That Which Was From The Beginning
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - The Recovery of the Nature of the House of God

Reading: 2 Chronicles chapters 29-32.

We shall make a survey of these chapters. Chapter 29 gives us, in a fairly full and comprehensive way, what was going on at the time. It was one of those very blessed and precious times of recovery amongst the Lord's people after the general breakdown, when the people had fallen upon bad times spiritually or had got into a bad state: a time of spiritual declension. Things were far short of the Lord's desire and in many respects were far wide of the mark. In the midst of that time, the Lord had one or two faithful servants who made a great effort to pull things back. And under them, for a time, there was recovery in a large measure of the thoughts of God for His people. One of these instruments was Hezekiah, who is the one here before us.

Before going into this part of the Word of the Lord, of course it is necessary for us to immediately make the link with our own times. That is not difficult. Things in general amongst His people today are falling far short of the divine standard. Speaking of the whole of those who bear His Name, we cannot but feel that there is declension, there is a bad spiritual state, there is much departure, there is a low level of spiritual life, there is much that is wrong and things are anything but according to the revealed mind of God in His Word.

If that is so, and the condition in general today amongst the Lord's people corresponds very largely to the condition in general in the days of Hezekiah, may we not see that as in those days so in these, the Lord would raise up a ministry of recovery. He would move to bring things back to the fulness of His thought. He would have His thoughts fully expressed amongst His people and would have a return to those thoughts. I think we can say that is according to the Lord's mind.

That is a general proposition. When we come to the Word itself, we shall find that it confirms what we have said by what is here. It can only be mentioned in a very general way, but there is a wonderful fulness between what is here in historic illustration and the spiritual counterpart of that in our own time. So let us come to the Lord and pass our eyes over the passages and see what it has to say to us for a day like this.

Opening and Purging

Chapter 29 contains several things. In the first place Hezekiah... doing that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, turned his attention to the house of God. And it says that the house of God was closed, the doors were shut. Hezekiah did two things: he opened the doors of the house of God, and he cleansed the house.

Perhaps you wonder what there is today that corresponds to that and how we can in any way find a parallel. Of course, if you are thinking of the house of God in terms of bricks and mortar, of stone, of ecclesiastical buildings, or of an organisation and an institution called the church, then you will find no parallel. But if you turn to consider the great revelation of the mystery entrusted to the apostle Paul, the mystery of Christ and His members forming the house of God, a spiritual house, with all that that means as a dwelling place of God as the sphere of spiritual functioning on the part of all the members of Christ, you are bound to come to this conclusion: that has been closed, that has been lost to the people of God generally. That is something which has not been opened to the Lord's people. It was open at the beginning, but for a long, long time it has been as though the house of God was closed - the doors closed - so that if you speak to multitudes of the Lord's own children today about the real nature of the church, the house of God and the Body of Christ as a spiritual and heavenly thing, you speak a foreign language. You speak of something they know nothing of. Although that mystery, hid from ages and generations, was disclosed through the apostle at the beginning, it has returned to the state of mystery for the vast majority of the Lord's people. It is a mighty thing, one of the most vital, most important things in the whole Word of God. With it all the purpose of God from eternity to eternity is bound up, and it is a most practical thing for the people of God here and now.

You see how it is impossible for us to embark upon the unveiling of the great revelation of the house of God, we can only mention it. Our point is this: that there needs to be a rediscovery of that, a recovery of that great revelation for the people of God, for the house of God. For the majority today it means nothing more than an ecclesiastical building or a society called the church. It is not a revelation which has broken upon them and, in breaking upon them, has emancipated them from everything that is merely earthly and after a religious kind. The Lord would today raise up a ministry for the recovery of this tremendous reality: the heavenly, spiritual and universal nature of the house of God.

If you have any doubt about it, go back to the Word, and you can read again the letter to the Ephesians, the letter to the Hebrews, the letter to the Colossians, parts of the Roman letter, and the letter to Timothy. There you have the house of God in view. Paul says that it was given to him as a special revelation to fulfil or complete the Word of God. It is the final fulness of revelation. It is all gathered up in "...and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all" (Eph. 1:22,23). That is where things commence with the house of God. 

Then Hezekiah purged... for a lot of things were inside which had no right to be there. The house of God has become something other than it is in the mind of God, and there is a great deal within the house of God which has no right to be there. When Ezra came from the distant place of captivity, you remember that in the rebuilding of the house everybody had to prove his pedigree, give evidence that he was a true child of Abraham to have any part in that thing. If any of them could not show their pedigree they were suspended until they could. That turned men into lines of very, very energetic activity and exercise. You can see these people searching to find their registration, that they could bring the evidence and show that they were true-born children of Israel.

There are a great many who have taken possession of divine things and come into relation therewith, and a great many things have been brought in which have not the countenance of God. All this has got to be thoroughly purged out, and the house of God has got to be brought to what it is in God's mind. Everything that is not wholly of God has got to be set aside. What a thorough purging it was!

Illumination and Revelation

You notice that another thing that Hezekiah did was to light the lamps in the house of God. Only one word need be said about that here. The restoration of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in illumination and in revelation amongst the Lord's people is needed. What a need there is for the real ministry of the Spirit in the house of God amongst the Lord's people, by which they are themselves brought into the light of God's full thought directly and immediately! Oh for the Holy Spirit's enlightening...

We are working with Ephesians in the background all the time. Here is the recovery of the house, the opening up again, the great revelation of the house of God. When Paul has introduced that in the Ephesian letter and spoken of it as the ministry which had been hidden and brought it out as a disclosed mystery, and said marvellous things about it as to God's thoughts before times eternal, as to His purposes, as to the counsels of the Godhead, then he says: "I do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know..." (Eph. 1:15-18). Then he lists the great things to be known by revelation of the Holy Spirit.

There is a need for a recovery of the full knowledge of Christ as the embodiment of God's thoughts concerning His people. The people of God have, for a long time, been going on in the strength of things said to them and things written for them. It has all been objective. They listen to sermons and addresses and get all their knowledge that way, or they read books. It is an objective knowledge of things of the Lord, and it does not get them very far. With it all, so few of the Lord's people have much enlightenment in their own hearts. A spirit of wisdom and revelation is needed. The lamps need to be lighted again in the house of God.

Perfection and Satisfaction

The next thing from verse 18 of chapter 29 is related to the offerings, with the supreme factor or element: the blood. We will say a brief word about this.

We know from the typology that these offerings are Christ, viewed from different angles. You notice that they were brought in fulness; there was a completeness about things in these offerings. Look at the details. Typically God's foundation for His testimony in an active, living way is being restored. His foundation is Christ. God must be satisfied. God must have all His rights. God's rights relate to holiness and righteousness. God's standard of things must be answered to fully, and God must be able to come into a place where He is perfectly satisfied and has all that He has a right to before He can go on with His people. These offerings are, in type, the bringing to God of those perfections which are in Christ.

His people must be brought into a place where they also answer to God's thought before He can go on. He must find perfection amongst His people. There can be no testimony to the world until He has found perfection amongst His people, but that perfection will not be found in what His people are in themselves. It will be found in their two-handed apprehension of Christ. They bring both their hands full of offerings, which are Christ's spiritual and moral perfections. They have laid hold of them with two hands, and held them before God. And, in effect, they say: "These perfections are made ours by faith. We cannot present ourselves, because we can never satisfy God, but there has been put into our hands a perfection not our own, yet made ours through faith and God finds in us satisfaction because of His perfection." That is God's ground. Depart from that ground and testimony ceases, life again comes under a cloud. Stand for that, with both hands of faith grasping God's full satisfaction in His Son, and God goes on with you; the testimony goes on.

We will have more to say about the blood another time, but remember that it is the blood which provides the living basis for God to proceed. The blood is the life, and God only proceeds upon a basis of life. And that life is an incorruptible life, a deathless life, a life which cannot come under judgement. That is the life of Christ as represented by His blood. The blood is the life, the life is in the blood, and this blood is incorruptible, deathless, and this is sacred to God and provides the basis of life where death can never come. That is why we plead the blood, because on that precious blood death has no power, Satan has no ground. It provides for us a standing altogether outside of the realm of condemnation, judgement and death; we are alive unto God upon the basis of the precious blood of the Lord Jesus.

So they caught the blood and sprinkled the altar and all things with the blood, so that everything became a living thing, functioning in life by virtue of this blood which was the incorruptible and deathless life of the Son of God in type. Recovery of that is necessary amongst the Lord's people. The power of the blood, the mighty victory of the blood over death, over Satan, over judgement. The testimony of the blood needs to be recovered amongst the Lord's people in fulness. Of course, it is much more than that, but you can see that these are things which have been largely lost to the spiritual understanding and intelligence of the Lord's people, and therefore they are without these mighty values. That accounts for the spiritual declension and weakness.

A Living Testimony

In chapter 30 you pass to another great thing which occupies a large part of the chapter: the Passover. Hezekiah called all Israel to the Passover. It is remarkable that it comes in this sequence.

First of all the house is brought into view as the inclusive thing of the Lord's people; opened and cleansed. Then the Holy Spirit's ministry is reinstated. Then the ground of God's procedure with His testimony in fellowship with His people in the offerings and the precious blood is seen. Now we come to the Passover.

Perhaps you think that ought to come before the rest. What is the Passover? The Passover is the Lord's Table. What is the Lord's Table? Paul puts it this way: "Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?" (1 Cor. 10:16). The Lord's Table is the two-fold testimony, firstly, to the utterness of our oneness with Christ, and secondly, to the utterness of our oneness with all other true children of God.

To get to that place all this other is necessary. So that this Passover becomes the thing in which the testimony breaks out and shines forth. Oh, what a day it was! Read the chapter again, and you will thrill as you read this story of the Passover. You find that things have now come into an active, living, throbbing state of spiritual life. When the Lord's Table has its place with His meaning, there is always a living testimony. The Lord's Table has become a rite, an ordinance, a part of an order of things, going by various names - part of the Christian practice. It ought to be a living, throbbing testimony! When we come to the Lord's Table there ought to be a wonderful ministration of life. The result of it ought to be as the result was in Hezekiah's Passover. You look at the result in those people and you see that they did not want to go away, they wanted to perpetuate it. They were full of joy and gladness. It was a great time. It had issues, as we shall see in a moment.

That is what the Lord's Table ought to be. It ought to be the enjoyment of our fellowship with the Lord, and of our fellowship with one another as His people and a living testimony to that two-fold oneness. If it is kept in its place it must be that, and any contradiction to that would keep us away from the Lord's Table. That is, if we are at variance with one of the Lord's people we have no right to go to the Lord's Table until that is put right. If there is something between us and the Lord, we have no right to come to the Table. We shall destroy the meaning of that Table and the value of it if we do. Given a life unto the Lord, and in full fellowship with His children with no bitterness in our hearts, no unforgiving spirit, no division, that Table is the great testimony to the unifying power of the blood and Person of Christ with which we become one. The Lord's Table needs to be recovered as to its place in the thought and meaning of God.

This all comes under what we said at the beginning. It is a recovery of God's thoughts about things, God's thoughts about His house, God's thoughts about His Christ, God's thoughts about the Table, God's thoughts about the blood.

The result, as you see from verse 23 of chapter 30 was worship and gladness. There is surely a need for recovery amongst the Lord's people, with true, joyous worship of the Lord together and the outgoings and the outflowings of the heart. Here you have the musical instruments in evidence and the people singing, and the song of the Lord began. There is need for more of that early joy to be recovered amongst the Lord's people. As it was in the beginning, they ate their bread with singleness of heart and much gladness. There was a state of real joy amongst the Lord's people in those first days. They continued in fellowship and although things were difficult on the outside, there was much joy amongst themselves. Oh, for a recovery of this. It is so different from what Christianity has drifted or sunk into... a joyless form, something to be done for conscience sake, or because we have been brought up to do it. The real joy of the Lord as in the house of God, as in the Lord Himself, needs to be recovered.

Destruction and Provision

We pass to chapter 31. What arises here? Well, when you have got this situation and this position recovered, when all this is intact, then you find that people who have got to this condition, get a perception of what is wrong and therefore of what must go. And so, when they had tasted of the true thing, the real thing, and had a taste of the genuine thing, that which had been taking the place of the genuine thing came under the axe. The people came up from their distant cities, towns, villages, hamlets, and as they came they saw on the way these other altars, these symbols of other worship, these marks of departure from the Lord and they were not a bit troubled and not a bit impressed. These things said nothing to them. But when they came to the Passover and tasted the real thing and met the Lord, immediately they became very sensitive about these other things. They went out and with axes and hammers and they broke down all these false things, these things that had substituted for the real.

It is remarkable how when once you have tasted the real thing, you become alive as to how wrong the wrong thing is. It is no use telling people to smash up their wrong things to begin with. It is no use taking that destructive course, until you have given them a taste of the real thing. Provide the genuine thing, and people will soon become alive to what the other is and they will do the work. It is wonderful how, when once we have tasted of the Lord, everything else ceases to have any kind of attraction to us but becomes nauseating. Whereas these people came up and were not touched in their consciences by all this wrong, when they had come into the true, then they themselves went out with hammer and axe to get rid of the other thing.

The Lord must first of all recover His own thoughts in fulness, and then we shall see all that is other, and all that is less, going under the hammer. Let us have in expression something of the fulness of the Lord and when people come to that, and see that, and feel the life in that and the reality in that and meet the Lord in that, they will not be able to tolerate the other in so far as that is not the Lord's thought. This is the line, and this is what happened here. They went out as living witnesses against all that was evil when once they had tasted the true, the good and the right.

Then we come to chapter 31 and look at verses 4-6. "Moreover he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might give themselves to the law of Jehovah. And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel gave in abundance the first-fruits of grain, new wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly. And the children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of dedicated things which were consecrated unto Jehovah their God, and laid them by heaps." Transfer that from Hezekiah's day to our own day, and what does it mean? This is no exaggeration, this is no fiction. It is true that when the Lord's people begin to come into the greater fulnesses of the Lord, all the strain of carrying things on and working hard to make ends meet, departs. Instead there is abundance, the Lord has taken responsibility and the needs are met, and there is the wherewithal. That is not only in temporal things but in spiritual things. There is the fruit of the Spirit, a generosity, a love, a joy, a peace... the fruits of the Spirit. It can be put to the test. Some of us have put it to the test. You stand for God's fulness, and you get any number of the Lord's people to come into a greater measure of the Lord's fulness, and you find that one of the natural, spontaneous results is liberation of resources. There are means for the work of the Lord, and there is fulness in God's house. It is marvellous what you can do when once you come into a living experience of the Lord; more than you thought you could do before. That is just touching things very lightly, but it is very true.

That was followed, as you see, by a distribution of precious things, and that is another side, another aspect of this recovery work. It means that the Lord's people want others to have what they have got. It is a proof that the thing is not just doctrine and teaching, it is life. If it is only doctrine, teaching, interpretation of Scripture, then this will be lacking, but if it is coming in a living way into the fulnesses of the Lord, then the mark is that you are anxious that other people should have it and should come into what you have come into and should get the good of it. And so there was a distribution of the precious things. May we be marked by that.

A Battle

Chapter 32 comes next, and here we meet the enemy. "After these acts of faithfulness..." (verse 1). What a way of summing things up! "After these acts of faithfulness Sennacherib...". It is always like that, but Sennacherib is not only an enemy as such, he is a complement. Very often the complementary forces to Christianity are antagonistic ones. The devil does not waste his powder and shot on nothing, the devil does not get roused and enraged for nothing. If he thinks it worth his while to turn his attention in any direction, you may be sure that it is worth his while; that is, that there is something there that represents something for God. Anything that corresponds to what we have been saying of the house of God as a spiritual unfolding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit amongst the Lord's people and the glories of Christ apprehended by faith, the power of the blood brought in and stood upon, the Lord's Table which is the testimony to the oneness, then the result is energy. On the one hand, energy against all that is less than God's mind; on the other hand, energy that the good, the blessings, the precious things, should be ministered to all the Lord's people. The enemy is not going to take that lying down.

There is a most illuminating little word in the margin. The passage reads: "Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah and besieged the fortified cities, and thought to break into them for himself [thought to break them up]" (verse 1). It is always like that. That has been his way all along. You get recovery in the Lord's people, in the Lord's thought, and a blessedness of fellowship which embodies those thoughts, and the enemy's objective is to break that up. That has been his way again and again and again. What a battle we go through while the enemy is seeking to break it up, but, blessed be God, the Lord's resources are more than equal to the situation. Sennacherib has got to reckon with the Lord when we stand true.

Look at the forces of Sennacherib, look at the immensity of his army, and then read verse 21: "And the Lord sent an angel...". One angel! That is the proportion of divine strength. Oh, that we recognised that. It only wants one angel of the Lord to deal with Sennacherib and his mighty host. There is a mightier host than Sennacherib set against us - principalities and powers, world rulers of this darkness, hosts of wicked spirits in the heavenlies. It is not an angel that the Lord will use to deal with them. The Lord has come out Himself: He "disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him" (Col. 2:15). And the Lord Who has met the enemy in full force triumphantly, is with those who stand for the fulness of His Testimony.

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