by T. Austin-Sparks
(March 3, 1964 P.M.)
We turn to the Letter to the Hebrews, chapter four, verse one through three, "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as He said, as I have sworn in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world."
Chapter six, verse one through three, "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit."
In our first series of special meetings, the Lord led us to be occupied with the matter of His Presence with His people. I think every one here will agree that the most important thing for us is the Presence of the Lord. I expect, when we gather together like this, our prayer in the first place is for the Presence of the Lord. And probably those of you who prayed at the beginning of the day, will always pray for the Lord's Presence. We realize that the all-important thing in our lives and in the lives of God's people is His Presence with us. We should all be afraid to go on unless the Lord was with us. We cannot think of life without the Presence of the Lord. The Lord's Presence means everything to us.
Now you will remember that we pointed out that this is the greatest desire of the Lord Himself. He said to Moses, "Let them build me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them." The greatest desire of the Lord is to be amongst His people. But there are some conditions upon which the Lord is with His people. The Lord has His own terms upon which He will be with us. You will notice that this letter to the Hebrews from which we have read is all the time referring back to the life of Israel in the wilderness, that period which was covered by those words to Moses, "Let them build Me a sanctuary." It was the period from the Red Sea to the border of the land to the river Jordan.
Now during that period of forty years, although there were many difficulties, and the Lord had much trouble with the people, the Lord was with them. There were, as I have said, many difficulties during those forty years. There were many very serious times. We read of Amalek coming out to fight against Israel. We remember the story of Balaam, the false prophet who was hired by Balak to curse Israel. These were some of the very critical times during that journey. There was the crisis of bread and the crisis of water. There were the crises of enemies. But through all that time the Lord was with His people. He did not allow Amalek to succeed in their war against Israel. He turned the curse of Balaam into a blessing. The Lord was with them. That meant victory, that meant support, that meant the supplying of all their needs, that meant that the Lord helped them in spite of their own weakness, the Lord was with them.
There was one reason why the Lord was with them through all their troubles and difficulties. The Lord was with them because of one thing: They were a people who were going on. They had set out to go to a certain goal, and in spite of many hindrances, they were a people going on. Sometimes their troubles just stopped their progress for a little while, but then they went on again. And the Lord was with them, because they went on. When they went on with the Lord, the Lord went on with them. And that is one of the fundamental terms upon which God is with His people. They had started out with a vision. Perhaps you will remember that when they had crossed the Red Sea, and Pharaoh's army had been drowned in the sea, then Moses and Aaron and the people of Israel sang a song. And in that song, the vision arose. They said, "The Lord has brought us out in order to take us in." The Lord has brought us out, not to let us die in the wilderness, that is not the Lord's idea for us. The Lord has brought us out of Egypt in order to take us into the land. They put it this way - "to bring us unto His holy hill" (Psa. 43:3). That was the vision with which they started. And while they kept that vision before them and went on, the Lord was with them.
The Lord gave them that mighty victory to begin with in order to encourage them to go on. The victory of the Red Sea corresponds to the victory of the Cross - the victory of death, and burial, and resurrection with Christ. That was the great foundation. And with that foundation behind them and under their feet, they went on. But there came a time when they stopped going on. You will remember that the tabernacle was constituted for transit; it was not a building to be put down in one place and to stay there forever. It was all made so that it could go on. And the tabernacle was the place where the Lord was. So that the Lord's idea for them was to go on.
I wonder how interested you are in the Book of Numbers. The Book of Numbers is a very wonderful Book. If you have not studied it, I advise you to study it. It can be called the Book of the Goings-On, the Book of progress with the Lord. And you will come to one chapter, chapter thirty-three, and in that one chapter, you will find one phrase used forty-three times. Now if one thing is repeated forty-three times in one chapter, it must mean something. Numbers, chapter thirty-three, and in that chapter, this phrase occurs forty-three times - "And the people of Israel journeyed." It says, forty-three times the people went on. They took their journey. And that is the Book in which you find the Lord so mightily with His people.
Now you know that when they came to the other side of the wilderness, they came to Kadesh-barnea, they came to the border of the promised land, they stopped. You do not read again - and they journeyed. They stopped. And you do not find the Lord with them. All, but two men, of that whole generation died in the wilderness. That is not the idea of the Lord for His people, for His people to die in the wilderness is not the Lord's idea. The Lord is not in that. Indeed, as we have read in Hebrews, the Lord is against that. So the term on which the Lord is with His people is that they keep going on. We have read in Hebrews, chapter four, the terrible warning that the Lord gave because they did not go on. He said, "I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter into My rest." They lost everything because they did not go on. So we read in chapter six, "Let us go on." Do not let us stay with our beginnings, but let us go on.
Now what does going on mean? Well, of course, for us it is a going on in a spiritual way. We are in a new dispensation, and this is a spiritual dispensation. But there is one thing that I want to suggest to you as meaning our going on. It is true of Israel in the wilderness, although it was an earthly thing with them, the same thing is true with us in a spiritual way. If you look again into this letter to the Hebrews, you will discover this, THAT GOING ON SPIRITUALLY IS A MATTER OF PUTTING INTO PRACTICE WHAT THE LORD HAS SAID. Do you realize that we never go on by being told things by the Lord? Now that sounds like a very strange thing to say. The Lord can speak to us Himself. We may have His word, we may have all the teaching that He can give us, we may know all the truth of God, we may have had it all for many years, and yet, although we may have had it all, we may be standing still. No, it is not a matter of knowing what the Lord has said. It is a matter of putting that into practice. Doing what the Lord has said, that is the only way of going on.
How are we to go on then? We are to sit down quietly and say, "Now what has the Lord said to us?" Perhaps it may be over these past four or five weeks, or it may be over years past. The Lord has spoken in this place, or to you through the ministry of His many servants. Now through the reading of His Word you may have a great mountain of truth, and yet you may not be going on, and the Lord may not be with us, as He wants to be with us. The Presence of the Lord is power, the Presence of the Lord is life, the Presence of the Lord is holiness. Oh, the Presence of the Lord means much, but it is all very practical. The Lord does not believe in theory. He does not believe even in textbooks. The Lord is a very practical Lord. And His attitude toward us is this: Look here, I have said this to you, you have heard it. Perhaps you have rejoiced in it. Perhaps you have believed it to be true. Perhaps you thank the Lord for it. But what have we done about it?
Have we taken each thing that the Lord has said, and brought it up and said, 'I have got to do something about that. We, as the Church, have got to do something about it. We have got to put that into effect. If we do not do that, we will not make progress. And the power of God will not be manifested among us.' We may go on for years, and we may fill the years with teaching, but we may still be years behind. We may not be coming into what the Lord means that we should be in. Why all these exhortations in the New Testament to go on? Why is the New Testament just made up of exhortations and encouragements and warnings to the people of God about going on? And why is the New Testament such a practical Book? Because real spiritual progress and the Presence of the Lord depends upon bringing everything that we know right up to date.
I wonder if you could tell me the number of times in the New Testament that that one thing occurs. It is a quotation from Israel's life in the wilderness. And it is this: "Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart." Again and again, those words are put in the New Testament. Today! Today! Today! You see, all this has got to be brought into NOW. All our progress for the future depends upon what we are doing with what we know NOW. So the Lord says to us, I am with you if you are going on. And going on means putting into practice and effect all that I have said to you. Our growing knowledge of the Lord depends entirely upon our daily obedience to the light which we have.
Now we want the Lord to be with us, and we want Him to be with us in fullness. Our hearts are really set upon that. I am quite sure I am speaking for everyone here tonight. If I were to come to every one of you personally and say, 'Do you want the Lord to be with you? Do you want the Lord to be with you as fully as He can?' I do not think there is anyone here tonight who would say, 'No, I do not want the Lord.' You would say, 'Yes, that is one thing for which I pray and long, the Presence of the Lord in fullness.' And that is what you want as a company of the Lord's people in this place.
So when the Lord speaks, and we bring that which He has said, and we say: There is something to be done about this. I do not just put that into the store of my knowledge. I do not just add that to all that I know. I look to see what that requires of me in a practical way. And when I see what that means, then I get to the Lord to have that made real and living in my life. Brethren, the people who do that will be going on. They will be entering the promised land. They will be entering into His rest. They will be entering into the joy of the Lord. Because that is what the Lord wants - people who take hold of everything that the Lord says, and make it practical.
So the writer of the Hebrews says, "Let us go on." In what other way can we go on? We are not on a literal journey on this earth. Our promised land is not somewhere on this earth, in this world. No. Christ is our promised land. Christ is God's fullness of purpose for us. So, we have got to take everything that has been said to us about Christ, and put it into practical effect. That is what it means to go on. And that is what it means to have the Lord fully with us!