The Testimony of the Christ

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 8 - The Continuous Testimony of the God of Hope and Resurrection

"And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself... And he said unto them, These are my words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me" (Luke 24:27,44).

"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:13).

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1:3).

That is the message of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead. And it is that note or that fact that God is the God of hope, that runs right through all the Scriptures. Viewed from one standpoint, the Bible, the whole Bible, centres in and circles round this one thing: God is the God of hope by resurrection - in other words, by the triumph of Life over death.

There is very much of sin and death in all the Bible, very much indeed, but they are not the last words. When all has been said about sin and death, it is Life that ultimately emerges. If the Bible did not begin and end with Life, we might well say that it is the story of sin and death. But it does begin with Life and it does end with Life, and all that lies between the beginning and the ending is just the material for the God of hope to show, to prove and to demonstrate the supremacy of Life over sin and death. God commenced with Life as the supreme factor, and although death did spread its dark shadow over all the earth, and although death did so persistently assert itself against Life and raise its evil and ugly head so constantly, that head was just as constantly bruised, and the issue was with Life and is with Life and will ultimately be with Life. It is a grand thing that our Bible, which is the sum of human history and this world's course, ends with such a glorious picture - fulness of Life, a river of water of Life. The God of hope... that means that in every dark situation, God never despaired and never gave up. He knew the tremendous power of resurrection, of Life.

And so this twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel by Luke brings to us the whole course of the Bible and the Scriptures - to Moses, the prophets and the Psalms - in terms of Christ's conquest of death, for the central point of the chapter is that the Christ ought to have suffered and to enter into His glory through death and resurrection and what resurrection means: the manifestation of the very essence and nature of incorruptible Life. That is glory, that is the meaning of glory. Let us then be taken back once more, not to repeat what we have already said, but be taken through very hurriedly with this great thought, this great reality - the God of hope by resurrection.


We have seen the invading of God's beautiful world by this foreign element of death, and we have seen how so soon it began to strike out and smite right and left, beginning with Abel. Sin and death moved out in vicious malice to assert themselves against God's testimony of Life and to seek to preach their 'gospel', to fill the earth with their gospel (which is anything but a gospel) that death and sin are the masters and the lords of creation. But even when Abel becomes in a sense their victim and is stricken down, God is triumphant; Life is triumphant. This sovereignty of God in Life works right in there, and we have to move right on through many centuries right into our New Testament era to be told and to have it made perfectly clear, that Abel was not swallowed up in death, that was not the end. We hear an inspired prophet saying about Abel, as about many others to whom we refer in a moment, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, God having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect (complete)" (Heb. 11:13,40) which, if it says anything at all, means that Abel comes to his completeness with us, and Abel lost nothing but gained a lot. He is included in all that which is gathered into one word: 'better'. It was better for Abel. That is God's triumph always: it is better. Sin and death do their worst and reach as far as they can, and then they think, as they stand looking upon the prone body of their victim, that they have triumphed, and God says - Something better! The God of hope... whereas to human eyes it looks like despair and the end.


You see the setting of Enoch's life in a world full of sin, full of iniquity and full of death. It is no new observation and no new thing upon your ears that Enoch is mentioned right in the midst of a long and almost monotonous line of people who died and are buried. So-and-so died and was buried, and another one followed him the same way, and on they go, this mortal procession, graves upon graves, men marching to death and the grave. And then right in it there is this break. "Enoch walked with God" and he did not go into the grave, "he was not; for God took him" (Gen. 5:24). Just right in the setting of the working of sin and its outcome in death, the testimony has its flame maintained in one man, one lonely man, but the whole testimony hangs upon that one man. And the testimony is that he does not go the way of death, he goes the way of life. "He was not, for God took him". Of course there is so much more bound up with all these people. We are just touching on the one thing - the continuous testimony of the God of hope.


The next is a very dark scene indeed, the days of Noah. God looking and seeing the iniquity of man, that it was great upon the earth, and God repented that He had made man. It is always a problem to me why it should be put like that - God repenting, seeing He foreknew - but we will not stop with intellectual problems. It surely means that God saw something that He just could not accept. So in the days of Noah there is this practically universal operation and activity of sin and of death, meriting a universal grave, and so the deluge, the flood. But when sin and death have become almost utter, almost absolute, when the whole earth seems to be swallowed up in this mighty apparent triumph and conquest of sin and death over life, God maintains His testimony, wherein eight souls were saved - seven plus one, the plus one is always resurrection. Eight is always that. The God of hope, even in a scene like that, maintaining His testimony of resurrection, and death does not wholly triumph, death is vanquished in that simple vessel, that apparently small means, but it is sufficient to contradict worldwide sin and death. And so, however great it is, here is something which, according to human measurements, will not compare, but according to intrinsic values is more than all that. Apparently a little thing upon a mighty flood, a little handful in a great world populace, a little representation in a mighty overflowing of sin and death... but it triumphs. It is the corn of wheat so small in the mighty earth, but it is sufficient. It has the power in itself to make nothing of all the rest. It is God's secret.


From Noah to Abraham. Abraham's whole life was marked by this very principle of the God of hope. In many different ways the principle of life triumphing over death is to be found in Abraham's life. But we gather it up into the final scene of which Paul makes so much. Abraham the old man, the aged man, taking himself, so to speak, up into a corner and looking at himself and saying, "Abraham, you are an old, worn out, wrinkled man, and there is no prospect in you at all, no hope in you at all." Paul says that "he considered his own body now as good as dead" (Rom. 4:19). He looked at himself and said, 'Abraham, you are dead.' And when it seemed that the way of nature and the way of death was working to its ultimate conclusion, it was just there that God intervened and raised His testimony in Isaac, so that the cumulative and culminating testimony of Abraham's life is resurrection over against death and is hope over against utter hopelessness. He "in hope believed against hope" (Rom. 4:18), he believed in the God of hope. "There sprang of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of heaven in multitude, and as the sand, which is by the sea-shore, innumerable" (Heb. 11:12). Paul carries that argument a long way in his letter to the Galatians. He carries that on to the Seed, the One Who is the life springing out of Abraham's death. That is wonderful.


Isaac - we have said much about Isaac in relation to this very thing, but once more we must recall the complete impossibility of Isaac having a being at all on any natural ground. There was no accounting for Isaac apart from the God of resurrection, apart from a Life that is more than a natural life and is different from a natural life. His being was because of the working of that other Life figuratively. And then the great central and inclusive event of his life which, as we said the other day, is the explanation of Isaac altogether, for there is not much else in his life that is of account, very little indeed that matters very much. He just came into this world and went out as representing one thing - a resurrection from the dead. The God of hope represented by the lifetime of one man with just that one thing - His resurrection Life.


Through his life there were various points at different times when, but for the intervention of God, Jacob would have gone out and would have carried on no testimony, but there at the end is the cumulative testimony. Jacob and his sons have become involved in a worldwide famine and the prospect is no prospect at all for life, and in this wonderful sovereignty of the God of hope, as Joseph said - "God did send me before you to preserve life" (Gen. 45:5) - God working. When Jacob has come to very old age and death is descending upon him and upon his family to blot out the continuance of this testimony, God is acting sovereignly.


And how sovereignly did God act in the life of Joseph! We have seen that, just for one thing, that the testimony should not be blotted out, that it should be carried forward, that the God of hope should be the God of His people. I think we need not stay with Joseph. We have seen how that man went far down into death, death brought upon him by evil brethren and by evil men and by the evil powers behind all. And if ever a man's situation spoke of hopelessness, I think Joseph's did at one time. In the dungeon and forgotten, his soul entered into iron and he was tried by the word of God. It does seem a hopeless situation, but it is one of those romances of this God of hope. He, by this sovereign intervention, is rescued and is delivered.

Israel in Egypt

We pass on from the individuals again to the corporate, to Israel in Egypt. We used the phrase that it sometimes seems as though the forces of evil get the people of God in a trap with no way out, and surely that is how it seemed with the children of Israel after the death of Joseph in Egypt - as though they had been caught in a trap and there was no way out, and there they are. How often the word 'bondage' is used about their situation. All the way afterwards whenever their time in Egypt was referred to, it was always referred to as the 'house of bondage'. They were captives, and, as though the Lord goes out of His way to accentuate the reality of their bondage, nine plagues, nine mighty judgments upon Egypt failed to release them. Truly this is a death house. Yes, and then at last death, and they are only delivered from death by a very definite and specific act of God. The house of bondage is plundered, the God of Life destroys the power of death which held them there. The end of the story of their time in Egypt is just the glorious declaration of Life triumphing over death, of a mighty resurrection as from the dead. There it is. Israel in Egypt, the testimony of Life, the God of hope over against a very terrible state of despair.

Israel at the Red Sea

The Red Sea - what a situation. They themselves were in terror that night. They knew that if for a moment that strong east wind were to subside, that was the end of them as a nation and they would be overwhelmed. Death was like two mighty walls on either side, and death was behind in the pursuing Egyptians. The Red Sea was a scene of death, but the God of resurrection got them to the other side.

Israel in the Wilderness

See how the testimony is being kept alive all the way against death, and yet when they got into the wilderness and had had their good sing about their deliverance, all too soon, almost immediately after that very singing of praises it seems, they turned to their murmuring and to their grumbling. They came to Marah and found the waters bitter and they murmured. This was another threat of death, for, if God did not again do something, it was death for the whole nation. He intervened at Marah, He gave them sweet water for bitter and saved them alive. Soon after it is the question of food. How are they going to be provided for in the wilderness? And God sends them manna out of heaven. You know what the Lord Jesus makes of that: He links it with Himself as the Bread of Life from heaven. It is Life in a scene of death, Life in a wilderness where no one can live, except miraculously.

They come to Rephidim. Again it is a question of life and water for life, and the rock is smitten, and they are saved again. It is one long succession of interventions of God in terms of Life against death. God is fighting out this battle. They come to Sinai. You know what happens at Sinai, when Moses goes into the mount to receive the testimony, and, after being there so long, the people's patience having worn thin, he comes down. And here is the noise of singing and shouting and dancing, and the terrible disclosure of the calf and alliance with that whole kingdom of iniquity which is under judgment and death, and this certainly means death for the nation. Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, "Whoso is on the Lord's side, let him come unto me". And all the sons of Levi went over to him. You remember what Malachi says about that right at the end of the Old Testament. "My covenant was with (Levi) of life and peace" (Mal. 2:5), and Malachi dates it back to that very incident. The covenant was made with Levi, the covenant of life and peace, when Levi separated themselves from this iniquity and the nation was saved. God intervened, Life triumphed over this sinister breaking in of death - Life again.

We remember the murmuring against God and against Moses, and then the fiery serpents, the nation being mown down by this very symbol of sin and death, the embodiment of sin and death, the serpent. Then the elevation of the brazen serpent, the look of faith and the situation saved. For all who will look, it is Life again triumphing over death. And you know what the Lord Jesus made of that as to Himself. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life" (John 3:14-15).

To Kadesh - spies sent out; the report brought back; the majority, however, negative; and the Lord saying that nation shall not inherit; back into the wilderness to die. But two men become the nucleus of another generation, and in Joshua and Caleb you have God's reaction to the universal death of that nation - to raise up another people on the grounds of resurrection.

Israel at the Jordan

And when He has got Joshua and Caleb and the new generation, and the old has died, this new generation in Life has triumphed over sin and death. He puts that nation very definitely upon that basis for all time in the Jordan. Just visualise the scene again. What I am trying to indicate is the continuity of this testimony of the God of hope and resurrection. Visualise that scene at Jordan. The people have to get to the other side of that Jordan, and God is not waiting until the Jordan is at low ebb, and is just a trickle and they can easily scramble over. "The Jordan overfloweth all its banks all the time of harvest" (Josh. 3:15), and it was at that time that God chose to get them over, to get them through. Death, yes, death at flood, but this people going through without a touch of it. It is all, of course, so highly figurative, but there it is, God bringing a people through the flood of death without being touched by death, absolutely victorious over death.

Israel in the Land

We go through the whole books of Joshua and Judges, and there this story continues in many aspects. See in the book of Joshua the great reality of Life triumphing over death. The atmosphere and scene changes somewhat with the book of Judges, for sin and death have spread their dark cloud again over the nation, but God is not allowing His testimony to go and to be swallowed up. Here He is again and again intervening to keep His testimony alive, and there are some glorious epochs even in the book of Judges. There are some wonderful things as of the God of hope in that book. But it is a sad story. The book closes... well, how does it close? So far as the actual book is concerned, it seems to close in death, it seems as though now the testimony has faded out, now it has gone, now the enemy has triumphed - a dark situation. Yes, but you know it was just there at the end of the book of Judges that the book of Ruth came in. It belongs to that period.


And what is the book of Ruth? It is a very beautiful little story, but more than that, it is a scene of death. Here is the famine again, here is Naomi leaving the land, and going into the land of Moab. It is all death, it seems as though there is an end of everything. But the sequel? Well, to make the story short, the sequel is Boaz, Ruth and Jesse, the father of David, and what a new prospect that presents! What a wonderful new outlook there comes with the house of Jesse. David is on the horizon. In the darkest day, when it seems that sin and death have well-nigh blotted out any testimony at all, God works so quietly, so simply, so beautifully. Yes, away there in distant Moab He has His vessel. He will bring that vessel back into the land, and through that vessel His testimony will flame up again and become brighter than ever.


And yet that is not the end of the dark story, for then we move right into the first book of Samuel, and the situation again is that of the Judges. Everything that is of God seems to be at the lowest ebb, in the heaviest shadows. Eli, his sons, the meeting place at Shiloh... the whole situation is terrible. But there in the country is another woman praying. Hannah is travailing in soul and Samuel is born, and Samuel is God's hope for the whole situation, he is God's reaction and God's promise. Samuel comes in to carry on the testimony. It is again in a scene dark and terrible that the God of hope raises up His testimony in another vessel to carry it on. There are lots of dark things in the days of Samuel even, but Samuel holds things for the Lord, and, although Saul does come in and seem once more to threaten the prospect, to write failure over the testimony, to get in the way, definitely get in the way of God, God does not give up and He brings in that son of Jesse. He has had His eye upon him quietly outside the scene, the Lord was taking account of David in the field. Samuel said, "The Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart" (1 Sam. 13:14). The Lord had been looking round to find His man, and there he was out there, outside of this scene, quietly carrying on in faithfulness his day to day work, counting upon God, trusting in the Lord. For he said later - "The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear..." (1 Sam. 17:37). He had evidently trusted the Lord in those incidents. He said, 'Now, Lord, You see me through this.' He was quietly walking with God and God was watching him, and he is the answer to this terrible situation brought in through Saul. He is God's link in the testimony.


David himself goes through many experiences of death. I do not know what the Lord Jesus used from the Psalms, as it says in Luke 24. I think He may have taken something out of the second psalm about Himself, He may have taken something out of the eighth psalm about Himself. Out of the twenty-second - "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Out of the twenty-third psalm and others. I do not know, and I am not going to say that what I say, He said. But I do see this: that when He referred to the Psalms, He referred to the book which contains the history of a man who went down and then went up. That is the story of David; the man who descended, the man who went down. Ah yes, down, tragically down, sometimes terribly down, sometimes down by his own sin, down by his own fault and weakness, down, terribly down, but up, up. "When I fall, I shall arise" (Micah 7:7). A man of resurrection.

I think it is a marvellous story, the story of sovereign grace in David's life, seeing that it is in David's life that we are allowed to see the most heinous sins, things that shock and scandalize everybody. And weaknesses. Was not his very driving out of his kingdom by his son Absalom the consequence of his weakness? Absalom was a murderer, and David brought him back without repentance, and forever after David's throne was weak. You cannot do that - bring in the murderer. You know where the murderer comes from. "Ye are of your father the devil... he was a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44). And David brought Absalom back on sentimental grounds, and you cannot be sentimental with death. Death is an awful enemy. Do not sentimentalize about death. David brought him back in weakness, and he was made weak. But with all, and the terrible mistake of numbering Israel against the advice of even quite a carnal man, numbering Israel, and involving himself and his nation in that devastation when again the nation was being mowed down. But deep as were the deaths, terrible as were the situations which seemed to speak of hopeless breakdown, he is the man that comes up in the sovereign grace of God. He stands in all Israel as the pivot of Israel's life. It is to David that God is always pointing, after all, as the man and is glad to speak of His own Son as the Son of David. Sovereign grace - and the testimony is carried on ever like that. Oh, what time we want to pursue this matter right on through the life of David.

And then the tragedy of Solomon's dividing of the kingdom, and things seem to be going from bad to worse now. It does look now as though things are going to come to a sorry and terrible end. The kingdom is divided.


Then we move into the next part of the Lord's dividing of the Scriptures - "Moses and... all the prophets". But when we come to think of the prophets, we know that they were set in this dispensation or this part of the dispensation which was most characterised by sin and death. The sin of idolatry, the sin of forbidden communication with the powers of evil through idolatry, and the darkness is deepening: the kingdom divided, Judah under Rehoboam, Israel under Jeroboam, and what a sorry story it was. With a few short breaks and flashes of light, in the case of Hezekiah and one or two others, it seems that now everything is engulfed, it is going down. But in the midst of it all, even with such a one as Ahab, of whom it says that there was never a king who provoked God as Ahab did, (what a dark situation - Ahab and his evil spouse Jezebel) we are in the prophets, and Elijah is on the scene. God is reacting, and if Elijah represents one thing, he does represent a mighty challenge to this thing, and his life here and there is just characterised by this overcoming of death. The testimony is being kept alive by the Lord. Elijah is kept alive as the vessel of the testimony in a miraculous way. He himself is maintained on this very principle of Life overcoming death. From the brook Cherith he goes to the widow of Zarephath. Her son dies, and is raised from the dead and given back to her.

This man (you know the story of how it was done) himself is the embodiment of this master thing: Life. We have the great incident of Carmel when Baal seems to have covered the land. Baal worship seems to have captured everybody. There seems to be nothing of the Lord. There were a hundred prophets hidden in caves by Obadiah, but there seems to be almost complete conquest of the evil forces... and then Carmel. I need not tell you about Carmel, Elijah challenging the whole range of this evil thing in the Name of the Lord and breaking it. Once again the testimony flames up.

And if we really want cumulative proof that this man stands for this very thing of Life triumphant over death, it is the end of the man and his translation to glory. Death does not overtake him or capture him. He eludes and he triumphs over death and is taken up in a chariot of fire to heaven, but not before he has left a very good representation of the testimony behind in Elisha, who, in many more ways than his master, declares this great truth of Life, mighty Life.


First there are the waters of Jericho and of the falling fruit before it ripens, the outworking of that very curse which Joshua pronounced upon Jericho. "Cursed be the man before the Lord, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: with the loss of his firstborn shall he lay the foundation thereof, and with the loss of his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it" (Josh. 6:26). There was a curse on Jericho, its waters are cursed, and there is no life to bring things there to completeness and perfection. And the men of Jericho came to Elisha and told him their labours were vain because of these evil waters, and through the new cruse and salt they are healed. Life triumphant over death. So he goes on from place to place.

Out to the Shunammite woman, her son, given by miracle, dies and is raised again. The sons of the prophets go out to gather food, come back with the deadly pottage, and Elisha heals with the meal, and life is saved. A hundred men are starving and with twenty loaves he feeds them. If you knew the size of the loaf out there you would see the miracle, just twenty little loaves, and one hundred starving men. That is the miracle. It is life, continuity of life. Naaman, the Syrian, marked by that deadly thing, leprosy, and healed. The work of the sons of the prophets in building their new home interrupted, the incident of the axe-head falling into the water, and Elisha making the iron to swim, and right on. And again himself at the end dying, in his sepulchre; bands of the enemy coming, a dead man cast into his sepulchre and when he touches Elisha's bones he revives and lives. The man from beginning to end is this: Life triumphant over death.


And it is just at that point that Jonah comes in. The Lord Jesus took that up. "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet: for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:39-40). Resurrection - the third day raised again. You cannot fail to see this thing proceeding. It is something that is running all the way along.

Israel in Captivity

But now we come in full view of the captivity. Iniquity has spread and has got deeper and deeper and stronger and stronger in its grip so that the prophets appeal in vain. They warn in vain, they plead in vain. We listen to Jeremiah, to all his heartbroken pleading. We listen to Isaiah with all his warning, and those others of the pre-exilic prophets and their ministry, but it has no effect, and away they go... Israel to the Assyrian captivity, Judah to the Babylonish captivity. And now we say, That is the end, sin has won now, death has triumphed now! But we are not through the Old Testament yet. There are other prophets who, while they are telling of the grave into which the nation will go, the grave of captivity, of exile, a terrible grave, they are almost with the same breath telling of resurrection. Ezekiel away there with them in the grave, but not in the death, prophesying his prophecy of the dry bones that are going to come together, to live, to stand up again. Isaiah looks beyond the captivity with some of the most glorious things in the whole Bible. God is not giving up, however the situation may appear. There are men there like Daniel and Ezekiel in the captivity, holding the testimony in Life with death all around.

The Return of a Remnant

And then we read the lovely little books of Nehemiah and Ezra - 'a remnant shall return', and they do, and we move on at last to Malachi when "they that feared the Lord spake one with another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard" (Mal. 3:16). I think the Lord found, although in so few, something very satisfying to His heart because it answered all the rest. This is His answer in this company. Even so, Malachi's prophecies are shadowed with sad and terrible conditions, and the Old Testament closes.

The Birth of Jesus

We know the history of the next four hundred years between the Testaments, those violent and heroic fights of the Maccabees to keep the testimony alive. We know of the rise of the great world empires. Babylon has already arisen, the Medo-Persian empire, the Greco-Macedonian empire, the great conquest of Alexander, and they are all focused upon Jerusalem and upon Israel. They are all circling round that. That is the bone of contention, the heart of the whole thing. It seems dark and terrible now.

God's Reactions in the History of the Church

And you open your New Testament. The Roman empire is in existence, the others have all gone down. You open your New Testament. Need we say any more? Jesus is born, the battle springs up again. In His first days, these evil forces set to work to engulf Him, but God sets to work to preserve. God is doing things as well as the enemy. Then men conspire, men plan, men provoked by the very devil himself, are bent upon the destruction of this One; and at last it seems they have won. They have crucified Him, He is dead. They have done their work. Sin has conquered, death has triumphed. Has it? God raised Him from the dead!

It is a great story. I have only given you the bare outline of it, but it is a great story. The God of hope! How hopeless it seemed again and again. How the evil forces seemed to triumph so frequently. How sin seemed to be the master power. And it has been like that ever since. The church has been plunged into this and again and again it looked as though the testimony was gone, the flame is well-nigh quenched. Through the Dark Ages, as they are called, God has marvellously moved. It is a wonderful story, the story of these past centuries, of how God has preserved a testimony, and it is not dead yet, and we look on through our book of the Revelation and we know how it is going to end. Oh yes, great contentions, contentions on earth and contentions in heaven, but the issue - caught up to the Throne of God and Life triumphant.

Some Practical Points of Application

Now, that is the story. It is worth telling, it is worth tracing, but it can just remain there as a story to us. I must bring it very briefly and quickly to some practical points of application. Do note that it has not only been a matter of God reacting and overcoming and subduing or subjecting this dual foe. It has not just been that. It has been God taking hold of that very thing to turn it to fulfil His purposes. That is something more. God is not only conqueror. God is more than conqueror, and to be more than conqueror does not mean that you just kill your enemy and then destroy him and tear him to pieces after he is dead. That is only being conqueror. Being more than conqueror means that you take his strength and add it to yours. One is negative, the other is positive.

That is illustrated in a little incident in the Bible in the life of one of the prophets of whom we have been speaking. Elisha and the besieged city wherein he was because he has been giving the enemy's secrets away to the king of Israel. In the morning the prophet and his servant woke, and saw the city surrounded and the servant said, "Alas, my master! How shall we do? We are surrounded by an army!"  And the prophet, almost frivolous, said, 'Don't you worry about that, there are more for us than they that be with them'. And the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he saw the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire. And the prophet went down to the army and said, 'Lord, smite them with blindness' and He smote them with blindness. And the prophet seemed to tell a white lie. 'This is not the place you are looking for: follow me, I will show you what you are looking for'. He led them into Samaria, into the city, and they were captives now. When the king of Israel saw he had them at his mercy, he said, "Shall I smite them?" Elisha said, 'Will you smite those who have become your prisoners? Give them a good hearty meal, provide bread and water, and let them go to their master', and he provided a meal and let them go. "And the bands of Syria came no more." He was more than conqueror. He might have wiped them out but had made them friends. It is an illustration of how the Lord has all the way through turned this very thing - sin and death - to positive gain in different ways.

Firstly, He has used death to remove that which can never be glorified, and that is something. That which can never be glorified is taken away in death. You see that principle again and again, and that is really the meaning of the death of the Lord Jesus, to get out of the way all that cannot be glorified. That is why the Lord is applying His Cross deeply in our lives, to get rid of all this that cannot be glorified: self, this nature, this natural life, and all that - to get it out of the way. It can never be glorified. He has used and is using death in that way. Every recurrence of death in the case of the people of God has been a purging thing.

Now follow that through. It delivered them from something. How the Lord finds in us things that are in His way, some kind of obstruction, this strong selfhood of Jacob, whatever it might be, He finds that in us. He must apply the Cross. It has got to be broken, and He takes us into an experience of death, a deep experience of death of the Cross, and we come out. That thing has been dealt with, we shall not have so much difficulty with that again. Maybe there are other things to go the same way, but that has been touched. So the Lord uses the death for deliverance, for purging.

And then what shall we say about the use of death to bring us to a deeper knowledge of Himself? What we owe of our knowledge of the Lord to our dark and bad times! We will not say an untrue thing if we say that there is little knowledge of the Lord apart from knowing Him in the power of His resurrection, necessitating the fellowship of His sufferings.

Then how He has used death to release from limitation. If the Lord Jesus is the great example of that, how through the Cross and through death He was released from all His limitations, then how He was enlarged through death in resurrection! The principle holds good. We are limited, we are tied up. We go into some deep, dark experience under the hand of the Lord, and it is a liberating thing, it is an enlarging thing. David cried, "In pressure thou hast enlarged me." A strange way of getting enlargement, but it is very true to principle.

Well, of course, all nature proves this, that through death enlargement comes. Death has been and now there is the enlargement, there is development and growth. Release through death and enlargement through death. God has written the law everywhere, but He has written it especially in the spiritual life of His people. The great truth is that He has not only conquered and crushed, but He has turned to account His enemies, He has made them serve His ends. We do not know the meaning of Life, real divine Life, except as we come to know something of the Cross.

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