Message given on July 21, 1966
This is Your ministry, not ours. We are prepared to speak or not to speak, to hear more or not to hear more, just according to Your own desire. If it is Thy mind that we spend a little more time here in Thy presence with the Holy Spirit to pursue His work with us by Thy word, we ask for the renewing of our spirits and of our minds, a fresh quickening, a breath of new life, a very real experience of the anointing, the anointed lips, the anointed ears. The Lord, being Lord in everything, working to His own end, His own glory and pleasure. We ask it in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.
We continue, with the Lord's enablement, in our quest for spiritual understanding in that vast realm of the unsearchable riches of Christ. We have pointed out how varied is the context of that word "riches", and we have made a very fierce attack upon one word: "The riches of His grace" and the word is the victor still, and we are the casualties. It has beaten us, and stands over our impotence, and we know already that it is unsearchable. I leave it to brother Kaung if he feels led to make the next attack upon that word, I am passing on, crippled though I may be!
I bring you to the second of the relationships of this word: "The unsearchable riches of Christ", which is again found in the letter to the Ephesians chapter 1, and verse 18: "Having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints."
The Riches of the Glory of His Inheritance in the Saints
Earlier in the chapter the apostle has referred to our inheritance in Him. Now he is speaking of His inheritance in the saints. Through this letter, again and again, the focus is upon what the Lord has to get: "unto the glory of His grace", "unto the praise of His glory", "the riches of His glory", "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it that He might present it to Himself a glorious church". I believe, dear friends, that here we reach the heart, and root, and core, and hub of everything in the whole Bible from start to finish. The aspect is always Himself: His, Him, Himself. That's the governing aspect of the whole Bible. The apostle, as you know, sums it all up in that wonderful declaration: "Now unto Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus unto all ages for ever and ever", and you can't get beyond that, it's the end: unto Him, unto Him.
Yesterday we were allowing Solomon to be our interpreter, and we shall continue to do so in this other aspect. We have reminded ourselves of the excellence of Solomon, the glory, the majesty, the wealth, the wisdom that God gave to him in His sovereign fore-view of His Son, Jesus Christ. But we also pointed out that Solomon was not someone in himself, but that he took up the whole life of his father, David, and was, really, the full expression of what was in David's heart as the great dominating interest and concern of his life.
I think we might just look at one or two fragments, supposing we just look at Psalm 132. Psalm 132: "Lord, remember for David all his afflictions: How he sware unto the Lord, and vowed unto the mighty One of Jacob: Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, a tabernacle for the mighty One of Jacob. Lo, we heard of it in Ephratah: we found it in the field of the woods. We will go into His tabernacles: we will worship at His footstool. Arise, O Lord, into Thy resting-place; Thou and the ark of Thy strength. Let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let Thy saints shout for joy. For Thy servant David's sake turn not away the face of Thine anointed" and so on.
And then just let us look at a fragment, a big fragment, you will have to reduce it, in the first book of Kings chapter 3, 1 Kings 3 at verse 4: "The king went up to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar. In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, Ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said, Thou hast showed unto Thy servant David, my father, great kindness, according as he walked before Thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with Thee; and Thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that Thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O Lord my God, Thou hast made Thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in. And Thy servant is in the midst of Thy people which Thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give Thy servant therefore an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this, Thy great people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself (underline it) long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself (underline "for thyself"), nor hast asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; behold, I have done according to thy word: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there has been none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have given also that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee, all thy days." We must leave it there.
Solomon came into the inheritance of his father. That is what is stated precisely there, and Solomon acknowledged that it was so. He inherited his father's lifelong, all-dominating ambition and passion to find a place for the Lord - for the Lord.
You notice that the Lord gave him all the wisdom that he had, that renowned wisdom, and God gave him all the rest: the riches, the honour and the kingdom, because Solomon turned outward from himself and said: "For the Lord - for the Lord". That is a principle throughout the Word of God which we shall note as we go on. For the Lord, but for the Lord in the Lord's people! In the Lord's people. This people is the Lord's people, the Lord's interest is in this people, the Lord's portion is His people, the Lord's inheritance is His people.
I should stop there, I think our brother has well covered that ground, and put in parenthesis this: that we can have, as we think, a very great concern for the Lord and His interests and His purpose, without realising that that is all bound up with His people; that if we are going, really to serve the interest of the Lord, we shall find it in this one and in that one - in His people. That is where His inheritance is. Let us leave that for the moment.
The greatness of the Lord's people immediately looms into view: what they are to the Lord; Israel in type, if you like, an example as we shall see, but the church, what the church, what the Body of Christ, what the aggregated of the born-again ones is to the Lord! Perhaps we have to get a new apprehension of this: what believers really are to the Lord, and ourselves, of course, included. And here we are truly held with a word, we just can't get on until we've been confronted with this word: the unsearchable riches of Christ in His people. The unsearchable riches of Christ in you! In me! You baulk when you face that, unsearchable! Oh yes, we should fall down before this at once, "In me? In her? In him? In that group? In that one?" Christ has invested unsearchable riches.
Let us make it personal; personal. Can that be true, is it possible, is it thinkable if we know only a little of truth about ourselves? Can it be possible that He has such wealth invested in us? That He has His inheritance in us? Unsearchable... yes, yes, beyond, beyond our grasping, our [mind], this will exhaust every superlative: unfathomable; inconceivable; inexpressible; incomprehensible; immeasurable! And what other words can you add? It's all in this unsearchable riches of Christ of His inheritance in the saints. That word does fill us with a grand state. Well, that's beyond me, beyond my comprehension that it should be true that I should be, even though the smallest fragment of the whole, nevertheless, a fragment of His inheritance, containing His inheritance!
Of course, we prepared the way for this a bit didn't we, by considering the riches of His grace. Grace is the way to this, it has to be. This could not be otherwise. But grace is not an end in itself, it was never intended to be an end in itself. Through grace it is to glory, and the glory is in the church by Christ Jesus unto all ages for ever and ever; God's portion in His people. Now, Israel, of course, is the grand Old Testament example of this, the historic example of this. God said (and here again we are out of our bounds of understanding) God said of Israel: "I have chosen you from among all the peoples of the earth." God's selectiveness! Can you ever explain that? No, you never will.
God's selectiveness... and may the Lord forgive me if I am wrong, even in implication, but when we have read our Old Testament and into our New Testament about this people Israel, what they were capable of... and we won't dwell upon it to analyse it, and what in the end they did. And God knew it all from the beginning - knew them, their nature, their constitution, their disposition, their proclivities, all that was possible. And then how they would tax His patience, it would almost seem to the limit, sometimes it would seem to breaking point, and He would say to Moses: "Stand aside and let Me destroy this people and I make of you another nation." God knew what a drain they would be upon Him and His resources of patience and forbearance and long-suffering. He selected them deliberately! I would say that's unsearchable, unfathomable. You would never have done that if you had a little bit of knowledge! Ah, but would you have chosen yourself if you'd had a little bit of knowledge?
I venture to say, dear friends, that the pathway of the true Christian life is the pathway of such a self-exposure and uncovering, that more and more we cry: "God, be merciful! If ever I get to glory it will be the greatest miracle that ever God wrought." God's selectiveness! You cannot explain it, but there it is. And when He has selected His love, His love: "I have loved thee", He said to Israel, "with an everlasting love... You are graven upon the palms of My hands, Israel". Unfathomable, inexplicable His self-committal to that people. He has committed Himself to them, His honour, His name, His glory, His interests in the earth - committed Himself. Committed Himself! Hear Him sobbing through the prophets as they weep bitter tears, and they are the tears of God over Israel. This great heartbroken cry of God coming out through the prophets. We could take up many of their utterances because of this people, and God's love, and God's disappointed love.
Take up one prophet like Hosea and his story, or Ezekiel and the tragedy in his life: his young wife taken suddenly overnight from him, his life and his heart left desolate in the midst of the people. For what? And the Lord said to him in the morning: "Anoint your face as at other times and go forth just as though nothing had happened. On with the [normal], go out, behave just as though there's no tragedy in your life at all!" And he went forth as at other times with his face anointed, but his heart broken. But he didn't let it be seen. As at other times he got on with his job, and the men around him said: "This is scandalous! This is a breach of every recognised principle of good behaviour and conduct! What a man, despicable man, with his wife lying dead there, awaiting burial, and he has made his face to shine, he comes out in the light!" And then the word of the Lord to Ezekiel: "Speak unto them: I love you. I loved you like a husband to a wife, with all My heart, and you mean everything to Me. But you have gone from Me, you have deprived Me of all My rights, My expectations, and disappointed all My hopes but you go on as though nothing had happened. You just go on. It does not come home to your heart." The parable, you see, was the tragedy in a life to show, to show how deep God's love was and how pained God's heart was when that love was spurned and withdrawn.
I say the prophets are full of that: the broken-hearted cry and sob of God over this people, this people! They cried, they wept for Jerusalem. Jesus came there and lived there among them, moved amongst them, and reached out both hands to them: "All day long have I stretched forth My hands." He was doing it. At last, with no response, but that of enmity and falsehood, Jesus standing aside on a place above the city, looked over the city and wept: "Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft would I have gathered thee as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you would not." Weeping. There is love here for this people!
You pass to Paul, how Paul said he shed bitter tears for this people Israel: "I wish that I myself were accursed for my people Israel's sake." Why this? Were they so lovable? God knows, no more than you and me are. Why? Because He had vested interests for His own satisfaction. It was what was for Him that He desired in this people. He had an inheritance in the people. Yes, you say, why such love for them? Rather more, why such love for me? And today, perhaps more than ever, why such love to this church as we know it? Oh, the tragedy of it. The heartbreak of it. The distress of it.
We are asking the biggest questions, aren't we, about the church? What a thing it is, is there any hope for this? And yet, and yet it stands in the Word of God, and the Word of God cannot be broken, it endures forever, it stands for eternity and will be fulfilled - it stands: "To present to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing." It's going to be! He has vested His eternal interest in this, and He will have His deposit, in spite of you and me, in spite of all, He'll have it. It's going to be that - my only fortress, rock, foundation. I know that things in the church as it is, in Christianity, as we know it everywhere, all day long: beloved, delightful saints, beautiful Christians, many of them devoted to the Lord, but when I come to the corporate aspect, the church, the selection, well, the heart speaks doesn't it?
I have to confess to you, dear friends, that I have moved around this world from far east to far west, touching companies of Christians, and I do not know of one group of Christians where there is not some kind of fight or division, where it is not at least a battle to keep together. And of course, much worse than that. I don't know where that ideal church is on this earth. And yet the Word says: "His inheritance in the saints".
Well, you see, that brings us to:
And motive is the solution to the whole. That is, purified, sanctified, illuminated motive is the core, the heart, the key to everything. For the motive, whether it is for the Lord, or for anyone else, or anything else, that's the criterion; the deciding factor. It is! Let that [purge us]. It, the motive and the holiness and purity of the motive, you see, that takes us right back to the beginning in the Garden, God created all things for Himself and for His own pleasure, and pronounced upon His work: "It is very good." He committed it to the man of His creation, and that evil one, who had split the heavenly domain and drew away a great company of "angels who kept not their first estate" through personal ambition, self-centred interest, he came into that thing where everything was for the Lord and insinuated this self-hood principle of himself.
And what it amounts to and means is just this: 'Don't have it... being in dependence upon God, no, have it in yourself! Have it for yourself! You can, you can be as God, you can be the centre of things!' Motive; for God or self. It was just that. That's the fall. And from that moment the poison, the poison of the serpent, the poison of that evil thing called 'self', self - the enemy of all that is good and of God, that was bitten, so to speak, into the very bloodstream of the human race, and it has developed to the present dimensions. And is the cause of all the world's troubles: it's self! Self!
And, aren't we blind, isn't the world blind? Failing to see that as we get near the end, things so intensify as to become ultimate, final, supreme on both sides: on the self side, and on the un-self side. That's what God is doing, intensifying the person, you see.
Well, it started there in the motive. The motive: the Lord, for the Lord, unto the Lord, or unto myself? It goes right back to the beginning there, the great reverse of the motive, of the direction, in regard from God to self. This was the tragedy of that first generation of Israel at Kadesh-Barnea.
Oh, what a tragedy, after all those years of God's patience, long-suffering and forbearance, all that God had done for them and shown Himself to be in their interests, at Kadesh-Barnea, not trusting Him at all at that point, they sent over the spies, and the spies of course came back as the embodiment of the principle that was in the nation - selfhood: "We were as grasshoppers... we... in their sight. Oh, it's no use going over there, we'll lose everything if we do. We shall be destroyed!" In other words, how this thing will affect us! How our interests can be served. You see, selfhood is dominating the situation. There were only two men who took the other course, who said, "If the Lord, if the Lord is with us..." That's the other direction, eventually that, that triumphed. God is usually on the side of minorities, don't forget, for the minorities are usually of this kind, it is a minority that is wholly for the Lord, and not with some mixture of self. Joshua and Caleb were preserved while the others perished in the wilderness on the basis of selfhood.
Oh, I'd like to open up there on yesterday afternoon, on the letter to the Hebrews, which tells us quite plainly that it was their soul life that was the cause of the disaster at Kadesh-Barnea. I... I, however, unsearchable riches indeed, [certainly right on to the Cross].
However, here it is, you see, it's the motive, and it was the motive at Kadesh-Barnea, it was the motive of Israel when Christ was crucified: "If we let this go on with [their act], the Romans will take away, will take away from us!" That's the spirit; it came out: jealousy, envy, self-interest. The result? Two thousand years of Israel in the outer darkness, weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth. Is that true? In recent years the millions... oh, it's a dark story, and all because self was put in the place of the Lord.
Well, here it is. This is the motive of the incarnation of God's Son, you see, consummated in the Cross. The motive behind is self-emptying, it's coming down in man-form, the capacity of a bond-slave, becoming obedient. Why? To empty of self, to destroy the self-principle in humanity. Yet the emptying did not finish in heaven. All the time He was here He was emptying, emptied. Satan offered Him the kingdoms of this world; no, He emptied Himself. All the way along He was emptying Himself, right up to the cross. He has come to destroy this awful thing: selfhood in humanity. The incarnation is the incarnation of this very motive: 'Not unto myself', "He counted it not something to be held on to, to be equal with God, but emptied... I have come, not in My own interests, to serve My own ends, My heart, it's the Father, the Father, the Father!" This is the constant language of the Son here in humiliation: the Father... the Father. The Cross, I say, was the consummation of that, the final emptying of the last bit of man's self-interest into the judgment of which He had voluntarily entered. The desolation of the Cross is God's verdict upon the selfhood of man and of the devil.
Let's turn this picture around: John 3:16! Oh you know it, can quote it, recite it, but do you, do we know it? "God so loved - so loved the world. God so loved the world..." He emptied Himself of His dearest possession and "gave His only begotten Son". Why? Why? That is the governing question: why? Move on to Matthew 13 and you begin to have the answer in parabolic form: "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; which, when a man found, he sold all he had, and bought that field to get that treasure". And Jesus later said; "The field is the world." God so loved the world because He had an investment in it, a treasure. A treasure! Do you want the explanation of that? Well, of course, the explanation is in this letter to the Ephesians: "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it" - the treasure in the field, the treasure in the field - "He gave Himself for it, that He might present unto Himself, unto Himself a church." There it is, and I must hasten to cut this short by reminding you that this, this is the motive in all God's dealings with us, to discipline us, to discipline. And He does discipline us, I will have more to say about that in another one of these 'unsearchables' later on, but His dealings with us are along the line of discipline. If you would like to call it chastening you can, for it is the same thing.
What is all this about, the way in which the Lord deals with us, and handles us, and empties us, and disappoints us, and all the rest of it? The motive of God is that this selfhood shall be completely undercut, that He will find His inheritance in the saints. If you look at what God is doing, He is undercutting our selfhood, isn't He? Ah, He is bringing us down, breaking us, emptying us, weakening us, destroying all our self-sufficiency, self-confidence, and bringing us to an end of ourselves. Yes, despair. Why? Why? To really deal with this motive of self.
You know, you know dear friends, as well as I do, that our plague, the plague of our hearts is ourselves. Is it not? If only I could get rid of myself! You see, that is the Buddhist's answer to this great problem. What does the Buddhist believe, what is the basic principle of Buddhism? Self-annihilation; of course it doesn't work. They can burn themselves to death to make a demonstration of themselves, but nevertheless, there is this law, this consciousness in humanity that the real curse is selfhood. And if they are not conscious of it, it is true all the same.
And God is dealing with this, undercutting this, bringing it to naught, to get that which is pure motive for Himself: "Now Lord, I have nothing to live for, but for You. If You want to use me for Yourself and Your own end, alright, if you don't Lord, it's all the same." Bringing us right through like that, but it's going to be utterly the Lord in the end and not anything that we get. How we have grown up to try and use the Lord for our own ends and to believe in Him just for what He can do for us! It's this place again, this place again. No, oh, we've a long way to go, none of us has attained, neither are we already complete in this matter, but God is doing it to bring us to the place where it is the Lord, just the Lord. Just the Lord!
And dear friends, we shall come, we shall come into the riches like Solomon when we have truly, as God knows it, not in our ideas and imaginations or beliefs about ourselves, but when the Lord knows that we have come to the place where: "Now, Lord, everything in my life has got to be arranged for Your satisfaction. Your satisfaction! You arrange all the things in my life for Your pleasure, for Your satisfaction." And if we will allow Him to do that, and seek grace when He does it, we shall come into the riches. It will be: "The joy of the Lord - our strength." The joy of the Lord, the Lord is glad because He has got what He is after, and that will be our strength.
Now I must cut it short there and leave it with you. It is, after all, only saying in another way what has been said to us this morning. The hub of it, the hub of it is this sanctified, purified, blood-purged motive in life. I say 'sanctified' because you know it is possible for us to think that our motives are very pure. David made a great mistake in this matter of motive when he sent and fetched the ark on the new Philistine cart to bring it up to Jerusalem, and the Lord smote Uzzah, and David was thrown into consternation, and was angry with the Lord. His motive was all right. He could have said: "But, Lord... my motive was so pure, my motive was so good. I meant it so, well, for Your glory and Your satisfaction!" "Oh, yes, but David, your motive was not illuminated and enlightened by My Word. Go back to your Bible, go back to your Bible and see about this thing." And it says that David went back to the Scriptures and said, "Oh!"
You can do a right thing in a wrong way - a right thing in a wrong way, because your motive was not an illuminated motive. Well, I will leave that.
Purged motives, purged hearts, blood-sprinkled hearts, so that our motive is purified in fire and it is just what the Lord wants and not what we want, but the Lord's glory, and the Lord's interests. Well, our New Testament is built upon that, isn't it? What's for the Lord, what's for the Lord.
The parable of the vineyard: "And at the season He sent His servant for the fruit..." His rights, His vested rights, "and they slew the servant. He sent another and they treated him the same, and another, at last He said: 'I will send Mine own, My son. They will reverence Him', and they said: 'This is the heir. The inheritance, this is the heir. Come let us kill Him and then everything shall be ours.'" What will the Lord do with those wicked servants? It's built upon this principle of whether it is for the Lord or for ourselves. The vine and the branches, the fruit - well, it's not our fruit at all, it is the Lord's fruit. "And herein is My Father glorified, glorified, that you bear much fruit" - for the Lord! He is fastening upon His rights in the life of His people. And so we could go on, but I think you see that gathered around this, all the spokes and everything else, they come back here to the riches of His inheritance in the saints.
Will you hold your life in the light of that? Will you hold your local fellowships in the light of that? Not what place you have, not how it affects you, good or bad, but always, always in your relationships in the local company and your individual position, let this govern: We are here for the Lord, and not for ourselves. Does this, does this really please the Lord? Is this situation of division, of strife, or bitterness, does this really please the Lord? Can the Lord have glory? Because if not, then look here: anything, it may cost me everything, anything and everything, to get this right. [Suffer all that,] but this is not for the pleasure of the Lord. Oh, if we only took that attitude, if only that were the dominating thing in all, there would be such wealth, such glory, and I believe such dominion as with Solomon over all the enemies round about. The enemy will be spoiled, believe me, when his own ground is taken from him, which is the ground of self.
Now, Lord, it is for Thee to keep alive what has been of Thee in this much-speaking this morning. Oh, Lord, we must commit it to Thee. It's too much for us, but bring home to us those salient things that really do matter, that are going to be the issues of this week, things which are going to be found abiding, living and governing. Do set Thy seal upon those things in our hearts, for Thy Name's sake.