Having laid the foundation upon
which to build, we proceed with the superstructure. We have noted
that the Holy Spirit is committed to make real, in history, in an
elect people, and in individual Christians, the meaning of the
Man in the Throne (Ezek. 1:26; Eph. 1:9-23). Israel's history -
in blessing and rejection - is solely interpreted by this fact.
It is the historical, temporal, and earthly side of the
all-embracing truth. The Church, from Pentecost onward, is the
embodiment of this truth in a spiritual way, and its glory or
shame is governed by the measure in which the Holy Spirit is
allowed to have His place in lordship.
Our next step will be to
consider some distinctive features of these energies of the Holy
The first of these is:-
It is not difficult to see that
men of the Spirit have always been in the grip of a captivating
objective; mastered and dominated by a sense of Divine intention.
In the case of Ezekiel, who is an example of all that we are
saying, it is said right at the beginning of his vocation:
"The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel".
Here is the element of precision, urgency, and definiteness. The
sense is traceable throughout his ministry. Dates, places, and
measurements are meticulous. Discouragements, withstandings, and
frustrations there were in abundance. Times were when he had to
keep silence, but the fire flamed up anew, and the overmastering
purpose carried him on again.
How true this was of the
Apostles and of the Church in the earliest days. The Holy Spirit
was truly in charge. He was the Custodian of God's eternal
purpose in Christ, and Christ as the Divine Horizon was made the
passion and dominating objective of all whom He mastered. It was
so clear cut, so single-minded, so uncompromising, so
all-consuming. Yes, Purpose was the dynamic-incentive of their
life. That Divine Purpose came to them "expressly".
The next thing to note is:-
Impact of Purpose
It was this dynamic of purpose
which accounted for the impact that was registered upon people,
situations, and the evil powers.
There was nothing tentative,
indefinite, a beating of the air. Rather was there directness,
deliberateness, and effectiveness.
This is more than a statement
of fact, it is an explanation and it is a challenge. Can it be
said that, in our time, because of an all-consuming and
clearly-defined purpose, the Church is registering an
unmistakable impact upon the world, locally and more widely?
The one all-important note
which is so manifestly lacking in the Church at this time is the
note of authority. This was a recognized and acknowledged feature
of the Lord's presence and ministry when He was here in person.
This also was an unmistakable characteristic of the Church in
early days. The loss of this spiritual authority has let
in many alternatives and substitutes, so that the present system
is one of pretence, make-believe, show, striving after effect.
The efforts and failures are pathetic.
But what is the essence of
authority? It is not forcefulness of expression, neither is it
strength of conviction. These and many other things may, or may
not, accompany true authority, but they are not authority. The
essence of authority is, that what is said or represented carries
in its very truth the power of destiny. Sooner or later, that
presentation will show itself to be a criterion. People and
things will stand or fall according to the attitude taken toward
it. In a time of upheaval, shaking, testing and trouble, people
and work will stand or collapse, and the cause will be - in
either case - that which God gave. The truth will be vindicated.
This is borne out so evidently in Israel's history. This is what
lies at the root of the first three chapters of the 'Revelation'.
This is the explanation of the triumph or tragedy of so much that
had its origin in God, and of many Christian lives. Authority is
something that will have to be measured up to, you cannot get
away from it. In spiritual things it is God. There can never
be something of God present for which we shall not have to give
an account. The Holy Spirit always speaks with authority, and
when He speaks, destiny is present. As "all authority,"
has been given to Jesus, God's Son, in Heaven and on earth, the
Holy Spirit presents and testifies to Him as the Horizon of
judgment and destiny. There is impact when Christ is preached in
the Holy Spirit. The proof of reality is not in the form of
teaching, however orthodox and right. Neither is it in the form
of practice and procedure, however correct. Isaiah was told to
"declare unto my people their transgression, and to the
house of Jacob their sins", and then was added, "Yet
they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways" (Isa. 58:1,2).
The truth and reality is in the spiritual impact that brings
people face to face with God.
The next characteristic of the
Holy Spirit's energies is:
Intelligence of Purpose
If, as we have said, 'Ezekiel'
and 'Ephesians' are pre-eminently stamped with this element of
Divine Purpose, it does not require deep investigation to see
that spiritual intelligence is characteristic.
With Ezekiel it is: "I saw
visions of God" - "I saw". The wheels that
accompanied the "living creatures" were full of eyes.
There was a continuous 'showing'. The element of clear, vivid,
and meticulous perception was present in relation to the goings
and purpose of God.
In 'Ephesians' we have,
"that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ... may give unto you
a spirit of wisdom and revelation... that ye may know". The
Letter itself is one of unparalleled spiritual intelligence, and
this 'knowing' is exclusively bound up with "the eternal
An essential result of the
Spirit's government and work is spiritual knowledge. Paul laid
much emphasis upon this in both of his letters to Corinth.
Where the Holy Spirit has the
ground of Christ to work upon there will be much light and
intelligence among the saints. The tragedy of the average
believer, and of many companies of believers, is their spiritual
ignorance, their little understanding, the smallness of their
apprehension of Christ. Why do not the Lord's people read such
parts of His Word as, for instance, 1 Cor. 2; 2 Cor. 3, 4, and
'Ephesians', with the registration that what is there is God's
mind for them to have by the eye-opening, revealing work of the
Integration of Purpose
When we look at those parts -
or that section - of Ezekiel's prophecies which have to do with
the existing condition of Israel, we see a people disintegrated,
scattered, and disrupted. God's view of them was revealed in the
vision of the valley of dry bones: many - very many - bones:
spread over the valley; unarticulated and unco-ordinated: bare,
dry, and useless by reason of their dividedness. What a true
picture of the state where the vision of God's all-integrating
purpose has been lost! How true are the words we read in Proverbs
29:18: "Where there is no vision, the people cast off
restraint [fall apart; go to pieces]".
The mighty movement of the
Spirit in the valley was not just motivated by the desire to have
the bones together - "bone to its bone" - and clothed
and covered. It was governed by the purpose of Israel's election,
to be the channel through which - after the flesh - God's Son
would come. Unity is always - in God's thought - to bring Christ
in in fulness. To hinder that all hell is set on the
disintegration of the people of God.
The real incentive to union is
the recognition that by it the fulness of Christ will come in.
This is 'Ephesians', and if 'Ezekiel' ends with the triumphant
shout, "The Lord is there", it is the effect and result
of the vision and apprehension of the Man on the Throne, and
God's purpose concerning Him.
Immediately after the Cross the
disciples and the followers of Jesus were very much like the
bones in the valley. The metaphor is changed but the effect was
the same. "I will smite the shepherd and the sheep of the
flock shall be scattered abroad" (Matt. 26:31). Scattered
and peeled! Helpless and shattered! But note the effect of the
Spirit's energies on the Day of Pentecost. Gathered and
integrated! Co-ordinated and unified! Clothed and nourished! They
were on their feet - an army. The integration was truly the
effect of the energies of the Spirit, but the great feature of
their integration was the vision and power of the Divine purpose
concerning Jesus Christ. The book of 'Acts' is the book of
Purpose energized by the Holy Spirit, and it is the book of
concerted action on that basis.
No wonder Satan delights in and
works so hard for division, especially where the vision of God's
purpose in His Son is most fully and clearly present.
Reactions in Purpose
History is marked by repeated
reactions on the part of God. We have devoted a whole book to
show something of these specific reactions
(God's Reactions to Man's
it is necessary to mention it here in special relation to the
Purpose. We have seen that God's method and instrument in this
matter has been an elect people. Election particularly relates to
purpose, it is not willy-nilly, nor arbitrary. To fail in the
matter of purpose is to nullify the election and to lose - not
essentially salvation, but certainly - the inheritance, i.e.,
that specific inheritance connected with the vocation.
The Old Testament
representation of this is Israel. The nation was "an elect
nation" for a particular purpose. The whole nation was
called according to that purpose. When the body as a whole lost
its vocational character it was rejected and sent into exile. The
vocation was recovered in a Remnant. This Remnant was a rebuke
and example to the whole. When eventually and ultimately Israel -
the nation - forfeited their vocation among the nations by
rejecting the very One who was to justify both their election and
their existence, they were rejected and lost their place among
the nations, as for the last nearly two thousand years.
The Church as the eternally
elect body then came in in relation to a far greater and higher
purpose than that related to Israel. Let it be emphasized that
the existence of the Church is bound up with purpose. Failure
here will mean spiritual Babylon, i.e., confusion, bondage,
weakness, and frustration. But God reacts in a Remnant -
"Overcomers"; and throughout history a thin red line of
faithful and true witnesses - individual and corporate - is
traceable, when the general state has been decadent.
It is very instructive to note
the way of the Spirit in His movements to recover this government
of purpose. The movements and their features are all so
consistent and harmonious with the object.
Spirit's Sovereignty in Function
Ezekiel had his function
entirely changed by the Spirit's government. The prophet was
really a trained priest. Youths of priestly lineage were
meticulously trained for their office up to the age of thirty
years, when they entered upon the work for which the training was
to fit them. At that age (Ezek. 1:1), when he should have taken
up his active priestly function, Ezekiel had all that particular
training set aside and was called into the work of a prophet.
This was a complete change of function for which he had received
no special training. It is impressive to note that the same was
true of the one whom Jesus called the greatest of the prophets -
John the Baptist. John was of priestly lineage and family. His
father was an acting priest. But the sovereign will of God and
the energy of the Spirit changed all that and called upon John to
function in another way. Jesus, although not of priestly tribe or
lineage, was God's High Priest and essentially filled that
capacity. But in His earthly ministry He was "...a prophet
mighty in deed and word..." (Luke 24:19). In each case the
hour demanded the Prophet, and God sovereignly changed the
function to meet that need. Strange, unlikely, and unexpected
choices and means are made by God when He has a special purpose
on hand. The instruments might complain of natural unfitness,
lack of training or qualification, but the Spirit takes full
responsibility and sovereignty is justified at the end.
In keeping with the purpose
among the nations, and not as exclusive to the instrument,
the inclusive title of the prophet is noted.
Ninety times in 'Ezekiel' the designation "Son of man"
is used. Among the Prophets this is peculiar to Ezekiel. We know
that the favourite title chosen by the Lord Jesus Himself was
"The Son of man". Only twice in the eighty-two times
where it occurs was it used by others.
There is a similarity and a
difference. Ezekiel has no article: he is just "son of
man". Jesus always has the article "The Son of
man". The similarity is not in Person, but in Vocation. The
infinite difference is in Person.
The vocational similarity is
found in the meaning of the title. It is that of identification with
man; representation of man. The idea is a very large one; it
brings into view God's concern for mankind. Not Israel,
but all mankind is God's concern. Man has ever been God's
particular interest. It was when man was created that God found
His rest and pronounced His satisfaction on all. There was no
evening to that Day.
Israel's vocation was meant to
be to all men. The Church's vocation is to "all the
world". Christ is identified with and representative of man
in the thought of God. This is the essential feature of the
prophet's ministry, which ministry is to reveal the Man,
and to lead to Him. Anything that puts the minister in a separate
class and marks him off as apart from other men is a violation of
a principle of the Spirit's way, and will, sooner or later, prove
to be a limitation among men. Ezekiel said that he "sat
where they sat". That was not the condescending act of a
superior, an official, one of a special class. No, it was a man
amongst men, seeing with their eyes and feeling with their
hearts, yet seeing with the eyes of God and feeling with the
heart of God. Jesus adopted no garb, habit, tone of voice, or
badge to mark Himself off as different or apart from others.
There was ample prejudice, suspicion, criticism, and that kind of
thing to question His authority, and He never tried to overcome
this attitude or get any advantage by artificial, official, or
formal means. Nothing was assumed, put on, or feigned to make an
impression and gain acceptance. The Holy Spirit of anointing was
His sole basis and source of authority. That was enough and the
centuries testify to it. Note then again, the title chosen by Him
and linked by Him with every phase of His life and history was
not one that men would look upon with honour, respect and awe,
but "the Son of man". Different indeed, but in nature,
not in anything external. At the same time remember who He
was! He "emptied himself... and being found in fashion as a
man..." (Phil. 2:7,8). That is said of the One who, in His
own right, was equal with God.
What we have been saying is
still further conveyed in other designations attached to Ezekiel.
God's method in relation to purpose is the matter which is before
Vessel as "A Sign"
"Son of man... I
have set thee for a sign"
"Say, I am your sign." (Ezek. 12:6,11; 24:24).
The prophet himself was a sign.
There were many signs, but these were God's ways with the prophet
to make him the sign. Those ways of God with His servant
were not ordinary and usual ways. They were unusual, singular,
and often very enigmatical, incomprehensible, and inscrutable.
The thing to note is that with God the history of the vessel was
the history of the people pre-written. He went through
their history in advance of them. He not only prophesied, he was
Paul, the Apostle, was a sign
of this dispensation in this way. If Paul was "a chosen
vessel" for the special purpose of bringing in the particular
purpose of this dispensation, namely, the revelation of the
Church, its nature, place, and vocation in the eternal counsels
of God (the stewardship of the mystery, he called his ministry);
then Paul's history ran along those lines from his conversion to
his departure to be with Christ. We make the observation without
embodying the great amount of evidence here.
Is this not a law of God when
Purpose is in view? Those who are "the called according to
his purpose", and especially those - individual or
collective - who are instruments or vessels of the Purpose, are
taken through quite unusual and, otherwise, inexplicable
experiences. Theirs is no ordinary way. The Purpose unto which
they are called, if they are committed to the Holy Spirit, will
be wrought into their very beings. Theirs is no studied or
second-hand ministry. They are the message before they
speak it. For them to have to hand up their message would be to
part with their very life. It is a very costly way, but would we
have it otherwise? Such a ministry is only possible if a total
break with all else has been made. Ezekiel had to do things that
made him a laughingstock to others. Sometimes they thought that
he was mad. Whatever they thought and said, the time came when
they could see their own experience in the light of his personal
history. They literally went the way that he had gone
symbolically. How effective was his life with God!