are able to look
back upon those very times to see that, although we
knew it not, God was very active indeed, doing
something very deep, and today we are living in the
value of that. God had not left us. We had to do with
the living God, and the living God had to do with us.
That is simple again, but let us store it up against a time
of need. In so many ways this fact should be of infinite comfort to the honest
in heart. The living God is the One with whom we have to do.
The Note of Warning
But there is the other aspect, and we must not leave it
on one side in a desire not to touch on unpleasant
things; we must be faithful. This statement occurs in the
Word of God accompanied, as you notice, by a
shadow on more than one occasion. "Take heed,
brethren, lest there be in any one of you an evil heart of
unbelief, in turning away from the living God". Take
heed! It is a word of warning.
Now notice the connection. If you look at the third
chapter of the letter to the Hebrews you will see that the
point in view was that full purpose of God which He had
fixed for His people. The illustration was taken from the
life of Israel in the wilderness in view of the land. God's
purpose for Israel was their coming to the land, with all
its fulness, all its riches and its wealth, and its blessing,
but through unbelief they fell short of the land and died in
the wilderness. You see the designation "the living God" is used in that connection, which surely means, if it
means anything at all, that the very fact that He is the living God signifies that His purpose and desire for His
own is all that He can give - fulness! That is what is
bound up with a living God. These other gods are
always taking away, always robbing, always
impoverishing. The gods of the heathen, the gods of the
world are robber gods, they would rob you of
everything. This living God is supremely characterised
by His giving, and ever giving. "God so loved the world
that he gave his only begotten Son..."; He "who
for us all, shall he not also with him
freely give us all things". The mark of the living God is beneficence, fulness of thought, and desire, and
Purpose, and will for His own, to bring them in. To fall
away from the living God means to fall away from all
that He has purposed, designed and desired for us, and
hence the word of warning.
But let us note this. The Word does not say, Take
heed, brethren, lest you fall away from the blessing, lest
you miss the good. The words
are "turning away
from the living God". All our blessing is bound up with
Himself. He is our blessing. In other words, to know
the living God is life eternal. "This is life
eternal, that they might know thee the only true
God, and Jesus Christ whom thou didst send". To
know Him as the living God is fulness of blessing. So the
warning is lest we, through unbelief, turn away from the
living God. It is the question as to God that arises in the
heart, the question, the doubt as to God, that robs us.
Then the blessing is gone, because in doubting God we
rear a fence between Him and ourselves.
Ah, but there is a still more solemn word in this
connection. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of
the living God". That is the second passage with a
shadow upon it. Now let us be solemn and quite frank.
You and I have not to deal with men in the final issue.
We have not to reckon with people, with teaching, as
such, with places, with any
if you or I refuse
truth, refuse light, withhold obedience, hide something
from the Lord; if you and I are in any way unfaithful, it is
with the living God that we have to do. It was a startling
thing to Achan when his hidden, secret sin was tracked
right down in that amazing way. Look at the hundreds of
thousands in Israel, and one man among the hundreds of
thousands does something which God had to uncover.
That man sees an inquiry set up, and watches it being
narrowed down from the multitude to the tribe, from the
tribe to one of the families in the tribe, until his own
personal tent is reached, and he, one man in hundreds of
thousands, comes under the finger of God. Achan
perhaps thought that he could default in the midst of so
big a crowd and it would not be noticed, that he could
deceive the elders of Israel and not be discovered.
Achan had forgotten that it was the living God with
whom he had to do. Such a thing becomes an occasion
for that solemn warning, that we should be reminded that
"it is an awful thing to fall into the hands of the living
You and I, if we are honest, need never fall into the
hands of the living God in that way, but the point is that
anything and everything that is secret in our lives, which
represents sin, disobedience, refusal of light, anything
that is not of God, brings us into the hands of the living
God; it is with Him that we have to do sooner or later.
Oh no, you have not even to reckon in the first or last
place with those who are in authority over you in the
Lord. The most blessed relief comes to such to recognise this, and it is a relief to us all to know it, that
the responsibility in the final issue is with God, and that
every one has to reckon with God. It is a
terrible and yet a helpful thing, a thing which is a strength
to us even when we give the Lord's message, to know
that people have not to answer to us. They may take an
attitude over that message toward the one who gives it,
and say, Oh, that is only so-and-so's interpretation, it is
only what he says! Well, you do not get away with it like
that. If that should happen to be the truth of God, it is not
with the preacher that you have to reckon, it is with the
That brings a terrible responsibility upon us all. Let us
remember that for all that the Lord gives us, it is to a
living God that we have to answer. Oh, the Lord is
looking right into our hearts, and He knows. It is
impossible for us to deceive Him. It cannot be done. He
knows our inward hearts. He knows our home and what
is going on there. He knows us in our business life. He
knows us in our relationships with one another, just what
we are and what is make believe. Sooner or later we are
going to come up against the Lord on every point of
hypocrisy, deception, sin.
Now it entirely depends upon our attitude toward the
Lord whether the fact that He with whom we have to do,
is a living God, is one which brings us comfort, or whether it strikes terror into our hearts. This word must
be said. The Lord knows who it is for. You and I are
dealing with the living God. That is a blessed fact, but it is
also an awful fact. So let us always remember that there
is nothing secret, nothing hidden, nothing that we can
cover from Him. We cannot take a false position. There
is a living God on the spot all the time, who sees right
through it all, and presently He will say: Now, let us have
that mask off; let us have that attempt at self-deception put aside; let us face this thing out.
I know all
about it! I have known about it all along; you have
never been able to cover it from Me for a moment! He
is the living God. That word "It is a fearful thing to fall
into the hands of the living God" is a terrible word for
those who fight God, and I think it is especially meant
for such as oppose themselves to God.
Think of what is going on in this world today. I have
been reading a book called "The War Against God".
The whole history of long centuries of war against God is
given, and it shows how that
developing today to such
a tremendous extent that whole nations are making it their
one object to throw God out of the
world, to get rid of God, to have nothing of God in their
national life. Well, that is one side of this thing, and it
does not apply to us; but we can say it is a fearful thing
to fall into the hands of the living God; not an imaginary
God, not a traditional God, not the God of the religious
systems, however hoary their history, but the living God.
The fact is going to come back upon such. He holds the
nations in His hand.
It might be that there is someone resisting God,
fighting God, rebelling against God, who imagines - though perhaps it has never been put into words, into
clear thinking - that he can get the better of God. Oh no, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God"; and that is where we are all to come sooner or later.
Can you rejoice that you are in the hands of the living
God? There is no need to be afraid of that. It may be
the most blessed thing that ever can be enjoyed, to be in
the hands of the living God. On the other hand, it may be
the most terrible thing, a fearful thing to fall into the hands
of the living God. For the unbelieving and the unfaithful it
is neither a welcome thing nor a blessed thing to know
that the God with whom we have to do, and who has to
do with us, is a living God.
The Living Relationship
Now there is one other thing bound up with this oft-repeated designation "the living God". The fact that He
is the living God is intended to make for a living state of
things amongst His own people; they are to take
character from Him in this very sense and truth that He is
the living God. That means that relationship with Him is
intended to be a living relationship. Relationship with
God today in so many directions, and over such a wide
range, is not a living relationship. There is an
acknowledgment of God, there is a form of worship of
God, there are rites connected with God; yes, there is a
recognition in a greater or lesser measure of a kind of
devotion to God, worship of God, acknowledgment of
God, perhaps desire for God, but all short of a living
relationship with God. Yet that He is the living God
means that those
are related to Him should live. He
would say, "Because I live ye shall live also". A living
relationship with God is possible.
have no doubt that probably nine out of every ten of those who read this have
this knowledge of a living relationship with the living God;
He is to them in their own experience, enjoyment, and
knowledge as alive as any today, in this world at least.
Some of us can say that He is more alive to us, because
He comes into closer touch with our innermost being,
than anyone else we know. He is the living God. It is
not a relationship with some dead order of things, but
with a living Person. But I must ask, Have you that living
relationship? Are you following a system, an order, or
are you in living fellowship with a living God? The Lord
desires that such relationship with Him shall be living all
the way along. It is a great thing to know that you have
access to the living God. You do not know whether
a thing is right or wrong? Well, you have the living
God, ask Him; He is open, He is accessible, He is alive;
you can have dealings with Him. Just to enjoy living
relationship with a living God is how He wills it to be. The
desire of His heart is that you should treat Him as being
a living God. "He that cometh to God must believe that
he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently
seek him". We must believe, when we come, that He is; not feeling out into the universe, the vacant, empty
universe. No, we are coming to a living Person; we
believe that He is! There is nothing vague about that.
But more than that, He is the rewarder of them that
diligently seek. Every time you come to Him do you
believe that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek? How far does your belief carry you? Does it enable
you right on the spot where you are to thank Him when
you seek Him, because you believe that He has
answered? O Lord, I thank You that You do not deny
me that which is in accord with Thy will; I have it. To
give thanks with request is His order. "In everything by
prayer... with thanksgiving let your requests be made
known unto God." That is faith. That is not imagining,
making yourself believe that you have it. It is faith taking
this position: He is a living God, and He is the rewarder
of them that diligently seek, and if this request is inspired
by His Spirit, in line with His will, whether I actually enter
into possession of it at this moment or not, I know that
He hears and answers, and I shall come into it. Faith
may be tested. Many of us have asked the Lord for that
which is revealed as His
for us in His Word, and we
have been kept waiting a long time, but the day has
come when we have found ourselves in possession of the answer. There was
no noise about it, it just happened. He proved Himself
faithful. By such experiences we have learned to thank
the Lord on the spot. Whether our prayer is immediately
answered in our experience, or whether the possession is
postponed for a year or two, our confidence is that we
are coming into the answer, and so we give thanks. That
is faith that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that
diligently seek Him. God loves that ground, that attitude,
that kind of living relationship. It is a relationship which
is taking its character from Him, the living God.
If He is the living God, then our knowledge of Him
ought to be living, and where life is in the ascendant there
is always increase. It is only when life is fading that there
is decrease. When life is in the ascendant - and this life
may always be in the ascendant, there need be no winter
time in the life of the Spirit - there is increase in the
knowledge of the Lord, living knowledge of the Lord. It
is altogether different from book knowledge,
altogether different from information about the Lord; it is living, personal knowledge of the Lord, and
knowledge that is ever growing. We have to do with the
living God, and He would that our knowledge of Him
should be living knowledge, a knowledge in which there
So we could go on touching upon point after point as
to what it means to be related to a living God, but in this
comprehensive word it is that everything is living where
you have the living God.
The Supreme Testimony
Now we come to the closing word, which has to do
with the pre-eminent evidences of the presence of the
living God. If you have felt that all that has been said so
far has hardly touched you, or has hardly had an
application in your case, I have no question about the
last word. I am quite sure you will get something now.
The pre-eminent evidence that the living God is with us,
what is it? "Hereby", said Joshua, "ye shall know the
living God is among you... Behold, the ark of the
covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before
you into the Jordan." Some of you will want that
explained, and others will not. "Behold, the ark of the
covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before
you into the Jordan." First
of all, Jordan is always a type of death, and at the time
when those words were spoken Jordan was at the
flood, overflowing all its banks. It was, in type, death at
the flood-tide, the mighty flood of death overflowing all
banks. Then, secondly, the ark of the covenant is the
Lord Jesus Christ in type. He is typified in that ark of the
Now then, Jesus Christ goes right over into the flood-tide of Jordan, and immediately that ark comes into
touch with that flood-tide, the flood gives way, and is
forced back. The waters are made to stand up and give
a passage to the people of faith. What is the supreme
evidence of the living God being amongst us? It is that
we know Jesus Christ as triumphant over the power of
death in our experience: for, having met death in its full
force, its flood-tide, He triumphed. It
was the flood-tide of death that was encountered at
Calvary; death, in all that death means, something far
beyond mere physical death, even all the terrible, wicked
power of spiritual death. The Lord Jesus went into the
flood of iniquitous death, and death's power was taken
from it, and it could not overflow. He broke the power
of death and its curse, and made death stand back. "He
tasted death in the behalf of every man". He has
delivered us in His own victory over death. He stands for
the testimony of a life which is incapable of being
swallowed up by death. Thus the cry is, "O death, where
is thy victory; O death where is thy sting?" "Thanks be
unto God who giveth us the victory through
our Lord Jesus Christ." What is the supreme evidence
that the living God is amongst us? That we are enjoying
the power of a deathless life, or in other words, are
living in the blessing of Christ's victory over the power of
death. You have a life in your heart, in your spirit which
cannot be overwhelmed and overpowered by death.
When death is all around there is life. "Hereby ye shall
know that the living God is among you."
The testimony, then, to all the world, to the universe,
is that the Lord of life is in the midst of us, and is making
Himself manifest in that very nature, in that very
character, in that very designation "the Lord of Life".
Hereby you shall know, not that your doctrine is
correct, not that you are sound, not that you are
orthodox, not that you are true to the conditions, but
that the living God is among you in the power of His
triumphant life in Jesus Christ over death. You and I
may know the living God amongst us like that all the
The enemy would destroy that testimony, because it is
the pre-eminent evidence of the presence of the living
Lord. The assault, therefore, is always upon that
testimony of life. God has been manifested to us as the
living God in Jesus Christ, who says, "I am he that liveth; I became dead, but I am alive unto the ages of
the ages, and have the keys of death and of hades", the
authority over all.
So may we remember the fact which governs
everything: that our God is a living God; He lives.
First published in "A Witness and A Testimony"
magazine, Jan-Feb 1938, Vol 16-1