"... 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. 2, No. 4, July - Aug. 1973 EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster



WHEN recently I undertook a series of Bible studies on the book of the Revelation, I began with two propositions which seemed to arise from the opening verses of the book. The first was that its God-given intention is to give us a new vision of the Lord Jesus. John was commissioned to pass on to us an unveiling of Christ's destiny which surpassed anything which even he had previously known. The second was that this Scripture is meant to produce action from those who read it, since its peculiar offer of blessing is not merely for the student and the preacher, but for the man who 'keeps', that is to say, obeys, its message. I therefore covenanted with those who attended the meetings that as we went chapter by chapter through the book I would never let a single study pass without seeking to bring them a fresh discovery of Jesus Christ and a new challenge to obedience.

THIS was not difficult for the first twelve chapters, but when I reached chapter 13 I wondered if my promise had been a rash one. Here was I confronted with descriptions of terrifying beasts, and no mention made at all of that 'little Lamb' whom we rejoiced to find in other chapters. The reading of this section of the book forced me to face the prospect of such an intensity of evil and deception as would captivate the whole world and crush the saints of God. It spoke eloquently of the tide of wickedness which will result from the rule of Satan-inspired men, and at first it appeared to give no hint of how believers will have any awareness of the presence of their Lord or understanding of what He wants them to do. It is true that the chapter closes with the declaration "Here is wisdom". I knew that the cryptic number of 666 had given rise to any number of speculations about the past and the future, but I wanted the Lord Jesus, not speculations, and I needed practical advice rather than uncertain identifications.

AND then my eyes lighted on the words: "He that hath ears, let him hear" (v.9). What a relief! Here was the authentic voice of the Saviour. No man can spend years absorbing the synoptic Gospels and studying the letters to the seven churches without being able to recognise this unmistakable characteristic of Christ, the call for those who have ears to hear. So I took a little respite from the strident fury of the beasts to listen to the quiet advice of the Lamb. I asked myself, What is it that He wishes me to hear? What is this timely message to the listening disciple? These were the actual words: "If any man is for captivity, into captivity he goeth: if any man kill with the sword, with the sword must he be killed" (v.10), but what was the meaning? Was this just a consoling reminder that men of violence ultimately destroy themselves? No, that is so patent that it does not require anointed ears to be told it. Was it something to do with conscientious objection to military service? No, that matter has no relevance here, for the scene is of oppression but not of war. So I read on and found that the words were meant as a warning to the saints not to be moved from their original position of patience and faith in the Lord Jesus.

THERE is hardly a day now when I do not feel impatient with men's mismanagement of human relations, and an impetuous urge to hit out in some direction or other. My natural instincts make me indignant about wrongs, and ready to back any man or movement which offers to put an end to them. The peril of such an attitude is that impatience with one kind of rule can make for sympathy and support for its opposite, and so lead me into strange company for, unless I am very much mistaken, it will be the chaos and anarchy of contemporary conditions which will finally precipitate the kind of despotic rule represented by the beast. I seem to hear my Lord warning me that if I allow myself to get caught up in this political struggle, I will inevitably be deceived into welcoming the master-man that conditions will seem to call for. To do that will be to discover -- perhaps when it is too late -- that such an authoritarian regime may begin with good intentions but will, in the end, become the instrument for Satan's lust to domineer over men.

IT takes wisdom (v.18) to understand that if 777 is God's number, then 666 is the number of that kind of man who always comes short of the divine standard, and who being fallen, can never remedy humanity's ills. Indeed all his attempts to do so can only lead to calamity. Our wisdom, then, is to recognise that the saints are citizens of another [61/62] world. We are pilgrims -- visitors -- here on this earth. Let us submit to men's ordinances and let us pray for whoever are our rulers, but let us avoid emotional involvement in their suggested solutions of world problems. I find that I am constantly pressurised to get so involved. All protestants feel that the Roman Church has failed to use its political powers for good, but do they equally realise that Christ's Church was never meant to have political power for any purpose? World events are moving fast. If it so happens that the present development of our home and foreign affairs paves the way for the last great deception, then we shall soon be carried swiftly away on an irresistible tide of humanistic godlessness. Then the saints who have not had ears to hear and have backed political solutions will want to withdraw from their sympathies for and support of the contemporary saviour of the situation. Or it is to be hoped that they will. But in any case will they be able, at that late stage, truthfully to assert that their politics are in heaven?

THE patient faith of the saints is not a placid acceptance of evils; it is not silence in the presence of the lie. We must follow Christ, the embodiment of true saintliness, in witnessing to the truth, even at the cost of our lives. But if the Church is to follow the example of Him who refused to take part in political agitation and equally refused to arbitrate in a family quarrel, we must be very careful not to get involved in partisan attempts to grapple with the problems of corrupt society. Here, it seems to me, is the patience of the saints -- they avoid the use of carnal weapons and keep faithfully to their spiritual power-structure. Individual believers have to find their own God-given place in society, but the Church is the body of Christ, the one who affirmed that His kingdom is not of this world.

PATIENCE is a great spiritual weapon when it is allied with faith. If we weaken in this realm we shall court defeat. The Lord not only wishes to save us from being defeated; He wants to make us His fellow soldiers in the great climactic victory. And "faith is the victory" -- faith, not fatalism! We need to beware of mere negatives. For me this call to hear does not represent a warning against registering for ration cards, belonging to a union or even voting at an election. No, it is essentially a call to the right kind of detachment from those humanistic activities which strain to get the kingdom of heaven here on earth without waiting for the return of the King. The Church must keep clear of this kind of power politics and keep its faith and patience fully operative in the realm of prevailing prayer. I feel sure that the Lord's call for patience, faith and wisdom was necessary in John's day. I am equally of the opinion that it has been meaningful all through the dispensation. Today, as never before, it seems most relevant, for modern world conditions seem to cry out more than ever for authoritarian action. I wonder if the scene is now being set for Satan's masterpiece, Antichrist, who will begin by offering himself as an inspiring saviour and prove in the end to be a most monstrous beast.

THIS, at any rate, was what my ears seemed to hear, and I worked it out accordingly. In due course we had our Bible study on Revelation 13. We caught a glimpse, I trust, of our calling to be separated unto God in a growingly evil world. And we just permitted ourselves the luxury of a glance into chapter 14, where we saw the triumphant Lamb on Mount Sion. We went home newly reminded that our vocation is to "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth". - Harry Foster.


J. Alec Motyer

THE subject of the Holy Spirit is mysterious. Do you not find it so? We talk of God the Father and we feel that we are on familiar ground. Whatever allowances we have to make for our earthly father, and whatever even greater allowances our children have to make for us, at least the concept of fatherhood is something which we know about. We can therefore appreciate in measure the Bible's revelation of God as our heavenly Father. Likewise when we think of the Lord Jesus Christ we feel that we can identify Him, for He has a face, He is a Man. We have never seen that face but we have known the story of Jesus as the Man among men, with hands outstretched [62/63] to help us and a heart filled with compassion for us. We feel at home with the God who came to us as a Man like us.

But the Holy Spirit. What shall we say of Him? He seems like a God without a face. We find ourselves talking about someone for whom we have no real analogy. It is so difficult to form any idea or give any expression when we want to speak about the Holy Spirit. Yet we do want to do so, for the New Testament attracts us by the many titles which it employs for this divine person. Here are some of them:

He is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of holiness and the Spirit of glory. Now the very ideas of holiness and glory tell us that He is truly God. They also make us understand that His great concern is with holiness, and His supreme objective is to make us holy.

We are told of His relationship with the other members of the Godhead. He is the Spirit of God. Just as my spirit is peculiarly the spirit of me, so He is the actual Spirit of the one who is God. Moreover He is called most graphically "the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead", giving us a beautiful glimpse of the Father and the Spirit together brooding purposefully over the dead Jesus and lifting Him up from death. He is also called the Spirit of Jesus, and the Spirit of God's Son, so close is His relationship with our beloved Saviour.

He has other titles which speak of His relationship to us as believers. He is our Comforter or Counsellor (RSV). If these names do not thrill you, as I confess they do not particularly appeal to me, then we can turn with gratitude to the title "the Spirit of adoption". My sister and her husband adopted a boy. He is thirteen years old now, and I imagine that long, long ago they ceased to remember that he was adopted, and have become accustomed to thinking of him as their own son. We have been adopted into God's family. We do not belong there by nature. By nature we were children of wrath, but we have been adopted by a deliberate, wonderful and inexplicable divine choice. Just as my sister made such a choice and said: 'We will have that one', so God has decided that He wants us. But there is one thing that she and her husband could not do, and in that her son differs from mine; they could never share their nature with their son. My son, however, has the misfortune very manifestly to have received his nature as well as his name from me. The Spirit of adoption is more than a name: He is a nature. Is this not wonderful? We who were not children and never could have been, are brought into God's family by an adoption which far surpasses the human use of the word, for the Spirit of adoption has filled us with God's own life. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes adoption a reality.

Yet other titles tell of His relationship with the Word of God. He is the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of prophecy. How rich an occupation it is to discover more of this great Holy Spirit! It is not possible for us to consider His many titles in this single message, so we will limit ourselves to three aspects which are indicated in Christ's own words: "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16-17).

1. The Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first point suggested by this verse is that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. This fact is of tremendous help to us. Just before He went to the cross, Jesus was talking to His disciples about God the Father when Philip interjected: 'Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us'. Jesus replied, almost sharply: "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father, and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" By using the expression 'another Comforter', the Lord showed that what was true of people meeting the Father in Himself was also true of their meeting the Spirit. What He really meant was: 'He that hath seen Me hath seen the Holy Spirit'. The Holy Spirit was another Comforter. They had had one already, and how they needed Him! Now the Lord Jesus told them that they were going to get another, and the word used denotes another of the same kind, another one like the one you already have. He said: 'When this Holy Spirit comes you will not see Him nor be able to take hold of Him, but since you see Me, then you have seen Him'. And that is why the Lord went on to say: "I will not leave you desolate: I will come to you" (v.18). He promised that He would not abandon them as orphans, but would personally come to them. So that when the Holy Spirit comes, Jesus comes. Can it be, then, that the Spirit has a face after all? The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, [63/64] He has made the Father plain to us; and the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father has also made the Holy Spirit plain to us.

You should never discuss with anybody the arguments for or against the existence of God. If people express doubts, make sure that they really do want to know if God exists, and if so the answer is to request them to consider Jesus Christ. After all that is the only way in which the Christian knows God. You and I do not know God by any process of reasoning, but only by coming to Him through the Lord Jesus. So avoid all heated arguments as to whether God exists and quietly insist that if men are really in earnest about knowing God they should take up the Gospels and read about Jesus. Now it is exactly the same if we wish to consider the Holy Spirit. He is not a subject for debate or conjecture. He is the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ and we know Him by referring always to the Lord Jesus. If anyone is puzzled about what this invisible, intangible God can mean for you day by day, this is the answer: 'It is like having Jesus with you all the time'.

Now there are two great truths in the New Testament which are linked up with this matter of the Holy Spirit being the Spirit of Jesus.

(a) The Lord Jesus has secured the presence of the Holy Spirit for every believer.

We are told that "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son ... to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." We were not sons, but God sent us His Son to make that adoption a reality." And because ye are sons ..." not in order that ye might become sons, but "because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:4-6). Jesus came to purchase our adoption and we know the joy of this adoption when the Holy Spirit leads us into the presence of God and we can call Him Father. If you know and love the Lord Jesus, trusting Him for your personal salvation, then I say to you on the authority of these verses that the Holy Spirit is no stranger in your life. This truth can be abundantly confirmed in the words of the Lord Jesus Himself: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away". That is a shock! Many of us as children sang about the time when Jesus was here among men, with the line: 'I should like to have been with Him then'. Would you? Of course you would if you love Him. And yet Jesus says that there is something much better. 'It is better that I go away.' Why? Because: "if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart, I will send Him unto you" (John 16:7). It was better, it was for our highest good that He went away. And how did He go? He went away to the cross. How else did He go? He went away into the tomb, to show the reality of His substitutionary death. He also went away in the resurrection and the ascension and "being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit ..." He shed forth, poured out, His gracious Spirit on all believing men. He has secured the presence of the Holy Spirit for every believer.

(b) The Lord Jesus is the test by which we recognise the presence and teaching of the Holy Spirit.

It is He alone who is the test. So that if anybody claims to have this or that experience of the Holy Spirit, we can apply the test and ask: 'Does it make him like Jesus? Or is it making him critical, divisive and hard to live with?' If anyone urges upon me a special experience, saying that unless I have had a similar experience I cannot claim that the Holy Spirit is in me, my immediate question is: 'Is that true in the case of the Lord Jesus? Did Jesus have that experience? There can be no question about the Spirit's presence in His life for my Bible tells me that He was absolutely full of the Spirit. So it is no use your saying to me that I ought to have this, that or the other experience to be filled with the Spirit unless what you say is also true about Jesus. He is the test.'

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus, and what is not found in the Lord Jesus cannot be essential. We are to test every experience by Him. Look at 1 John 4:1-2, where this is made strikingly plain. "Many false prophets are gone out into the world." What is a prophet? He is a man who claims to speak for God. Now we are told that many who claim to do this are false prophets, so we must not believe all that purports to come from God. I cannot ask you to believe me without applying this Scriptural test. And what is it? "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus is come in the flesh is of God." We must be directed to the Man Jesus, the Jesus of the Gospels, if we are to be confident [64/65] that we have the presence and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Not to the Jesus of our sensations or imaginations, but to the Jesus who came in the flesh -- He is the test. What you do not find in Him is not necessarily of God and cannot be essential.

2. The Spirit of Truth.

The second point which is stressed in John 14:17 is that He is the Spirit of truth. This is self-evident, since He is the Spirit of the Lord Jesus who insists on the centrality of the Word of God in the life of the Christian and of the Church. Two men were walking down to Emmaus ... You know at once what I am talking about when I begin in this way, for theirs is one of the best known and loved stories of the resurrection. These two had sorrow in their faces and problems on their lips, when they were joined by a third party who walked on with them. Now we know that this was the Lord Jesus, but they did not know. Why? Because God would not allow them to recognise Him. It was not that they were stupid and unobservant, but that God deliberately made it impossible for them to identify Him. Jesus asked the two why they were so sad, and they disclosed that it was over recent happenings in Jerusalem. The Lord asked: "What things?" showing that He asks questions not to obtain information but only to help us to unburden ourselves. This they did, saying that all their concern was centred on the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Surely this might have been the moment to drive away their sorrow and remove all their questions! All Jesus had to do was to reply: 'Friends, just stop, turn, look and see My hands'. Then they would have realised it all and known that the rumours they had heard were after all quite true. But no! The risen Lord gave no short-cuts, no 'hot line' to heaven. He made them work together with Him in the Scriptures. "He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). Note that this was what made their hearts burn within them -- not thrilling sensations and ecstatic emotions, but the opening up to them of the Word of God.

So we learn that the Lord Jesus insists that we can only know Him through the Bible. This is not my idea, I did not invent it, but it is clearly proved by Luke's account of the resurrection. We all revel in Matthew's account of the risen Lord, with His inspiring words: "All authority is given unto me", so why should we be so confident about Matthew's teaching and less assured by that of Luke? It is clear that according to Luke Christ says that there are to be no short-cuts to Him apart from His Word. There is no immediate knowledge of Jesus for you and me except by means of the Word of God. If we are going to be true worshippers of the Lord Jesus, we must pay heed to Luke's reminder that Christ will only make Himself known to us and to His Church as we come under the government of the Spirit's application of the Bible. It is the Spirit of Jesus who will show Himself to be the Spirit of truth, and He will do this in two ways:

(a) By guaranteeing the Bible to be the Word of God.

We are told that men were only able to write these books as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). What an amazing collection of men these writers were! What great, attractive, colourful human beings! To neglect the Book is to miss the finest company that any man could ever keep. They were magnificent people in themselves, these Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles whose hands wrote down the Scriptures. But how did they come to write them? By the Holy Spirit. None of it was ever of man's initiation. It was not that Peter or Isaiah or others woke up one morning and said: 'Do you know, I would like to write a piece of the Bible today'. No, it never came by the will of man. In this connection the NEB uses the word 'whim' -- '... it was not through any human whim'. That is a good rendering. It was not just something which occurred to men: the origin was in God. How did it come from Him to earth? By men being moved, impelled, by the Holy Spirit. There was a wonderful transmission of words from God which were made real, safeguarded and guaranteed on earth by the activity of the Holy Spirit. Luke uses this same word 'moved' when, telling the story of Paul's shipwreck, he says that the ship was 'driven' by the tempestuous winds (Acts 27:17). In using the term Peter stressed the mighty activity of the Spirit of God driving men to write the Scriptures. What a wonderful thing it is for us to have an assured Bible, a word from God which we can trust! How do we have it? Because the Holy Spirit inspired the minds and pens of those who wrote. He is the Spirit of truth.

(b) The same Holy Spirit is also our teacher in the Word of God.

"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall [65/66] teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26). These are the personal words of Jesus and, to the first apostles, they guaranteed the truth of the New Testament. In those dark days after the crucifixion, the apostles must have said to one another: 'If only we had been more alert when the Lord taught us! If only we had listened more carefully to those marvellous things which Jesus said! If only we had written then down! Oh, why didn't we write them down?' They need not have worried. As they later found, the Holy Spirit brought it all back to their remembrance. We owe the Gospels and then we owe the whole of the New Testament as the development of the teaching of the Lord Jesus, to the activities of the Holy Spirit. Now this is the very same one who undertakes to teach us. For our part we can lay claim to Him as our teacher; we can take these Spirit-inspired words, look up to God, and pray: 'O God, please send Thy Holy Spirit to be my teacher'. If we want to be people according to the mind of the Lord Jesus, then we must give full place to the centrality of the Bible in our lives and churches. We can never expect to know the mind of God if we are not prepared to give complete obedience to the Holy Spirit as our teacher of God's Word. Only in this way can we be safe from mere human suppositions, delivered from the emptiness and vanity of our own thoughts and kept in the way of truth. He is the Spirit of truth.

3. The Comforter.

Comforter is the usual word, though it is also rendered Counsellor and Advocate. I must confess that I do not find any of these names very helpful for the one who is 'called alongside'. In fact the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of conflict. If we ask what is the first mark of the Spirit's presence, we have to consult the experience of the Lord Jesus and test the matter by Him. What happened to Him after the Spirit came upon Him at His baptism? "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil" (Matthew 4:1). Don't ever expect anything else. If anybody ever tells you that the first mark of the Spirit is this, that or the other, then don't believe him. According to Christ, the first mark is headlong and inevitable conflict with the devil. The Lord Jesus was led into this conflict by the Holy Spirit. It was not an accident; it was not by His personal choice; it was the result of the government of the Holy Spirit in His life. Perhaps some of you will now understand why your life is so full of difficulty if you are a Spirit-indwelt Christian. The Spirit leads into conflict.

There was once a Christian employee of a country squire who sought to be faithful in witnessing to his non-Christian master. This master sometimes said to him: 'It is just not worth it. Here you say you are a Christian, and yet you have to face so many trials whereas I, who make no claim to being one, have no worries and lead a smooth and easy life. It doesn't make sense.' The worker had no answer to this argument until one day he was out with his master who was shooting. Two birds flew over; the squire fired two shots, killing one of them and winging the other. The injured bird went off into the wood, and the Christian went forward to pick up the dead bird, but his master shouted: 'Don't bother about that one, it's dead. Go after the living one'. The man did as he was told, but when he came back to his boss he had the answer to their problem. 'The devil doesn't bother about the dead ones either, Sir,' he said, 'he goes after the living ones'. Yes, the devil does go after those who live in Christ, but note that the Spirit goes after the devil. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh" (Galatians 5:17). Thus it is that the Spirit-filled Christian is in a situation of conflict.

And it is in this conflict that we so sorely need help, and the Spirit is our helper. He is the Comforter, Counsellor, Advocate, to get us through the many problems of our daily life. The simplest rendering of the Greek word is surely 'Companion', and I cannot understand why it has not been used. The one called alongside is the Companion in the conflict who responds to our call for help. Does this mean, for example, that He is there for me to call on? Can I call Him alongside when I am in need? You certainly can. Whenever Satan attacks and troubles threaten then you may appeal to Him, for the Lord Jesus promised that this Companion would abide with us for ever. There is, however, something much more precious than that. He is the one whom God calls alongside us. This is why He is called another Comforter, for the same Father who appointed that Jesus should be called in to be our Saviour has appointed that the Holy Spirit should be called in to be the Companion of saved sinners. He is at hand, not only by my invitation or because I have asked Him to help me, but because the Father has called Him to [66/67] come alongside. The Father has given just such another as Jesus to be the constant Companion of such a wretched failure like me. Isn't it wonderful? No Christian has to go out into a hostile world alone. No Christian need ever be lonely, for even if we live alone we have the rich company of the Father and the Son, made real to us by the blessed Spirit. Oh yes. I believe in the Holy Spirit.



Poul Madsen

"Then Jesus turned and saw them following and saith unto them, what seek ye?
They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,)
where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see.
" John 1:38-39

WE have seen John using the daily repetitions of life and finding God-given opportunities in them. The outcome of his faithfulness was a short, powerful message: 'Behold the Lamb of God', which the two disciples heard, and they followed Jesus. Now we read what is said about the Lord. Whenever you read about Him, read as slowly as you can; it all seems so simple and you may be apt to think that you know it all already. The truth is that what Jesus said can never be exhausted: the simpler it seems the more profound it is. So be very, very careful when you come to a passage which you think you know.

"Jesus turned". He never did anything casually. When He turned He had a definite intention. When people followed Jesus He often turned. Why did He do so? To avoid and prevent superficial following. " And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned and said unto them, 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" (Luke 14:25-26). He did not say: 'I am so happy that you are all following Me. I promise you everything if only you just keep on following'. No, He said something very different. According to the wisdom of men, this action of His was most foolish. Men would say that He spoiled His chances, imagining that He could have had a wonderful following if He had kept silent, instead of turning round and saying such harsh words to the enthusiastic crowds. At a time of conference or special meetings many are ready to follow, and therefore it is very important to know that this is how our Lord would speak to them at such a time. They may feel so happy and think that they are all following so long as the conference lasts, but they are carried away by their emotions and that is why the Lord has to turn and say seemingly hard words to them. It is true that these are not the methods of mass evangelism but they are the authentic words of Christ.

On this occasion the Lord turned to the two men, not to prevent superficial following but to encourage true following. "And saw them following". Do you think that this means that the Lord just had a look at them? No. What does it mean, then? It means the same as what He indicated in His words to Nathanael: 'I saw you under the fig tree' (v.50). This meant that before Nathanael knew anything about the Lord, Jesus knew everything about him. So when the Lord turned and saw the two following it means that before they knew very much about it, He knew everything about their following. They did not know much of the implications of following, but He did. They did not know that it would involve becoming an outcast in good society and even in religious circles, but He could see them following even at the cost of being outcasts. At that time they did not know that following meant losing everything, but He saw them following and leaving all. They did not know that following meant going to the cross, but He saw them following right to the cross. "He saw them following" means that He acknowledged them as true followers right to the end of the road. Of course He saw their limitations, their faults, their sins, their follies and their trials, too, but He looked on them in a spirit of faith and so saw them as though already perfect. Following is a part of the gospel. It is a gift [67/68] from the Lord. That is why we read: "whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified" (Romans 8.29). Glorified! That means that they have reached the goal of all their following. This was true of these two disciples; He foreknew them right from the beginning, He called them, He justified them and He glorified them; this was how He looked upon them. And what could they say? What can we say? 'If God be for us -- and looks upon us like that -- who can be against us?' It is a wonderful thing that the Lord looks on us in that way. All your fears will disappear and a new faith will enter your heart if you can lay hold of this.

HE said to them: "What seek ye?" The words of our Lord Jesus are never empty. They are spirit and they are life. They are power. They are divine. They are eternal. Even when He asked what they were seeking, it was not a real question because He was not in need of information. He spoke to help them. He wanted them to become conscious of the purpose behind their following Him. Did they know what the purpose was? So He tried to help them by means of this question, and really He taught them by way of contrast. His question as to what they were after made them start thinking: Is it peace? No. it was something more than peace. Is it joy? Is it love? Is it happiness? Is it a new meaning to life? No. it is more than these, though they are all included. More and more they became conscious that what they were really seeking was the Lord Himself, they wanted Him. This is what He was trying to teach them: not this and that but Him! Immediately, therefore, they began to call Him Master. What a tremendous testimony to the evangelism of John. So often in modern evangelism people are promised joy and peace and happiness and blessing. John did not promise anything, he simply testified: "Behold the Lamb of God" and they responded by following Christ. All this really came out of the Lord's question. What seek ye? They sought only Him: there was nothing else and nobody else to seek. He was becoming all things to them, and so they wanted to stay with Him. It is only as you stay with a friend in his home that you really get to know him. And they wanted to know the Lord as much as possible.

THE next thing we read is that He said unto them "Come". We must not take it for granted that we understand what this means but rather enquire what is the depth of meaning in the word when it is used by the Lord Jesus. 'Come' is a great keyword to John's Gospel. "All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). "The Jews therefore murmured concerning him, because he said, I am the bread which came down out of heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How doth he now say, I am come down out of heaven? Jesus answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come unto me except the Father draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh unto me" (John 5:41-45). Now we understand a little more of what He meant when He said, 'Come'! It was not just an invitation, it was much more. He really implied, 'You are the gift of My Father to Me, and I am longing for you to come'. "All that the Father giveth me" means that you are the Father's gift to Me. Come! He did not just invite them -- 'Will you please come? Will you consider coming? Would you like to come? Will you make the decision of coming?' It was much more wonderful than that. He did not urge them to make a decision, for the big decision had already been made by the Father who had decided, before ever they made a decision, to give them as a gift to His Son.

There is even more in this call to 'Come'. The Jews could not come because they did not know Him. They thought that He was the son of Joseph, and so felt no desire to come to Him. They had not been taught of the Father. These two, however, had been taught of the Father and had learned through John the Baptist. This again is a remarkable testimony to the words of John when he said: "Behold the Lamb". That was the teaching of the Father, and that is why they came. They had learned. The same is true of us. We have not made the big decision. We are not religious heroes. We are sinners whose eyes the Father has opened and who gladly respond to the Lord's call to come.

There is yet more. "It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God" (John 6:45). It was written in the prophets, and these two disciples had been taken up into what had been [68/69] written and that is why they came to Christ. They were in the counsels of God so that what was written in the prophets had become true of them. Was it difficult for them to come? What else could they do but come? You see evangelism is not an appeal, repeated again and again with pressure and persuasion. This can only produce a resolution of the flesh, an appeal to the old man. The gospel is something more than that. The gospel is God at work. It is Jesus at work. It does not produce a birth from flesh or blood or the will of man, but through God's almighty 'Come'. He it is who imparts to men the meaning of coming, so making them comers and followers.

FURTHER the Lord Jesus added "... and see". We may wonder what He had to show them. I am quite often invited to new homes where a young couple are beginning married life together. They are proud to show me their home, and I usually say how wonderful it is. But what had Jesus to show these two disciples? There was no earthly glory at all. He was poorer than they, much poorer, and could have had very little to show them, and yet there must have been something worth seeing for Him to have so invited them. The word 'see' is another keynote of John's Gospel. "He who has seen me has seen the Father". Come and see -- the Father! "If thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God." This is what He had to show them, the glory of God. And so they came and they saw. And we know from their testimony that they really saw. "We have found Him of whom Moses has spoken, the anointed one." They had really seen the Father and the glory.

This then was what the Lord Jesus said to the two men. "What seek ye? Come and see." And the outstanding result was that they were both totally transformed. They found that they were the gift of the Father to His Son. If I ask you what kind of gift the Father gives to us, you will reply that He always gives perfect gifts. They are good and perfect gifts which come down to us from the Father of lights. If I ask the further question as to what kind of gifts the Father would give to His beloved Son, the answer could only be that they are perfect gifts. In this case, then, the Lord Jesus when He turned saw two perfect gifts which the Father was giving Him. And now He turns to you. He looks at you. He calls you to come. You, then, are a perfect gift from the Father to the Son.

Do you perhaps feel that your life is unsatisfactory and unfulfilled? Maybe you have tried again and again, making one resolution after another, rededicating yourself perhaps a hundred times. You have tried this and you have tried that, and still deep down you are a disappointed Christian. May I tell you that no efforts of yours will change this? Only one thing can help you, and that is the realisation that you are a perfect gift from the Father to the Son. As soon as that is clear in your mind, and really believed in your heart, a new hope and a new joy will spring up, not because you have made a new resolution but because you have seen what the Father has made out of you. By faith you must look on yourself as the Son looks on you, and as you do so you are free. It is almost too good to be true, yet it is true, for it is divine. This is no struggle: it is a gospel, good tidings. It is no credit to you. You are not a religious hero, you are not even a super Christian, but you are the Father's gift to His Son. He foreknew you; He called you; He predestined you to become like His Son; He justified you; He glorified you. What, then, can you say to these things? 'If God is for me, who can be against me?' And you, like these two, will now dwell where He dwells. From now on your testimony will not be about blessings or achievements or things at all -- it will just be that you have found Him.




T. Austin-Sparks

ELISHA'S life was full of expressions of resurrection life. He came into touch with various people and situations, and whatever he touched produced a new expression of life triumphing over death. We now consider three such situations.

1. The Valley Filled With Water

The story of Moab's revolt against Israel is described in 2 Kings 3. The actual fact is mentioned in the very first verse of 2 Kings, as though to suggest that sooner or later Elisha would find himself involved in this matter, as indeed he was. [69/70] The facts were that in the past David had subdued these Moabites, and their payment of tribute had continued right through to the end of Ahab's reign. It was then that they broke into active rebellion. The larger spiritual background of the New Testament suggests that this is an allegory of the victory of the Lord Jesus over all His enemies. What David did was typical of the full victory of Christ. And just as this revolt was a violent reaction against the Davidic throne, so there were hostile forces which showed themselves soon after Pentecost, seeming almost to contradict the all-inclusive victory of Calvary. The secret of the Church's ability to triumph under such circumstances was -- and always is -- a new experience of the resurrection life of the ascended Lord.

In this case the revolt of Moab was precipitated by the state of spiritual weakness among God's people. Ahab had been responsible for spiritual declension in the nation and had handed on to his successor a heritage of unfaithfulness. Things were at a low ebb spiritually, and the sad situation called for Elisha's intervention. So we see that the first lesson is the need for establishing a testimony to the absolute rule of the Lord at a time when God's people are in spiritual weakness and the pressure of the world is correspondingly great. The story shows that things became very precarious for God's people when they set out to combat Moab's resistance without the resources to carry their attempt through. When they came to the actual moment for launching their assault, they found themselves paralysed because of their lack of water. They arrived at the place where they had expected to find streams, only to discover that the water had dried up, so that the whole army was in danger of perishing for want of natural resources. The issue was clearly one of life or death, as the king of Israel confessed, but Jehoshaphat, who had some vital relationship with God, suggested consulting Him by means of a prophet: "Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may enquire of the Lord by him?" So an appeal was made to Elisha.

For his part Elisha refused to have anything to do with the king of Israel because of his spiritual depravity, but in view of his respect for Jehoshaphat he was able to offer help in the name of the Lord who never despises any genuine appeal to Himself. So Elisha asked for a minstrel, not for the sake of soulish inspiration, but to quieten his own spirit and to find detachment from the earthiness all around him. Being thus disentangled from the emotional atmosphere, he was able to open his heart to the Lord and to receive the divine command and promise about the digging of the ditches. We need not stay with the details of the story: we note the central message.

In this conflict with hostile forces which, taking advantage of the current spiritual declension, are bent on the full and final destruction of the Lord's testimony in His people, we find ourselves without sufficient resources to meet the situation. How, then, can these evil powers be met? Only on the basis of our knowing the Lord in a new way in the power of resurrection. It is a very simple lesson, but it is one which runs continuously through the New Testament. It is clearly seen in the life of the apostle Paul, who often seemed in danger of complete extinction by the overwhelming odds against him, and yet triumphantly emerged from the ordeal. Like Elisha's experience in the wilderness of Edom, there was neither noise nor outward manifestation -- no sound of wind or rain -- but a mighty flowing in of resurrection power which completely recovered the situation for God.

On one occasion, after a murderous attack on him, the apostle was actually left for dead, but he rose up again, went back again into the city, and ensured that there was a great and abiding celebration there at Lystra of the power of Christ's resurrection. At Ephesus the attack took another form, but the riot there seemed for the moment to be an overwhelming victory for the kingdom of evil. Nevertheless we have proof of the vital testimony established in that city. It was concerning Ephesus that the apostle said that it was there that he despaired even of life, yet he was delivered from that great death; and the spiritual values of the letter to the Ephesians have persisted through the centuries. Eternity will reveal what marvellous fruit came from the battle at Ephesus, a battle which for a time looked to have been lost. What was true of Lystra and Ephesus was equally true in other places and on many occasions. The powers of evil threatened the maintenance of the testimony of Jesus but, without any noise or show, there was the effective working of the risen life of Christ and a celebration of His victory. In the outcome it was the opposing forces which were destroyed, while the Lord's servants were delivered.

Today we often feel hard pressed in the spiritual battle, and the need is for a fresh knowledge of [70/71] the Lord in terms of resurrection. Many other remedies are suggested, and there is a wearisome round of conferences, discussions and committees, aimed at removing the spiritual deadlock. The only vital impact on the heart of the problem is a fresh experience of the Lord's resurrection power, a fresh knowing of the uprising of the fullness of His life. It seems as if, through Elisha's story, the Lord is telling us that rather than look for better ways and means, we should seek for more lives which are mightily energised by the risen power of our exalted Lord.

2. The Widow's Oil

We pass on to the next incident which is described in 2 Kings 4:1-7, which treats of an experience of a widow of one of the sons of the prophets. Inasmuch as these sons of the prophets were representative of those who took responsibility for the Lord's interests, even though they lacked experience, we may find help from the spiritual interpretation of what happened. The widow was in a state of serious impoverishment, and in that she represents the condition in which God's people sometimes are where they are unable to meet their spiritual and moral obligations. "Thy servant my husband is dead: and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two children to be bondmen". She could not face the creditor; she was not in a position to meet his demands; her two sons were to be taken into bondage. Typically this suggests the forfeiting of the fruit of life to alien rule, as though the Church had been taken possession of by the world and was being forced to lose the values of its activities.

We see this happening today. The world uses Christianity for its own ends and so often reduces the professing Church to bondage by getting it to use its own methods and ideas. Every worldly development in this realm is really a confession, albeit an unintentional one, that the 'Church' cannot live its own independent life, but has to rely on human expedients and worldly support to continue. When the Church lacks spiritual resources it always tends to suffer some sort of 'take-over' by earthly and carnal elements. Like this widow, the Church has a little oil. It is not altogether devoid of the Spirit, not absolutely and finally without some vital experience of Christ. But when there are activities and organisations which are enlarged beyond the measure of its spiritual experience, when the inner life is not commensurate with the outward development, then the situation becomes pathetic and cries out for a remedy.

It was Elisha who solved the widow's problem, and it is this same reality of a fresh knowledge of the Lord in the fullness of His resurrection life which alone can provide the remedy for the Church's weakness. Elisha asked the woman what she had in her house, and then told her to borrow as many empty vessels as she could find. We notice that in every one of these movements of recovery (revival, if you like), the knowing again of the Lord in the power of resurrection involved a challenge to faith. In the face of the Moabite onslaught it was: "Make this valley full of trenches ...". With no sign of rain and no idea where the water would come from, they had to obey the command to make the valley full of trenches. Their part was the obedience of faith, and they had to leave the rest to the faithfulness of God. In the case of the debt-ridden woman it was: "Go, borrow vessels ... not a few". The natural mind would have reacted to such instructions with the question: 'But where is the oil coming from for these vessels? I do not see the use of it.' Once again God insisted on the principle of the obedience of faith. In sheer confidence on Him she must go out and borrow the vessels from her neighbours. They might well have laughed at her, for the obedience of faith often gets us into situations which to the world are quite ridiculous. However that is just where faith has its real value, in that it is prepared to move without caring what other people think, but trusting God implicitly.

Such faith not only necessitates stepping out on the Lord's word, it also means putting into operation the little which one already has, like the widow's use of the pot of oil. So many of the Lord's people are waiting to learn a great deal more of Him before they are prepared to move at all. They have just a little knowledge of the Lord, and the divine principle is that there will be no increase until they are extended to the full in what they have. It is by acting in faith on the basis of what we have that brings us to increase. We are not to have our expectations based on what we already have, but on the confidence that God has very much more to give us as we use what we have. If the woman had fixed her attention upon that pot of oil, and said: 'That is the beginning and end of all my hopes and expectations', then nothing would have happened. [71/72] She had to see that small vessel in relation to a fullness which was boundless. If we take our little as all that is, then we will remain poor; but if we count on God's fullness rather than on our own experience, we shall find deliverance. The fullness of God is a fact which lies beyond our present experience, but it is [a] fact concerning which we have to act in faith.

The power of the risen life of the Lord Jesus is without limit, and there is no situation and no life which presents a need which cannot be met by Him. If at times we were to act according to our own feelings, we would say that we could not face the challenge before us, but since the Lord is our resource, we can go on in faith and find Him coming in and filling our emptiness. This is a sound principle for the Lord's servants to work upon. The point where we cease to believe that a situation is capable of solution by the Lord is the point where our testimony fails: we are contradicting the fact that the power of His resurrection knows no limit. For this woman it was a case of keeping on keeping on! In the end it was she, and not the Lord, who set the limit. When she ceased to provide vessels then the flow of oil stopped. The limit is never on the Lord's side.

3. The Shunammite's Son

This third story is found in 2 Kings 4:8-37. It is different from the others, and the extra emphasis is significant. In the case of the widow, we were dealing with a woman manifestly in poverty and emptiness. It was the oil which brought her fullness. When we come to this woman of Shunem we find that we meet quite another situation. She is called "a great woman". This means that insofar as temporal matters were concerned she was well provided for; her position was one of comfort, of plenty and of affluence, indeed just the opposite of the other woman. Unlike Elijah's helper, the widow of Zarephath, who had to be urged to give the prophet some of her meagre supply of food, this woman was the one to persuade Elisha to accept her hospitality. She seemed to have plenty, but in fact she had one great lack. The prophet contemplated her. He looked at her home, her table, her servants, her possessions, and had to enquire if there was any way in which he could enrich her. The need was not obvious, but it was very deep. Gehazi was able to disclose this hidden longing of hers: "Verily she hath no son ...". When Elisha pursued the subject, the woman replied: "Do not lie unto thine handmaid", as if to suggest that the one desire of her life was incapable of fulfilment and had been accepted as such. She could not bear any superficial good wishes, nor did she wish to face again the battle of resignation. For her the matter was finally closed. Elisha, however, had something better than pious wishes to offer and in due time his word of promise came to pass. From that moment all her life was concentrated in this son. Then "... it fell on a day ..." that he became critically ill, was carried home from the fields to his mother, and "... sat on her knees until noon, and then died". She laid him on the prophet's bed, and went to fetch Elisha.

There is no need to repeat the whole story, for our purpose is simply to stress the one issue of the miracle of resurrection life. This is the one matter of supreme importance, the knowing of Christ in the power of His resurrection. In Philippians 3 the apostle Paul lists the things which he had valued, and then affirms: I count these things, great as they are in the eyes of men, as well [as] lost if by this loss I may come to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. This was what made him the man of spiritual power which he was. There is an inner secret history of knowing the Lord in a way that cannot be accounted for on any other basis than the power of His resurrection. The testimony reaches its full expression in the matter of the resurrection of Jesus. It was by this resurrection that Sonship was established. And what was true of Him has to be worked out in us. The New Testament teaches by its two distinct Greek words that by our new birth we are children of God, but that sonship is something in advance of childhood, it is childhood brought to maturity in the power of resurrection. "Adoption" is the word used, but in the New Testament adoption has nothing to do with the taking into the family of an outsider, but only with the adoption of one's own child at the time of his majority. The Greek father 'adopted' his own son when that son reached his majority. That was the time when the one concerned ceased to be a child and became a son.

This woman came to know the type of all this in a very deep way. The son was given: that was wonder enough! And yet there might still linger some doubt as to whether he was wholly a miraculous gift, so the son had to die, and be brought back to life again, so demonstrating that his existence was not just the course of nature but the power of God. The woman was great, but this is not a story of human greatness but of [72/73] the marvellous power of resurrection. We may have a great deal, even in our Christian lives and work, and yet still lack the essential element of an inward experience of the power of His resurrection. So much of our lives can be external, on the surface. The need is that our experience of God's power shall come right down into the depths of our inner being, so that we know Christ there in terms of resurrection life. An altogether new testimony was established in Shunem when this most precious of God's gifts to the mother had to go down into death and then be raised again. It is only as the Lord's people know similar experiences that they are constituted an effective expression of His testimony, and this explains why we often have to be taken down into painful depths in order that we may so learn Him.



John H. Paterson

"So teach us to number our days that we may get us an heart of wisdom "
(Psalm 90:12).

"I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten ...
and ye shall eat in plenty
" (Joel 2:25).

THERE is a part of the basic dilemma of being human which we do not often refer to explicitly, but which often presses very heavily upon us: the problem of living in time. It is not merely that we never have enough time for all the things we want to do, or that as Christians we must be good stewards of our time, as of our other God-given resources. It is also the fact that we are time-based creatures and that, immediately, makes us actors in a human tragedy. The tragedy is that we can never re-live or re-capture yesterday; that we can never know all we need to know about tomorrow in time to do what we should do in it. This is a problem that we need wisdom in solving, as the psalmist recognised: "So teach us to number our days that we may get us an heart of wisdom." The wise man learns to reckon with time.

There is another aspect of the problem, too. With time we change. We are not the same people that we used to be. And those we deal with change just as we do. Our relationships with them change and, in the end, even that great word of the Scriptures, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever" returns to mock us. He is the same: we are not. We have changed. And out of this dilemma arises temptation -- the temptation to try to alter, or halt, or even speed up, the passage of time. But there can be no escape for time-based mortals and certainly no rest for the Christian who cannot accept his place in this dilemma.

What the psalmist says is that we should accept our place, and that if we can do so life will be much more peaceful and settled than otherwise it will be. He says, "O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days." If only we can come to terms with time, then some of the tension will be removed. Once we can accept our situation then we may rejoice and be glad but, until we do this, we shall be fighting against something, struggling to escape. The psalmist recognised that there is no escape and that the sooner we, too, recognise it the less tension there will be in our time-based lives. If only we can be convinced that what we experience are indeed God's mercies, that He is not capricious, and has not set up this time-scale simply to mock us, then life will be a lot easier.

So what are these things that we have to accept? At this point we need to look more closely at the 90th Psalm. Perhaps its most important feature is contained in its title line: it is the only psalm in the book which is attributed directly to Moses. And as soon as we say that, things begin to fall into place. This is Moses' Psalm and Moses knew a great deal about the passage of time. If we read the psalm again in the light of Moses' experience, [73/74] we find that we have a whole set of new insights upon it.

THE first thing about time which we have to recognise is that life does not get easier as time goes by, and it is an illusion to imagine that it does. Moses says, "Satisfy us early", because later on the tests will come on this very point. Let us get this clear at the beginning, and then we may be able to rejoice later on, when the difficulties arise.

In Moses' experience, of course, the hardest part came right at the end. Moses' life was divided into three sections, each of forty years, and unquestionably the hardest was the last. And in those last forty years it is not unrealistic to suggest that the very hardest moment of all came right at the end, when, after dragging those recalcitrant people behind him through the wilderness for forty years, he finally got them to the edge of the Promised Land and God said: 'You are not going in!' This was the hardest blow of all, and we can only marvel at Moses' calm acceptance of God's verdict -- the verdict of the God of the Rock which Moses in error had struck: "He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he" (Deuteronomy 32:4). This is the reaction of a man who has learned wisdom. Let us not expect things to get easier as we go on: the reverse is more likely to be the case.

And I think we can see why it should be so. Surely this is not the caprice of God, but it fits a pattern -- the purpose of God for us all. For this God of ours is avowedly using time as an instrument, and His purpose in using it is to bring about change -- moral change, moral increase and growth in moral stature. And the way He seems to work is to alternate revelation, or instruction, with out-working. He shows us something and then He works it out in practice in our lives. So it should not surprise us, surely, if the very last lap is uphill. That is God working out the last lesson; putting into practice the last thing He has shown us. If He keeps the best to the last -- and He may well do so -- then it is not inappropriate that that should prove the hardest lesson to apply.

It must surely be in some such way as this that we explain why, in the lives of so many of God's people, the last lap is a particularly difficult one. Just when we feel that they have earned a respite, things get more difficult still. But it fits the pattern, for, in the purpose of God, moral stature is to go on increasing to the very end.

THE second thing that we need to get settled seems to be that for long periods it may well appear that nothing is happening at all. Here is Moses, over eighty now and going round in circles in the wilderness with a lot of people who never wanted to be there in the first place, and the years are ticking past. After eighty, a person has not got a great deal left to look forward to; at least that was how Moses felt (verse 10): "The days of our years are threescore years and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore years; yet is their pride but labour and sorrow; for it is soon gone, and we flyaway." There speaks the eighty-year-old, and at eighty he is going round in circles in a desert and getting nowhere. Here is a man, then, who knows what it means to have a long period when nothing appears to be happening at all, and no progress is being made.

Now it is a simple and observable fact that, at the beginning of our Christian experience, things seem to happen very fast. One of the interesting aspects of working among young Christians is that, for them, things develop very rapidly. There is so much to learn, and every day seems to bring some new and exciting discovery. But later on, as anybody who has got past that stage will bear out, there are long stretches where it really seems as if nothing is happening at all. The greatest trials may well come then, in the blank periods. Has the Lord forgotten? Is nothing more going to happen? Have we reached a standstill? We need to be clear that such times will very probably come, and although we assure each other that God is really there, in the silence, we know how difficult these times may be. We can at least be prepared for them.

THE third thing about time that we need to see and accept is that we cannot dictate it. We know this, of course, but we tend not to be positive enough in our attitude. When the Lord disappoints our hopes, as He sometimes does, about a particular piece of timing, we all say. 'Oh well, it evidently wasn't His time.' But under our breath, so to speak, we may go on believing that He has made a mistake. We are not really reconciled to His timing by mouthing our little phrase. We accept in principle that His timing is [74/75] better than ours, but if we had been in charge it would have happened now.

We need to realise that, on this point, He is not only quite deliberate but also very definite -- that time and timing are permanently outside our competence. Surely those New Testament words have an application much wider than their immediate context: "It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within his own authority" (Acts 1:7). There is a division of labour here, and time belongs to His competence and not to ours. There is no appeal against this for Moses or for anyone else. Moses would have loved, as we all should, to have a few more weeks, to go over into the promised land and enjoy a sense of achievement: "At that time I made this plea to God: 'O Lord God, please let me cross over into the Promised Land. ... I want to see the result of all the greatness and power you have been showing us'" (Deuteronomy 3:23-25, Living Bible). But he was blocked at the very threshold of the land. God was quite emphatic, and if He would not change His timing for Moses there is no good reason why He should for us. We must accept this, not in the fatalistic way in which the Easterner says 'Kismet', or in the reproachful way which indirectly is a rebuke to God for not knowing His own business best, but in a positive way by saying, 'I know the timing is not my business but His; that I can't affect it and He won't allow me to.' This is a part of the problem of being time-based and yet having to deal with a God who is eternal, to whom a thousand years have no more ultimate significance than one day (verse 4). He has got all eternity to mature His plans. We have not; so, we are always in a hurry. We want to see it now. If, says Moses, we can recognise in this disposition of things the "mercies" of God, then we can rejoice and be glad. The tension will ease when we recognise that He has deliberately arranged it so, and that He has done it in His mercy.

IF all this forms part of our human dilemma, what can we say? In particular, what good news have we for each other? If this is the formidable problem we face, what is the Gospel message with regard to the tragedies of time? The good news is summed up, surely, in a word from the verse in Joel's prophecies with which we began: "I will restore to you the years which the locust hath eaten." We cannot affect or alter time, but He can, because He stands outside it. He is a God of restoration. He can do what human beings have always wished they could do -- put back into time the missing content of the past; the years which the locusts have eaten. What a wonderful verse this is!

So here we have good news indeed, and good news, in particular, for all those of God's people who live under the shadow of past mistakes. Some lives are permanently stunted by the memory of the past, like that of a Christian who once said, very sadly, to me: 'I can see where, years ago, I went wrong, and things have never been the same since.' For ten or fifteen years he had lived under the shadow. Even worse is the case of those who live under the shadow, not of their own mistakes, but of the mistakes of others -- the Christian woman who never got married because a Christian man hesitated with his proposal; or the children who suffer from the mistaken ideas of their parents. All of us have had locust years, and He can restore them. What took years to develop or go wrong, He can restore in a single moment.

He is a God of restoration. He is a God of purpose. He is manipulating time to serve His purpose and, in the end, what matters is the purpose and the image into which He is changing us. So we come to the last verse of this 90th Psalm: "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us." If we remember that it is Moses who is speaking, then our thoughts turn easily to an incident in Moses' life of which he may well have been thinking. Once, after a period of speaking to God, he came back to the people and, to their astonishment, his face shone. There was marked on him an image which was not his own, the image of God. The people who looked at him could see God in him, the image of the Eternal. Then, as time went on, that image faded away. He put a veil over his face so that this fact would be concealed, but the glory gradually faded. Now this is the man who is praying, in his own psalm, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou ...". Oh, for a glory which will not fade away with time! Oh, that there may be seen in us the image which it is God's purpose to generate in our lives -- the enduring glory of God, the beauty of the Lord our God upon us. [75/76]



Roger T. Forster

WHEN Solomon's reign began, the tabernacle of Moses was in Gibeon, and David's tent, containing the ark of the covenant, was in Sion. The king, so we are told: "loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father; only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places. And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar" (1 Kings 3:3-4).

Already, then, the writer is giving us a hint that one of Solomon's defects was in this use of the high places for worship. Gibeon was a pagan high place, yet the priests of God operated there and Solomon used it for his worship. It is clear that God put up with all this, indeed He showed Himself very accommodating in the tabernacle sphere of worship, though never in the realm of the temple. The high places in Palestine were where the Canaanites used to practise their heathen rites and when they moved out, the people of Israel took over these sacred spots, no doubt triumphant that in this way they could express the superiority and victory of their own faith. The very same thing happened as Christianity spread over Europe, including our own country of England. Recently certain magic or occult societies have published maps showing the sites of druidic shrines by means of lines and triangles. The apex of each triangle shows where the pagan rites were held, and it is striking to discover that there are now churches on these ancient druidic sites. The churches were built as a sign of Christianity's victory over paganism but in fact they proved to be not symbols of victory but of defection and compromise, for the paganism is reviving in our country. In Israel the use of the old religious sacred sites, the high places, for the worship of the Lord always provided a subtle temptation for the people to return to idolatry. So it was that from time to time God accused them that although they used His name they were, in fact, offering to idols and serving false gods. They were loyal only in words: their hearts were hankering after what the high places had always stood for.

Now the marvel is that the Lord overlooked this use of the high places. He met Solomon at Gibeon. His Son described the temple built by the non-Jew Herod as "My Father's house". In the earthly realm of things God seems willing to accommodate Himself to our faulty circumstances, never accepting them, but using them to produce material for His own perfect temple in the heavens. This realisation should encourage us, for we are far more infected with this tendency than we realise. Our position is often frail and faulty, but God will meet us if our hearts are truly towards Him. There is no imperfection in what God is doing. The Lord Jesus said that He would build His Church and the gates of hell should never prevail against that temple, because it is built on resurrection ground. So there are faults in man's 'high places', but perfection in the building of God. In order that Solomon might build the temple, certain conditions were necessary in his own life, just as certain things must happen to us if God is to build in our lives. In 1 Kings 3 we find some of these conditions.

1. "... I am but a child ..."

Solomon had no illusions about his own smallness. "... I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in" (verse 7). When we are first converted we know that we do not know, so we are ready to be taught; but after being Christians for a few months, we began to imagine that we did know, and often lost our joy in the Lord because we began to criticise others, thinking that we knew better than they. There is little hope of eternally lasting fabric being formed out of our lives unless we are prepared to learn as little children. In Matthew 16 the Lord Jesus declared that He would build His Church. In Matthew 17 Peter thought that he knew all about temple affairs and rashly committed his Master to the payment of tribute money. Christ extricated him from that predicament by paying the temple tax by means of a miracle and then immediately followed with the emphasis of Matthew 18 on the need for becoming like a little child. It was as though the Lord was indicating that the basis for His building of His Church is the spirit of childlikeness. We get involved with what God is doing when we are ready to confess that we are not master-builders but insignificant little ones who do not know how to go out or come in. This gives the Lord His chance. After all, we have the Lord Jesus as "head over all things to the church [76/77] which is his body". Having Him as Head we do not need to have knowledge in ourselves, but only to be sensitive and responsive to our Head, who knows it all. So we see that the first requirement in the divine building is for those who are ready to confess: "I am but a little child".

2. "... a great people ..."

Solomon was deeply aware of how small he was, but he was equally impressed with how great Israel was. "Thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude" (verse 8). He realised that it was completely beyond his capability even to count them. This suggests that this building requires those who have a small view of themselves and a big view of God's people. The subtlety of Satan's working in our minds is that he seeks to invert this, giving us a big view of ourselves and a small view of God's people. This means that we tend to discount the others and exalt ourselves. The devil's purpose in this is to interfere with the divine building process.

If the temple was to be built Solomon could certainly not do the work alone. He needed powers of organisation quite beyond his own ability and, if he was to accomplish the task, it was essential to get everybody mobilised into action. So wisdom was given to him on the basis of his appeal for help in view of the greatness of the people involved. So far as he himself was concerned he admitted that he could not work it out, but he found that the mind of God was available to him, and by this means he was able to get a great number of people geared into action, the work of the building being shared by all.

3. "... an understanding heart ..."

"Give thy servant therefore an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and evil: for who is able to judge this thy great people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing." (1 Kings 3:9-10.) Solomon asked for ability to judge. This does not mean to criticise or condemn, but to discriminate between good work and bad work. Discernment is very necessary as a spiritual gift for those who are called to inspire men to work together as a team, to help the saints so that they can each fulfil their ministry in the body of Christ. It is not a matter of judging and excluding people because they are failures, but ability to realise what they can do and to encourage and guide them into the right exercise of the gift God has given them. A man may be out of place, but there is a way in which he can function in the right place in the will of God, and discernment is needed to help him to find his true sphere, and so express his life in the Lord better.

Solomon did not have the mind of the Lord as we do, but he received help from God in this essential feature of spiritual building. There is need for the body to be "fitly framed together through that which every joint supplieth ..." (Ephesians 4:16), which means that in a healthy way we are meant to encourage and help one another to discover our spiritual gifts. I cannot look at a brother and determine what his particular gift is. I have tried to do so, and have made terrible mistakes. Alas, that we often encourage and discourage the wrong people. It frequently happens that the people who should not be encouraged are the ones whom We do encourage, simply because it is easier to do so. It may well be that if we were faithful brothers we would discourage them, but we fail to do so because we fear a painful experience. How much we all need this gift which Solomon asked for and received! We need to know what to say and how to say it, in order to bring out the potential in one another. It is one of the tasks of shepherding among God's people, not to discern faults in order to discuss them with a third person, but personally and helpfully to come alongside our brothers, in order to bring about the will of God in their lives.

So in Solomon's case we see these three prerequisites, and they are well illustrated in the little incident which forms the completion of this chapter. In his exercise of divine wisdom, Solomon threatened to cut the baby in two (1 Kings 3:25), which would not have been unreasonable if the infant had been dead. He not only discovered the true mother, but he showed that when life and love are involved, the sword must not be used to divide. True wisdom always refuses to divide God's living people even with His own sword, which is the Word of God. If there is genuine life, Solomon would not divide it. Divine wisdom will always work to preserve life, and not use the Word of God for the illicit function of dividing up the Lord's people into groups. When vital relationships are in question, the sword may at times threaten but it will never divide. The temple [77/78] can only be built when the Word of God is used correctly.

4. "... as the sand which is by the sea ..."

Chapter four tells of how the whole people was mobilised, men of every variety and even of non- Jewish origin being among them. It was a period of great prosperity: "Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and making merry." (verse 20.) This state of the nation was exactly what God had originally promised to Abraham. The territory of the kingdom stretched from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean Sea. and the people were like the sand on the seashore. It was a wonderful phase in their history, for the people of God were seen in their widest context and in their fullest expression. They were safe; they had all the food they needed; there was full employment, since it was not only the builders who were kept busy, but the whole nation was involved. This indicates to us that God desires to mobilise all His happy and well-nourished people to concentrate on this one project of providing the fabric of His house.

This matter of full employment is of supreme importance in the Church, and it is essential that each member should discover what is his allotted task. It is not for others to insist that we must play their part, or play it in their way. No, each must find, through the guidance of God and the help of those whom He sets in authority in His house, just what is his specific gift, and then do it with all his might. What we do may seem temporal, whether we are witnessing, praying, giving loyal assistance to others or involved in the many other occupations in the sphere of our fellowship together, but it is all vital, and if done in the Spirit, it is eternal. Our part may seem frail and even earthly, but we shall find that it is all designed to produce something for eternity. Solomon's officers and men helped one another in the all-consuming objective of their king, and so should we who serve the heavenly and the permanent house of God.

"And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore" (verse 29). This is a phrase which we have met before. It was used to describe the vastness of Israel's numbers, and now the very same words are used to describe the heart capacity of their king. His heart was as wide as their need. In this Solomon was a true type of the Lord Jesus, who is the only one with a heart large enough to encompass all, but we who are His servants must also seek to have enlarged hearts in the same way, for the whole project of the house springs from fellowship with the heart of the Lord.



Harry Foster

IN his Gospel, Epistle and book of Revelation, John calls Jesus 'The Word'. In some ways the description is attractively simple, and yet at the same time it suggests deep profundity. Who can adequately describe such a title?

God's Word is so much a part of Himself that we find no difficulty in agreeing that before the beginning of time they were together and were one (John 1:1). We readily admit that this natural universe is too complex and too wonderful for our minds to comprehend. We could never visualise the circumstances of its beginning. Scientists may do what they can to discover or trace its development, but no mortal can expect to understand the mystery of its genesis beyond the fact that "God said ..."

Christians have an advantage in that they know the ultimate destiny of the creation: it is to be filled with Christ (Ephesians 4:6). They also know that this cosmic destiny was planned and provided for in an era described as "before the foundation of the world". So that to the believer it was wisdom, as well as power and love, which began our exciting history.

The enlightened king, Solomon, described in beautiful as well as dogmatic language, that it was Wisdom which brought human life and environment [78/79] into existence (Proverbs 8.22-31). There is a New Testament review of faith in action which asserts that it is fundamental to such faith to accept that the Word of God produced the visible world (Hebrews 11:3). Those who have no faith and no Saviour may speculate as they will, but those who rely on Jesus Christ for forgiveness and peace with God have no option about believing that He is the responsible explanation of the material universe (Colossians 1:14-16).

The Wisdom of God and the Word of God are therefore synonymous with the Son of God. We believe that Jesus is God's last utterance (Revelation 19:13). Our eternal destiny hangs on the finality of Christ. Equally we must believe that He is also God's first utterance, the Word of life (1 John 1:1), and our confidence is confirmed by His own claim to be the Alpha and Omega -- the A to Z -- of the divine alphabet (Revelation 22:14). It follows, then, that if this living Word brought the creation into being He, and He alone, can do a work of re-creation, which makes sense of the reminder by both James and Peter that Christians are born again by the Word of God (James 1:18 and 1 Peter 1:23). The actual words of the gospel message, composed as they are of so many letters in the A to Z of whatever language we speak, can instruct or annoy but they can never regenerate. But when, through the sounds and ideas of his language, the Spirit of God speaks savingly to a man, then there is a spiritual parallel to Genesis 1 and 2, and God's Word brings a new world and a new life into being. So 'The Word' means the Creator, in all the plenitude of His loving power and wisdom.

The consummation of the creative work was the sabbath. The Word of God is very active to discern if the new creation man is missing out on this supreme blessing (Hebrews 4:12). The sensitive believer will know something of what is described in this verse. When Jesus was here on earth He saw through men, and looked right down into their hearts. It was a soul-searching experience to be confronted by the living Word. This is precisely what happens to any man of the new creation who exposes his inner being to the Word of God. It is living; it is penetrating; it gets right down to hidden thoughts and secret motives. So for us, too, the Word of God is not an inanimate thing but the Person "with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13). Those who did not run away from Jesus found Him to possess words of healing and life. So, today, the living and active Word of God not only searches us but, if we permit Him, brings us into the sabbath rest of God. And when the 'today' of this life and warfare is over, and the Lamb gathers His blissful saints around Him at His marriage supper, this will be one of His titles of honour. "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God" (Revelation 19:13).



Harry Foster

MY friend Paul is blind. He lost his sight in the last world war, but he never ceases to thank God for this trial, for it was used to bring him to know Christ as his Saviour and Lord. He and his wife, Lily, are French, but they visit London occasionally and they once spent a few days in our home. Paul amazed us by his ability to learn his way about the house and by much more too. Of course, Lily was never far away from him, and indeed she is the best example I have ever seen of a Hobab, the man to whom Moses said: "thou shalt be to us instead of eyes" (Numbers 10:31).

Paul's hands also acted as eyes for him. One day they were examining our garden. Lily took him round, explaining the colours, letting him enjoy the scents, and then letting him feel the flowers. He had such sensitive fingers that he could get the full enjoyment of our Dutch tulips by feeling up the stem and then gently following the shape of the bloom with his hands. His fingers told him a great deal that we can only know because we have sight. One only had to ask him the time and he would quickly raise the cover of his wrist watch and then report the correct time without any hesitation at all. [79/80]

He managed wonderfully at mealtimes, too, with only a little occasional help from Lily. I noticed, however, that at breakfast he always refused marmalade. Now our continental friends usually seem to like English marmalade, especially the home-made kind, which ours was, so it rather surprised me to see that while Lily enjoyed toast and marmalade. Paul always said 'no', and kept to plain bread and butter. We even asked if he would prefer honey, but again he said 'No, thank you' to that and still kept to plain bread and butter. At last I asked him if he did not appreciate our English marmalade. He replied that he did, in fact he liked it very much, but still he would never have any.

I was so curious that at last I asked him the reason, and it was so interesting and so important that I would like -- with his permission -- to share it with you. His fingers were eyes to him, but only if they were clean. Anything sticky would spoil their sensitive touch. Now, as you know, it is very difficult to eat bread and marmalade without getting just a little stickiness on your fingers, even if you have your sight. It may be so little that it does not matter to you or me, but supposing Paul wanted to feel the time on his special watch and had sticky fingers! He would not have been able to do it. So, although the marmalade was sweet and pleasant he refused it, so that he should not spoil his sensitive contact. The most important thing for Paul was to keep his fingers quite unsoiled in any way. He dare not allow anything, however nice, to interfere with this.

How many things there are in the life of a Christian which can spoil our spiritual sensitivity! They may be sweet things, they may be very good things in themselves, and yet they may make us insensitive to the will of God and to His gentle Holy Spirit. It is not a question of what others can do. The rest of us could rightly eat the marmalade, but Paul dare not do so. And although others may indulge in many things, we who love the Lord must give first priority to keeping our contact with Him.

There is only one way to do this, and this is to follow the example of my friend Paul, learning to say 'No, thank you' to all such things. This will help us to avoid losing our close contact with the Lord and keep us always sensitive to Him. It will help us to obey the command: "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30).


[Eric Fischbacher]

"THE captain of the host of the Lord" (Joshua 5:14) surely represents the Holy Spirit, and the instruction He gave, the Word of God. Both were essential throughout. The details of the plan to defeat Jericho would, in themselves, have been valueless, and would not have produced the effect apart from the power of the Spirit. At the same time, had the instructions not been carried out to the letter, the effect, we must presume, would not have occurred. The Israelites could not say. 'There is no use in doing anything, only God can do it' -- they must do their part, as instructed. On the other hand, to imagine that what they did -- walking and blowing trumpets and shouting -- actually brought the wall down would have been equally misguided. The Holy Spirit requires simple obedience to the Word before His power is released to accomplish the will of God. - Hong Kong Diary. Dr. E. Fischbacher [80/ibc]


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