"... reaching forth unto those things which are before ...
toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus
(Philippians 3:13-14)

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Vol. 1, No. 4, July - Aug. 1972 EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster



Roger T. Forster

CHRIST made it clear to the Laodicean church that He had reached His Father's throne not just by birth or by favour, but by overcoming. It follows, then, that since the essence of Christianity is "Christ in you" the Christian life must be full of conflict, a battle even to the death. Moreover, what is true at the earlier stages of our Christian experience continues to be true right up to the end, there is no real respite from the war with Satan's kingdom. Those who have thought of Christianity as anything less than a fight from beginning to end may well be disappointed and feel themselves to have been cheated and deluded when, having expected to find life all smooth and pleasant, they discover themselves to be caught up in a great conflict between two kingdoms, the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of evil.

Now you and I are on the periphery, the outside edge, of this world conflict, and we are not to turn our backs to the enemy, but to face him and throw ourselves into the fight. Unhappily we do sometimes find the pressure so fierce that we turn our backs on the serious issues and prefer some soft, sentimental kind of religious experience rather than the virile, fight-it-out faith which is characteristic of the cross. The cross was no make-believe; it was bloody, horrific and devastating; the early Church knew this and the book of Revelation shows the severity of the outward conflict. Nowadays the battle may be more inward for most of us, but the issue is still the same, and the consequences of refusing to give worship to man are as harsh as ever.

In those days even an old saint like John was not allowed to die comfortably in his bed, but was exiled to the rough work of the Patmos mines. To the unenlightened it looked -- and still looks -- as if the crucified Lamb is not, after all, the final answer to Satan, for still evil has the advantage and the world is overrun by harshness and oppression. The early Christians seemed to have everything against them, and they might well have asked, "Is this all there is to offer after all? To fight and suffer and die, and have no victory, in a world which is as strong as ever? Is the cross really the answer to life and eternity, and to the ever-present problems?" It must have seemed that the enemy always won, and that there was no real hope of victory for the followers of the Lamb. For this very reason John was given a vision -- in fact four visions -- to reveal the true nature of the conflict, showing how it is being fought and who is winning. We need such a vision continually if we are to be nerved for the fight, to face the foe and to know that the victory is the Lord's. We need John's vision, and perhaps we can catch something of it if we consider the four occasions in which he claimed to have been "in spirit". These are mentioned in Revelation 1:10; 4:2; 17:3 and 21:10. Only as we too are "in spirit" can we catch a glimpse of the glory of Christ's throne and the consummation of the spiritual war.

In each of these four sections there is seen a throne. This does not mean, of course, that there are four thrones, but we are called to consider four aspects of God's throne, so that we can see the authority by which He is holding and governing the universe. By means of the four thrones God's rule is analysed, so that with John's help we can be shown what it is that Satan is really attacking and how his hand is against the throne of the Lord (Exodus 17:16 R.V. margin). His hand is not just against you and me. It really doesn't [61/62] matter much to him whether or not we are successful; what does matter, though, is God's authority, for this is what he hates. We, in ourselves, are nothing to him; what he hates is God's Son, the chosen Ruler. We are unimportant, but Satan is against us if by hurting us he can express his spite against the Lord. So, though nothing in ourselves, we are totally involved in this attack on the throne. By seeing clearly what Satan is aiming at, we are better equipped to fight back. We need to know his strategy, to know our weapons, and to know how to keep in touch with the Lord on the throne. We are completely committed to this war by virtue of our union with Christ, so we do well to pay attention to this vision of the four thrones.


This is the first expression of God's authority, and it is against this as part of God's right and rule that Satan is always seeking to incite men to rebellion. God's Fatherhood is eternal: it existed before the creation. In due time it has found its expression among men; and so every time the enemy attacks the Father's authority he is trying to destroy God's eternal purpose for men, which is sonship. Every time he can trick us into carelessness about sonlike behaviour, tempting us to say or do that which is unworthy of our Father's holy name, he is making an attack on the eternal Fatherhood of God. God plans to have sons, conformed to the image of His Son, so if we can be induced to act in an unChristlike way, to fail in proper obedience as sons, then a blow has been struck at the Father's throne -- even through us! So our selfishness can mean that we are being used as tools to undermine the authority of God by seeking to diminish or contradict the glory of His Fatherly throne. In a similar way, when Satan tempts us to fail to show fatherly love to others he does this not merely to mar our spiritual life, but as a deliberate insult to God's character as Father. When he hinders or deflects us from spiritual fatherhood or reproducing as maturing Christians, then the Devil wins a battle (1 Corinthians 4:15). And so the war goes on -- the war against the Father's throne.


This throne, associated with the Lamb, is surrounded by various classes of beings who represent the totality of God's creative activities. The presence of the Lamb shows us that the secret of God's government of His creation is suffering love. Man does not understand this kind of throne, he relies on the forceful rule of the strong arm, the mailed fist, and wrongly imagines that God is a kind of super-despot who does the same thing as man and Satan, only on a bigger scale. As for the slain Lamb, the crucified, well to natural eyes His experience seems to give conclusive proof that Satan has prevailed. This, however, is not the case -- far from it! God's way of ruling is by suffering love, and every time we share the bread and wine at the table of the Lord we declare that we repudiate force as a way of government and have complete faith in a God who rules by the cross. Other world rulers have their hands stained with blood, but it is the blood of their opponents. God's King has His hands stained only with His own blood.

In the light of human misery people sneer at this throne, asking how it can be a throne of love when wars, calamities and wickedness produce so much human suffering. These are ill considered arguments. If God's throne were one of naked might He could soon end human selfishness with crushing judgments, but if He did this, which of us would survive? Once He began to crush sinful people then which of us would not be destroyed? No, brute force is not God's method; His king reigns from the tree. It is difficult for us to maintain a steady faith if we do not have a clear vision of this governmental throne. Satan attacks it constantly, by whispering to us that God cannot be love. He is always trying to express his enmity to the throne by seducing us into doubting the efficacy of the cross as the divine method of government. Every unlamblike outburst of ours, every carnal effort to rule affairs or people by force, in fact everything in us which savours of harshness, is really a devilish trick to belittle God's throne. Satan not only wants to entrap us -- he wants to wound God through us.


This vision portrays the last assize where all men must stand, with the records open and all judgment committed to the Son. The enemy tries to convince us that the throne is not really white -- not as white as all that -- but that there are shades and degrees, and that everything is relative. This is his lie, for the throne is as pure white as the Man on it. Now what makes this throne the more terrible is that its occupant is not some austere inquisitor, but is incarnate love. Heavenly love opens the books; heavenly love investigates [62/63] every detail; heavenly love will never be satisfied until it has penetrated the deepest recesses of the object of its love.

We don't always like being investigated. Our prayer tends to be, "Don't search me; don't try my heart; don't turn Your white light too intensely into certain recesses of my life. Let me run away from the great white throne!" Every time that we re-act in this way, however, we are in complicity with Satan against God's judicial throne. We may not mean it in this way, but this is what lies behind it all. It may be even more surprising to realise that of the many ways by which we can unconsciously aid Satan in his attack on this throne there is probably none worse than self-righteousness. The man who tries to write his own account and stick it down over the record written on the pages of God's book, is playing the enemy's game, trying to hide the stark truth with his own biased version of what happened. We often do this, little realising that we are insulting the great white throne and the Man upon it whose name is the Truth. What a fight it is, though, to keep our actions and motives exposed to this white light of God's judgments! And it gets harder. We begin our Christian lives in such simple sincerity that we are glad to open ourselves up to God's Word but we so often succumb to Satan's wiles to make us cover up and excuse our faults. When we do this we are taking his side in the battle against the throne.


This city here revealed is the administrative centre of God's universe; it is transparently clear, and its focal point is the throne. The servants of God function in relation to this throne. They bear the Emperor's name on their foreheads and they reign in loving service. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that Satan's present assault upon this imperial throne is to induce us to stop working for God, to yield to slackness, to take offense and leave the work to others. Or it may be to try to get us to work without having that name stamped on us, to be active without being Christlike. All this is an expression of the hand against the throne. Why is it that in any church almost all the work is in the hands of a very small number of people? Why is it that the one-talent members refrain from playing their part? Is it not the result of the cunning plots of Satan to vent his spite against God's imperial throne? He attacks the Emperor by discouraging or corrupting His throne servants. But he must not succeed! We who have come "in spirit" to know something of the importance of that throne must rise up in the power of the Holy Spirit to serve wholeheartedly for the honour of His great name.


As we do so we ask what are to be the instruments of our service, or the weapons of our spiritual warfare. Some of the answers to this question may be found in the book of Revelation. There are three in 12:11. One is the word of our testimony: we must be bold and understanding in our use of the Word of God. Another is meekness: Satan's kingdom is built on and maintained by pride, so that the humility of the Lamb is an essential instrument to break its power. Then there is "the blood of the Lamb": Christ's blood is the full answer to all Satan's accusations and claims. Moreover the God who has destroyed the kingdom of death by the blood of His Son will not waste the blood of the martyrs. He will use the blood shed by His suffering people in China and elsewhere to intoxicate and destroy Satan's kingdom. The harlot, Babylon, is seen actually to destroy herself by drinking the blood of the martyrs.

There are many other instruments which could be mentioned, but we limit our consideration to the great weapon of prayer. We can see in this book how the prayer of the saints is the way by which God's throne, particularly His governmental throne, can be brought into operation. When the Church prays, then things begin to happen.

The whole matter is illustrated by the golden bowls, or vials. We are told that these golden bowls full of incense are the prayers of the saints (5:8). As God's people begin to praise and worship, offering Him these bowls of prayer, things start happening here on earth. Seals are broken. As each of the first four seals is broken there is a command to a rider to go forth. One by one the various riders emerge and move out -- because of prayer. After this three more seals are broken each consequent upon the prayers of the saints. Then again, more prayer is offered with incense (8:3). When the censer is filled with coals which are poured out on the earth, then seven trumpets are sounded, and further events are precipitated by these trumpets. Following these, seven bowls are taken and used to pour out the wrath of almighty God (15:7). The same words are used at the beginning of the seven seals and the seven bowls of wrath, namely "golden bowls", and these [63/64] would appear similar to the "golden censer" at the beginning of the seven trumpets. Both bowls and censer have incense added to them for offering, but it must be noted that it is the bowls which are the prayers of the saints (5:8 Greek) and not the incense itself. As we offer ourselves as empty bowls or centers -- not knowing what to pray for as we ought -- God will add the fragrant incense of Christ by His Spirit (Romans 8:26).

From all this we see that there is an intimate connection between the working of God through the seals, the trumpets and the bowls, and the prayers of His people. When we lay hold of God's throne in prayer, things happen on earth, they happen in the spiritual world, and they happen in men's hearts. The seals unloose political events -- precipitated by prayer. The trumpets deal with the spiritual world -- in answer to prayer things go from heaven to earth, stars fall out, demon forces are unleashed. All this is in answer to prayer. Again by means of the bowls, the wrath of God is poured out -- and people know it. They are not able to get up thinking that they are suffering just from a bad Monday morning feeling which they can shrug off, but they are forced to realise that God's displeasure is against them. Men are not allowed merely to deplore that they are depressed or to wonder why they are anxious, but they are made aware that there is something between them and their God -- and all because of prayer. The Church has left the world in its present psychological condition by not praying for it, and as a consequence men are able to ignore the fact of the wrath of God.


All the great events described in this book are connected with the golden bowls. A praying Church affects political events, it affects the supernatural, it affects the hearts and consciences of men who are far from God. If we do not pray, then politics will just go on as before; if we do not pray, then nobody is aware of supernatural powers and warned against them; if we do not pray, then how can men know that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness? If we do pray, then we can influence those who are in authority, for whom in any case we are commanded to pray, and we can exploit for God the inevitable happenings among the nations. There will always be unrest and wars, bloodshed and famine -- Jesus Himself said so -- but as we pray, these things can be steered and exploited to bring to a head God's purpose in history. There will always be demonic forces, evil spiritual powers which affect and infect men and women, but as we pray the warning trumpets may be sounded. God's wrath will always be revealed, but as we pray men may be led to sense what it is all about. So by these three means, the seals, the trumpets and the bowls, the world can be made to see, hear and feel the reality of the throne of God. A praying Church is a disturbing Church -- it is meant to be. Kings and rulers take counsel together when the Church prays. The beast and the false prophet make war with the followers of the Lamb and there bursts forth war in heaven when the Church prays. We are a disturbing, troublesome people when we are in touch with the throne by prayer.

Some will say, "but I don't know how to pray like that." All that God asks of you is that you will be a bowl. Surely that is not too difficult! And yet perhaps it is difficult to many of us, for the bowl must be empty. When, however, we do offer ourselves in this way for the service of prayer, then it is that incense is added to our prayers, and it is this incense which ascends to God. We are to be empty bowls, but the Spirit is able to add that which is inexpressively valuable to God. We are to pray always in the Spirit, but this does not mean that we are to wait until the Spirit moves us (or until we think that we feel Him doing so) before we pray. If we do that, some of us will wait for ever. No, "praying always in the Spirit" means that as we always get going, offering ourselves as bowls, the Spirit begins to move and leads us out in our prayers far beyond what we knew or thought.

Sometimes, of course, we do know what to pray for. I was once in an R.A.F. camp where we had arranged to take 300 men to an evangelistic meeting in coaches, when an order went out confining all men to barracks. We just had to cry to God, and one of the Christian men, in praying, quoted the verse "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord. He turneth it whithersoever He will" (Proverbs 21:1). From this we concluded that a mere Wing Commander was nothing to the Lord! And so it proved, for an unheard of thing happened: the order was rescinded and an exception made in our case, so that the crowd of men could go to hear the gospel. We are meant to be movers of things here on the earth by being in touch with God's governmental throne, taking up current affairs and steering them to a Christ-glorifying end.

We are also meant to get involved in the realm of unseen evil. In one of my university gospel [64/65] teams I found a girl student who was not even converted, so naturally I enquired her history. It appeared that she had become involved in the spiritist activities which are carried on at all our universities nowadays, and as a result had woken up in terror. Her fears were so great that all she could do in her desperation was to cry out, "Love of God, help me!" This brought her relief and the next day she consulted a Christian student who took her to a C.U. meeting. At this meeting appeals were made for helpers at the mission, and she felt so grateful to the "love of God" that she signed up to assist in the campaign. After two days of vainly trying to lead others to Christ, she discovered her own true need, and passed from the vague "love of God" to a vital faith in Jesus Christ, and knew the transforming and lasting power of the gospel. What had begun this sequence? I feel sure that someone had been praying, and so the trumpet of warning against tampering with demonic forces had sounded for her. There can be no question about the spread of spiritism, but let us not be frightened, but pray. Prayer brings in God's throne.

By our prayers men must also be made to know that it is not just frustration which is dogging them, but the terrible wrath of God. One night in the Hebrides there was an R.A.F. man monitoring radar. He had hitherto been an atheist, but during the night he became deeply troubled about his soul, and as he watched a moth flying round his light it seemed to illustrate to him in a vivid manner how he was drawing nearer and nearer to destruction. He could get no rest. The wrath of God seemed so real and so imminent. In the end as soon as he was free he walked five miles to seek the help of some Christians, and so found salvation and peace in Christ. When the Church prays then such men come to know that they cannot afford to be atheists, for they have to deal with an angry God.

All God requires is bowls. When we feel that we do not know how to pray we must remember that we are followers of the Lamb. The people of God do not have to look or feel lionlike, they are not expected to give outward impressions of strength or ability, but in all their weakness they may offer themselves as vessels for throne prayer and so trouble history and make it move towards God's final end. If we do not pray, time and happenings are being wasted. If we do pray, then everything can move swiftly towards the great day when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ. There is no doubt that when that great day does come, there will be much deeper joy for those who have helped to hasten it by using their weapons for God, than for those who have only been spectators or theorisers. Christ reached the throne by overcoming, and so must we. Prayer has a real element of warfare against great odds; but let us not fail God at this critical hour in world history.


T. Austin-Sparks

Reading: Jeremiah 1

THIS title has nothing to do with a youth's conceited idea of his own importance, but the very reverse of any such idea, for it indicates how God selected a weak and insignificant instrument through whom He could bring His own throne to bear upon the nations. The rule committed to Jeremiah was a spiritual one, and God still seeks to influence and govern world events by spiritual means through a praying Church.

Jeremiah has a very real message for us in this connection. We can be helped by all the men of God described in the Scriptures, for they represent spiritual principles which are not limited to any particular time, but are eternal in their significance and abiding in their value. Jeremiah, however, seems to me to have a special application to the time in which we live; and as we study his story we can find how he illustrates a divine instrument which is nothing in itself but has tremendous throne influence on current affairs.


One of the most significant and important events in his time was the re-discovery of the book of the law by Hilkiah. The first effect of this discovery was that king Josiah intensified his reforms and summoned a great national gathering for the celebration of the Passover. He himself stood to the Word of God, and all the people declared themselves ready to do the same. Jeremiah, however, [65/66] a man who could never be content with the merely external, had his reservations; he did not believe in the downright genuineness of it all, so far as the people as a whole were concerned. And he was right.

Josiah himself was doubtless genuine, and meant all he said, but it seems perfectly clear that the people themselves were not wholehearted in their committal. The ground of Jeremiah's reservation was the "notwithstanding" of 2 Kings 23:26, which shows that the long drift away from God's requirements could not be reversed by a mere emotional outburst called revival, but needed something much more radical. So Jeremiah was not carried away by the good and apparently sincere movement. He had spiritual perception which pierced through the outward appearance.

Such perception can be painful. Jeremiah found that his discernment got him into trouble all along the line. His reserve was not due to temperamental or constitutional cynicism, as though he were one of those negative people with a critical and destructive attitude, even towards the best that is. No, Jeremiah was far too sensitive spiritually for this, and would have been only too glad to have found something which did truly represent heart adjustment to God. He was a heart-stricken man, ready to weep day and night for the people's misfortunes (9:1). There is a great deal of difference between the passing of critical judgments, censorious attitudes, a discontented spirit, constant fault-finding, and the sorrowing heart of a man who truly suffers with God. It is easy to see faults and flaws; it costs nothing to criticise; but it is very painful to see with the eyes of God and to sorrow with Him over the difference between mere professions and what is genuinely according to His mind. Let me say that critical people are no use to God; He will give no anointing to them, for they bring in death and not life. Jeremiah represents an entirely different spirit. His suffering ministry seemed to pull down and root up, but it also had a positive building result. All this is made clear in the account which we are given here of his call.


Jeremiah's immediate and spontaneous reaction to his calling and commission was to say, "Ah Lord God, I cannot ...". This may not sound very spiritual but actually Jeremiah's sense of personal inadequacy was an indispensable factor in his whole calling. The Lord knows whom He is apprehending and sending, and we can take it as settled that if Jeremiah had been a man full of confidence in himself, God would never have called him. This sense of personal weakness and emptiness is essential to God; this is where everything begins in a life marked out for divine purpose. If the Lord were doing some small things, partial things, He might have used a less empty vessel. There are people who enter God's service full of confidence in themselves, and in some measure they are used by God. Their usefulness, however, is very limited until they realise that God's full purpose requires that the work should be wholly of Him, with no room for man's sufficiency. Most of us begin before we have learned this lesson, but as we come more clearly into the light of God we realise that the height of the value of God's purpose in and through us, will correspond with the depth of our conscious dependence on Him. It is basic that God's servant should be aware of his own weakness.

Had Paul been asked to answer Jeremiah's confession, "I cannot speak ..." he would probably have pointed out that God has chosen the weak and foolish things, and even the things which "are not" for His greatest works. Had he continued, however, with his own testimony, he would doubtless have described an experience in which he was given a new awareness of his personal inadequacy which made him more dependent and therefore more usable. "We despaired even of life" was the negative side of this experience, but its positive value was found in the purpose, namely "... that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead". The man who comes down to zero will find that God meets him at that point, for this principle of conscious personal insufficiency is one which God will insist on, and will take pains to establish in us, even at the cost of deep suffering on our part. While such an explanation may be hard for some to receive, it may well be a comfort to others whose strange trials have made them inclined to fear that they can never count for God at all. It is always the Lord's way, to empty us of self strength so that we be endued with His power. Jeremiah's call suggests that it will always be "a child" whom God will set over the nations.


God's answer is always resurrection power. Jeremiah's perception made him dubious about the genuineness of the people's allegiance to God [66/67] under the old covenant, but his ministry was far from being negative, for it was he who first propounded the glories of the new covenant. He may have felt as weak and insignificant as a child, but he had a big part to play in the history of God's people, and in fact when the seventy years of captivity had closed, his was the ministry of recovery for, "... that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus ..." (Ezra 1:1).

Here, then, was the Lord's immediate reply to His servant's difficulty; He gave him a commission which was based on a vision. "What seest thou?" He asked Jeremiah, giving the prophet the opportunity to tell of the almond tree which was full of miraculous significance. Aaron's almond rod budded, blossomed and bore fruit in one night, so being a type of the Spirit of resurrection in priesthood. All the other rods remained dead, as would have done the rod of Aaron if it had not been given miraculous new life, and so become a symbol of Christ's fulfilling His priesthood in the power of resurrection. It was as if God was explaining to Jeremiah that his ministry was not going to be fulfilled on the basis of what he was or was not; the work would be fruitful by reason of the mighty power of resurrection life. So it proved, again and again. There was so much opposition that at one point Jeremiah determined that he would not speak any more. He found, however, that there was a fire -- a divine fire -- in his bones which set aside all his carnal resolutions to be silent and constrained him to speak anew in the power and victory of resurrection. How important it is for us all to have the fire in our bones!

Again, he was put into a dark dungeon so miry that it threatened to engulf him and would certainly have died there but for God's merciful intervention through Ebed-melech. At times it seemed to him that God was as a mighty man who could not save, but the Lord never disgraced the throne of His glory and Jeremiah was always delivered. The almond tree means that whatever may happen, God will always see to it that the end is victory by resurrection power. So Jeremiah not only survived but was the means of producing a God-glorifying remnant who emerged from their seventy-year grave in Babylon to come back to Jerusalem and to its true testimony. The vision of the almond tree was a private promise to Jeremiah: the fulfilment was for all to recognise.

The final assurance of this call gave the guarantee that Jeremiah would have a charmed life until he had finished his God-given task. He did not die a violent death; he did not starve; but he lived on until the work was completed. The story is an amazing one, for he had to pass through indescribable vigours and perils, seeming to have every evil force against him. He ought to have died a score of deaths, but he survived every attack and lived on through forty-two dangerous years. So it was that he proved what we can all prove, and that is that frailty and inadequacy are sometimes the very qualifications for a powerful spiritual ministry.


Unlike Daniel, Jeremiah was never made a ruler by men. He was, of course, a priest, and it was in terms of priestly ministry that he exercised his authority. He did not serve in association with the temple and its sacrifices, but he served in the secret place of heart communion with God. It was there, in that inner life of prayer, that he wept over the tragedy of the blind and stubborn people (13:17); there that he kept alive his vision of God's glorious high and eternal throne (17:12); and there that he found sweet dreams which were no airy optimism but substantial purposes of God (31:26). Even while he was shut up in prison he maintained his prayer watch with God and found fresh inspiration to ask for, and receive, the impossible (33:3). He ruled by prayer.

So fervent and persistent was this man's prayer life that there were times when God Himself had to tell him to stop (7:16; 11:14; 14:11). The last of these references seems to indicate that God did not want to silence Jeremiah, but only to forbid him from asking for a superficial amelioration of the people's lot and a return to the old order. Jeremiah understood this, and kept his prayers focussed on the future, and especially on the new day when Israel herself would seek God with all her heart (29:14).

Although Jeremiah was such a man of prayer he was no recluse. He witnessed fearlessly as well as praying. He wrote messages to the captives in Babylon as well as interceding for their good. He bought his nephew's field, and he visited the potter's house. He lived an active life, but his chief contribution to the current affairs in his day -- and far beyond it -- was through his ministry of intercession. He prayed before he spoke, and he prayed afterwards. When he had completed his business affairs, he turned to prayer (32:16). [67/68]

He ruled for God. His prayers not only kept alive a flame of hope at a time when men were in despair, but in due time they rebuilt and replanted God's people in restored Jerusalem. More than this, they spanned the centuries to inspire Hebrew Christians when once again their holy city was destroyed (Hebrews 8:10), and still today they inspire us to take fresh note of the glories of that new covenant which turns away from dead religious observances to a living and personal knowledge of God by the Holy Spirit. Jeremiah's perception of the unreal did not stop at negatives but led on to this blessed prospect of vital, spiritual union with God. It may seem fanciful to speak of a child over the nations, but was it not our Lord Jesus Himself who said, "Fear not, little flock: for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32)? Jeremiah's history may help us to understand something of how God is working with us so that this divine intention may become a reality.


Harry Foster

"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne,
even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
" Revelation 3:21

WHEN a man of Laodicea opened his heart's door to let the Saviour in, he had every reason to expect a thrilling session of glad fellowship with his Lord. What, perhaps, he did not expect was that Christ should immediately introduce the subject of conflict, making an earnest appeal to him not only to enjoy sweet interchange around the supper table but to put on his spiritual armour and throw himself into the battle for the throne.

Perhaps we are right in using Revelation 3:21 as a gospel appeal. Certainly we are correct in affirming that when Christ is truly welcomed into a heart or a situation, the result is a rich feast of personal, satisfying fellowship. Our mistake, however, has been to make the feast the sole end and object of the operation, when it is clear that the Lord Jesus has higher and more important issues in mind. He desires to see the satisfied saint become a warrior. He wants not only to come into a believer's life to transform it, but He also wants that believer to come into His life, to share in the joys and responsibilities of His destiny, to sit down with Him in His throne.

"... as I ... overcame ..."

Now no preacher has the right to demand of others what he himself has not experienced -- through many do! Paul would not have done so, and nor would John. In this case, though, it was not Paul who was speaking, and although John was acting as intermediary, it was not he who was making the appeal. No, this rallying call to battle and this promise of the throne came from none other than the Son of God himself. He was able to back it up by the reminder that in His own case He had reached the Father's throne by the hard way; He had had to fight and win through. He, of all people then, has the right to preach to us, because He is the very embodiment of His message.

Now it is true that at the start He was protected and spared responsibility. There were satanic attacks on Him from His birth -- as there are upon us from our new birth -- but in His early days here on earth He was cared for in Bethlehem, in Egypt and in Nazareth, by Joseph, who had been provided by God as His human protector. It is equally true that in the early stages of our faith we have human helpers to protect us and special providential acts of God to deliver us. God knows how much we need such fatherly care, and He never fails to provide it.

The time came, however, when once the Son had received the special enduement of the Spirit at His baptism, that He had to face the full fury of Satan, and from that time onwards until in death He finally committed His spirit to the Father, there was daily, hourly conflict. Life for Him was a battlefield, and in a thousand matters great and small, the destiny of the throne had to be decided by victory or defeat. In His case there were no defeats; it was victory all the way. There never could be any question as to His right to sit down with the Father in His throne, for He was able to claim that by overcoming, He had won the right to the place which He now occupies. [68/69]

"... sup ... with me ..."

This was apparently what they discussed over the supper table of the Laodicean believer, and it is a relevant subject for each of us who has gladly received the Lord into his heart and is enjoying the perpetual feast of His presence and love. When Christ made the comparison that we should overcome as He has overcome, He did not intend that we should just try to copy His behaviour -- we should never succeed if we tried -- but rather that we should rely on His victory as the basis for our own. He did not make use of resources which are not available to us as human beings. Though truly God, He never availed Himself of the prerogatives of His deity to get the better of the enemy. This we can well understand, for God never has to wrestle with anyone, not even with Lucifer himself. For Him there can be no need for conflict, since one word from His mouth would utterly and finally crush the whole kingdom of darkness.

He has never uttered this word -- not yet -- and when it is uttered it will come through a Man. This is the higher purpose of God's heart which makes the conflict necessary and underlines its supreme importance, this desire and plan to have sons who can share His rule with Him, men who can sit down with Christ in His throne. For this very reason God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, so that the battle for the throne could be fought out and decisively won in human experience. The Lord Jesus, the representative Man, exposed Himself to the battle, fought and overcame, and then, as Man, returned to take His place in the partnership of the throne.

When Christ had His initial head-on encounter with the tempter in the wilderness, He insisted on keeping the record straight by refusing to move from His self-adopted condition of manhood. "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live ..." (Matthew 4:4). Within the realm of human experience He won a victory -- and He did it for us. Having purged our sins and given us a standing with God as redeemed men, He now offers His own moral and spiritual victory to us, making it plain that He is prepared to face our circumstances and our problems with us and in us, and that victory is possible, by His grace.

"He that hath an ear ..."

If what is now so gloriously true for us in representation is to become actual and operative in experience, then the battle has to be continued in us and through us, so that we may satisfy the Father's heart by taking our place at Christ's side in His eternal kingdom. So it is that in the seven-fold variety of the experiences and conditions of the churches there is the identical call to men to pay heed as to what the Spirit is saying among them, and to understand that, irrespective of the location of believers, there is always this same issue of who will win and who will be defeated.

For although there were good churches and bad churches -- there always are -- the stark issue for each individual believer was his personal behavior in those very churches. Nobody was allowed to excuse himself for defeat by blaming his fellow church members, and no hint was given that victory would be easier, or even possible, by removal to another location. It could even be that our Laodicean friend had moved out of Smyrna because things were too hot there, and sought an easier life in Laodicea where the church was prosperous and free from persecution. If so, he would have found that by moving out he had not evaded the real spiritual issue, for in Laodicea just as much as in Smyrna or Philadelphia, every individual believer was faced with spiritual battle and the alternatives of conquering or being conquered. Open attacks, adversity, subtle schemings, prosperity, loneliness, selfish companions and even betrayal -- all this and much more was found in one or other of the churches, and all this Christ had Himself been obliged to endure and overcome. He met every temptation and emerged triumphant from every battlefield, so now He calls upon us, in whichever church He has placed us, to appropriate His sufficiency so that we too may overcome.

When the seventy disciples were sent out on their mission they had to confront evil, demonic powers, and when they joyfully returned to the Lord Jesus to report their success He gave them insight into the real secret of their victories. He let them know that there was no credit to them, for the secret was not in themselves but in His own comprehensive victory over the prince of all the demons -- "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" (Luke 10:19). Their little triumphs were all the result of His great central victory. If Christ had not obtained the supreme victory over Satan, then there would have been little hope for the disciples in their lesser battles with more limited expressions of the kingdom or starkness. He has overcome! He has overcome for us! And now that He is risen and ascended He can do for us more [69/70] than ever was possible for the disciples before Pentecost, He can overcome in us and through us.

"These things saith the Amen ..."

This brings us to the various presentations of Christ to the seven churches. In each case He began His message to the church by putting Himself forward in one guise or another and inviting the angel and the church members to consider Him. They certainly had to consider their difficulties -- as we all do -- and they had to attend to His appeals and promises, but first of all they must pause to take note of who it was who was addressing them. It was not just a preacher; it was not an apostle; it was none other than the Lord of glory Himself. John had been confronted with the full-orbed vision of the glorious and victorious Lord and had fainted at its immensity. This vision was then divided up into its component parts for the benefit of each individual church, partly because they might not be able to bear the full presentation, and partly because there was a special aspect of Christ which was peculiarly appropriate and helpful in each different locality.

To the Laodiceans the special point was that their Lord is "the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God". Unlike us, Christ always put His "amens" at the beginning of His statements, though in our version the word is usually translated "verily". The man who opens the door for this divine Visitor can be assured that He does not come to bring in questions or uncertainty, but positive assurance that God's purposes can be fulfilled in Him. The claim to be "the beginning of the creation of God" means that He personifies the Father's original purpose in creating man, namely that he should have dominion and rule for God. "Thou madest him to have dominion" (Psalm 8:6), and Christ does not merely lament that Adam failed, but claims that He provides the means by which the sons of Adam may be redeemed and restored to God's original eternal purpose.

It all seems so long ago, and Adam's fall so far-reaching that the Laodicean -- and we -- might be tempted to despair of such a high destiny and opt for some lesser blessing. This is precisely what the Lord foresaw, and this is why He knocked at the door and brought in His heavenly provisions for the intimate fellowship of the supper table. He is tremendously concerned that we should not lose our crown (Revelation 3:11), and this not just for our sakes but because the whole universe is to receive divine blessing through a reigning Church. What a calamity it would have been for us all if the Son of God had failed to make good His vocation to share the Father's throne! It would have entailed unrelieved tragedy for the whole of God's creation. From that throne He now comes to urge us not to lose sight of our high calling and seeks permission to bring in fresh supplies of His living sufficiency so that we can press on to victory and the throne.

One must presume that what He laid out on the Laodicean supper table was the bread of His new nature and the wine of His powerful blood. When we have supped with Him in this way, then we are ready to respond to His loving call to fight as well as to feast, indeed to fight as we feast, to fight in the strength of our feast. It is no insignificant contest. It is the conflict of the ages. It is not for some small prize. The stake at issue is a place with Him, the Servant-King, in ministering to God and men from the vantage point of the throne.



Roger T. Forster

THE recovery of glory and honour for man is an important part of the salvaging programme which God has effected through His Son, our Lord Jesus, and this seems to be the primary emphasis of the instructions concerning Aaron and his sons which are found in Exodus 28 and 29. Here we can see how man's true dignity and glory are restored through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Of course there is a sense in which it is only Christ who is in view, not only in what is said of Aaron but also in what is said of his sons. They all speak to us concerning the One who alone could fulfil the priesthood. Even the sons, in executing the sacrifices, were doing what He alone could do, and in offering the incense they were foreshadowing His unique work. Moreover all the [70/71] garments, and not only those of Aaron, are called garments of beauty and glory (28:40). If you look carefully you will find that the phrase "Aaron and his sons" occurs sixteen times, and there are five other references which link Aaron's actions with those of his sons, so that in these two chapters there are twenty-one occasions when they were spoken of together. It is therefore important that we should not wrongly separate them, for they all speak of our Lord Jesus even when they are also including reference to His body, His priestly body. It is true that His people, His Church, are included in Him, and indeed once we have caught a glimpse of how glory and honour have been recaptured in Christ, the desire of our hearts becomes that we, too, should wear them. Surely this is right. Surely we should obey the Scripture and "put on" Christ, so having a part in His glory and honour.

Perhaps before we were converted we were seeking for "glory and honour and incorruption" (Romans 2:7). We did not know that there is a Man of glory and honour, a Man who was not allowed to see corruption, but as we were disposed to look for these things the goodness of God brought us to repentance, which was the pathway to Christ. We were looking for a value for man, for a glory and honour, a dignity, for something which is incorruptible and not just a handful of chemicals. We did not know where to find them, but as we were repenting God presented His Son to us, and by the Father's grace we were given to the Son, and we saw in Him that Man who is crowned with glory and honour. When this is truly what men's hearts desire; when they really want honour and glory and incorruption, then they discover that these things are found only in the one Man who had them and who by His sacrifice has secured them for us too.

"... put on Christ ..."

So when we look at this type of Christ in Exodus 28 we are never very far away from ourselves. Aaron and his sons suggest this to us, but our problem is how we can put on the glory and the beauty, the true God given values, which were intended for humanity. This is what we hope to discover by our study of this part of tabernacle teaching.

How are we going to put them on? Everything about Aaron and his sons was a matter of "putting on". The ephod was a "put on" job -- not "put up" but "put on" -- for this is exactly what the word "ephod" means. A coat only hangs properly when it has been put on, and that was what the ephod was, a "put on". All the way through these two chapters, 28 and 29, things are being put on to Aaron and his sons. They themselves did nothing, but they had things placed on them. Aaron had blood put on him, and he had things put into his hands, but the emphasis is always on communication or conveying, which seems to be the message of these chapters. The ephod was a "put on", the breastplate was on the ephod, so was put on with it; and so were the shoulder-pieces and so was the robe underneath, which was the robe of the ephod, the robe of the "put on". This seems to be the wavelength of these chapters, for it is this "putting on" which provides a priesthood for God.

All the meticulous details of the two chapters are directed to the one concern of providing a priestly ministry for God. When we say "worship before service", we do not refer to the idea of having worship on a Sunday morning and gospel preaching in the evening, but we really mean that we have no means by which we can serve God until we have first learned to invest the Lord Jesus with His true glory and honour. This is the nature of our priesthood and it does God's heart good, if I may put it like that. He delights in that which is truly a ministry to Himself. As we minister to God we find ourselves engaged in the task of "putting on", and this is what gives us something to share with others. That is why it says, "As they ministered to the Lord ... the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them", and they were sent forth (Acts 13:2). That is why Paul used three priestly terms when he wrote that he had served with the gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum and all the regions round about (Romans 15:15-21), because first of all he ministered to the Lord, and that is how he had a message of life for other men. This "putting on" activity, this investing of Christ with His true honour and glory, is our movement towards delighting God's heart, and by it we have something to offer to those who are without Christ, for it enables them to see something of Him.

"... groweth unto an holy temple ..."

You may remember that when we considered the setting up of the tabernacle and all that related to it, we commented that it spoke to us of an activity which was going on all the time for, so far as we are concerned, the temple is still growing. The Israelites set it up at one fell swoop although, of course, they did have to take it down [71/72] every time they moved, and that itself was calculated to remind them of the need of the truth to be continuous. We are still building in the house of the Lord; the temple is still growing; there is a sense in which we never reach the end of the job of putting up the tabernacle, of reproducing on our plane, the human plane, what is already existing with God in eternity. The tabernacle picture was given for us to reproduce here on earth the truth of God dwelling with men. We have been given this revelation of Christ so that there might be reproduced amongst men that which already exists in the heart of God.

Now, in just the same way, Aaron and his sons being clothed with garments of glory and beauty represents something which is going on all the time. It is not that the Lord Jesus does not already possess this glory and beauty. He does! God has crowned Him with them. He has them in the heavens, in the Father's presence, but in order to reproduce the heavenly state of things down here in our midst, we have to invest Him with His true dignity, we have to keep putting it on Him. We have to be making a priesthood available for God's dwelling, so that He can enjoy and move and walk and express Himself in the fullest possible way among us. We cannot put anything more on to Christ than what He already possesses. He has everything and is everything; He is crowned with glory and honour in the presence of the Father now; and that is unchangeable, it is accomplished. But for that condition of things to exist in our experience we must invest Him with His true glory. We must, as it were, clothe Christ with His full dignity, for this is exactly what real worship is. Whatever the ephod means, whatever the breastplate means, whatever the shoulder-pieces and the stones mean, whatever the robe of the ephod means -- as we express them, as we make them and clothe Christ with their glory and beauty in worship, something happens which delights God. In this way we are ministering to the Lord, and performing our priestly service as a people who come before God to Worship Him. And if we make much of the Lord Jesus, clothing Him with His true dignity, then something happens to us also, and this is what we will now consider.

Out of the wisdom with which the Spirit of God filled the people of Israel, out of the apprehensions of Christ which the Spirit gave them, they were to come and make an actual expression of them, to bring them out from their spiritual intuition into actual substance. This is what worship is. It is as though we were making Aaron's garments every time we gathered together to worship, or if we worship alone in secret. Whatever our spiritual apprehensions of Christ may he, whenever we express them, it is as though there is a bit of the breastplate, there is something of the shoulder-pieces or the ephod or the curious girdle being brought into view. Our apprehension of the Lord Jesus and our clothing Him with glory means that we are sayings "He is worth that! That is His true dignity! That is His proper clothing and that is His real beauty!" And so we worship.

This is what the Israelites were meant to do when they were making these articles. True, they only did it once, but with us it is something which should go on all the time. We are to keep bringing out what we have experienced and come to know of the Lord Jesus by the Spirit of God, the Spirit of wisdom; and to work it out into something tangible, something visible, or at least audible. If you can hear it, and perhaps see it in a brother's face as he prays and speaks of the Lord, then those garments are the ones which move the heart of God and minister to His pleasure, for they represent Christ being shown forth from His people.

"... to behold the beauty of the Lord ..."

We need not only to have spiritual apprehension of the Lord but also to be able to give expression to it. And so, when expression in worship is very thin and low, we have to ask if this is due to an inadequate apprehension of Christ. If we cannot say something to glorify our Lord Jesus when we come together, then certainly the Davidic spirit would seem to be lacking, for he wanted to dwell in the temple of the Lord so that he could behold His beauty for ever and ever. This ministering to God is not additional or optional; it is something which God has asked for from all those who love Him. We do love him, and want to love Him more; let us, then, give Him what He most wants, which is an outward expression of the Lord Jesus.

Now one way of worshipping spiritually is to clothe the Lord Jesus in this manner, but there is another way, too, and that is to clothe other Christians with such apprehensions of Christ. This delights God's heart. When we see these garments of glory and beauty and place them on other believers, then God's heart is moved with pleasure. What does God want to see? Well, He wants to see the breastplate. That is why He had it put on [72/73] Aaron. It was as though He had said, "When you come before Me I want to see that breastplate. That is right! I just love it! And I want to see those shoulder-pieces and that robe of the ephod. I want to see the ephod by itself, because I find pleasure in looking at things that way." So, when we begin to look at one another with this in mind, placing His garments on the saints, we find that we not only please God but also do good to them. Paul is doing this to the Colossians when he writes, "Joying and beholding your order" (Colossians 2:5).

Strangely enough we find that it does us good, too, because we realise that almost unconsciously we are wearing the very same garments -- we have put on the Lord Jesus. We do not put on Christ by deliberately slipping Him on, as if He were a jacket, for that would make us terribly self-conscious of our holiness. No, but when we put the garments of beauty and glory upon Christ in worship, or when we put the garments upon other believers for His sake, we will find, to our surprise, that we are wearing them ourselves. This is how we get clothed. It is not by making some effort to be spiritual, but by seeing Christ in others that we find that we are wearing the true dignity and glory which men were meant to have.

"... they shall take gold ..."

The various garments are brought before us so that we can have a more detailed idea of what true dignity and glory are. First there is the ephod itself, which is made of the same material as the veil, but with one added ingredient -- it has a line of gold woven into it. The material may seem likely to fall apart, for it is made from plants, but this added element of metal, gold, is not only very precious but lastingly enduring. In a thousand years' time the gold will be much as it is now -- it will never perish. The veil of linen, with its colours, speaks to us of the veil of Christ's flesh, as we saw in the letter to the Hebrews, but when a thread of gold runs through it we are reminded of a further element, which is resurrection life. When we see the Lord Jesus in His high priestly work leading the Church as priests unto God, we see Him in resurrection power, in the value of an incorruptible life. This material cannot be pulled apart or broken up, for it has been woven through with heavenly glory, the golden strand which holds it all together. When the Father said, "Thou art my Son. This day have I begotten thee" there burst forth out of the grave the glorious Son of God in the power of an indissoluble life. God has woven a golden thread through all that the Lord Jesus was on earth, so that it can never be lost. His body is a body of glory, with a gold strand through it all. Perhaps it is all right for us to talk about Him as "Jesus" when we think of Him as He was here on earth, but when we address Him directly should we not attribute to Him an honour, a glory and a dignity due to the resurrected Son of God in the glory of the Father? That is why after His resurrection He was always called to His face, the Lord Jesus. He is the same Jesus; none of the veil of His flesh is lost; but the golden thread reminds us of the incorruptible glory which is His as He now stands before the Father and gives Him delight. As I address Him in this way and invest Him with His infinite glory, I find that something of that glory is put upon me. I am in Him; I am wearing something of that same glory; and into my ordinary daily life with its Christlike colours, there is also being woven the golden strand of His resurrection life.

It is the incorruptible life of Christ which gives point and purpose to our lives, and when we look at one another we can see the eternal values in one another. I may say, "Praise the Lord! You are in the power of an indissoluble life; there is something about you through which God has been winding a golden thread." This is so wonderful, and if I cannot say anything else about you, I can say that. It is a lot! It is terrific! You, too, have honour and glory and dignity, as I am beginning to see. It is a pity that I did not perceive it before. It is a pity that instead of concentrating on that honour and glory I chose to criticise you, deciding to pay attention to the things about you which are tainted with corruption instead of looking for the golden strand. God is so much wiser and kinder than I. He loves to see His Son clothed with the ephod, and He loves to see the body of His Son, the Church, clothed with that same ephod. Indeed this is how He regards us today. When we regard God's people in this way, it ministers to His pleasure. We can praise God for one another. We can discern and enjoy the golden thread of Christ's resurrection life.

"... the work of an engraver ..."

So it is that we minister to God. We do not delight His heart by going around and trying to put people and things straight, but by clothing one another with true dignity in Christ. Then, as we look at the ephod, we notice that on the two shoulder-pieces there are two onyx stones, engraved with the names of the children of Israel. [73/74] This is another way in which God looks at His people. They are upheld on the shoulders of His Son, and their names are engraved "according to birth". Unlike the breastplate, where the phrase used is "according to their names", here those names are engraved according to their birth. "The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there" (Psalm 87:6). When God looks at the Church in our Lord Jesus, He sees the names of those who are born again. He does not consider a man as a tiresome old saint who is a bit of a nuisance but as one of heavenly birth, carried on those same shoulders which both carry the government of the universe and carry the stray lamb back to the fold.

When we thank God for this, and recognise how wonderful it is that the names of the born-again are remembered before God in one marvellous family, then to our surprise we find that He begins to put those names on our shoulders, allotting to us a share in the responsibility of Christ's priestly ministry. If we start to thank the Lord for who Christ is, that He is the upholder before the Father's face of all those who are born again, we will find that we, too, start to pray for those same ones, bearing them up before God and so sharing in the priesthood of Aaron and his sons. It is work, hard work, but it is the effective way of influencing the lives of others, to expose them in God's presence and bring them as a memorial before Him.

"... upon his heart ..."

Then there is the breastplate, which was a piece of cloth, folded over the priest's head, with twelve sockets on the front face. In these sockets there were precious gems in three series of four, each being a different stone and each in its right place and the whole resting on the priest's breast. The first two stones were alike and were borne upon the shoulders, whereas these were different in colour and value and all borne upon the heart. This reminds us that God views the Church as composed of many distinctive individuals, for there was a separate name on each one of the stones.

The Lord Jesus has the Church on His heart and so ministers to God's pleasure, for it fulfils His fatherly desire to see separate and particular values in each of His children. We, in our turn, must realise that God's pleasure consists in our being what we are (in Christ) and where we are in relation to others. There is plenty of variation, of course, but the trouble is that sometimes we want to have someone else's colour or position, as if the diamond would rather have been an emerald, or at least would have liked to have been placed next to an emerald instead of being alongside of a sapphire. God, however, sees unique values in each one, and finds beauty in setting them off against one another in the order most satisfying to Himself. All twelve stones are necessary to show forth the full glory, and all the saints, fulfilling their own particular job in the divinely ordained place, are calculated to show the glories of the Lord Jesus.

Not one of us is sufficient to himself. God's heart of love has chosen the special hue and glory and also the right relatedness of each of us. If we can accept this and thank Him for it, then we are ninety-nine per cent on the way towards a God-pleasing life. To accept ourselves, even with our limitations; to accept God's placing of us geographically and spiritually among those with whom we are called to have fellowship; this is a secret of spiritual triumph and fruitfulness.

So it is that as we begin to invest the Lord Jesus with the breastplate, thanking Him for our positioning and for the way in which He bears our names before the Father's face, we find that we, too, are bearing His people's names on our hearts. This has some different aspects from the bearing of them on our shoulders in prayer. We probably would not be able to bear many on our hearts, for they would break under the strain, but we can and should bear all the family of God on our shoulders, accepting the burden and the hard work of intercession for all saints. There is much to be done if only we will put our shoulders to the task. There are some, though, whom God calls us to bear on our hearts, and in their case our involvement is total. Christ bore them all, and we can sense something of the pressure on His heart in Gethsemane, but He longs to share His priestly work with us, enabling us also to minister to God's pleasure by heart concern for some names which are precious to Him. The more we put the breastplate on to our Lord Jesus, the more shall we find that it is being put on to us, in Him.

And so we could go through the many items of dress and descriptions of the cleansing and consecration of Aaron and his sons. For the present, however, we pause to consider this reminder from God that we should "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24). [74/75]


Harry Foster

"But we, going before to the ship, set sail for Assos, there intending to take
in Paul: for so had he appointed, intending himself to go on foot. And when
he met us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene.
" Acts 20:13-14

TROAS was connected with Assos by twenty miles of good Roman road, so Paul's long walk was safe and straightforward. His journey took him past some famous hot springs, which made it interesting, and through pleasant woods of oaks in full foliage, which made it most agreeable. Furthermore the road led along by streams from "the many fountained cliffs" of Ida, celebrated in the verses of both ancient and relatively modern poets.

Those who are familiar with Paul's writings, however, will not need to be told that he did not choose to walk this part of the journey because of the beauties of nature. Unlike his Master, he does not seem to have been greatly interested in such things -- perhaps because he was shortsighted. Yet it was precisely because he was like the Lord that he sent the others round by sea from one port to the next, and decided to do the journey alone on foot. Like the Lord Jesus, he found it absolutely essential to spend time quiet and alone with the Father.

As an experienced traveller he would never find much difficulty in having his daily Scripture reading and prayer, even though he were surrounded by people. This is just a matter of practice. No servant of God, however, can exist day after day and night after night with nothing more than normal "quiet times" of reading and prayer; or if he does, his spiritual effectiveness will suffer. He must at all costs have time to think and times when he can quietly listen to God. He must be able to stand back from the swirl of activities, and the demands of preaching, interviews and consultations, so that his own spirit can he renewed and his mind adjusted.

The Lord Jesus got up very early in the morning and went out to a solitary place, or He sent His disciples ahead in a boat while He went up to spend hours of evening and night in the hills, and, like Him, Paul sent on this shipload of travellers and fellow-labourers (even the beloved Luke himself) and elected to tramp across from Troas to Assos, for twenty miles of sacred communion with God. It was both a luxury and a necessity. The action was so deliberate and significant that Luke gave it special mention in his records. Let us not, then, skip over this little incident as though it had no relevance to his apostleship. The hot springs, the shady oak glades, the splashing streams, were spiritual necessities to him, even if the literal beauties of nature had no appeal.

We long for Paul's power and Paul's success. We are ready, perhaps, for Paul's sufferings. What about copying his example of getting right away with God? When did we last have a long quiet walk of communion with the Lord? When did we last move out from the companionship even of beloved brothers in Christ to listen only to Him? There are so many meetings; there are so many letters; there are so many visits, so many telephone calls!

Two years ago in Canada, I tried to telephone a local pastor. His wife answered my call by graciously but firmly informing me that her husband was at prayer. Not, mark you, at a prayer meeting, but just in personal communication with God. "When would he be free?" She replied that she had no idea. I have a feeling that if Paul had been blessed with a wife she might, at times, have acted in a similar way. It seems that he made it his business to plan for solitude, even if it meant extra exertion. It is imperative that we make time for God. Paul did not wait for it to happen, he "so appointed". We observe that he did not miss his boat. And nor shall we!


Zac Poonen

Reading: Jeremiah 17:5-10

REDUCED to its simplest form, the New Testament virtue of faith is described here in the Old Testament as "trusting in the Lord". Jeremiah's striking contrast reminds us that this was a matter about which people could very easily be deceived -- it was then and it still is. Even in [75/76] the days of the apostles there were those who misunderstood what it meant to believe. Some who apparently believed did not seem to enjoy abundant life. This was why James had to explain that there were two kinds of faith -- one dead and the other living. Just as a body without breath, a dead body, could not perform any acts, so it was pointed out by James that there was a so-called "faith" which could not produce any works, because it was dead.

There is, then, a dead faith as well as a living one. These may appear to be alike but in fact they are entirely different. Ignorance of this fact can cause many problems. Some who read that all things are possible to those who believe, when trying actually to claim some miracle of faith, meet with disappointment as they find that the promise does not seem to work. They tend to doubt the promises of Scripture thenceforth, whereas the real cause of failure is that their faith is not living.


For such, and for us all, the prophet uses an illustration, given to him by the Lord in which he stresses the issue of personal trust in the Lord. He explains that the man who fails to do this because he trusts in man -- either in himself or in some other -- will be like a barren tree in the wilderness. It may well be that two exactly similar seeds were planted, but one was buried in the dry earth or sand and so produced a barren tree (v.6) whereas the other was planted so that its roots could reach out to the river (v.8), and so produced abundant fruit. In the latter case the leaves would never be dry even in times of severe drought because the tree would have roots underneath the ground, through which it could draw its necessary supply of water from the life-giving river. The tree planted in the middle of the wilderness would have no such hidden supply. It might be watered occasionally by someone passing that way but, this not being enough and the roots not drawing water from underneath, nothing could prevent the leaves from falling.


So we are given an illustration, reinforced by contrast, of real living faith in the Lord, the faith which the Bible affirms to be essential. Faith as referred to in the New Testament is identical with that which was found in the man of God in Old Testament times. Hebrews 11 embraces the whole of the Old Testament period, and tells us that everything that those men did that pleased God was done through faith -- the same faith that we need to have today.

Such faith is dependent on a life beneath the surface, it must have roots which go down deep. Roots are unseen, they are underground. The observer sees the tree but has no idea where the roots are. Indeed they may have gone some distance away from the tree. Somewhere, however, they have found water, and so are able to draw constantly on this unseen source of life. This, I believe, is what distinguishes the faith that is real and living from that which is merely superficial and dead -- having a hidden part of one's life equivalent to the roots of a tree. The genuine man of faith has a hidden walk with God, unseen by and unknown to others; he knows what it is to draw constantly from the living springs of the Spirit.

It is this secret life with God which is so often lacking among Christians in general. We live in a time when a great deal of emphasis is put on the external, the impression made upon others. This is true of the business world, politicians, diplomats and indeed of people in almost every sphere of life. Alas, it is true in Christian circles too! No doubt we must be careful about outward appearances in the sense that we should have a testimony that glorifies God before our fellow-men. We should never be careless about the impression we give to others. But the Bible insists on a balance -- there should be an inner life which corresponds to the outer. To neglect the outward testimony would be wrong, but to think more of this than of the hidden life with God would indicate that such an individual (like the Pharisees of old) loves the praise of men more than the praise of God, and so his faith is dead.

It is tragically possible for a Christian to have no hidden roots in his life and yet to continue to maintain an apparently good testimony before others. This is what eventually leads such a one to become a hypocrite. Preachers especially are so easily tempted to live a life of pretence, particularly so if they feel that they have to live up to a reputation. It is such a double life that leads some Christians to the point of a breakdown. (Some people are, of course, strong enough to go on all through life as hypocrites without a breakdown, but this is not a virtue.)

If I have no hidden life, if all that there is of my spirituality is what other people can see, then there is something radically wrong. The life I [76/77] possess is then quite different from that which Jesus came to give, and I would not be justified in claiming that my faith in the Lord is of the kind described by Jeremiah.


It is striking that immediately following the words about the roots, there is the reminder that "the heart is deceitful above all things" and the assertion, "I the Lord search the heart" (Jeremiah 17:9-10). He searches the heart because that is where the roots are to be found. Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks down into the hidden realms of the heart. I believe that in our day, when we live in a world so controlled by externalities, God is looking for a people who will maintain a hidden life, a walk with Him, that is concealed from the eyes of others.

Consider the words of 2 Kings 19:30: "And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward".

This shows us God's order. Whereas man tends to lay stress on the external fruit of evident success, God reminds us that so far as heaven is concerned, it is taking root downward that has first priority. Roots first, fruit afterwards, is always God's order, both in nature and in the spiritual life. We are to go deep into God before growing upward in the eyes of men. This alone can save us from the deadly poison of hypocrisy. Our hidden walk with God is what we need to concentrate on and safeguard, for it is here that the Devil seeks continually to tempt us to be neglectful. This is especially so in a world of accelerating speeds and crowded business, where it becomes so easy to equate spirituality with activity, and to measure everything by statistics. Eternity will reveal that the real measure of a man's success in God's eyes was no more than the depth of his hidden walk with God here on earth. Those who are wise will recognise this now.


We need a faith that is living, and not merely one that gives a good impression. A painted fire may look like a real one from a distance, but it gives neither light nor warmth. So it is that some Christians appear to have spiritual power, but when people come closer to them they are disappointed to find that the glamour disappears and there is no real light or warmth of the Spirit. Happily the opposite is also true, for one sometimes comes into contact with Christians who have no glamour, but convey much of God's grace when one gets to know them better. Our great need is for reality -- for a life that is "hid with Christ in God", and that is thereby growingly transformed into His likeness.

Only a life of true discipleship can lead us along that pathway; and a life of discipleship has to be a deeply-rooted one. Luke 14:25-33 is an important passage, for it sets out the three conditions for true discipleship. I have often wondered whether superficiality in the Christian life does not arise from an ignoring of the conditions which Jesus laid down on that occasion. The original mandate for the preaching of the gospel was "to make disciples" (Matthew 28:19 mar.). This was the Church which Jesus envisaged, one composed of disciples from all nations, and not just of people who had subscribed to the fundamentals of the faith. Those who were first given the name of "Christians" were already disciples (Acts 11:26). In the conditions which Jesus laid down for discipleship we notice that in every case it was the inner life which He referred to. These conditions deal not so much with the externals as with the heart -- not with the fruit but with the root.

1. CHRIST FIRST. "If any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (v.26). How different Jesus was from the politicians and the religious leaders of our day who would hesitate to say anything which might reduce the size of their following! The Lord made things sound really difficult for those who wanted to follow Him. He was to be supreme at all times in the lives of His followers. All other loves were to be as nothing compared with the fervour of their devotion to Him. There was to be no second class of discipleship; He was to be either Lord of all or not Lord at all. Man may be willing to accept something as better than nothing, but not Jesus. With Him it was to be either all or nothing. Men and women were to be either hot or cold in their relationship to Him, for lukewarm people were as unacceptable as the cold (Revelation 3:15-16).

Now all this is a matter of the heart and not of the exterior. The measure of our devotion to the Lord is not something which can be known to others but that which He alone can assess. We know ourselves whether we are cold, lukewarm or hot. No one else may ever know. But it is this heat of devotion that God requires as the root in [77/78] our lives, before there can be the outward expression of it in fruit. When the Lord was re-commissioning Peter by the lakeside after his failure, His question was, "Do you love me more than these?". He did not ask Peter whether he would be more watchful in prayer or even whether he would be willing to witness unashamedly in the future. Neither did He discuss evangelism or church-building. Important as all these were, what Jesus basically required from Peter was something far deeper, the hidden roots of true devotion to Him.

2. TAKING UP THE CROSS. "And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (v.27). The life of a disciple is a life of perpetual death to his inner self. He has no prospect whatever of laying down his cross this side of heaven. It was thus with Jesus -- all through His life on earth He died to His own will and His own self -- and the disciple is not above his Master. A disciple has to face this issue right at the start. It is pointless going part of the way and then being disappointed when we find the going not getting any easier. But there is a further point to be noted here. Even this crucifixion that the disciple undergoes must remain hidden. He must die daily, and keep quiet about it. He must not advertise his sacrifice before men. If we die to ourselves in some situation and then recount the incident before others, we have no praise from God, for we have already received approbation from men. But if we know what it is to die to ourselves in the secret place and to keep it hidden from men's eyes, then our roots will grow deeper and we shall know the reality of fellowship with the heart of God.

Our Lord once said that only those who took His yoke (i.e. the cross) upon them would find true rest to their souls (Matthew 11:29). Here lies the real cause of unrest in many a Christian life -- the cross is avoided. The tree with deep roots can face any storm without being shaken. It rests unshaken because it is firmly rooted and grounded. This is the pathway to enjoying the deep rest of God which He desires to share with His people.

3. FORSAKING ALL. "... whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (v.33). The disciple's attitude to the things of this world is to be one of total detachment. In our day the attractions of the material realm are so inviting that one can be entangled in them all unawares. In my own life I find that I have to battle constantly over this matter. I find that I have continually, and not just once, to lay my treasures on the altar for God. But this again is a matter of the heart. No one other than God and I, the individual concerned, may know whether I am truly delivered from the love of ease and luxury, and from the carnal joy of possessing material things. I find that Christians in the West are particularly tempted in this realm, and that many of them need to relearn the truth of Jesus words that a man's life does not consist in possessing things. Many have explained away this condition of discipleship with logical or theological arguments, but their lives are shallow as a result. The meaning is simple -- we are to forsake all, we are to be truly detached. And let us not forget that a life of spiritual abundance and of growth in likeness to Christ depends on our acceptance of the implications of "forsaking all" in our hidden life.

It will cost me all that I have if I am to be a true disciple. If, like the builder of the tower (v.28), I am not prepared to pay the price, then I might as well not start. The question is not whether I have the resources -- God would not ask me if I did not have them -- but whether I am willing to spend them all for love of Him.

No man is immune from the perils of superficiality. We need to examine ourselves constantly, and we need to covet this hidden life above everything else. God is looking today for a remnant among His people who will accomplish great things for Him, and who, in these last days, will register Calvary's victory afresh in the territory of the Devil. But for this their faith must be living and their roots must be deep, and drawing constantly from the river of life. May we be among that number! Amen!



Harry Foster

ERNEST had once been let down by the failure of the batteries in his electric torch, so after that he always kept two batteries in reserve so that he should not be caught again in this way.

When the power cuts came a few months ago he was therefore ready -- or at least he thought he was. The lights went out and his big sister, Eve, called for his help, so he soon got hold of the [78/79] torch and switched it on. Alas, the old batteries were nearly finished, and the torch only gave a feeble flicker of a light which was no use at all. Eve, who seemed bad tempered at that time, soon began to call him a silly for not being ready, but this did not daunt him, for he knew exactly what he was going to do. He found his way to his room and, opening the table drawer, drew out the paper bag in which the spare batteries were being kept, and then proceeded to make the exchange. This was not difficult; it simply meant that he had to take the two used batteries out of the torch and replace them by inserting the new batteries which he had been storing up for just such an emergency.

Of course it had to be done in the dark, but even so it was easy enough. Ernest shut his eyes while he was doing it. He often did this when he was moving in the dark; it seemed to help him to concentrate. All the time Eve was telling him to hurry up, but at last they were in and the cap screwed tight, so that he could press the switch and open his eyes. He wondered if he had really opened them, for he saw no light, but Eve soon cleared up this point by saying impatiently, "What's the matter? Why isn't it lighting?", then adding, "I suppose you have pressed the wrong switch!" But no! He tried the "off" switch and of course nothing happened, then he tried the "on" switch again, but still there was no light.

Well, Eve had a few other sharp things to say, including an opinion that he had probably muddled things again and put the old batteries back instead of the new ones. Ernest really had been careful, so he did not think that he had made this mistake, but as he could get no light he finally began to wonder whether after all he had done so, for he knew that the two batteries from the paper bag had never been used. There was nothing more that he could do, so they both had to go into the kitchen with their parents and share the one candle there.

Next morning, however, Ernest opened up his torch again and removed the batteries to see if he could find the cause of the trouble. The first battery had a shining knob for its contact, but when he took out the second, he found that the contact stud was not bright at all. It was dull. It was dirty. Some sort of film seemed to have formed on it. At first this seemed to confirm Ernest's fear that perhaps he had put an old battery back, but then he suddenly had an idea. He got his penknife and lightly scraped the metal stud. It didn't exactly shine like the other one, but at least it seemed cleaner for the scraping, so he carefully put both batteries back, screwed up the cap and switched on.

What a difference this time! Excitedly he called to his sister, "Look, Eve, it's all right after all. It was only a dirty contact". At first Eve could not believe that young Ernest had mended the torch so easily, but then -- rather pleased with himself -- he said to her, "it just shows the importance of clean contacts". The words meant much more to Eve than Ernest could know. It was just as though God was using his boyish words to explain what was wrong in her own life. For, although she was a Christian, she had been slipping into unkind ways and for some weeks past there had been more gloom than light about her life.

A few days before this, the tear-off calendar in the kitchen had the text, "Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord" (Isaiah 52:11), and now the words came back to her, together with Ernest's remark about clean contacts. In her heart she knew that the reason for her bad temper was that her contact with the Lord Jesus had got dirtied over with selfishness. It would take more than a penknife to clean up that kind of hindrance to Christ's flow of love, but the Lord Himself could do it for her, and He did so as she humbly confessed her need and got back into real touch with Him again.

Every Christian boy and girl needs to watch their contact with their Saviour, for if that is spoiled then there will be no power or light of His presence in their lives. Ernest gave us all a good bit of advice when he told Eve how important it is to have clean contacts.



Harry Foster

THE title "Lord" was originally used by the disciples as a mark of respect, and indeed the word is sometimes translated simply as "Sir" (John 20:15). Steadily, however, the apostles began to appreciate the greatness of their Master, and were ready to refer to Him as "The Lord" (Luke 19:31). Their convictions were crystallized and confirmed on the resurrection morning, and at [79/80] once they spontaneously began to call Him "the Lord" (John 20:25 & 21:7).

When the Holy Spirit came they had an altogether new insight into this unique Lordship, and boldly announced to all men that it was God Himself who had constituted the crucified Jesus "both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). From this time on there was no place in their thinking for any doubts or questionings; He was "the Lord Jesus" (Acts 4:33) and they gladly accepted the implications of this title, calling themselves His servants or indeed His bond-slaves (Acts 4:29). More than this, they re-inforced their message of His Lordship by making themselves the servants of all men for His sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).

Without the Holy Spirit's aid men cannot truly call Christ their Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3). Of course they can use the empty words (Luke 7:46 & 12:25) but this means nothing to Him and will bring no benefits to them. Only the Spirit can make Christ to be Lord in an effective, living way; and it is useless to call Him "the Lord" or "our Lord" unless a man has first come to know Him as "my Lord". The Holy Spirit has come into human experience for this very purpose, to bring men into true liberty by leading them into wholehearted submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, and so He is rightly described as "The Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:17).

In the case of Peter's visit to Caesarea we have a striking illustration of the Spirit's work in this matter of liberation. Peter's message was simple enough -- "He is Lord of all" (Acts 10:36) -- but the effect on his hearers was phenomenal The whole group, from Cornelius downwards, was electrified into a vital experience of salvation. We do not have to guess the reason for this display of the Spirit's power, for Peter not only spoke with His help but the fact was that he spoke from a new committal to the Lordship of Christ in his own life. He went to Caesarea hot from a new challenge and a new submission; he who had long preached and proved Jesus as Lord had been asked to obey in a matter which offended his deepest prejudices and had refused in that monumental contradiction in terms "Not so, Lord" (Acts 10:14). However, grace was given him to set aside his own will in favour of the command of his Lord, with the logical if startling release of the Spirit's unction and power. On that day Peter could certainly not have said that Jesus was Lord except by the Holy Spirit.

It was given to the apostle Paul, the great bondservant of Jesus Christ, to enunciate the full significance of this title. He explained that Christ's exaltation was God's just recognition of His perfect character; only the One who had Himself rendered perfect obedience could demand obedience from others. He affirmed that one day all creation, including the powers "under the earth" which have not been reconciled to God through the cross, will bow to the supremacy of this name of Lord. This, he asserted, will bring the deepest satisfaction to the Father's heart (Philippians 2:11). Paul then added that his personal re-action to these truths had been gladly to sacrifice all his own interest for the great honour of knowing Him as "Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8).

If it cost Paul everything to call Jesus Lord, it certainly cost Jesus everything to attain to that Lordship. The cost was that of His own life's blood, a fact which stresses to us the great importance to God and man of His being Lord. (Romans 14:9).

In the New Testament the title "Lord" is used to describe the Jehovah of the Old Testament, a point which can easily be proved by comparing parallel passages. When, therefore, the apostles called Jesus "The Lord" they made Him equal with the great I AM, and they did not hesitate to quote from the Old Testament to substantiate this amazing claim (Romans 14:11). The Bible ends by commending all believers to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what the Book is all about. (Revelation 22:21). [80/ibc]


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