"Then answered one of the young men, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is skilful in playing, and a mighty man of valour, and a man of war, and prudent in speech, and a comely person; and the Lord is with him" (1 Sam. 16:18).
For now I am returning to the subject of chapter 4 when we were occupied with the ministry of praise and worship. I want to turn you to one of David's psalms, a psalm to which we have referred a number of times, Psalm 22. You will note how the psalm opens, and then pass from those words of terrible distress, darkness and affliction over to verse 22: "I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the assembly will I praise Thee." You know that is quoted in Hebrews 2:12: "I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing Thy praise."
Now, that Psalm 22 is headed with the words, "To the Chief Musician". This is something handed over to the leader of praise, the leader of worship, to become a part of that great ministry under his direction. That is, it is something given by David to the chief musician for the people of God, an ordinance in Israel for ever. You remember how, long afterwards when the kingdom had been rent and divided, the captivity had at last taken place and these seventy years passed, and the remnant returned and Nehemiah came back to rebuild the destroyed wall of Jerusalem and he restored this ministry of praise. He sought out the Levites and set them in two great companies to march in opposite directions towards each other and meet as they sang these praises, and the phrase is, "as David had appointed". So this is an ordinance in Israel forever. It is something which marks the recovery of testimony, if Nehemiah represents anything at all.
But what is this twenty-second Psalm? It is the pathway from the deepest depths to the highest heights, from the bitter cry of forsakenness up to the place of absolute victory and right into the heart of a resurrection family. For that is the point that the apostle is making so strongly in the letter to the Hebrews where these words are quoted: "Both He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one" (Heb. 2:11), one family, "for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing Thy praise" (v. 12). Right into the heart of a resurrection family, there to sound the praises relating to His tremendous victory over death, and that is gathered into those terrible first words - "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" So here we have the end which is the praise of His glory (Eph. 1:6). That is the end, the end for which we are kept, to which we are being brought.
The Eternal Future
But what about the present? Surely that is not all reserved to the future, to the coming ages. Surely this is meant for the present in some spiritual experience and reality. Surely now the risen Lord would sing and does sing in the midst of His brethren, in the midst of the assembly. Of course, we need to make a little adjustment about this matter of future and present. It will be helpful if we just spend a minute or two on that matter, because sooner or later, we shall all, the young men and the young women included, have to come to recognise that in Christianity the eternal future is predominant. Do you grasp that? The predominant thing in Christianity is the eternal future. We have to adjust to that. It is predominant. It is over all, it is the thing which governs everything in the Christian life - the eternal future.
But it is here that we need just to get things adjusted. There was a period in our history in this country particularly, but also beyond, when there was a predominance of an unhealthy morbidity in relation to the future. You have only got to take up that hymn-book, and you know there is a predominantly Victorian section in it. Those of us who have just emerged out of the Victorian era remember so well that the hymns which were most loved were the hymns about going to heaven and about the loved ones in heaven, and somehow or other nothing could be sung or said without bringing in the deathbed! We took our last gasp and floated away on wings and so on, sat on some mystical cloud dangling our legs over the edge, striking a harp. All that was the mentality. I do not mean to be funny, but that was the kind of thing that obtained for a long time. It came from a reaction represented by the Puritans, a proper reaction in its way, but there it was, and it was not healthy.
We now live in a time of the violent reaction to that. The pendulum has completely rebounded and swung to the other extreme, so that in our time it is this world and this life which has become more than anything else to most people. Things have so changed, with all the educational facilities and possibilities and provisions, with all the facilities for travel and seeing the world, and getting about, with all the tremendous development of that, and all the opportunities that exist now in this world, especially for young people, which did not obtain fifty years ago. This world has become something very much more. This life has taken on a new significance. The pendulum has swung to the other extreme, and young people do not like those ideas and thoughts and hymns about going to heaven and all that sort of thing.
We have got to get adjusted over this. It may be an extreme opposite to what was, but it carries just as great a danger as what was. We have to reaffirm that whether you sing those hymns or not, whether you like those ideas or not, the fact is that that eternal future governs everything, and we have got to set our lives in the light of it. We have to set our education in the light of it, we have got to set all the facilities that are given to us in the light of eternity. Even our recreation has got to come under the government of that eternal future, for, after all, a true child of God is someone who is disrelated from this world, and a true child of God going on with God, will find it more and more difficult to have a comfortable relationship with this world. The fact is, we will find it more and more true that we are pilgrims and strangers here.
Schooling for Eternity
Now, why all this? Because if it is true that the eternal future governs and dominates and overcircles everything for the people of God here on this earth, we have got to recognise one thing: that we are in a school for eternity, and that everything of the Lord in our lives is intended to be a part of our schooling for eternity. We will have to come to it. Some of us know this now increasingly as we get on. There is so much crowded into our lives which has no explanation nor justification if there is no eternal object in view. At the end the schooling is not completed. In the last years of our time we are not set out of school and given a little recreation, and playtime. We are not given a holiday at all. Right up to the end we are kept in the school and as we near the end we are conscious that we are only just beginning to learn.
I said to myself yesterday morning, 'Oh, that I had my time over again with my present sense of how much there is to be known in the Word of God!' We could live another dozen lives on what we are glimpsing. It is because of this great truth that this is only the preparation, schooling and education for sonship. This is the way to something which will justify everything, and we have got to get hold of that, because this life does become so much. There is that in us which clings to this life, to this world, and thinks it is everything. Our major disappointments and our greatest sufferings are because of temporal disappointments and things which belong to this life which are not as we would like to have them. It may be hard to accept, but sometimes it seems to me that the Lord is quite prepared to allow disappointments in a man's life so far as things here are concerned in order to get eternal things in that life. That is how it seems, so great is this matter of what we are called unto. We are called with a heavenly calling, and the glory lies there.
Joy a Present Fruit of the Spirit
What about this matter of praise? We are saying that the end is this fulness of praise, the whole universe filled with glory in terms of praise. That is the end, and I believe that the real fulfilment of this prophecy: "In the midst of the church will I sing Thy praise", is then. The real fulfilment, the completeness of that, is then in the glory when Christ in the midst of the great multitude which no man can number will sing in the midst of His brethren. But that future has got to come here, in some measure, and the future day does come into the present by the Holy Spirit. Remember that the Holy Spirit is the eternal Spirit and the Holy Spirit has the whole thing in mind and in hand, and is working towards the complete purpose of God, and everything that the Holy Spirit does is something that He is, so to speak, taking out of the eternal fulness and bringing it in. So the Holy Spirit, when He has His way, a free way in the people of God and in the midst of the people of God, will bring something of that eternal praise into their midst. He will bring Christ as the Chief Musician into our midst. He is bringing Christ in in many ways now. That is His work - to bring Christ in, and in many ways this is also His work, to bring that ultimate fulness of Christ's glory in praise, in singing, into His people now. That is sonship, and you and I are in the 'academy of music' of heaven now. We are supposed to be learning this great song of eternity.
Of course, we know it is true if we only look into our experience. When first the Lord came into our hearts, we thought we were ready for eternity right away, there was nothing more to be done. Heaven has begun; what are we waiting for? Yes, the Holy Spirit then gave us a touch of the ultimate. But then He has shown us ever since that we have to learn the principles of the way of glory, of sonship, and we are learning them in a hard school. Yes, the Holy Spirit would sing as Christ in our hearts and midst. It is what the New Testament speaks of so often as the Lord's joy. "That My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full" (John 15:11). Today we are historically, and I think in our hearts spiritually, remembering that great morning, but you remember about that morning when He appeared and spoke to them, it says "while they still disbelieved for joy" (Luke 24:41). If you are going to be an unbeliever, be one of those! That is the only kind of unbeliever that is allowed. "They disbelieved for joy." You see, the new note of the eternal future has been struck in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. That note did resound again and again on that day and during those forty days they were filled with joy, and then when the Holy Spirit came, you hear this note being struck everywhere. There was great joy in Jerusalem. They were scattered and it says "and there was much joy in that city" (Acts 8:8), and souls turned to the Lord. Well, it is true, "the fruit of the Spirit is... joy" (Gal. 5:22). That simply means that if the Holy Spirit is having His way, He will bring something of that eternal future of glory into our hearts now. I do feel that this is something to be recovered. I speak to myself just as strongly as to you, because I can be just as miserable as anybody. We need to recover this, this which emerges from the triumph of the Lord, which comes up out of that dark depth of His forsakenness on our behalf. We need that to be recovered in our hearts.
There is a very great deal that is practical in this connection, for I find that I can gather the New Testament around it, and especially I can gather the letters of Paul around this very thing. When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, there was not much joy. There was neither joy at Corinth nor in the apostle's heart, and remember he was a man full of the Holy Spirit and the condition of the heart of the apostle is a reflection of the Holy Spirit in him. If Paul cannot write with joy it is because the Holy Spirit in him is grieved. Therefore it means this - if this glory is to come in, if there is to be a foreshadowing and a foretasting of that eternal glory in terms of praise, things must not be as they were at Corinth. You never have the glory of the Father where there are divisions, not only between companies, but between groups, between twos and threes, and between twos alone. You will not have any song where that is so. If you really are governed by the Holy Spirit, if He is having His way in you, you will lose your song when you get out of tune with another child of God. Divisions, personal interests: "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos" (1 Cor. 1:12) bring in the 'I' and the song goes out. It is true to principle.
So I could go through this letter touching on this and that. There is no song, no music, no praise, no glory in it. You can never conceive of the eternal glory as having in it people in sectarian, divisive conditions. You have got to live with that other Christian for all eternity there, so start now! If you want the glory then, have the glory now. That is the basis. You know quite well, as I do, that it is true to principle. Get right, get that trouble cleared up, let Euodia and Syntyche be of one mind, and the joy at once returns, the song comes in. It is always like that. It is a miserable thing to be out of spirit and out of heart with another child of God.
Now, follow that through Paul. I am not going through all the letters, but you notice there are those where there is no song. To Galatia there is no song. It is almost a dirge, almost like a funeral march. Why? Things have been pulled down to the earth out of heaven and made traditional and legal. The song goes out when it is like that. Keep up in the heavenlies, off that kind of legalistic ground and the song will be heard. Think of Philippi, for example. Paul seems to be singing his way through his letter to the Philippians, "My brethren beloved and longed for, my joy and crown... my beloved" (Phil. 4:1). He cannot stop to find words for this overflowing. The song comes out in full harmony for Philippi. Why? Well, look again and see. You have got the nearest approach to something in the Philippian church and the Philippian letter that you have in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit brings the eternal future down into the present if He has His way, and these are the conditions, the laws of that sonship which is the consummation of everything in glory. These are the laws, and I can only introduce you to them and make these suggestions. The point is this, that the Holy Spirit wants to make us a joyful people, the people of all people on this earth who are having a good time, to fill with that which is going to fill eternity. Therefore the Holy Spirit must not be grieved or resisted, He must not be checked and frustrated. If He has His way the result will be joy in our hearts.
I must leave it there. You see, this is the ministry which brings to God His inheritance. It does say that the Lord has got what He has set His heart upon, and that is revealed in the psalm, the music, the joy of His people. "How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head" (Ps. 133:1-2), and it is as precious to the Lord and more precious to the Lord, than it is to anyone else.