"A Candlestick of Pure
Gold: of Beaten Work" Exodus 25:31
"The Testimony of Jesus" Revelation 1:9
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|March -- April, 1968
||Vol. 46, No. 2
THE GREATNESS AND GLORY OF THE LORD
15. THE ARK OF GLORY
Reading: 1 Samuel 4:10-11, 17-22.
"And delivered his strength into captivity,
and his glory into the adversary's hand" (Psalm 78:61).
WE have been occupied with the greatness and glory of Jesus Christ as
represented in the ark of the testimony. Amongst the various titles of
this ark we noted that one is 'the ark of his glory'. We also noted
that the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus Christ as
the effulgence of God's glory, and one of the names of the Lord Jesus
is 'the Lord of glory'. Here, in our last consideration of this matter,
the ark is called 'the ark of glory', for, when the ark was captured by
the Philistines, it is said: "The glory is departed from Israel."
Although there is very much more to be said about the history of the
ark than we have said, we are going to finish this consideration where
we began -- with the glory of Jesus Christ, and once again the ark will
be our illustration.
We must notice that there is one word which covers the whole history of
the ark: it is always the ark of life. Wherever you touch it in its
right place, in one way or another you touch life.
Look at what was in it! There we have life revealed in three ways, or,
I should say, there we have the testimony of life revealed in three
ways. The first thing in the ark was the Word of God, and God said that
His people should live entirely by His Word, and be governed by it:
"Man doth not live by bread only, but by every thing that proceedeth
out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live" (Deuteronomy 8:3). The Word
of God was intended to save people from death, and to be their life, so
the testimony of Jesus is the testimony that He is the living Word of
God, that is, that in Him all the mind of God has been revealed for His
people. "The word of the Lord abideth for ever" (1 Peter 1:25). It is
the word of eternal life, and that is one aspect of the glory of Jesus
Christ. He has [21/22] brought to us in His own
Person the revelation of God's mind, and in that way we are to find our
life. How often, in a time of trial and difficulty, we have gone to the
Word of the Lord and in the Name of the Lord Jesus we have made that
Word ours, and it has been our salvation and our life -- "For all the
promises of God in him are yea, and in him, Amen, unto the glory of God
by us" (1 Corinthians 1:20, A.V.).
Looking again into the ark -- and, thank God, we may look into the ark
now! -- we see the testimony to the living provision of God for His
people. There was a golden vessel with manna in it, testifying to how
God met the needs of His people in the wilderness and thereby saved
their life. God has made full provision, in our Lord Jesus, for all our
need to be kept alive.
And the third thing in the ark was Aaron's rod which budded and brought
forth fruit. Do you remember how it came about that that rod was put in
the ark? There were certain men in Israel who said to Moses and Aaron:
"Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy,
everyone of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up
yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?" (Numbers 16:3). They were
disputing the priesthood of Aaron, so God said: 'We will answer this
dispute. Let a man out of every tribe of Israel bring a rod, write his
name on it, and then let them all be laid up in the house of the Lord
overnight, together with Aaron's rod.' You know, things don't usually
bud, blossom and bear fruit in the dark. They really do need the sun!
However, God made this test in the most difficult situation. He said:
'The man whose rod is found in the morning to have budded and blossomed
is the one whom I have chosen.' When morning came Moses went in to look
at all these rods. Eleven of them were dead, and only one was alive.
The strange thing was that all the seasons were represented in that one
rod! Not only was there blossom, but there were also buds and there
were fruits. When God answers a question He answers it thoroughly! That
rod was Aaron's. You notice what happened: the others died, under the
judgment of God, but the house of Aaron lived, and in this way God
signified who was the living high priest. The high priest is the one
whom God raises from the dead and makes abundantly fruitful. The work
of the priest is salvation, and he is the mediator between God and man.
We are here because Jesus "ever liveth to make intercession for us".
And so, in the Lord Jesus, there is the testimony of life in relation
to the revealed will of God. life in relation to God's full provision
for us here, and life as our High Priest Saviour.
We move from that to the Jordan again, and you will recall how the ark,
moving into the bed of the Jordan, made the waters withdraw. The waters
at that season were overflowing all the banks, and all that overflowing
testimony of death was destroyed when the ark moved into the bed of the
Jordan. We can say that in that ark death was swallowed up by life. The
ark destroyed the power of death, and the people were saved from death
in all its fullness. Here we have the glory of life overcoming death,
and that is the testimony of Jesus. That is His glory.
Life comes because Jesus is glorified and the glory of the Lord Jesus
destroys death. That is the great testimony of what our Lord has done
in His Cross. He is risen from the dead and cries: "I am he that
liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and
have the keys of hell and of death" (Revelation 1:18) -- 'The authority
of death is in My hands.' "Through death he might destroy him
that had the power of death" (Hebrews 2:14). He came to bring "life,
and incorruption to light" (2 Timothy 1:10). And that is the ark in the
We move on with the ark to Jericho, where we have seen all the powers
of evil represented. The seven times round the city represented the
seven-fold victory of the Lord Jesus over the evil powers, the number
seven being the number of spiritual perfection. In His resurrection
Jesus has completely overthrown the authority of Satan. So at Jericho
we see the glory of Christ's power over all the evil forces in this
universe, and "this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even
our faith" (1 John 5:4). "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down"
(Hebrews 11:30). The Lord teach us how to stand firm in faith when the
enemy is trying to demonstrate his power, and to stand firm in faith
believing that the enemy is going to have to give way because Jesus has
fully conquered the powers of evil. This is the glory of the power of
Jesus Christ over all the power of the enemy.
From Jericho we move to Ai, and this looks like a contradiction of all
that we have just been saying. The ark is there at Ai, but instead of
victory there is defeat. Is that a contradiction? Is it the defeat of
the ark or of the Lord's people? Is this the defeat of the testimony of
the ark itself? Does this really speak of the glory departed? No, this
is only another aspect of the glory. It is the testimony to the glory
of holiness. The story of Ai begins with a little word: 'But'. There is
the great story of victory at Jericho on one side, on the other side is
[22/23] the defeat at Ai, and in
between is this little word 'but': "But the children of Israel
committed a trespass" (Joshua 7:1). The whole story of Ai centres in
that little word 'but'. It is really a testimony to holiness, and how
very holy is this ark! To violate that holiness is to bring defeat.
When the sin was judged and put away. victory was restored. There is no
glory where sin governs, but there is glory when sin is judged and put
away. Holiness and life are inseparable.
It is a long time before the ark is mentioned again, perhaps three
hundred years, and it is more than that when we come to this first Book
of Samuel. Here we have this terrible story that we have read: the ark
captured by the Philistines and taken into their country. You see, this
is a long story of spiritual decline. I have often said that the most
terrible book in the Bible is the Book of Judges, and as you go through
all that long period you see how the spiritual life of the people of
God was going lower and lower. That leads up to this story of the ark
being captured by the Philistines, and the old man, Eli, dying after
judging Israel for forty years. As representing the whole people, he is
a pathetic picture of spiritual weakness and blindness. Eli was
physically blind, and when Samuel was born it says that "there was no
open vision" (1 Samuel 3:1). Eli was a type of the spiritual condition
of the whole people, and because of the spiritual decline this terrible
thing happened: "The glory is departed from Israel."
But we are not going to dwell on the negative side, though we could say
a great deal about how glory goes out when the spiritual declines. It
is always like that. If the spiritual level goes down, the glory goes
out. We shall come back to that, but we will keep on the positive side.
Now note exactly what it says. It does not say that 'there is no more
glory'. The glory may have departed from Israel, and it may have gone
into the hands and the country of the Philistines. Be that as it may --
but the Philistines are going to discover that this thing is not dead.
They put the ark into the house of their god, Dagon, and had a great
celebration, spending the evening and the night rejoicing. They had a
night of feasting and singing, and said: 'Dagon is greater than the God
of Israel.' They took the glory from Israel and gave it to Dagon. Well,
so much the worse for Dagon! When they got up the next morning and went
to the house of Dagon, they found that he had fallen on his face before
the ark. If it were not so serious it would be humorous. Think of
having to lift up your great god after he had fallen on his face and
stand him up again! Jehovah has never needed that! However, they got
round poor Dagon, lifted him up and put him on his feet again. They
were having to have some second thoughts about this matter! They went
away, and when they came back the next day they found that Dagon had
fallen down again. But this time he had not only fallen down -- his
head, his hands and his feet were off. Poor Dagon! But the glory has
not been destroyed. The testimony of Jesus still holds good, and if the
Lord's people are not living in the good of that testimony the enemy is
being made to know all about it.
I believe that the Philistines are a type of rationalism. They were
always trying to look into Divine things with their own minds. They
took hold of the ark as uncrucified men, and are always called 'the
uncircumcised Philistines'. If you look into the second chapter of the
Letter to the Colossians you will see that Paul interprets circumcision
as being the effect of the Cross. We will read verses 11 and 12:
"In whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision
not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in
the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with him in baptism,
wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of
So circumcision is a type of the death, burial and resurrection of the
Lord Jesus, and this word says that baptism is the testimony to that.
Therefore the uncircumcised Philistines were men who knew nothing about
the Cross, and yet they were always trying to get hold of the things of
God and look into them as uncrucified men.
Now if, as I have said, the Philistines were a type of the rationalists
of our time, it is interesting to see what is happening. I will give
you an illustration.
I usually have a book beside my bed at night so that I can read before
I go to sleep. One night I went to my bookshelves, looked along the
books, and saw a book that I bought fifty years ago. It gave an
appreciation of the lives of some of the great theologians. I opened
the book at the chapter about a great modernist theologian of fifty
years ago, a man who did not believe in the inspiration of the Bible,
nor in the deity of the Lord Jesus, but believed in a lot of other
things of the new theology, as it was called. That man got a great name
in his time. The writer of this book said: "Now the teaching of this
man is the teaching of the new age. It is going to change the entire
belief of the Christians. It has come to stay, and everyone will have
to accept it." 'Well,' I said, 'that is enough of that!' and I put the
book back into the cupboard. A little while afterward I went to find
another book. This book [23/24] was written by
one of the great theologians of our own time, and he started by saying:
"No reputable scholar of our time will believe the theology of fifty
years ago. It has gone for ever."
You see the big change? The testimony stands. Let it go into the bands
of the Philistines, and the Dagon of intellectualism will come down on
his face sooner or later. The glory may go away from the Lord's people,
but it does not lose its power. The glory of Jesus Christ still stands.
Now I must come to an end, and leave several other things.
We come right over to 1 Chronicles 16. David is on the throne at last.
After all the troubles of his past life, he is now enthroned as king,
and his first thought is to bring the ark to Jerusalem.
What a chequered history this ark has had! How many enemies have been
against it! What various conditions it has known in the Lord's people!
What difficulties it has come through! But at last it is in the house
of God, and the last thing about it in the Old Testament is this:
When the ark came to rest in the house of God the glory of God filled
that house. That had been reached of which the Apostle Paul spoke, as
he looked forward to the end of the testimony on this earth: "Now
unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask
or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be the
glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever
and ever" (Ephesians 3:20, 21).
That is the testimony to the glory of Jesus Christ. It goes through all
these sufferings, sorrows and adversities. It sees the spiritual life
of God's people rising and falling. It sees the powers of this world
trying to take its glory away, but after the long, long story, when
perhaps sometimes we might tremble for the ark of God, for the
greatness and glory of Jesus Christ, it will come to rest at last in
the House of God, and the glory will be in the Church by Jesus Christ
unto all ages for ever and ever.
May the Lord keep us faithful to His Son! When the testimony is in
adversity, passing through troublous times, and it seems that the enemy
has prevailed, may we abide faithful to the Lord Jesus, and His glory
will be in the Church for all ages for ever and ever. The testimony of
the ark is a true representation of the history of the Lord Jesus. All
the forces of this universe are against the testimony of Jesus, but the
Word of God shows that in the end that testimony is going to triumph.
"If we suffer, we shall also reign with him" -- when our Greater David
brings the ark into the House of God at last.
If we cannot understand all that has been said with our minds, may the
Lord give us a greater impression of the greatness and glory of the
Lord Jesus Christ!
HOW TO EAT AND HOW TO GROW
A further message by Mr. DeVern Fromke at the Conference
WE are going to speak on the Tree of Life, and this morning we are
going to make our title: "How to eat and how to grow."
When we read the Scripture last evening about Adam standing before the
Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge we realized that God planned for
man to eat. In Genesis we find Adam standing before the Tree by some
precious stones and by a river of water, but notice now what God is
working toward: by the time we get to the end of the Book of the
Revelation we have the Tree, the precious stones and the river inside
of man. I must not take time to go into all that, but we have a
wonderful city composed of living stones -- or human beings -- and all
that had been outside has now moved inside the corporate man.
Here, then, we have the two trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the
Knowledge of Good and Evil. Now it will help us to see how God uniquely
designed man so that he could eat of the Tree of Life. We know from
many places in the Scripture that man is spirit, soul and body. In the
innermost room God created the human spirit, but we must remember that
He designed it much like an empty room, because the human spirit was
made for God's Spirit to come in and dwell inside. When our human
spirit works alone there is an incompleteness about it. Is it not
wonderful that our human [24/25] spirit is
always pictured as the female and the Holy Spirit is always pictured as
the male? If you could study the Hebrew and the Greek I am told that
this is pictured very wonderfully; and the characteristic thing about
anything feminine in the Scriptures is that it always wants to go on
its own and be independent. Now, men, I am talking to you as well as to
the women, because we all have the spirit that is feminine! That is why
the Holy Spirit must bring our spirit under control and dominion, and,
you see, when our spirit and God's Spirit are joined, they become one
spirit. God plans to control the whole man from the inside, working
Now, in order to see this more clearly we must look back into the Old
Testament picture of the tabernacle. You remember that there was the
outer court that all men could see, then there was the second room
which was covered, called 'The Holy Place', but beyond the veil there
was the innermost room called 'The Holy of Holies'. We have in the
ninth chapter of Hebrews a description of the furniture in the Holy
Place and in the Holy of Holies, but before we read that I should tell
you that the outer court is like our body, the Holy Place is like the
soul, and the innermost Holy of Holies pictures the human spirit. We
know that there are three functions in the soul, the mind, the emotion
and the will. We will read from the first verse:
"Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of
divine service, and a worldly sanctuary."
Now let us see the three pieces of furniture in the second room:
"For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was
the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the
sanctuary", and I believe these three things picture the three
functions in the soul.
"And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is
called the Holiest of all; which had the golden censer, and the ark of
the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot
that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the
covenant" (verses 3 and 4).
In this inner room, then, we have the ark, and in the ark these three
things: the tables of stone, the pot of manna and Aaron's rod that
budded. We want to look at this innermost room for a little while and
see how it functions.
In the human spirit we first recognize the conscience, and the
conscience only works on the basis of the law, so we have the ten
commandments. The reason why our younger generation does not seem to
have much conscience is that we are trying to take away all law from
them. In training their young children the mothers of Israel were told
to bind the law to their fingers. In my country when people are
speeding down the highway at fifty miles an hour, and then they see a
speed sign that says '30 miles an hour', why do they immediately look
at the rear-view mirror? Of course, you don't do that over here!
However, until I see the speed sign there is nothing for the conscience
to work on. So we must be sure that the doorway into the human spirit
is by the conscience.
After you walk into a room, and sit down and begin to eat with someone,
you can have fellowship, and so we have the pot of golden manna in this
room. And then you remember that the third thing is Aaron's rod that
I hope I can explain to you how this working in the inner man is so
very wonderful. When we come to fellowship with God we must have a
conscience cleansed by the perfect blood of Jesus Christ. Then, because
the door is open, we can enjoy fellowship, sitting at the table and
eating the hidden manna. I am sure you know what it is like to be
fellowshipping with the Lord and you see something new -- Aaron's rod
buds. You see, it is the Lord's way that we be open and honest with Him
first, and as we learn this wonderful fellowship and eating in spirit,
God, who knows what inner light we really need, shares it through
fellowship. So we have three things in the spirit: our conscience, the
open door; the table at which we fellowship; and finally we have the
inner light, which we call intuition. We have been speaking about
revelation, and the revelation comes through intuition.
Now let us go back and see what happened in the garden of Eden. God
said that Adam should not eat of the Tree of Knowledge. He planned for
Adam to eat continually of the Tree of Life, thus feeding his inner
spirit. Thus the Tree of Life was for feeding the inner spirit. God
planned for Adam to walk with a continual dependence on, and fellowship
with, Himself, but you know that Adam turned to his own way and
determined to live an independent life, that is, independent of the
Tree of Life. In this independence he could eat of the Tree of
Knowledge and merely feed the soul, that is, the mind in the soul. From
that time on Adam's spirit became more shrivelled and smaller and
smaller. The Bible says that he was dead toward God, but his soul
became bigger and bigger. It was over-developed. Have you met some
people who are well-developed in their mind, or over-developed in their
emotions, or very strong in their own will? This is the great battle
and shows us the need for distinguishing between that which is of the
soul and that which is of the spirit. This morning we are [25/26] either living by the Tree of Life or by the
Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Now, when a baby is first born you do not have to teach it much about
eating. How well I remember that when I first came into real touch with
the Lord I just ate! Every place in the Bible to which I turned was
like drinking the milk of the Word. Like a little babe I just ate. and
I grew in a very simple way, but then I got hold of a Bible with lots
of footnotes and the books of men. I got all involved in the doctrines
and the systems of men's interpretation and I began to enter the battle
of the soul. How should you be baptized: once, twice, forward,
backward? It was a case of one man arguing with another man and trying
to get him to accept his doctrine, but it was all in the mind. What we
are trying to say is that it is possible when we are first like a baby
to learn to eat in the spirit, but then we get corrupted and begin to
feed just the soul. Oh, I have seen men with so much knowledge about
the Word of God, yet when they come to a bitter crisis in their life
they have no inner spiritual strength. This is why brother Golsworthy
said the other morning: "The test is not what you know, but how much
Christ is increased in your spirit." When I see something with my
natural mind I will say: 'How do I perform?'; but when I learn to just
feed upon the Tree of Life, I am not hunting for answers. I am just
hunting for Him, and in this eating with Him He gives the
budding of Aaron's rod and I see . The man who has this inner
seeing has the 'How?' built in. You see, in this seeing there is the authority
of Aaron's rod. The man who has a mere branch from the Tree of
Knowledge can sway in the midst of the storm, but the man who has eaten
of the Tree of Life in his spirit will stand.
Now I must shock you for a moment. After Adam sinned in the garden he
was shut out from eating the Tree of Life. Now the Tree cannot be eaten
as such. We must eat the Lamb. You see, fallen man cannot eat unless
his conscience is cleansed by the perfect blood. We have the picture
back in Egypt on that night of the Passover. You remember that the
blood was put on the lintels and on the door-posts of the Israelites'
houses. This was for God to look at, and He saw the blood. This is why
I say that the conscience is like a door and it must have the blood
applied, but inside, behind the door, the people were eating the lamb.
They were getting strength so that they could march out of Egypt, and,
of course, there was the light within, but darkness all around.
When you try to speak to an individual, if their mind is not open you
bump into a stone wall, but there are times when the mind is open and
you bump into a closed conscience. Did you ever try to sit down and
fellowship with someone, but your words came back to you? Sometimes
their ear may be open to receive your words, but you know their spirit
is closed to you. If we are to really learn how to eat the Tree of
Life, we must get more than the mere words of the speaker: the door of
our conscience must be open to God so that His Spirit can teach us. If
you only get the words in your mind it is like getting the husk of the
peanut but throwing the meat away. How often I have left a church on a
Sunday with my mind full of husks, but so hungry inside! And I used to
blame the preacher, but the trouble was not with him -- it was my
closed conscience. I have even sat in a very liberal, modern church,
and when the preacher read the Word I got something of the meat by the
Spirit that he did not see.
Now let us turn to 2 Corinthians 10. We must see that there is so often
a war going on between the strongholds in our mind and the inner
teaching of the Spirit. You see, in my mind there is a mental concept
or doctrine, but the Spirit is trying to show me something else, so
they are in conflict. God does not want to get rid of our mind, but,
working from within, He wants to renew it, and this renewing brings
transformation. I suppose everyone of us has strongholds that have had
to be renewed. In my country I have oftentimes met individuals who have
a very weak mind. The enemy gets hold of a stronghold and he pours in
imaginations into the mind. Have you ever seen a young girl or boy
growing up who has allowed their mind to be filled with imaginations
and they say: 'Oh, my mother and father -- they are old-fashioned!'?
The things of the Spirit seem so foolish to the natural mind.
I remember a dear brother who had a peculiar imagination in his mind.
He had a lovely Christian wife, but there was something closed in his
conscience towards her, and he imagined that she was not clean in her
cooking or in her housework. But I knew her, and she was very clean.
However, with this imagination the husband went around all the
doorknobs with a handkerchief, and when we sat up to the table he wiped
the knife, the fork, the spoon and the plate in my presence. I am sure
he knew he had this foolish imagination. I could not pull this
stronghold out of his mind, but when we prayed together he saw that
there was something between his wife and himself. The door of his
conscience opened, he became honest before God and open toward his
wife, and God renewed his mind from within and cast down the
stronghold. For one whole year, while he was right with God and toward
his wife, he had no imaginations like that, but [26/27]
two years later I came back and he was going around with his
handkerchief again. I had to sit down and plead with him again to be
right with God, and when he was, the matter was settled again.
You see, if we are not really walking with, and eating of, the Lord,
the enemy attempts to get strongholds in our mind.
God now offers us the precious Lamb which gives us the blood for our
conscience, and then the food for fellowship, and light. It is so
wonderful to be just a simple Christian eating from the Lamb every day!
FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
GOD'S WATCHFUL CARE
PHILLIP was very fond of his grandmother, but there was just one thing
he did not like about her room. This was a framed Sampler which hung on
the wall over her bed. Of course, it was very old-fashioned; but what
Phillip did not like were the embroidered words: "Thou God seest
"Why do you have that on your wall?" he asked his grandmother one day.
She replied: "Because it comforts me." "Well, it doesn't comfort me,"
said Phillip, "it does just the opposite. I don't think it is fair that
God should always be spying on me." "Fair or not," said his grandmother
quietly, "it is true."
As Christmas came near the matter of shopping arose, and when one day
Phillip's school had a shopping holiday, his father also took a day off
and they drove into the nearby town. As he drove along, Phillip's
father remarked: "I hear that the police have TV cameras covering the
town centre, so that they can keep an eye on thieves and pickpockets."
He added: "Of course, some people don't like the idea of being spied
on. In fact, my newspaper this morning says that it is not right."
Phillip's mother said that she thought that it was a good idea, but
Phillip broke in with his old complaint about it not being fair. "I
don't like it," he told his parents. "No," said his father, "and nor do
the criminals. Those who are doing no wrong have no need to fear being
watched." "Well, I don't like it," repeated Phillip. "I don't think
that it is fair. Why, it is almost as bad as Grandma's text!"
By this time they had arrived at the car park, and were soon so
involved in their shopping that all else was forgotten. There seemed so
much to buy and Phillip found it very exciting. The great moment for
him was when he chose his tape-recorder. This was something he had
longed to have, but because of the price he hardly dare hope that he
would ever get one. However, his parents and his grandmother had joined
together to give him the money. He found just the thing, at just the
right price, and was thrilled when they went back to the car park and
he was carefully carrying the parcel with the recording machine. Of
course, he was carrying other parcels as well, and so were his parents.
In fact, they were all three so loaded up that nobody had a free hand
to open the car.
Father's arms were full of small parcels, so he asked Phillip to get
the car key out of his outside pocket. Phillip first placed his
precious parcel in a safe place and then fished around in his father's
pocket till after a struggle and some delay he managed to find it. At
first he could not get the car door open, which made Mother and Father
rather impatient, as they were so laden with their parcels, but at last
he succeeded. Father poured out his armful of parcels on to the back
seat, helped Mother with hers, and then they all got into the car and
They were less than half a mile from the car park when they were
stopped by a police car. Father wondered for a moment if he had hurt
somebody without knowing it, and even more so when the policeman's
first question was: "Have you just come from the main car park?" "Yes,"
he replied. "I hope that there is no trouble." "Not really, sir," said
the policeman, "but I think that you left a parcel there." Both Father
and Mother were about to deny this when Phillip broke in. As soon as
the policeman mentioned a parcel he had a cold feeling inside him as he
remembered that he had forgotten to pick up his recording machine. So
in a rather scared voice he said: "It's mine! I left it down behind our
car." "That's all right, sir," said the policeman cheerfully. "Not to
worry." So they turned round to drive back to the car park. [27/28]
Meanwhile poor Phillip hardly dared to breathe in case the tape
recorder might be stolen while they were driving back, but really he
had no cause for worry, since there at the car park entrance was a
smiling police officer with the precious parcel in his hand. Phillip
was so grateful that he could hardly speak, but his father thanked the
policeman and then he asked him how they knew about it and whose it
was. The man explained that at the Police Station there was an officer
watching the television screens. He had seen it all happen, had taken
their number, and had then put out calls to him and also to the police
car. "It was the ever-watchful eye that did it," he concluded
Phillip was very quiet as they drove home. His father could not resist
asking him if he had changed his mind about being spied on, and he had
to admit that but for the TV cameras he would never have been warned
about his mistake and would have lost his valuable Christmas present.
That evening he went into his grandmother's room and told her all about
it, and how the watchful eye of the man at the Police Station had saved
him from losing his parcel. In a very gentle voice she said to him:
"Now you know, Phillip, why I find it such a comfort to remember that
God always sees me. He is looking not to spite me but to take care of
me. He will do the same for you if you trust Him to be your Saviour."
She then showed him another verse about the eye of God. It was that
wonderful reminder that "the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout
the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose
heart is perfect toward him" (2 Chronicles 16:9). This was the lesson
which Phillip had learned. Have you learned it yet? H.F.
STRONG IN THE DAY OF BATTLE
"Only be strong and very courageous, to observe to do
according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn
not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest have
good success whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not
depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night,
that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written
therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou
shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a
good courage; be not affrighted, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord
thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest" (Joshua 1:7-9).
"Thou therefore, my child, be strengthened in the grace
that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which thou hast heard from me
among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall
be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good
soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service entangleth himself in
the affairs of this life; that he may please him who enrolled him as a
soldier. And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned,
except he have contended lawfully. The husbandman that laboureth must
be the first to partake of the fruits. Consider what I say; for the
Lord shall give thee understanding in all things. Remember Jesus
Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my
gospel" (2 Timothy 2:1-8).
THERE is a very striking similarity between the exhortations found in
the second letter to Timothy and the charge given to Joshua: "Be strong
and of a good courage" -- 'Thou therefore, my child, be Strong ...'.
Joshua was not a child, but he was the child, the successor, of a
previous generation. The words in this first chapter were not spoken
actually by Moses. In Deuteronomy 31 there are very similar words in
the charge which Moses himself gave to Joshua. This was a new
generation, not called upon to begin a new work, but to finish a work
which had been begun.
Now, passing over into the New Testament, nor is Timothy a child, and I
suppose by the time this letter was written to him he was not exactly
what we would call a young man, but he too represented a new
generation, a succession. Paul looked to him, and to those who were
like him, to carry through the work, the testimony, that had been
begun. And if you read on to chapter 3 you will immediately find the
scope of this charge reaching right into the last days.
So this letter is written for all saints, but it has a special emphasis
and a peculiar message to those who find themselves called upon to be a
new generation, to be the instrument of pursuing a purpose [28/29] already begun, and of carrying it right
through unto the last days. So the whole thought bound up with these
two charges, the one to Joshua and the other to Timothy, has special
reference to us who find ourselves, as undoubtedly we are, in the last
THE DAY OF BATTLE
The first thing that we look at for a moment is to see the
circumstances which surround them, the characteristics of the time. In
Joshua's case, of course, there was only one issue, only one occupation
at that particular time. He was the leader of a fighting nation; and
Paul, writing to Timothy, lays special emphasis on this same fact, that
one of the characteristics of the hour is to be conflict, and he makes
no apology for taking up as a metaphor the wars which men pursue and
the occupation of a soldier -- "a good soldier of Jesus Christ". There
is a battle on, nay, more than a battle. You will have noticed, if you
have an Authorised Version, that it says: "No man that warreth." But
the Revised Version speaks of "No soldier on service" -- no soldier on
active service. There are two words used in Scripture about conflict in
this military sense. One speaks of a battle, one decisive engagement
fought through to a finish and then it is over, but the other (and this
is the word which is used here) speaks of a campaign -- if you like, a
war -- with its many phases and its many aspects, and it is that which
is typical of the whole age in which we live and peculiarly
characteristic of the last days. Conflict, not a straightforward
'ding-dong' battle, but with all the skirmishing, the subtlety, the
long drawn-out endurance of a campaign. We are in that, but the
difficulty is (and I speak for myself in this case) we so often forget
what we are in. Every step that we take, especially when it has
something of special value to the Lord in it, every movement, is
fraught with opposition, not necessarily of the straightforward brutal
kind, but opposition as of the skill, the cunning, the guiles and the
force of a whole army. That tremendous army is not ranged against us
alone, but we are in the battle and we very often become focal points
round which it rages.
Now our difficulty is just this: we think something has happened to us,
and we often get offended about it, and do not recognize, or recognize
only too late, that that circumstance -- it may have been some small,
irritating thing -- is only a part of a great conflict. If we hug to
ourselves our own particular grief or grievance, and wonder why this
has happened to us, or why we are here and why others are not in our
position, we come to an absolute standstill and virtually, on that
particular front, there is defeat. If we rise up and realize that this
sorrow, however crushing, or this problem, however acute, or this
irritation, however annoying, is just a part -- but a very real part --
of a great world-wide, nay, universal, battle, it makes it so much
easier. We realize that it is not that we are being hardly dealt with
by the Lord, but we have been entrusted with a definite position to
hold for Him. It revolutionizes your mental outlook. For lack of that
many of us have failed very badly.
And so conflict is one of the great features of the time. It will come
in any kind of way, most particularly in the way which we do not expect
and which we do not desire. We do not expect the enemy to choose out
that particular trial that we could bear best; if we do, we have
mistaken his nature. I speak out of my own heart. How true it is that
we are blind and forgetful and taken off our guard again and again
because we regard incidents and circumstances as things in themselves,
and fail to realize that the whole scene as it is now set is one of a
great, complicated campaign, and we are soldiers in the ranks.
The next note that is sounded so much in this letter is that of
suffering. If you go through the second letter to Timothy there is no
cloaking of the fact, no attempt on Paul's part to make light of his
own experiences, or in some cheap optimism to encourage Timothy. On the
contrary, it is, again and again, to bear in mind the sufferings of his
great predecessor, and himself to be prepared to suffer, as it is all a
part of the campaign. Some natures can enjoy a good 'ding-dong' fight,
and there is an appeal even in the word 'conflict' when it is looked
upon in certain aspects. Get down to pray and deal with the thing, and
you may find some satisfaction in feeling you have given the enemy a
bad time. Well, that may be a part of the battle, but so often our
fighting is suffering, and a case of enduring the hardness of a long
drawn-out, and to us, very mysterious campaign. You cannot expect the
One who is Himself at the head of His forces to take us into His
confidence as to the whole of the thing that He is doing, or even,
perhaps, as to our little part in it.
This is the note that you hear so often in this letter. It is a sad
one, for it is in the falling away, the turning aside, of men. Of
course, it is all a result of the conflict. There is conflict for all,
at least, conflict faces all, but you can choose the conflict, you can
seek to be a good soldier, and that means [29/30]
suffering, or you can turn from the conflict, and that means what you
find again and again in this letter: those who turned aside, those who
opposed themselves. All the time the solemn appeals that the Apostle
makes to Timothy are to 'hold on', 'to stir up into a flame that gift
which is in him'. Oh, how the fire dies down! How quickly, without any
effort, without any consciousness on our part, the fire dies down! And
surely it is not without significance that in John's letters and in the
message to the overcomers, all right in the atmosphere of the last day,
again and again such words as these arise: "Hold fast that which thou
hast"; "See that no man take thy crown." Well, that is just the
Now, the command to the one who is found, as we are all found, at such
a time is, in the first place, the word: "Be strong!" The first need,
the greatest requirement in those who would be true to the Lord at this
time is strength, and that is just the thing that is most lacking. Do
you notice how, again and again, that was said to Joshua? "Only be
strong!" And how the Apostle is most anxious that Timothy should grasp
this great, important need to be found strong. We have got to be the
Lord's instruments for pressing this battle home, and that needs
strength, and it is strength that the Lord is looking for in His
people, and strength that must be found in us: "Thou therefore be
strong." It is no use saying: 'Oh, what a strong man Paul is! How
blessed, how wonderful, to sit under Paul's ministry, to talk about
Paul, to share some of the radiance of this spiritual giant, and bask
in it!' It is no use looking at a man and living under his shadow and
praising God that he is strong. What reason Timothy had for praising
God for Paul! But Paul turns round on him and says: 'What about you,
Timothy?' 'Oh, but I am very weak naturally!' Yes, that is true, for
this is a strength which is not a natural strength. Timothy had no
physical strength and he very often suffered infirmities. The Apostle
was not saying: 'Get cured of your physical weaknesses!' but he was
saying: 'Timothy, you poor man with your oft infirmities, be strong,
only be strong!' So it is not physical strength or natural strength. If
you read the letter, it is quite obvious that Timothy himself must have
been of a very timid disposition. The Apostle exhorts him not to be
afraid and not to be ashamed. Nay, you may be a very gentle, shrinking,
timid disposition, and the suggestion is not that your disposition
should be changed, but that, in spite of it, you will be strong. For
actually, as the true rendering is, it is not so much a question of our
being strong as of our being strengthened. There is grace in the Lord
for you to be strong.
Oh. these things are so practical! If you read the letter, you find
that Paul is not calling upon Timothy to exercise, or to imagine that
he possesses, or to lay claim to, some theoretical strength which is
imaginary, but he comes right down to very practical things -- doing
the work of an evangelist, being strong to speak the Lord's word, and
reproving among His people if necessary. Although he does not say it to
Timothy; I am sure being strong in prayer is included. It is practical
strength that is needed, not of a natural kind, but of a spiritual
nature applied to practical things.
The Lord is calling you and me to be strong. Here is a prayer meeting,
and we come into it largely inactive or neutral. If it is a good prayer
meeting, then we shall be caught up. If it is rather a heavy one, well,
we will sit back and we may be critical. The Lord is saying to every
one of us: 'Be strong! Come in with a strong spirit and contribute
strength by your spiritual attitude. In prayer and in every phase of
the Church life, as well as in your individual experience, be strong!'
A continual individual strength is essential if we are to go on: and
for our ministry. That is the thought that Paul is bringing up. Be
strengthened continually! There is strength for you. We have looked
upon Joshua as a great figure, a strong man, but it is very significant
that, again and again, the Lord had to say to Joshua similarly: 'Do not
be afraid!' It seems as if Joshua might well have been fearful. "Be not
dismayed ... be strong." However weak we may be (for many purposes the
weaker we are the better), we may have a robust virile strength and a
positive attitude for the Lord at every moment of every day, and there
is grace in Christ Jesus to give us that strength.
The second requirement in the Lord's servant is what is called here
'remembrance'. Shall I say -- it is an ever-fresh vision. You will
notice how several times the Apostle says to Timothy: 'Remember!'
"Remember Jesus Christ." Was Timothy ever likely to forget Him? No, but
you can have an historic Christ, a Christ who was real to you in some
past experience but you have lost the freshness and present value of a
living vision of Christ. I think this is what corresponds in the Joshua
passage to: "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth
...". Remember! First: "Remember Jesus Christ of the seed of David."
What does that mean? One in whom large purposes were bound up, for in
this sense David had [30/31] not many seeds, but
one seed, and all the purposes of God were staked upon this One, Jesus
Christ. Remember that! And remember that the conflict and suffering of
His life were all bound up with that one thing. Why did Herod try to
destroy Jesus Christ? Because He was the seed of David. What was the
great accusation against Jesus Christ at His crucifixion? "The King of
the Jews", the seed of David, and this meant that the question of
dominion being bound up in the purpose of God with this Man's life
brought Him into suffering and conflict. Remember that, because you are
apt to think beautiful thoughts with the idea of a heavenly calling.
Jesus Christ is the One supremely of the heavenly calling. Remember
what He suffered and the way He went. He was raised from the dead, but
He had to die first. We sometimes feel that there are those whose
sufferings are so great that there are no words of comfort one could
speak to them. One feels that if somehow one could get alongside of
them and read to them some of the sufferings of the blessed Son of God,
that would in some senses interpret the dealings of God with them. In
the conflict, in the suffering, remember Jesus Christ, the seed of
David. So much depended upon the realization of God's purposes in Him,
and that was the explanation of the suffering. And that was the
explanation of His endurance. He did not fail God. God's purposes were
realized and the afterward was a wonderful resurrection from the dead.
Look at the Lord Jesus on the Throne and remember how He came there,
and with that fresh in the mind there is victory.
Then: "I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God
which is in thee ..." (2 Timothy 1:6). Remember the purpose of God in
His people, and ever have it fresh in view. You see, the soldier is on
active service now, but the thought is: If he is a good soldier, there
is going to be a glorious victory. The athlete is feeling some of the
strain and stress of the conflict now, but there is a crown at the end.
That is the purpose of God; remember that! The husbandman that
laboureth is bearing the heat and burden of his toil, but there are
fruits being enjoyed as the result of labour. Remember the calling, the
purpose of God, and remember that it is not just personal. There is a
blessed word of comfort concerning the suffering when the Apostle talks
of "suffering together". If we are suffering for Christ's sake, we are
suffering as a part of a people who are being brought to glory by the
road of suffering and we are not suffering alone. Suffering hardship
together with Him, says the Apostle, and not only with Him but with
others. Our way is a way of fellowship.
THE ADEQUATE MOTIVE
And then the third great need, if we are to carry through the charge
given to us. Firstly, it is our strength, and then a continual
remembrance, and the third thing is love to the Lord. "... that he may
please him who enrolled him as a soldier." That is rather idealistic
with regard merely to earthly armies and soldiers, and yet is it not
true that through the ages, from David onwards, the best soldiers have
been the men who had a passionate devotion to their leader? Some
remarkable things have been done in this world by a few men devoted to
their leader. In some cases it was misplaced, but it was devotion. To
have this as the great dominating ambition and purpose in life: to
please Him who has called me to be a soldier!
Then the Apostle goes on to speak of those vessels in verse 20 of
chapter 2. The Lord's house is a great house. The Lord has a great
purpose and there are many vessels, but among those vessels there are
some unto honour, as it were, gold and silver, and there are some unto
dishonour, not noble, but common, ordinary, necessary, useful. But if
any man will set his heart on full obedience and devotion to the Lord,
he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified. What is the great
consolation and joy of his heart? "Meet for the Master's use."
The Master takes special notice of him, takes special pride in him, as
of some valuable or beautiful vessel in the great household. And that
surely is the vision which will sustain and carry us through to the
end: the joy, the privilege, not only of being in the Master's house --
praise His Name, we are there! -- but, being there, a vessel unto
honour, bringing some joy and satisfaction to His heart.
So the Apostle is able to say, as far as he is concerned, that he has
come through -- "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the
course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). The charge is handed
on, not only to Timothy, but to us, to fight the same fight, to finish
the course, to keep the faith. We need strength for that. There is
strength for it. We need continual remembrance -- shall we better say
-- vision for that. There is vision, and the word is the great
instrument of bringing it to us. We need a deep love to Christ, for
while we may be conscious that our love is not a deep one, it is our
ambition to please Him. That is the way. Do you notice that the
emphasis in that connection is that Paul did it, so Timothy could do
it, and it was because God was faithful to Paul, and He would be
faithful to Timothy. So with Joshua: it was not because Moses came
through that he came through, but the word was: "As I was with
Moses, so I will [31/32] be with thee."
Not Moses, but Moses' God; not Paul, but Paul's Lord, and there is no
reason why Timothy should not go through just as victoriously as Paul,
because he has the same Lord. And there is no reason why the weakest of
us should not be in the Lord's hands for overthrowing His foes, and
fighting His battles, and enjoying His crown, because this God is our
God for ever and ever. Amen. H. F.
"THE HOLY CITY, NEW JERUSALEM"
9. DIVINE LIFE
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
to the churches. To him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of
the tree of life, which is in the garden of God" (Revelation ii. 7).
"And he shewed me a river of water of life, bright as
crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the
midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that
was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its
fruit every month ... Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they
may have the right to come to the tree of life ... And if any man shall
take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take
away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city"
(Revelation 22:1, 2, 14, 19).
THE PLACE OF THE TREE OF LIFE
SO with this last chapter of the Bible we are taken right back to the
beginning of the Bible and find ourselves in the presence of the tree
of life. In this connection, the ending of everything is found to
correspond to the beginning, but, of course, with one great difference:
the end is the full realization of the meaning of the beginning. In
this form of a symbolic tree of life we are quite evidently in the
presence of the main issue of the ages -- all the ages are compassed by
this one issue. When Jesus, here at the end, calls Himself the "Alpha
and the Omega, ... the beginning and the end" (verse 13), He is
referring to Himself as the tree of life. The tree of life is the first
thing, and it is the last thing.
But although the tree of life was there in the midst of the garden at
the beginning, man never partook of it. The partaking of that tree was
on certain conditions. Those conditions were faith and obedience, and
because man failed in those conditions, and because man disbelieved and
disobeyed God, he was removed from the presence of the tree of life.
Then God set up a protection for that tree and made it impossible for
man without faith and obedience to partake of it.
Of course, these are spiritual principles set forth in a symbolic way.
This question of Divine life is the supreme question in all history. It
is the issue of all the ages -- just whether man will receive this
Divine life or not. Man's eternal destiny is decided upon that issue.
This was God's supreme purpose in the creation. This life is the life
of God, Divine life because of the Divine nature, and it was God's
desire and purpose to share His life with His creation.
The symbolic place that this tree had is very significant. It was in
the midst of the Paradise of God. This question of Divine life is at
the very centre of the creation, and, having the central place in all
things, it governs all things.
This life was available to man. It was God's thought and desire that
man should take this Divine life, but, as we have said, it was on the
condition of faith and obedience, and man never partook of this Divine
life because he failed in those two things. So God said, quite
effectively: 'That kind of man shall never have My Divine life', and
death, and the prince of death, reigned over that realm and that kind
of man. What the Bible means by death reigns over the whole creation of
unbelieving men. Disobedience is the positive aspect of unbelief. If
man says that he believes, God says: 'Prove it by obedience!' Spiritual
death is the hallmark of unbelief and disobedience.
And if you want to know what spiritual death is, the Bible makes it
quite clear: it is separation from God. God is the source of this life,
and separation from God means separation from the very source of life.
But that is not sufficient explanation. What is the effect of spiritual
death? It is that nothing is ever [32/33]
allowed to come to perfection apart from God. It will just go so far,
and no further. In our cemeteries in England we have stones set up over
graves, and many of these gravestones are in the form of a pillar which
is just a certain height, and then it is broken off. It is meant to
say: This life just went so far and could go no further. Life apart
from God can never go through to fullness.
There was a great atheist once who thought he knew a great deal. He
boasted of his wonderful knowledge of philosophy, and made a great name
for himself as what is called a 'free-thinker'. Then the day came when
he was dying, and on his deathbed he was in a state of mental torment.
His last words were: 'I am taking a terrible leap into the dark!' It
does not matter how much we gain in this life. If it is apart from God
that is all left behind. Nothing can come to perfection that is
separated from God, and that is the mark of spiritual death.
THE BATTLEGROUND OF THE AGES
Now because faith and obedience are the way out of death, this matter
of faith and obedience has been the battleground of all the ages. There
is no greater ground of conflict than the ground of faith, and this
great issue was headed up to its climax in the incarnation of God's
Son. The whole purpose of God being manifest in the flesh in His Son
was to take up this issue and settle it for ever. "A Final Adam to the
fight and to the rescue came."
This whole issue, then, becomes a matter of faith in the Son of God,
and a life of obedience to Him. That is the pathway of eternal life.
Now you see that the tree is not just a tree, it is a Person, and that
Person is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We have been considering this
New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, and we have been seeing how
its many features are the features of Jesus Christ. Now what we have to
see as we are coming near to the end is that all the features of the
city are summed up in the tree and the river of life. All that the city
represents is found in these final things, the tree and the river, and
it is the tree of life and the river of the water of life.
THE PRACTICAL NATURE OF DIVINE LIFE
I want to say here, quite emphatically, that life is a very practical
thing. That is true of natural life. We know what a tremendous thing it
is to fight for someone's life. All the vast resources of medical
supply and surgical care are concentrated into this one issue, and that
vast realm of activity is concentrated upon this one thing -- life.
Everything and anything to save life. It may be just a little life in
some poor body, but all the resources of medical science and care will
be employed just to save that bit of life. What a tremendous amount is
bound up with this matter of life! When that life has gone all the
activity and energy and concern ceases.
This matter of life can make us very busy. I expect most of you have
heard of the great missionary David Livingstone, and some years ago I
was associated with a great movement for the celebration of the
centenary of his birth. You know, for nearly a whole year we were busy,
almost night and day, making the arrangements. We took the greatest
hall in London, got the Archbishop of Canterbury to promise to preside,
we had a special oratorio composed, and had special biographies of
David Livingstone written. My word, we had to work hard! One day the
man with whom I was working said to me: 'Old David Livingstone is not
dead! He is still knocking us all out by his vitality!'
Wen, you see, life is a very practical thing. Electricity is a very
practical thing. You do not need that I should demonstrate that! If you
want proof of that, just unscrew the lamp, pull down the switch and put
your thumb on the point. If you did that to the lamp over there, the
next moment you would be sitting in another corner and you would be
believing in the practical aspect of electricity!
Now all that is only to come to our point. If all that is true of
natural life, how much more true it must be of Divine life! Divine life
is immensely practical. It is not just something which we receive; it
is a power in us. The Apostle Paul said one of his very great things
about this: "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above
all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us"
(Ephesians 3:20) -- 'Exceeding' ... 'Exceeding abundantly ...
'Exceeding abundantly above' ... 'Exceeding abundantly above all ...
according to the power that worketh in us.' It is the power of this
Divine life by the Holy Spirit.
THE LIMITING OF DIVINE LIFE
Now we have been seeing that this city, in every part, is an expression
of the Divine nature, and that is brought down to us in the Person of
Jesus Christ. Where there is anything contrary to the Divine nature,
that is death and not life. Recall some of the features of this city.
We said that it was clear as crystal. You can see right through it --
there is no dark thing. It says that it is like transparent gold. That
is only a symbolism for absolute honesty, absolute truth, and absolute [33/34] purity of mind, and where there is anything
that is not absolutely honest and true and transparent, there is not
life. If you were to try to deceive me, or someone else, or I tried to
deceive you, that would seriously limit the Divine life in us. If we as
Christians are not absolutely honest in our business, we are working
against the life of God in us. If our Christianity is only a profession
and not a reality, there is no life in it. I think I need not labour
that any more. This place where God is is completely free from
everything that is dark and dishonest. There are several things in the
Bible which are said to be an abomination to God. We pointed out that
the lie is an abomination to Him, and the Bible says that pride is an
abomination, too. It says: "The proud he (the Lord) knoweth afar off"
(Psalm 138:6). Pride cannot come near to God. What is pride? It is
making believe something that is not true.
Let us look at another thing about this city. A city, ideally, is the
symbol of order. In a true city everything is in proper order, and
everything that is governed by it is put into order. God is a God of
order. Disorder is contrary to His nature. Whether it be in the
personal life, or whether it be in the home, or whether it be in the
church, or wherever it may be, disorder is contrary to the nature of
God. Disorder is lawlessness, and all lawlessness has come from Satan.
Satan is called the 'Prince of this world' (John 14:30). Now, look at
the world! There is only one word to explain the world situation, and
that is chaos. More and more, and ever more chaos is coming
over this world. The prince of this world is making for disorder
everywhere in his world. In the realm of Divine life things are ordered
if that life is having its way, for it is Divine life that will bring
order into your personal life. When I see a disorderly life, a life in
which you cannot see any real order, then I have to say: 'Divine life
is suffering in that person'. When there is disorder in a company of
the Lord's people we know quite well that the life is limited. We have
to say: 'When I go there, amongst those people, I do not come away
feeling renewed in my life.' When things are in Divine order, then you
always feel life.
THE FRUITFULNESS OF DIVINE LIFE
Just two other things about this life. Divine life is always fruitful.
You see, this tree is planted by the river of the water of life, and it
bears all manner of fruit. It does not matter whether it is seventy,
eighty or a hundred years old, it bears fruit every month. You have
never seen a natural tree do that! It just means that fruit goes on and
on and on. Divine life never grows old. What does that mean? You are
saying: 'Well, what do you mean by fruit?' Life is influence. Somehow
or other this water of life has an influence upon its surroundings, and
that influence is seen in green leaves and much fruit -- You have to
say: 'Well, that water is having a great influence on this whole area!'
If we really have this life in us, our lives will be influential. They
will have an effect upon what is around us.
THE PLACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST IN OUR LIVES
The last thing for this time. The city is the seat of government, and
you notice that the river of the water of life flows from out of the
throne, so it is the throne that produces everything. You know what
that means! It is the throne of God and of the Lamb. In a word, it
means the absolute lordship of Jesus Christ. Right at the very centre
of everything is the government of Jesus Christ, in virtue of His
Cross, and as the Lamb. All the other things will depend entirely upon
the place that Jesus Christ has, and will depend entirely upon how much
we are committed to Him. If we are wholly committed to the Lord
and He is altogether Lord, then the life will flow and all
these things that we have said about life will be true in us. It will
be the testimony to absolute committal to Jesus Christ.
(To be concluded)
BACK ISSUES OF A WITNESS AND A TESTIMONY
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which are given at the end of the list of literature on page 44. [34/35]
"THINE IS THE KINGDOM, AND THE POWER,
AND THE GLORY, FOR EVER"
2. THE KINGDOM OF LIGHT IN CONFLICT WITH THE KINGDOM OF DARKNESS
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the
deep: and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God
said, Let there be light: and there was light" (Genesis 1:1-3).
"But and if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them
that are perishing: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the
minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of
Christ who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them ... Seeing it
is God, that said, Let there be light, who shined in our hearts, to
give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of
Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4, 6).
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God ... In him was life; and the life was the
light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness
overcame it not" (John 1:1, 4-5).
WE proceed to consider a little further what the Kingdom of God is. We
have seen that from the beginning there has been a great conflict in
this universe as to who shall have the dominion. The New
Testament speaks of two kingdoms, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of
Satan, the Kingdom of the Son of God's love and the kingdom of that one
who wants to usurp the place of God's Son, and all through the history
of this world those two kingdoms have been in deadly conflict. As to
the Kingdom of God, we have said that it is the sovereign rule of God.
We speak of 'entering the Kingdom of God', and in that way we think of
the Kingdom of God as being a sphere of God's rule, but there is
something about which we must be very clear, although it is not easy to
GOD RULES BY HIS OWN NATURE
We could think of a kingdom being just a place, and a number of people
in that place, and then we could think of some person, a dictator, an
autocrat, having dominion in that place over those people. We could say
that Egypt is the kingdom of Mr. ..., and that China is the kingdom of
someone else, but that is not the idea of the Kingdom of God. You see,
God does not rule just as an autocrat or as a dictator. God's Kingdom
is composed of those who are like Himself. That is what it is going to
be at the end. The Kingdom is coming now, and when it has fully come it
will just be, and only be, people who are like God Himself. I wonder if
you understand what I mean when I say that God rules by His own nature?
God's government is on the basis of what God is. That is how He is
ruling now. When we say: "Thy will be done", we have to go on
immediately and say: "As in heaven, so on earth." The Kingdom of God is
according to that which satisfies the nature of God.
We have, then, two things to consider. The first is this: that to
belong to the Kingdom of God we have to be reconstituted according to
God. You know, the door is closed to every man and woman who has not
been reconstituted according to God. Let us think of it like this:
Someone wants to be in the Kingdom of God and they come to the door,
and on that door they see the word: " Cannot." 'You cannot come
in here. Something has to happen in you before you can come in here.
This realm belongs to people who are altogether different from what you
are by nature.'
You remember that the Lord Jesus told a parable of someone who made a
great feast, and in order to attend and participate in that feast the
guests had to wear a certain garment. Well, the people came with the
garments on, but when the master of the feast came to look over the
people he found one man without that garment. He said to that man:
'Friend, how did you get in here without the garment on?' In effect he
said: 'You have no right here.' The master of the feast said to his
servants: 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him out!' It was in that
parable that the Lord was expounding this very principle: if you are
going to be in the Kingdom of God something has got to happen that
makes you suitable for that Kingdom.
Now, of course, you know that I am talking about the third chapter of
the Gospel by John. I am quite sure that this man, Nicodemus, would
have had an awful shock if he had been told that he was the man without
the wedding garment, but this chapter makes it perfectly clear that it
was Nicodemus. The only difference between Nicodemus and the man in the
feast was that the latter got in [35/36] and was
thrown out, but the unborn-again Nicodemus never got in at all. Now,
you note that it was about the Kingdom that Nicodemus was concerned. He
was a very religious man, and highly educated, a man held in high
esteem amongst the men of this world. Perhaps you would have found no
fault with him, but Jesus said to him, without any hesitation: "Except
a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God"
(John 3:3), and: "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he
cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Far from
being able to enter, he cannot even see!
There is something about this Kingdom of God that necessitates having
an altogether new constitution. We are hearing a great deal in our
times about outer space, and we send men into it. Have you seen
pictures of those men? You can hardly recognize that they are men! They
are so laden with artificial apparatus that you can hardly see them.
They have no natural qualification for living in outer space, and have
to have artificial lungs. In a sense, they have to be reconstituted
upon another principle. That is just an illustration of John chapter 3.
Jesus might have said to Nicodemus: 'Nicodemus, if you got into the
Kingdom of God you would die. You have not the equipment to live in
that rare atmosphere.' That is very simple. If you had to bring a man
or a woman whose life is in this world, to whom this world is
everything, into a meeting like this, where we are singing these
wonderful hymns and talking about these heavenly things, you know, the
eyes of that man or that woman would be on the door all the time. They
would be wriggling in their seats and saying: 'I will be glad when this
is all over and I can get out. Let me get out of this as soon as I can!
' You see what I mean? They are not constituted according to the realm
So the Kingdom of God is what God is in His own nature. It is not just
a sphere in which God rules as an autocrat. It is the realm in which
God's nature is expressed. Peter spoke about His "precious and
exceeding great promises through which ye may become partakers of the
divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), and that is only another way of speaking
about the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven.
Now we come to the real message for now.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD THE RULE OF DIVINE LIGHT
What is God like? If the Kingdom of God is the realm where God's nature
rules, this opens a door to very many things. I only want to speak of
one of those things now, but it is a matter of fundamental importance.
It is the matter which just went to the heart of Nicodemus' case. The
Scripture says: "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1
John 1:5), so the Kingdom of God is the rule of Divine light, but
Divine light has always been a focal point of intense conflict.
The Bible opens with a conflict. There is a state of things in nature
which God attacks -- He begins to make a tremendous assault upon a
condition of things, and the first attack of God was upon darkness.
"Darkness was upon the face of the deep", and I do not think that God
just looked at that darkness and in a very soft voice said: 'Let us
have some light.' I believe that there was an angry look on His face
and He said: 'Let light be! This is a situation that I never intended
to exist and which I will not tolerate. It is a contradiction to My
very nature.' So the Divine fiat was uttered in a strong voice: "
Let there be light!" Do you think I am reading something into the
story? No, I have the whole Bible behind me to support what I am
saying. That is why I gave you 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, and if you can
listen to the tone in the voice of the Apostle Paul when he is saying
those words, you would not find anything very meek and mild -- "The god
of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving lest
the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ should dawn upon them."
This darkness is the work of the devil, and God is against it.
I repeat that the first attack of God was made upon darkness, and the
natural is a parable of the spiritual. You know that throughout the
whole Bible redemption is centred in light, as the redemption of the
natural earth was by light. The first phase of the redemption of the
earth was by reason of warfare against darkness, or light overcoming
You can take up that principle right through your Bible. I can only
touch on a few points now. We were hearing about Abraham this morning,
and Abraham was another movement of God's rule concerning His Kingdom,
and that new movement in redemption was on the basis of light. Our
brother called it vision, but it is the same thing. Light is vision,
and vision is light. It was left to the great martyr Stephen to tell us
how this happened: "The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham,
when he was in Mesopotamia" -- if you like, "when he was in darkness"
-- (Acts 7:2). The God of glory appeared , showed Himself.
Abraham had his eyes opened to see the God of glory, and all the great
redemptive work of God went forward through Abraham on that basis. It
was a marvellous illumination! Jesus said to the Jews: "Your father
Abraham rejoiced to see my day" (John 8:56). [36/37]
What a light Abraham came into! He was a great key to the whole plan of
You leap over a few centuries and you see the seed of Abraham, the
children of Israel, in the darkness of Egypt. If you want to see what
God thinks and feels about darkness, look at the ten judgments upon
Egypt! God entered into a tremendous warfare with the darkness of
Egypt, and that phase of the warfare headed right up to this: on that
fatal night for Egypt, in all the deadly darkness, the children of
Israel had light in their dwellings. The first-born sons of Egypt died
in the darkness, but the first-born sons of God went out in the light.
And that was not the end. All the way through the wilderness journey,
in the darkness of the night there was a pillar of fire, and that light
above them was in warfare against the darkness around them. They were
redeemed from being lost in the wilderness by the pillar of fire, the
light in the darkness.
Now, how much of the Old Testament am I to employ to show you how true
this was? The Prophets were centres of light in the darkness of the
people of God to redeem them from their darkness. If you take Isaiah
alone, what an example he is of this very thing! His great ministry
took its rise from: "I saw the Lord ... high and lifted up"
(Isaiah 6:2). Again and again he spoke about the darkness and the
light, and at last, with a vision beyond, he cried: "Arise, shine; for
thy light is come" (60:1).
I want to get this right home. All that is truth which may be
objective, but let us come back to this: There is a tremendous conflict
between these two kingdoms of light and darkness. In 2 Corinthians 4:4
we are brought right to the very work of the devil: "The god of this
world hath blinded." What, then, is the supreme work of the
devil? It is not that he makes good men bad men, nor that he drags good
men down into the mire of sin, nor that he brings strong young men and
beautiful young women down into moral corruption, nor makes atheists
and infidels. Those are only by-products. They are the results of
something else, and that is: "The god of this world hath blinded
." Remove their blindness, open their eyes, and these things will be
dealt with quite simply. The work of the devil is to keep people in the
dark. Light is the most fatal thing to the kingdom of Satan; he fears
light more than he fears anything else. He is the "prince of darkness".
He has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, and why has he done so? It
is a precaution against something, and one little word explains it: "
Lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ should shine."
'If those people get the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, my
kingdom is gone. The battle is over for me. I am lost.' So that Satan
will do anything to keep us from having light.
There is a real touch of genius in Bunyan's "Holy War". Satan and his
kingdom are making their assault upon Mansoul in order to capture it --
the city of Mansoul is besieged by the powers of darkness. Satan says
to his captains: 'There is one man that you must capture. If we capture
that one man the city is ours. Focus all your attention upon the Lord
Mayor!' What is the name of the Lord Mayor? His name is Mr.
Understanding. 'When you have captured Mr. Understanding put him down
in a dark dungeon so that he does not know what is happening. The rest
of the battle will be easy.' That is the genius of John Bunyan, but
where did he get it? He got it from Paul. Do you remember this little
phrase of Paul's: "Being darkened in their understanding" (Ephesians
4:18)? Paul is speaking there about all the moral evils of the Gentile
world, and he says they are due to one thing: their understanding is
Now, dear friends, you perhaps wonder why I am speaking to you like
this. You may say: 'Well, we are not in the dark. We are saved people.'
I will ask you to explain one thing to me: Why is it that invariably
when we are going to have a conference where the Lord is going to give
more light, we have to come to it through so much conflict? That is
quite true of this very conference. All kinds of things arose to get in
the way. But that is only a simple example of a great truth.
We have spoken of the prophets, and they were points of light in the
darkness of Israel. Will you tell me that they were not in a conflict?
Because they were points of light they were points of the most vicious
assault of the evil powers. Jesus said: "I am the light of the world"
(John 8:12), and every day and everywhere Jesus was in conflict because
He was a light. It was true of the apostles. Wherever they went, even
without beginning to preach, they found themselves in conflict. It is
as though the devil and his powers said: 'We will not have this in our
kingdom!', and they will stop at nothing to quench the light. And the
Lord says: "Ye are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14). Here is the
challenge. Divine light is positive . You cannot have Divine
light and be neutral. If God has shined into your heart to give the
light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,
your life is a challenge to the kingdom of Satan, and his attitude to
you will be: 'We will get you out as soon as we can!' You will find
that Satan will stop at nothing to quench that light. You see, Divine
light is not just teaching and theory; it [37/38]
is a menace to the kingdom of Satan. Are we in the Kingdom of God? That
is what it means. Individual Christians are to be like that -- their
very existence disturbs the kingdom of Satan.
And what is true of the individual is true of the little companies of
the Lord's people. Satan does not mind you organizing communities of
people called Christians. I don't think he troubles about them very
much, for the simple reason that they don't trouble him, but if any
little company of the Lord's people anywhere are really in the light
and are focal points of the significance of Jesus Christ, Satan will do
everything to destroy that little company.
I must add this as I close. Remember that this is not only an initial
matter in the Christian life. Every fresh step of advance in the
spiritual life is the result of some new light. We only make progress
in the spiritual life by more and more Divine light, and the evil one
does not want us to advance to the fullness of light. As soon as we
think we have got all the light, then death will set in.
Well, I must leave it there for the present.
(To be continued)
WORK IN THE GROANING CREATION (3)
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make
a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day
that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt;
which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them,
saith the Lord. But this is the Covenant that I will make with the
house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my law in
their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be
their God, and they shall be my people: and they shall teach no more
every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the
Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the
greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity,
and their sin will I remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
"Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith,
Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body didst thou prepare
for me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hadst no
pleasure: then said I, Lo, I am come (in the roll of the book it is
written of me) to do thy will, O God. Saying above, Sacrifices and
offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou
wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein (the which are offered
according to the law), then hath he said, Lo, I am come to do thy will.
He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By which
will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus
Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:5-10).
"To whom God was pleased to make known what is the
riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ
in you, the hope of glory: whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and
teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect
in Christ" (Colossians 1:27-28).
"I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet
no longer I, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in
the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who
loved me, and gave himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20).
THAT portion in Jeremiah has its fulfilment now in Christ. It concerns
the new covenant which the Lord said was to be altogether different;
not according to the covenant which He made with Israel when He brought
them out of Egypt, but something within them, written in their hearts.
We know that the Lord Jesus Himself is the embodiment of all the terms
of the covenant, and that covenant is sealed with His own blood.
"Christ in you" means that all that that covenant contains becomes an
inward thing, an inward power, an inward revelation of God. "Christ
liveth in you", said the Apostle, and the mystery which God has been
pleased to reveal is: "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
There is one comprehensive and all-embodying truth which, if it really
gained the complete mastery of our hearts and dominated our whole
consciousness, capturing our will, our hearts, and our minds, would
really revolutionize everything, just as the new covenant represents a
revolution from the old [38/39] covenant. The
great truth which embodies everything is this: that God has determined
that nothing which is not Christ shall remain, and He is working toward
that end, on the one hand to rid this universe of everything that is
not Christ; on the other hand to fill this universe with that which is
Christ. That means that God does not accept or recognize anything
whatever that is not Christ. Then again, it means that God puts His
seal upon what is Christ, and it is all a matter of the measure of
Christ. It is a tremendous thing when that really does come to our
hearts with the force and the power which it really does represent. It
explains everything of God's dealings with us. It gives us the key to
our problems. It sets us at once upon the highway of God's own purpose.
If it should be felt that the world is really becoming more and more
full of evil, and not of Christ, we will explain that seeming
But we begin here, and we notice the significant setting of this in the
letter to the Colossians. The first thing in the Colossian letter is
the matchless presentation of the Lord Jesus. There is nothing in all
the Word of God to compare with the first chapter of this letter as an
unveiling of the Lord Jesus, that is, in any one part. From eternity
Christ is seen in and through creation, all things unto Him, by Him,
through Him, Christ in sovereignly governing all things, controlling
all things. Gather it all up into one fragment, a universal fragment:
"That in all things he might have the pre-eminence." There is the
universal and eternal Son of God! And then, all that, as in a Divine
secret, is brought right down and it is said: "Christ in you ,
the hope of glory." All that in you -- the Church. It is that
Christ that is in you. He who created all things is in you IN YOUR
RELATEDNESS TO THE CHURCH. He for whom all things were created is in
you thus. He who upholds all things is in you thus. He
in whom all things consist, hold together, is in you corporately, as in
The second thing is this: that the letter goes on, "seeing that ye have
put off the old man ... and have put on the new man" (3:9-10). What
does that mean? That all that is not Christ is put aside, is
repudiated, and all that is Christ is put on, is brought in. So that
God's intention concerning His Son as universally pre-eminent is going
to be realized by His being put on on the part of believers, who, as
the third chapter says, have been "raised together with Him". This, the
Apostle says, is the meaning of baptism (Colossians 2:12).
Christ is not a second personality or power, to come along to reinforce
us, to vivify us, to strengthen us,
for us to use in life and in service, and that He should make us
something. That is not the thought, and that is not the angle of
Scripture at all. And yet, how almost universally, perhaps largely
unconsciously, that is what is happening. Christians are wanting to be
made something, even as Christians; and Christian workers and the
Lord's servants are, though perhaps unwittingly, wanting to be made
something as workers; and they want Christ to reinforce them ,
come behind them, and make them something as His
servants and in His service. That whole system of things is
diametrically opposed to the truth. The truth is that Christ shall be
all, and that we decrease that He may increase; that He should be the
primary Personality, and that the impact and registration of any life
and any service should not be: 'What a good man he was!' or 'What a
good woman she is!' or 'What a fine worker!' but: 'What a presence of
Christ! What a testimony to Christ! What an expression of Christ! What
a sense of Christ! What a reality of Christ!'
The next thing I am going to say may be difficult to accept, just as it
is difficult to say, and yet faithfulness demands that things like this
should be said. There is going to be a tremendous surprise one day over
this matter. There is a tremendous amount of energy, and activity, and
machinery , and zeal and devotion in the work of the Lord, in the
service of the Lord, which seems to be producing something quite big,
and carrying on something quite extensive. It is not for us to judge,
but it is for us to lay down laws and recognize those laws, or, rather,
recognize laws that are laid down by God. When eventually all work, all
service, all activity, is weighed in the balances, which will determine
what abides for ever or passes away for ever, all that which was merely
human energy for God will go; all that which was merely man's
enterprise for the Lord will go; all that which was in any way out from
man himself, even though in devotion to God, will go. Only that which
was the energy of Christ, the wisdom of Christ, the power of Christ,
will remain. God is not using your energies and my energies. He is
calling upon us to use the energies of Christ. God cannot set His seal
upon anything that is of man. God's seal only rests upon that which is
of His Son, and we must not say that because a thing is big, extensive,
and seems to be a great work for God, that it necessarily is
such. What we have got to be quite sure about is that that thing is not
being carried on by the momentum of man, or the momentum of
organization, the momentum of machinery, the momentum of human zeal and
energy for God nor by the momentum of a [39/40]
programme, but that it is being energized by the Holy Ghost, that it is
Christ Himself who is the life and the power of that thing. In so far
as human personalities, energies and all that kind of thing are the
mainspring, we may be sure that in the end there is going to be a good
deal that goes. That can be seen as you look back over the history of
things which claimed to represent God.
The object of saying this is not for one moment to cast a cloud of
suspicion or doubt over anything, but it is to emphasize this truth,
this basic truth. It is along the line of jealousy for Christ. Nothing
will remain in this universe eventually but what is Christ, and we must
recognize that everything for God's ultimate purpose is bound up with
and in Christ, and it is Christ. We shall only come to the end
which God has fixed as we know how to draw upon Christ for everything.
We shall be established as we live by Christ, the work will be
established as it is out from Christ, as we do it out from Him.
We have often spoken of this same thing in the direction of the
candlestick all of gold, as mentioned in the prophecies of Zechariah.
We must remember that the wrought gold is the Lord Jesus. It is only a
typical way of saying that He was made perfect through suffering. The
gold is refined and perfected in its purity in the fire. That is what
happened with Him. Perfect, yet perfected through suffering. The
candlestick of pure gold is what Christ is, and inasmuch as it is a
candlestick, it is the vessel and the instrument of the Testimony, the
life, the revelation, the unveiling. The vessel of the Testimony, then,
is what Christ is, and the Testimony can only be upheld and maintained
in clearness by what Christ is. We in ourselves cannot maintain the
Testimony. The Testimony of Jesus will be maintained in us just in so
far as we conform to His image. To put that in another way: just in the
measure in which Christ has supplanted ourselves -- "no longer I, but
Christ". God has a gold standard, and He never departs from it. God's
gold standard is His Son, and He never deviates one little bit from His
This change from Christ in heaven to Christ in you is just with that
object in view. It is that, Christ being in you, everything else shall
be brought down under Christ, and that Christ should take the
ascendency in us just as He has taken universal ascendency in heaven,
and it is that taking of ascendency which is the conforming to His
image. "No longer I" is a very inclusive statement, for that "I" is
many-sided. There is 'I like' and 'I will', 'I think' and 'I want'. And
then the opposites, 'I don't like', 'I will not', 'I do not think', 'I
do not want'. And 'I' is much more comprehensive than that. Conformity
to His image simply means that that is ruled out, and oh! what a
business that is! While we have all accepted the final and the full
abolition of the 'I', by no means have we attained unto that. We are
very often in some way or another up against that 'I', and the question
again is whether it is going to be Christ or 'I'. But the very fact
that the Holy Spirit makes a conflict of it shows that the thing is
active, and that something is going on. We need to ask definitely that
the Lord will keep that active, and that He will make these crises much
Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, as we see personal desires being
followed out, likes being served, preferences being manipulated, and it
becomes so patent that there is something which is quite natural ruling
decisions and making the plans: Where is the Cross, and where is the
Holy Spirit working by the Cross? Therefore, you and I need to ask the
Lord more every day to make these crises acute, that we shall have no
blind spots on this matter, thinking that it is for the Lord when it is
really for ourselves. Any measure of that 'I' is countering God's end,
and anything that is done, even though it be by a most devoted soul,
for the Lord on that basis is bound to have in it that element which
will limit its eternal value.
The thing which is going to be wholly, utterly abiding, eternal, must
be utterly Christ. It may, therefore, be necessary for a course of
reduction to be followed by the Lord. The thing may seem small and it
may seem to be very limited according to the world's standards. What is
going on can hardly be seen on the surface, but God is working right
down at the bottom to build from the foundation, slowly, steadily,
surely, and every fresh fragment that God adds to that work is sifted,
purged, tested. It is as though God puts in something and then, before
He adds to it, He tests it, proves it, tries it, sifts it, until the
thing is, in its absolute purity, all of Christ and is established.
That seems to be God's way with something that is going to be wholly of
Christ. You can have, if you must, to gratify the old human
desires to see, to possess, to know, to do,
to be active, something bigger. But when you look on toward the end, it
will just be tested as to what is of Christ. All the other is waste.
You have plenty of Scripture to bear that out. I am only putting my
finger upon a central law. Is it not true that God has determined to
have nothing in this universe eventually but what is Christ, and all
else will be removed for ever?
There is another way of looking at it. It is a glorious prospect to
know that the universe will be filled with Christ, and God is going to
have His end. [40/41] When the Lord gets hold of
a life utterly, and when the Cross has really entered into that life,
so that that life can say: "I have been crucified with Christ", nothing
passes, nothing gets through that is not Christ. God keeps intensely
short accounts with that life. God is alive to everything concerning
the first Adam. That is the meaning of: "He that hath the seven spirits
of God." That phrase means the perfection of spiritual vision. Go back
to the prophecies of Zechariah and you remember it speaks of "seven
eyes". That means that the Lord Jesus, who has the seven spirits of
God, is alive to everything, takes in everything, comprehends
everything. Nothing escapes Him. Especially is that perfection of
perception related to the things that would be a menace to His ultimate
purpose, and in all that we do He knows exactly where the point is
which marks the end of what is of Himself and the beginning of us. We
do not know, but He does, just where these things overlap, and He is
letting nothing pass.
That represents a challenge to us! We have been seeing that God, for
His own satisfaction in relation to His own ultimate purpose, must have
a candlestick all of gold, a vessel which represents what Christ is in
an utter sense, That means a deep cost, a great measure of suffering.
That is the challenge which comes to us. Until the Lord reveals it with
a heavenly light we do not see how big the difference is between self
and Christ. When the Lord does a thing it is eternal.
Are our hearts set upon God having that which is wholly of Himself?
That means 'I' crucified! No longer I, but Christ! And that means that
Christ in us is the basis of our conformity to His image, until we
partake with Him of His own nature -- pure gold. It is something to
face seriously before Him. It brings to us a challenge, but surely it
also brings to us a glorious possibility! What Christ is can be made
good in us!
This is what God is doing in the groaning creation. It does not appear
to be so, for, to all appearances the 'fullness' seems to be evil. Do
you remember a very illuminating phrase in Genesis 15:16: "The iniquity
of the Amorite is not yet full"? The context shows that Israel's exodus
and occupation of the Promised Land waited upon the Amorite's full cup
of iniquity." Amorite" is a representative name for all the nations
then occupying the land. When that cup of iniquity was full God
emancipated Israel. The exodus synchronized with a condition in the
world. The filling of the land with what was of God required the
enemy's extension of his evil nature to its limit; then God acted.
We need say no more. The end time will be marked by 'iniquity
abounding'. The rapture of the Church will take place -- as its exodus
-- when "the man of sin is revealed", when the cup of iniquity is full.
We are living at a time when there is a positive landslide of moral
iniquity. It is called 'the new morality', but it is not morality at
all, it is 'non morality'. Look at your map of the world and note how
minute is the area of the United Kingdom. It is almost lost in the
great areas of the world countries. And yet, in this so small country,
four hundred millions of pounds are spent annually on gambling. There
is a corresponding expenditure on alcoholic drink, to say nothing of
the iniquitous drug business. No wonder that the nation is fighting for
economic survival, and has lost its place of honour in the world.
Perhaps the worst feature is that governments legislate for these
things, and thereby largely condone or recognize them.
If this is true of such a fragment of the world, what of the whole
world situation? God is taking account of this. He is causing the
simple facts of His salvation to be made known on a scale unprecedented
in the world's history, and when the whole world has had its
opportunity "then shall the end come". Two things are unmistakably
evident: the world-encircling by the simple gospel of salvation as
never before, and the headlong rush of iniquity to 'fill up the cup'.
There is a third feature: it is the ripening of saints by suffering
unto the grape-harvest. These three things are the "work in the
(To be continued)
"Hath he said, and shall he not do it? ...
hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
At the due season shall it be told ...
What hath God wrought!"
Numbers 23:19, 23 [41/42]
[Pages 42 and 43 are not available.]
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