The Cross and the Way of Life

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 8 - "A Night to be Remembered"

In this last chapter we must seek to focus everything on one quite simple and precise word. Those who have been here throughout, or earlier, will probably be able to detect in what I am saying the stages of the line through which we have moved, even if I do not in any way go back. There will be reference made, however.

But for this present time all is being gathered up into one fragment in one verse in the book of Exodus: "a night to be much observed" (Ex. 12:42). Another translation is "a night to be much remembered".

If there existed in your history a night which would be remembered and celebrated for 3650 years, it would be a very great night! Or let us put that in another way; if a night was of such importance that God said it should be remembered for 3650 years at least, it certainly would be a very great night! But that is nothing; there may be a night in our history which goes far beyond that. Three thousand, six hundred and fifty years is just a span of time; when we come into God's purpose we overlap time altogether and the governing phrase is "unto the ages of the ages". That is an important night, if at any given point we come into that. I mean that the time in which we move into that is a very, very great time; whether we call it a night or not, it is a time much to be remembered.

A Night Long Awaited

Coming back to this phrase in the history of Israel, we know that that night, that great night so much to be remembered and observed for so many centuries afterwards, was the night or the time of the realization of a long-desired and long-awaited deliverance; the culmination of that period mentioned by the Lord to Abraham about his seed. Four hundred and eighty years culminated at that time - a long time for which to wait, a long time to look forward to an issue. God has been waiting much longer than that to secure what He may secure tonight. We shall see what that is and it may be, dear friends, that there is the other side to that, that whether we are aware of it or not, we may have been waiting for this hour for a very long time.

You see, the New Testament distinctly and definitely speaks of our having been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). That is a long time ago, and yet with all that time lying behind, people are now coming into the good, the meaning and the value of that eternal choosing of God and many of us know that we have moved into something with the Lord. There has been a time of a crisis and a definite movement on our part, but have we realized that that was not just some hap in time or something to which we came or which came to us at a certain point? That sprung right out of eternity past, that was an eternal moment, an eternal hour, an eternal day! It is not just something in time. And what is on my heart is to try to bring before you something of the immensity of that to which we are called; that whether we come into it for the first time or not, we come into a new grasping of it and a new sense of what it is for which God has been waiting and, in a sense, for which we have been waiting a very long time.

We have been waiting - if you can understand talk like this - from before we were born for something which God meant for us. And if we grasp it (and we do not always grasp it in the day in which we were born again) we know something has happened, something very great has happened. We have a sense that this is what we were born for. But we have a very limited apprehension of the meaning of it and there awaits a time, or times, in our lives when something of that breaks upon us in a new way. And we feel as though all that had gone before was very, very small in comparison with this. This is the thing for which we were not only born naturally, but for which we were born again spiritually.

I remember a case of a dear servant of God who had been very greatly used of the Lord, who was very well known, who came to such a day when there broke upon him something of the real meaning, the greater fulness that he had been called to in Christ. It made such a difference that the next morning at the breakfast table his two sons said, 'What has happened to you, father? You seem to be a different man. What has happened to you?' He went back to the pulpit of his great and famous church, and the people began to say, 'What has happened to the pastor? He seems to be a new man.' As he went up and down the country where he was known, the same thing was being asked, 'What has happened to Mr. So-and-so?' And he said to me personally, 'You know, what has happened to me, although my conversion was a very real thing, has made my conversion as nothing compared to what has happened to me these last few days.'

Maybe we are waiting for something like that. Well, it would be a day or a night much to be remembered, would it not, if it were like that? Well, we are waiting, and God is waiting.

Some Reasons for the Waiting

But why? Why four hundred and eighty years in the case of Israel? Why the waiting? If God meant it to be from all eternity, then why delay? If He has already laid His hand upon the people and brought them into a relationship with Himself as He had done with Israel, why the waiting? There is a mystery about God's times, you know. Of course, it is the mystery of God's foreknowledge.

I do not want to tie you up in knots, but there is this fact. Whether you can explain it or not, it is a fact that two things synchronize in the mysterious ways of God, and those two things are: the readiness of man and the hour of God. The hour is a fixed hour with God, and yet in His foreknowledge He fixed the hour according to what He foreknows to be the readiness of the people. And there is a lot behind that, you know, the synchronizing of the readiness of man and the hour of God. God fixed the time, four hundred and eighty years, but He knew exactly what the situation would be at the end of every day of that period. And because He knew, it came to pass according to His timetable. Can we explain this?

Well, it is just this. God, as we have so often said, is very practical. God is neither theoretical nor willy-nilly. He is very practical. It is very necessary for man to be in such a state as to make the purposes and will of God very real in the history of man. We all know that although there is presented to us the purpose of God and the will of God and the plan of God and the mind of God, and we know that that is what God wants for us, we cannot just take it up and enter into it when we want to. It becomes absolutely necessary that a condition has been arrived at by us to make that thing real. It would otherwise be just a theory, something that came upon our way and that is that. But when God does a thing, He does it in a way and at a time when that thing is terrific because of the preparation that has been made for it and because man is now ready for it. And if it does not happen now because of man's preparedness, then nothing short of disaster will take place. It becomes an acute crisis because of what God has been doing in preparation.

You see, the Cross of the Lord Jesus had always been there. In principle it had been there all through the centuries from the fall of Adam. It had always been there for Israel in Egypt. The Cross was not introduced there in Egypt in the Passover for the first time. It had always been there for the people of Israel, but the people were not ready for it. Therefore, while being there, it was still latent and still not bringing them out by a mighty deliverance. The Cross is here with all its tremendous significance and meaning, but how many of us are ready for it? He waits until we are ready. There has to be a history that will make it very real indeed.

Of course that applies to the unsaved, that conversion and new birth is not just something that begins and ends in that moment. God has been already working and leading up to that. It is like the last flake of snow on the avalanche, down it goes, but there has been a long history of building up in the secret, not always perceived, but when it happens that soul says, 'I understand a lot now, I see the meaning of a lot now, I realize that there is something lying behind this now. I can explain quite a lot of things now in the light of this.' And what is true in the case of salvation at its beginning - conversion, new birth, however you put it - is true of these crises in the life of a Christian. I am not talking about just a solitary second blessing. I am talking about blessings upon blessings which are marked by new crises toward which God has been moving. Whatever may be your point of progress, there is something more yet that will make all that is past seem small in comparison. Do you believe that? A night much to be remembered can come again and again to a Christian as he goes on.

But what was this history of Israel? What was it that had delayed? Why was it they had not reached this point sooner? What were the things that had to be dealt with before that night, that memorable night, could come? Were they resting upon their Hebrew birth, and thinking perhaps that because they were children of Abraham, the seed of Abraham by birth, that they were right and they had got everything by birth when they were born into the family of Abraham, that they then had everything?

There is a certain teaching abroad today that teaches that when you are born again you have everything, and all this talk about more and more and further blessing and further life and light and so on is dangerous. You get everything when you are born again, and a lot of people have settled down on that. Well, the 'wrongness' (if I may coin a word) of that is quite manifest to all observers. It is limitation and very often contradiction, inconsistency. Were they just settled down on their Hebrew birth? 'We are the people, we are the elect, everything belongs to us, we have got it all by our birth.' Very well, that will have to be eliminated. It may take a long time, four hundred and eighty years or more. It will have to be eliminated before there can be the night much to be remembered which stands out so clearly in history so vividly.

There may have been other reasons, other causes and other things to be dealt with. They were in a very difficult situation in Egypt. Perhaps they were believing that the circumstances in which they found themselves, so hard, so difficult... meant that God had forsaken them and they had settled down into a kind of quiescent acceptance of a bad situation and lost hope. Maybe they were saying: 'Give up everything, this all seems to say so clearly that whatever the Lord may have meant at the beginning or at one time, He has given it up now and He has given us up and left us.' That may be a condition of some, that you have lost your grip because of things that have happened, things perhaps you have done, things which have come into your life, situations and circumstances which have become a part of your history. You say, 'Well, whatever God meant at one time, I have got to give that up now, abandon that now: look at this and that. This speaks quite to the contrary, that God has no real purpose where I am concerned. I just let it go.' You have lost your grip upon the intention of God in your salvation because of circumstances, of happenings or conditions. You have settled down to accept the situation and make the best of it: a fatalistic acceptance. 'Well, it may be all right for others, it may be God meant it, but God has given it up and given me up.' That has got to be destroyed.

We will see before we are through, that that was a thing that was destroyed. It has got to be repudiated, my dear friends. If God has said that He called you and if God has laid His hand upon you, then whatever the circumstances of your life and whatever your failures, whatever the thing which you may call the incident or the accidents, whatever the difficulties which may be around you, God is capable of realizing His purpose if you will believe and if you will lay hold.

If ever there was a hopeless case for God, it was Jacob. But, you see, that was just the wisdom of God in laying hold of such a one as Jacob with ninety years of intrigue and deception behind him. God laid hold of him to demonstrate that in such a hopeless case God can realize His purpose when He gets His way. If only like Jacob there is a laying hold of God and His purpose in that night - "I will not let Thee go", 'I am not yielding to despair, the despair which might well spring out of my wretched, ruined life, the mess I have made of things; nevertheless I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me.' He laid hold of God, and even a Jacob can be in the direct line of God's purpose.

Perhaps they had let go, foreclosed on God, and God had to do something about it. Perhaps they were thinking, fatalistically thinking, 'Well, something will turn up some day. It is a long road that has no turning. I suppose we shall come to the bend in the road one day. Well, we must wait for something to happen.' Passivity... how true it is that that postpones the night much to be remembered. With many it is just like that, that awful thief of time, passivity... waiting for something to happen. Have you got into that state where you are just waiting, hoping that, well, things will be better one day? You will go on waiting until that is dealt with. That will not do.

God's Precipitation of the Issue

Well, God took a very definite action in this matter to precipitate the issue. He changed the régime. For a long time they had had a fairly comfortable time with a Pharaoh after Joseph. For a time after Joseph, during Joseph's life and a little while after, it had been pretty good in the land of Goshen and they had settled down. But to precipitate this issue, God had changed the régime and there arose a Pharaoh that did not know Joseph. God began to make things difficult, to make things hard, to stir things up, to start this movement which would end in their being ready for God's day. Now, in all that, I have tried to point out that it is true and it is necessary for a condition to obtain in order for God's purpose to mature, for the "night much to be remembered" to arrive.

The Night of the Cross

That brings us to this, that that night much to be remembered was the night of the Cross. In the types and the figures of the Passover and the Lamb, that was the turning point in everything when they really recognized that their way through was the way of the Cross. Their way out was the way of the Cross, that in that which set forth the Cross of the Lord Jesus was their deliverance, was their emancipation, was their life, and was the realization of their destiny. It was all concentrated in that which was the heart of that night - the Cross, the blood and the lamb, the sprinkling and the eating. The blood always speaking of another life than our own. That is our hope. It takes even Christians a long time to get there in many cases. Another life, and in that other life there is all that we lack and there is all that which transcends what we are in ourselves. It is in that other life that there is everything. After all, it is not in us; even if we had never failed, it would not be in us. If everything had gone quite well, we would never have got through. That is what we have been saying.

Cain - everything went fairly well for him. He was able to till his ground and cultivate his garden and to develop his fruit, and very beautiful fruit at that, and it was all very successful. But it did not get him through. Abel got through because of this other life. Oh, for an adequate apprehension of this wonderful truth which sometimes seems so elementary, and yet it governs all the purpose of God; that Christ in what He is, is the answer to everything. 'Not what I am, O Lord, but what Thou art; that, that alone, can be my soul's true rest.' And I say it takes years for some people to get settled on that. They are all the time poking round to try and find in themselves something with which they can answer to the requirements of God, and so they are harassed and plagued and beggared by their own failures and weakness and sinfulness and the wrongs they have done. And in being so obsessed and occupied with themselves and their own messed-up lives, their eyes have got right away from the fact that, after all, it is not about what they are; good, bad or indifferent. It is all resident in another life, and that is the only way, but it is the way through.

Why not cut short this delay and provide the Lord with what He is waiting for, and you will find in the mystery of God's times that as you move there, God is already there, and the thing happens. Your emancipation, your deliverance, takes place. It is all in the virtue and value of that other life represented by the shed and sprinkled blood of the Lord Jesus.

The Lamb of God, the eating of the Lamb... it is another aspect of the same thing. What is it? It is a Lamb without spot, without blemish. You see, there is no getting through while you are eating yourself. What are you eating after all, if you are feeding on yourself? Just corruption, feeding on corruption. It is not nice, is it? But this is the point: the only possible way of getting through is by feeding upon another nature. There is no possible relationship with God except on the basis of God's own nature. We have got to be partakers of the divine nature in order to have any place with God. Union with God is upon the basis of what He Himself is in Christ.

We have to make that the substance and sustenance of our very being - feeding, that is partaking of the divine nature, making the divine nature and what Christ is in the perfection of His humanity, making Him thus that upon which you feed, that which you rest upon for your very existence. Is this very simple? But this is it. This was the way through, and until we come there, the great night is postponed. When we come there, it is a night much to be remembered. It is all the value of the blood as another life of the flesh of the Son of Man as another nature. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves" (John 6:53). "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood..." It is all figurative language, but it is very, very real in the realm of spiritual things. The way of life is union with God, but union with God is on the basis of God's own nature which is provided for us in the broken body of the Lord Jesus and in His shed blood.

But you know that doctrine, do you not? That is no fresh light and information for you. You know the doctrines of faith. Ah, yes, I know, but what was the command on that night much to be remembered? "Ye shall eat it with your loins girt, and your staff in your hand" (Ex. 12:11). You are girded up on the ground of this, girded up in faith that this is your way out, you are girded, you are gathered up, you are concentrated, and you are poised. Your loins are girt and the staff is in your hand. You are in faith going out. That is where your passivity is set aside by the Cross, where your fatalism is set aside by the Cross. All your despair is set aside by the Cross, and everything else that makes the time run on without event. The Cross says, 'Look here, here is your provision, you gird yourself, take it, eat it with your loins girt and your staff in your hand.' What a position of faith, is it not? How practical this thing is. You are going to act upon this, and wonderfully enough, as they did eat, as they did appropriate the blood and gird their loins and took their staff, the door opened and they went out.

I know how very simple and elementary this message may be, but I am bringing it right along the Christian life, because God has a very great purpose for His people by their eternal calling and by their wonderful redemption. A very great purpose... so much greater than the majority of Christians have realized. I do not think I am saying a false thing when I say that perhaps the larger number of Christians have got little further than to know that they are saved, and to be very glad that they are saved, to rejoice in being saved. Comparatively few are really in the good of God's great, great purpose from eternity, "Called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28). It is not for us now to say what that purpose is, to explain it. It is sufficient to state the fact. We are called with a very great purpose, not just even to get out of Egypt and the clutches of the devil, but with an object, a tremendous object, nothing less than the infinite fulness of God's Son, Jesus Christ, and an eternal vocation. It is a great thing to which we are called in Christ, but how many Christians are really in it, and if they know they are in it, are tasting of the meaning of it: that this life is an inexhaustible life, that there are new vistas all the time?

I am not exaggerating. The heavens are opened and we see more and more, and ever more, of what it is to which we are called. It is just wonderful. It is like that, and this message must finish on that note. You are not meant just to be saved and get to heaven, to know your sins are forgiven and to have a certain number of blessings which come with salvation. But there lies before you and reaches out through eternal ages such a purpose of God concerning us all that "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor. 2:9).

It is a very great thing to which we are called, and it is a night much to be remembered when that breaks upon us! But we have got to realize that it is all secured unto us by the Cross of the Lord Jesus and believe that this present stage or phase or position is not all that God means. God means much more than this, so we gird our loins; we take our staff and we say, "We believe that; we are going on into that by the grace of God. We will not linger any longer in this whether it be good or better, which is not God's best."

The Lord stir us very mightily and the Lord make this a night much to be remembered. It can be, I assure you, because it has been for some of us in a very, very wonderful way, and we do not believe that it is all summed up in one night. There are yet fulnesses to which the Lord is going to bring us, but it must ever be firstly on the same basis: not on the ground of ourselves and what we are or what we are not, but on the ground of what He is. And then it must be the girding of faith in appropriation and setting ourselves in the direction of the the onward way, by the grace of God.

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